Chimera Song Mosaic
Thursday, January 26, 2006
Today I am a truth-teller, and the truth I am telling is about the rampant unscrupulous breeding of ferrets. Ferrets so interrelated that they have reduced lifespan of about half, ferrets so susceptible to adrenal disease that they almost assuredly get it. Watch out where you get your ferret; stay away from pet store ferrets since they probably come from Marshall's ferrets, the ones with the most genetic problems and whose popular line of ferret meal is way too high in sugars and whose owners are seduced by name recognition (sort of like the problem we'd have if Schwarzenegger ran for president in 2008).

The three main factors typically resulting in adrenal disease (read: cancer) are 1. diet (diet should be low in sugars); 2. Overexpose to light (keep your ferrets away from full-spectrum light and encourage burrowing in dark places, which ferrets enjoy); 3. get your ferret from a reputable breeder, not a pet store. Even better, contact a ferret rescue operation.

I don't think reputable breeders are even safe. Even though breeders may control for some disease, they don't know what other diseases they might be propagating since they aren't geneticists. Even geneticists don't know what all they are dealing with. Perhaps only geneticists should be able to legally breed any kind of animal. But then again maybe we'd be safer with backyard breeders since they at least aren't targeting one particular trait and ignoring others. Being largely noninformed, they might have the best likelihood of creating a healthy animal. Perhaps accidental breedings are the best bet, and I don't mean those hot commodities right now the likes of Puggles. Yes, and on the other hand, geneticists bring us chickens with extremely large breasts and wings that look the size of turkeys' and taste terrible. Perhaps only ethical geneticists should be allowed to breed, but then who would sign their paychecks? Furthermore, how would breeding be regulated and controlled? Since animals are apparently "property," who has the right to tell an individual what to do with his or her property?

The commercial aspect must be removed from the equation. Probably the best thing to do is, if you want a surrogate baby, a cute and fuzzy puppy or kitten, go to the local animal shelter. And please spay and neuter.

I have no poetry ideas today (perhaps this will be my perpetual song), but Jonathan tells truth about translation, and I am in agreement.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006
Oh, and my requisite poetry comment for the day is: work is for suckers.
Getting excited: It's SXSW, Baby!
Tuesday, January 24, 2006
On Boxing & Cinema

I just watched Cinderella Man, and I am re-obsessing over Depression-era boxing. Back when I was an undergrad at Texas A & M, I had this cool prof who made us write a paper (one of the two papers I had to write to get my BA) about a sporting event in American history that reflected the social concerns of the time. I drew a major blank, but my sister suggested the Joe Louis / Max Schmeling bout of 1936. Natch! Not only did I write a paper, but I researched so hardcore that I read several Louis biographies and even read some Depression / WWII boxing books. I don't really like boxing at all, but I found the boxers' lives fascinating. For example, I am really sad about the end of Joe Louis' life being so difficult for him. I think he was a very nice person who had a talent for a violent profession but who worked hard, was kind, and happened to inspire millions. For a while, I was one of those people who really wanted to be on Jeopardy and have the final questions about boxing but it would be like no one in the audience would ever think I would know anything about boxing but of course I really did. Now I have forgotten most of it. I could still get some Trivial Pursuit questions about Floyd Patterson, though, I bet.

I never really was all that interested in Jim Braddock's story, however. But watching Cinderella Man changed all that. I've heard that a lot of people criticized the film's portrayal of Max Bear, but I think he seemed very likeable in the film (probably this was helped by the fact that he was portrayed by a very hot actor). I also liked reading about Max Bear, and I liked him in the film, so much that I did a bunch of research online after watching the film. I had forgotten that Bear's son, Max Bear, Jr., played Jethro in The Beverley Hillbillies. What a fun fact! And I didn't remember that he was Jewish, although he (the actor) wore boxing shorts with a Star of David on them in the film. This is true about Baer; he wore them during a fight with Max Schmeling (in 1933) and every fight afterward. I was wondering why the media didn't make a bigger deal of him fighting Schmeling, Baer being Jewish, but I think it was because anti-German sentiment hadn't reached such a peak as it had in 1936, when Louis fought (and beat) Schmeling. Baer beat Schmeling first, but the Louis-Schmeling fight remains more historically significant, ushering in, so it is said, increased awareness of Nazi racism and the more locally immediate plight of black Americans.

