Showing posts from April, 2008

Jhumpa Lahiri at the Strand

She read from one of the linked stories from her newest collection of short stories Unaccustomed Earth for about half an hour. Interestingly, it was written in the first person to another character in the story. The prose was limpid and yet layered. For the next half an hour, she fielded questions from the audience, questions which ranged from her narrative techniques to her access to expatriate experience to her relations with her editor. Her answers did not follow any template, fortunately, but she felt her way to an answer to each question, sometimes admitting it was all a matter of instinct rather than any conscious process. As I had expected, about half of the audience looked Indian, and among them more women than men. She was, after all, writing them into being. She grew up on Rhodes Island, and then shuttered between Boston and New York. She was shorter than I had imagined from the glamorous photo in her book.

Days: Jee Leong Koh

Jee Leong Koh

Finally there was the dancing on the roof
he danced to satisfy
himself, sometimes
with another wriggling soul,
sometimes with a
rapturous hip, sometimes all alone
above the drumming columns of a beat,
dancing and dying on his feet.

Days: Edward C. Smith

Edward C. Smith

He had been thrashing for so long
that when the divorce came, like a ship,
he had no strength to hail it
but watched it pass, and bobbed
in its wake.

Days: George Puchulia-Li

George Puchulia-Li

He held his spirit up to the light
and admired its ruby. What a pity
it breathed in an inferior glass
and couldn’t give a crystal clink.
He consoled himself
the blood-red wine paired well
with a rare steak.

Days: Aaron Wienaski

Aaron Wienaski

His spiritual home was a beach hotel
in winter, where,
past the doors of the departed,
the reception desk
with its idle key hooks,
the cane armchairs on the verandah
cradling their own
dead tree,
he walked out to the sea
and called his name over and over.

TLS April 25 2008

From Clive Wilmer's Commentary "The self you chooose" on Thom Gunn:

Born August 29, 1929, the elder son of Herbert Smith Gunn, journalist, and his wife Annie Charlotte (nee Thomson), also a journalist, is there recorded as William Guinneach Gunn. There is no mention of "Thom".

According to his younger brother, the photographer Ander Gunn, he was always known as Tom, though when or why that started no one seems to know. . . . Thom's earliest extant poem, published in a school magazine, is by T. W. Gunn - before he became Tommy.

. . . in 1949, just before he left the Royal Army Educational Corps, Sergeant William Guinneach Gunn changed his name by deedpoll to Thomson William Gunn.

Why would a young man just coming of age seek legal sanction to confirm an established nickname? The answer lies, I beleive, in his relations with his parents, both of them of Scottish origin. Guinneach is the Gaelic form of Gunn and must have represented, on the part of his father, som…

SLC Poetry Festival

Now in its fifth year, the Sarah Lawrence College Poetry Festival continues to attract big, and up-and-coming names. I have read Brenda Shaughnessy's book, Human Dark with Sugar, winner of the AAP's James Laughlin award for a second book of poetry, but did not like it much. Not enough dark and too little sugar, it belongs to the School of Clever. Hearing her read at SLC only confirmed the impression. Lynn Emanuel read a few of her dog poems. The one written after Kafka's Metamorphosis remained too close to the master, but I liked her poem about the dog-catcher's interrogation of the dog.

Faculty members, and, husband and wife, Kurt Brown and Laure-Anne Bosselaar read from their new books. After hearing Shaughnessy, I was grateful for their passionate modesty and quiet wit. Brown's poems titled after fellow poets (Sharon Olds, Tom Lux, Gerald Stern, Carolyn Forche, Mary Oliver, among others) paid tribute to their subjects and styles. His poems were not intended to be…

Days: Josh Levine

Josh Levine

He could not remember a time
it did not rain
in him. He was not a cartoon
but there it was: no dry clothes. Not there
when mother kissed his tall man sliced
open by barbed wire. Not there when
Dicky wooed him with daffodils
lifted from the park.
Not here, mother and Dicky dead,
when he came home and undressed,
jacket, Oxfords, trousers, boxers drenched,
on one of those beautiful August evenings.

Days: Jehanghir Khan

Jehanghir Khan

He estimated the cab fare
from sugar to quietus,
and carried the mental sum in his mouth
when he took his first trick home.
He still remembered the man
had excellent teeth, and how sweet
the stirring, and then
the disappearing.

Days: Stephen Born

Stephen Born

Though he wore the body of a woman,
he knew he was a man. He didn’t care
to assume public privileges nor assert
private virtues. The knowledge
was not political nor moral, but tricky
like déjà vu,
flickered like memory,
and, sometimes, descended like understanding.
The honest men he spoke with
said that was how they knew it too.

