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I'm not a bitch, I've got a histrionic personality disorder (and a boob job)!

Where do you draw the line between sincere mental illness and just plain poor behavior?

Maybe it's just because it's the holidays, time to swap news, office gossip, and smile politely while relatives act totally inappropriately, but I suddenly find myself questioning:

When do these symptoms:

"pervasive disregard for the law and the rights of others."
"a pervasive pattern of grandiosity, need for admiration, and a lack of empathy"
"pervasive attention-seeking behavior including inappropriate sexual seductiveness and shallow or exaggerated emotions "

become A) antisocial personality disorder B)histrionic personality disorder or C) narcissistic personality disorder instead of pervasive Bitchiness disorder? Does a diagnosis excuse poor behavior? It probably does to the person who is so self-obsessed that they exhibit "an enduring pattern of inner experience and behavior that deviates markedly from the expectations of the culture of the individual who…

Almost Complete Face Transplant

The first U.S. face transplant is the most complete one ever attempted. While it's nothing like what spy movies might have hopefuls thinking, that this is the ultimate plastic surgery or a better alternative to the witness protection program, for some folks who have been severely mauled or traumatized, this surgery may be the start of a new life.

To get more details follow links to article and photos:
http://www.nytimes.com/2008/12/18/health/s18face.html?partner=permalink&exprod=permalink



The doctor in charge of the team of specialists who performed the surgery responded to some criticism that the surgery is dangerous and unnecessary. She spoke about people who couldn't live normal lives because their faces were so destroyed. The soundbite that really got me was, "You need the face to face the world."

I can't stop thinking about The Phantom of the Opera, and how underneath all the Andrew Lloyd Webber there is a story that validates Dr. Maria Siemionow's point…

Thanks HFR Blog

The HFR blog recently hosted a holiday blog poem/fiction contest with several prize subscriptions to Hayden's Ferry Review, gift subscriptions for a friend or loved one, and a free back issue of my favorite issue, #42 The Grotesque.

Thanks to the intern judging the contest, I won! To read my Diwali poem, follow this link: http://haydensferryreview.blogspot.com/2008/holiday-blog-contestpoetry_12.html

A poetry contributor from issue 42 also won a place in the contest with her beautiful poem! Congrats to Lauren Berry.

Writing Taboo as Diptych: The Southern Poetry Review is Anti-Condom

Maybe. My recent submission, which included a poem about condoms, two about miscarriage, one about suburban voodoo and one about an bitchy person I went to grad school with all came back rejected in record time. The condom poem was on top, and looking at it, I was struck by the sudden idea that it was a little ridiculous that I had a poem about a condom and I had sent it to the Southern Poetry Review.

Now I'll admit I've never read a full issue of SPR, they don't have samples online, and I live in a literary vacuum now as far as lending privileges go. (Oh how I miss you, Piper Center Resource Library!) Skimming through the current contributors, I noticed K.A Hayes, a poet I know (somehow) from working at HFR. She wasn't one of the contributors on my issues as editor, but I think I solicited poems from her.
Since I can't comment on their aesthetic, I'll blame the condom poem.

It started as just a crazy idea; I liked the fact that a major condom company had its name…

Naughty Nuns and Bad Habits: If They're not yours, they're even more fun

I just found the Ploughshare blog. Ploughshares has long been one of my favorite literary magazines; I've been unsuccessfully submitting there, the Indiana Review, and Mid-American since college because I just LOVE them, and the editors were nice to me when they read in my bio that I was trying to get into an MFA program.

I like the blog because it's more than just an addition to the magazine; it discusses poetics and criticism. A recent blog post focuses on bad habits that writers/poets discover in their writing. We've all had that moment, looking over poems when we realize (or have pointed out in workshop) that we do the same thing routinely. For some of us it's a word, (I used "stone," in about twelve poems before someone in my workshop finally had enough)but sometimes it's a movement when we run out of other ideas, a default.

It's not that these are necessarily BAD habits, just that they're bad for us because, well, they're habits, and you …

Man-Moth: typos and mondegreens

I always thought the Cher song went, "gypsies, chimpanzees." Apparently, it's "gypsies, tramps and thieves." Oh well. Apparently there's a word (and a website, see last in list on bottom) for the phenomenon of mishearing song lyrics: mondegreen. Cool, huh?

