Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Poetry Performer?

I was at the library today to pick up a book I need for some research I'm doing on Matilda of Tuscany. I had requested the book a few days back, and it came back faster than I expected it to. While at the counter, the young man working there looked hard at me.
"Were you at that poetry reading thing?"
Oh. Which one? "The Red Cedar Review?"
"Yeah. You were really good."
"Thank you."
Every time I get a compliment (which is frequently, these days), it makes me so happy. People like my poetry. They like my performances.
I always dreamed about people liking my poems when they read them. I never thought about being a big deal as a poet performer.
But I've been thinking a lot since my last reading last Thursday, and I'm increasingly wondering if I can do this for a living. I think I would like that. It just never occurred to me to be more than just someone who writes; I haven't thought about being a talent who also reads. But maybe I should give it some more thought. Maybe I should consider making it work.

Two Poetry Events, One Day

Just a friendly reminder that the Center for Poetry will be having a poetry chalking on Thursday the 29th from 2:30 to 4:30 in front of Phillip-Snyder. Basically, you bring yourself and chalk a poem. You don't have to bring a poem, though you are welcome to do so. Hopefully, the weather will be beautiful.
Also, yes, it is indeed Poem in Your Pocket Day this Thursday as well. :)

The Little Princess

The Little Princess is that older, Shirley Temple film following a young, wealthy woman during the Boer War, based on the novel of the same name. In the story, Temple's character, Sarah Crewe, enters a young ladies school run by the miserable spinster Miss Minchin. After her father is believed to be dead, Sarah becomes a servant at the school, begins living in the attic and is treated harshly by many of the other students. Sarah begins to visit a Veterans' Hospital, convinced that he is not dead.
What is most interesting in this film is race, or rather the lack of race. The Second Boer War took place in South Africa, and involved Africans, who were caught between Boers (of Dutch ancestry) and the British, who died as soldiers. It does not it mention the horrific concentration camps that were used as part of the British government's attempt to destroy the Boers, and, in turn, Africans. (Over 12% of Africans in these concentration camps died.) Not that you could ever guess all of that, watching this movie. The movie is entirely from the point of view of –you guessed it!- white people.
The film has Others in it and they're sidelined for the more important story of a young white woman. There’s Becky, the young maid that Temple’s Sarah befriends. In the newer version, she was depicted as a young black woman. In this movie, she’s white, though there’s something exotic about her looks, much like Sissy Jupe in Dickens's Hard Times. And, as always, her struggle is overlooked to tell the story of a Sarah, who has only recently began to see what real poverty is like, and ultimately gets out of it. There is also the character Ram Dass, the magical Other of the story. He somehow creates wonderful things for Sarah, helping her. No one ever helps or acknowledges the struggle of these two minority characters within the movie. They just exist to aid the narrative.
This film is enlightening in the sense that, if you're familiar with South African history, it shows how easily whitewashed stories can become.

Monday, April 26, 2010

"Read the Last Poem"

I was in the English department office to drop off a paper and I noticed someone reading the latest issue of The Red Cedar Review. Obviously, I had to tell her that the last poem was really good. :)
Is this what it feels like to be an author? To know someone is going to read your work but keep it out of mind until confronted with proof that yes, someone is going to read your work?
I suspect the woman I told that to was unimpressed, but seeing it was nice.
I'm still trying to keep an eye out for the issue on Amazon, but so far, no luck.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Issue Release Party

Just got back from the party tonight. I had a wonderful time. :) Amelia dared me at the meeting last night to come in a cape and appear on stage in a cloud of smoke. I didn't have a cap, so I did the best I could with a pink feather boa, which also went over well. I got there early and helped with balloon making, and before you knew it, the party got started.
Macaulay Culkin
One of the really nice things about events like these is that it's an opportunity for contributors and their families to come out and see the staff and celebrate their publication. Here is Erin Wisti's older brother. She just published a piece with us called "Here for the Littering," which is about her experience living with her father while he was receiving chemo.
Brian and Kelly's Mom
And at the same time, Brian, next year's poetry editor, got to meet with Kelly's Mom.
We always have nice food, including puppy chow, one of my favorites.
We even had some of our prospective staff members come join us for the party, including my friend Mark here. Mark works with me over at the Center for Poetry, where he's been a big help with running things.
Healey, Mark and Ally
Lastly, this is good chance to talk to some of the department's coolest professors. Here, Dr. Healey, this year's adviser, talks with Mark and his girlfriend Ally.
Ashley and Emily
I'm really going to miss the editors for this year's journal, Ashley and Emily. I really loved getting to know Ashley this year. Emily and I have been friends for years now. I can't believe how long ago it was that we first met and had our first four classes together. It seems like it was yesterday. Both of them have so much to be proud of, since publishing a journal is hard work, and it looks great this year.
We also had some really wonderful readers for this year's party. Lia Greenwell, Kelsey Jenko, Erin Wisti and I, all contributors, were able to read our own pieces.
I'm happy to say that my reading went really well. Lia loved that I didn't even acknowledge my silly boa, but still read really serious pieces. (Two love poems and a dramatic monologue.) I mentioned last post that I wanted to sound like Carolyn Forche, and someone actually mentioned that I sounded like God's wrath. Yes! Mission accomplished. I'm glad everyone enjoyed me reading.
Kelsey approached me after the reading to ask me if I'd like to read at some poetry readings she's hoping to organize this summer. I told her I was totally game. I want to keep working on reading. Also, it would be a great chance to meet other poets and hang out with poets I already love, like Jon James and Dr. Healey.
As always, there are more pictures on my Flikr account.
Thanks to everyone who came out tonight. Everyone at the journal really appreciates your support. Don't forget to buy at copy through the MSU Press if you haven't done so already.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Red Cedar Review Party Tomorrow

