A couple of amazing poems – not by me

I wanted to share two of my most favorite poems, by Dean Young. He lives in Berkeley, and I am dying to meet him.


Ash Ode

When I saw you ahead I ran two blocks
shouting your name then realizing it wasn’t
you but some alarmed pretender, I went on
running, shouting now into the sky,
continuing your fame and luster. Since I’ve
been incinerated, I’ve oft returned to this thought,
that all things loved are pursued and never caught,
even as you slept beside me you were flying off.
At least what’s never had can’t be lost, the sieve
of self stuck with just some larger chunks, jawbone,
wedding ring, a single repeated dream,
a lullaby in every elegy, descriptions
of the sea written in the desert, your broken
umbrella, me claiming I could fix it.


Ode to Hangover

Hangover, you drive me into the yard
to dig holes as a way of working through you
as one might work through a sorry childhood
by riding the forbidden amusement park rides
as a grown-up until puking. Alas, I feel like
something spit out by a duck, a duck
other ducks are ashamed of when I only
tried to protect myself by projecting myself
on hilarity’s big screen at the party
where one nitwit reminisced about the 39¢
a pound chicken of his youth and another said,
Don’t go to Italy in June, no one goes to Italy in June.
Protect myself from boring advice,
from the boring past and the boring present
at the expense of an unnauseating future:
now. But look at these newly-socketed lilacs!
Without you, Hangover, they would still be
trapped in their buckets and not become
the opposite of vomit just as you, Hangover,
are the opposite of Orgasm. Certainly
you go on too long and in your grip
one thinks, How to have you never again?
whereas Orgasm lasts too short some seconds
and immediately one plots to repeat her.
After her I could eat a car but here’s
a pineapple/clam pizza and Chinese milkshake
yum but Hangover, you make me aspire
to a saltine. Both of you need to lie down,
one with a cool rag across the brow, shutters
drawn, the other in a soft jungle gym, yahoo,
this puzzle has 15 thousand solutions!
Here’s one called Rocking Horse
and how about Sunshine in the Monkey Tree.
Chug, chug, goes the arriving train,
those on the platform toss their hats and scarves
and cheer, the president comes out of the caboose
to declare, The war is over! Corks popping,
people mashing people, knocking over melon stands,
ripping millenniums of bodices. Hangover,
rest now, you’ll have lots to do later
inspiring abstemious philosophies and menial tasks
that too contribute to the beauty of this world.

Foot in mouth

Met Yvonne’s boyfriend today. He is really nice. We writers move in the same circles, and then are surprised when we meet someone who knows all our friends but whom we’ve never been introduced to. I also met her friend who is apparently moving to China in the fall. Also a very interesting person. We four had gone to a student reading at which Yvonne read, and she was by far the best.

I think that creative writing minors don’t justify reading shitty writing. Really. Sure, it’s nice to get some appreciation for those people who have completed a whole 5 extra classes, but after 3 workshops, you’d think most of these people would know how to self-edit.
This one story was about a guy who was forced to write a story at gunpoint, and the entire story is basically a fucking boring ass moment by moment retelling of a day which for some odd reason includes some guy getting hit in the back of the head by a baseball bat, and his eye flying through a bus window into someone’s lap. Keep in mind, we only find out about the fact that this is a meta-story at the end, when of course, he tells us he’s being held at gunpoint. Meanwhile, we sit through 5 pages of “events,” such as some person throwing a party and eating pizza and another person crying to her roommates, all the while the author tries to “subtly” reinsert the eyeball, which for some unknown reason ends up in a cooler, into the story. I kept waiting for the cool eyeball punchline but instead got the absolutely horrificaly boring meta-fiction “I AM BEING HELD AT GUNPOINT SO I MUST WRITE A STORY” cliche. Not to mention the language.
Sorry, I’m being pretentious now.
On the other hand, Yvonne was great. And her friends are nice, and we all got free food after the reading, and then we ended up taking a bunch of it with us, so I got a nice free meal out of this, which is great because I’ve been eating one meal a day for the past 5 days and a bit of fruit and cheese goes a long way.

