Sunday, October 26, 2008

Scenes from a Pig Roast

Turning to Fall / "The Whitsun Weddings" - Larkin

In short bursts:

I had expected to be much more frequent and thorough in my posting, but that clearly has not happened. I blame the past two and a half months. Learning a new city, trying to develop friendships, staying on top of all that's demanded of a Ph.D. student, and especially taking care of M. as best I can. I don't think I've been successful at any of these, which sometimes doesn't make sleep come as easily as I'd hope. I want this admission to compel me to do better, to enable me to benefit from what I've learned and move forward, but I'm not necessarily wired that way. I hold on to what needs forgetting.


I worked on my ms. tonight, which is the first time I've looked at it since I had meetings with Bill, Nancy, and Beth B. last April. This has been long overdue, but at least I've written a poem a week for workshop, which should (maybe) help flesh out what I've spent the last three degrees working toward. I don't know how close it is to being polished, but I'll send it some people whose opinion I trust and get some constructive feedback. I've been keeping up with Keith Montesano's First Book Interviews at and the perserverance we writers need to have is frightening. I seem to be able to block out the horror stories about how long it takes to get a book published, how much effort is put into shaping a ms. It'd be great if Paul Zimmer, who's visiting next semester, could tap me on the head and magically get me a book, but stranger things have not happened. So it goes.


Mad Men finished Season Two tonight, and that makes me sad. M. and I disagree about how Matthew Weiner seems to approach his storytelling: I'm fine with threads from early in the season being brought back five or six episodes later, while she needs the writers to keep spinning the plates. (In some ways, she is a protege of some faculty members, whether he's conscious of it or not, which I stress is not a bad thing. Really. I got a lot from my two semesters taking nf workshops.) I'm never insulted watching MM, which I can't say about most television. I don't need everything recapped for me, nor do I want to have all the answers for who did what why neatly laid out for me. More often than not, I'd rather work for my entertainment, though I concede there's time and place for the mindless. Sometimes, I'd rather not be inside my head.


Two Browns wins the past three weeks. My self-worth shouldn't change so much after a win, but it does. I didn't want to go to school the day after The Fumble. I had a hard time walking campus when the Steelers beat the Browns, though I didn't really know anyone enough to give me a hard time about being in Meadville following a team that's been owned by their biggest rival of late. I am a Clevelander, and that'll always define me. Expecting failure is in my blood, and I'm not sure how that plays into what I wrote two paragraphs up. It could be good or bad. I just don't know.


I think a lot about Larkin's "The Whitsun Weddings." I had read it a number of times, but it wasn't until I went to a lecture by Rachel Hadas that I needed to memorize the conclusion. Taking a cue from a friend ( I'd like to include a poem somewhere in all of my future posts. I thought it'd be good to start with the last stanza I committed to myself years ago. Here it is:

from The Whitsun Weddings

There we were aimed. And as we raced across
Bright knots of rail
Past standing Pullmans, walls of blackened moss
Came close, and it was nearly done, this frail
Traveling coincidence; and what it held
Stood ready to be loosed with all the power
That being changed can give. We slowed again,
And as the tightened brakes took hold, there swelled
A sense of falling, like an arrow-shower
Sent out of sight, somewhere becoming rain.

Be well.

