Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving

I know, I know, I post this same video every year. However, Burroughs wrote this in 1986, and it's still spot on. Actually, it might be more pertinent in these partisan days of Glenn Beck and a "wholesome" white America. In fact, if I may, I'm going to humbly add my own Thanksgiving verses of appreciation...

Thanks for the Tea Party, and the perpetuation of "stupid" as an American ideology.

Thanks filibusters and assurance that nothing gets done in our government.

Thanks for fighting against gay marriage, and the vigilance it requires to protect the "sanctity of heterosexual marriages." Everyone knows that it's the anatomy of whom you lie with in bed that determines the level of your love.

Thanks for squawking about health care reform. Only the white or the wealthy or the educated or the employed deserve the basic human decency of being treated when they're sick.

Thanks for The New York Yankees.

Thanks for Fox News, and the perpetuation of "stupid" as an American ideology.

Thanks for reading my, seriously. Thanks.

Monday, November 15, 2010

On teaching poetry

If you're looking for some profound musing on craft to pass out to your graduate students, this ain't it.

If you're looking for one man's subjective account of teaching poetry to high school students in a public school, you've come to the right spot.

Let me start with a rhetorical question, because we all know how well rhetorical questions work at the beginning of a piece of writing: Why is it that two weeks into any poetry unit I teach I suddenly want to strangle myself with my own tongue?

First of all, I'm a poet. Scratch that. I write poetry but cringe whenever someone uses the label "poet" to describe their self. There's something so very, very pretentious about it. As if to say: Despite the fact that I practice a craft that has far more practitioners than readers, I still manage to maintain an air of self-importance that can't be penetrated by a diamond cutter.

Anyhow, my last three books have, indeed, been collections of poetry, so when the poetry unit comes rolling around each year, it's not something I'm entirely ill-prepared to teach.

In fact, each time I start a poetry unit, I begin it with an entirely misguided and delusional sense of optimism. I think, This is it. This time I'm going to hook 'em. This time I have all of these great new poems by all of these great young poets in my arsenal, and dammit, these kids are going to learn to love poetry. To hell with those dead white men and suicidal white chicks; this stuff is new and fresh and vital and in touch with these kids' worlds.


I'm actually starting to accept the fact that the vast majority of people in this world---aside from, apparently, the Chileans---could care less about poetry. Regardless of what I do as a writing or literature teacher, every time I put a poem in front of a student, they're going to look up at me like I've placed a turd on their desk.

Listen, I'm not saying that poetry isn't important. I believe it is fresh and vital and contains the potential to reach people in ways that no other art form can. However, this does not change the fact that few people read it, and even fewer care to learn how.

Does this mean we should stop teaching poetry in public schools (you should end with a rhetorical question, as well)? No. Not at all. Like we do when we write our poems, we need to forge ahead and lower our shoulders against everything that seems logical and impossible. While, for most people, the turd will likely never turn into a vibrant pulsing slice of someone's life and experiences and observations, a sneak peek into the mind of a true and vital seeker, it does matter.

Strange yet exuberant, the poems do matter. And that, my friends, is called "movement."

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Stuff to use for stuffing

My favorite part of the Thanksgiving meal is the stuffing, which should come as no surprise (see the blog entry titled "Trouble with Man-Titties"). However, I find it a little vulgar when the turkey itself is stuffed. I know, I know, vegetarians out there are already clutching tofu pillows and wiping their eyes with kale. But seriously, there's something I find oddly unsettling about reaching into the hollowed guts of a turkey carcass and munching on the stuff.

I digress.

There's been some stuff going on in my little literary life that's worthy of mention---assuming you're reading this right now because you 1.) know, or know of me, and 2.) understand the relativity of the word "worthy."

I recently had a short story published titled "Vandals" in a great new literary journal titled Sententia, edited by Ryan W. Bradley and Paula Bomer, the latter who has a really interesting-sounding collection of short fiction titled Baby and Other Stories coming out shortly from Word Riot Press.

The Trailer Park Quarterly, edited by my friend Dan Crocker, recently posted their second issue, which included one of my flash pieces, "Hot Dog Night at the County Jail." Also, Dan and I are participating in a new realm of idiocy on the internet, a radio show called The Natty and Cracker Hour. Check it out every other Friday at 11 p.m.

Finally, I recently signed with the super bad-ass literary agent Sarah LaPolla at Curtis Brown Ltd. We're cooking up some literary stuff, and it's super bad-ass awesome. I'd tell you what it is, but I'd have to kill you.

It just occurred to me: Has anyone ever invented a grilled stuffing sandwich? I'd like to try that and feed my man-titties.