July 28, 2005

September 30, 2005

Elvis Spotted on Aisle Five!

I was trying to juggle too many things last month, but now that the Big Project is winding down, I'm finding myself edgy and out of sorts.  Submission Season is officially open, and I have no work-related excuses for not writing again.  Weblogging takes time and creative energy, of course, but the host of fine poets on the blogroll are proof that it doesn't have to put too big a dent in one's literary output. 

~~~

Seth continues to report on recent Republican scandals with gusto.  A particularly good point he makes is that, although Delay and the Republican Noise Machine may try to characterize this embarrassment as one Democratic attorney's frivolous politicking, one should remember that a grand jury composed of Delay's constituents are the source of the indictment.

~~~

I just received Mike Snider's 44 Sonnets, a great deal at less than a dime a sonnet (I'm still smiling over "A bearded man, I can't disguise what food / I've eaten — there it is, still on my face").  This month's Smithsonian has a couple of good articles:  for the first time, conservation groups recommend opening up deer hunting in public reserves to lessen their rapidly growing numbers ; commercial iceberg hunters harpoon one-to-two ton "growlers" and haul them to port for sale to bottled water and vodka companies;   scientists attempt to reconstruct George Washington's face as a young man, as there is no painting of him younger than age 40; the Dead Sea, a popular Israeli resort area, has been shrinking for years due to river diversion (the Jordan) and depletion of the aquifer by settlers and desert agriculture. 

MIT Technology Review
has a fascinating article on hypercuisine, which applies technology to cooking.  One aspect is "altering the chemical structures of proteins, starches and fats to produce hitherto untasted flavors and textures".  Another is what the French call sous vide, a culinary method that is reported to yield powerful flavors.    The process involves preparing food (particularly meat and vegetables), Cryovac'ing it (a commercial vacuum-packing), and cooking it at very low temperatures for a very long time (one recipe for lamb calls for 10 hours of brining, Cryovacking with cumin, and cooking for 56 hours at 135 degrees).  Swiss firm Solar Impulse is building a propeller-driven solar plane with a 250-foot wingspan that they hope will circumnavigate the world in 2010 without fuel.  Computerized translation of natural languages (say, Arabic to English) is getting better all the time, and many intelligence agencies use software translators to scan email and documents for suspicious passages. 

BusinessWeek features "The Real Reason You're Working So Hard ...":  globalization, the Internet, and dysfunctional corporate communications systems (email, meetings, telephone conferencing) are driving the average work week up.  SUV sales dropped 29% in August.  Virgin Group founder Richard Branson is getting into oil refining, has hired an African CEO, and hopes to build refineries in the next 4 years.  Representative Tom Tancredo (R-CO) has proposed keeping billions of dollars of hurricane relief money away from Louisiana and New Orleans politicians, citing a history of corruption and indictments.  David Pecker's magazine empire is shrinking as supermarket tabloid (e.g., National Enquirer) sales decline (I guess nobody's interested in Madonna's sex escapades with Bigfoot anymore).  President Bush is pushing his Conservative New Deal for hurricane-ravaged areas, a mixture of business tax breaks, urban homesteading, worker recovery accounts and education aid.

~~

Interesting post by Hannah today, which included:  "I never did finish BAP 2005--it's so boring, it made me want to pluck out my eyes. Whether this is, in fact, a failure of the volume...or just an extension, recently, of my frustration with the whole reading/critical selection process, I don't really know. I do like critics who clearly delight in poetry--who are joyful readers, who come to poetry seeking understanding or pleasure or...well...anything. But it seems to me that such delight/joy is something that ought to be earned, not tossed willy-nilly at every poem which pops up along the horizon."  Equally interesting comments by Jordan, Steve, Nick, Richard and Nev (the last three are poetry board friends).  Reading many blogs over the last few months, it has occurred to me that some poets look forward to reading poetry with a genre-related relish that casts a positive glow over much of what they read.  What I mean is that the exercise is more like an act of love, a literary avocation from which they derive a great deal of satisfaction, a general anesthesia of good feeling that kicks every poem up to "pretty good" before the first line is read.  I think that's a wonderful thing, and I can remember feeling a great deal more of it when I first started reading poetry seriously.  Can you remember the first time you read Simic, Olds, Tate, WCW, Stevens, Hirshfield, Merwin, Ashbery, Graham?  I do.  I remember thinking "how are they doing that to my head?", and immediately sat down to see if I could write, just a little bit, with the same tricks of magic.  Now, a zillion poems later, I feel numbed to a lot of poetry.  Too analytical, and with expectations that are ridiculously high.  I want stunning imagery, outstanding metaphor, exquisite musicality.  I want to laugh in the middle of the poem and cry at the end.  I'm not anywhere near this hard on authors of short stories and fiction.

~~

Heck, while I'm at it, I'll subject you to my one and only supermarket poem, originally in Barrow Street:

Girl Gives Birth to Trilobite

In this domain of the derivative, there’s cat food,
tampons, a spill on Aisle Five, the crone
with samples of arugula. Two tours

by frozen lamb and now it all makes sense: you choose
to check out. Your wife will take up
with a talk-show host, the dog converts to Islam.

They’ll never find you camping
in the bakery, basket of organics, enough
AlphaBits for Finnegan’s Wake.

Spend your nights on the floor
by the olive jars, soothed by the parallax
of pasta boxes, the hiss of rain on lettuces.
Read about Celine. Do situps, ankles

under a pallet of 3.2 beer, power-walk
to the Eagles, Kleenex boxes slippering
your feet. Juggle Bosc pears

until the time comes to carry a sack
of jasmine rice to the curb and throw
each grain to the mouth of the moon.

Posted by jbahr at 08:44 AM | Comments (3)

