Friday, May 29, 2009

a call for poets

A good friend of mine, Ryan T. Smith, the artistic director and one of the choreographers for the contemporary dance group RAW, based in San Francisco, is organizing a protest in Union Square responding to passing and subsequent decisions regarding Proposition 8. He asked if I wanted to participate and if I knew any poets who would like to contribute spoken word or any other type of artistic expression to the demonstration.

So, if you’re in the Bay Area July 12th and interested in participating, we would love to work with you. Here’s what Ryan originally sent me, though I’m sure there’s a lot of flexibility in terms of how we can integrate our work; in any case, it should give you a sense of what page he’s on:
so we're down for union square, finally starting to pull our shit together, and would love you to do something for the event. i'm not sure how it would make sense to organize things. right now i'm wondering if we may want to actually integrate readings into the piece, not necessarily dancing to them but using them as intros before sections. or maybe they are totally separate....

do you want to get other poets involved or fly solo on this? talk to me. get your brainstorm on. what ya thinking? my hesitation with opening it up is always a) the quality of the work and b) the dependability of the person. so that'd be up to your history with other folks.

if you have any work already done tat you'd be interested in. i could use inspiration these days.

we are discussing asking a photographer friend of mine who is already doing a project in response to prop 8. but wendy's not sure about how she feels about his work or the addition. we'll decide to approach him or not this weekend.

if you're still down, get me a few sentence bio ASAP. going to get a press release for Monday morning so it comes before the outcome tues. am.. the release will basically say that either way, it goes we are ready and eager to respond.

okay end of business mode.
I hope to hear back from some of you. Aside from the fact that contemporary dance demonstrations are always in dire need of good text, this will be an amazing and beautiful avenue for queer and allied artists to voice their feelings on this heated and critical issue.

Ryan needs responses by Sunday, June 7th, for a press release, so if you're at all interested and sure you can commit to this project email/text/call/im/harrass me by 12:00a that day. If you won't be sure by then, it's no travesty, just get to us later; the press work will just be deficient information.

Monday, May 18, 2009

one art - elizabeth bishop

A good friend lent me a copy of a superb anthology of poetry, Strong Measures, when I had expressed to him some interest in reading and composing more classic poetic forms. As of late, I’ve found this particular book particularly invaluable. Though I’ve specifically been focusing most of my recent creative efforts in the writing of pantoums, I found a vianelle by Elizabeth Bishop eloquently haunting. Like the pantoum, the vianelle is defined by a series of repetitions of either lines or words. That is to say, the form is intrinsically designed to be haunting; I acknowledge how I have been manipulated. In this piece, the repeated lines are reiterated with subtle changes that enhance their emotional impact, though the images are pedestrian in nature. The poem moves from household objects to, eventually, globally expansive concepts but never adopts the tone of grandiosity. The repetitions assist it in staying focused in an almost clinical manner. Though amidst its clinical and aloof tone, the poem elicits a pointed emotional response. The speaker requires this tone to engage the poem's loaded subject matter, the subject of loss.

One Art

The art of losing isn't hard to master;
so many things seem filled with the intent
to be lost that their loss is no disaster.

Lose something every day. Accept the fluster
of lost door keys, the hour badly spent.
The art of losing isn't hard to master.

Then practice losing farther, losing faster:
places, and names, and where it was you meant
to travel. None of these will bring disaster.

I lost my mother's watch. And look! my last, or
next-to-last, of three loved houses went.
The art of losing isn't hard to master.

I lost two cities, lovely ones. And, vaster,
some realms I owned, two rivers, a continent.
I miss them, but it wasn't a disaster.

--Even losing you (the joking voice, a gesture
I love) I shan't have lied. It's evident
the art of losing's not too hard to master
though it may look like (Write it!) like disaster.

a relevant vintage youtube video

It was a pervasive but fleeting fad, once upon a time, to produce parodies of the Brokeback Mountain trailer as it applied to films or TV shows with similar plots to that of the BBM--though with less direct outcomes--using the underscoring and voice-over of the original trailer as a template. I found the youtube phenomenon astute and illuminative of how films inadvertently code homoerotic/homosexual tensions for an ignorant audience. This clip I found especially germane given my last post.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

star trek and anal sex: jj abrams' take on the black hole

As you may have noticed, it is finals season for those still in school. Soon, I will reenter their company, but until then, I'll continue to stew in my envy. Though I probably hated and cursed writing papers and doing all-nighters—the memory is far too distant for me to muster a pure recollection—what I distinctly remember is the sense of relief and accomplishment when I completed an essay, usually just in the knick of time. This rush of nostalgia and jealousy, along with a debilitating fear of how much my grey matter has atrophied since graduating in 2006, has motivated me to [half-heartedly] attempt to write an essay in my free time. this is what I have so far:

