Wednesday Musings

This is how I feel and what I’d like to be doing. For those of you who don’t know, that’s my dog, Kweli, and yes, he sleeps like a cat.


I’m sure when Elizabeth Alexander agreed to be the inaugural poet, she knew she’d be up for some criticism. Well, buck up Liz, because the claws have come out:

From the Seattle Post:

The problem is, by no stretch is her poem a poem at all. While as a stilted monologue it had a suggestion of lean appeal, far better than the greeting card goo Maya Angelou cranks out and insists on calling poetry, Alexander’s effort is the product of a limited imagination, an academic approach to rhythm and an anorexic understanding of imagery.

From The Guardian:

Even when writing for a public occasion and a vast audience, the poet should be able to renew language by being precise, surprising, unhackneyed. Otherwise, what is the point of such a commission? Alexander is a true people’s poet, but she has written better poems for the people than this one.

From the Baltimore Sun:

Elizabeth Alexander’s inauguration day poem, “Praise Song for the Day”, has drawn praise — and sharp criticism — from Read Street readers. But there’s no denying it got everyone’s attention. Funny how a poet can live in relative obscurity and be launched to stardom by a few minutes in front of TV cameras.

From Times Online (UK):

Praise Song for the Day was unmemorable. How do I know that for sure? Why, because I can’t remember it. Two minutes after it was spoken I couldn’t remember it. Our columnist, David Baddiel, wondered whether he couldn’t spot the Secret Service agents hastily removing the bullet-proof screens as she spoke; oh, I suppose that’s going a little far. But only just.

If you missed Alexander’s reading yesterday, here it is.

Do I think it is the greatest poem ever written? No. But I would like to point out that prior to Alexander’s reading, many critics remarked at how impossible the task of of writing an inaugural poem is. I’m not making excuses for for Alexander, but it seems to me that people are criticizing the poem for the very same reason that a lot of Americans are going to embrace it. It was simplistic, it was prosy, but it was also image driven and easy to understand. For those who thought Alexander should have written a more formal verse, well, a majority of the American public isn’t going to know what a spondee or a ceasura is. Is this a separate problem? Perhaps. Am I slamming forms? No. I like forms. I try to do my best by them, but imagine you’re writing a poem that will be heard by 1 million plus people? I’m not sure any contemporary poet can imagine that, so while I feel some of the criticism is warranted, I honestly think some of it is sour grapes.

Has Alexander written better poems? Of course she has. Who said this was supposed to be the crowning jewel in her career? Remember, she was chosen. It isn’t like she raised her hand and said “Oooo! Pick me!” In fact, I think most poets would be flattered and then horrified at the prospect of what Alexander was asked to do. As far as I know poets don’t sit down and say, “Now I’m going to write the poem that I will be known for for the rest of my life.” Yet, for some reason people expect that Alexander was supposed to do this with her inaugural poem. This doesn’t seem fair.

Also, the comment about remembering an inaugural poem? I’d be surprised if many American’s remembered an inaugural poem. I’m a poet and I don’t remember any. The focus of the inauguration is not poetry, nor is it music, or worship. These are all mere vehicles for celebration, and what I think is more important is that poetry is still part of that celebration.

I think Frost said it best when he responded to JFK’s request to read at his inauguration:


Saturday (Snow!) Musings

It is snowing! I know that in January the novelty of this will wear off when I’ve cleaned my car off for the 100th time but for right now it puts me in the holiday spirit. Living in Indiana makes me a lot less annoyed with snow than when I was in Pennsylvania. There is no lake effect here and if we do get a lot of snow, it’s more of a treat.

The Nutcracker was lovely. They put on an excellent production and because I love the mushrooms from Fantasia so much, I’ve posted a link below. Is it wrong that I giggle helplessly when I watch this?

Here it is.

As my sister put it, “Aw! Le petit arbe de noel!”

Below are three photos chronicling Kweli’s introduction to my “Jammin Snowman.” As you can see, he isn’t very sure of the whole situation.

Monday Musings

This weekend my mom and sister drove in from Erie and we went to the Vera Bradley trunk show. It was awesome. I bought $250 worth of stuff for $98. My mom got a bunch of presents for her friends and we’re already making plans to go to the one in May. We also spent some time at Trader Joes and the T.J. Max Home store. Erie isn’t exactly the shopping mecca of the world, so we like to get our shop on when they come.

Kwe finished his first week at doggie school. He received good marks on his “report card” and I’m going to work with him on the skills that they introduced him to. I might take him back in about a month, but we’ll see. I am intrigued by this medication proposition, so I’m going to call the vet this week and get some more information.

Here is your weekly fall poem:

Frog Autumn

Summer grows old, cold-blooded mother.
The insects are scant, skinny.
In these palustral homes we only
Croak and wither.

