New poem: “This Wall”

I wrote this this morning. Any input or advice is appreciated.

This Wall

Facing the same direction
this wall

this wall
immune to use
this wall
waiting for the right words
to crumble to
the same words you used
to crumble to
in those sweet sweet days
when I could sing you
to sleep against the wall
when I could keep you
to your promises
when I could expect you
and when I could expect you
to think I wasn’t crazy
and when I could expect you
to think at all
to think beyond
the wall
even as I pushed you
against it
and you pulled me
into you
and beyond the wall that took
nothing we gave and gave
and gave
no one else a reason
other than love–

when you loved
someone as crazy as me
and I loved you

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Hallelujah

Well, I didn’t get into Caochella as I had hoped. The two years I’ve gone, I’ve gotten in for free: in 2004, a friend got a wristband for free (from some rich friend) but she figured it would benefit me to go (saw Radiohead, Kraftwerk, Pixies, the Flaming Lips, Bright Eyes; missed Beck and Broken Social Scene); I got in good with a scalper 2008 and saw Kraftwerk (better), the Verve, Dwight Yoakam, Prince, Calvin Harris, and Rilo Kiley. But this year a buddy said he had a wristband for me, one we could jimmy… until the very last moment. We’re talking “I’m outside the gate”-“Okay, I’m coming to get you” last moment. Unexplainable, but no big deal – I didn’t lose any money and I ran into an old friend from high school whom I hadn’t seen in four or five years. And my friend Brian had an interesting enough scalping experience for the two of us to write a piece on scamming Coachella. (I figure, given the pattern, I’ll go 2012 and maybe by then Wilco or Radiohead will be touring a new record and will be there. Hell, maybe Talking Heads will regroup? Nah.)

Not only am I writing a lot this National Poetry Month, but I’m setting out to write my first sestina. I’m basing it on the Jaime Hernandez comic strip Love and Rockets, namely a ghost story titled “La Blanca.” It’s not that sestinas are hard – it’s a matter of matching the right six words. I’m trying not to be so thematic when it comes to selecting the words (regardless that most sestinas have a theme), but still mindful of what would sound good repeated, and what words I can manipulate.

 

I got a cat. A month or so ago my landlady found a stray kitten in a tree and I asked/debated if I could take her in. I decided on it last week and renamed her Mary Magdalene. It’s a reference to the Biblical figure, but mostly a reference to the Ryan Adams’ line in “Hallelujah:” “If I could have a simple love, how would it feel and what would it mean? I’d only trade you away for Mary Magdalene.” There’s redemption in her name. (Also her name doubles as a reference to my favorite Love and Rockets character, Maggie.) She’s kind of a ball of energy – pretty much a terrorist – but I’m hoping that’ll change when I get her fixed and let her roam outside.

Next week I’ll be going out to the Leahy’s to catch a Dodger’s game with Jeff. It’s been awhile since I’ve been to a game, about four years, but I’m mostly looking forward to Jeff’s wife, Tina, schooling my ass in Dr Mario.

Oh, a few quick notes:
•     I’m annotating my Top 25 LA Albums. I’ll repost that soon and then wrap up my (annotated) Top 25 NYC Albums.
•     I’m done with Indio – I’m gearing up to move to LA this year. I need to save money and pay off a good portion of my debt first, and I’d also like the economy to be more welcoming.
•     I want to go to Disneyland. Soon. With someone.
•     (Tomorrow?) I’m going to stop living in the past.

Writing, printed work, &c.

I’m working with another actor, Matt Chute, on some skits for an upcoming showcase that he is organizing at College of the Desert. In our first meeting I proposed a few ideas, and they got a few laughs, but the one he suggested started writing itself when we sat down with it. Things are a little slow right now, since Matt lost his phone, but we should be getting back into the swing of things soon.