A famous example of the misunderstanding made into a poem is Elizabeth Bishop's "Man-Moth." The poet was intrigued by a misprint of the word "mammoth" in a news article and subsequently wrote one of her more vulnerable poems featuring the character of the man-moth, a subterranean agoraphobe with the hidden, private spirituality of a hermit.

To read the poem, click here: http://www.poemhunter.com/poem/the-man-moth/

I was listening to some public radio jazz when I had a similar experience, thinking the lyrics of "I got my mojo workin" were "I got my mojo wagon." I loved the idea of a wagonful of mojos or a wagon that increases mojo...in an Austin Powers kind of way.


PostSecret

We've done the postcard poem--one friend of mine even had a postcard poem exchange for her middle school students and ASU graduate poetry students for National Poetry Month one year. This is a whole different "art" exchange:

http://postsecret.blogspot.com/

The idea is that people post postcard sized images with a secret on them. They range from the cliche and self-absorbed, to the political, to the funny, to the incredibly sad.

While I normally wouldn't suggest stealing people's stories (well, maybe I would) the nature of this project is that the contributors are offering up these secrets to be art, to be a part of collaborative art. I think some of them would make great poetry or fiction premises.





Thanks to PostSecret for creating a forum where people can share these things about themselves.

John Asberry's Autumnal Polyvore Work Outfit

I'm tired of coming up with poem ideas, so this week I read a book: April Galleons by John Asberry. I'm not usually a big fan of Ashberry, (just don't get it) but I did enjoy the book a lot more than I thought I would. Interesting thing: anyone who remembers the Roethke exercise that involves a bank of words and a lot of rules--every one of these poems has one of those words in it. Gotcha Ashberry! And you thought you could just sneak 'tarmac' in there and no one would think anything of it.

I went through the poems and pulled out some words I like, which I plan on using in a few poems this week. I was like, ruffle!! I love ruffle.

Then I typed a bunch of them into polyvore to make a collage. Here are the words I used:

plum, ruffle, spot, sleek, proper, ribbon, and clean.


April Galleons by parrotflower
a huge list of Ashberry words follows:
vetiver smudges fishhook sleek mood sawdust hat bank plum taste thin floor sharp stick scrub door shave shake tactics ship ruffle fi…

Crab Orchard Review: The Personal Lyric and Culture of Change

I probably wouldn't be blogging about what is, when you think about it, sort of a confusing call for submissions if it weren't for this color wheel. Doesn't it sort of look like the Wheel of Fortune, or that wheel on the Price is Right?

Anyway, I love the idea of taking a tack and sticking it in this wheel a couple times, making each color block it lands on a stanza, and the title of the poem an agent of change.

I think the key, as it always is when dealing with huge abstractions, is to find something small and personal.

Here's what each of these things would be for me the first time I stuck a tack in them:
Identity: waiting for my Georgia voter registration card two weeks before a presidential election
Work: watching the soda pumps from the back room of the theater concession stand
The Arts: ceramics summer camp where I learned how to play poker and a kid threatened me with an exacto knife
Tradition: baptism photos of my husband
Beliefs: the Augustus Caesar statue my husband …

The Visit-- Poetry, Revenge, and Revelation

Maybe it is just that I am nostalgic for Prague, three years later, and just got an email that Arnost Lustig will be in Kalamazoo soon, but this movie I just watched on TV has got me thinking. The movie is The Visit (1964) starring Ingrid Bergman, and although it isn’t as artsy as the Czech films we watched in Prague, it has that same dark flavor to it. I suggest that anyone who hasn’t watched it Netflix it immediately.

The gist of the movie is that Bergman was run out of town as a pregnant teen after filing a paternity suit against her lover. He bribes two witnesses for a bottle of brandy each to say that she is promiscuous. The authorities take her child, who quickly dies in an institution, label her a fallen woman, and she becomes a big city prostitute. Years later, she returns, a wealthy woman, with a proposition for the town that turned its back on her. They are struggling…the local mines, the factory, the riverside...all their business has mysteriously dried up and she offers the…

