San Diego Poetry Guild

notes on guild, poetry, and San Diego



Flying to NYC tomorrow morning. Hope to see/meet some of you at the Bowery Club, Saturday, 2pm (Subpress reading).


Steve Evans gets my vote for tireless blog reader of the year.


Tao Drops, I Change

Escaping the fires (which are now burning destructively eastward, while the smoke is still bad here in the west) this Friday morning and flying out/up to NYC for the Saturday afternoon Subpress reading. I've had the good luck to pair up with Steve Carll (who won't be there, sadly) in the writing, designing, publishing of a new book, Tao Drops, I Change, due out by the end of the year, we hope.

Several years ago I tried -- and failed miserably -- to write a poem series using the 64 hexagrams of the I Ching as a formal map of sorts. After moving to SD, I found out from Steve when he was in town for a reading one weekend that he had made a similar attempt -- and succeeded. The proof was in the manuscript, titled I Change, that he sent my way later that summer.

About a year later (late '99, I think, definitely before the 2000 prez-election), I found myself reading the Tao Te Ching and, having some time in the mornings those days, decided to write a series based on the 81 poems therein. The plan was to email them around daily -- spam-like, as "tao drops" -- until I had run out of poems. It took about three months finally because I ended up missing a few days here and there due to travel or work or something. I was thinking the other day while getting the poems together that this "email art" activity would have (maybe) made for a good blog.

Actually, I didn't email the poems directly but sent a link to a page on my website where I posted the poems along with an image derived from the black and white photos in the large-sized Feng/English edition (Vintage/Random 1972). The daily routine involved writing (rewriting really) the relevant poem, scanning the companion image, toying with the image (and sometimes the text) in Photoshop, then posting everything to what was then the Sunbrella Network. The whole mess is now archived here.

So Steve, of course, was one of the recipients of those spam-links and he approached one day with the idea of combining his Change and my Drops for a Subpress book (he's the member, not I). I really hadn't consciously made the link (pun belatedly acknowledged) between the two texts, so the proposal startled and thrilled me. We got to work a few months later trading manuscripts and working on pairings.

Given that there are 64 poems in I Change and 81 in Tao Drops, we had some trouble at first coming up with a scheme for how to "match" them. The number issue was tough enough, but we also obviously disagreed initially with some of each other's proposed content matches. He saw his #32, for example, working well with my #13, but I had already paired #13 with his #58. You can imagine the problems.

Eventually, I conceded with much humility that Steve's combinations, all in all, were much better than mine, so we followed his map quite closely with some adjustments reflecting the decisions I'd made. And so, Tao Drops, I Change was born.

I'll abbreviate the three subsequent years, during which both Steve and I passed through some serious life changes. He got married and had a baby with Leigh, and the three of them regrouped as a family in Honolulu. I got married too, to Octavia, and inherited two young girls (4 and 6 at the time), and the four of us moved out to La Mesa which sits just east of the SD city limits. I took a new job running the "Learning Skills Center" at Cuyamaca Community College and Octavia was in the process of moving from one job to another. The kids had to learn what "public school" was all about, and I too had to learn that year that running a skills center was not the right career move for me. I quit and went back to school and now wonder if really THAT is what I needed, blah blah...

Anyway, the point is much did indeed Change over the course of those three years and so the book project got put on hold, picked up occasionally, put back on hold again, etc. Steve and I exchanged occasional emails (often several months apart) about page layout and cover images -- I love the way Subpress puts the means of production squarely in the writers' hands! -- and eventually things came together.

I know for a fact that this book is better -- and good -- as a weaving together of these two projects. The two "sides" of TD,IC complement and relieve each other, toggling each other's pacing habits and syntactic strategies. Silly to say much more about it, but I'm happy with the way the title, all the way down to its comma, suggests the cumulative movement, the accruing action, of this work. The logical relationship between the two sentences remains less than explicit (e.g., compare "bough breaks, cradle falls"). But I can guarantee that where there's "drop," there's "change," and vice versa, and where the "tao" drops, the "I" changes, in literal ways conveyed in part, I hope, in this short narrative.

I wanted to think some of this through before rising up out of the smoke this Friday, and I thought it would be fun to share.


Snowing ash here. The sky a yellowish brown, which brings out the green in the trees and shrubs -- a somber, dusty green. The Jacaranda that hangs over the west corner of our house is luminescent and gorgeous.

There are now three separate fires, and the primary fear seems to be that they will merge into one.

Everywhere that robust acidic "campfire" smell without the marshmallows and cricket chatter.

