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3.26.2004

Denver Quarterly – Volume 38, Number 2, 2003
Published by the University of Denver

The Denver Quarterly is a compilation of prose, verse and critical essays. There are 30+ poems, one short story and five critical essays. The contributors are primarily published authors, or at the time, awaiting publication. Many of them are award winners and accomplished contemporary writers. The essayists are generally university professors if not published writers themselves.

To generalize the conglomeration of work in this publication is difficult. I could say, however, that the work has a contemporary feel, in that the poems are not bound by “classical” structures, and are not common in form or content. Often they address politics, modern love, and have unusual syntax, but not exclusively. If this collection of works were a gallery exhibition, it would contain the likes of living American artists, a mix from Richard Serra to Chas Chamberlain. Surprisingly, the magazine is not composed of student submissions or primarily Coloradoans. Despite being a summer issue, there is not a common seasonal theme or flavor.

Two pieces that stood out to me: selections from The Face by David St. John and Miss October by Rachel Loden.

David St. John on pages 70-74 has five pieces XXI, XXII, XXIII, XXIV, and XXIX, respectively. The first one did not grab me at first – although beautifully descriptive – described a scene that never occurred –“Remember that trip to Capri we never took….” And then later “in the bar of the hotel, the boys from the streets were watching a midnight re-run of the day’s soccer match, their voices percussive in the clear liquid air.” As I read XXII, the sarcastic tone of XXI came out: everything so lovely and dreamy and not of reality as he describes an interaction with “Carl & Doug”. They are in a sculpture garden and in reaction to Carl’s solemn wonder of a marble Henry Shaw reclining figure, the speaker states “To sleep, perchance (you get the picture), & the bone-cold silence of the tomb echoes just a bit behind my bloodshot, red-eye-flight-ravaged eyes, & between my teeth, held by hallucination, the glass rose of my own future fucking repose…”. All in all, a rather bold feeling of distaste and a certain “fed-upness”. In XXIII he slams poetry “Moral: Great poetry: Nobody wins” as “flesh made word” and “those words made flesh” seems to “bring out the carnivore in all of us, the sweet cannibal who’s always desired just the slightest taste of her thigh or his copper nipple…” The sense of annoyance later emerges, as he questions the unashamed revengeful nature of those against past lovers. In XXIV he attacks poetry and time “well, she says, it’s all about fucking with time, isn’t it?” How future and time past become tangled into the present – and “back to bitching about time itself, how the past slides out from under the present” etc. The last piece, XXIX, he battles romantic triteness with “somebody says, I know you as I know myself, because loneliness & your mouth are both such cruel mirrors—so, waking in the in the cold hotel room, I sat out loud, without being able to stop myself, What?” The poems evoke a certain disintegration of man as he confronts the failure of love, the drama of the shattered self, and trying to find faith and beauty in the shards of his life. They are deeply passionate and raw, meditative and confessional in some moments and ironic and playful in others.

Rachel Loden is mostly known for her political satire in poetry and pop content. Other pieces in Denver Quarterly hilariously comment on recent Republican presidents as targets, with wit and mastery of the subject matter. Miss October is less politically charged, and I was attracted to it because of the method of writing, as each stanza wraps into the next….it isn’t too long so….

Miss October

If I have to be a playmate
In my time on earth
I want to be the girl
Of drifting leaves, cold cheeks

And passionate regrets.
I think Hef loves October best
Because although he cannot
Say so, he is this close

To death. December
In its stealth has hung
Long spikes of ice
Around his sagging ears, his

Sex. So in October
I’ll be the centerfold of gay
Pretense, the girl who says
We’re at our blondest

And most perilously beautiful
Right before we check out
Of the manse.
Soon all Hef’s dreaming

Will be ash, his favorite pipe
And smoking jacket,
Last vial of Viagra
Safely under glass

At the Smithsonian.
When my shelf life here
Is done and all the damp
Boys stealing glimpses

At the newsstands
Are old men, I want them
To remember how many
Playmate-months

Are gone, how many rooms
Stand empty, shutters
Drawn, the last girls slipped
Away in bright October.


I just love the duplicity of phrases- for example as in the third and second to last stanzas, boys are old men, at the newsstands are old men, and boys are stealing glimpses of her, Miss October…and all these unraveling connotations and connections, apparent and not, that they make. The phrases are witty and fun to explore, almost like those books that ask you to skip all over the book after each page. She has a shelf life at the Smithsonian and so does Hef’s Viagra, but which one is it, or both. Are the boys damp?? Ha. Or just the Smithsonian? And all this about a playboy playmate, but also someone “real”. Serious in that Hef is dying, but carnal and lively.

The Summer 2003 issue was the last one I could find in print. The University of Denver website did not have any links to the magazine and neglects to explain why the publication has ceased. All weblinks are no longer active. This is peculiar because the latest issue I could find at Olin Library mentions nothing to this matter and contains a clause about how to submit your work. Regardless, I greatly enjoyed this issue and see no reason why it is not a continuing literary publication.