Formal Mechanics, the Rotary Lawnmower, and the Movement of Stanzas

I've decided to create a form that mimics the movement of the rotary lawnmower. The purpose of the form is, I think, like the purpose of mowing, to create order out of unorderliness through the means of repetitive violence, to create motion in form through repetition at the beginning and end of a stanza. The first decision is, is the lawnmower a mulching or bag type? The second is, which words will be repeated? I've decided on two verbs, but I think nouns could maybe work too. As for the lawn, I've toyed with the idea of making a list of messiness and then just mowing through it with the twin blades of my chosen verbs. But I think narrative situations offer messiness as well, so it wouldn't have to be lyrical. I like the idea of quatrains, because they're nice and rectangular, like rooms and like lawns and I think that has a lot to do with the idea of maintenance, that there is a shape you are trying to trim things into. Line length should be even, but long or short mi…

Innocuous Weapons

Ok, so it may be a gimic, but I love this thing I found while shopping for Xmas presents for my cousin. Why this was on a gift list for men ages 30-40, I'll never know, but who cares:
"Unleash potassium-rich projectile warfare with the insidious potato pellet gun! Punch the barrel into a standard-issue potato, break off a pellet and bring it! Mostly harmless, the potato gun can shoot pellets up to 50 feet. Potato not included." $5.95 http://www.x-tremegeek.com/templates/searchdetail.asp?sk=MX72143&productID=11553 This poem is a poem about people behaving strangely. Why they are compelled to do it, who they are, what the results of the attack are, that's up to you, but I love the idea of an adult picking something totally innocuous and making a weapon out of it. Of course, by itself, a thrown potato could be pretty dangerous. It's like, potato cannon, light. So maybe I would think of something actually dangerous and then the weapon would be something related …

The Negative Superman

The Negative Superman

The Obscene Jester is a pretty interesting performance art blog I read from time to time. While I was catching up on my blog readership yesterday, I came across an intriguing idea in the blog describing a musical art performance.
http://obscenejester.typepad.com/home/2008/09/loudly-loudly-c.html

The blog was talking about Peter Lorre, who inspired the album performed. The blog suggested that the character actor who had been typecast as a villain was an example of a “negative superman,” sharing such ranks with Vincent Prince, Bela Lugosi and Boris Karloff—the famous somewhat tragic villains of early horror.
The term "negative superman" has the ringing tone of film theory about it, but I haven’t been very successful tracking it down.

Still, it’s a compelling idea—the negative superman. The ubermensch evil one? The archvillain? I think what is perhaps most interesting about the character is the idea that these actors—aging, fallible typecast actors—play these …

The Imaginary Poet

Often in lyric poetry we get wrapped up in ourselves--what is true to us. I think it is much more interesting to lie outrageously.

Check out this issue of Blackbird online. It has a feature, "Tracking the Muse," with commentary by various poets about their process. Here's a link to Jehanne Dubrow's "Notes Toward a Nonexistent Poet." http://www.blackbird.vcu.edu/v7n1/features/muse/dubrow_j.htm

It is great. She starts off suggesting you lie a little bit about yourself, making up an experience you never had, like a childhood overseas. But she progresses toward creating a whole fictional poet and writing poems for her. While the amount of research needed for a whole book of works by a fictional poet might be a little more than a Wednesday afternoon will permit, you could pick a person you know and write a poem as them, or as a famous person, or as a made-up person.

My poet is Sara Johnston. She's from North Carolina, daughter of an Airforce captain, and her fa…

Netflix and the Poet's Workbook

Most poets I know keep a notebook, or should, for those moments when an idea comes to them, a phrase occurs, an image strikes and moves them. Often it is only when the poet is stuck trying to write a poem that they will go back to this notebook and do anything with the images and words trapped there.

These images and phrases are like the obscure documentaries, the classic movies, the less popular mid-eighties movies, maybe even the made-for TV miniseries or Christmas specials of the video rental store that is a poet's brain.
Enter Netflix. I urge you to pull out your notebook(s), or if you don't have one, to take a legal pad and jot things down on it over the course of the week. You can, if you wish, arrange or number items on your list in the order you would like to get them first. Then spend a stanza on each one. Each time you finish a stanza, imagine sliding the image back in its dirty paper sleeve, into its previously-used red envelope, mailing it off, and getting the new on…

I Too Have Danced On Blades: Shamanism and Stilettos

Alberto Rios teaches a Magical Realism class at ASU where the capstone of the class is to make a magical realist object. An example one of my classmates made was a bread noose. Tasty. Mine was a lame "Hairbrush," with hair where the brush should be. (For more on magical realism, Tito built a website with neat facts: http://www.public.asu.edu/~aarios/magicalrealism/)

