Showing posts from 2013

Pure, Explicit, Invincible

Read three novels while visiting GH's family for Christmas. The first was a recommendation by his father, who is an avid reader. Calico Joe, published in 2012,is touted as John Grisham's first baseball novel. In my teens I used to tear through Grisham's legal thrillers, absorbed in the arcane world of courtroom drama. Baseball is just as arcane to me, but my ignorance was no barrier to enjoying this fast-paced novel. A boy is torn between his baseball idol and his baseball father, who play against each other in one fateful match. Grisham is a good storyteller, who knows how to put a story through its paces. What annoyed me was the times when he tried for some deeper meaning, and sounded pretentious instead. It's pretty obvious that the story is about the all-American hero and his evil twin. There is no need to hammer home the dualistic point. The characterization is not very complex, but the father comes off as the most interesting character because he was the most inj…

A Bibliography of Our Own

The first annotated and comprehensive bibliography of the entire body of “Singapore Literature in English." A magnificent achievement! Congrats to Prof Koh Tai Ann and her team!

Image from NTU webpage

John Berger's "Selected Essays"

It is astonishing to me how consistent John Berger was in over 30 years of art criticism. His judgment of an artist could become more developed and refined, more elaborated, but the underlying sense of the artist's purpose and value remained the same. This consistency of seeing came from a coherent philosophy of art criticism. As Berger puts it in his "Introduction" to Permanent Red, which is also aptly the introductory essay of this Selected Essays edited by Geoff Dyer, the art critic must first answer the question: What can art serve here and now? For Berger, the answer that drove his looking was another question: Does this work help or encourage men to know and claim their social rights?

Berger was not looking for Socialist propaganda, but saw his answer/question as the logic of his historical situation. In the second half of the twentieth century, the most important historical movements were the fights for national independence, civil rights, gender equality, and pea…

Poem: "Top Ten Books of 2013"

Top Ten Books of 2013

10. Magritte at the MoMA, The Mystery of the Ordinary, 1926–1938

9. From the open-air market in Nice, fresh figs, goat cheese, baguette

8. The young astrophysicist in the hotel shower

7. The Seven Samurai

6. Splash Bar closing. Any reference to dancing in my writing is in part a reference to the dance floor at Splash.

5. Your excitement inside Cité radieuse in Marseilles

4. After reading One Hundred Years of Solitude, I saw an old man walk by with his grandson

3. The Talipot Palm flowering for the first and last time before it dies

2. Massage oil 

1. The garage mechanic in Tara Bergin’s This Is Yarrow and his black hands—“everywhere they touch will be evidence of him.”

Poem: "Gift Set"

Gift Set

Elsa, I’ve just received the package of bones you sent!
I’ve always wanted the complete set
to check if his throat cancer left a mark.

What fun to hold a familiar funny bone and hear
it speak of a painted scroll,
I know the stupid bird can never eat the stupid peach 

and another, smooth pebble, never seen before,
a pig is a very compact arrangement,
and wonder where it fits.

The bone for his friend Keith
keeps its silence about a word—

Alex Au, the blogger
facing charges of holding the courts in contempt,
guessed the word is gay,
Cyril (remember him?) reckons it goodness,
I fancy you

and so the linguist speaks eternally.

Ha, ha! Arthur Yap, I have your bones all in one place,
as others do who cherish completeness
far from home, above the ground, and unquiet.

Thank you.

Poem: "An Argument Against An Objective Materialist Universe"

An Argument Against An Objective Materialist Universe

The wallpaper has a pattern of eyes,
life-sized, brown, with double eyelids.
I spin but cannot catch any one blinking.

When I change in the morning
to get ready for work,
they appraise me from all angles.

In the evening, after work,
when I’m masturbating in bed,
I swear a tear glistens at the corner of every eye.

Just before I fall asleep,
they look like the eyes of my boyfriend
who is away in Brazil.

I can’t get them to stop looking at me.
I can’t stop looking at them.
It’s the same way even if I write,

the wallpaper has a pattern of eggs. 

We have no wallpaper in our bedroom.
You’ll have to take my word for it.

