I Am Big. It's the Pictures That Got Small

for those wonderful people out there in the dark

29 April 2006

Atticus de la Smarme

At least that's my new name, according to this nifty Poet Name Generator. It's "Gwendolyn Blatherfroth," if I wish to use a female pen name. The Internet just gets better and better. Anyway, try your own name, and see if it doesn't inspire you!

28 April 2006

Athens, Georgia, September

No, I am not in this picture, but I am the one who took it. I'll leave it to your imagination as to what I was wearing.

The chap on the left is my oldest brother Allan, a successful realtor living in Boise.

The young man wearing #5 (Jared Zabransky's number) is my son Carson, who lives in Nashville, Tennessee.

This is before the BSU-Georgia game (see the posts from summer and fall 2005), still hours before it starts, but we've already walked miles and miles, taking a lot of good natured ribbing (and a little crap) from the Bulldog faithful--as if that weren't expected.

Go Broncos!

26 April 2006

Why I Left Idaho, or Too Few Margaret Ahos

Stanrod House reading, Pocatello, Idaho, 1982. Kim Stafford, Steve Puglisi, Gerald Grimmett, Rick Ardinger, Alan Minskoff, Bill Studebaker, Gino Sky, Bruce Embree, Dave Lopez, Don Powell and Harald Wyndham. Got Testosterone?

While I am from Boise, Pocatello did vie as the Idaho poetry capital in the early 80s (Alan Minskoff was a part of the Boise scene). Anyway, this picture really says it all about what was so very wrong about Idaho poetry. I say this, too, still having much admiration for Rick Ardinger, Kim Stafford, and especially William Studebaker. But this photo represents all the homogeneity, misogyny, and complacency that told me I had to get out of that state in 1981. These days, so much more is happening there, with poets like Janet Holmes, Diane Raptosh, Margaret Aho, and Robert Wrigley deepening the quality of poetry in the Gem State.

Perhaps my favorite of these poets is Margaret Aho.

Now, another disclaimer, Margaret's son Kevin is a colleague of mine at FGCU; he teaches philosophy, and he ended up here after getting his Ph.D. at the U. of South Florida. I met Margaret in 1993 when I was teaching at Idaho State (where her husband Jim is a leading expert on hate groups), at the Walrus & Carpenter bookstore run by Will Petersen: truly an oasis.

Margaret's poetry is spare, improvisation, but layered rather richly. Her first book of poetry is the brilliant Carpal Bones, followed by The Only Light We Read By, published by Limberlost Press, which is run by the forementioned Rick Ardinger. A good example of her work you can find at Verse Daily, in her poem "Exactly at Midnight." The poem is of dream logic, of a kind of post-modern masterwork and palimpsest, of a kind of mad love affair with the language, and of a kind of narrative frame that suggests a fractured and fracturing fairy tale. Wise, smart, and brilliant, and I would use Margaret's work as Exhibit A in my defense against those who whine about contemporary poetry's insularity, dullness, and witlessness.

25 April 2006


At the Academy of American Poets web site is a feature called "Life/Lines," a selection of passages most meaningful to a reader. The editor selected my choice of lines from Sylvia Plath's "Poppies in October." Click on the Life/Lines logo to see what I wrote: scroll to April 25, and you'll find it.

My favorite selections were chosen by Nick Carbo, Dean Young, Chase Twichell, Mary Jo Bang, and Kathleen Sullivan. Anyway, it's a fun and generous feature for National Poetry Month. Oh, and for the record, I do teach at a nondescript state university, but I do have some lovely colleagues and lovely students who keep me honest.

24 April 2006

Minor Poets

Since I mentioned a connection to a relatively well known poet, Dean Young, which did come off a little smarmy in my last post, and since I just can't seem to say enough about Denise Duhamel, an even better known poet, I thought it might be good for me to discuss a handful of other poets I know who would likely describe themselves as "minor" poets. They might be known only within a city, or state, or even regionally, perhaps having won a few awards along the way, and even a few book publications, but they are poets who really smart people about poetry know are the real deal.

And yes, I will only name those folks I actually know, just to keep it a little entertaining for myself, and to keep this blog still all about me. Anyway, over the coming months, I'll post little assessments of poets including some of my favorite Florida poets, Michael Hettich, Jesse Millner, and Mia Leonin, some of my old I.U. M.F.A. pals, Don Boes, Dan Bourne, Kevin Stein, Keith Ratzlaff, and some of my Idaho poet friends, Margaret Aho and Diane Raptosh. Something for all you readers out there to look forward to.

23 April 2006

Pulitzer Prize

Pretty appalling that the Pulitzer Prize in biography did not go to Joan Didion, but that's another matter.

About the Pulitzer in Poetry, the winner is a bit of a surprise, one that doesn't displease me entirely. The winning book is Late Wife by Claudia Emerson. The other two finalists were American Sublime by Elizabeth Alexander and Elegy on a Toy Piano by Dean Young.