Days: Ivan Spassky

Ivan Spassky

When the fog of blood cleared,
he found his right limbs
and then his left. The leg
had fallen like a walking stick.
The arm was screwed to him
like a door handle
he could not reach
to leave the relentless ward.

Days: Julio Marquez

Julio Marquez

He would have made a great father
but Steve did not want
another child,
and so he was a great uncle to Tim,
opening up the train conductor’s
cubicle, touring the repair yard
another weekend,
riding the new train before
any of his schoolmates had seen it.
On the R160B he had the wild idea
of leaving Tim in the car before
the train pulled away
from the station of changed circumstance.

TLS April 18 2008

From Seamus Perry's review of New Writings of William Hazlitt, edited by Duncan Wu:

Hazlitt may lack Jarrell's mastery of the Groucho-like wisecrack, but in other respects they are surprisingly alike, as though defining the scope of a genre--the brilliantly crisp opening gestue, the dance of register between formally essayistic and freely conversational, the thrilling gift for an unexpected summative simile. "When you have read Paterson", said Jarrell, "you know for the rest of your life what it is like to be a waterfall"; "He seems always hurrying from his subject, even while describing it", said Hazlitt no less wonderfully about Shakespeare, "but the stroke, like the lightning's, is as sure as it is sudden."


Wordsworth and Coleridge called up his wittiest masterpieces of misgiving. "It is as if there were nothing but himself and the universe", he wrote of The Excursion. "He lives in the busy solitude of his own heart;…

Days: Oliver Coleman

Oliver Coleman

He was waiting to fly. He sipped
his Pepsi and couldn't say
what was wrong with it. He didn't know
he would go down over the Pacific
only the navy could name.

Days: Ken Murakami

Ken Murakami

He was marked on his wrist by urge,
the bar undergoing refurbishment.
The black walls stepped forward
for inspection. From a flimsy red
curtain, the go-go boys emerged,
one after another. They worked
on top of the bar, their feet avoiding
the glasses and emptying bottles,
their hands careful not to touch
the halogen lights in black brackets
fastened to the whitewashed ceiling,
their tight round butts lobbying and
contracting for his folded dollar bill.

New York Writers Workshop

My mug shot appears on the homepage of the revamped website. You can read my poetry workshop description and bio there. I hope lots of people sign up. The Workshop also offers writing courses on memoir, children's fiction, playwriting/screenwriting, novel, and freelance writing for newspapers and magazines.

Days: John Okigbo

John Okigbo

When he was down he sank so deep
into his bed he could not get up
from its soft depths
no handhold in the hours no step
in the stairwell of his breathing no
Pierre to drag him up
by the neck
with the hempen rope of his voice.

Antonio Damasio's "Looking for Spinoza"

An affect cannot be restrained or neutralized except by a contrary affect that is stronger than the affect to be restrained. In other words, Spinoza recommended that we fight a negative emotion with a stronger but positive emotion brought about by reasoning and intellectual effort (12).


. . . his (Spinoza's) notion that the human mind is the idea of the human body (12).


Spinoza prescribed an ideal democratic state, where the hallmarks were freedom of speech--let every man think what he wants and say what he thinks, he wrote--separation of church and state, and a generoud social contract that promoted the well-being of citizens and the harmony of government (15).


Emotions play out in the theater of the body. Feelings play out in the theater of the mind (28).


The single word homeostasis is convenient shorthand for the ensemble of regulations and the resulting state of regulated life. . . . We can picture the homeostasis machine as a large multibranched tree of phenomena charged with…

The Red Balloon betwixt Anthony and Cleopatra

I watched Hou Hsiao-hsien's "Flight of the Red Balloon" with the Librarian last Saturday, at the IFC. It was visually delicate and observant, but dragged, especially towards the end. Juliette Binoche was marvellous as the harried single mother.

Theater for a New Audience (a mouthful of a name!) performs Anthony and Cleopatra at The Duke on 42nd Street. The staging was inventive throughout. A tiled pool at the front of the thrust stage was pleasure pond, military aid, mirror of fate, ditch, and river. The paneled doors at the back of the stage opened for dramatic entrances and exits, revealing a corridor of power, and closed for impressionistic depictions of land and sea. In the battles scenes, the doors opened to show silhouettes of soldiers. Above the doors was a high playing area, from which the dying Anthony was lowered, laboriously, into the arms of Cleopatra in the tomb.

