Friday, September 23, 2011

Friday Favorites: Link Round-Up

Image Source: Adam Isaac Jackson via Ink Butter

Retronaut conducts a beautiful visual exploration of "Abandoned Organisation."

Delightful book/app trailer for The Fantastic Flying Books.

Sexy vintage pasta packaging. There's really no other way to describe this.

If Edward Gorey was your pen pal, the mailbox would be an epic place.

Tiny Desk Concerts + Beirut. Two of my favorite things.  Air hugs, NPR. Lots of air hugs.

The Los Angeles Times on my neighborhood. (I was going to say 'hood just then, but I think it might have proven their not-so-glancing point.)

Tonight, I'm off to see Junior Boys at Mezzanine.  So much dancing, poetry editing, and (hopefully) sunny mid-day napping are on the horizon. What are you up to this weekend?

Monday, September 19, 2011

The Great Stude Makeover

I moved to California four years ago, three days after I graduated from a liberal arts college in Kentucky.  A wonderful friend had found me a job as an actress at a small, touring theater company, and even though I knew next to nothing about the Bay Area or San Francisco or moving across the country, I accepted the year-long contract, packed a couple of suitcases and hopped on a plane.

The result of this quick move, and the potentially definitive end point of my contract, was a rather nomadic lifestyle.  In four years, I have lived in no less than five apartments (YIKES).  I have boxed and unboxed and Salvation Army-ed more times than I can remember. Because of this, it has taken me a long time to get okay with buying nice furniture.  Why make the investment if a another cross-country (or even out of country) move was a distinct possibility?

But this September marks my two year anniversary in the Most Wonderful Apartment Ever.  I realized that I am happy as a clam and that I'm not going anywhere for a while.... and, most importantly, that my desk totally sucks. 

EXHIBIT A: The Suck-Desk

This desk was found abandoned three years ago on Florida Street.  I have been dragging it around with me ever since. The left leg sometimes collapses, the "shelves" are cavernous, the horrifically pointy edges have been known to rend flesh, and there's not enough room to WRITE in a NOTEBOOK.  If you're thinking, "But didn't you just get an MFA in Creative Writing? Isn't that a like, big freaking problem?" you have connected the dots more quickly than I, apparently, was capable of doing.

Yesterday, my dear friend Myla and I journeyed to IKEA, a trek we do not make alone for fear of never returning. With her help, I picked out, purchased, and excitedly brought to The Stude what would be its first AMAZING NEW DESK!

EXHIBIT B: Build O'Clock

So, this took a pretty long time to build. And the IKEA instructions definitely said (or rather "depicted") that one should not attempt to do this alone.  But guess what? I emerged triumphant and now my desk is a veritable Poetry Command Center. I may never leave my apartment again.

EXHIBIT C: This Desk Does Not Suck At All

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Mission District Math

Bottomless Mimosas


Bookstore Walk-By

"Must buy entire series RIGHT NOW."

Friday, September 16, 2011

Yay and Nay Friday: Round 2

I can't believe an entire week has come and gone, bringing us so rapidly to another installment of "Yay and Nay Friday." Summer seems to have finally begun in San Francisco, meaning lots of hang-outery and assorted forms of chilling.  Resultantly, it's been a bit quiet over here, but now I'm ready to forge on and share some more excellent reads.  


After my disappointing experience with memoirs last week, I wanted to put forth a book of the same classification that really does things right. Everything you've heard about "Chronology" is true, especially if what you heard is that it is breath-taking. Lidia's recounting of her writerly journey is an intricate blend of dark humor and poetic prose, inviting us into the nasty predicaments of her life with a friendly panache.  Of course, she is a former Kesey companion and acolyte, an enlightening relationship that constitutes much of the later part of the memoir. This book is an absolute must-read for writers:

“Out of the sad sack of sad shit that was my life, I made a wordhouse.”

I admittedly picked this book up looking for a quick read in between bigger literary ventures, and though I went in with pretty low expectations, I still found myself sizeably disappointed.  This book shifts between past and present, exploring the lives of a Jewish family in France during World War II and an ex-pat American woman in today's Paris.  The story-line has so much potential, but de Rosnay's attempt to tie up loose ends makes an incomprehensible tragedy into something too neatly-packaged to be believed. Moreover, the characters came across as lusterless and two-dimensional, something that often occurs in over-researched historical fiction, in which more attention is given to environmental details (time, setting, etc.)

Finally, I've been doing a bit of prose-writing myself (!!!), thanks to Sarah's writing group at Desirous of EverythingMetronomes is a piece I started back in my undergrad days and have recently begun to renovate.  After years of exclusively focusing on poetry, I'm a little out of my element, but having a delightful time nonetheless.
What are you reading right now? There's always more room on the "To Read" list!