Interestingly, Baer was raised Catholic (his mom's religion); his dad was Jewish. Shades of J.D. Salinger! See how cool Max Baer is!

Also, I can't help but feel for Max Schmeling, who fought all of his very long existence (he lived to be almost 100) to get away from the stink of Nazism. Much was made of his post-bout friendship with Louis, but maybe people don't know that he smuggled two Jewish teens out of Nazi Germany. I'd love to do more research and write a screenplay about their relationship and the media vortex that engulfed them and influenced their personal choices, but apparently that's already been done (Joe and Max, 2001). Remix? Of course, Baer, Braddock, and maybe Carnera would factor in.

Perhaps Cinderella Man could have mentioned that Baer's accidental killing of another fighter in the ring affected him greatly, and he didn't fight for another year after it happened. Also, he paid for the fighter's (Frankie Campbell) kids to go to college. But I don't think the film portrayed Baer as bloodthirsty--more like confident, boastful, maybe arrogant, which aren't such bad characteristics.

Okay, enough about boxing and cinema. On to poetry, where the real antagonism happens:

I'm getting very frustrated with my manuscript. It's not so much the manuscript that upsets me (maybe it's the blackhole workload that it represents), but the packaging of it for consumption (read: contest viability). More and more, I am getting feedback and finding calls that favor the manuscript as medium, that is to say, the book as primary product, not the individual poem.

Where the freak am I going to come up with something like that? I'd like to write a poetry BOOK, rather than a collection of poems, but I haven’t been writing all that long (only 20 or so years), and I am still not fluent with the product.

These presses claim to stress innovation and experimentation over everything, but it is really experimental if that poet has been handed a preexisting construct?

I realize that the POEM as the unit is hardly original. However, I have seen it done once or twice in some very surprising ways. I'm sure you will agree (read: sarcasm).

My point is that the POEM (read: TITLE) is hardly exhausted as medium.

Having seen many an anthology (unfortunately having had the job of teaching many a section of sophomore lit), it is truly annoying for a poem to not have a title. Sure, Emily D. gets away with it. So does William S. Ditto for Walt W. But for the most part, a long, sprawling thing is hardly anthologized; it is hardly reproduce in journals; it is hardly read.

And which is more important: readability and access to audience, or fashion?

I see this trend as fashion. Nothing but.

(Okay, possibly a new and exciting vehicle for Poetry. Possibly in the future more forms of access and reproduction, reducing the need for titles and reference and whatnot. Yes, there could be a future, and yes, I could acknowledge it.)

But right now usually I see an excerpt from a long poem by a new author in some new anthology, and I think to myself, why am I reading this obvious snippet? Shouldn't I just read the whole thing? Couldn't they just find a poem by this author to place in?

There is a reason the POEM is the unit:

1. Attention span: the average attention span is like 3 minutes, for old world bard-hoppers and generation y alike. This is the reason the average length of a popular song cut on the radio is just under 3 minutes. This is how long humans want to listen to one THING. The POEM is the "unit of attention."

2. Past abuse of the ear: bloated divas (circa 1770s) and metal guitarists (circa 1970s) of the past most self-importantly and self-indulgently masturbated on their instruments because of a. contract requirements, or b. pushing the vocal/aural/mechanical envelope. They wanted to see how far they could go. On this note,

why should the BOOK be the unit of Poetry? Why not the seven volume set? Why not the books on tape? Why not the encyclopedia? Why not the Bastille?

3. It works: recitability and memorization is fun!

There is such a thing as pushing someone too early out of their comfort zone. Maybe some of us are Luddites (I suspect I am), traditionalists, whatever, or maybe some of us are geared toward experimentation in other ways, such as language, or the ear, or the eye.

