Google+ Badge

Thursday, October 2, 2014

William Carlos Williams on Writing Poetry

William Carlos Williams
On poems as machines made out of words

To make two bold statements: There's nothing sentimental about a machine, and: A poem is a small (or large) machine made out of words. When I say there's nothing sentimental about a poem, I mean that there can be no part that is redundant. Prose may carry a load of ill-defined matter like a ship. But poetry is a machine which drives it, pruned to a perfect economy. As in all machines, its movement is intrinsic, undulant, a physical more than a literary character.
From: Williams's introduction to The Wedge, in Selected Essays of William Carlos Williams (NY: New Directions, 1969), p. 256.

Read the full article here.

Monday, September 29, 2014

I'm fairly certain my dog is dying

What more is there to say? Death doesn't mess around, and it's messy. Physically messy. Abject. Emotionally messy.

Difficult to express.


I feel like I run the gamut of the Seven Stages of Grief every single day.

I adopted Ursula in 2003 from the German Shepherd Rescue and Adoptions foundation in NC. She was at least a year old at the time and was a voluntary surrender at an animal shelter near a military base. Due to her age and her general condition she was deemed unfit for adoption and put on the list to be euthanized.

Luckily, someone from the shelter called the GSD rescue and they picked her up two hours later. A few months earlier I'd applied to adopt the so-called worst-case scenario rescues as I've worked with GSDs my entire life and feel that I understand the issues that these dogs often face. So I was sent an email with the above photo and it was basically love at first sight. My second dog, Gabby, is also from the same rescue but with different circumstances. Both dogs exhibited signs of abuse and were deemed unfit for adoption by shelters.

My dogs are now geriatric and the older of the two, Ursula, is approaching 13-years and isn't in the best of health. We moved to the desert in July 2011 and she blew out her CCL sometime in the late fall--she'd already blown the other and had one TPLO surgery in May 2011 and now it looked like she needed another on the other side in Dec and of course I'm kicking myself for not having the doctor just go ahead and do both sides in May. This surgery was difficult and expensive the first time around and so I went to the vet knowing--or at least assuming I knew--what to expect.

Well, according to my regular vet, there's exactly ONE vet here in this godforsaken desert who does this surgery. Unfortunately, he is an absolutely despicable human being. He also knows he can get away with it as he has no competition. He charged twice what the previous surgeon charged and when I questioned this (in fact whenever I questioned anything) he acted like I was somehow a terrible parent for being unwilling to just blindly spend whatever it cost. The man had zero bedside manner and was almost intolerable to deal with. In retrospect, I should have sought out another doctor but my dog was in pain and we'd already started the process of X-rays and examinations, plus since this vet came highly recommended by my regular vet it was (or should have been) easy to share records and consultations. However, my regular vet took some very expensive (and uncomfortable for my dog) X-rays and when I expressed concern about this as I had a feeling the surgeon was just going to retake the images, she assured me that she'd put the films on a disc that I could take to him. Why couldn't she just email the images to him? I will probably never know.

Anyway, the long and short of that snafu is that despite driving across town twice and calling receptionists and vet techs at both hospitals to confirm that I would hand-deliver the disc, the surgeon said he never received the disc and had to retake the X-rays. Basically, I could have just thrown $345 out of my car window. The reality is that I just don't have very much money at all and I should have gone elsewhere. But as I said, it seemed easier to just proceed and hope that this doctor, despite being difficult to deal with, at least knew what he was doing with regard to the TPLO procedure. He was highly recommended by my regular vet. So by the end of it I'd spent around $4500 that I didn't really have to begin with (on top of the $2300 for the earlier surgery) and she's now only at about 80% of her former mobility. But she can walk and she's not in pain.

Then, last year, Ursula contracted Valley Fever, which is an extremely expensive and devastating illness. She's been treated for the Valley Fever for just over a year now and I'm not even sure how much I've spent on that--the test is $105 every 6 months. The medication is roughly $130 for a two month supply. So that's roughly $990 a year. The most recent titer suggests improvement, but she is still VF positive.

Now, she's developed another strange and expensive illness. Part of the problem is that we don't know what she has. What's presenting is an enlarged esophagus and respiratory infection. The fancy name is "megaesophagus" and there are a variety of underlying causes.I don't even want to think about how much money I've spent on vet bills over the past few months.

So yeah, life doesn't seem be giving me a break any time soon. Already stressed and overwhelmed at the beginning of the summer, my AC went out. Kaput. Costing $9300 to replace the system. Luckily, I had some money saved but I'd wanted to use that to repair my bathroom which is in desperate need of repairs. But, nope. That fund was completely eaten up by the new AC installation. I desperately need to repair my bathroom as there's a mold issue and that's bad for my health.

I've spent a great deal of money on vet bills and home repairs and now I'm facing even more of both. I know she's old, but it's difficult not to feel that I'm giving up on her. Coming to terms with this hasn't been easy at all.

Ursula is the best dog I've ever had in my life and I've had GSDs since I was a newborn in the cradle. She was so full of life and joie de vivre when we first moved here, it's completely heartbreaking to watch her health deteriorate since we've been here. A lot of that is the valley fever (which is a direct result of moving here). But now she has this other crazy mystery illness and, combined with my current financial woes, it is really taking its toll on my state of mind. I'm exhausted, stressed, and trying very hard to put things into perspective and find a way to muddle my way through the spontaneous crying fits and bouts of depression.