Star Trek and Anal Sex: JJ Abrams’ Take on the Black Hole

Homosociality, or—in these days—“bromance,” goes into warp-speed in the recently re-imagined story, JJ Abrams’ Star Trek, a prequel of the original Starship Enterprise. In this version, it is difficult to tell whether it is a common tale of male-male camaraderie saturated with blatant pulp and understated subtext of homosexual iconography, or a pornographic, sexually charged homoerotic intergalactic Brokeback Mountain thinly veiled as a run-of-the-mill origin story. Frankly, I think the point is that there isn’t a difference, nor would it matter if one existed. This buddy movie, like all buddy movies, like all queer psychoanalytic theorists have come to know, posits the male buddy characters in an unrealized sexual romance that is continually skirted around, cited and transferred throughout the film. JJ Abrams, in this—time will eventually tell—2009 masterpiece, takes a quantum leap forward with this notion, going where no man (or film) has gone before.

The protagonist of the film, Jim, or James Tiberius Kirk, is introduced as a troubled child lacking discipline because of an absent (read: dead) father. In his first scene, he has hijacked what appears to be his stepfather’s convertible, blasting the Beastie Boys’ hit, Sabotage, whizzing through the landscape of the seemingly endless cornfields of Iowa. Though Abrams may not be prescient enough to predict that Iowa would be the first in a string of states to legalize gay marriage since California’s Proposition 8 debacle, this scene creates a relevant and elucidatory backdrop for my queer reading. On his joyride, Jim drives past a boy, taller than he but we are to assume that they are classmates or neighbors in close age range, taunting him […]

It’s rough, I know. Like my poetry, there’s much to flush out and inject. Since I rarely make outlines, I often use the space of the introduction to parse out my preliminary thoughts. I intend to navigate the reader through a series of portraits and interactions the film presents with interpellation and temporal intercourse at the crux of it all. I will employ the term "interpellation" as both, simply, the act of naming, and in its Althusserian mode, the hailing an individual into a station. It’s exciting to try to regenerate that portion of the brain I’ve neglected for so long. If anyone out there reads this, I need the encouragement!

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

a reunion of sorts (event invitation for old and new friends)

So it has been about three years since most of us have graduated. I think it is about time we all get together for a nostalgic hurrah at ye ol’ watering hole. On Thursday, the 21st day of May, this year of 2009, Julia Goetzen will be visiting the Bay Area for a four day sojourn, the longest since abandoning the yay for Southern California. I discovered this when Peter, after having heard from Omer, told me over a (somebody else’s) Crixa Cakes, in Berkeley. I guess that’s the path of information flow these days.

Anyways, after brainstorming possible get-together ideas with Julie, we’ve decided to kick off her visit with a celebratory reunion of sorts at Beckett’s Irish Pub & Restaurant, in Berkeley. Coincidentally, an awesome band will be playing that night, Whiskey Hill. They play blues, funk, Motown and Jazz. A good friend I know, from UC Berkeley's Gospel Choir, is the saxophonist for the band. They’re tres legit.

Hopefully you guys can make it. Here’s the info:

[from facebook event]

A Reunion of Sorts

...because four years weren't enough.
Robert and Julie
Start Time:
21 May 2009 at 21:00
End Time:
22 May 2009 at 01:00
Beckett's Irish Pub & Restaurant
2271 Shattuck Avenue
Berkeley, CA


Saturday, May 9, 2009

ave verum corpiss

Name this photograph:

[This is all from Karl's Choral Music Webpage.]

This translation is meant merely to provide an understanding of the meaning of
the Latin lyrics, and is definitely NOT meant as a replacement set of lyrics!
(Note that some English 'translated' lyric versions do exist; however, in order
to fit the rhythm of the melody, and to provide 'more easily understood' lyrics,
they have a tendency to mangle the meaning of many of the Latin verses.)