What I’ve realized recently is that many objects hold a magical realist text within their name. I was thinking about the stiletto shoe, which compares the traditional, thin steel heel of the shoe with a thin knife of the same name. It made me think how many objects, particularly clothing objects, bear names that keep them only a step away from being absurd: the Peter Pan collar, the bell sleeve, the pencil skirt. The interesting thing about these pieces of clothing is that they get their name from a strong resemblance to the absurd objects their name implies—these are absurd objects realized and normalized in the …

A Girl at My High School Was an Extra on Saved by the Bell

Or could have been. This poem idea comes from my husband Tony, who is apparently very interested in the stories of nameless or less popular characters who live in a world run by and interested only in an elite few. Like the crew from Saved by the Bell.As for credit for this photo, and to get any other info, it seems like pretty much anything you'd want to know about this sitcom can be found at http://www.movieprop.com/tvandmovie/savedbythebell/So Tony's idea is, what do all these students and nameless teachers who go to or teach at this big high school think about the fact that every major club or event, from glee club to Prom, is dominated by this small group of kids?He also thinks that a poem about what people do after they go home from a TV show like Law and Order or what undeveloped characters from the Newhart Show do offscreen, or what those guys in the back of the command room in NASA documentaries think.

Sarah Palin, Impregnated by the Spirit of Jack London, Gives Birth to a Strange New Pantheon

> Politics, Collage and PoetryI'd like to thank Aimee of Vint Condition http://www.vintcondition.blogspot.com/ fame for introducing me to Polyvore. http://www.polyvore.com/ I realize this is an ugly collage, so I'll make this post as untechnical as possible. Politics is like a collage. Poetry is like a collage. Political poetry is often not, but is more like the rantings of insane or crotchety or both older person on a street corner who smells bad. The idea behind this poem prompt is that you would pick something from the headlines that you might like to blog about, but that you think might be a very poor poem. Perhaps you have tried to write this poem, like my attempt at "Felix Pie's Twisted Testicle." Maybe you failed miserably. Polyvore is a neat little internet photo collecting and editing doo-dad that allows you to trawl the web, pick images revolving around your headline and compile them in a collage. You can add fashionable accessories if you wish. My s…

Seagull: Symbolic Objects at Rest

Harnessing the Power of Symbolic Objects for Good

Some things I love about this photo:

1. Color
2. Allegorical Content
3. Center of Focus

Here is a palette of colors: aqua, deep cadet, dove gray, spackle white, matte steel, and yellow. Everything is cool, working toward a cohesive tone. It all belongs to the same landscape, a particular mood.

In this one image we have a seagull, an anchor, a boat, and the sea. All of these are literal things that are found in each other’s company, but they are all also supercharged with meaning when taken out of their ordinary context and say, for example, dropped into a Biblical quote or a Victorian morality story. What I love about this collection of symbols is that they act as themselves rather than the things they stand in for, so the immediate response is to the thing itself.

The center of focus on this photo is interesting—it works in some ways like a triptych. The seagull immediately gets attention, having the most animation, but the anchor is in the …

Creating Simulated Poems Using High Heat

Verneuil Process

A fairly technical procedure for making gems, the verneuil process involves grinding up the raw material, superheating it, and dripping it onto an “earthen support rod.” The end result of the process is a “boule” at the tip of all the accumulated melted matter that crystallizes into the manmade ruby/whatever, which is broken off the support rod and sinter cone to be faceted and sold.

For more information on this process, see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Verneuil_process

Applying a similar process to create a poem is not new. Many poets suggest taking a favorite line of poetry, writing a poem using the “stolen” line as a first line, and then knocking the line off the finished poem. I was once in a workshop with C.D. Wright where she changed this up a little bit by taking a line at random out of a novel.

My thought is that the “support rod” for a poem doesn’t need to be literary. A line of directions, journalism, one stolen from a sibling’s diary or the letter of a famous p…

Transletics: Translational Poetics

It’s not at all a new idea to suggest that poetry takes inspiration from other art forms, the sciences, or the natural world. What I’m interested in here is the shape, the form, the organic theory of poetry and how different models of creation or elements of design from other disciplines: architecture, painting, astronomy, might be useful for creating new poems. Thanks again Stock Xchange :)