Monday, August 4, 2008

What I'm Not

I'm not a helpful packer. I'm not hungry, though a strawberry sundae does sound good. I'm not underwhelmed by Adam Zagajewski's Eternal Enemies. I'm not at all disinterested in reading Ander's Other Electricities, but it's on the side table yet. I'm still not reading as much as I should be, especially when I need to spend the next three years studying for exams. I'm not surprised very often, really. I'm not a bad detective, or at least I'm not unaware of my surroundings, how the little things which motivate people's actions are linked. I'm not at all prepared to send a syllabus to the Comp Director at UT. I'm not going to play a bad round of golf on Friday morning with my friends, my relatives, my soon-to-be relatives. I'm not comfortable typing on a laptop, and I don't think I ever will be. I'm not not looking forward to Saturday. I'm not wearing socks at the moment. I'm not going to mark "Single" on my taxes in January. I'm not sure how to find what books I need to buy for my classes. I'm not not thirsty. I'm not sure Mid-American Review will ever get back to me about whether they accepted a poem of mine or not, a process that started when I mailed a submission last October and was made worse when an editor told me she "thought they had, but [she]'d have to check [her] records when [she] get back to the office from [her] vacation," found in an email from early June. I'm not at ease with the fact M. and I haven't signed a lease for the house we'll be renting yet. I'm not a fan of ceiling fans, no matter how fast they revolve, because they will always be trumped by air conditioning, even if the A/C is provided by one of those obnoxiously loud, old-school units that weigh five hundred pounds, leak on the hardwood floor/carpet, and aren't capable of being controlled by a remote control. I'm not sure which is the best smile to use for all the pictures I'll be in this weekend. I'm not as physically close to as many friends as I'd like to be, which makes the RSVP process less exciting. I'm not as knowledgeable about clouds as I wished I was when I was eight. I'm not a novice in fixing leaks in Aero-beds anymore. I'm not sure M.'s gift is going to arrive in time. I'm not as unsentimental with my belongings as I should be, which is troublesome when moving. I'm not looking forward to loading a truck next Monday. I'm not not a fan of linear posts, but I'm not against ones that end where they began, either, even if it's a trite way to create unity.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Creatively Lazy

It's not been a productive summer as far as writing goes. I can't seem to sit down and concentrate on a new poem. And even when I do manage to, I write a few terrible lines, get frustrated, and go do something else much more unhealthy to my writing life (see: Scrabulous, Scramble, and/or TV). A lot of this has to do with not reading as much as I should be. I've gotten better of late, finishing Dorothea Laskey's Awe, Graham Foust's Necessary Stranger, Joshua Marie Wilkinson's Suspension of a Secret in Abandoned Rooms, and for the second time, my friend Adam Clay's The Wash, to name a few. I'm trying my damnedest to read more prose, too, though that's not been working quite as well. I just don't seem to have enough of an attention span at the moment, which I guess makes sense because of all the changes coming my way (see: wedding, moving to a new state, and/or starting a Ph.D. program in August). But I can't use any of this as an excuse. If I'm a truly serious writer, I should be devoting my free time to my craft, even if the end result for that first draft is crap. That's something I need to tell myself more. Maybe I should even get a rubber band for around my wrist. I've heard that works. Hmph.

Along with reading, I need music for inspiration or at least to use as a way to calm myself. I'd say it's amazing just how many (good) writers flock to music, but that's not really a new or exciting realization. It's a necessity for most of us and how I justify spending so much of my paycheck on music that's been recommended to me or that I've heard on my favorite XM station. (Sorry, Herm who owns Vertigo in Grand Rapids, this will come to an end in a few weeks with the move. But that's a sidenote.) I honestly believe, and I told my beginning creative writing students this this past spring, you should be very skeptical of any writer who says he/she doesn't love music. I'm sure there are many examples to refute this, which is why I changed my original sentence from "you should never trust any writer who says he/she doesn't love music." But the sentiment remains the same. Who's to say you can't find inspiration in indie-rock? Not me or Mr. Wilkinson for that matter (see Rachel's Music for Egon Schiele and how Suspension was written to it, for example).