Note that while I do know some Latin (and have access to Latin
references for those words I don't understand!), I do not claim to be a master
Latin scholar. In addition, some of the Latin words and phrases have meanings
which it is difficult to directly convey in English - in these cases, I have
done my best to paraphrase, retaining as much of the contextual meaning as
possible. Therefore, while I have made every attempt to capture the meaning of
the Latin as closely as possible, there may be some errors, and some sections
may be open to different interpretations.

Note also that Latin has a
different syntax to English, and so some of the translation is not strictly

Ave, verum corpus
natum de Maria Virgine,
Vere passum
Cruce pro homine,
Cujus latus perforatum
fluxit (et)* sanguine,
Esto nobis praegustatum
in mortis examine.

Hail,true body
born of the Virgin Mary,
Who truly suffered,
on the Cross
for man,
Whose pierced side overflowed
with water* and blood,
Be for
us a foretaste**
In the test of

* Several people have commented on this, so I
thought that I might elaborate. The phrase in the original Latin hymn is "Cujus
latus perforatum fluxit aqua et sanguine", whose approximate translation I have
used here. However, in the available editions of both the Byrd and the Mozart
score, the word 'aqua' ('water') is omitted and the word 'unda' ('whence')
inserted. The 'et' (and) is also omitted in the Byrd text, but not in the
Mozart, which makes for rather awkward Latin (and one which I had much trouble
translating accurately). The origins (and purpose) of this change is unclear; I
hope to research this matter futher at a later date.

** Referring to the
eucharist in the Roman Catholic tradition, in which the sacrament was often
referred to as being a "foretaste of heaven".

If you have any comments
or suggestions about this translation, or about this site in general, please
e-mail me at

mozart's quickie - ave verum corpus

Tonight, I will be singing with two ensembles of which I am part, UC Men's Chorale and the Alumni Chorus of UC Berkeley, for the donor/retirement dinner for Robert Cole, the departing musical director of CAL Performances. I am much grateful for the opportunity to sing for him again (once before for CAL Performances' centennial). Cole, who will also conduct, chose Mozart's Ave Verum Corpus as his swan song. He heralds it as one of the greatest and most beautiful pieces of music written. I agree, and I would find it hard-pressed to encounter anyone who group up listening to western music to not find it so after listening. Below is a recording; of course, digital recordings contain very little of the live performance's aura, but this can give you an idea.

Among many features of this piece, I find its length most remarkable. The oscillation between the quiet moments and its swells, the archs of its phrases and the moments of scalar transcendence are all scored fluidly within a minute-and-a-half.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

fact/sf audition workshop

[from facebook invitation]

Audition Workshop

FACT/SF, brain child of dancer and choreographer Charles Slender, seeks dancers for the 2009/2010 season.
30 May 2009
12:00 - 17:00
1310 Mission Street
San Francisco, CA


FACT/SF opposes the idea that dancers should pay to audition, but we do require all attendees to RSVP their intent to participate by writing to Participants must also bring a résumé and be prepared for five hours of technique, improvisation, partnering, and repertory. Hired dancers will be paid for both rehearsals and performances throughout the season, which begins August 1st, 2009. Though our specific schedule for the year has yet to be finalized, dancers should expect to attend company class and rehearsals approximately 3 times per week, 20 weeks per year.

Described as “witty…and razor sharp” (Independent Weekly), Slender works to incorporate the classical with the contemporary in choreography that blurs the line between dance and theater. FACT/SF productions are rigorously crafted, physically demanding and asks dancers to both feel intensely and think critically. Before creating FACT/SF in 2008, Charles Slender toured internationally as a member of Tatiana Baganova’s Provincial Dances Theatre, and created commissions for both universities and professional dance companies throughout Russia. Charles has also presented work and taught master classes in Hong Kong and the US. He is an honors graduate from UC Berkeley, and looks forward to mucking things up.

