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Masini makes her workshop class memorize poems, something so basic and important I'm baffled that not everyone does this. Easy way enough to weed out those who don't care enough to read. You can fake comprehension easily enough, but you cant fake the inhabitation of memorizing. Of entering the poem from within, as a house. I've got a few poems memorized of course but never enough, never enough. So I've been trying these last few days, in between all the theatre stuff I've been doing, to inhabit some Whitman. I've been reading him off and on but it wasn't until I tried to memorize that it really blossomed. And how he really does peer out of almost everything that comes after.
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How does one look for grad schools.
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I like flying. I like windows when flying. Especially out of LaGuardia. It's the fluid forced change of perspective, I think. Seeing those streets I walk on every day turned so quickly and undeniably into tiny stacked boxes, so silly if you saw it in a movie you'd call it fake. A mossy central park, the palisades and new jersey swamps. Everything is so small all the time but we're stuck behind our eyes.

*

I was flying because my grandfather passed away last week. He had no family around his retirement home in Florida so I flew down to meet up my father, who drove there from Pennsylvania. I didn't want him to be alone for it. His sister was there too but she's no help. Whole weekend there were no tears or outbursts, no family drama. He mostly got things done in the morning and in the evening we'd drive around, get some drinks, maybe see the water. Anything to keep his mind off things. Because there were only three of us he decided not to have a service, not to have a burial. Not even a viewing, my father didn't want to have to see him. Just a quiet cremation, somewhere in the dark.

*

The only time I nearly lost it was when we looked at urns. Such a small number of them, on shelves on a wall, big ones on top, small mini-urns on the bottom. The one we would pick immediately jumped out at us, an unornamental metal one, yellowish, a US Army seal in the middle. Which they would change to USMC. Something my grandfather was forever proud of even though he only served a few years. He was only 75. He'd always told us he was 80. Something about the finality of that urn I couldn't take. I felt my throat clench up, felt my eyes swell too small for their sockets. From now on my grandfather is going to be this object. He is no longer a person. He became a body — he is still a body, it takes weeks to get a cremation authorized and we only had a few days &mdash. He was a person, became a body and soon he will be this object. The USMC cap he used to wear, this USMC urn. Just the urn, the ashes are going back to Puerto Rico.

*

After spending a day and a half driving with my father back north I get on the bus alone today in Philadelphia. Just being alone, that's when it really came to me as a fact. In a public place, surrounded by strangers, tearing up. And on the subway back, I must have looked frightening, tearing up then fighting it back down, tearing up again. And I don't know why. The feeling has no reasons to it. I knew he was old, there was nothing unexpected about it. He's had health problems for years, bypasses and surgeries, but he kept bouncing back. He even got hit by a car a few years back, laughed about it in the hospital. But towards the end, things kept getting worse and worse. His wife can't even remember ten minutes ago these days, they were in a retirement community but that was too much to handle so they went to assisted living together. A year or so. But then he was moved to another hospital a few months ago to deal with some other problems and she stayed behind. My father visited him there, said he wasn't doing well, was depressed. Kept saying "I miss my princess." He'd never called her that before, suddenly he was saying it all the time. All the other old folks at the place get used to it. So my father decides to drive back to the nursing home, pick up my grandmother and bring her to him. As soon as he gets in the door with her people start congregating around them, asking "Is this the princess?" Old folks coming out of doors, asking. There's a small group following by the time they gets to my grandfather's room. Opens the door. They see each other. My grandfather just starts crying, and my grandmother, even though she can't remember a thing, starts crying too. Both of them look a wreck, hair everywhere, doesn't matter. Soon everyone around them is crying and tearing, and my father has to back out into the hallway and pull himself together and remember he's a manly man.

*

Anyway that was the last time they saw each other.