September 28, 2005

There Is A God

I had to agree with Jon Stewart, in the aftermath of Katrina and Rita, when he publicly asked The Almighty, "What part of God Bless American don't you understand?"  Then this:  Delay has been indicted and is stepping down as House Majority Leader.  Well, I guess there is a God.

~~~

The new Poetry came yesterday, as well as Stephanie Young's delightful Telling the Future Off.  I was ready to read BAP 2005 for content anyway, so I sat down and put on my Reading Game Face, which largely consists of s l o w i n g down.  My friends would tell you that in my usual speed-read mode during the day, I often miss entire paragraphs of email (right, Frank?), because I try to Blink-process too much without actually sub-vocalizing (or even maintaining a conscious standard of comprehension). 

My new poetry reading attitude is "expect to appreciate the work, and if not, expect to say 'Oh, darn, I guess I didn't get that'".  Call it a reading style derived from The New Humility.  Not only has it made me a bit more open to work as varied as, say, Stephanie's vs. standard Poetry fare, I actually end up happier at the end of each poem.  Happier is a good thing, as Our Lady of Domesticity always says.   Muldoon's introduction to BAP 2005 was just fine, but didn't add much to the actual poetry, if you had already read it (and I had, liking, as I do, to read poetry books back to front).  I liked Lehman's editorial this year.  It was intelligent, topical and opinionated (which makes for a much more interesting read), which is pretty good for a guy who has had to do this almost 20 times.  Lehman discusses the degree to which poetry's landscape has extended to include a richer mix of sensibilities than those most popular during the reign of The New Criticism.  He also (as he does every year) lauds the poets who have raised poetry's profile among the public, including Billy Collins, Catherine Bowman, Robert Pinsky, the founders of Poetry Daily, and Garrison Keillor.  Lehman particularly defends Keillor's Good Poems anthology, by carrying on a multi-page critique of the objections to the work voiced by August Kleinzahler in a recent Poetry issue (in which Dana Gioia took the role of attorney for the defense).  This makes for a good read, as the ever-irascible Kleinzahler is extreme (even hyperbolic) in his disgust for Good Poems, Keillor's A Prairie Home Companion, poetry workshops, MFA programs, and contemporary culture in general.  After an introduction to Paul Muldoon (whom, after some consideration, it occurred to me I knew very little about), Lehman mentions that he almost got a chance to edit a Jennifer Lopez poem, which is either good sign (or a very bad sign, if you're Kleinzahler) for the state of American poetry.

There were a few poems in the anthology that I quite liked, some that I liked a bit, and many that "Oh, darn, I guess I didn't get that".  Ashbery's In Dearest, Deepest Winter was touching, in the usual Ashberian style of neuron-hopping, as he instructs us to "Go and join them, while they're still there":  Santa's visit, put-up jars from autumn's harvest, a savior pointing (note the lack of capitalization).  Elena Karina Byrne's Irregular Mask was gripping:  "still those who, singing had begun / masturbating their way back to original sin, or // thousands, born to alcoholics, with sorrow as large as / houseboats, have drunk the hand-wash of airport pickpockets ...".    Victoria Chang's Seven Changs is clever ("... I limp up / a mountainside // toward a growing opal.  Oracle, is this the way up to the little office / with orange lights?")  I liked Karl Elder's Everything I Needed to Know ("Kind of like a lady Clutch Cargo.  Or / like the bride of a Nordic Frankenstein, / motherless but blonde, beautiful, and big"), and Elaine Equi humorous quasi-ekphrastic Pre-Raphaelite Pinups ("But isn't every story an allegory — / every house strewn with alchemical symbols like these?), and Andrew Feld's equally humorous abecedarian 19__: An Elegy ("Apollo.  Bebe Rebozo.  Beatniks"), and Beth Ann Fennelly's I Need to Be More French.  Or Japanese ("... I wouldn't prefer the California wine, // ... // I'd prefer the French, its smoke and rot").  In fact, there were times I had to wonder if I was reading the Poetry Humor Issue.  Leonard Gontarek's elliptical narrative Blue on Her Hands was diverting.  There was quite lot of narrative, in fact, sometimes taking the PA form of Arielle Greenberg's The Turn of the Screw, or the measured regularity of Marilyn Hacker's For Kateb Yacine, or the first-person movie review derivatives of Terrance Hayes' Variations on Two Black Cinema Treasures.  I liked Jennifer Michael Hecht's The Propagation of the Species ("The fruit of all this is / possession and release, / mango and bananas"), and Vicki Hudspith's whimsical Ants ("... They hate picnics / But feel compelled by folklore to attend them / Or at minimum do a drive by chicken leg grab. ...").  Brigit Pegeen Kelly's The Wolf was as good as I remember from reading it in 32 Poems.  D. Nurske's Space Marriage was nice and whacky.   Eugene Ostashevsky's spare, staccato Dear Owl is effective.  Mary Ruefle's How I Became Impossible tickled me ("Who wrote this? were my first words. / I do not like to be torched").  There were a half-dozen poems that were perhaps, too ironic for my taste (e.g., Christine Scanlon's The Grilled Cheese Sandwich), but from an eclectic mix of journals, and well, you can't love everything. 

I always enjoy reading the contributor's Notes and Comments.  The old hands, like Billy Collins, often choose this moment to cut up.  Some authors give us the bare details of their life and the contributed work.  Some go on and on and on, consuming more type space than the original poems.  I did notice quite a few New Yorkers this year (as someone mentioned on another blog).  Also, at least two married couples, both of whom had contributions (Maureen Bloomfield/James Cummims & Jerome Sala/Elaine Equi).  I don't know if that's ever happened before ... I should check my collection.

Posted by jbahr at 12:06 PM | Comments (0)

September 26, 2005

Monday Stuff That Should Have Been Sunday Stuff

Even more webloggers with books whom I missed the first time aroundLee Ann 's Year of the Snake, John's Breeze, Kirsten's Unfathoms, Ron's Tjanting, and David's A House Waiting For Music, at Amazon. Rebecca's Tarantella at Ravenna Press.  Ange's Starred Wire at Coffee House Press.  Catherine will have two books available soon.  Gina's The Keepsake Storm is available here.

~~~

Harper's has one of Lapham's usual eloquent left-leaning editorials, reminding us that it was Umberto Eco most recently who catalogued the axioms upon which all fascists agree:  Truth is revealed once, and only once; Parliamentary democracy is, by definition, rotten;  Dotrine outpoints reason, and science is always suspect; Critical thought is the province of the degenerate; The national identity is provided by a nation's enemies; Argument is tantamount to treason; The state is perpetually at war; Citizens do not act, instead playing the role of "the people" in the grand opera that is the state.  From the Index:  redheads require an average of 19% more anesthetic, 177% of Africa's GDP is held in foreign accounts, and bestiality is legal in 20 states.  A nice plug for the extraordinary art of Zak Smith, who has illustrated every page of Pynchon's Gravity's Rainbow (the illustration to the left is from page 670).  Ben Marcus takes Jonathan Franzen to task for a dozen pages in Why Experimental Fiction Threatens to Destroy Publishing, Jonathan Franzen, and Life As We Know It, by detailing how Franzen (particularly in his criticism of Joyce and Gaddis) misinterprets as "too difficult" the best of modern literature (hmm, does THAT sound familiar?).  BusinessWeek's cover story is The Next Big One (which could be, variously, an LA quake, avian flu in Chicago, or a dirty bomb in NYC), and the estimates of preparedness aren't very reassuring.  It's the Russian stock market's 10th anniversary, and it's booming.  To help out its largely poverty-stricken populace, Indonesia subsidizes fuel costs (gasoline is about 25 cents a gallon), which has led to massive amounts of smuggling.  American industry is sending goods, as well as money, to victims of Katrina, including Starbucks (10,000 pounds of coffee), IBM (hundreds of ThinkPads), Kellogg (25 truckloads of breakfast cereal) and Mattel (10,000 African-American Barbies).  The latest thing is simplified cell-phones for the elderly, with a couple of buttons for family members and one for 911.  Good article on Technorati, the popular index-plus-search-engine for blogs. Surveys show that a lot of people buy SUVs to survive in an accident with another SUV.  Antonin Scalia never had a real shot at Chief Justice after decades of contentious behavior, opinions that took shots at virtually all of his colleagues, and the disadvantage of age (he's 69 to Robert's 50).  Hippopotamus sweat appears to be a good antibiotic and insect-repellent and a great sunblocker, and is being studied for commercial applications.  Vivendi, the French media giant, is back on a roll after years of scandal and sluggish growth, fueled by winners such as the World of Warcraft, the massively multiplayer online fantasy game.

~~~

So, I'm reading BAP 2005, this time for pleasure, and there is some fine work in it.  Still, as I read and read, I wonder:  Is Poetry the new Short Story?  There's a lot of plot therein, not only from the post avant, but also (or perhaps, especially) from The New Yorker, blinged up a bit with the occasional trochaic sequence and intra-line assonance, but narrative nonetheless.

~~~

What The Wonkette looks like.

Posted by jbahr at 06:36 PM | Comments (0)