The Red Cedar Review will be having its annual Issue Release Party tomorrow. I got a copy of the new issue in my hands tonight, and I can tell you that it's wonderful. The poetry is extremely impressive. I love the poems "rebirth," "The Statues of Vaison-la-Romaine," "Twice-born," and "Lepidoptery." I just read "Just Here for Littering," and it was so good. Midway through the piece, the author describes someone called The Candy Man, and by the end of the paragraph, you want to die inside, because it's so sad. There's even a delightful comic mid-way through the book involving a hamster fishing.
I've been asked to read. I'll be reading last.
Picking out poems to read is always a struggle for me. I went through quite a few poems before settling on the three I'll be reading. I considered reading "On Why Bureaucracies Work the Way They Do," which I read at my last poetry reading and has been published. Since I know they'll be some of the same people there, I wanted to avoid reading all the same stuff I've recently read to them. I also thought about reading "Vinyl Says Something on the Record," which was one of my most recent poems. I submitted it as part of my manuscript for the Live Lit, but it was the one poem I choose not to read, since I think it's still too early to tell if it's really done or not. I also considered pulling something from a manuscript I have called Satellites. It's an entire collection of poems about relationships, though not necessarily the romantic kind. I have other poems, some based on family stories about farming, others rewriting ancient Greek myths, one on marriage, and even one done as a surreal feminist piece. Basically, I have a lot of strange stuff, and then I have love poems. I'm hesitant to read three love poems in a row, because I feel like love is boring in comparison to other stories unless it's happening to you. I think my love poems are good because they are so different, but that listeners don't want three in a row.
Then I have to practice reading them. Kelly and Ashley, our new editor and our current editor, respectively, have both mentioned I have a voice that makes people want to listen. I have to work to get that. Several years ago, I saw Carolyn Forche give a reading. I was lucky enough to meet her beforehand. She was so nice and I really liked her and didn't think much about her voice, which just sounded normal. And then she read, and she sounded so powerful that I felt as if God's wrath was about to come down on me. It was that stunning. I've never, before or since, been afraid at a poetry reading, or felt like a void opened up inside of me. I would like my listeners to be struck at that same level, though not always that way. I'm going to become a better poet and a better reader, and one day, that's what I'll do to people. If I'm not already.
So I'm settling with a few poems. You should come out tomorrow to hear them, to see what I read, if it's decent, if I get tongue-tied or not. 7:30 pm at Scene Metrospace. You won't be sorry you came.

Kurt and Courtney

Kurt and Courtney is a difficult documentary following a filmmaker, Nick Bloomfield, trying to make a documentary about Kurt Cobain while being thwarted by Cobain's widow, Courtney Love. I say difficult because the film demonizes Love while itself showing how so many have demonized her.
As a fan of both Nirvana and Hole, I found myself fascinated with many aspects of the story. For Nirvana fans, what really drove Cobain to suicide will always be the Holy Grail. Nirvana was a band seemingly created for the teenager with suicidal tendencies, since it acknowledged the agony so many teenagers face, but also armed them with anger, exhilarating them with it to the point of strength. Cobain's suicide will always hum in the background of his music and in the back of fans' minds.
The film does successfully show a world where many people were more than happy to exploit Cobain. The film wants to point the audience at Love's exploitation, but it inevitably shows that she was in no way the only one (or, it could easily be argued, the worse, since Love appeared to be pushing Cobain towards his full potential and not simply using him.) Several times in the film, Bloomfield shows people who claim to have known Cobain, but without any real evidence. Instead, they want to bask in the spotlight, even if it's one of someone else's making.
The hatred directed towards Love, an ambitious woman, was more fascinating and far more telling than the rest of the movie. Many of the men in the film complain that Love is too ambitious, one discussing how she made lists of ideas to help promote a punk rock boyfriend in her pre-Cobain life. Instead of seeing this for what it probably was, a woman who wanted her lovers to succeed at what they loved doing, they complain that she was using them, even to the point where one former lover complained that he would have committed suicide had they stayed together.
Love's father is particularly telling. In the interviews with him, he calls his daughter all sorts of nasty names and complains, ultimately, that she wasn't obedient enough. If anything, I found myself thinking that Love grew up with that kind of patriarchy and rebelled aganist it. As a feminist, I found myself liking Love more than I previously did.
Perhaps the real problem was that Love, who had ambitions not only for Cobain, but for herself, wasn't womanly enough. I was saddened to see that the film made no mention of the inherent misogyny in so much rock music, or that Love, in being an active part of Cobain's music career, was really subverting traditional ideas about women's place in art, who wanted to not only serve as muse but as a creator. It also then makes Cobain look like he was without agency, which, as a young white man with millions of dollars and fans, he most certainly was not. Cobain himself was a vehement feminist, and would probably be disappointed that the discussion of his suicide has focused mostly on his "evil" wife instead of on the more obvious and less easy answers for why people kill themselves.