Lately, I've been listening to my 17+ day-filled iPod more than just at the gym during workouts. It's been helping some, and I've taken it upon myself to come up with a few mixes, one for a friend leaving for Austin that chronicles her stay in the north and the other for Ander's Jesus birthday, complete with notes on the various degrees of Freemasonry. (Jesus = 33 and Freemasonry has 33 degrees, you know, so it all works.) I broke the rule about ending two mixes with the same song, but oh well. It works so perfectly on both of them. Here are the track listings:

Cindy Goes to Austin: Wherein We Not Only Remember
the Exploits of One CSJ, But Also Guide Her From the

Uppermost Reaches to the Southwesternmost Depths

1. The Wedding Present – I’m From Further North Than You
2. Sufjan Stevens – The Upper Peninsula
3. Ambulance Ltd – Michigan
4. Deerhoof – Lemon & Little Lemon
5. Sea Wolf – Winter Windows
6. Rogue Wave – Lake Michigan
7. Hockey Night – Tubin’
8. Mojave 3 – All Your Tears
9. The Decemberists – Song for Myla Goldberg
10. Muddy Waters – Baby, Please Don’t Go
11. The Delgados – Everything Goes Around the Water
12. Eddie Fisher – Cindy, Oh Cindy
13. Feist – 1 2 3 4
14. Ravens & Chimes – St. Jude in the Village Voice
15. Memphis – Incredibly Drunk on Whiskey
16. Bedhead – Left Behind
17. Okkervil River – A Girl in Port
18. Pavement – Texas Never Whispers
19. Spoon – The Way We Get By
20. Patrick Wolf – The Magic Position

And the next compilation:

The Thirty-Three Degrees of FreeMonsonery Disc 1:

1º Entered Apprentice: The Decemberists – California One/Youth & Beauty Brigade
2º Fellow Craft: Beirut – Nantes
3º Master Mason: Built to Spill – Conventional Wisdom
4º Secret Master: Doves – The Cedar Room
5º Perfect Master: Lou Reed – Perfect Day
6º Intimate Secretary: A.C. Newman - Secretarial
7º Provost and Judge: Robert Johnson – If I Had Possession Over Judgment Day
8º Intendant of the Building: Tom Waits – What’s He Building?
9º Elected Knight of the Nine: Depeche Mode – Policy of Truth
10º Illustrious Elect of the Twelve: Iron & Wine – Freedom Hangs Like Heaven
11º Sublime Knight Elect of the Twelve: The Flaming Lips – One More Robot/Sympathy 3000-21

1º This degree begins a man’s journey into freemasonry and represents youth.
2º This symbolizes man in adulthood and represents work.
3º This degree represents man in old age and relates to wisdom.
4º One’s first steps into our sanctuary are duty, reflection and study.
5º Honesty and trustworthiness are the cornerstones of Masonic honor.
6º In this degree we should learn duty, charity and toleration.
7º We are taught to judge with patience and impartially.
8º We should strive for perfection by building on the great principles God has given us.
9º Truth, candor, and generosity are at the very heart of this degree.
10º This degree teaches toleration of others.
11º We should be sympathetic to our brother masons and to all mankind as well.

The Thirty-Three Degrees of FreeMonsonery Disc 2:

12º Master Architect: The Besnard Lakes – On Bedford and Grand
13º Royal Arch of Solomon: Echo and The Bunnymen – The Cutter
14º Grand Elect, Perfect and Sublime Mason: Calexico – Black Heart
15º Knight of the East (or Sword): New Order – True Faith – 94
16º Prince of Jerusalem: Dean & Britta – Crystal Blue
17º Knight of the East and West: Sufjan Stevens – The Lord God Bird
18º Knight of the Rose Croix: Sea Wolf – The Rose Captain
19º Grand Pontiff: The Shins – The Past and Pending
20º Master of the Symbolic Lodge: Elvis Costello & The Attractions – (What’s So Funny ‘Bout) Peace, Love, and Understanding
21º Noachite: Modest Mouse – Bukowski
22º Prince of Libanus: Norfolk & Western – The New Rise of Labor