In the meantime, one of the ideas I had – a one act about a couple dividing up one another’s body parts as they move out of their apartment – came back to me and I started outlining it. It looks pretty good so far. There are some body parts that are associated with memories (the pelvic area should be fun), some that are just worth exchanging (“I had to pay for most of the deposit, so… I want your arm,” etc), and there’s a box in the middle of the stage full of memories that each tries to keep. The play obviously draws from my breakups (some where I lived with her, some where I didn’t), but I’m doing my best not to make it so biased. After all, I certainly have had some asshole moments in my relationships. I want the play not only to exorcise some of the issues I have/had from breakups, the differences between just a breakup and having to actually leave someone, but also the moments that were not my best.

As usual, I have a number of poems bouncing around, but I haven’t visited them since completing “strays.” “strays” is a good example of my process: I had that opening image, of a parking lot (really, a town) full of stray cats, so I jotted it down; but it wasn’t until I had something to actually write about that it was used, and I finished it in one moment. It was just what I needed, both as a writer and as an individual. A year or two ago, I would be beating the poem out regardless. Now I’m more comfortable with letting it come to me. But I do wish I had these complete thoughts and incomplete poems better organized, and I think I’ll do that today.

Also, “The Late Greats” was published in a COD zine, The Common Good Press. I’m still waiting for my copy, and it’s not available online, but I got to read a scanned copy. It’s just a zine, but it’s nice to see my work printed.

Planned blogs:
A list of self-aware songs
An opinion on the state of hip hop for the last 15 years
Top 25 LA Albums
Top 25 Album Openers
Top 25 Album Closers

PDC’s Sketchbook, v. 3 release

 

Advertizing poster16x20-1

(Not sure who designed the poster but it came out great.)

CalState San Bernardino, Palm Desert Campus is finally releasing their latest Sketchbook, their third volume of PDC student work. It’s so overdue that I’m not sure when it was originally to be published or even what I submitted for consideration. I’m sure I sent “Capone’s” and maybe “Tiger, Tiger” or even “The Moon Is the Truth of the Night,” but I don’t know what they’ve picked. The editor, Heather Benes – who, regardless of how late the book is, I know has been working damn hard on it – last told me that they were probably going to select two. We’ll see.

The gala is Friday, October 23rd. Starts at 5PM. Free food, free music, free Sean.

Update – new work(!), LA, my atheism and existentialism, the play, recent books

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I wouldn’t call the last month a total writing slump; it may have felt that way initially but it was classical Sean, the Poet: write something, ignore it, and return to it and blast it to hell in one night. The work in question are two poems: “The Late Greats,” and “The Moon Is the Truth of the Night.” Both deal with my lackluster motivation, but in two settings: the career choices of “The Late Greats,” and my struggles with myself as a capable lover in “The Moon Is the Truth of the Night.”

As usual, Jen was very helpful with this process and she cleaned up “The Late Greats” into the state it’s in now. When she suggested that I not use “DJ” in the poem (er, she deleted them), I first thought it was a rude pull – that’s what the poem’s about! But part of this process, the “ignoring,” is key in forgetting what isn’t important, and when I read her revised edition I found my true work. However, “The Moon Is the Truth of the Night” is a piece I had unfinished at the time I went to Jen with the other, and it may still need work, but when I punched out that second section – I found my true work there, too.

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While this was supposed to be my year where I evoked George Oppen with the completion of “This City Anew,” it feels that I’m going more towards Anne Sexton in my honesty and Charles Bukowski in my dreary and anger – which I’m not sure I feel consistently, if not just at that moment. The next poem, “Casanova,” is even further Bukowski. As long as I not yell at cars driving too fast, and hopefully return to “This City Anew” the umpteenth time, I should be okay. Or maybe I could write a bitter poem about how I never finished my one “masterpiece” and bring it full circle. (Joking.)

Even outside of work, this month has been busy. Erica and I threw a party the day before she left for Los Angeles to start her internship at MGM. While the distance and the stress of her job has been taxing on us, we’re both handling it pretty well. I’ve visited her twice now (took her to the Wiltern Theater this last weekend), and it’s evident that we are using both the distance and the reunions wisely. This summer is our run up to moving to LA – how close and when is still in the works. Also, my friends Kim and Andrew are getting hitched in Hawai’i and we’re going on an almost all comped flight and staying at an incredibly reduced Marriott (it’s good to have United Airlines muff up Erica’s flight last year/friends that work at Marriott).