The only thing in the film I can't completely dispute at this time is the scenes involved the ACLU. Love herself has been a member of the organization for many years. Bloomfield goes to one of their dinners to interview her publicly over Cobain's death. The scene included in the documentary shows her about to give a speech as Bloomfield interrupts to ask her questions. It should be pointed out that Love has the right to refuse interviews and, since she is in partial control of Nirvana's music, also has the right to refuse Bloomfield's request to feature Nirvana's music in the documentary. In harassing her at a dinner where she is about to give a speech, he himself is cutting off her right to speak. There's something almost stalker-like about Bloomfield and his quest to get Love in the film. Given that Bloomfield doesn't lack for interviewees or material, why he needed to say anything beyond "Love refused to be interviewed and has not allowed me the rights to Nirvana's music for this documentary" is unclear.
Bloomfield concludes at the end of the film that there isn't enough evidence to point to Cobain's murder. He does, however, finger Love as the largest contributor to Cobain's suicide. Instead of depicting it as it most probably was, marital issues compounded by fame, drugs and depression, Bloomfield makes Love the villain, who drove Cobain to kill himself. It's irresponsible at best to twist the story this way, instead of telling the truth: that the only one who could possibly shed light on Cobain's suicide is Cobain himself, and that even if we could talk to the dead, there's a chance not even he fully understands what drove him to self-annihilation.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Ruelaine Stokes Reviewed

Ms. Stokes came to read tonight as the last poetry reading this Spring for the Center for Poetry. I really enjoyed her work and listening to her read. I really like her voice. She always sounds like a librarian or a preschool teacher when she talks. She also choose great material when writing, like a poem about how her mother was dating the Catholic priest.
Midway through the night, she had one of her students read some poems in Arabic. She teaches English to non-native speakers, and she explained that usually in the summer that there's a talent show for these students. One of them was game to work with poetry, and they ended up working together on a project where he read famous Arabic poetry and she would read the English translation.
If I had to pick a theme for this semester's poetry festival, I would say we've been doing humor in poetry. Steve Healey was a riot a few weeks back, and there was a sense of fun in so much of Christine Rhein's work. Ruelaine Stokes was also funny. My friend Mark (a fellow worker for the Center) mentioned that good stories are always in the details, and Ms. Stokes definitely did this. She had a great story about a high school English teacher who used Songs of Myself as a doorstop. That's the kind of thing that stays with you.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Poetry PSA

For those of you in the Lansing area, I just want to remind you that tomorrow Ruelaine Stokes we'll be reading at the Spring Poetry Festival and that next week Thursday they'll be a poetry chalking in front of Snyder-Phillips. You should try to come to both, since these are the last events of the Center for Poetry before the end of the term.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Female Poets Presentation

Tonight was my big presentation on female poets of the 19th century. I feel fairly good about it. I was a little nervous, and I stammered a bit, but mostly, the presentation went well. I think everyone was impressed by it. Carolyn Loeb, who is this awesome art historian, showed up and took notes and asked questions and made me feel like I'm really an emerging scholar. I felt very adult and proud of myself.
Someone asked me what I liked best about this project, and I feel, without a doubt, that I'm happy I discovered Frances E.W. Harper. The more time I spend with her, the more I learn. I would be more than happy to keep writing about her work, because she's an important, mostly forgotten voice in American literature. She's a wonderful, gifted writer and deserves to be up there with Whitman, Twain, Poe, Austen, Dickens, and Dickinson.