The acting was far less imaginative. Marton Csokas, playing Anthony, spoke as if he had a cold. Je…

Demystifying French wines

The Quarterback and I attended this wine class at Bacchus last Monday. The class was informative, and the wines good. The teacher was helpful but not terribly exciting. Reading off Powerpoint slides and notes is not the best way to excite your four students. I like having a copy of the Powerpoint slides, though. I am a swot.

France ties with Italy for most wine production, with Spain coming in third. 2.2 million acres of France are devoted to wine making. Marseilles was the first place (in 600 B.C.) to grow grapes for wine. After the fall of the Roman empire, the vines came into the hands of the Church.

The Vins d'Appellation d'Origine Controlee (AOC) in 1935 established rules and geographical boundaries for wine regions. The rules dictate what grapes could be grown, what the alcohol content should be etc. Below the AOC, there are the wines labeled Vins Delimites de Qualite Superieure, and below that the wines labeled Vins de Pays, or Wine of Country (i.e. rural). The labeling s…

Days: Shi Hou Chang

Shih Hou Chang

He had a runner’s build but hated running.
He rooted
his toes
into the public park
and grew from his fingers
rose bushes.
He would not run, would not
ignite his lungs
and raze the flower’s thorn and leaf,
but let decay
take its slow, stationary course.

Days: Andrew MacIntosh

Andrew MacIntosh

After his workout, he took off
his shirt, and admired the man—
thickening shoulders, deepening chest—
the mirror returned to him.
He was so close to his reappearance
he could hug him
with his powerful arms.

Days: Carl Vincent

Carl Vincent

He came out of the writing class with Carl.
You don't know stress, he said, until you run
out of money, and your children
are hungry. You
go to the taxi garage, drive
for three hours,
and, with the tips,
buy something hot from the 24-hour deli.
Carl looked at the man climbing
into his black battered Ford,
and wished he had his nervous

Days: Mohammad Sharif

Mohammad Sharif

Today he held his tongue when Roy nagged about taxes.
Today he told father on the phone where to put his nose.
The skittish, bad-tempered animal in him
would still slash a man’s thigh to the bone,
or crunch a woman’s hand between its wicked teeth,
but today it responded to its reins
and so he dared to give it
a little lap of victory.

You can now buy "Watched You Disappear" here

I reviewed Patricia Markert's Watched You Disappear in February. Now you can read that review, and buy the book on the newly launched website of Five Spice Press.

Days: Matthew Gladstone, Jr.

Matthew Gladstone, Jr.

Tomorrow he would be headlines.
Tonight the house
was silent, the study was fireless.
He locked the safe.
Why did he bother?
Nothing was more definite
than tomorrow, unless
he unbolted himself
to free Margaret and the children.

Days: Wayne "Cutter" Koestler

Wayne “Cutter” Koestler

He signed up to put himself through college,
and they shipped him to Iraq
to keep the prisoners under stress
before MI interrogated them
again. He wrote almost daily
to Sergio workmanlike sonnets,
with an occasional
wrenching internal rhyme.

TLS March 28 2008

From Christopher Reid's review of Modern Painters: The Camden Town Group at the Tate Britain:

The more likely truth is that Sickert was simply the first painter in a long tradition to point out that the reclining nude, a standard compositional trope, had a lot in common with the inertia of a corpse, and the scrutiny of the artist with the calculating gaze of the malefactor.


From Fernando Cervantes' review of Marjorie Trusted's The Arts of Spain: Iberia and Latin America 1450-1700:

In the 1920s, Jose Ortega y Gasset attempted to counter these myths with the argument that Europe was not the creation of the sovereign nation state but, rather, the result of a piecemeal and laborious cultural fusion of what he called the "Germanic" and the "Mediterranean" elements. What particularly interested Ortega was that this fusion had been attained Iberia earlier and more permanently than in any other part of Europe, so that the presence of those very elements that ar…

Days: Richard Turnbull

Richard Turnbull

He was brought up in rural Utah but thought
it didn’t matter. Drawing was spirit
answering spirit, and spirit was everywhere.
That woman in the train reading the New Yorker
stared down a very deep well
—she was the well—after Jesus had left her.
The trick last night ran into
his body like Samuel to the door,
repeating “Speak, Lord.” But when he tried
to sketch himself—defeated
Moroni wandering among caves, the song
making its way up Mary’s throat, Ammon heaving
the stack of severed arms to his king—
the drawings came off
like gloves,
showing his mink paws.

Domaine Bertrand-berge Ancestral 2004

The Quarterback opened this bottle last night, which he bought from online wine store, the Wine Library. It was delicious. We finished it before dinner.