Poem: "The Murderous Sky"

The Murderous Sky

after Magritte 

The sky has been raining dead birds all morning.
They strike the ground so hard that they bounce
up to the waist and disappear into the blue air,
not without leaving a blot of blood, a bull’s eye.
I try to avoid stepping on the red shots but there
are so many that it’s impossible not to cross
a firing line. Other people don’t seem to care,
not the schoolgirl thumbing her phone, not the
short pizza delivery man hurtling by on his bike.
In the distance, however, a woman is steering
her black stroller as if she is avoiding puddles.
A young man on a bench looks up from his book.

Poem: "The Ideology of Aggressive Interior Attack"

The Ideology of Aggressive Interior Attack

The fire will climb from the 59th, that’s
how old I am, to the 86th floor observatory.
The fire engines are on their way.
One firefighter will lose his life trying
to rescue a woman in a bathroom.
He is 34, Irish and divorced. Sees his two daughters
on alternate weekends. About to be promoted.
I have read tomorrow’s papers by mistake.
The woman’s safe. The cause of the fire unknown.

Poem: "Getting Dressed"

Getting Dressed

After I pull down my pullover,
 the front collar of my t-shirt is too high. 
It is in fact the back collar.
I have my t-shirt on back to front.

Pulling off my pullover, I realize
my mistake is in fact a mistake,
I have my t-shirt on right.

The shirt must have ridden up
inside the pullover.

I pull my pullover over my head
and the knitted arms over my arms.
The front collar is riding high again.
I pull at it but it won’t go down

because it is the back collar.

I pull off my pullover again.
In fact I check the mirror.
I am wearing the t-shirt right.
The front collar is in front,
showing the collar of flesh below the neck,
except when it is the back.

Poem: "Who Wants To Know The Answer?"

Who Wants To Know The Answer?

I’m reading John Berger on Magritte. On the radio, a young man has a question about his Toyota Corolla Hatchback.
You’re from Eugene? the auto expert asks. Eugene, Oregon.
There’s a liquid leaking from his dashboard. Is it greasy? the auto expert asks. Yes, it’s greasy.
A phone shrills in the studio. Why isn’t anyone attending to it?
That’s a problem, the auto expert says, when you’re out on a date.
Yeah, it’s a real problem. It was leaking all over the floor, all over my good shoes. I tried soaking it up with newspapers, but it was hopeless, it was leaking so much.
The phone shrills and shrills.
Oh, it’s not in the studio but nagging behind me, in the kitchen of the house where I’m staying, a wallphone hooked up above the microwave.
Should I answer it? It’s not for me. It’s an unexpected call. Nobody’s home. Would John Berger answer it?
The phone shrills on. Finally, the auto expert, for he is the expert, picks it up and asks in a voice falsely gruff, hello, …

Love, from the Beginning to the End

This year's thanksgiving was a time with family, friends and movies. We watched three movies with R and S, and then another movie when we got home last night. The Big Wedding (2013), directed by Justin Zackman who also co-wrote the screenplay, suffered from a lack of direction. The best thing, and the cutest thing, in it was Ben Barnes, who played the Columbian son adopted by white parents. When his religious biological mother came for his wedding, the family bent over backwards to hide the fact that dad and mum were divorced. It was a flimsy premise for a film, and it showed.

Bahz Luhrmann's The Great Gatsby (2013) more than made up for the disappointment. I loved the excess of it, the garish house, the lavish parties, the rap music, the over-the-top art direction. I was not looking for a faithful rendition of a great novel into film. I was looking for, from Luhrmann the director of Romeo and Juliet, and of Moulin Rouge, a re-envisioning of the world, and he gave us one, tart…

Monstrosity is the Untruth

TLS October 25 2013

from Jack Flam's review of T. J. Clark's Picasso and Truth: From Cubism to Guernica:

Although Clark takes a rather long and circuitous route to conclude that Picasso is a monist whose art is amoral--not from indifference, but from a reality principle (the world itself being amoral)--his discussion of parallels between Nietzsche and Picasso contributes to a better understanding of Picasso's uniqueness as a thinker as well as a painter. It also provides an implicit rebuke to Jung's expectation that great art be "good" as well as beautiful. Following Nietzsche, Clark maintains that the way monstrosity collapses normal terms of identity and difference can be a substitute for truth: "Monstrosity is the Untruth--the strangeness and extremity--inherent in everyday life".