September 24, 2005

Saturday Stuff

Webloggers whom I missed the first time aroundWendy Wisner's Epicenter, available here.  Alli Warren has a chapbook, Hounds, that Kasey says is worth a thousand bucks, but you have to contact her to get it.  Jilly Dybka's Fair Territory available free for the download, or in hardback here.  Get Noah's The Area of Sound Called The Subtone here.  Paul's Notes for My Body Double isn't available yet, but his The Resurrection of the Body and the Ruin of the World is up at Amazon, as is David's A House Waiting for Music

~~~

I couldn't begin to synopsize the magazines that piled up during my 2+ weeks in Mexico, but here's a quick hit on some of them:  Worth has an article on The Top 100 Wealth Advisors, something that every new MFA needs to know about.  Their usual article on hot alternative investments focuses on vintage Rock 'n' Roll posters, noting that a 1966 poster from the Beatles' Shea Stadium gig recently went at auction for $132,736.52.  Advertisers include:  Private Escapes Destination Clubs, Maybach (the Rolls-like production auto from DaimlerChrysler whose twin turbocharged V12 does 0 to 60 in 5 seconds and that starts at $200K), The Diamond Trading Company, Ritz-Carlton, Red Tail Arabians (where you can get your next show horse), and the usual dozens of investment counseling firms.  Time asks Is It Too Late To Win The War?, terming the current process as Whack-A-Mole and echoing a recent Harper's article in suggesting that maybe you just can't skip a step and Iraq needs a nice civil war to sort things out without our help, thank you.  Dick Cheney has killed the idea of a Hurricane Czar, rightly figuring that an outsider of questionable Bush loyalty would be a bad idea at this time.  Arnold-Baby garnered 31% of the Hispanic vote in his election as California's governor, but that number has dropped to 17% and his popularity now just about equals Bush's abysmal sub 40% numbers.  Bush plans to spend $1 billion a day on reversing the effect of the recent hurricanes with no concrete plan, no tax cuts, and All The Usual Contractors involved in no-bid contracts.  The former CEO of Continental weighs in on the ludicrous current situation in which four major US air carriers are in bankruptcy, citing government fees (including 20 separate taxes), bailouts, and lack of  federal infrastructure investment as the major problems.  54% of kids aged 15 to 19 says they have engaged in oral sex.  ABC's hugely successful Lost is spawning spinoffs like crazy.  Wired's cover is Naomi Watts, Jack Black and Adrien Brody in a King Kong shot (how can Black be so funny just standing there?). 65% of all cars since 2004 have black boxes that police and insurance companies can access to obtain information about "vehicle and driver inputs".  Another heart-stopping blonde in a Skyy Vodka ad.  Staph, pneumonia and E. Coli bacteria have been mutating ever-faster since the 40's, overcoming resistance to the newest antibiotic in ever-shortening intervals.  Doom The Movie, starring The Rock, gets panned.  First ad I've seen for the Porsche-like convertible from Saturn called SKY, available in early 2006.  Back To Basics offers a hi-tech toaster that will brown your muffin, poach your egg and heat up ham so you can DIY up an Egg McMuffin.  Two hours south of Chicago, Dan Kirlin is building his own Air Force from Evil Empire fighters like the MIG-21, because he wanted to own "the baddest toys that money can buy".  Thrill-seeker Steve Green has raised $550,000 to build an armored automobile that he wants to drive into a tornado.  Nolan Bushnell, inventor or Atari, Pong and Chuck E. Cheese wants to save the world from Grand Theft Auto (why would he want to do that?).

More tomorrow ...

Posted by jbahr at 07:12 PM | Comments (0)

September 23, 2005

Blogland Books

 

Kasey (whose Thousand Devils is available here) recommends Stephanie's Telling The Future Off, so I'm getting it, and you can, too.  After telling you how much I like Lara's work, it dawned on me that I hadn't ordered Hounds of No, the first title from ActionBooks (run by Johannes and Joyelle) (no, not this Action Books  unless you have an abiding interest in gunsmithing and crossbows), and available from SPD (but, they're currently out of stock, so you may have to wait a bit).  Kelli's Small Knots is available at Amazon.  Shanna's Down Spooky can be purchased here.  Joshua's (quite beautifully produced) Fourier Series can be had.  Suzanne's award-winning Spring Tide isn't available yet, but Red Paper Flower is. Eduardo's The Border Triptych should be available later this year.  Get Chris's Nouns Swarm A Verb here, and Heidi's delightful Guess Can Gallop at Amazon (where they're suggesting buying Sabrina's Babies at the same time), and Mike's 44 Sonnets here, and Gabe's wonderful and hilarious A Defense of Poetry here. Jeannine's Becoming the Villainess should be out next year.



Posted by jbahr at 10:38 AM | Comments (1)

September 21, 2005

Elliptical Chic

I've been over at Tony's joint, reading his take on SOQ and the dangers of categorizing.  It brought to mind a number of things, (but I can never keep my mind focused on one thing very long, so that's no surprise) including the humorous article in the AWP Writer's Chronicle in which Charles Harper Webb lists 62 properties of a poem that, taken in groups, characterize a school of poetry.  To quote myself:  "These characteristics include natural style, flash and flair, accessibility, mystery, seriousness, sincerity, figurative language, moral uplift, performability, craft, closure, propriety, nihilism, realism and ugliness, just to name a few."

I don't know how the hell I write, actually, but I know I've been indicted for a number of things in the past, including disjunctiveness, an excess of suburban sensibility, and way-too-weirdass line breaks.  I intentionally match my phrasing to where my mind (and the poem, of its own accord) is going, which phasing can end up looking pretty placid, or evidencing the kind of subjective leaps that experimentalists are so fond of.  Do I occupy a vaunted/despised/ignored/vapid/soothing place among the SOQ crowd?  Beats me.  The only time I've ever gotten an intuitive handle on what I'm trying to do was when I termed my verse as Evocation by Juxtaposed Imagery.  Now, I'm not the only member of the EJI School, but I like to think that I have recognized it more often than most. Anyway.  What my friends know quite well is there is usually a LOT going on in my poems.  What may at first glance seem like a typical narrative piece probably has a dozen subtle allusions to everything from Newton's Second Law to Magritte's Ceçi n'est pas une pipe, and they are there for a reason (a reason, admittedly that is often so private that it escapes everyone but the author).  This is why I tend to be more gracious toward work that seems not to be saying much (for example, that of Carl Phillips), because I've been proven wrong on that count too many times not to have learned at least a basic lesson in humility.

But, I digress.  I'm thinking about this whole poetic analysis thing, and I decided to re-read some poets whom I admire and try to come up with some ways to describe their work.  That would be a first step in deciding whether something like the SOQ (or any other broad generalization) works to describe seemingly similar work.  Let's start with Lara Glenum.  I like Lara's work, and I'm not quite sure why.  I also know, having read probably a dozen of her poems, that she is not perfectly predictable.  That said, there are often some common aspects to her work:  a backdrop of sexuality;  very nice sound and rhythm;  first-class extended metaphor; quite often a narrative thread, either faux-first-person or allegorical.  From Bambi, we extract:                                        

I had my four legs akimbo / I was posing like a starlet in my
spotted coat / I was saucy & rutting hard next to the charred

corpse of my mother / I was creaming into the mouth of any
anonymous ranger / I was a petulant child / A child with

flaming labia / I did not want to nurse at the charred teat of
 my mother / I wanted to swallow 1,000 cocks

I would posit that Lara's apparent elliptical chic owes as much to the geography of her poetry (line dislocation, breaking on prepositions, spacing, diacritical flights of fancy)  as it does some inherent radicalism in her worldview and exposition.  I like Lara because I like the way she uses words, and it doesn't bother me at all that they take the shape of what's currently fashionable among the particular journals (New American Writing, Fence, Denver Quarterly, 3rd Bed, for all of which Ms. Glenum has publication credits) that subtly (Note:  OED and everybody else agrees that this is the adverb, but don't you want to spell it subtlely?) encode her as a dreaded Post-Avant.  Take a look at this, this or this, for example, to cite a few online examples.  My point is (at this point, you were surely wondering) that the apparently non-SOQ poet can share dozens of hidden similarities with the most despised of SOQ poets — yes, Sharon Olds (in fact, particularly, Sharon Olds).   Yes, Mary Oliver.  Yes, God Forbid, Billy Collins.   In fact, in a number of ways, Bambi reminds me of Olds' perfectly wonderful Feared Drowned.  On to Zachary Schomberg, recently of The Canary, LIT, Fence, Diagram (and a poet for whom I should perhaps recuse myself, having selected his work with Claudia for Melic Review).   Now, first off, the irony of Zach being evaluated for The Canary by Tony, consummate Sincerist, shouldn't escape one.  Secondly, Zach is a good story-teller.  His style has the matter-of-factness you associate with Midwestern values, and a silkiness of delivery that brings to mind Garrison Keillor on a good night, and smidgeon of dislocation that evokes Edson. 

Or take Gabe Gudding, that elfin Buddhist master of depth and the hilarious.  I've recently posted on Jonathan's blog that one of the best poems I read in all of 2001 was Gabe's How I Caught My Cold, which was competing with Lucie Brock-Broido's extraordinary verse in the same issue.  Why?  This is a work with the gravitas of a formalist, the imagery of a Sin City, the venality of the Beats, the vocabulary of an exile, the storyline of a Homer.  It contains lines like "penis shrunk to a bolt" and "where the whiskery daughters of the ursi albi / had taken my Babs", by a guy you're pretty sure can conjugate chingar in 7 languages.  You take it seriously, you laugh yourself in to distance, you find yourself counting the cowry and geoducks and blowfish.   It wanders, it rhymes, it slant-rhymes.  This is why you goddam read poetry. It's a fucking glorious poem.  And where does Gabe land in the scheme of things?  In short, any time I find myself saying  I wish I had written that I lose a little of the brittleness that comes with choosing up sides. 

Enough, I suppose.  Time for bed and the new Easy Rawlins mystery by Walter Mosley.