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Lately I’ve revisited my atheism and existentialism. Rather than treating it as something that is just understood about me, I’m viewing it as something to consider daily. This doesn’t mean just arguing with believers and laughing with other non-believers (both as a jerk), but instead I’ve gotten my head back into the writings of John Perry and Richard Dawkins, I’m writing argument/response pieces to typical questions (the problems of evil, free will, Pascal’s Wager, etc.). My raising, equally Catholic and critical, has lent me the tools to approach the Universe and who we are my way. Oh, I need to reread the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy trilogy too. (Seriously.)

Again, the play. I need to treat this season alone as a grand opportunity to research and develop the Bill Evans project. This last week I’ve added a stronger comedic element, hopefully something that will take the play to deeper dramatic levels by suckering the audience in and sucker punching them. It’ll only work if both the comedy and the dramatic climax are equally genuine. I’m thinking of the success of Lars and the Real Girl.

I finished Thomas E. Ricks’ Fiasco and it’s hard to say it was “good” to go over the details of the first three years of the botched Iraq War, but it was. On my plate: Richard Dawkins, John Perry, Charles Bukowski; Uzodinma Iweala’s novel Beasts of No Nation; The Chirs Farley Show (an oral history collected by his brother and a Jim Belushi biographer); Al Tony Gilmore’s Bad Nigger!: The National Impact of Jack Johnson. “What to read?” all before getting to Ricks’ follow-up, The Gamble, about the past three years of the war. But, I’m sure there’s a Bill Evans biography out there waiting for me – or is that my and Kelly’s play?

Old work cos I ain’t writing shit

I’m in a slump now; I’ve not written anything since “Car lights” two weeks ago and I’m not even fully happy with that. I used to get really discouraged, like I wasn’t really a writer if I didn’t write everyday, or at least weekly. But then I read Raymond Carver’s “Work” and “Drinking While Driving,” and like most of Ray’s work, I treated them like our dialogue.

“Work”

for John Gardner, d. September 14, 1982

Love of work. The blood singing
in that. The fine high rise
of it into the work. A man says,
I’m working. Or, I worked today.
Or, I’m trying to make it work.
Him working seven days a week.
And being awakened in the morning
by his young wife, his head on the typewriter.
The fullness before work.
The amazed understanding after.
Fastening his helmet.
Climbing onto his motorcycle
and thinking about home.
And work. Yes, work. The going
to what lasts.

It’s been awhile since I’ve read “Work,” and this is my first reading after taking on a second job and working seven days a week. It has a different meaning tonight; I feel older. Yes, that has a good feeling, but I feel I’ve been too distracted or too excusing to work as hard as Carver did. But I still believe that I can only work (write) when it comes to me, and I know I’ve had some months in my life when all I did was work. It’s not any better or worse – it’s just “work.”

“Drinking While Driving”

It’s August and I have not
Read a book in six months
except something called The Retreat from Moscow
by Caulaincourt
Nevertheless, I am happy
Riding in a car with my brother
and drinking from a pint of Old Crow.
We do not have any place in mind to go,
we are just driving.
If I closed my eyes for a minute
I would be lost, yet
I could gladly lie down and sleep forever
beside this road
My brother nudges me.
Any minute now, something will happen.

I mistakenly remembered this reading “I have not written anything in six months,” but that doesn’t matter: “Any minute now, something will happen.”

Jen worked on a poem, a new form that destroys one word and explores all of its possible meanings. It came out really well. Not to try and trump her, but it reminded me of a section for the epic form of “This City Anew” that I wrote last year – a new form I called “say say” (which left me with the Wings’ song stuck in my head for ages). “When the earth grinds the sky,” like all of the other sections of “This City Anew,” is meant to be possible on its own. I’ve always felt that it was the most standalone (apart from the titular section) of the pieces.

Oddly, the first “say say” I wrote was about Raymond Carver. I was flying back from Missouri with my family and I showed it to my brother. I remember his eyes lighting up. I need to hold on to that. When I dig it up, I will post it.