It! Terror from Beyond Space

Some movies only leave great questions. With It! Terror from Beyond Space, the burning question is why would NASA give its astronauts so many grenades but only one bazooka?
I joke, sort of. It’s true that this group of astronauts, coming back from a mission to Mars and finding that they have an uninvited and violent guest aboard their space ship, try various schemes to kill the monster, including the aforementioned grenades and a bazooka. It’s a typical “confined in a small space” story, reminiscent of last year’s “The Waters of Mars” on Doctor Who. The astronauts are generally stupid, droll, or in one case, vaguely bro-like. The only delightful thing is the monster. Even though he’s in a full suit, you can feel how much the actor playing him is enjoying it. Villains are at their best when their depictions are infused with child-like joy, and this monster is the proverbial kid in the candy store.
One of the saddest thing about this movie is the women. Having female astronauts at a time when all astronauts were male would appear revolutionary. However, in this movie’s vision of female astronauts, they both serve as the mothers of the spaceship, making the boys sandwiches and comforting them when they are disappointed. Plus, we all know that these female astronauts, dressed in the kind of skimpy uniforms that would make the Star Trek franchise proud, are there for the male gaze. So it’s still ultimately a fail.
This is one of those movies only hardcore film nerds and science-fiction fans could appreciate, because it mostly lacks anything else going on.

An Incident on Albert Street

My friend Erin Wisti wrote this for the SpartanEdge. As usually, Wisti writes a great piece about an important subject.
This is the kind of story that makes me so angry and so sad. I'm angry at people who behave that way, but I am also sad Wisti experienced that. She's a wonderful person, and it's not okay that someone treated her that way.
Hopefully, her piece will change at least one person's mind.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Bread Rising

Tonight, I got to see Christine Rhein read from her first book of poetry Wild Flight. I really liked a lot of things about her poetry. I think she has great taste when it comes to picking interesting subjects to write poems on. It struck me that she often wrote poems on quirky stories or things she read about in the news. She had poems about birds being shot in domino matches and about abstract art involving the Mona Lisa and toast. She is also creative in terms of form, writing a poem completely in computer code called "In Code." (Other poems that had interesting forms include "For My Son, at Twelve" and "Self-Portraits, Three Way Mirror.") She had a great sense of details. (One of my favorites was talking about a Norwegian band named Bull's Eye. I was able to find bands named Bullseye, but they were American. If this band really exists, point me in the right direction. My favorite line of the night? "Imagine if we could hear bread rising." The next time I get a chance, I'm going to try.

Monday, April 12, 2010

A Black Queen of England

Doctor Who does not have such a great track record when it comes to race. A while back, when David Tennant announced he was leaving the show, there were all sorts of ideas about who the next doctor should be. Some of these ideas included black and/or female actors taking over the show. Who got it? Another white man.
The show occasionally has dealt with race, as it did briefly when it had on as companion Martha Jones, played by the lovely Freema Agyeman, who is of Ghanaian and Iranian descent. Agyeman was a wonderful breath of fresh air and did a wonderful job making Martha a smart and captivating character. The show acknowledged her race, and showed characters, even supposed good ones, treating her badly because of it. I personally thought this was a great opportunity for a interracial romance to develop between her and the Doctor, who, despite saying that ethnicity was irrelevant to him, was still played by a white actor. When they instead married her off to Mickey, the one and only major Black British male character who was first romantically involved with a white woman, I was disappointed. The show did not develop a romance, between Martha and Mickey, it simply put them together as an afterthought. I wondered if people were uncomfortable with the idea of a Black British woman involved with a white-looking alien. Or with just a Black British woman.
Which is why I was surprised by the character Liz 10 on this past weekend's episode of Doctor Who. Liz 10 was played by Sophie Okonedo, who is most famous for starring in Hotel Rwanda. Liz 10 is the 10th Queen Elizabeth, and she's clearly black. Of course, she's also being lied to and manipulated by her own government (who are mostly white, natch) and by herself. I am glad that they decided to show a Queen of England of the future as black, instead of white, like every King or Queen of the past. Liz 10 is badass, the kind of character I would love to see as a bigger character on the show, but who I suspect we won't see, because, well, if the past years of this show is any indication, even if she did become a companion, she would eventually be written out of the show and married off to another Black character. Because only Black women can marry Black men; they can't have a romance with some white alien, because he's too busy pining for a white woman who is literally another universe away.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

The Flaming Lips: The Fearless Freaks

The Flaming Lips: The Fearless Freaks is a fascinating documentary following around the band of the documentary's title, who live in a strange but delightfully whimsical world. Although the documentary has concert footage, it seems much more interested in telling the stories of the band members and their various projects, some of which are not music-based.
Like every good documentary, it leaves you wanting more. I found myself wishing someone would make a documentary exploring the relationship between Wayne Coyne and his wife Michelle, who works as a photographer. She is at the periphery of the film, and I found the two of them more interesting than some of the other issues at play in the film. The film also made me want to see the science fiction movie that the band is shown working on (which, I believe, has since come out.) And now I want to explore Coyne's stomping grounds, the Oklahoma City/Norman area, just in the hope of running into him. Because ultimately, the movie made me want to be a member of this band, which is always the danger of falling in love with music like this.
I feel terrible saying this, but much of the film focuses on drug use. This has become such a cliche in rock docs that I found myself wishing, especially for those involved, that this was a different story.
Overall, the film is a fun look at one of the most experimental bands out there today and for fans it's a must-see.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Poetry Reviews