What's a little unsettling for me is that all three poets are about my age (just a year or two older than I am). And what is pleasing is that none of their books is a selected or collected edition, which all too often the Pulitzer goes to, an easy way to offer a life-time achievement recognition rather than a serious consideration of individual books. Anyway, I've followed these three poets since their first books (in fact, I taught Alexander's The Venus Hottentot and Young's Design with X when they came out). So, on one hand, I'm very pleased with these nominations, especially with Dean Young. Of course, we were in the M.F.A. program at Indiana at the same time, took about three workshops together, etc., but at the time he was a goofy narrative poet, not quite yet discovering Frank O'Hara, John Ashbery, and the whole New York School thing.

On the other hand, even though I admire these poets, I cannot quite think of Emerson's lovely, quiet book being the best of 2005. Her poetry is incredibly clean, and her subject matter very personal and arresting in this book (which might explain how Emerson could be attractive to judges Ted Kooser and Mary Karr--Kooser, though, has championed Emerson earlier this year, awarding her a Wittner Byner fellowship). Her poetry is precise, careful, perceptive, and measured. But these very strengths make the poems cold to me, and they represent what is wrong with the arguments made by Kooser, Collins, and Dana Gioia about contemporary poetry. It takes true genius for this kind of poetry to work, to have the harrowing skirting just above these well-trimmed gardens. Emily Dickinson, yes! Or even Philip Larkin's meanness will do. Or even Elizabeth Bishop's carnival beneath the formal veneer. I would, however, argue that Emerson's work exceeds Kooser, Collins, and Gioia, and she's far closer to that kind of genius than any of these smug men.

16 April 2006

Leslie Norris, Muriel Spark

Recent news of the deaths poet Leslie Norris and fiction writer Muriel Spark.

Norris was a Welsh poet, taking up the mantle of Dylan Thomas, at least as far as using the natural landscape as a grounding to his poetry. He ended up at BYU in the early eighties, which alone should kill any other comparisons (which are inherently unfair) to Thomas. Heard him read a number of times out west, an elegant reader, gentlemanly.

Muriel Spark is someone I admired since I read The Girl of Slender Means as an undergraduate: I liked her piercing comedy, amid the aloof observations, all hovering above the grave, too. Her skinny little novels, too, had such range, even goofiness, in their subject matter--her interests seemed less novelistic to me, but more psychological and poetic. Shimmering and deep.

Both writers lived productively into their 80s, too, which I find comforting and admirable.

14 April 2006


One of my perverse goals with this blog was to create the least read blog on the Internet.

In December, however, I received one comment (and the only one sent to me via the blog), from one of the editors of the Sensual Poets of 2006 calendar. The poets I do know on the calendar are indeed good poets, but I still think the project is ripe for a little ribbing.

Then this month, my friend Jesse Millner told me he's starting reading this stuff, even the Boise State observations. Well, that just tore it. My experiment has failed, and time to say Uncle.

So I've decided to sell out with this blog, transform it slightly in theme toward poetry and other observations--okay, so that really doesn't change a thing in the content. But I will abandon the focus on Boise State football (I do have one last posting to devote there), to appease my fan base of one or two of you. I will also add lots of poetry links, and I'll probably exert more time praising those I admire and ignoring those beneath me. No more consideration to the Foetry jokesters. No more sniveling over Billy Collins; other poetasters; etc.

As a gesture toward the self-absorption that is blogging, I've added some details to my profile (that 8 different folks have looked up already--darn you each!), nearly all of them sincere, and I'll be adding more links, etc., for your pleasures.

05 April 2006

Foetry Stagnation

Decided to go back to the Foetry web site and check up on the latest witch-hunt. Here's their current unmasking:
As I feared, the CLMP "ethics" guidelines, endorsed by numerous presses, has generated the first faux-winner in a contest. Joshua Kryah's Glean was the talk of this year's AWP conference because it's the alleged winner of the 2005 Nightboat Poetry Prize, selected by "esteemed" poet, Donald Revell. Strangely enough, Kryah is a PhD student in the creative writing program at UNLV, where he surely knows and/or studies with Revell's wife, Claudia Keelan.
Oh dear, oh dear. Now, there could be a conflict of interest here, that Donald Revell really did have enough time on his hands after reviewing dissertations, grading papers, assessing programs and such at Utah to read all the poems by his wife's students and by students who didn't even take her classes at UNLV, and he's going to remember these students who may or may not have taken classes from his wife and recall all their work that he may or may not have read. And somehow, he's going to owe an allegiance to this student (based on what exactly?) and purposely favor the student's work on this one advantage. What's hilarious is that none of the finalists have any connections to Utah, UNLV, Revell, or Keelan--but I guess that's just proof of Revell's cunning.

These McCarthy-like attacks are obvious enough.

What's also obvious is that Foetry has had its fifteen minutes. It'll keep going along out of sheer meanness and self-righteousness, bucking up its 20 regular posters and feeding the insecurity of unaccomplished poets who believe their work isn't getting published only because of these conspiracies to thwart their talent. Ho-hum.