*

Maybe the tragedy is how the expected always happens.
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Do I want to drop nearly $90 on this Greenblatt Norton Shakespeare recommended for a class in the Spring or keep reading my bargain bin Shakespeares. I've got a two-volume with no notes and limited introductions and tiny, tiny type which I enjoy because there's no distractions. And because the type is so tiny each play feels like eight pages long.
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The image the free newspapers got of the man pushed onto the subway tracks has been haunting me. Panic isn't an expression, it's something inside. Outside, he just looked worried. At least that's what I remember. I haven't brought myself to look at it a second time. I listened to a story on the radio a few months ago about a man who jumped down to save someone who had had a seizure and fell onto the tracks: he kept the man's arms and legs together and lay as flat as he could in the center of the tracks on top of him. This is what they teach you when you work in the MTA. The subway car is just high enough to pass over you, more or less. So every time I looked onto the tracks after hearing that I had to imagine that this is what I would have to do. Lie down very still. Let it pass over. For some reason this made the subway tracks more frightening. Before it was just death, instantly. Now it's death with a glimmer of hope. And obsessing over that hope makes the death loom so much larger. Now that man pushed onto the tracks. And another two weeks later. I learned a few days later that his daughter goes to school here. Not much of a deal. It's a large school. 47 people were killed by subway cars last year. Not many when you consider four million people ride every day. But 47 people is an average of four every month. And you don't hear about them. Until this month, when two people were pushed onto the tracks. Maliciously. In the space of two weeks. It is random. Dehumanizing. Four million people stand this close to dying every day. And malicious randomness takes out four a month. Four. meanwhile, my cousins are posting photos to facebook of a family outing to a shooting range. When I was visiting them for the holidays all they talked about was guns and football. I tried to remind them of the recent tragedies. That guns make it possible for someone's bad day to become recent tragedies. Don't ban guns, ban extended magazines, they say. Then my uncle yelled at me for watching "demonic" television in the living room while he and the rest of the family watched Americans shooting minorities in some bootleg movie or other. I still ride the subway every day. I don't walk any less close to the edge or pay any more attention to the folks around me. You have to ignore a great many things just to leave the house every day. At least in the city you know what you're ignoring. Mostly.

The end of classes means my sleep went haywire again and now I'm up till six watching netflix before I can get tired. Four seasons of 30 rock in a week. Though I'm no less busy, somehow. I don't particularly like 30 Rock but I like how Tina Fey acknowledges how mediocre it is and so it becomes the story of people trying to survive while doing nothing particularly important. Which is every sitcom. But comforting. The Hour season 2 got what has been wrong about Mad Men from the get-go. It also got what had been wrong with The Hour season 1.

I'm in a small play here where I have to cry a lot. I'm not much of a crier. I will just have to worry about dying more. Drama! When not worrying I am eating sushi and laughing because life in between is candy.
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Without to begin in delight of language is useless. Without to end in wisdom or elevation is less of use. Why not one or the other? Its precarious location. Like to appease an ancient & fictitious god for rain. Mere appeasement would be mysticism. Mere rain would be accident. For results to be repeatable to be lasting the ritual must connect.
Takes a work not unlike science.
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You should know how roundabout I come to this strange thing university. I remember walking around the NYPL, the big one, once, only a few years ago, seeing all the strange large rooms with their improbable chandeliers, all the people hovering over books in boredom or anticipation. I had no idea what a research library was. I wondered why there were so few books and so many tables.

But today I needed a book, and the only place it was was the big library. So the first time I got to go in with a purpose, sit amongst those hunchbacked people. Less like monks now, with all the laptops. Got to go up to the window with my slip of paper and request some pages, have it pop out from underground in a carriage on a track. A minecart of books! I had no idea how to do anything. It was a whole new country I had stepped into. For the longest I wandered around the edge looking at the many (few) books they do have display, wondering why the selection was so sparse and arbitrary. And no one was about to point me in the right direction since, out of habit, i always do my best to look like I know what I'm doing. It was a place of ritual and I wasn't in on the game, which is a huge fear, of being stood in front of people, knowing something is required of me, having to wait in line then for it to be my turn to perform the rite and say the incantation and --- what? What do I know? I just stand in lines. They didn't even accept my Queens library card, I had to get a brand new card from the next room. 

But I got my book (The Geographic Revolution in Early America) and sat down with my book and read my book, not minding the ceiling being so high that looking up made me feel like I was clinging to the rafters of a bowl-shaped upside-down atrium. Alternated the book with a cheap paperback of Treasure Island. Grey stone walls. Mahogany ceiling. Oak tables. Green lamps at every table. 

Floor I don't remember. I don't remember looking down.

Afterwards a Charles Simic reading. He said the best thing he read about poetry was an essay about how the comedian Henny Youngman agonized over the timing of his jokes. He said the first poet he fell in love with was Hart Crane. He said poetry is like chess. In that it is sneaky. In that it is a trap.
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Dickinson's subjunctive.
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I would be writing but I've been busy. And the thing about being busy is (for me at least) that even when one isn't busy one is busy. Busy recovering from busy, making intense efforts not to think about anything important, weekends almost too long, not thinking is too strenuous.

But running a crappy undergrad lit mag while also being in charge of other publications and taking full time classes is fulfilling, in that is something that I can do which takes a good percentage of my efforts to do well. It does make me think of working on a real lit mag in the future. But why do I care? I don't care about the writing; the best I can say to the young writers around me is 1) keep writing and 2) don't take yourself too seriously. I do care about getting things done efficiently, and with maximum return, something I must have gotten from my father. My father who, now, for the first time since I've known him, is no longer The Boss.