Procrastinating

I’ve been rejected by Penn State. Had a professor of mine who had worked there call the director. I wonder why I didn’t get a letter.

I should be writing a paper on Anna Karenina, which is due at 9:30 this morning. I have a page or so written, need four more.
I met a fellow writer and former MFA student, now working in SF, who told me that the best way to prepare for an MFA should be to figure out what you want to do before you get there. Also, be prepared to sell nothing unless you have a memoir or a novel. Nobody wants collections.

Utterly dispirited

I hate to belabor the point, but Penn State has yet to send me anything.

I saw Nurrudin Farah give a talk today. That was pretty interesting. Lots of intellectuals showed up. I asked an interesting first question: Do you think that the creation of canons is directly related to empires? He didn’t like it and jabbered on about something else for five minutes.
At least I got some free food out of it.
I don’t know why I’m so depressed right now. Probably because I’m lonely.

Readings

I participated in a student reading yesterday. It was for Cal Day, an open house for future UC Berkeley students. Each creative writing workshop class (there are apparently 5 this semester) asked for two volunteers to read. I was one of the readers for my class.

I had never read any of my nonfiction before. I’ve read my poetry once at a school reading (before I transferred), and I remember being in this zone of nervous confidence.
First, I have to say that I’m annoyed by several facets of readings: the people, who in their brief bio (which we had to write so that it could be read by the facillitator), write about all the awards they’ve received and the publications they’ve had work in. This upset me because it isn’t like this reading is anything special. Who cares where you were published or what prizes you won? Do you think that these prospective students even know what you’re talking about? That part felt like an extraordinary popularity contest. I’m not even jealous because some of these people are so pretentious. I just feel sorry for them.
The second peeve is that one person read his short story in the most theatrical voice ever. Seriously man, just because you got waitlisted at UC Irvine (and ultimately rejected), doesn’t give you the power to read your work in a laughably overwrought manner. At first I thought he was just reading it ironically, that it would change at the end of the story. But no. Seriously man, if you think your work is so fucking good because you paid someone $300 to edit it for you and they said it was of publishable quality, take a good look at yourself. You won’t even accept criticism from friends who have your best interest at hand. Such bullshit.
So, after about eight people had read, it was my turn. We had a 7 minute time slot each, so if you had a work that would take longer than 7 minutes to read, you should have stopped reading it.
I got up there and it was great. I realize that I’m a much better reader now than I was several years ago. I think this is partly because I have much more confidence in myself, especially because I’m going to grad school for this, and I’ve connected to my writing better. I read my entire 8.5 page piece, but unfortunately didn’t stop at 7 minutes. I should have stopped, but I didn’t, because this piece really cannot be stopped in the middle. By the way, it was “Some Lesser Dread,” which includes bits of Hegel.
Afterwards, I was worried about running over the limit, but no one seemed to mind. I still feel bad about it.
Later, I read the blog of one of the other readers, a middle aged woman with delusions of grandeur. She seems to think that anything she doesn’t understand isn’t worth listening to, and calls it pretentious. I’m sorry I write about philosophy and incorporate literary theory into my writing. It isn’t because I’m pretentious, it’s because I had to think about Hegel for a week, and I had to come to terms with myself and whatever else is in the essay. Also, I’m sorry I used footnotes. I figured those wouldn’t be too pretentious, considering they’re just random shit about whatever they’re referencing.
I mean, I’m really not concerned with negative opinions of my work. You can’t please everyone. The thing I’m concerned about is that this person is prejudiced against me for no reason at all. I actually liked her piece, but after reading what she wrote about me and other people at the reading, who were my friends, I think she’s a fucking hypocrite.
Also, I need to stop reading softly, almost in a monotone. Although I happen to think that my reading is expressive, and not theatrical, maybe it isn’t expressive enough.

