Move Yer Can

September 27th, 2006

There are two ongoing projects in my life: (1) How to best deal with the daily onslaught of Mia nuggets and the pee-cakes produced by Mr. Would-love-to-drink-directly-from-a-City-water-main, and (2) How to deal with the cats’ weight issues. Yes, I say cats, plural. As most of you know, Linus is quite large. We’ve tried a number of solutions, which you may have followed on this blog, including putting him on a prescription diet that cost more than our groceries, to no avail.

The most disturbing phenomenon of late is Mia’s diminishing size. It’s subtle, gradual, but in light of Linus’ subtle, gradual _increase_ in size, it appears the cat-weight is migrating from one feline body to the other. We need to achieve some kind of stasus with the weight, at the very least.

So Mia is on a canned food diet. This is a dream come true for Mia, which she lets us know by performing a twice daily ceremony of joyous screeching accompanied by an attempt to begin eating her food from the plate before it is anywhere near the floor—as in, while it is in midair and in one of our hands. Since we want her to eat more, we refrain from beating her off and instead allow her to hang her ribsy body from our arms by her paw-hooks and slurp up as much as she can before we detach from each other.

And now Linus must go on a measured-portion diet.

The Update on Citrus at No. 6

September 22nd, 2006

Our lemon tree is still incubating the lemons—16 all together. A while back, a newbie appeared that was the wrong shape and sort of warty all over. As “Warty” grew bigger, I asked Russ (of Russ and Sarah) if I should be concerned. He assured me it was no big deal, just a genetic glitch in the plant. He advised me to detach Warty from the tree to prevent his continuing to suck nutrients from his sibling lemons. I came home intending to do just that, but in the end, it felt wrong. Like discovering your kid can’t tie his own shoes and sending him back to the Stork Barn.

There were two limes, but one of them just came off in my hand. I guess it’s time to eat that one now.

If Red Means Stop, What Does Pink Mean?

September 21st, 2006

Driving home tonight, I had one of those magical moments of coincidence. On the off-ramp, I looked up at the exact moment necessary to see the three, stacked circles of the traffic-light with the setting sun, the same size as those circles, spaced just-so above them so it was like a fourth light in the stack, blazing hot pink.

Poetry for the [Five or So] People

September 20th, 2006

I’m taking this poetics class, in which we read a bunch of theorists from throughout the last century who’ve published essays about the state of American poetry. Most of the theorists are addressing what poets need to do to be better and/or to appeal to more readers. All of them discuss the state of poetry’s readership—how fewer and fewer people read (and buy) poetry, how the art is dying and why [e.g. poets writing more obscure poetry, and a less artistically cultivated readership among the masses].

There’s no doubt poetry has lost a foothold in terms of respect from the “common person” in our culture (in other cultures it is still highly valued and more widely read by the public). It’s not just poetry—publishers of novels are suffering as well—although poetry is no longer a primary career option for anyone. You simply can’t be just a poet in our society. And a lot of people—theorists—are mad about that. They’re mad at the masses, who don’t have any interest in educating themselves in how to read poetry, and they’re mad at their fellow poets, who make their poetry inaccessible to those masses. They’re even mad at Jewel, who wrote some overly accessible poetry that a lot of people liked, but who was not a “real poet” but instead published a bunch of bubble-gum poetry that the dumb old masses just loved (OK, they’re right, but you see my point: there’s just no winning).

A lot of movements have addressed this dilemma: How to save poetry?? Slam and performance poetry aim to invigorate the art with dramatic appeal, placing emphasis on entertaining the audience, for example. And there’s been some success there. And some theorists have tried to get a movement to catch on in which you neither need to “learn” how to read poetry, nor does poetry need to be “accessible” at all; rather, every reader is invited to make a meaning of his or her own from every poem. In fact, the more nonsensical the poem, the better, because then the reader “can’t” extract a meaning that isn’t personal, emotional/tonal. For these theorists and poets, there is no “communication” taking place between poet and reader, just a work made of beautiful language waiting for meaning to be created. But this hasn’t really caught on in any widespread way.

It seems to me the masses are not any dumber than they used to be. I know a lot of people would disagree with that, but there are all kinds of “smarts,” and I would challenge anyone from 1940 who has just memorized “Oh Captain! My Captain!” to attach a document to an e-mail message.