~~~

Claudia reminds us that Poetry Wars have gone global.  One reference discusses one critic's preference for the "difficult" Geoffrey Hill over the "seemingly light" recent work of Anne Carson, winner of the T S Eliot Prize.  Die Cloud also opines on commodification, Adorno's Authoritarian Personality, and other topics that fit right in with Josh's and Joshua's views.

~~~

Thanks to Emily for pointing a smile-inducing article by Mairead Byrne called Some Differences Between Poetry and Stand-Up Comedy.
 

~~~

This from the CNN web home page:  Hundreds of thousands of people in Texas and Louisiana headed inland Thursday, but many Texan evacuees ended up stuck in traffic. On a road between Austin and Texas people pushed cars in the slow moving traffic to save gas.

I guess that confirms what I've heard that Austin isn't really a part of Texas.

~~~

My buddy Claudia has suggested that I read Adorno's writings on the culture industry. The woman is so damned convincing (and subversive), but I will submit. Unlike Die Cloud, I won't be able to manage in the original German, so I'll have to settle for an approximation.

Posted by jbahr at 10:02 PM | Comments (1)

More BAP Stats

My buddy Frank has sent me an interesting news article that claims Ruth Lilly never meant to give $100 million to Poetry.

~~~

Seth mentions something I've been thinking about all week.  What's the first thing you hear when a bomb goes off somewhere, or a volcano erupts, or an earthquake hits?  The casualty numbers ("Over 4,500 people are feared dead in the recent typhoon that hit ...").  And how man casualties is Katrina responsible for?  We don't know, and the nightly news isn't telling us.  The official number is something like 1,000 right now, but that is known to be low — perhaps by a factor of 5 to 10, if you count all the people who have died because of lack of medical care.
~~~

Who's missing from BAP 2005?  Offhand, I'd say Albert Goldbarth, G.C. Waldrep, Dean Young and Bob Hicok are glaring omissions.  I also would have expected to see Carl Phillips, Donald Revell, and Olena K. Davis.  I realize that it's poems published in 2004 that are considered, but I think these individuals had enough work to consider in that window.  Many of them have also been subject to buzz from interviews and articles in Poets & Writers and APR.  Also missing is every Whitman Award winner since 1996 winner, Joshua Clover (who's been in the series a number of times). 

I had the top 20 BAP journals (by number of appearances) wrong in my last post, owing to a mistake in coding The New Yorker and New Yorker as two separate litmags.  The top 20 literary journals should be:

New Yorker 80
Poetry 72
Collection 70
American Poetry Review 49
Paris Review 48
Ploughshares 38
Yale Review 27
New Republic 24
Atlantic Monthly 23
Boulevard 21
Threepenny Review 21
New American Writing 20
Grand Street 19
New England Review 18
Boston Review 17
Iowa Review 17
Callaloo 16
Gettysburg Review 16
TriQuarterly 16
Colorado Review 15

~~~

Facts About BAP-Honored Publications


Which publications have a number in their name?  26, 32 Poems, 88, 3d Bed.

Which litmag has the longest name, and which has the shortest?  Princeton University Library Chronicle and No.

Which are the funkiest publication names?  Deluxe Rubber Chicken, Mungo vs. Ranger, Stud Duck, Skanky Possum, O.blek, Van Gogh's Ear.

Which publications' names are all capitals?  LIT, POOL, BOMB, PMS, ZYZZYVA.

Which publications were listed in the original 1988 BAP and never showed up again?  Sonora Review, Heavy Daughter Blues, Disbelief, Shiny International, Tyuonyi.

Which publication has the longest winning streak?  The New Yorker, which hasn't missed a cut since 1988.

Which publications have come on the strongest in the past 5 years?  Boston Review, TriQuarterly, New England Review, New American Writing.

What's the most appearances in one year by any publication?  The New Yorker with 10 in 1991.   


Facts About BAP-Honored Poets

Of the poets who have been in BAP four or more times, which ones have I heard the least about?  Louis Simpson, Sandra McPherson, David Halpern, James Cummins, George Bradley.

Which poets have the funkiest names?  Ahmos Zu-Bolton, Ray A. Young Bear, Ioanna-Veronika Warwick, Laurel Trivelpiece.

Which poets have had more than one poem in a single issue of BAP?  Nancy Eimers, Martin Espada, Natasha Le Bel, all chosen by Adrienne Rich in 1996.

Were there any poets who were listed in the original 1988 BAP and then never showed up again?  Yes, about a dozen, including David Lehman!

Which poets have the longest winning streak?  John Ashbery and Donald Hall with 7 in a row.

Which poets have come on the strongest in the past 5 years?  John Ashbery, James Tate, Charles Wright, Sarah Manguso, David Wagoner.
 

A complete set of tables with poets and publication rankings is available here.  As Jim says, "Thank you for playing BAP Stats".

Posted by jbahr at 10:23 AM | Comments (3)

September 18, 2005

BAP Stats

Jim is busy rewriting the poems in BAP 2005 to his liking.  Seth is busy satirizing, then lauding, the recent volume.  I'm here, as they say on NPR's Market Place, to do the numbers.

Trimodality

There are a lot of poets this time in BAP that are either your age, my age, or the age of your grandparents or my parents, respectively.  A bunch of poets' ages pile up in the 30's, a lot in the 50's, and a lot in the 70-80 range.  Those in the two upper range tend, of course, to be familiar names.



Gender

The breakdown of poets between ladies and gentlemen is just about 50/50 — 39 women and 36 men making up the customary 75 poets in BAP.  One glaring difference in the distribution, however, is the high proportion of women among the younger poets, which mirrors the growing number of successful female poets, and the higher percentage of women in MFA programs.

I See Dead People

Although not unprecedented, there's a higher-than-usual percentage of dead poets in this volume, including A. R. Ammons, Charles Bukowski, and Anthony Hecht.  The nonagenarian, Dorothea Tanning, is the oldest poet (living or deceased) in the group at 95.

Front-Running Poets

In the last two years, John Ashbery has taken over the lead in "number of appearances" since the BAP Series' introduction in 1988 — in which he was the guest editor.  There are no women in the top ten.  In fact, the most-honored woman in the Series is Carolyn Kizer with 8 appearances.

Poet Number of Appearances
John Ashbery 13
Donald Hall 12
Charles Simic 11
James Tate 10
Charles Wright 10
Billy Collins 9
John Hollander 9
Kenneth Koch 9
Robert Pinsky 9
Richard Wilbur 9

Most Appearances by Literary Magazines


The mix of journals who originally published poems in BAP 2005 was much more egalitarian than the usual dominance of perennial sources, with only The New Yorker (who had a near-record 7 appearances) having more than two contributrions. The New Republic and Boulevard had none, and The Paris Review, Ploughshares, APR and Poetry only had a single contribution each.  The top 20 journals and magazines since 1988 are given below.  "Collections" refers to poems that originally appeared in a poet's published book.

Literary Journal

Number of Appearances

   
Poetry 72
New Yorker 71
Collection 70
American Poetry Review 50
Paris Review 48
Ploughshares 38
Yale Review 27
New Republic 24
Atlantic Monthly 23
Boulevard 21
Threepenny Review 21
New American Writing 20
Grand Street 19
New England Review 18
Boston Review 17
Iowa Review 17
TriQuarterly 17
Callaloo 16
Gettysburg Review 16
 

~~~

Other bloggers on BAP: BillyBlog: BAP '05 has a high concentration of New Yorkers... Twenty-two in all.

Matthew Thorburn: I don't need a new BAP each year to tell me that all the usual suspects are still publishing poems ...

Shanna on the BAP Reading: Everybody read the one poem in the volume except Ashbery who read his contribution as well as one new unpublished poem that I think I would have enjoyed had I not been busy thinking "I'm next I'm next I'm next."

Posted by jbahr at 05:15 PM | Comments (7)

September 15, 2005

Barker Loves Junie

I'm really flying home from Guadalajara on Friday.  No, really.