Friday, September 9, 2011

Yay & Nay: A Friday of Books

This month, I have begun hacking through the enormous "To Read" pile that looks as if it will soon over-take my studio. The pile's refill rate is much higher than my rate of book consumption, but I've been finishing new reads like it's my job and think it's time to start keeping track of the awesomeness.

And so, I give you "Yay or Nay Friday," in which I will recommend something of remarkable literary deliciousness, and then ferociously warn against that which was disappointing.


This is one of those books that I'm buying everyone for Christmas.  Admittedly, I entered "Chronic City" with a bit of a bias, having fallen in love with Lethem's prose via "The Fortress of Solitude."  However, this longer, more contemporary novel provides a much different reading experience than Lethem's other work.

Perhaps my favorite thing about "Chronic City" is the brilliant collection of beyond-quirky characters.  The protagonist, one Chase Insteadman, is a former child star turned NYC loft-dweller who finds himself in a highly publicized relationship with a tragically beautiful, space-stranded astronaut (the "lostronaut," as Lethem so charmingly refers to her.) Chase's narration is underscored by the belief that he is a holographic entity, a mere follower-along, but the lofty syntax and vocabulary that characterize his voice lead readers to quite a different conclusion.  Such tension between reality and perceived reality (of the characters, of the reader, of Lethem himself) drives "Chronic City" to some of the mind's most fascinating corners. 


It is a rare thing for me to leave a memoir with the singular reaction of, ""  Truly, Jon-Jon's memoir of a life in which he has admittedly accomplished little and tried even less, is just as one-dimensional as its author. 

Getting through 300 pages of Goulian's "poor little rich boy" ramblings, which seem arbitrarily connected and lack a framework that would perhaps provide some semblance of logic, was nearly impossible.  I kept hoping Goulian would have something to offer, that at some point he would provide anything other than vanity or recollections of his lifelong lack of motivation.  Sadly, such redemption never came. 


Many people that I love and respect have been recommending "Geek Love" to me, and I can't wait to get cracking on this book on my lunch break today.  Featuring an interesting mash-up of cults, carnivals, and extreme body modifications, this book sounds twisted and smart. Hooray!

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Zines and Things

It is Saturday, and that means... San Francisco Zine Fest has arrived!  I have been looking forward to this day for so long and can't wait to get out the door.  Tons of pictures will be taken, tons of zines will come home with me, and I should have an epic post about this magical day coming soon.
Also, I am quite stoked to have a guest post featured on lovely librarian Sarah's blog, Desirous of Everything.  So in lieu of a longer post today, I will send you her way for all kinds of literary fun.

What are you up to this weekend?

Thursday, September 1, 2011

One Woman's MFA Is Another Woman's WTF

I am a poet working in Silicon Valley. There is certainly an apparent disjunction between these two parts of my identity.  However, these two occupations of mine mesh more seamlessly than one might immediately suspect.  I've found that the orderliness of my 9-5 day provides an important balance to my after work artistic life, grounds me in a way that is wholly necessary for my poetic self to both flourish and stay focused. 

Colleagues and co-workers in each of my two "worlds" are often interested in how this seeming dichotomy works.  I haven't met anyone else in my particular "Silicon Valley Admin By Day, Experimental Poet By Night" situation, so I find that I am met with kindly inquiries into how this came about, etc.  These conversations are largely fun and fruitful, and help me gain an even better grasp on how, exactly, I divide my time. 

All of this being said, I was confronted with an entirely new response that really threw me for a loop.  Forty-eight hours after turning in my thesis, a woman employed at my company congratulated me, then asked what particular MFA I had earned.  When I responded with, "Creative Writing. Poetry," she burst into a fit of uproarious laughter.  The woman was positively gasping for air.  Everyone else in the room was clearly uncomfortable, and my jaw was quite literally on the floor. 

"You're not serious!" she said, still laughing.  "That reminds me * gasp * of when * gasp * my friend got a degree in Ancient Greek! What could you possibly do with a degree *gasp * like * gasp * POETRY?!"

Fighting my initial urge to burst into tears, pick up my pile of file folders and walk away, I managed to summon all of the Audrey Hepburn I had left, smile ruefully and comment, "I'm so sorry you disapprove of my education!"  At this, I changed the subject, all the while taking deep breaths and doing my best to keep my hands from shaking. 

I've been thinking about this for the last several days, going through various stages of sadness and anger and pity.  The realization I've come to, though, is that I'm truly grateful to have the capability to exist in both of the worlds I have chosen.  I have a rich artistic life that I have worked hard to cultivate, and I live in a city that celebrates my medium and encourages my success.  Additionally, I have a great job that fulfills my needs for organization and stability, while providing a platform for me to pursue more financially risky, creative endeavors as I so desire.  The harsh reaction of my co-worker helped me realize that this ability to thrive in dichotomous arenas is unique.  And while some might not appreciate just how important, how hard-won, how genuinely vital an MFA in something like Poetry can be, I realize it now more than ever.