Mornings dissipate in somnolence.
The sun brightens tardily
Among the pithless reeds. Flies fail us.
he fen sickens.

Frost drops even the spider. Clearly
The genius of plenitude
Houses himself elsewhwere. Our folk thin

Sylvia Plath

Madonna never stops.

When I heard about the message that Alec Baldwin left his daughter, I thought he was an idiot. However, this article brings up an interesting point that I had never considered:

In short, it’s the women­folk who make the kids hate Dad. Dad then spirals out of control and leaves an obscene, emotionally violent message for his prepubescent daughter on her cellphone (as Baldwin notoriously did in 2007, calling her, among other things, a “rude, thoughtless little pig”). The message is leaked to the press, which really makes you wonder which parent should be tied to the back of a pickup truck and dragged down a gravel road at night, but nevertheless the father is left with egg on his face, and his daughter with one person fewer on her speed dial.

Check out the rest of the article from the NY Times.

Wednesday Musings

Yesterday when I went to pick Kweli up from doggie school, they asked me if I had ever considered “putting him medication.” Apparently his anxiety is inhibiting his ability to learn, and they think adding medication (for a short period of time) with his training may help him become a more productive canine member of society. I wasn’t offended at the suggestion and I’ve been mulling it over in my mind but (and you knew there was going to be a but) here’s the thing…

He’s an anxious dog. I know this and I know it causes him to loose focus, which makes getting him to do anything difficult. However, because he needs so much structure, it would make sense that these daily trips to doggie school are stressing him out. It isn’t that I’m not open to medicating him, but I guess I have a similiar reaction to most parents when the school nurse calls saying your child may have ADHD and we want to put them on ritalin. Let’s give it just a little more time…

So low in behold when I arrive today to pick him up, Megan, his trainer, informs me that he was much calmer and overall less stressed. In her words “he was like a whole other dog.” So I’m confident that he may not have to go on doggie prozac just yet.

Henri Cole Receives the Lenore Marshall Prize$25,000 for the year’s most outstanding book of poetry
New York, October 1—The Academy of American Poets announced today that Henri Cole’s Blackbird and Wolf (Farrar, Straus & Giroux) was chosen by poets Lucie Brock-Broido, B. H. Fairchild, and John Koethe to receive the 2008 Lenore Marshall Poetry Prize, which awards $25,000 to the most outstanding book of poetry published the previous year.

About Cole’s winning book, judge John Koethe remarked:
Henri Cole has become one of his generation’s most assured and accomplished poets, and Blackbird and Wolf is a powerful and masterful book: powerful in the psychological directness of its self-scrutiny, and masterful in its achievement of a poetry so artful it almost seems artless.
Henri Cole was born in Fukuoka, Japan, in 1956 and raised in Virginia. His volumes of poetry include: Blackbird and Wolf (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2007); Middle Earth, which received the 2004 Kingsley Tufts Poetry Award; The Visible Man; The Look of Things; The Zoo Wheel of Knowledge; and The Marble Queen. He has held many teaching positions and been the artist-in-residence at various institutions, including Smith College, Reed College, Brandeis, Columbia, Harvard, and Yale Universities. He currently teaches at Ohio State University.

Great E-panel on Upstart Publishers on Emerging Writers…

Tuesday Musings

Kwe survived his first day at school. The highlights of my “parent” conference occurred when the trainer told me 1.) your dog is not other dog aggressive. He is other dog inappropriate. 2.) Your dog is insecure. In short, we have to provide Kwe with lots of structure and heavily socialize him with other dogs. I’m interested to see what the rest of the week brings.

I’m still enjoying my creative writing class. Today was especially interesting…

I’ll post more tomorrow. I’m starting to get the “I’ve stared too long at the computer screen” headache…

Monday Musings

Today is Kwe’s first day at doggie school. I think I (sort of) understand how parents feel when they drop their kids off at school the first day. I’ve been thinking about him all day, but I haven’t gotten any phone calls, so I assume he’s doing fine.

Mac Update: Our computer problems are only getting worse. In addition to not recognizing the battery, now the back light for the screen doesn’t work. We’re going to pay the $280 to send it to Apple.

This is pretty cool.

Your fall poem for the week:

Underwater Autumn
Now the summer perch flips twice and glides
a lateral fathom at the first cold rain,
the surface near to silver from a frosty hill.
Along the weed and grain of log he slides his tail.

Nervously the trout (his stream-toned heart
locked in the lake, his poise and nerve disgraced)
above the stirring catfish, curves in bluegill dreams
and curves beyond the sudden thrust of bass.

