Man on Man Action

My review of the British publication of Dan Chiasson’s Natural History and Other Poems is on display over at Eyewear:

Chiasson’s work can be characterized by a deep, entrenched sadness. Poems frequently find themselves, sometimes inexplicably, worrying the concepts of death, decomposition, departure—even the implication of death, what Chiasson refers to as “the kitsch / of death” (“‘…and yet the end must be as ’tis'”). Particularly in The Afterlife of Objects does this preoccupation hold center stage as it creates tension between the inevitable failures of the body against the static persistence of things.

In “My Ravine,” the speaker describes a place in which a landfill for box springs, bookcases, desks, and even “somebody’s hairdryer” becomes the irresistible resting place for deer, who ultimately “stare at each other and wander / bewildered down my ravine and turn into skeletons.” Later, in “Natural History,” the image appears again, but as an elephant: “Worn out by suffering, we lie on our great backs, / tossing grass up to heaven – as a distraction, not a prayer. // That’s not humility you see on our long final journeys: / it’s procrastination. It hurts my heavy body to lie down.”

Best of the Net 2007

I’m overjoyed to tell you that two poems from LOCUSPOINT will appear in the 2007 Best of the Net anthology:

“Movements” by Renee Rossi
|TO GIVE A CHILD AN IDEA OF SCARLET OR ORANGE, OF SWEET OR BITTER, I PRESENT THE OBJECTS|” by Simone Muench

And, happily, a poem of mine that appeared in No Tell Motel was also selected: “Bargaining”

Thanks to Renee and Simone for sharing their work, to their editors, Shin Yu Pai and Francesco Levato (respectively), and to No Tell’s editors, Molly Arden and Reb Livingston!

Más Almodóvar, Por Favor

I saw in the most recent issue of The Threepenny Review a symposium on the films of Pedro Almodóvar. It’s been a few months since I’ve had my favorite filmmaker in my life, so I quickly devoured the essays inside—brief though they were, they were delicous.

What I loved about this symposium was that people from a small variety of backgrounds were asked to respond to Almodóvar’s films in a personal manner. I’m not sure there’s any other way to respond to his work, really. One wrote about seeing Talk to Her in Spanish with French subtitles while traveling abroad; another, about returning to Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown after twenty years of separation.

It’s hard for me to pinpoint what I love so much about his films, why they speak to me, but I can say that I see myself in his work. I mean, I see a representation of myself there. This is how I see the world: full of hyperbole and histrionics, full of marginalized people who are perhaps more authentic than the legitimate people. And there—the question/burden of authenticity, both in art and in life (for Almodóvar’s films are as much about being films as they are about approximating life).

As Agrado describes in All About My Mother (my favorite, easily): “I am very authentic” (muy auténtico), just as she explains all the ways in which her body has been surgically altered to appear female. Because authenticity is an internal definition, not external. Her physical modifications, which would seem the opposite of inauthentic from an outside perspective, serve to make her body and complete self-image more in line, more authentic, in the end.

Almodóvar, for better or worse, gave us Antonio Banderas and Penélope Cruz.

What he is, really, is an artist of appropriation. He pulls, steals, borrows, clips and cuts from all manner of traditions and art forms: other films, visual art, performance art, cabaret, architecture, melodrama…

I want to be the place where things converge, the way he is.

Good News from MiPO and OCHO

It’s the best thing to be in good company:

Authors Nominated for The Coat Hanger Award 2007

Christian Campbell
Camille Dungy
Christopher Goodrich
Steve Halle
Richard Harteis
Charles Jensen
Doug Kearney
Joan Larkin
Mike Maniquiz
K. Silem Mohammad
Peter Moore
Aimee Nezhukumatathil
David Prater
Lee Anne Roripaugh
Eva Salzman
Leigh Stein
Emma Trelles
Laura Van Prooyen
David Wagoner
Thom Ward

The nominations are from guest editors including Nick Carbo (Asian-American Issue), Adam Fieled (OCHO 11), Grace Cavalieri (OCHO 12), Evie Shockley (QUEST) and Meghan Punschke (OCHO 13) . Two nominations came in from readers of MiPOesias and OCHO, Cheryl Townsend and Suzanne Frischkorn and the rest of the nominations came in from me. I am sending in all the poems nominated to Jack and Jenni to make a final call. The poem selected for the Coat Hanger award will automatically go on our PUSHCART Prize nominations for this year. When Jenni and Jack send me the results, I will post on this blog. The winner of the Coat Hanger will receive a gift from me.

Grody to the Max

Call for Submissions – The Grotesque: Hayden’s Ferry Review is looking for
prose, poetry, and visual art that explore the humanity, beauty, and reality
of the literary grotesque – the monstrous, the unusual, the abnormal. Please
send to: Hayden’s Ferry Review (SS42), Virginia G. Piper Center For Creative
Writing, Box 875002, Arizona State University, Tempe, AZ 85287-5002.
Postmark deadline: January 15, 2008