~~~

Kelli reports that if she ever starts a garage band, she'll name it Leonardo Loves Gulls, an anagram of her name.  The best I would be able to do is

Sherriff Be A Lo Jury
Be A Fisher For July
(A) Her Joyful Briefs
So Fry Her A Jibe Flu

You can try with your name here.

~~~

Latest installment from Olympos:  Hockenberry, the rejuvenated 20th century Midwestern classics prof has QT'd (quantum-timed) back to the Queen Mab from the shores of the Mediterranean, where the Greeks are being slowly slaughtered by the Trojans in a last stand, to obtain help from the moravec quasi-organic robots.  Achilles has petitioned the Titans stuck in Tartarus to aid in the Trojan war.  Back on Earth, Harmon is walking across the bottom of the Atlantic, using a narrow, force-field-assisted valley which holds back the ocean, hoping to get to Ardis Hall and fight the voynix.  Prospero has completed Harmon's training in the transcontinental skyway cablecar.  The moravec protagonists have descended to earth in a shuttle to battle Setebos.  Odysseus is making hot monkey love to Sycoras on her asteroid stronghold, and transmitting the lovefest back to the moravecs via nanotech sensors.

~~~

ADT has posted his Favorite Poem, Cape Town.  Birthday girl Claudia has reminded me of her wonderful poem in the comments section.  Howzabout the rest of you?  Suzanne?  Kelli? CDY?

OK, one more and then I promise to keep my poetry over on The Other Website.  This one starts off my unpublished chapbook, Junie and Barker, loosely about me and my sweetie:
 

They Don’t Know Their History

Junie tilts the miniblinds: "You're achieving love
through successive approximation." Barker elevates
a sun-striped creamer into a go-cup of MJB. He's thinking
St. Exupery, the wooded glen, the fox. Zeno's paradox,
Junie like a spelling bee. It's an old Lexus

but the aerial still sniffs for overtures. Driving to Idaho,
snow-fences stripe the road heat. "Now's your namesake,"
Barker triple-skips off the silence. Junie's tall and capable
of stripping a wall to the lath: "When did you lose your faith?"
Little America looms, men with dogs in their cabs.

Barker has a thing for motel sewing kits, and symmetry.
He once weighed two madrigals. In bed she says
"I'm you, at rest." He elbows her doubt. With a logo'd pen,
she writes MISSING on his lowest rib. Junie places an ice bucket
on his chest. They are a day from dinosaurs.

Junie pooh-poohs half-life, the notion of quarrying
bones: "They have beggared stone." He thumbs
a stolen bible. The ranger recommends fishing
at Jones Hole and every language echoes off the walls.
Barker's surprised at the weight of the rocks in his pockets.

A road home, Barker smug as an empty
ashtray. The car's an age spot in the high desert,
Junie reads The Art of Drowning. He remembers
capturing the Horsehead Nebula with slow film
and dry ice.

Posted by jbahr at 06:54 AM | Comments (3)

September 14, 2005

Favorite Poem Project

We've spent a lot of time around the Old Blog Campfire discussing OPP (other people's poetry).  It occurred to me that I seldom hear what poets say is their own favorite work.  Not their best work nor their best credit, but the poem that they like the most.  I have 2 or 3, so I'll kick it off by posting mine.  Y'all do the same, OK?

Raku

Wheeled and bisque-fired, lifted
from the kiln anonymous,
each mark an accident
of pine boughs. Sold, empty,
holding roses, empty again
my gloved hands elsewhere --
poised with the ring, holding
the newborn's dusty head, palming
a lemon, the surprise
of possession. Here
is a boy, trailing
his fingers on the pot's rough husk,
my boy but equally
unmarked. A fly lands, lost
on the image of needles. Now,
up these stairs: salt thrown
against the heat of coupling,
the bartering of faces, your sweat's
signature. Look up. One turn
of the world and still
you can't parse your desire, even
the spider must eat. You can't keep
it all. You can't keep any of it.

Posted by jbahr at 11:55 AM | Comments (8)

September 13, 2005

Olympian Tips

On Sunday, we knocked off early at 7 PM and Jesus, our project manager, drove a couple of us to Tlaquepaque (which I love to say), an "old town" district outside Guadalajara that reminds me of Boulder's Pearl Street Mall, writ Mexican.  Mostly, it was closed, it being Sunday, and the broad walking mall was a wreck:  bricks torn up for repaving, re-bar poking up out of the ground covered by Pepsi bottles to avoid pedestrian disaster.  There was a tall telephone kiosk affair that had been uprooted from a recent downpour, and was only standing because its entire weight was leaning against a power line.  We ate a lovely meal at one of the few open restaurants which adjoins a store with beautiful pottery and dinnerware.  One glass case housed some stunning surreal animal figures carved from wood and painted in wildly vivid colors.  I lusted after an astounding dragon, but couldn't figure out how I would get it home in one piece.  I ended up buying a gorgeous butter dish for $10, which the proprietor wrapped up in excelsior (something I haven't seen for at least 30 years) and placed into a small black bag.  I am seriously thinking of breaking off on Thursday and going back there for a little early Christmas shopping.

~~~~

I'll be damned if I don't find that I agree with Kasey all over again.  In comments to my last post, he responds:

Rather, my point is simply that there is a point in the duration of critical response--a point that is sometimes short, sometimes long, sometimes indefinite and perhaps permanent for a given critic--during which critical closure or even plain coherence may be impossible.

There are poems, many of them critically unrecognized, that I simply love.  I don't want to analyze them to death, and I don't want to think very much harder about it.  So, I stand corrected, which was the academic-speak I learned which means I was probably wrong and somebody is owed an apology.