12º “Life is what each man makes of it; the optimist turns a trial into a blessing.”
13º Motivated by duty and honor, liberty should be in our mind and our hearts.
14º We learn to reflect and look into ourselves. We should strive to be true to ourselves
and our God.
15º We learn fidelity to obligations and perseverance of purpose under difficulties and
16º This degree deals with charity, fidelity and brotherhood. (see lyrics “I looked up and saw
you / reach down to touch the sky / felt so far below you / but I’m satisfied.”)
17º Loyalty to God is man's primary allegiance; the temporal governments not founded
upon God and His righteousness will inevitably fall.
18º Life and its strengths come from God; we are tolerant of others’ errors and faults.
The rose signifies dawn.
19º We learn from the past and how it affects the present and the way we live in the future.
20º The degree shows us Liberty, Fraternity and Equality. We are taught moral, religious
and philosophical understanding in hope of comprehending the Deity, forces
of nature, good and evil.
21º The degree stresses humility, modesty, and courtesy, which are the true virtues of
Masons/Monsons; arrogance, defamation, and cowardice are not.
22º By doing good work we improve character and become better citizens.

The Thirty-Three Degrees of FreeMonsonery Disc 3:

23º Chief of the Tabernacle: Portishead – Glory Box (Live @ Roseland)
24º Prince of the Tabernacle: Nirvana – Serve the Servants
25º Knight of the Brazen Serpent: Sebadoh – Too Pure
26º Prince of Mercy: Billy Bragg & Wilco – Hesitating Beauty
27º Knight Commander of the Temple: The Futureheads – Help Us Out
28º Knight of the Sun: The Perceptionists – Breathe In the Sun
29º Scottish Knight of Saint Andrew: Stephen Malkmus – Freeze the Saints
30º Knight of the White and Black Eagle: British Sea Power – No Lucifer
31º Inspector Inquisitor: Afghan Whigs – Brother Woodrow/Closing Prayer
32º Master of the Royal Secret: The Arcade Fire – Crown of Love
33º Inspector General: Patrick Wolf – The Magic Position

23º This degree’s apron is white, bordered with red, blue, and purple ribbons. These colors,
from the curtains of the Tabernacle, represent earth, fire, air, and sea, respectively,
as well as the Lord's beneficence, glory, wisdom, and power.
24º We believe in serving humanity through brotherhood.
25º This degree tackles the concept of pure, celestial, eternal soul of man. He looks within
his faith, life, and God and to get a clear look at his inner self.
26º In this degree we search for "the rewards of the trinity of God’s attributes - wisdom
or intelligence, force or strength, harmony or beauty."
27º We should always assist the poor, helpless, and infirm.
28º Our love for God manifests itself in our love for Truth, Justice and Nobility of Soul.
The jewel is a golden sun on the obverse, and a hemisphere, showing the northern
half of the ecliptic and zodiac.
29º The virtues of this degree are “Love of God, loyalty to superiors, faithful adherence to
promise and active resistance to unfair judgment.”
30º We should be true to ourselves, stand for what is right and just in our lives today, and
believe in God, country and ourselves.
31º This degree teaches prayerful self-examination. The mistakes today should not be
committed tomorrow. Simply, the daily look at ones self to learn to live with
the future. An instrumental track feels perfect for this degree.
32º The lessons of this degree are that "genuine brotherhood requires mutual regard,
opinion, esteem, and charity." We always look for the good in all, make
allowances for other's short comings. We trust the Supreme Architect to lead us
to friendship, morality and brotherly love.
33º The Thirty-third Degree is conferred by the Supreme Council upon members of the
Rite in recognition of outstanding work in the Rite or in public life.

For references to the Scottish Rite Degrees (Northern Jurisdiction):

I suppose making a mix is a matter of creativity as well as precision, especially since I typically demand that transitions between songs work. Putting a song to some of those was damn hard. I had to twist some of the explanations into a track and lead to some less interesting choices, at least when compared to the great pride I take in matching "Bukowski" to the twenty-first degree. There's something to all this mix-making. My friend C. tried to write an essay about this, and I might follow her lead and keep thinking about it, keep at finding a way to justify my writerly-laziness by saying I'm doing research. I think I can get away with that. I hope.