Monday, October 21, 2013


Today I spent a great deal of time contemplating the concept of dharma


धर्म (dharma) m
  1. religion

Etymology From Sanskrit धर्म (dhárma)


धर्म (dharma)
  1. religion



From Proto-Indo-European *dʰer- (“to hold, to support”).


धर्म (dhárma) m
  1. morality, virtue, moral code, good deed, good works
  2. that which is established or firm, steadfast decree, statute, ordinance, law
  3. usage, practice, customary observance or prescribed conduct, duty
  4. right, justice (often as a synonym of punishment)
  5. religion, religious merit
  6. Law or Justice personified
  7. the law or doctrine of Buddhism
  8. the ethical precepts of Buddhism
  9. the law of Northern Buddhism
  10. nature, character, peculiar condition or essential quality, property, mark, peculiarity
  11. a particular ceremony
  12. sacrifice
  13. the ninth mansion
  14. Upanishad
  15. associating with the virtuous
  16. religious abstraction, devotion
  17. bow
  18. Soma-drinker
  19. name of the 15th अर्हत् (arhat) of the present अवसर्पिणी (ava-sarpiṇī)
It also has to do with spiritual purification. It is a way of being in the world that helps one to become spiritually pure. "Truth is one, ways are many."

Thursday, August 22, 2013


You have this image of yourself in a wedding dress sewn entirely of hymens—little ovals stitched together— faintly pink and transparent, like cherry petals, and vibrating with miniature howls—some of pleasure, some of pain, some of disappointment—and when you move there's the delicate sound of membranes tearing (5).

~ Ben Perez

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

I fell in love with words

Maybe that's why I couldn't fall in love with a person. My heart was already spoken for.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Meteoric Flowers: Visual Image Becomes Metaphor

In Elizabeth Willis's collection, Meteoric Flowers, the complexly interconnected visual images become metaphors for existence. Life, love, technology and evolution collide to offer flashes of the tenuous and fragile human relationships that form between mother and daughter, teacher and pupil, master and apprentice, poet and reader. The language is so strikingly personal that one feels almost like a voyeur. The collection is an homage to both Wallace Stevens and Erasmus Darwin, and the influence of both of these writers on the collection is clear, but at the same time the prose poems are intensely personal, almost confessional.

The form is experimental, forcing readers to rethink ideas about the imagined differences between verse and prose. The collection is broken into four cantos, each canto contains thirteen prose poems (or verses), except for the third canto, which contains fifteen poems, and, in an explicit homage to Erasmus Darwin's 1791 publication, Botanic Garden, each canto ends with an editor's note of errata and omissions. However, these notes, omissions, and errata are themselves poems (or continuing verses depending on how you read them). Willis refers to these poems as "lyric interruptions" to the prose cantos. In a note on the text Willis explains:
The investigative energy and poetic ambition of his Botanic Garden (1791) suggested not so much a form as a sensibility with which to approach a period of political, intellectual, and biological transformation. Darwin's poems address everything from the sexual life of plants to the evils of slavery, the conquest of Mexico, Franklin's experiments with electricity, and the relation of poetry to painting. In their unwieldy asymmetries and their sudden leaps between botany, political and aesthetic history, and pastoral romance, this work of the late Enlightenment seemed an eerily apt model for riding out the inter-discursive noise of the early twenty-first century. Poetry, it says, can be at once an account of the physical world, a rethinking of the order of things, and a caprice. (77)
And so it is. If this is Willis's contractual agreement with her reader, then her poems do exactly what they set out to do--these poems are "at once an account of the physical world, a rethinking of the order of things, and a caprice."

I am in love with this collection, admittedly, but one of my favorites, possibly due to my enduring Yeats obsession, has to be

"Rosicrucian Machinery"

The past torches itself like a mummy, dear but misremembered.
What did you manage to remember of your day at the beach,
blood in the sand? We're close enough to touch the bull's horn
with a gasp. Of course I pity a boy among crows. A spectator
trawling for the roundest metaphor to counterweight the stabbing
air. What gives, or gave, to get us here, what wired fluorescence?
The treelike nerves to become all things. Turned in, reflected,
postponed. (46)

Thursday, May 16, 2013


I'm reading This Is Not A Pipe in preparation for my review of S/Z in July. I'm also reading and reviewing Meteoric Flowers next month and there is a sense that these texts are interconnected. The threads curve out from the images in the texts to form a structure that is anti-formal. A post-structure that rejects formal aesthetics in an attempt to move beyond "words and things" or rather to counter the way in which language itself becomes conflated with the ideas it seeks to represent. This is the dominant idea within The Order of Things--linguistic orders construct reality and become static things rather than fluid ideas. This is writing as noun rather than verb. The IS rather than is-ing.

I'd rather think of writing as a verb. I think this helps us to remember that all writing, all language use, is representational. It is a thing but it is also a doing. As my dear friend said to me, "an old antagonism exists between those who assign priority to nouns and those who assign priority to verbs; nouns = gods, verbs = tricksters..."

Let's be tricksters.