Arthur Danto's "The Transfiguration of the Commonplace"

In this work of philosophy, Danto wishes to define art, and to show why contemporary art, having attained self-consciousness, is asking the same questions as philosophy. His approach throughout the book is to compare artworks with what he calls mere real things, when both are indiscernibly alike. The two classes of things, as he argues, belong to different ontological realms, hence, the title of his book. The artist performs a transfiguration of the commonplace when he makes of his materials a work of art. Danto has been criticized for his belief in duality, underlined by the Christian or Catholic figure of transfiguration, and reiterated throughout the book in his references to the body and the soul. I am not sure if the two ontological realms are as separate as his tropes imply, for his argument proceeds by making nice distinctions between, first, a representation and an object, and, then, between a representation and an artistic representation. If the categories are finally differe…

Frank Ching's "Ancestors"

It is a curious thing to me that I am non-curious about my ancestors. I read to discover literary ancestors--predecessors and mentors--who can give me help. I cannot imagine spending years of my life, as Frank Ching did, researching actual ancestors, as if they have anything to do with me but for the accident of blood. Would I feel different if I discover how illustrious my ancestors are, like Ching's list of top court officials, brilliant scholars, famous poets, noted failures, and even a notorious traitor?

Though illustrious, their lives in dynastic China followed the same basic pattern, which makes for dull reading. These men (for only scholar-class men had their lives recorded in government, city or clan histories) studied throughout their teens and twenties, and sometimes thirties and forties, for the civil-service examinations. When they passed them, they were posted to various government positions throughout the empire to carry out their various duties and effect their vari…

Two Queer French Films

Dans la maison (In the House), 2012, directed by François Ozon, is many things. It is a story about a cynical teacher and a talented student. It is also a study of the sexual frustration of middle-class women, the art gallery owner married to the teacher, and the housewife married to a corporate hick. At the heart of the film is the voyeur in everyone of us, the student (compelling Ernst Umhauer) who wants to see what a perfect family looks like, the teacher (Fabrice Luchini), and his wife (Kristin Scott Thomas). It is an homage to Teorema by Pier Paolo Pasolini, in which a stranger enters a home and seduces everyone in it, maid, son, mother, daughter, and father. And, most profoundly, the film is an allegory for the creative process. The fact that all these levels cannot be separated from one another easily as the film moves towards its unexpected ending is a testament to the skill and vision of the director. GH and I watched it last weekend, and we still felt its impact last night a…

Reading at Hunter College

Alison Park invited me to read to her Asian American Studies class at Hunter College last Wednesday. The class consisted of about 20 students, half of which were Asian American. There were a few more women than men. The students were taking the class to fulfill the requirement for pluralism in their studies, so not everyone there was an English major. In fact, someone there majored in Computer Science. They were a little quiet and shy at the beginning but warmed up soon.

I read them some family and New York poems from Equal to the Earth, stopped for questions, and then read from The Pillow Book as a lead-in to Sei Shonagon and her use of the list form. The students wrote their own list for "Things That Sound Beautiful," a topic suggested by the class. After they wrote down some ideas, I asked them to write them out again, this time aiming to elaborate, organize, paragraph, and delete. They came up with some great descriptions. I remember, in particular, wind chimes, a minor …

3 Poems in Axon

All three poems have epigraphs from Lee Tzu Pheng. Alvin Pang was the Consulting Editor for this issue of the Australian journal Axon

Vijay's Seshadri's "3 Sections"

Vijay's third collection, and it's well worth waiting for. The book is marvelous, constantly surprising. I enjoyed again the lacerating "Memoir" (which first appeared in The New Yorker) and the three apocalyptic visions of "This Morning" (which I first heard at a PSA reading). "Three Persons" is still a particular favorite. The theme of containing multitudes recurs in different guises throughout the book, culminating in the transformative ending of "Personal Essay," where the faces seen in a trance are themselves and more than themselves. I also love the memoir "Pacific Fishes of Canada" and will be sharing it with a colleague who teaches Moby Dick. The book takes many risks in its language--colloquial, mythic, sentimental, scientific--but rides the waves through the energy of its sentences.