Surface calm and calm act mask the detonating fear,
the moving crayfish claw, the stare
of sunfish hovering above the cloud-stained sand,
a sucker nudging cans, the grinning maskinonge.

How do carp resolve the eel and terror here?
They face so many times this brown-ribbed fall of leaves
predicting weather foreign as a shark or prawn
and floating still above them in the paling sun.

Richard Hugo

Rainy Sunday

Thanks to Ike, the weather today has been gray and rainy. Luckily Kwe and I got in our two mile walk yesterday afternoon. Today, we’ve had to settle for short jaunts outside, while I try to keep the rain off my glasses and Kwe tries to keep the rain out of his ears.

Speaking of Ike, thankfully the damage was not as severe as it could have been. I lived in Denton, TX (45 minutes from Dallas) when I was attending UNT for grad school, so I have some friends who braved the weather this weekend in Houston.

A biker rides along a portion of the sea wall that had been cleared of debris from Hurricane Ike in Galveston, Texas, on Saturday.


I consider myself and animal advocate, and I don’t really understand how you hire someone who is unfamiliar with animals to run Animal Control for the city of Indianapolis.

Sadly, the literary community has suffered another devestating loss. David Foster Wallace killed himself September 12, 2008. I first became aware of Wallace when I took a seminar at MSU about the power of humor in non-fiction. The professor leading the class gave us Wallace’s essay, Consider the Lobster. His work is brilliant and difficult and I am sorry to hear of his death.


Every author wants to sell books, to please his or her publisher, to reap critical accolades and to bask in the admiration of colleagues, and Wallace did want those things, at the same time that he was more than a little embarrassed by such desires and acutely aware of the fact that none of it could make him happy. However, all great writers — and I have no doubt that he was one — have a preeminent purpose: to tell the truth. David Foster Wallace’s particular vocation was to allow us to see just how fraught and complicated, how difficult yet how necessary, that telling had become — not just for him, but for all of us. What will we do without him?

From the NY Times:
David Foster Wallace used his prodigious gifts as a writer — his manic, exuberant prose, his ferocious powers of observation, his ability to fuse avant-garde techniques with old-fashioned moral seriousness — to create a series of strobe-lit portraits of a millennial America overdosing on the drugs of entertainment and self-gratification, and to capture, in the words of the musician Robert Plant, the myriad “deep and meaningless” facets of contemporary life.

Monday Musings

This weekend was a roller coaster. Usually, I try to post during the weekend, but Friday afternoon I managed to dump a glass of Crystal Light lemonade onto our Macbook. It wasn’t pretty, but R’s quick thinking may have saved the machine. He turned it upside down on a dry surface and immediately took the battery out. We let it “dry” for 24 hours and Saturday we managed get it turned on. Remarkably, the computer works just fine. There is a small amount of screen damage to the lower right hand corner, but otherwise all programs work well. The biggest problem is that the computer will not recognize the battery. We’re exploring the options and yes, I am kicking myself repeatedly.

Greekfest was fun but somewhat marred by the computer fiasco. The lines were long and the food was overpriced, but it was delicious. My favorite item of the evening came when I was introduced to the “baklava” sundae. Yes, it is as sweet as it sounds. It’s composed of a scoop of vanilla ice cream, a scoop of gooey baklava, and a drizle of chocolate syrup. Yum!

Oktoberfest (Saturday) found me in a better frame of mind and I enjoyed myself even though there wasn’t much German about the event. RJ and I rode on the Ferris Wheel and the Paratrooper (R’s favorite) and we drank some beer. We had a good time with friends,- and I’m glad we went.

I took Kweli on a long walk yesterday. We walked along the canal, through Rocky Ripple, all the way to Butler’s campus and back. I like walking Kwe, even though he get’s over stimulated and has slight ADD. I like being outdoors and it was a beautiful day. That being said, I wish other dog owners/walkers would be a little more aware when they walked their pets. This woman was walking her dog (looked like a beagle mix) and she crept up right behind me without even letting me know she was there. So she startled Kweli and she startled me, which caused me to stop, and let her go ahead. The same goes for bikers and joggers. Say “passing on your left or right” don’t creep up behind a walker and then almost run them off the road. Maybe someday when I have more time I’ll right a trail etiquette book.

Your fall poem for today:


I didn't know I was grateful
for such late-autumn
bent-up cornfields

yellow in the after-harvest
sun before the
cold plow turns it all over

into never.
I didn't know
I would enter this music

that translates the world
back into dirt fields
that have always called to me

as if I were a thing
come from the dirt,
like a tuber,

or like a needful boy. End
Lonely days, I believe. End the exiled
and unraveling strangeness.

~ Bruce Weigl

Two interesting articles about Robert Giroux. A tribute and then an article about missed oportunities.

I love this idea. We sometimes forget about muses.