~~~

At dinner with The American Team Down Here In Mexico To Kick Ass And Straighten These Locals Out, I learned, amidst the war stories and mindless bravado, that the plant personnel earn about a dollar an hour.  It suddenly occurred to me that I have either been tipping too heavily, or perhaps, not enough.  I've been adding $2 to $5 in tips to most of the services provided here:  getting me a taxi, delivering room service.  Cab drivers get twenty bucks to drive me to the plant.  I think the actual fare is something like $14, but almost none of the meters work, and when they do, there are missing segments in most of the digits, so I just hand them a bill and say "¿Está bastante?"  For most of the kind souls who are the recipients, the tips probably amount to a half day's wages.  If I tipped a little more, maybe they could take a day off.

~~~

I'm finishing Dan Simmon's Olympus, the successor to Illium.  Post-humans have taken on the forms of Greek Gods and restaged the Trojan Wars on Mars.  Odysseus helps the nanotech-augmented normal humans survive the rampage of previously docile voynix.  Prospero appears occasionally to help our race defeat Setebos and his spawn Caliban.  The principal protagonists are partly organic robotic beings who have spent a millenium evolving on the moons of Jupiter, and who so love their creators that they memorize Keats and name their flagship Queen Mab.  A midwestern professor of classics, regenerated from his preserved DNA, is the narrator for most of the two novels.  Achilles, who is apparently immortal, slaughters the queen of the Amazons and then takes on Zeus, who banishes him to Tartarus, where he learns a few secrets from Cronos and Rhea.  Simmons dedicates one book to Harold Bloom and there's this sense of conservative politics to the whole project.  I've noticed over the years that SciFi authors tend to be conservative, for some reason.  There's a lot of Empire Lust among SciFi guys.  Jerry Pournelle pimps for the current Administration.  Heinlein is just to the right of Atilla the Hun.  I wonder why that is.

Posted by jbahr at 10:19 PM | Comments (4)

September 12, 2005

Which of These Things Isn't Like The Other?

Let me start my latest diatribe by saying that Kasey is not only someone whose blog I like to read, but someone whose subdued eloquence has me agreeing with him well before I've had the time to think about whether I concur with him or not.  Tony R said at some point in the recent past that he never understands Josh and seldom agrees with Joshua, or something to that effect, and I'm quoting from a faulty memory, so I stand corrected in advance if I got it wrong.  I bring this up because I tend to do a click-click-click-click-click on Kasey, Josh, Joshua, Jonathan and Ron to triangulate a part of the poetic universe of which I am abysmally ignorant.  But, I digress.  Kasey is discussing Linh Dinh's American Tatts, and proposes, quite reasonably at first blush, that "any attempt to codify or theorize my responses at this stage would be a distortion."  (you really have to read the entire review, because I won't be doing it justice).  I have been getting the sense from these well-read and sublimely opinionated individuals that there is something otherworldly about the elliptical work they love but can't quite explain why it's the cat's pajamas.  And then it's often left at that, as if the defense rests, QED, and next question.  I am for some strange reason reminded of the Scopes Monkey Trial, in which Darrow won in the court of public opinion, but lost the case.

What I mean is: why should poetry, any poetry, even poetry that skirts the edge of normalcy, that challenges our assumptions about voice and intent and synaptic association, be somehow magically elevated to the un-evaluatable?  Is poetry not the underdeveloped limb of literature?  Is literature not life fingered in wet sand?  Is life not a cruel and raucous series of unexpected consequences?  I was once on a bus when a man pulled out a dull knife and proceeded to slit his wrists.  I once slid down an apartment roof on a construction job and had my belt loops catch on a rain gutter, saving me a 30 foot fall.  Whether it's Weird Al or Memento or Grace Slick or Hair or Pollack or your aunt suddenly joining the Communist Party, are these anomalies so far afield that we can't measure them against the rest of our experience?  As for Kasey's example, Dinh's Schema, I was nonplussed, though for Kasey "The question [of its being well-written] seems terribly silly in relation to the more general sensation it produces in me as a reader", which I think is perfectly reasonable for Kasey.  It's just not reasonable for me, who thought the poem, well, trivial — in the sense that I anticipated a line or two, wasn't subjected to shock or awe, and found the premise and execution derivative.  I have to admit that some of the poems that Jonathan likes strikes me in a similar way, as does a lot of self-admitted post avant verse. And what I'm trying to say is that it isn't that I don't like the work (which sometimes I do, and sometimes I don't), but that I just don't understand why it's incomparable.  Incomparable is Bob Beamon breaking the long jumping record by almost two feet one day in Mexico City.   Or seeing your first child born and holding its white powdery form.  Or Ricki Lee Jones's Pirates.   Or GW conceding that his entire Administration's act has been a lie and submitting to recall. Or really, truly, finally, falling in love.

Posted by jbahr at 11:28 PM | Comments (5)

September 11, 2005

Long Hours and Selling A Pig

Well, I was going to keep up with my blog, but between the 16-hour workdays (which probably reminds CDY of his intern days) and intermittent Internet access, it didn't happen this week.  Full-scale production is happening now for The Player, and the heat is the engineering team has subsided, so I'll take a few minutes this morning to catch up.

You're probably wondering "where is the synopsis of this week's news?".  Well, here's what's interesting in the Guadalajara Reporter, which I was reading with breakfast.  A convoy of 20 Mexican trucks crossed into the U.S. with relief supplies for the estimated 135,000 Mexican citizens living in the area affected by Katrina.  Jalisco "got the green light" from the Mexican EPA to use herbicides on Chapala weed (also known as water hyacinth).  A ten-person Belgian group is competing in the International Mariachi Festival.  Bureaucrats "ponder over Fox's polemic used car decree" that permits 10 to 15-year old cars to be imported.  A 3 bedroom, 2 bath home with lake view in Mirador is $240,000.  Guadalajara has passed the first test in a bid to acquire a Guggenheim museum.  Local flag vendors say that Mexicans are much less patriotic this year.  The average Mexican family is having difficulty affording state-subsidized school necessities, including $12 for tuition, $3 for pens and paper, $1.50 for books, $20 for a uniform, and $9 for a backpack.  Rosa Maria Lopez has four children and her husband is an out-of-work fisherman, and they had to sell a pig to cover the costs.

~~~

Can bloggers get Pulitzer Prizes for journalism?  Seth should be nominated for his coverage of Katrina.

Maureen Dowd on the political cronyism at FEMA:  "Even those who believe in intelligent design must surely agree that Brownie and Representative Baker weren't part of it."

~~~

Speaking of Seth, he was waxing about his manuscript, The Suburban Ecstasies, which is also the name of his blog.  I had to smile at this:  "It's an odd little manuscript--I say "little," but at 81 pages it certainly is not petite--given that it rather baldly fails to adhere to or even bend toward any particular School or aesthetic".  That just about sums up my manuscript, as well.  On the face of it, one might say:  so, what makes you think you have a chance at one of the dozens of first-book contests?  To which, I think, either of us might say:  Beats me.  What does it take to win one of those things?  Between Seth and me, I suspect that at least half of the poems in either manuscript were accepted by:  Iowa Review, Barrow Street, Denver Quarterly, Mississippi Review, Notre Dame Review, Indiana Review, AQR, Gettysburg Review, Pleiades, Verse, 32 Poems, and many other fine literary journals.  OK, we write stuff that doesn't suck.  Is that enough?  Perhaps not.  On one hand, we haven't cracked Paris Review, New Yorker, or The Atlantic.  On the other hand, we're not published in Fence, New American Writing, or ALC.  We're both relative outsiders (not only didn't we do Iowa, we didn't do an MFA).   We aren't on the vanguard of any particular aesthetic.  The ultimate indictment is probably that our work isn't overtly emotional; nor demonstrably concerned with matters of ethnicity, sexual preference, or gender issues;  we don't do flowers, dogs, or babies;  nor have we been the subject matter of any of Jim's comix.  There's probably no Great Unifying Principle to our offerings.  As much as the sponsoring bodies deny the necessity that winning books be A Project, I'm often left with the impression, having read many first books winners, that stylistic consistency and emotional focus is very, very important.  After all, in the end, one judge picks a winner.  If one-third of your work appeals to their aesthetic, and the rest appeals to the aesthetic of another camp, what possible chance could you have?  After 3 years of contest-submitting, the exercise has taken on more of the sense of buying a lottery ticket than a matter of confirmation of our vision.  I don't mean to go all Foetry on you.  I don't think there's a vast, left-wing, conspiracy out there.  I think there is something to the notion that 50 really good poems doesn't make one really great manuscript.  Well, at least, for your first book.  By the time you've published your 5th book, you can probably just make it up as you go along.

~~~

We visited a cantina tonight, the guys from The Plant and I.  The music was 120 decibels of Latin rant, accompanied by large projection monitors of a soccer match between the home team (wearing jerseys bearing Sol beer logos) and the opposing team, who had donned red tops advertising a major Mexican shoe store.  Every time Something Good Happened, the already deafening din would be augmented by the waiters efforts at blowing referee whistles and long horns that assuredly had some biblical significance.  When we ordered beer and wine, we got twice what we ordered and it arrived in a bucket of ice, together with tortillas and a sloppy, delicious bowl of cheese that you forked on in long, stringy applications.  The walls were covered, inexplicably, by bullfighting posters from Spain.  The ceiling was tiled with squares of tarot-like cards, which our guest said was what they used to play the Mexican version of Bingo.  One of them was El Borracho (the drunk), which I thought was a nice touch.  The bill was less than one good Margarita at the hotel at which I'm encamped.

~~~

I've been having a difficult time understanding this whole Kent Johnson thing.  OK, fully 80% of you are going to say:  "What Kent Johnson thing?", even though Kent has suggested (posted on Kasey's blog, but now missing for equally mysterious reasons) that his translations of Araki Yasusada are the most important poetic contributions of the last decade.  Translations which are demonstrably bogus, as I think it has been established that Araki Yasusada is a (potentially brilliant) figment of Kent's imagination.  Now, in some circles that makes the Whole Project some resembling Great Art.  Frankly, I got so tired reading Pound, Balaban, and Bly's mangled translations of Asian poets that I wrote the whole thing off long ago, but that's me (although, I've reconsidered the possibility that Eshleman does a good job from Spanish to English, based upon Jonathan's comments).  Kent is apparently on to something else, his Lyric Poetry After Auschwitz — Eleven Submissions to the War, which is equally brilliant or exploitive or recycled or misunderstood, depending upon who you listen to.  Then, there's the Berhlesque, and the collaboration of Kent with TT on Fascicle, and somebody or other who thinks that Kent has published too many chapbooks in the same year.  Honestly.  I can hardly keep the plot thread of Battlestar Gallactica in my head.  This is way more than I can ken.

Not to imply any connection, but Gabe has a good post about Literary Narcissism.