Old Work, New Work, Public Work

Shakespeare's Globe is in New York, and I was lucky to get two tickets to the production of Richard III at Belasco Theatre last Friday. Disconcertingly, Mark Rylance played Richard for laughs, and achieved a new horror. Liam Brennan was brilliant too as Clarence, as was Paul Chahidi as Hastings. The rest of the cast was below par. It was an all-male cast. Of the men playing the women, the strongest was Joseph Timms as Lady Grey. The scene in which Richard tried to persuade Lady Grey to give her daughter to him in marriage was both funny and heartbreaking. Rylance's comic timing, aided by a stutter, turned seemingly innocuous lines into bombshells of laughter.

Yesterday was a beautiful, brisk day for gallery-hopping. GH and I saw the new sculpture by Richard Serra. Inside Out (2013), a single work made out of two curved plates, was tremendous. You think you know Serra's signature monumental work, and will therefore be unmoved by it. But I was, yet again, at the Gagosian gal…

Tara Bergin's "This Is Yarrow"

I can't praise highly enough this first book of poems by Tara Bergin. I'm into my second reading, and it's even more compelling than the first round. Favorites, familiar from PN Review or from New Poetries V, are here--"Looking at Lucy's Painting of the Thames," "Himalayan Balsam for a Soldier," "The Undertaker's Tale of the Notebook," "This Is Yarrow"--but now set in the company of poems that deepen and broaden their resonance.

"Acting School" acknowledges the distance between art and life, but brilliantly concludes that "there is a sufficient amount of physical truth" in the former to approximate, and even vivify, the latter. That physical truth I find confirmed, again and again, in the musicality of the verse. It is not drinking water, but in drinking air, poetry comes close to life.

The contradictions and tensions in married life are conveyed with nervous, even harrowing, energy. I love the poem "…

Lines from Batu Ferringhi

QLRS has just published my essay on Goh Poh Seng's book-length poem Lines from Batu Ferringhi. Thanks, Hsien Min and Shu Hoong. (In the same issue also, my answers to Shu Hoong's Proust Questionnaire.) The essay will have done its work if it interests someone to re-issue this vital work of Singapore literature.
Batu Ferringhi is a beach area in the north of Penang Island in Malaysia. In the 16th century, Portuguese traders from India stopped at Batu Ferringhi to replenish their water supplies, and their visits gave the place its name. "Batu Ferringhi" means "Foreigner's Rock". At this liminal space between land and sea, one seeks the foreign in one's familiar self. In the 1970s it was famous as a hippie's hangout, as a place where foreigners came to swim "in the nude at the freshwater pools" (according to Wong Chun Wai's 'Life's a beach in Penang'). Goh was not a hippie. He was a married man with children, a doctor, a …

Set Honor in One Eye and Death i' th' Other

Saw the Donmar Julius Caesar at St. Ann's Warehouse last night. I liked the concept very much. The play-within-a-play was set in a women's prison. Two levels of meaning ran simultaneously through the play. Shakespeare's Roman world of ambition and betrayal. Also, the modern prison system, with its goal of reform and lust for spectacle. The women were Caesar, Brutus, Cassius, Portia, Calpurnia and so on, but they were also tough broads, rightly or wrongly incarcerated.

