Monthly Archives: June 2009

Stuck

As the EV Program comes to a close, I strangely find myself stuck or blocked in my writing (hence, the sparse and infrequent blog entries).  I think back to times when I could write HELLA poems in a day.  That time was like, last month.  Maybe I need a fallow season?

I’m not sure what it is exactly.  Traveling, graduation season, family stuff, job hunting, maybe.  I guess I’m being so distracted by LIFE.  The writing’s been hard.

Last night, we met with Michael Datcher, author of Raising Fences, and he spoke a lot about creating writing rituals around the process.  He said, it’s like going to the gym; once you get started, it’s hard, but your body gets used to it and knows.  This man wakes up at 4:30 AM, meditates, writes for two hours, then writes again for another half hour in the afternoon, and then again at night.  I can do this too, right?  This made me think about my schedule, which has just very recently changed, but mostly about my frantic attitude towards getting a new job.  Searching on Craigslist for the newest posting has replaced my writing time.  This will stop now.

When I asked Michael about his advice on getting close readers for works-in-progress, he suggested reading the poem to a mentor or friend aloud (while they read along), and check for the emotional response.  I’ve been feeling a bit emotionally distant with some poems from Ascela’s persona, and I think my next goal, for the next poem is to get a physical/emotional response (which I’ve gotten from the Anthro and Leticia) from an Ascela poem.

Another goal of mine: steal more from other poets’ and writers’ work!

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Left Hand Writing

To Donna Hilbert (our poetry teacher)’s suggestion, I’ve been writing recently with my left hand.

The quantity of writing isn’t even comparable to how much I can write with my right hand, but I’ve noticed the shift in voice, the tender attention I pay to what I’m about to write.  The words come often as a surprise, and I don’t anticipate what I’m about to write.  With the left hand, my mind isn’t two thoughts ahead of my hand.  Donna says that with the left hand (or the right, depending on what your dominant writing hand) allows us to be more attentive, go deeper in the writing, instead of rushing.

I must admit, I’ve been distracted from writing the aswang poems, and maybe it’s a good thing,  I don’t want to rush.  Also, I honestly feel like it’s becoming WORK.  I need to remember to play.  Anyone out there know of exercises in play?

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The Punchline

On Friday night, I went with a friend to see Filipino comedian Jo Koy at the Comedy and Magic Club in Hermosa Beach.  I don’t think I’ve ever laughed so much in one night.  Larry Miller and BJ Novak (‘Ryan’ from ‘The Office’) also dropped in.

If I weren’t a poet, I’d attempt a life of comedy.

On second thought, no, maybe not. But there must be something about charming an audience that is intoxicating to the comedian.  Although there are many similar things between comedy and poetry (i.e. the pacing/timing, tone, the encapsulated and short moment, the storytelling), I almost NEVER think about an audience.  As a writer, there isn’t that face-to-face interaction with the reader, unless it’s a reading.  Hopefully, the book survives the writer, and continues to have an audience as an art object (as Ralph Angel would say), despite the actual writer, dead or alive.

It seems to me that comedy is SO much about the actual artist, the personality, the oral communication, the moment.   Yes, a comedian’s routine can be caught on YouTube, but it’s very different from experiencing the actual show.  I think the best comedy is the most honest and truth-telling.  So why the perpetual racial/gender/class/everything stereotyping in most amateur comedians’ work?  And although we have Chelsea Handler and Kathy Griffin, why the dominance of male comedians (maybe it’s just like anything else, though).

Jo Koy was quite funny, though.  Of course he did the Filipino Mom jokes, but he also painted such great portraits of the other characters in his life, like his son, the dude sitting next to him on the plane.  Rather than sticking with just THE punchline, his jokes/stories are complex and layered in experience.  No easy feat, BUT no cheap laughs.

A poem came out of this experience:

That Mortification

for T

When I retell last night’s joke,

I squint my eyes at the sober morning air.

I can’t seem to get the posture right,

the grease-haired comedian’s casual lean

against the microphone,

the hands pulling at the air already

liquored with laughter.  The joke:

If it’s like poetry, then everyone’s

interested. Oh that movie’s like poetry.

Cool, I want to see it. That album is like

poetry. OK, I’ll download it. But if it’s actual

Poetry,

um,

no thanks.

Even now, writing the joke, the awkward

crossout for the punchline, this shameless

mortification on the page, the maybe-I-should-

be-offended. When I retell the retelling,

I am less mortified by my imaginary grip

of the microphone, rather;

the part where the honest poet herself

sometimes can’t hide,

who shrugs and says, sad but true.

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