~~~

I'm working my way down the Guadalajara Hotel Food Chain.  The Hilton was All Booked Up Unless You Were Really Special.  The Presidente Intercontinental agreed to house me for 4 nights.  I played the "I'm a Holiday Inn Priority Member!" card and got into the Crowne Plaza two nights ago.  That put me in a nice room overlooking the Garden Area on the second floor, with my own lanai (including lawn chairs and frank ashtrays), and now there's what I'm sure is a really sweet 15-year old young lady celebrating her coming out with even more Latino hip-hop and dancing and the occasional throwing of persons into the heated pool.  I'm glad they're having fun.  If I close the sliding glass door, the bass becomes something like those Wave Machines that help you achieve a really restful night's sleep.

~~~

Jim reminds us that BAP is out again, this time edited by Paul Muldoon.  I'd probably have my copy, if I could ever get home.  I need to update my various BAP Stats and see if Donald Hall is still at the top of the appearances pile. 

Posted by jbahr at 06:58 AM | Comments (4)

September 05, 2005

Still Wondering What Caudillo Is

There was a time when I seldom talked about what was happening in the play-that-is-my-life.  I think the desire to keep mum about my own happenings was my reaction to the mind-numbing personal minutia that I had encountered on a number of others' blogs.  I've been violating my own blogging precepts recently, as some days I just don't have time to write up a poetry/poetics review or synopsize the news.  My apology now adequately offered, let's talk about me and what I had for lunch!

I got a little sleep after a marathon 18-hour testing session for The Player, packed and left for DIA.  Two hops later, I was in Guadalajara, negotiating with the taxi people in broken Spanish to get to the Presidente Intercontinental Hotel.  I think what makes this so difficult is that I have an excellent accent and know hundreds of Spanish words, but I don't have the fluidity, practice and presence of mind to actually construct recognizable statements on the fly.  I expect my eye contact and earnest expression to work wonders when, for example, the gal comes by to clean my room ("¿Cuando esta listo, puedo ir a comer por treinte minutos?) and then think "hmm, what that right?" and "hmm, shouldn't I have used lista?" and other self-doubts.

This hotel isn't quite as grand as the one I inhabited last week, but still quite a bit nicer than, say, any of the college dorms I lived in.  It has WiFi and a coffee pot, which is all I really need, plus little things that I never use but that tickle me (terrycloth slippers, a monogrammed shoe-cleaning towel, the anachronistic sewing kit, a safe for my non-existent valuables).  I took a cab to the production plant ("Quisiera a la Sanmina planta cerca del parque Monterey"), checked in, figured out there wasn't much to do until tomorrow, and took a cab back.  My choices for lunch restaurants, for my first meal since Sunday afternoon, was either Frutas y Floras (an upscale café) or Alfredo:  Emperor of Fettucini (a much fancier joint with waiters in tuxes and such), which, when I first saw its name made me giggle involuntarily.  I settled for Frutas y Floras, at that point populated by 12 waitpeople, an elderly lady, and what looked to be a six-man, tattooed rock band.  The waiter put a linen napkin on my lap and advised me to go for the "International Buffet".  One thing I love about not-completely-homogenized-and-chain-mentality hotel restaurants is the novelty of their offerings and occasional humorous translations.  I didn't try the "gratinated tuna fish salad", for example, but I did eventually try the "nuts pie", which was a dense hazelnut tort.  The salad bar had octopus-and-tomato salad, and a goopy but delicious combination of corn, peas, carrot cubes and tarragon-flavored mayo.  The warming dishes held a "mosaic of mariscos", chicken in chipotle sauce, sand dabs in butter, salmon in "citrics sauce", steamed green beans, albondigas con caudillo (meatballs with ... hmm), puntas de res (which babelfish tells me are "points" of the head of cattle), fettucine with mushrooms — and that's only the ones that I tried a little bit of.  Besides the quite wonderful "nuts pie", the desert table had "English pudin" steaming in its own covered pan, "corn pie" (which baffled me), 4 kinds of cheesecake, 2 kinds of flourless chocolate cake, yoghurt sundaes, fruit tarts, and big goblets of red dice-sized cubes, exactly like you used to see on the Jello commercials.   Just so you can't say my reporting wasn't complete, I had one glass of Chardonnay and an excellent demitasse of espresso.  I then went up to work, and decided instead to take a nap, which did a little to catch up on sleep I'd missed Saturday and Sunday.

On the flight here, I read Freakonomics, the best-seller in which journalist Stephen Dubner channels the findings and thoughts of young, noted, iconoclastic economist Steven Levitt.  Levitt has made his mark by ferreting out the answers to interesting social questions by applying statistics (and ingenious insight) to raw data.  Levitt has demonstrated, for example, that the rapid drop in crime that started in the mid '90's is not the result of more police or tougher sentencing — it is solely attributable to Roe v. Wade, and the degree to which millions of children weren't born into family situations that breed sociopathic, 16-year-old superpredators.  Dubner tells us how Levitt searched through tens of thousands of house sales details to determine that real estate agents almost always get you less for your house than it's worth.  In another chapter, Dubner reports on Levitt's findings on "what makes a perfect parent", which concludes that taking children to museums, reading to them early on, having lots of books in the house, and limiting television watching have zero correlations with a child's success or future test scores.  The most interesting chapter (Drug Dealers Living with Their Moms) was a dissection of the street drug trade, which ultimately correlates well with the structure of Wal*Mart  — 95% of the labor force works for minimum wage, and the upper tiers of management are smart and often ruthless.

I picked up a copy of Archaeology for the hell of it in DFW airport (OK, I was tempted to get a Maxim).  I love magazines like this that instantly transport you into an arcane field in which findings of which one is completely unaware are reported matter-of-factly.  The Archaeology World Roundup notes that:  the Chinese government has found Bronze Age mummies near the former "Silk Road" trading routes that are Caucasian;  a New Zealand archaeologist has unearthed the grave of a pet kuri, an ancestor of the dog formerly thought to be used by the Maoris only for food or clothing; the National Park Service is "reverse excavating" the 900-year-old Aztec Ruins National Monument to preserve it for future archaeologists.  Another lengthy article discusses the ancient Peruvian city of Caral, a complex of pyramids, plazas, and buildings that is as old as the Pyramids, Mesopotamia and the Indus Valley, and vastly older than the Incan and Aztec societies that followed it.  Archaeology follows Belgian researcher Julie Van Den Bergh as she studies the Laos Plain of Jars, a large area of rice paddies, forests and hilltops where thousands of massive ancient stone jars are scattered.  The trick to Ms. Van Den Bergh's job is avoiding the thousands of unexploded bombs that the U.S. Air Force left there during the Vietnam War Era "secret" bombing of Laos. 

More tomorrow.  Hope y'all had a nice holiday.

~~~~

Like Mother, Like Son:  Barbara Bush, visiting the Astrodome with George Sr. on a tour of hurricane relief centers, stated on NPR's Marketplace show:  "What I’m hearing which is sort of scary is they all want to stay in Texas. Everyone is so overwhelmed by the hospitality.  And so many of the people in the arena here, you know, were underprivileged anyway, so this--this (she chuckles slightly) is working very well for them."

~~~

I'm beginning to think that Seth may be right.  The public relations disaster of New Orleans may finally equate to the appalling scope of the tragedy.  I called my right-of-center Mom and she was near to tears about the thousands who may have drowned, the ten thousand who may be dead because of bad planning, wrong priorities and slow reaction.  Even Rove can't rah-rah people with flag-waving and martial displays when 100,000 Americans lose everything when it was largely preventable.  We can only hope.