In that criminal world, Harriet Walter playing Brutus seemed to come from a different sphere, or from a different play. Her noble poise and her classical training fitted awkwardly with the rest of the cast. Jenny Jules as Cassius took some warming to, but was the most sympathetic figure by the end of the play. I loved the originality of having Mark Anthony (Cush Jumbo) sprawling on the floor, surrounded by a gun-toting mob as he started on his famous funeral oration, but the speech quickly became predictable …

Three Meta-meta Questions

TLS September 27, 2013

from Kevin Mulligan's review of A. W. Moore’s The Evolution of Modern Metaphysics:

Moore asks three central meta-metaphysical questions. There is the Transcendence Question: can we make sense of “transcendent” things? Then there is the Novelty Question: can we make sense of things in radically new ways? Finally there is the Creativity Question: can we be creative in our sense-making, perhaps in a way that admits of no distinction between being right or wrong, or are we limited to looking for the sense that things already make? Moore’s own view of metaphysics is that it is a “fundamentally creative exercise.” This is partly explained by distinguishing between “propositional” and “non-propositional” knowledge and understanding. Propositional knowledge is knowledge of truths or facts; non-propositional knowledge includes practical knowledge, and the kind of understanding provided by art which shows things it does not say. Metaphysics, he also thinks, should put…

After three weeks of fussing with WordPress, getting stuff together and asking people for permissions, today I launched Singapore Poetry, an e-gallery of all things poetic about Singapore, including poetry! Three people are following the website, after the first day. I am designing an email newsletter using MailChimp to reach out to my sign-up list.

The inaugural page of SP consists of 12 posts:

(1) Singapore Writers Festival
(2) Featured Image: Jason Wee's "Vanishing Distance 5"
(3) Featured Poem: Alvin Pang's "What It Means To Be Landless"
(4) Tan Pin Pin's new documentary To Singapore, with Love, about political exiles
(5) DesignTaxi
(6) Joshua Ip's new book of poems Making Love with Scrabble Tiles
(7) Loh Kah Seng's history book Squatters into Citizens
(8) Singapore's Favorite Poem: a student nominates Cyril Wong's "A Kind of Hush"
(9) new books from Math Paper Press
(10) a newish on-line paper, The Independent, Singapore

Macedonia Brook State Park

Saturday was a glorious day for hiking. P and J rented a zipcar and drove us to Macedonia Brook State Park, near Kent and the village of Macedonia in Connecticut. We took the Blue Trail, which crossed Cobble Mountain and gave us beautiful views of the Catskills and Taconics. Halfway through the trail, we changed to the Green Trail, and walked back to the car along the eponymous brook. There was a bit of rock scrambling in the first half of the hike, but the second half was a leisurely walk on an old pebbled road, under the cathedral ceiling of pines. Yellow leaves floated down in front of us in slow motion. Our feet crunched the dry leaves below.

Then, to celebrate, we made our way to Millbrook Vineyards and Winery for wine-tasting. The winery was in the Hudson Valley region, but it was not too difficult to drive there from Macedonia. We walked about the vineyards--Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Chardonnay, and the vineyard specialty, Tocai Friulano--and picnicked by the small man-made lake…

New Edition of "Payday Loans"

The cover for the new edition of my first book of poetry, Payday Loans. The design is by by Shellen Teh. It was a real pleasure working with Shellen and with Jocelyn, the editor. They are so professional, and so willing to listen and make adjustments. And of course Kenny Leck makes it all happen. Big thank-you to the Math Paper Press team.

If you magnify the image, you can read my synopsis on the back cover.

Leslie Chamberlain on Roman Jakobson

TLS September 20, 2013

from "Dreams of displaced men" by Leslie Chamberlain:

The flexible way with truth and personal identity that Jakobson learnt seemed to have entered his work both indrectly, in his treatment of encoded meanings in poetry, and indirectly, in his praise for the poetic lie. His essays of the 1920s and 30s celebrated the emotional lie that sustained the hear, and the literary forgery that sustained the nation. Poets, he felt, lived in their personal myth, which was a special kind of truth. . . . In his poetics he cherished the freedom of the word always to mean something else. As he puts it in "What is Poetry" (1933), "Poeticity is present when the word is felt as a word and not as a mere representation of the object being named or an outburst of emotion, when words and their composition, their meaning, their external and inner form, acquire a weight and value of their own instead of referring indifferently to reality".  ...  If Mayakovs…

Brooklyn Book Festival 2013

After a long night of rain, Sunday turned out to be gorgeous. Again, I shared a table with RH of Poets Wear Prada Press. I decided to sell CW's and JI's Math Paper Press books, as well as my own. GH helped me design a sign, Singapore Poetry, which I taped to the top of the stand, and in front of the table.