Time for some introspection

I spent a couple of hours hanging out with Yvonne and Jill today. It was fun, but strange. We went to an out of class poetry workshop led by Ariana Reines, and it was me, Yvonne, Jill, Ariana, and a new girl, Lauren(?). Anyway, Ariana is awesome, and has been hosting these workshops throughout the semester. I have yet to bring in any work, since I stopped writing poetry more than a year ago.

Yvonne is gorgeous. I always thought she was. I remember the first time I saw her at a poetry reading but was too shy to talk to her. Now we have a class together. She’s gained a lot of weight but she still looks amazing, and it just reminds me of how good she used to look. She’s also really sweet and we both lived in LA, so I feel like we have a lot in common. We had a good hour and a half long conversation today about Lost and writing and such.
Jill and I have a weird thing going on. I have never seen her date anyone in the two years I’ve known her, and yet when I had a Match account recently, I saw her profile, and she saw mine. We never spoke about it. Every time I see her, we have really strange chemistry. I’m not necessarily attracted to her, I just like her sense of humor and the kind of person she is. She’s a great friend.
All three of us went to an art gallery across from campus, which is run by a group of students. My friend Jeremy is part of this group. The shit that was up in that gallery wasn’t even remotely interesting.
To top it off, contemporary artists think it’s cool to buy shirts with Soviet propaganda and to make them into art. That is such bullshit. That’s a commodification of my history. It’s not like I can take something American, which is meant to be commodified, and make art out of it. Americans are fine with that. They have no history.
Russia is different. These people, and Urban Outfitters specifically, are profiting off the misinformed idea that anything that’s not written in English and cannot be understood is “Avant-Garde.” Bullshit. It’s not avant-garde, it’s ignorant. Russia has nothing to do with your art, so fuck off and go back to whatever hole you crawled out of.
It simply amazes me how artists take advantage of people’s ignorance. I have no problem if Russian culture is used with some sort of point, but what the hell is the point?

Penn State

I still have not heard from Penn State. I emailed Sheila Squillante and asked her about my status, and she told me she forwarded my email to the secretary, because she doesn’t know my status. How can Sheila not know about my status? She’s the assistant director of the program. That’s kind of upsetting. I’ve been waiting since February for a rejection, when I found out they had announced their decisions. I thought I was rejected, but apparently there’s still hope for a waitlist. I just want to know. I spent money on the application, the least they could do is send it to the right address.

J is “too busy” to see me. Ever again.

And…

What the fuck Penn State!? Did you send my waitlist/rejection/acceptance letter to Russia like the University of Arizona??

Seriously now, this is ridiculous.

This is really fucking bad

I woke up this morning with a horrible pain in my lower back. Something tells me this has something to do with the pain I experienced a couple of weeks back when I was waking up and tried to turn over from my right side onto my back, and felt an intense pain below my left shoulder blade. I couldn’t breathe without pain that day. But the next day it was better, if only slightly sore.

Who knew you could hurt yourself in your sleep?
Today I woke up and everything hurt. My entire lower back is fucked. The pain is so bad I feel naseous and almost threw up a couple of times. I ended up doing some ridiculous back stretches against a building at the bus stop, and that helped somewhat, but only for a little bit. The pain is in my front too, probably because my obliques and Transversus Abdominus muscle are messed up. This really is no fun. I had to skip class, but then I had to go and tutor someone in Russian translation, and that sucked, apart from the fact that she’s an older woman who seems to be interested in me, and apparently knows my family. Creepy and flattering at the same time. She’s 38. I know her brother. This is creepy.

I took some ibuprofen just now, and I’m going to bed really early because I fell asleep around 3:00am last night, after being texted by my stupid friend. I need to start working out to strengthen my core so my back doesn’t get fucked up so often. I wish I could see a chiropractor…so expensive.

J hasn’t called me back today, which makes me a bit sad. But it’s ok. I’ll get over it and she will probably call tomorrow, at which point I’ll be ecstatic.