The wind has died down, but not much. The fire chief has introduced us to the subtle difference between "control" and "containment." They're shooting for control right now, and containment is days away. The mayor just this morning predicted a "5-day event."

We stay inside for the most part but just ventured out to the store and Target to pick up something for our oldest daughter's 9th birthday tomorrow. About half the people out and about had on surgical masks.

My office is in the garage (we're safe here, by the way, tucked away in the heart of the concrete jungle, little risk of fires jumping here), and the smoke smell is pretty bad, so I'll have to keep this short and head back in.

Evidently this thing was started (unconfirmed report) by a lost hunter shooting off a flare. I've heard mixed reports of between 150 and 650 houses gone -- eleven people dead, including one guy found in his pickup truck on the side of the road near the casino on Route 8.

Schools were closed, probably again tomorrow, so the kids will be happy.

Air traffic also affected, so I'm wondering selfishly if I'll be able to fly to New York on Friday without major complications. Heading up and out for the Subpress reading. That would be the fifth day of the five-day event, so I'll have to wait and see.

I love the way local news reporters handle disasters of this order. It didn't take long, for example, for one of them to haul out the old "war zone" metaphor. And one of them waxed rhapsodic, I swear, about a telephone pole burned through at its base and dangling from the wires. They didn't have the footage, so she had to describe, and the image she conjured was indeed rather strange and wonderful.


San Diego is burning.

Note Nick Piombino's recent appearance under the wig of Certau's *la perruque*, just in time for Halloween. A few years ago, as a "half-time" employee at a local private university in San Diego, I printed and compiled all of Zazil 1 as a "professional development" project, listing the work as "community service" on my dossier when my yearly review (petition for renewal of contract) came up. I guess I pushed the limit a bit, though, by Certeau's standards, in using paper and toner as well as time and infrastructure. The editing team called our meetings to order with a rousing "Vive La Perruque!." A true story.

Other "perruque" stories out there...?


Check out the latest installment of Governator.


Sin puertes visibles

Unable to top Gary Sullivan's audacious and deliciously funky review of K. Silem Mohammad, Deer Head Nation, I can at least place this brief, minimalist plug for Jen Hofer's new "Anthology of Contemporary Poetry by Mexican Women."

Featuring in particular our own (SD/TJ) Cristina Rivera-Garza as well as Angélica Tornero, Ana Belén López, Mónica Nepote, and Ofelia Pérez Sepúlveda, among others, Sin puertes visibles delivers a lot of smart and awfully important writing from a criminally under-represented (in Mexico perrenially, in the U.S. until now) generation of women writers. Fast on the heels of the Weiss/Polkinhorn Al Otro Lado: The Poetry of Baja California [review on deck], Jen's anthology fills in a lot that's missing in that otherwise excellent (and obviously more geographically restricted) new release from Mark's Junction Press.

This from the book's "Pre-Texts" is worth copy-pasting at length:
There is no part of me [Jen H] that believes the cultural production of any region, country, current, time, generation, or any other (false) (potentially useful) (provisional) distinction can be adequately represented by any one single book, nor would I hope to create a work that delimits rather than diffracts, that frames to contain rather than frames to provide a view, a way to look out (a window or series of). Certainly, any book or collection has its limitations--rightfully so--as any editor has her criteria and any translator her stylistic preferences, syntactic and tactile and tactical impulses, and politico-linguistic beliefs, whether articulated or intuited or somewhere in-between. This book does not provide a panorama of contemporary Mexican poetry. It does not imply an investment in a new generation, group, or school within the vast Mexican literary terrain. It is not a who's who of what's new in recent writing from Mexico. The view it suggests is not panoramic, not definitive, not generalizing, but rather periscopic and pivoting and particular: it describes, variously, and I hope voraciously, what I have seen in doing this work. It is a bridge suspended teeteringly between my beginner's eye, some emergent writings from mexico, and any reader who wishes to engage either of those two fields in any of their many possible manifestations.
This "beginner's eye" seems pretty darn good at calling the pitches, and editorial and translator "impulses" make for some often stunning choices. No time to show the poetry--buy the book and check it out--but what I think Jen has done is demonstrate/document some new methods for working out of Spanish into English (and back again). Latin cognates, for example, are often left alone (transcribed verbatim) where I think more traditional translators might go for a guttier Anglo-Germanic swap-out. Other stuff is simply hair-raising in English (my Spanish is only quasi-so-so, I admit), passing that rule-of-thumb test of "working as poems." I heard some of it read in Spanish when Jen was down in TJ last month -- breathtaking -- and a confirming "wow" from Octavia who's fluent.