Today is another Red Cedar Review day. On Wednesday, we began looking through old editions of the journal. We're publishing an anniversary issue with content from the last fifty years of material. It's a lot to go through, which is why we're starting now.
One of my jobs as the poetry editor is to condense all the reviews in one easy-to-read excel sheet. I'm a master at making one of those, and I just finished the first draft. It feels satisfying to be able to see that we already are making headway on this project.
I'm not working on this project alone. Gavin Craig, who use to work for The Red Cedar Review began a blog archive of all our work (as well as other literary magazines.) When my poetry readers have sloppy writing, I can just look up the correct spelling of something on there. The only thing I don't like about this is that I can't add notes to his notes about the journal.
For example, Jane Vincent Taylor published a poem with us in 2000. She's since become a more notable poet and her book What Can Be Saved is amazing. She also has other great poems, like "Ice Broken". I got to meet her when I was a sophomore, and she's lovely. I want to note her contribution in the blog.
Also, I noticed that we have published Carrie Preston several times. I initially noted this because she was the former editor of the journal, and I think we should consider asking the former staff members who have gone on to become writers to come back at the issue release party. On a lark, I googled her. Turns out she's a poet and academic now. She has published other poetry too. Now I have another note and something to tell Emily and Ashley, our current editors.
Actually, I wanted to mention to Emily and Ashley that, as long as I have access to a computer, I can continue to contribute to the group over the summer. This summer, a group of staffers is going to go through the archive and digitalize everything. I believe it will be available on ProjectMuse. I was thinking, if I and other readers have access to those journals as they are digitized, we could continue to read and review them, which would allow us to have a lot work done before the school term starts up. I think this might be a great idea, especially since it'll allow me to stay involved in the project longer than I thought I would otherwise be able to.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Political Art

I work at an art gallery, and this was my first time in since they put up a new exhibit, featuring political printwork. It's really cool. I had to spend a little time looking through all the great stuff. They also put out newspapers that cover various people's movements, and I picked one up for myself.
And, in addition to that, I found the next issue of Arthur, which is this zine that I occasionally publish with. I wasn't published in this latest issue, but once they put the pages online, I'll be sure to post it for you. It was such agony to see all this cool stuff to read but to have to work on Blaise Pascal's Pensees, which I'm reading for a class, instead.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

State News Article

As previously mentioned on the blog, I was interview for an article in The State News, which is the local paper here at MSU. Mostly, I sound like I know what I was talking about, though I wish she had chosen my more intelligent sound bites.

Havana Red

Readers: Spoiler Alert! This review does not reveal the murderer of Havana Red, but it does indicate who it is not.

Havana Red is the first mystery novel in Leonardo Padura's The Four Seasons Series. This novel is about Mario Contre, a detective working through the murder of a young gay man found in women’s clothes in an Havana park. Conte goes through the usual subjects, the victim's family and his one friend, an elderly gay playwright, exploring modern Havana in decline.
So much of a mystery novel is in convincing the audience that the city or other surroundings are rotten to the core. Havana, the major city of Cuba, a country in ruins, is a perfect place for a mystery novel, and Padura wisely uses this to his advantage.
But as someone who is pro-LGBT and interested in Latino Cultural Studies, I found myself disappointed by the depictions of the two gay Latino men in the novel. The victim is aimless and no longer gets along with his father, but is close with his mother and former nurse. The victim’s closest friend is Alberto Marqués, an elderly gay man who once wrote plays. By the time of the novel, he’s living in a large, falling down house. He is a creeper, watching the detective in intimate situations, and encouraging the homophobic things said against him. Throughout the novel, he’s the character that the audience can enjoy disliking and pin for the murder, even though he isn’t. Although there may be truth to these stereotypes, this is still just another novel that relies on old ideas about the gay community, and does little to subvert them.
As for the rest of the novel, it’s just boring. The detective is predictably broken and miserable, and works it out through creative writing. The novel takes a maddening detour near the end to feature a short story the detective writes. Even that short story is boring, and it draws out the conclusion of the novel. This novel needed serious trimming down and a rethinking of its cliches.

Even More Upcoming Events

If the last two posts I had about upcoming events weren't enough, there are also two events going on Friday.

April 16 Master Poetry Class with Catherine Bowman 11 am-1 pm 110 Morrill Hall
Catherine Bowman is a poet and Ruth Lilly Professor at Indiana University. She has published several poetry books, including 1-800-HOT-RIBS and Rock Farm, and has won numerous awards, including the New York Foundation of the Arts Fellowship in Poetry. Her work has appeared in various anthologies and magazines, including Best American Poetry, River Styx, The Los Angeles Times, An Exhilaration of Forms, Ploughshares, Conjunctions and TriQuarterly. To RSVP, email Robin Silbergleid at silberg1@msu.edu. Please bring a sample of your creative writing to work on.