The masses are inadequately educated, I’m not denying that. It’s a just-about-insurmountable challenge to adequately educate a populace in our modern world; success requires an incredible amount of knowledge now. And there is a difference between “knowledge” and “cultivation.” One cultivates appreciations and talents. With knowledge, one learns how to do things and finds out what is known about things. Public education has to focus on knowledge. It has no choice. Cultivation is left to after-school activities for the lucky and to individual pursuit.

We all have a lot more options in terms of what interests we will pursue, and poetry is an interest. You have to LEARN how to enjoy reading poetry. Like you have to learn to play the flute or learn to play chess. People simply don’t opt for it. It may not be as true as many poetic theorists would like to think that they ever DID opt for it. Remember, at one time, cultivation of reading poetry was taught in school, and a respect for it was reinforced in society. In short, it was “cool” then. It may not be cool now.

Thanks to the Internet, every member of the public can find the most insanely specific interest to cultivate. If you’re interested in yodeling-while-playing-backgammon-and-drinking-coconut-milk-naked, I’m sure there’s a club you can join. And if you’re interested in cultivating your ability to read poetry, there are a lot of poets and literature-buffs who would love to help you learn how WITHOUT first discussing how “dumb” the masses—including you—have become.

Meanwhile, if you’re interested in just reading poetry here and there, maybe you don’t need any guidance, or maybe self-guidance is all you need. And if you’re interested in WRITING poetry, well, you don’t need any help with that, it’s available to everyone (if it’s publishing poetry you’re interested in, there are about ten million MFA programs now that can help you grow your craft and find your niche).

So I guess my point is: Poets, Indie rockers, Drinking-straw sculptors, listen. Whether your art is brand new, or whether you have joined a very old art with a long tradition, take heart. It doesn’t matter if the masses appreciate what you do. It matters if the people who appreciate what you do are served by your contribution. It doesn’t matter if you set yourself up for anthological immortality. It matters if you make yourself happy now, doing what you love and growing in it. And it doesn’t matter if you live in a society that loves “Grey’s Anatomy” more than the latest issue of “Poetry” journal. It matters if you can get what you love—the time to write and some people to share it with—in the moment you’re in that society. The same “evils” that are “dumbing down” our society are some of our greatest tools. We are LUCKY to have the Internet; how many times have you read a poem online and loved it, and been so glad to have encountered it? And how much has Seinfeld changed our language, made it unique to our time and no time before it?

Don’t worry if you can’t have a wealthy life writing poems. Those days are gone forever. Mourn them at length, or move on. This is a time for exploring a whole bunch of interests and hopefully making a living doing one of them (or at least, a second or third career). Keep your writing high on the list, and keep the SHARING of your writing high as well, but don’t beat your head on a wall trying to figure out how to get more people to read it. The ones who want to read it are out there … find them and appreciate them, and don’t be sorry there aren’t more of them. The rest of the masses are yodeling naked.

Sleepin’ With the Cone

September 18th, 2006

Sorry for the hiatus. There is much to tell. Since my last post, I began my fall semester at CSULB—my LAST semester in the MFA program. I’m taking two courses—an American poetry course and a poetics (theory) course—and teaching one section of composition and working part-time as a grad-assistant in the composition department. It’s such a nice, perfect workload. Anyway, my thesis is all turned in and complete, and I’m starting to think about what to do next. Please comment with your suggestions, because I have NO IDEA RIGHT NOW.

We had an awesome visit from Bridget and Dave, who were out here to vacation in San Diego. They bookended their trip with a few nights at No. 6. This visit found them adorably anticipatory about their new puppy, whom they adopted officially upon their return to Pittsburgh. How fucking cute is this puppy!

In our own pet realm, Linus had to have some surgery to remove two little knobs on his left flank and bib. They were tumors but not the inside-kind, so it only bodes in any way for further outside-kind of tumors, which we will watch for. It means his wearing a cone. Which means our sleeping with a cone. Which means our not sleeping. Those of you who know Linus know how he MUST BE PET AT ALL TIMES. The cone gets in his way, but he doesn’t exactly “accept” this. He JUST KEEPS TRYING. Trying to rub his gums on Steve’s chin. Trying to lick our faces. Trying to snuggle while asphyxiating us. Trying NOT TO SLEEP while it is dark. The result for us is a pattern of near-sleep followed by the rude wake-up of a cone conked into the forehead. Or chin. Or eye. Shut him out, you say? Yeah, YOU try telling your sad, Frankenstein-stitched, cone-headed little friend he has to sleep downstairs when his one greatest joy in life is making you miserable all night long. You are made of stone.

OK, time to write a paper now. Here are some belated photos of Hawaii and my visit to the Grands’ house in Michigan.