Please visit to learn more about the company prior to auditioning.

t.m.w.e. #3 - swine flu over the cuckoo's nest

This exercise assigns the poet to write a poem where he or she brags. Addonizio and Laux suggest starting with a list of things at which I may be good. The further along in the writing process I got, the more the poem started to sound like a slam. I committed to that sound and it was like riding a bike; it had been at least four years since I'd written a slam poem. On an obliquely related note, I've recently grown disgruntled by the lack of traffic on my blog; albeit, I haven't been trying very hard to generate it. So, as a cyber-social experiment, I threw in some currently popular Google search phrases to see if it may have an effect on this post's popularity. Admittedly, this admission may skew results. This will probably be one of the few times I'll create site links in a poem.

swine flu over the cuckoo’s nest

it is the ‘oh’ i will manifest
take a read, deny or attest to the best
poet blogger, i jest, lest you dig
what was just confessed;
the cat has run out of the brag.
this is a slam that doesn’t take the cake
it takes the bakery, rollin’ out dough and siftin’ out the fakery.
it is the sneezy sick snaz of a slam
poem that sneaks in some glam
for the moment, like adam lambert
or rock like daughtry of american idol idolatry,
idly i’ll try to win your clicks, so quickly
pick me, squeeze my juice and drink
my shit so good it stink, from toilet bowl
to kitchen sink, i’m gonna run like water
to the brink, tickled pink, then disappear like missing link.
i’m the gay marriage storm arriving to do harm,
get beyonce to ring the alarm and create buzz
like a killer bee swarm, consider yourself warned.
i’m gonna wreck like britney, spear
like aborigine, clown like circus, and just
when you think i had enough, you’ll see me
break from a cocoon, rising,
like the moon, like the hole of a cartoon
ending, that i’ll pick up and emerge from and
blow up like vesuvius cum, but taste
like gumdrops--covet me kookaburra--like cocoa,
chocolate, hot, need me like coke, coke addict,
feenin’ like whitney, the diva not the mountain,
i’m the fountain of youth, my words new forever,
my words stay for always more clever, better
than yours, got you on all fours, whore, literally floored,
huffin’, nailed you into a coffin, dead cause
i coughed in your face, this is a slam and a murder case,
kill like phil spector then ghost like a spector, start war
over beauty like hector, teach you lessons like lecture,
feel on my tectures, stack lines with architectural
integrity, its gritty, my dirt, my spit, my squirt, my shit,
i blurt, i slit, i skirt, i hit the nail on the head
i’m hurt, i’m fit, i’m curt, i’m long like wind
i’m bucky done gun, dmc run, a girl who just wants to have fun
the good son, mcauley culkin calls me a monster, mon
djs spin me like spiral, md’s can’t cure me like viral, disagree i’ll
fire yall, i’m trump, i’m oprah winfrey, there’s no stopping
the juggernaut, the every thing you’re not, the beast,
the disease, the tsunami’s coming, flee, the i-got-your-crazy crazy,
the no other possibility, the who else is it gonna be but me.

i had a tapeworm - michael ryan

I read this poem for the first time a few months ago. Then, I knew very little about Michael Ryan, with the exception that he was teaching at the University of California, Irvine, where I quite wanted to receive my MFA. Though things didn't pan out in that direction, I'm glad I recognized the name and gave this poem a few reads. The tone immediately resonated with me. I am drawn to its beat-ish qualities, its prosaic style and confessional tone. Its assonant-driven sound reads like a slam poem, playing on tension between public declaration and intimate subject matter. The poem moves from out spaces like the Y to the inmost tunnels of the speaker's body, from a public pool into a secret inside a secret. On a personal level, I appreciate how the speaker addresses a complex nest of emotions that surround affairs from a temporal distance and within such a short poem: tender remembrance, guilt and regret, jealousy of whom the ones with whom we cheat are with and their other possible lovers, severe contemplation of the past, the haunting of a beautiful mistake. The tapeworm is within the speaker and eats at him, though his true fear isn't the decimation of his insides, but the betrayal of exposure and the unforgiving nature of age over memory.

I Had A Tapeworm

I had a tapeworm, and imagined it
flat—paper-flat—like a strip of caps,
pallid red, a quarter-inch wide
with bulbous BB bullfrog eyes
peeking out of my asshole as I lolled
in a crowded fetid basement swimming pool
(the kind that used to be in inner-city Ys:
windowless; steamy; concrete-block moldings
chalky-cracked), and you whom I’ve neither
seen nor heard of for thirty years
were saying I’d give everyone in the pool
my tapeworm, which you knew had eaten
my insides and now had threaded through
both my intestines and was trying to get out.
Where were we? Everyone was old, old—
gray, infirm; flaccid and thin
or fat and bald, all ill flesh drooping—
the women in rubber-flowered bathing caps
and black one-piece suits as if we were all
on an outing from a nursing home.
I couldn’t see myself to see how old I was,
but you were thirty, at the peak of your beauty,
as when you knelt naked on the motel room bed
brushing out your thick dark waist-length hair
after cheating on the lover you were cheating
on your husband with, who was at that moment
waiting for you in another motel room
from which you had slipped to meet me secretly:
a secret inside a secret, buried, encased,
as if if we dug deep enough into it
we’d find what we were trying
to get or stop.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