New work – “Missed miracles”

I’m still working on “Tiger, tiger,” but this came today. I skipped the typical stage of sharing it with Jen (my collaborator, she’s been very helpful with my work), because it feels ready. I’m very happy with the rhyming of it; it came as I wrote it.But I am certainly open to editing it – it probably needs it.

Like most of my recent work, “Missed miracles” has come out  of a week of thought: in it is the Ferris wheel in Yucca Valley, a conversation with my mother about saints, feeling myself grow old, and (naturally) what Erica and I are facing. I’m afraid it’s too confessional. Also, I can’t seem to shake the prose form; it really is the only way I’ve seen poetry lately.

New work to be displayed… here.

I’ve always been too careful with my work and where it gets published. Whenever I completed something, whether it’s short fiction or poetry, I would be “choosey” about where it was submitted – or even if it should be submitted – for fear that I ‘d be losing some opus to a college paper when it should be printed in something nationally.

The only merit in this fear is that I might peak at 26, but isn’t just the thinking that I’ve written my best work now even worse? With that in mind, and considering that I’m virtually unpublished, I’ve decided to put my work on this site, like I did with “Dr Beauchef, Penguin Dentist.”

The first is “The world owes her the breeze,” a prose piece I wrote last week. While it may be something I am proud of, it’d be damn shame if I thought it was my last great poem.

“The world owes her the breeze” page was removed April 24, 2009. Jen commented:
April 11, 2009:
N2- This bomb rituals. Our aid comes routine with the welcome brick. Her cloud’s blouse. She loses her white shops, I use them as teeth. Her gum nipples are mineral. Her fingertips, my fabrics. Her heating, my movie. Now warm with all the workforces I’ve wanted to hear, I speak even in the wine
April 11, 2009:
n+7 the last part 🙂

Update – shooting from the hip.

I’m now a tutor at College of the Desert! I met with Rick Rawsley Thursday, he approved my transcripts, and I start training this week. It’s part-time (maximum 20 hours) and I’ll be driving out to Mecca two times a week to tutor at the new extension campus. Mecca’s out in the middle of nowhere, but I grew up in the middle of nowhere, so I’m looking forward to the new place. Also, I figured it be a safe bet to get the assured 12 hours out in Mecca and make up the eight hours where I can, rather than scrounge for all 20 with all the other, already established tutors at the main campus. This is my first job in education so I’m very excited.

I went to Los Angeles for two days, which was actually pretty productive… for a two day trip to LA. I got a haircut, we watched the beach, I watched four women dance, I drove like a fucking champion and saw a great penguin sign that reminded me of the Kneebody song that inspired one of my last short stories, “Dr Beauchef, Penguin Dentist.” Yessir!

I submitted six poems to CSUSB’s Sketchbook and I should hear from them soon. There were some old ones (“Shawn’s Market,” “Richard Hugo”) and some new ones (most notably my first prose piece, “prayer”), but I feel confident in them equally. I’m still working on other pieces but I really want to concentrate on my collaboration with Jen Rydzdikkkkk, maybe working in correspondence or AIM, because we can’t seem to get a meeting together. First, we’ll have to work on her goofy name.

March will be good for me: I have my ticket to clean up (it may cost me money I almost don’t have, but there’s a reckoning there), I have a lot of work to take care of and I’m looking to submit to multiple markets. I have the 2008 Poet’s Market and that really clear’s everything up.

And sorry for the lack of posts (saying sorry to, like, two people, dammit!), I’m just so busy with work and preparing for the coming month, I usually just conceptualize the hell out of my next post that I never get around to actually expressing it. Typical.

Oh, I picked up Ice Cube’s Death Certificate, which was a rap tape I had to hide from my mom. I swear, it’s even scarier today. Oh, and the new Flight of the Conchords sucks, majorly… except for episode 5, which is very funny and it has nothing to do with Gondry’s guest direction. Or that the guy from the Village People is in the opening song. Okay, maybe, but it’s damn good.