Singapore Poetry was certainly a draw. People who have lived in Singapore, have visited Singapore, or have a cousin who have been to Singapore came over to talk. Singaporeans came bounding to the table, surprised and pleased to find Singapore Poetry at the Brooklyn Book Festival. A nunber of Asians checked out the books too. And a Brooklyn bookseller who really liked the design of the Math Paper Press books.

I sold three times the number of books sold last year. It was a good idea to sell the books at a generously discounted price. Many other tables were doing so as well, including the university press at the next table. People liked a special offer. Having collected contact…

Akira Kurosawa's "Rashomon"

Watched this 1950 film last Tuesday, and was wowed by it. I prefer Seven Samurai, but can totally understand why someone may think that Rashomon is the greater film. Essentially a crime drama, it provokes big philosophical questions about the nature of truth. A samurai (Masayuki Mori) is killed and his wife is raped, but those are the only agreed-upon facts in the four tellings of the story. In three of the four versions--by the woman (Machiko Kyô), the bandit (Toshirô Mifune) who raped her, and the dead man speaking through a medium--the teller confesses to the killing. Each version also sheds light on the character of the teller, and why he or she wishes to incriminate himself or herself.

The fourth version is by a woodcutter (Takashi Shimura) who revises his initial story to reveal that he was an eyewitness to the murder, but lied to hide his theft of the samurai's dagger. The three other confessions are further complicated by the fact that they were retold by the woodcutter to…

Dipesh Chakrabarty's "Provincializing Europe"

Chakrabarty's project in this book is not so much to subvert the rational-secular view of history, inherited by postcolonial societies from the European enlightenment, as to see around the limitations of that view. In order to do so, one has to give up historicism, the idea of development in history, and of stages in history. Instead, one holds on to the idea of the heterogeneous present, when different world-views are not judged as pre-modern, modern, or even, post-modern (all stageist concepts) but as all life-possibilities. Only when we see the present as irreducibly plural, can we give an accurate account of the past of post-colonial societies. That is the challenge posed by subaltern studies to the dominant European paradigm. The book lays out its theoretical argument in its first part, and illustrates its argument in the second part with specific case studies about Indian widowhood, Indian nationalism, a form of Bengali sociality called adda, and salaried labor. The author f…

New Poems

Long Run

Let me in your adda, shoot the breeze and hang up my Adidas.

Living Room

You turn up the Bose speaker as you draw the loft to be built by Carnegie Hall.

Money Shot

Who gives the smacks to make these bad gay movies with such corny scripts that we keep getting from Netflix?

Recycled Paper

It’s easy to misread my handwriting in the Hallmark card, to read to have for its partner to hold.

Group Portraits

Watched Seven Samurai over two nights, and loved it. One of the imdb reviewers put it best, there are certain directors who just "get" it, who get the medium, and Akira Kurosawa is one of them. I was tired, I was doing what I thought of as a "duty," but I was mesmerized throughout the movie (3 hours, 27 minutes). Total involvement, that must be a criterion of great art, surely. Takashi Shimura, who plays the leader of the band, provides the moral center against which Toshiro Mifune's antic samurai tilts. Isao Kimura is the young untested warrior who falls in love with a farmer's daughter.

Less involving but still absorbing is the 1970s cult classic, the break-out novel by Ryū Murakami, Almost Transparent Blue. A group portrait of Japanese hippies (drugs, sex, and rock and roll), it is narrated by a young arts student called Ryū too. The scenes, numbing and addictive, are almost too painful to read, especially the one in which the Japanese had group sex wit…

Poem: "Stored Value"

Stored Value

Before my MoMA card expires, I will top up my plastic bottle with Perrier.

Poem: "Quality Care"

Quality Care

Don’t slip and sit hard on the floor by stepping on the lemon-scented overspray of Furniture Polish.