music > choreography (a review) pt. 2: second half > first half

Equal Footing, post-intermission, appeared more polished than its earlier half. Annie Rosenthal Parr’s “Window” greeted the audience from their 15-minute dance break, and immediately I felt apprehensive. There were two large white projection screens set high up, behind the dance space; I thought to myself, “Oh, great, a multimedia piece. That’s never been done.” Just when I was ready to mentally check myself out, I noticed a crackly, varnished, antique piano implanted with a small laptop-sized LCD screen. From afar, I could see that the screen was displaying music-playing software that I later learned assisted the pianists in distorting the timbre of the piano’s tones. The pianist, Sheldon B. Smith, provided a unique synergism between the analogical and digital I haven’t yet seen among a sea of poorly executed multimedia compositions. I had seen a piece a few years ago, "Random Generator," that Smith had danced and choreographed at CounterPulse, and I distinctly remember applauding the humor and simplicity of the work. With that said, though his back was to us, I could sense a humor in his playing that told me this piece wasn’t striving to be more than it was. The choreography was streamlined and eloquent. It wasn’t too difficult for the dancers, and some of them appeared quite natural with the physical vocabulary of the choreography. Overall, "Window" was the triumph of execution over hackneyed premise.

The final work of the night, “Softly In My Ear,” choreographed by Joe Goode, was—as anticipated—a crowd pleaser. Goode has a keen eye to making dance theater accessible to any audience with his usage of style and text. Maura Tang (also a dancer in this piece and two others) costumed the dancers expertly, blending casual fashion with movement-centered sensibilities, and in true Goode manner by using muted primary colors and khaki basics. Again, the music not only grounded the piece, but elevated the performance. Live dance music has a particular way of informing a performance, and the virtuosity of Joan Jeanrenaud, of Kronos Quartet notoriety, supplied a dazzling amount of breathing, organic pulse. The dancing in this piece, like the one prior, was also much cleaner than the first two. Though dancers embraced the satirical tone of the piece, much of the text delivery was miscalculated. There is a fine line between parody and replication. If the camp and kitsch aren’t carried out with deliberateness, the comedy falls flat and the audience only reads the copy, not the critique. Nonetheless, it was a bright and weightless pleasantry to end an evening peppered with flagrant faux pas.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

t.m.w.e. #2 - the i-five

This is another twenty-minute writing exercise from The Poet's Companion. The assignment asks the aspiring poet to write about a trip taken often, contemplating a major question asked at the beginning or toward the end of the poem. I should observe road signs, mentioning at least two, that are symbolic, and list--at some point--physical things.

the i-five

is a highway, the one i take
to make my way home
from my home away
from home, where i contemplate
all the mistakes i’ve made, this is
the highway i take
to clear my mind, though
it doesn’t work
that way, along the desert innards
of a lush state, the lane,
a snake dissecting California,
my brain, already cleaved, i drive
into my hemispherectomy, my car
is a blade i’ve smashed once before, it
incises the insides of my mind
of state, where i’ve made
most mistakes, the same
road signs over again, tiring
like a familiar song,
traveling northbound, horizon,
leftward, ocean, to the left,
westward, i am tired
when i drive this, take this stretch,
the notochord to which i am
an impulse inside of an impulse,
passing thru Buttonwillow, my last
chance to stop for miles, rest
stop not for a while, Coalinga in
a hundred miles or so, where i cried,
at the Denny’s there,
begging not to be left
for a mistake made, the drive
is an arid apology, it is dust
swept into the air by my tires
i inhale, the salt of jerky
stays in my mouth, washed down
with sports and energy
drinks, motor oil stays in my nose
and that dirt in my chest, i may
fall asleep and crash on this drive,
though i am heading home alive
like the freeway
with animate cars,
bodies in them with brains
in the bodies, from space, outer-
space, mistaken
for ants in a single-file
line the shape of the i-5 snaking
up. is this drive the rock,
hardly round, that i labor
to roll northerly, only to let it
pass through my bloody palms
toward the southern dip again?
i see the dots in no order
perforating the clearness
of the black tar over me.