A Wine Advocate review from the Wine Library:
"Fitou is an odd appellation consisting of a seaside section and a detached, mountainous, geologically distinct backside whose southern tip abuts Vingrau in Roussillon. At this tip the Bertrands tend the roughly equal parts Grenache, Carignan and Syrah that inform their 2004 Fitou Cuvee Ancestrale. Smelling and tasting of juicy, ripe black raspberries scented with sage and scrub, and with a savory tartness of fresh berry right down to the seeds, this pure, elegant, and long if not especially complex wine is positively infectious in calling forth the next sip. Enjoy it over the next couple of years." --David Schildknecht

Days: Sam Won

Sam Won

His own snoring woke him.
One moment he was lost to himself,
the next a black light flicked on.
Swimming up towards that light,
his mind strained with an accumulated effort
that grew less
as the water gave way.
When he broke the surface, he saw
Kelvin curled up against him,
the position he—his boyfriend!—liked best,
his face mild as milk.

Days: D. J.

D. J.

He washed carefully,
glad to be out of the cold
that was reducing his gang at the pier.
He almost gave himself up to the Shelter
but remembered its ranks of army cots.
The stranger looked sane,
and he could hear him in the bedroom,
rattling down the blinds.
He dried himself with the thick, white towel.
The towels at home were washed to frayed white,
dirty with disappearing colors.
Here, with some luck,
he could do as he pleased, and the stranger
would not hit him
after they jizzed his sheets.

Days: K. Sullivan

K. Sullivan

He heard his mother cry on her seventy-fourth birthday
about trying to abort him in her second trimester.
The crying sounded like how he imagined
the wind would sound
in an abandoned apartment.
He patted her back, brought her a cup of tea,
got up and closed the windows,
sat down in the middle of his old room,
and listened out for the wind.

Days: Peter Morelli

Peter Morelli

He liked sun-tanning on Christopher Street pier
where other sun-tanners slept on the grass
like so many fish. He liked the idea
they were happy out of
their element.
The grass blades bristled, the ants
with their busy jaws scavenged
what the summer gas had poisoned.
But the sun-tanners were not dead yet,
they were dreaming
of limbs and lungs,
and the unaccustomed sun of mammal sex.

Days: James Li

James Li

He spent more time in the chat rooms
than talking with his wife. He tried
to feel bad about it but each try
created another virtual self, a new profile
for which he had to choose
height, weight, “shoe” size, cut
or uncut, what he liked.
A 6’2 blond Californian with a taste for SM
cried when his wife left for her mother’s house.
When he signed the divorce papers,
he lived in Alaska,
and weighed 260 pounds.

Days: William Lincoln

William Lincoln

At first he went to Cairo for the lads,
whom he saw from his hotel window
passing through the market stalls
like unacknowledged gods.
Then he found himself
passing for a local, winning
the confidence of the black-toothed elders,
uttering an automatic
prayer when the minaret floated
its call. He knew
he could never be a Muslim,
but he loved the religion’s seriousness,
the gravity
in the brown eyes of his young lover
who stepped out of a starry robe
to climb under his covers.

Rupert Goold's "Macbeth"

Saw this Macbeth at the Lyceum yesterday, with The Quarterback, and his theater friend from college. Garbed in Soviet uniform, the production took place throughout in a white-tiled basement, with steel kitchen sink, fridge, radiator, hospital trolleys, TV, and an old-fashioned elevator opening and closing its grille-jaws like hell's mouth.

Some of the scenes were brilliantly re-imagined. The bloody surgeon was rolled in on a trolley, by three nurses who then revealed themselves to be the witches. While Macbeth convinced the murderers to kill Banquo, he made himself a sandwich, a part of which he ate, before offering it to the murderers. Breaking bread and feeding one's bloodhounds at the same time.

Other scenes were terrific because of the acting. Michael Feast, playing Macduff, was utterly moving when he received news of his family's massacre. Brilliant throughout the play, Kate Fleetwood made Lady Macbeth's sleepwalking scene compelling and complex.

This production was …

Sze Tsung Leong's "History Images" and "Horizons"

I remembered his History Images but did not remember his name, until I came across it again in today's NYT. Philip Gefter reviewed Leong's Horizons series now showing at Yossi Milo Gallery. The images below are from his website.