3.24.2004

Kate Light at Balch on March 10, 7:30pm
her sonnets left me smiling sweetly...
filled with angst about love and living and mediating the two - often amusing interjections of contemporary culture, urban jargon. And so hip to the hip, I very much enjoyed. Her name fit her appropriately, a small and wispy (this doesn't have a negative connotation I hope) just wearing a rather imaginative black and fluttery ensemble, soft hair jazzmatazz, sweat demeanor. yoga and pottery? I don't think I'm far off. Also being a violinist in NYC, she brings a sort of lyrical and melodic curve to her rhymes, which sound (by her voice) alive and moving....I was eager to hear the next word. I love poems that give me this urgency, tell me how it is, I feel it too, the next line - yes, yes!! Rhyme liver and lover! yes yes! She began with "nicknames/undoing the snaps" an early sonnet about undoing the not so flattering nicknames of childhood...Amusing and fun. She read a bit from open slowly - which she mentioned as having more of a narrative arch compared to "the laws of falling bodies"...tones throughout the sonnets of a great mismatch, of temperament, size of bodies, and difference in age, and a great illness. I loved her poem about safety man - a blow up man she saw advertised for the purpose of accompanying a woman in her car to deter bad guys. Apparently these dolls became restricted because of their use in carpool lanes on the LA freeway. funny details of life like this are woven into her poems - do I have a safety man? adding to the short list of the uses of men...haahaa. she then explored "Oceanopany" a new composition of children's poems. she read "puffer fish" and "fringehead sarcastic" - 2 poems about fish temperaments, puffer fish puffing himself up when feeling endangered and fringehead sarcastic displaying a well, sarcastic, face to its opponents. Although appropriate for children, I loved the parallels to our own puffiness, multiple faces, and seemingly evolved defense strategies. Overall, I very much enjoyed Kate Light, a thoroughly splendid evening - her poems wonderfully accessible and real, her sounds soothing and breathing life to the written words through her softly passionate voice.

excerpt from open slowly, 2003, in Open Slowly.

Open Slowly;
someone may be standing on
the other side. Open slowly so you know
you're swinging wide
of them, and then
step through.

You may be you
once you are over being over-
wrought. See,
now,
how that was not
fair, it should not have been
so hard to get--to let be--
there.

Open softly,
and then shout
It's me!
once you are out.

Love guardedly, if you love,
do not push, or shove;
do you understand?

This will be your task,
not to command,
but ask.

3.19.2004

I don't know that I am in a search for truth....Or that I go to people for truth. There are times when I ask myself - who was there that day, what was the name of that dude, etc. Which I generally ask (if it's just killing me to know) the person who was there or would most likely remember. Sometimes it's like, yes! thank you! It was on the tip. But often, as in this morning's conversation with my sister, it only messed "it" (as in the truth) up. I have the distinct memory that it was my mother and I that went alone to see Dick Tracy when it first came out - that it was a special night between anna and mama. I asked Marta when she saw it first (for some reason this movie has been one of those repeatedly watched and loved in my house probably because I was healthily obsessed with Madonna) and she said with the two of us because she remembered mama telling her that she knew the ending before it happened. I'm willing to bet my pinkie toe if I could ask my mother. So, really I don't think I go for the truth - I'm quite happy in my own world of understanding the way things work. I learned "the facts of history", for what they're worth, in grade/high school and the more I "learn" the less I really know about these events. I mean it's all so filtered and told through who's ever perspective...I don't even know what really existed or fabricated and to tell you the truth (ha!!) I don't now that I really give a squirrels butt. So to quote Madonna when asked by Dick - "who's side are you on???" The only side I've ever been on - my own.

3.11.2004

For the past few years I have gone to my laptop to write. I sometimes begin with notes and phrases in my sketchbook but I rarely "finish" something there. I've found my handwriting less and less coherent and constantly re-writing notes (especially for my thesis) in electronic form. When I read and want to take notes, I do it with pen and paper but then transfer them if I plan on using them for something else (or really want to understand them...). When I am waiting in my car or for someone, or if the weather is nice, I primarily use my sketchbook. I always carry my sketchbook and often fill it with simple phrases I form when walking or waiting, things I hear or thoughts I ponder. But poems materialize when I am typing. I love the ability to go back and reword several times, cutting and pasting is my friend; writing in the computer does not have the permanence factor, and often feels less premeditated. Perhaps because of the proliferation of email and requirements of assignments in type form, that I have become so attached to typing. Because I don't usually take my computer places, I write at home in my room. The sun makes it difficult to see the monitor so when I simply must go outside, the pen and paper win. This is true for letters as well. I love writing and receiving hand written letters. Especially for my long distance friends, I much prefer written letters. I try to be diligent about it and when I get emails that mean something more than the usual quick communication, I save them in a folder. I've thought about printing them out but I forget. In the box in the back of my closet filled with letters and notes from old friends and old lovers is one of my most savored possessions. Spending a semester abroad definitely strengthened this...I was adamant about people sending me written letters and me writing them back. A friend of mine wrote in almost every one how much he loved writing them, that it had been so long, and how thankful he was for me giving him a reason. I wouldn't trade getting a letter in the mailbox to an email in my inbox any day.