I am not totally adverse to the BOOK as the unit of poetic composition. I have read some startling and wholesome examples of this (I am thinking of My Life; I am thinking of A Summer Evening). However, I do not think we can simply ascribe it to the "new poetry," any more than prose poems can be the shining and exclusive example of this.

Of course, the easy answer to this is, don't submit to presses requesting such or admitting this favoritism. But many presses I admire appear to be seduced by this fashion, and to ignore them is to regulate my writing to more traditional camps, which I think it is ultimately unsuited for.

Some more thoughts on this:

- doesn't requesting experimentation kill the impetus of it?
- arbitrary distinction! it stinks of weeding out for the sake of reducing workload (read: reading)
- a poet who does not have the current impetus for this is encouraged to think about packaging as (before, or rather than) product
- submission to fashion is for suckers!

Maybe my problem is that I cannot quite figure out how to package my product. For example, the thought occurred to me that I should heavily footnote my stuff, as if it were anthologized in Norton. I mean so many footnotes that one hardly has to think for one's self.

But I resist this because, primarily, I am lazy, but quite importantly because the urge to explain is a nasty habit best left to editors. Not that I couldn't be an editor; I would like nothing more that to go to bed with a text and get ink all over the sheets for some years. But any attempts that I have made to write about my writing have seemed jargony and trite; there is a whole desperate I-wish-I-knew-what-you -were-looking-for, job application currency to it. Also, it reduces the work of a writer or artist to some kind of general commonality, like we are all really looking for the same thing, the intersection of beauty and biology, or the body and its relationship to its products, like children or religion or feces or poetry.

I think it’s probably worse for visual artists; at least our product is writing. When they are told that they have to write about their art, they probably vomit in their own mouths for a while first.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006
I was just reading my blogs from last summer, and I don't even recognize them. Seriously, if someone had shown me some excerpts, I doubt I would guess myself the author. I really put in a lot of work back then. What a lazy fish I am now!

Like this sentence I plucked from one Julyish entry: "It seems that my expectations were so habitual and so entrenched that I did not replace them with reality."

Wouldn't you guess Wittgenstein's Mistress? What a thief I am! Or perhaps I'm just flattering myself. Still, I'm interested in my attempts to catalogue the very scraps of life. I do believe that everything has it's place, but I don't have several lifetimes such work requires.

Even if I get my "life" straight, say I organize and document everything I have in my New York Apartment (not in New York), just these 20 or so boxes and I file them away, won't I just have to do it all over again when I start my new life in Qatar? And why must my life be determined by location? What is all this stuff, and why can't I spend meticulous time with it? I have given so many things away, hopefully households of things, but I still have boxes and boxes and boxes of heavy documents. I love any flat surface with something written on it.

Did I write that sentence or not? I saw one of my English papers from highschool like two years ago, and on it my teacher had written in red: "Either you have committed plagiarism here, or you have missed your calling as a writer." I don't remember being offended when I read that. It was a paper on Truman Capote's short stories. Now that I know all the ins and outs of proper research and documentation, I wonder, did I plagiarize? I don't think so because I remember really loving writing the paper and taking over and not letting my research partner help me with it, but I scoffed the tedious steps to proper documentation such as the notecards. Also the fact that I kept the paper this long suggests I was proud of it and proud of her comments. What if I wrote just as well back then as I do now? What if nothing has changed, other than my ability to navigate research and recognize an either/or fallacy? But anyway it made me smile, thinking, "Mrs. Noshari, I am a writer."

Quietly, after much away time, I re-begin blogging. I do have a few NYs resolutions in mind, chiefly: to have each post contain some reference to poetry; to update my links at right and re-familiarize myself with the new blogs I have been missing; to avoid whining; to refrain from complaining; to fix this dread spacing problem; to revitalize blog in question; to link more; to blog frequently; to not be motivated by jealousy exclusively.