From History Images:

Beizhuanzi II, Siming District, Xiamen, 2004

From Horizons:

Canale della Giudecca I, Venezia, 2007
From the gallery website:Horizons is an ongoing series of photographs, begun in 2001, that depict expansive but detailed views of a broad spectrum of environments throughout the world. The locations of the images may be distant in geography (including Mexico City, Cairo, Banaras, Lisbon, Isle of Skye, Tokyo, and Inner Mongolia, for example), and diverse in subject matter (ranging from pastoral landscapes, to monuments, to everyday spaces, to rivers, to industrial zones, to cityscapes), yet the photographs are linked by a horizon which continues in the same position from image to image. When placed side by side, the images form an extended …

Days: Mark, Paul Legaspi, Alvin Bradshaw

“What are days for?/ Days are where we live.” –Philip Larkin


He hanged around the locker-room
of the swimming pool, to catch
an able eye and hand,
and then took the train back to his lover
who was dying of cancer.
His lover’s name was Peter Weizman.
He told me his name was Mark.

Paul Legaspi

He devoted his life to fighting
for gay equality. He wrote to senators,
he called representatives, and appeared
before congressional committees.
Back home, after putting down his attaché-case,
he checked the mirror and remembered
he was ugly.
His colleague Alex thought he was beautiful,
but he never told him.

Alvin Bradshaw

He wanted to act,
and so he took the bus to the city.
He got bit parts in bit plays,
always hoping
that age would bring the right character part.
He played minor roles in life too—the one-nighter,
the Sunday fuck, the friend his friends went to
when they needed a hand.
Age brought him to a very small stage
which he dominated.

Glass City

Just finished the first draft of this sequence inspired by Hesse's Glass Bead Game. The sonnetinas form a necklace of voices: 1-4 from Amsterdam, 5-10 from Singapore, 11-14 from New York City. The key to the speakers is given at the end of the sequence.

Glass City

Among the canals there is one canal
that leaps, over bridges, to the sky.
I’m waiting for a glass-topped boat,
a bilingual guide, and a glass city.

Deep in the red-light district of this city,
out of the waters of a green canal,
the Oude Kerk is moored like a boat,
its steeple steered towards the sky.

The rain is falling out of the sky.
The bicyclists are crossing the city.
The green water is bearing the boats.
The bridges are limping over canals.

Where is the canal? What is the sky?
When is the boat? Why the glass city?


When is the boat? Why the glass city?
the chambers echo in the heart,
the hiding place in the storehouse,
the give-away twitch in the temple.

On the glass wall Shirley Temple
giggles from a faraway city.
The strawberries in …

One for the ears, one for the eyes

One for the ears, one for the eyes,
with these street maps I walk the city,
to get to know, to love, this one,
its bridges, temples, kitchens, canals,

know it not for a casing, but a canal,
always a waterway for the eyes,
and for the ears a music won,
but never removed, from the city.

No, I am not a founder of cities,
I can’t raze houses to build canals,
I won’t be waiting for the phone
to cough to put out someone’s eyes,

but hear amidst the city, and eye
among the canals, there is one canal.

The Peacock, for his April show

The Peacock, for his April show,
The Greatest Magic Show On Earth,
will make the Building disappear
in front of twenty million eyes.

The hand is quicker than the eye.
The mind suspects the glass of show.
The night is cold, and so appears
the form of loss, the form of earth.

Broadcast round the round of earth,
electronically to our eyes,
the beveled Building reappears
to end the reassuring show.

The show on earth gives us two words,
one for the ears, one for the eyes.

Turning down the dark green throat

Turning down the dark green throat
of my cricket man, instead he picks
my painting of the man peacock
to join his famous April show.

This blue is good, he says, for the show,
the brilliant up-thrust of the throat
as the man is turned into peacock.
It will go well with my other picks.

I look again at the one he picks,
imagining myself at the show,
the portrait of the man peacock,
the heavy brushstrokes at the throat.

Of all the throats I painted, he picks
the peacock for his April show.

The beautiful white sails wander into

The beautiful white sails wander into
the whirlpool of the kitchen sink,
clotted cheese, carrot bits, green
gum swirled down the city’s throat.

Some nights something at the throat
catches, the restaurant turns into
a tank, then I see in the dark green
water the plates and silver sink,

and after them the divers sink
down the comfortable throat,
their small lights algaed green,
their small bodies curling into

shrimps, into worms, sinking,
and turning, down the dark green throat.

So beautiful and so untrue

So beautiful and so untrue
is the idea of leaving home,
its beauty a ship with white sails,
its untruth a sea of wonder.

Afloat on aquamarine wonder,
I am searching if it's true
that a pair of rectangular white sails
could find a country to call home.

Every country looks like home
until I spot the lion wonder.
Every morning the blank white sails
beckon the heart with what's untrue.

So the untrue becomes a blue home
the beautiful white sails wander into.