3.08.2004

i've found myself post-class reflective, and understand myself to generally be much more expressive in written and visual form rather than verbal (unless under more intimate interactions), so as not to let these contained reflections be forgotten...

from this weeks readings i found the Lyn Hejinian piece most inspiring to me as i generally like what i can relate to or aspire towards, as most people probably do. reading through this excerpt, my mind kept stirring seemingly random events in my life - but i do not remember the year, and i do not think my personality has changed - despite habits, awarenesses, information puddle growing and changing - and when i read my own random written pieces or journals, what have you, i find a very similar mindset, connections to life events now, the beginning elements of a thought process, the actions i never premeditated on that become clearer now. i saw Hejinian's experiences subjective and individual, sometimes overlapping with my own - which allowed me to weave myself into it - but more the looseness of unfiltered expression (i find myself filtering at times) most catching. i cannot place such a chronological framework as most autobiographies, but find slices of images (as Bernstein refers to in Semblance) what matters more and feels more true to me. a memory i thought forgotten has so much more power when remembered now in connection with a forming memory, and i think the conglomeration of these slices is the only way i would express my "past" and reading this text has freed me from the idea that a memory must be padded with framework, which can sometimes lead to other such memories, but nevertheless, padding.

3.03.2004

One of the components of landscape architecture that fascinates me the most is how to harness the "poetics of the landscape" into the design process and ultimately the rendering of our outdoor living space. I refer to these "poetics" as the underlying elements, processes, and systems within the landscape fabric. What can be regarded as solely scientific for me it is more about the understanding and educated manipulation of these elements that is powerful. Writing poetry has elements of this- understanding of the medium but more an ear to my ground plane, my inner workings, my poetics. I feel that through the design process, I extract and weld my feelings into the mix, and in this extraction find voices that surprise and reveal elements of myself that make me love my field of study. Poetry is another expression of these revelations for me, another medium to pull myself out. My first poem that I ever wrote was when I was nine. I titled it "The Sadness of Soil". I wrote it after my father died. I was at school when a maple caught on fire and as he ran from the barn with a ladder to snuff it out, collapsed on the lawn and had some sort of heart failure. I returned from school to find his watch and his shirt torn. We used to plant potatoes together in my garden. That was the only thing he planted. The poem begins, she digs and digs for hours, the soil bleached with tears. I unfortunately don't have the rest on hand. But, I found that at this age, that my expression and sorting of grief was not in the talking and conversing that those around me feared I wasn't exploring, but rather the quiet meditation and working in my garden and the irregular explosions of writing in my journals. This past summer my neighbor, an organic farmer and I, confessed to each other our church was our garden. I love the quiet understanding of being in the landscape and the expression of words not intended for an audience. Do I write like a landscape architect? I could use the jargon. But somehow I cannot distinguish whether I am a product of my studies or they are a product of myself.

3.01.2004

I'm sure most of you have read this at one time or another but it was just circulated back to me and I still think it's great...

The following is an actual question given on a University of Washington
engineering mid-term. The answer was so "profound" that the Professor
shared it with colleagues, and the sharing obviously hasn't ceased...

Bonus Question: Is Hell exothermic (gives off heat) or Endothermic (absorbs
heat)? Most of the students wrote Proofs of their beliefs using Boyle's
Law, (gas cools off when it expands and heats when it is compressed) or
some variant.

One student, however, wrote the following:

"First, we need to know how the mass of Hell is changing in time. So we
need to know the rate that souls are moving into Hell and the rate they are
leaving. I think that we can safely assume that once a soul gets to Hell,
it will not leave. Therefore, no souls are leaving. As for how many souls
are entering Hell, let us look at the different religions that exist in the
world today. Some of these religions state that if you are not a member of
their religion, you will go to Hell. Since there are more than one of these
religions and since people do not belong to more than one religion, we can
project that all souls go to Hell. With birth and death rates as they are,
we can expect the number of souls in Hell to increase exponentially. Now,
we look at the rate of change of the volume in Hell because Boyle's Law
states that in order for the temperature and pressure in Hell to stay the
same, the volume of Hell has to expand as souls are added.

This gives two possibilities:

1. If Hell is expanding at a slower rate than the rate at which souls enter
Hell, then the temperature and pressure in Hell will increase until all
Hell breaks loose.

2. Of course, if Hell is expanding at a rate faster than the increase of
souls in Hell, then the temperature and pressure will drop until Hell
freezes over.

So which is it? If we accept the postulate given to me by Teresa Banyan
during my Freshman year, that "...it will be a cold day in Hell before I
sleep with you.", and take into account the fact that I still have not
succeeded in having sexual relations with her, then, #2 cannot be true, and
thus I am sure that Hell is exothermic and will not freeze."

This student received the only A.


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