Only the first may need some explanation: I have been reading these linked blogs a bit, and I saw some complaining about "nominal" poetry blogs not having much to do with poetic discussion but rather leaning heavily toward the online journal or diary. I say to this, "Who cares?" I like so many blogs which although some maybe not primarily concerned with the "discussion" are, in fact, written by poets and taking various forms which defy labels (the near-visual observations of Katie Degentesh; the lucid ruminations of Stephanie Young; the happy informations of Chris Murray; the rich permutations of Josh Corey; the percolations of Catherine Meng; the illuminated FYIs of Jonathan Mayhew; the ephemeral bytes of Jordan Davis; & so on). Why place them in catagories? Whatever their blogging impulses may be, I enjoy them rather than question their origins. My first impulse is to argue this point. My second is to comply. But let it be known that I first logged my complaint. So now let me attempt to comply.

But it's true that I have been thinking that same thing (about my blog). True, first of all, it needs recent content, but also true that I might have more to say about poetry, however trite. My first trivial bit:

Every time I see someone write about Harryette Mullen's S*PeRm**K*T, I read "SpermKit." I'm pretty sure I'm not the only one. I keep forgetting that I have already figured out that it's really saying "SuperMarket." Now it's time to read it. Although I must say the title "SpermKit" really turns me off. (I'm not being a prude; it really sounds like rape kit, and I have watched too many CSIs.) I really liked Muse & Drudge. But that title turns me on. I don't think this will be a Giorgio/Gio thing.

That's all I have to say about poetry today.

And you would maybe think that today, January 18, at 3:24 a.m., is a thoroughly meaningless time to restart my postings, but you would be wrong. About a day ago, Martin Luther King, Jr.'s birthday was observed. The day before that was the postmark deadline of submitting your request to vote in absentia (for Mexicans living out-of-country). I know I should have mentioned this before, when you could actually do something about it if you are in this situation (I mailed my application on the 12th), but take heart: the application is due in hand by February 15, 2006, so if you can deliver it in person to the IFE (I went to the one in Reynosa before Christmas), I think you still have a chance. All you need is copies of your Credencial para Votar and a bill from where you live in the United States. For more information, go to the Instituto Federal Electoral website.

Why this is significant: this is the first time in history that Mexican ex-pats will be permitted to vote in absentia. Viva la Democracia Mexicana!

Funny story: how I got my Credencial at the IFE in Reynosa. I'll tell it later. My parents keep messing with me, saying, "Are you going to vote for Salma Hayek?"

I also got my Mexican passport! Finally, finally, finally. The Mexican Consulate in Houston is like a great big DMV. There were all these people getting their Matricula Consulars, and some were getting their passport, like me. A few Canadian types were getting visas for some reason. We were there all day long one day and part of the next (because we thought we forgot something important, but it turned out we had it anyway). The only person who questioned my Mexicaness was a security guard, but I bet it's because I dyed my hair blonde. Get this: now that my hair is blonde, people treat me differently (worse, not better), and some people actually think I have blue eyes, so strong is the association. I have never been mistaken for having blue eyes in my life. My eyes are green, and they aren't even very light green.

Going guera (how do I spell this without an umlaut?) was a fun experience, I guess. But it is to be short lived. I am going to dye my hair purple, then blue. Hopefully I will get back to brown before my birthday.

I should also say that I am going to AWP! Well, duh; it's in Austin. But the good news is that Marisa's panel (that I am also on) was accepted, so LOOK OUT! Marisa has put together a fine panel of RGV poets and writers to read from their stuff, and it's called, We Bring You the Border: Writers of the Rio Grande Valley. It's on Saturday, March 11, from 1:30-2:45 p.m. Say you will!

The freedom and potential mania of being unemployed is breathtakingly seductive. Like I might have one class to teach online this semester, and even then I'd only have 15 students. Imagine that! 15 students to pander to and spoil. 15 down from 125. No money, just freedom. I'm going to be right-clicking all over the place. Look the heck out.

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