Al Otro Lado, I'll say, does seem to go for that "panoramic" view, and Jen is right I think to limit Sin puertes visibles to the "periscopic."

Anyway, a snapshot. Whatever you call it, the view is terrific.

U of Pittsburgh P / $22.50



Poetry at the end of the line.


The smell of blogs. The meandering gritty taste of blogs. The sweat of blogs, the belly-meat of blogs, the bloody ruddy pudding of blogs. The newest latest list of blogs. The tired tainted mist of blogs. The best of blogs, the worst of blogs. The compromising gist of blogs. Blogs with venom, blogs with spleen, blogs to bloat a budding scene. The tin-tin-titillation of blogs. The tiny tic-tac time of blogs. The valley of death of blogs. The candy-coated breath of blogs. Blogs that go, blogs that stay, blogs served up on a silver tray. The fun and fest and font of blogs. The front and fuss and froth of blogs. The mucky muddled waste of blogs. The yucky huddled haste of blogs. Blogs to fathom, blogs to feed, blogs with rhythm, blogs on speed. The height and depth and width of blogs. The first and last and least of blogs. A year of blogs, a fear of blogs, a satisfying smear of blogs. The volley of doubt of blogs. The token temple of blogs. The ten-ton-tabulation of blogs. The busted, bested beast of blogs. The most of blogs. The lasting lusting nest of blogs. The sweet sweet treat of blogs. The pandering putty paste of blogs. The small small small small small small mall

of blogs.



Does poetry blogging have scene implications? It seems quite prevalent among younger writers in the Bay Area, Boston & New York, much less so here in Philly & less still in such locales as San Diego or DC.

Long live Philly and more still such locales as San Diego or DC.

Why the Cubs Will Never Go to the World Series

Main Entry: 1 curse
Pronunciation: 'k&rs
Function: noun
Etymology: Middle English curs, from Old English
Date: before 12th century
An appeal or prayer for evil or misfortune to befall someone or something.
The evil or misfortune that comes in or as if in response to such an appeal: bewailed the curse of ill health.
One that is accursed.
A profane word or phrase; a swearword.
Ecclesiastical: A censure, ban, or anathema.



R B I don't get it

An appeal
that comes in
or as if in
to such

the curse of
ill health

Seemless Shelf-Promotion

(summer proj. now complete (in time for cooler weather))

also hoping to have more time in the near future (muy bizzy these days) to swap ideas and perspectives with fellow bloggers on the following:

Nick's list going EPC and the territorial/institutional repurcussions of that.

Interview with afore-mentioned on Sidereality and the question of blogs as digi-journals.

The curious fate of the Cubs and why Catherine's reference to "The Goats" has me curiously cringing.

Plus lots of other things. I don't read Critical Inquiry often, for example, but there are two pieces in the last two issues I think that are worth looking at, which perhaps (a closer look) I'll attempt when time frees up around here: one on "Corpse Poems" and another on the Language poets in Leningrad. Also in one of those issues Frederick Jameson waxes whacky on "time," but I hardly had enough to make heads or tails of it.

Otherwise, working with undergrads these days on issues of media ownership and cross-media consolidation. Re that I'll simply plug the excellent Center for Digital Democracy while urging this.


Press Release

Please join me in welcoming the new GOVERNATOR.


Why the Cubs Should Go to the World Series

If Arnold can win, so can they.


Why Arnold Schwarzenegger Should Be Governor of California

Arnold will bring order.

Arnold will not be influenced.

With Arnold, the Republican party has the governorship and this will be all.

Arnold will use his enormous bully.

In addition to his successful film career, Arnold has spent much time championing physical causes.

Arnold realizes that bold, decisive Terminator films resonate in his current campaign.

Arnold will be the people's people sorely lacking.

Arnold is a body-builder, and California is a body politic.

Arnold came from Austria and made it in America, so he overcame nationality challenges.

Arnold is a movie star, but this doesn't mean he's not an intelligent man.

Arnold advances the long-developing and prosperous merger of politics and entertainment.

Arnold shows the irrelevance of a public record or organized body of thought against tropes of strength and violence.

Like Ronald Reagan, Arnold has no ideas of his own and is the puppet figurehead for many of the same cynical policy interests, so in that regard, he is fit to be governor of California.

Like Gray Davis, Arnold is not qualified to be governor of California, but neither was Gray Davis and he got elected.

Arnold seems to really care about the state and its residents.

Arnold seems to have some decent ideas.

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Arnold is more qualified than a lot of the people.


A pause, a rose, something on paper.


enough of that ... now this

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