Poem: "Heavy Weight"

Heavy Weight

I lift the Bench Press book off the top shelf and read you the poem about love’s carelessness.

Poem: "Science Fiction"

Science Fiction

In your 2(x)ist underwear I bought for your birthday you sighed in our cot, I woke up in Paris.

Poem: "Short Straw"

Short Straw

Why don’t we have any A-list friends, you spit and stick your purple toothbrush aslant my Oral-B, blue and down the middle transparent.

Poem: "Small Help"

Small Help

It doesn’t treat but takes away the itch, this cream from Singapore, Mopiko for mosquito bites, made of menthol and camphor.

Death as Radical Discontinuity

TLS August 2 2013

from Marci Shore's Commentary piece "Out of the desert: A Heidegger for Poland":

[Krzysztof] Michalski's childhood had coincided with Stalinism in Poland; his adolescence with attempts to purify the Communist system of its Stalinist deviation without abandoning Marxism. At the core of Marxism remained Hegel's claim that "the truth is the whole". "Does the understanding of something suppose finding a unity in that which one wants to understand? Is it only then--when we are able in each fragment see a part of some whole--that we can discover some meaningin the multifariousness of the experienced world?" These questions, Michalski said in an interview, had kept him awake at night since his first years of university. They were at the heart of his book on Heidegger, published in 1978, and at the heart of his book on Nietzsche, published some thirty years later. Coud there be meaning--the kind of meaning that imbues life with value…

Summer Reading

My big summer reading book was The Tale of Genji, which I read and blogged about in an earlier post. My feelings toward the book are colored by the start of summer and by summer's long afternoons in Central Park. I borrowed from the school library E. L. Doctorow's Ragtime, which I liked enough to be happy to find another novel by him in the apartment in Nice. TheWaterworks, my second Doctorow, has a rather predictable plot and characters that seem more symbol than flesh-and-blood. It is a pleasant enough way, however, to learn more about New York City in 1871. For instance, where the New York Library now stands, there used to be a reservoir.

My second loan from the school library was Dostoevsky's Notes from Underground. I swear that I have tried to read the great D many times, but failed every time to get past Chapter One. I thought that the slimness of Notes might help me get into the great Russian, and, boy, did it. I loved its tortured protagonist, who tries so hard to …

Decatur Book Festival 2013

I was at the Decatur Book Festival this weekend to launch the anthology This Assignment Is So Gay: LGBTIQ Teachers on the Art of Teaching. The launch at Decatur High School, introduced by Georgia State Representative Karla Drenner, and moderated by the school's English Head of Department Cara Cassell, was well-attended. I read with Pablo Miguel Martinez, Theresa Davis and anthology editor Megan Volpert. Ed Madden could not make it to due to a neck problem, but Wayne Koestenbaum kindly stood in, and read two of Ed's poems. The Q&A session after the reading was filled with questions from the audience. How would you motivate homeless LGBTIQ youth to study? What has given you hope recently in your teaching? I was pleased that someone bought a copy of my Seven Studies after just hearing me read one of my poems.

The Decatur Book Festival is billed as the largest independent book fair in the country. It was certainly very well run. The air-conditioned hospitality suite for autho…

Nice, August 17 - 24

The train ride from Paris to Nice took more than the promised four-and-a-half hours. The country views were brilliant--open blue skies, ochre rolling fields--and seeing the Mediterranean for the first time as the train hugged the coastline was very special, but next time we will take a plane instead. We left the crowded train station, picked up our apartment keys from a hotel nearby, and walked through the city, rolling our bags behind us. We were struck by how Italian the city looked. The first settlement was founded by the Greeks of Marseilles around 360 BCE. It came under the dominion of Savoy, then France, then Piedmont-Sardinia, and then back to France in 1860. After we had settled into the apartment on Rue de Suede, we took a walk along the famous Bay of Angels, by the Mediterranean.

The next day, the plan was to hit Coco Beach, some way out of the city, but we found an outdoors market when we walked about Vieille Ville, or Old Town. The Sunday market was a display of brilliant …