You must know, you must know! how much time I've spent in idleness. Years even. That I can switch from years doing fundamentally nothing to being busy busy must mean, to me, that there isn't much difference

threethings

Ferry from governor's island, pretty pretty September Sunday, just barely cold, windy but not bracing. Portrait of sun, sailboat and statue. Speaking of which:

IMG_1387

look at these magnificent bastards. I'd take one of them over the statue of liberty any day.

Just before, a giant cruise ship of ten stories was parked across the bay, an imposing thing, big as you can imagine something that can move, bafflingly big, like an apartment block. The way it was shaped made it seem like it was just sitting on top of the water with no draw at all. You could see it from anywhere on the island, over the trees. I sat with a beer on a bench and watched it embark, bound for the Caribbean probably, not beautiful but certainly there. I like boats.
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This summer has been all Chaucer, who seems so modern, more modern even than Shakespeare, in that he is more concerned with himself and his place in history, yet with the overall, un-romantic, notion that writing is a lark, or a game, somewhat unimportant in the thick of things, just as history is a lark and a game: what's important is people, silly, untruthful people, and their silly talkings and tidings, people who every day disprove history since they're all ever and always themselves.
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As You Like It. Fantastic. Can't imagine a better staging. So much wit! So many moments! 
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The truism, false truism, that madness is doing the same thing over and over again but expecting different results — if anything, madness is doing the same thing over and over again but expecting the same results. ! We learn, as we cease being children, the laws of diminishing returns, the laws of entropy and chaos, that nothing is 100%; nothing, not even a machine, does the same thing twice precisely (otherwise machines would last forever, and they don't). Children, to start, don't realize the diminishing returns. Not that they don't experience it, of course we all experience it. But they don't expect it. That is, we are all born idealists, and nature erodes us into realists. That is, we are all born mad, and nature batters us into reason.
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...
I call to the mysterious one who yet
Shall walk the wet sands by the edge of the stream
And look most like me, being indeed my double,
And prove of all imaginable things
The most unlike, being my anti-self,
And standing by these characters disclose
All that I seek; and whisper it as though
He were afraid the birds, who cry aloud
Their momentary cries before it is dawn,
Would carry it away to blasphemous men.

(Ego Dominus Tuus)
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Thought: teaching writing should be more like teaching acting. I note more deep reading in a theater class than I do in the average English class. Certainly more than in a workshop class.

Where is the Stanislavski of poetry.
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An argument a little while ago, metaphors and similes. The one was saying metaphors are stronger, similes are weak; metaphors are hard and adventurous, similes are tame and easy. And I agreed to a certain extent, remembering [livejournal.com profile] nightspore's lines about the metaphor being always false while the simile always true, and the thought that a metaphor is two objects linked by distance. But I've been using similes almost exclusively these days (in description), and I wasn't quite sure why, and I think now it'sit precisely because the simile is weaker. The metaphor transforms one thing into another, or rather the metaphor is a transformation, and what a metaphor transforms is not two things but two metaphors. There are no objects in the metaphoric world, everything is a surreal landscape where anything can be and will be anything else, a hypnagogy of forms. But the simile is meek. It does not attempt to transform. It does not even attempt to approach. It is a deliberately limited scattershot of hints. One says one metaphor and it is done, the world is transformed, one cannot then say another metaphor without once again transforming the world. But there is no end to similes, you can keep attempting them one after another, each one hoping to get closer and closer to a description, to encapsulating a thing, without ever quite achieving it, achieving anything beyond tracing a space which reads "something like this, and these, and more." "Like" has both reverence and distance, it hints at something past description, some thing maybe contained more in the word "like" itself rather than the objects being likened.

*

not unrelatedly, in thinking about topics for modernism, I noticed that the difference between surrealism and dada is that surrealism invokes the uncanny whereas dada does not: Surrealism destroys sense to create, invoke, import, some sort of ur-sense, a quasi-spiritual unconscious; dada destroys sense in the other direction, towards post-sense, the nonsense emptiness of being cleared, cathartic, colonic. There's not that much I want to be thinking about surrealism or dada but it does seem that these are also two different approaches in poetry, or at least the Romantic tradition. One can glorify youth or glorify death. Secular spiritualism or secular hedonism. Shelley vs. Keats? No, that's a little too simplistic a thing to say, and also ignores how much the surrealists glorified death as well. Basically I wanted to find a way to compare Stevens to Cummings (even though that feels a little like comparing apples and much smaller, less interesting oranges). "Since Feeling is First" seems like a dangerous, if (lowercase-r) romantic, notion, but one that Stevens refutes daily --- feeling is not first. If sex were all, etc.
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