April 16 Catherine Bowman Poetry Reading 3 pm 213 Morrill Hall
Again, the same poet will be reading her work. I really love her poem "I Want to Be Your Shoebox." There's something really child-like about the poem, but it's exactly how I feel about certain boys in my life.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

More Upcoming Events

As promised, I have another set of upcoming events that are happening in and around MSU.

April 14 The Poem as Vehicle 3 pm Snyder Hall Common Area
Christine Rhein, who is reading next week, will be giving a talk about the poem as a vehicle. Ms. Rhein will be talking about the elements that work together to make an effective poem and show the audience the kind of trial and error that goes on it creating poems, making it easier for the audience to engineer poems.

April 14 Nineteenth-Century Women Crusaders and Poets 7 pm C204 Snyder Hall
This is the presentation that I keep mentioning here on the blog. I'm going to be talking about some activist women poets who wrote about politics. I'll be focusing on Ella Wheeler Wilcox, Ann Plato, Eliza Lee Cabot Follen, Sarah Louisa Forten and Francis E.W. Harper. I'll be discussing their poetry and the racism and sexism that they both fight and accidentally defend.

April 22 Red Cedar Review Issue Release Party 7:30 pm Scene Metrospace
The Red Cedar Review, the nationally-known literary magazine here at MSU, will be celebrating the release of it's next issue. Everyone is welcome to come by to hear some of the author's of the new issue read.

April 29 Poetry Chalking in front of Phillips
The Center for Poetry often has poetry chalkings in the Spring. Basically, you can just bring yourself and the Center will give you a poem and chalk to decorate the sidewalk with. (You're allowed to bring your own poems, if you'd like, but you're not required.) I've always had a great time at these kinds of events, especially if it's a beautiful day.

Like before, all these events are free and open to the public, so make sure you stop by for some of them.

Ten Mississippi

Tonight, Steve Healey read as part of the Center for Poetry's Spring Reading Series. I really loved it. Dr. Healey has a great sense of language and beat. It was easy to see the influence of a lot of poets, particularly the New York School Poets. (Which was unsurprising, given that he once talked to be about Frank O'Hara.) I was also surprised to discover that his poetry is funny. There's a wonderful imagination there, one that sees things so differently. I was really impressed with the reading and the work.
He read mostly from his forthcoming book, Ten Mississippi. I liked that he had science poems, like "Terminal Moraine." My recent poetry seems to be filled with science metaphors (like "On Why Bureaucracies Work the Way They Do.") He gave a great reading. It's too bad that he'll be leaving MSU soon. He's been a great professor and I think he's been a wonderful addition to the school.

House on the Haunted Hill

Readers: Spoiler Alert! Don't read if you haven't seen the movie.

House on the Haunted Hill
follows a millionaire, Frederick Loren, played by the brilliant Vincent Price, and his contestants as they play a game in an old house believe to be haunted. The goal: stay for an entire night without dying. At the same time, Vincent Price’s Loren deals with his fourth wife, Annabelle, (Carol Ohmart) who is less than interested in playing this game. All of the contestants, predictably, have ulterior motives for wanting to win the game, most desperately using the money to save themselves. If this movie was being made today, things would quickly devolve into a dog-eat-dog reality show. The contestants are not all the kind to stick their necks out for one another, but they do show a lot more caring for one another than the average reality show contestants do.
The film is beautifully shot. The use of shadows in this movie is particularly impressive. Early on, there’s a scene in which Nora (Carolyn Craig) is stuck in the basement, and the light pools around her and Lance (Richard Long) in just the right way.
And, unsurprisingly, Vincent Price gives another wonderful performance. Price’s performance when interacting with his wife is particularly interesting . The story seems to be written with the wife being the villain, the one that the audience is suppose to root against. But Price is so menacing in the scenes with Annabelle that it’s clear he is abusive, probably to the point of being a murderer, since it's stated in the movie that all his other wives have since died under mysterious circumstances. Price’s performance subverts the intention of the script and complicates the movie. As modern viewers, we’re left to pity his wife, who dies trying to save herself from two unfortunate options. Price becomes the villain, one who is, by the end of the movie, triumphant.
This is definitively one of the better old horror movies out there. The special effects are not impressive, but few movies from this time hold up against CGI and hyped movies like Avatar. Price's performance and the cinematography make it worth watching.