~~~

I have had the singular pleasure of sending another $300 to the Red Cross to match donations made by my fellow bloggers.  Bless you all and give what you can.

Posted by jbahr at 08:07 PM | Comments (0)

September 04, 2005

Back To Mexico

I'm leaving for Guadalajara again today, but I have promised myself to keep up with WS, even if it means just a short entry every other day (I swear nothing but fatherhood has managed to make me feel this guilty about inattention).  We're in the final days of preparation for production of Playaway, the "first self-playing audio book".  The introduction at major books stores will include 40 titles, with hundreds more licensed.  You can set bookmarks, run up and down through the chapters, and even control the speed of the narrator's voice.  Now, let's see if I can convince the founders to publish some poetry.  I'll have my cell phone again, and I think this time my loved ones will be able to reach me, and I them.  Last trip, the only call I received was from a stock brokerage saleman from Louisville.

I've added another dozen books to the Exceptional Poems list.  It's slow going and I have no idea how anyone would characterize the selection criteria.  There is so much good poetry out there, and I just list some work that strikes my fancy at the time. 

Some quick takes from the mags that have been piling up:  BusinessWeek provides a detailed, NPR-like review of Katrina's destruction and what it may mean for the nation and our economy.  There has been extensive damage done to oil and gas platforms, and damage to the electrical grid has shut down many refineries, leading (if you haven't noticed) to recent, record-breaking prices at the pump.  There a picture that is particularly disorienting of a Gulfport, Mississippi residential area where oil rig pieces, boats, RVs, and shipping containers are strewn about the neighborhood . One article quotes the director of Virginia Tech's disaster risk reduction program who reminds us that everything that happened was not only expected, but predicted, down to the details of levee failures and deaths.   BW suggests that the latest in what will certainly be high energy costs for the foreseeable future may mean the end of The Exurb Man — that male of expansive habits that lives 60 miles from work, drives a big SUV, and lives in a 3,500 square foot house that has to be heated with something.  Austin and Albany are competing with tax breaks to vie for the selection by Samsung of a new $3.5 billion semiconductor fabrication plant (as usual, and just as we find in pork-barrel legislation, the breaks will cost the towns hundreds of thousands of dollars per new job created — but they couldn't just give the money to those 900 prospective employees and tell Samsung to take a hike.  That would be welfare.)  LCD manufacturers have been gearing up production for two years, and screen prices for TVs and computers are dropping fast, with HD 20" monitors now dipping below $500. 

Time tells us How To Stop a Heart Attack, with a review of non-invasive medical means of discovering blocked arteries and damaged tickers.  Reuel Marc Gerecht, former CIA Middle East specialists, commenting on the draft version of the Iraqi constitution, opines that "women's social rights are not critical to the evolution of democracy".  After 84 years, the Miss America Pageant is leaving Atlantic City, and viewers (now fewer than 10 million a year) will be watching it on Country Music Television.  A story on Shawn Carpenter, a computer programmer who tracks Chinese cyberspying in his spare time, and who makes a good argument that widespread breakins to military and defense firms' systems is sponsored by the Chinese government.  Rape and murder by government-backed Janjaweed "rebels" continue to be common occurrences in Darfur.  The water needs of Las Vegas, the fastest growing city in America, has outstripped the local aquifer & its allocation of the Colorado river, and it's now petitioning for water rights in counties as far as 100 miles away.

Death Cab for Cutie's on the cover of Spin, and Travis Morrison says "At some point, you have to wonder if they're the R.E.M. of our generation".   Amply botoxed Courtney Love and bored Marc Spitz sharing champagne.  Modest Mouse's leader, Isaac Brock lists the records that have changed his life, including Crass:  Penis Envy, Pixies:  Doolittle, Red Red Meat: Bunny Gets Paid, Pavement: Slanted and Enchanted.  Shots from the cornfields of south Chicago where Eminem, 50 Cent and Lil Jon featured in the Anger Management Tour.  Elijah Wood discusses the transition from megastardom and $100 million budgets to auditions and small parts in movies like Sin City.  The 25 Most Incredible Rock Star Body Parts includes Meg White's cheeks, Keith Richard's liver, Gene Simmons' tongue (natch), Henry Rollins' neck, Ric Ocasek's Adam's apple, and (of course) Tommy Lee's penis.  Yet another long article on the Houston hip-hop scene and the allure of screw.  The "kickoff celebration" of the NFL season will feature a show that includes The Rolling Stones, Kanye West and Santana (maybe that's the commodification of art that Josh and others keep talking about).  Spin follows My Chemical Romance, day by day, on their latest tour.

~~~

While I was debugging final software for The Product last night, I was reading the provocative 2001 Third Factory article The Resistible Rise of Fence Enterprises by Steve Evans, and the equally fascinating responses to the article by Rebecca Wolff, Joshua Clover, Marjorie Perloff, Dale Smith, Brian Kim Stefans, and others. Speaking of FENCE, like Jordan and Kasey, I wasn't expecting this.
~~~

Contributions to victims of Katrina matched by my software company now includes almost 25 kinds souls, and is approaching $2,000.

Posted by jbahr at 09:27 AM | Comments (2)

September 02, 2005

Help The Hurricane Victims

My little software company will donate $20 to the American Red Cross to match any donation of any size made by visitors to Whimsy Speaks.  Just leave a comment or drop me an email.

There's an amazing, if heartbreaking, superimposed pair of satellite images on MSNBC that shows New Orleans before and after Katrina.

Posted by jbahr at 12:56 PM | Comments (21)

FEMA and The List

Jordan reminded me that I haven't updated my Exceptional Poems of 2005 list, which he originally inspired, as well as motivating Deborah (congratulations on the arrival of the quite beautiful Olive) and others to construct their own lists.

I think I failed to mention that I enjoyed the Summer 2005 issue of Notre Dame Review.  Poetry and fiction by Albert Goldbarth, David Citino, Tony D'Souza, Maura Stanton and William Logan (yes, that William Logan).  Reviews of Vona Groarke's Flight and Earlier Poems, Robert Archambeau's Home and Variations, and Puerta Del Sol by Francisco Aragón.  I've added 3 poems from the issue to Exceptional Poems of 2005.

I also meant to comment on the Spring 2005 Ploughshares, which I received some time back, an issue edited by Martin Espada and which includes poetry by Nin Andrews, Daniel Berrigan, Michelle Boisseau, Rafael Campo, Nan Cohen (director of the Napa writer's retreat I went to), Robert Creeley, Donald Hall, Bob Hicok, Yusef Komunyakaa, David Hernandez,  D. Nurkse, Gerald Stern, Sharon Olds, and Gary Soto.  It has a nice review section, and the entire issue is online.  Here's what's weird:  I couldn't find a single poem among dozens to insert into my exceptional poems list.  I had a somewhat similar experience with the poetry in Fascicle, TT's artistically composed new journal that is a wonderment of layout and organization.  There were very few poems that I didn't like, but none that rose to the level required for The List — which is probably just a result of mismatch between my preferred aesthetics and the strong work there that ultimately didn't reel me in.    I'll be looking through the journals I received this summer and see if I can't find a few more poems to add.

Webhopping Finds:  I just ran across an interview with the mysterious, brilliant, exasperating, and enthralling Olena K. Davis.  The Harvard Review posts its reviews online.  Steve Harris sent me this interesting article regarding the degree to which FEMA has been starved of resources since 9/11, and how this may have affected preparedness for disasters like that caused by Katrina.  Seth summarizes neatly, including his observation "When it's all said and done, the fact remains that federal and Louisiana officials told people, on twenty-four hours notice, to simply run the fuck away."
 

Posted by jbahr at 11:39 AM | Comments (0)