Last night, after I posted to you, I got an email from a State News reporter asking if she could interview me about "the Center for Poetry." I'm a shy person, so I wasn't really interested in being interviewed. My initial instinct was to say "no, I don't give interviews." But then I thought about the Center and how much they would appreciate my input, so I said yes.
When being interviewed today, it became clear that it was an interview about my research and my upcoming presentation. Oh. I mean, yes, I'm giving the talk for the Center for Poetry, but I was under the impression that she wanted to talk about what it was like working for them, not my other stuff.
Mostly, the interview went okay. I'll try to remember to post a link to the article once it comes out.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Presentation Preparation

Tonight, I went to a presentation about giving good presentations. I'm giving an academic presentation on my undergraduate thesis next week, and I was hoping for some good tips. I've given presentations before, but never this long.
Most of the stuff the presentation talked about was stuff I've already heard and strive to do. One of the things the presenter mentioned was that people are repelled by blue, so don't use it in your presentation. I had never heard of that. (My last presentation in my Feminism class was on Jean Rhys, and my partner and I had picked a blue layout in honor of her most famous novel Wide Sargasso Sea. Oops.) I also learned that the Writing Center has a program where you go and give your presentation to a reviewer who will give you tips. I probably won't have time to use that resource, but it's a good thing to know.
I'm hoping to get the presentation done in a few days so I can email it to my thesis adviser, Anita Skeen. Hopefully, she'll have some good ideas to make sure it's an effective presentation.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Upcoming Poetry Readings for April

In the next couple of weeks, there are going to be a ton of things creative writing related going on around MSU. Everyone should definitely check some of this out, because it looks like it's going to be tons of fun. I'm planning on going to some, but probably not all, of these events, just because I have lots of schoolwork that I'm supposed to be doing.

April 6 Steve Healey 7 pm RCAH Theatre
Dr. Healey was one of my professors last semester, and I can guarantee that he is one of the nicest and mellow people around. He was a wonderful professor, and I'm really sad I'm not in his class anymore. I'm excited to hear his poetry because everyone tells me that his book Earthling is amazing.

April 13 Christine Rhein 7 pm RCAH Theatre
I've read two of her poems (both about the second World War). I'm partial to prose poems and poems based on family history, so I'm looking forward to hearing her.

April 20 Ruelaine Stokes 7 pm RCAH Theatre
I've interacted with Ms. Stokes a few times around campus, mostly during Center for Poetry events. She's a great technical writer and I hear she's also a good teacher.

April 23 Diane Wakoski and Jerome Rothenberg 4:30 pm MSU Library
I've seen Ms. Wakowski give poetry readings and lectures, and both were tons of fun. One of my favorite things to hear about is her interactions with other poets, so I'm interested in seeing her read with Mr. Rothenberg. It's hard for me to pick out a favorite Wakoski poem, but I love "Blue Monday." It's a perfect break-up poem.

All of these events are free and open to the public, so even if you're not currently a Spartan, you can hear these poets read. There are some other events going on this month that are poetry or creative writing related, and once I get a chance, I'll try to post some information. Hope to see you around.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

All Together Dead

Readers: Spoiler Alert! If you don't want to hear what happens in this book of the series or the tv show True Blood, don't read this review!

All Together Dead
is the seventh book in Charlaine Harris’s Southern Vampire Series on which the HBO show True Blood is based. I should probably state here, at the beginning, that I read several of the books before the tv show was announced, though I have seen and enjoyed the tv show. I should also state I’m Team Eric and a little Team Sam. I tend to enjoy these later books because we’ve already moved on from Bill, who becomes increasingly irritating, and because Sookie is a more intelligent and engaging character in the books than she is in the tv show, which seems to be better at highlighting its secondary characters.
The book follows psychic Sookie to a vampire conference outside of Chicago at a vampire-owned hotel. As usual, there are mysteries to solve and a few murders in between. The Queen of Louisiana, Sophie-Anne, Sookie's employer, has recently been accused of murdering her husband, and faces a tense trial. At the same time, Sookie is forced to get closer to Eric, another vampire under Sophie-Anne.
If you’re also a Team Eric member, you’ll be happy to hear that Eric is featured in the novel, and that he and Sookie become closer. The more time we spend with Eric, the more I like him. He genuinely loves Sookie and is compassionate towards her.
As a feminist, the Southern Vampire Series is problematic, just because Sookie is always getting beaten up and saved by male characters. Here, there is a slight change. In the climax, Sookie realizes that a bomb is about to go off, and goes immediately to Eric to save him. Eric is able to fly enough out to prevent them from complete annihilation. So, they save each other, even though the idea of someone sliding down a pyramid hotel in a coffin strikes me as unbelievable.
The tv show has highlighted the connection between vampires and non-heterosexuals, and in turn, the connection between the fictional anti-vampire groups and those evangelical Christian groups that are anti-LGBT. Having read the early books, I thought this wasn’t part of the book so much as a nice creation of Alan Ball’s for the tv show. This book actually changed my mind, since it featured a gay marriage between two vampire kings.
The book also finally asks a question that earlier book have hemmed at: when and how should Sookie use her psychic powers? Earlier novels have had her saving various characters using her psychic powers, including a young boy who they believe had been kidnapped. After the explosion, Sookie and her friend Barry work with rescue workers to find victims trapped under the rubble. Sookie decides that she doesn’t want to have to work for rescue teams on disasters. There’s something very pat about Sookie’s decision, which strikes me as selfish. I hope the subsequent books will explore this decision and make Sookie struggle with such a choice.
Overall, the novel is delightful. It's not as good as some of the previous books in this series, and not as tightly written, but it's still a fun romp through a fully developed world of vampires, weretigers, and psychics.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Red Cedar Review Paints the Rock

Here's a photo of Rachel getting started painting the Rock. If you click on it, it will take you to my Flikr page, which has a set of my other pictures from the event. Enjoy!

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Book Haul

So, apparently, haul videos are really big. I'm not much for clothes, but instead, I decided to write about the book haul I got at the book sale today. So here goes, in no particular order:
1. Chinese Handcuffs by Chris Crutcher
I'm a huge fan of Young Adult Literature, even though I'm no longer a young adult. I've actually read Crutcher's Ironman, and this looks like a similar story: a young athlete with family troubles, who struggles to watch other people in his life suffer through abuse and who falls in love with a broken, but still fighting, young woman.
2. Londonstani by Gautam Malkani
I once read an essay by Flea of the Red Hot Chili Peppers discussing how you should buy albums every once and a while based on their covers. I've decided to adopt that same approach to books, since it has lead me to some great music. The cover looks like the kind of scribbles you'd expect to see in a teenager's notebook. It's apparently about a group of southeast Asian teenagers living in London. I'm also interested in postcolonialism, and this book looks like a teen version of that. Like other teen classics The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, it looks like different sections are narrated by different characters. Flipping through the book, I see there are mentions of Rude Boys, which bodes well. The book has a slight crease in the backcover, but basically, it looks like I bought it in a bookstore.
3. I Am Charlotte Simmons by Tom Wolf
I saw a Jon Stewart once interview Tom Wolf about this book, which is why I picked it up. It's apparently about college girls. Back when I saw the interview, I was still in high school and it sounded fascinating, especially since I was heading to college myself. The diaries and hearing Wolf saying "Wu Tang clan" were enough to make me remember the interview. The book is flawless, like I did actually buy it out of a bookstore.
4. The House of Mirth by Edith Wharton
I saw the Gillian Anderson movie some years ago, and I always feel bad about seeing movies based on books I haven't read. (I recently fixed this with the book Jane Eyre.) I loved the movie, especially since it seemed so quotable and witty and the ending was ironic, tragic and thought-provoking. I'm hoping this will be the same.
5. Dead Ex by Harley Jane Kozak
I love mystery novels, and since this book's cover had one of those dead body outlines, I knew I had to try to. When reading the back, I discovered it's also about soap operas and the drama behind them. This has to be one of the most delightful combination I've seen: murder and cheese. It appears that I picked up an early copy of the novel, so this is a total score from a collecting point of view.
6. A Concise History of South Africa by Robert Ross
Don't worry: this is the only textbook I picked up. My second major is in history. I'm taking an African history class, and we spent a month on South Africa, which was fascinating. I'm hoping to learn a little more about the place through this book.
7. Three by Flannery O'Connor
My friend Christine suggested O'Connor to me last year, and since this particular book was only 50 cents, I've decided to give it a whirl. This is definitely an older book, since the pages are yellow.
8. A Heinlein Trio by Robert A. Heinlein
I've always wanted to read Heinlein, since he's a science fiction master. The cover of this book is really cool is a psychedelic way. I'd actually like a poster of this original design.
So, that's it everyone. I managed to get eight books for 7.50. (For those of you not inclined mathematically, that's about 94 cents per book.) I'm excited to read these new books (if I ever find the free time to do so), and I feel good about spending my money at the book sale, since it supports the Red Cedar Review, which has been a wonderful organization. I'm so proud to be part of them.

Book Sale

The Red Cedar Review today had a book sale to raise money. Hopefully, you got out there to support us and to get some cheap books. I have classes all day on Thursday's, so I didn't get a chance to check this out until later in the day, but I do have some pictures, which I've decided to post for everyone to enjoy. One of the things we had to do last night to prepare was to design posters. This picture above is the one Ashley did. I love it.

Kim designed this sweet looking poster for the event. She's such an amazing artist. We're definitely putting this up in the office.

Look at some of the awesome books we had. Most of them were high literature, but a few, like the one in the corner, was knock-knock jokes for kids.

Natalie, Emily, Katie and others actually selling or buying books.

Here is Amelia and Rachel. These two were on rock duty at the time. We decided that in addition to having a book sale, we were going to paint the rock. Most universities have a rock, and MSU is not different in this regard. The painting rules are clear: You have to guard it all day, then you can paint it after nightfall. If you leave it in the night, it's fair game to paint again. Once it's dawn again, you can't paint. I love this picture because Amelia is playing harmonica and because Rachel looks like the sun is killing her. (Also, she's holding Ashley's poster!) I've always enjoyed hanging with both these girls. I feel like I would love to watch a sitcom about the two of them, since Amelia's random and Rachel's fun.