Wednesday, July 30, 2008

I'm still a poet, so it would seem

I've Been Loving You
Otis Redding

Otis Redding. Wow. When I hear this man sing something in my soul bubbles up and thrills all over. Why do so many great artists die in plane crashes? If I were a musician I wouldn't ride in planes. The chances of going down seem to be too high.

Yesterday afternoon I had a slightly annoying experience and emailed my friend Beau to whine a bit. Just a quick email, I didn't even think about it really. About twenty minutes after I sent it, Beau returned my email to me, reformatted into a poem. I don't write poems like this usually, or at all, but I dig the results of the reformatted email. Thanks B! He named it

"Paper or Plastic."

I know I'm a painter
People who see me know I'm a painter
My clothes are covered in paint
my shoes too
my hands

But Holy Shitted Diaper of Baby Jesus
I wish people would tell me
when I have paint on my face

I went to Trader Joe's and Ralph's
no one mentioned that I had a Groucho Marx
smear of bronze on my upper lip
and another on my nose

I just saw it when I got home
wonder how long I've been walking around looking like this

Or maybe people just don't look at my face.


I'm working on a new chapbook as well. Getting poems together to see how they play against one another. Too many sad face poems, though. Have to balance that out.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

emotional landscapes


This song moves me, moves me, moves me. I don't know what it is, the lyrics, the strings, something something.

Much love to Vagabond Kitchen here in my delightful neighborhood of South Park. The Vag (my nickname for it) always gets me happy when I need to be lifted. I am a regular at the bar and have met great happiness there. One of those places that are emotional homes and soothing to overworked minds. I know the staff, the regulars and always have fantastic conversations there and good times all around. Oh my love for the freshly baked bread! Oh my tase buds doing joyful backflips over the kung-pao calamari. Oh the five dollar wine list and strange drink experiments of Dave the bartender! Love love love it. And I can walk there. 2 blocks from my hovel. Had to rave. Good things comes from going to the Vag.

Confession time. I am excited about the new Stephenie Meyer book, Breaking Dawn. Yes I read YA. Yes, I love vampires. I love love stories. So, I look forward to the last book in the Twilight series. I'm on Jacob's team, if that makes sense to any of you out there. Jacob reminds me of my beloved friend Osiris. I wouldn't be the least bit surprised if Osiris confessed to me that he too is a werewolf too; in fact, it would explain a lot of things. Can't wait for the book. I almost look forward to it more than I did the last Harry Potter. Almost.

I love to get lost in fantasy. If only it were good for me.

Monday, July 28, 2008

It Ain't Me, Babe

It Ain't Me, Babe
Bob Dylan

I can't believe Margarito beat Cotto. My family had a bash Saturday night for the fight. Puerto Rican and Mexican flags, a buffet of PRican and Mex food. Chaos. Dancing. Bingo. Midnight margaritas. Micheladas. Betting pools. Lovely. I'm not a big party person but I enjoyed watching the madness. I also enjoyed leaving the party and coming back to silence and solitude that has become so much more comforting than humans, lately.

I reread some Cate Marvin this weekend. Good stuff. I very much dig her language and surprises. I just ordered her new book and look forward to getting lost in it.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

day of rest, or whatever

Aimee Mann

This weekend is a bit rough. Too many thoughts swimming around and not one of them wants to sit still on paper or come out the right way. My mind feels too much like a rapidly melting ice cube sometimes. I'm trying, really, to refreeze it into a frame where I can give in to my creativity. But not so much. Not this weekend, at least.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Dorks, ahoy!

It is the season of dorks. Dork mecca. Dorkalicious city my city becomes for four days each year.

Today the Comic Con begins. Yay dorks invading my city! Yay people on storm trooper costumes dancing!! The Comic Con is sold out but. . .a little bird sent me a late night message that a pass has been secured for me. I really shouldn't go. I shouldn't be spending that kind of money. I really should stay home and work on some writing. But, I'm weak. And I heart dorks.

Yesterday I drove up to Orange to see Jeffrey McDaniel and Jack McCarthy read at The Ugly Mug. Excellent poets, both of them. Well worth the drive and the sleepy, singing loudly to myself drive home. They were features at the weekly open mic up there. I usually don't like open mics, I don't have the attention span to sit through them. But I was truly impressed with the quality of the readers last night.

I read my poem "Little Song for Dissatisfaction." Hadn't read it in months, or really even looked at it. I suppose it is a type of love poem, a little perverse. I started shaking when I read it. I don't know if I was nervous or if the poem pissed me off. I wrote most of the poem in a cafe in Paris. Cliche, I know. It was raining hard, a late summer storm and I sat under the awning with my journal and a cup of coffee. Cliche, I know. I wrote the meat of the poem in about an hour then spent months reshaping it. There are poems that are more honest. But it was born in a lovely place, at a lovely time. Even if it bothers me now, I have to honor it.

Siempre Me Quedera

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Sharks, poems, pretty phrases

This is the background on my computer screen these days. Watson and the Shark by John Singleton Copley. I think it is avery provocative painting and I am endlessly fascinated by it. I saw it up close at the Louvre a couple of years ago. It gave me chills. Maybe because it was in a room by itself with dark lighting. Creepy but delicious. I need to write about it. Or write something based on how it makes me feel.

I have several fragments of poems based on pieces of art that I've seen. My 2006 trip to Europe I spent plenty of time in museums. The Louvre, Musée d'Orsay, The Prado. I carried a notebook and whenever a certain piece of art captivated me I tried to write notes about the piece itself or my reaction. I also took many notes just walking the streets of Paris or on the train in Spain. Yes, on the plain. No, no rain. Lots of aging sunflowers with heads too heavy for their stems.

These days I'm carrying a notebook again and jot down phrases and ideas that come to me. I then write them on post-it notes I stick around my office. When I'm stuck with the writing, I use these interesting phrases to inspire me. My favorite post-it is the one with the term "hysterical pregnancy" written on it. A friend was talking about sympathy pains in labor and instead said hysterical pregnancy. I immediately grabbed my stomach in fake despair and started shrieking. It was a good laugh and a great phrase.

I just finished Sold by Patricia McCormick. It was written in free verse. Tiny, ethereal chapters in the voice of a Nepalese girl sold in to sex slavery in India. Heartbreaking. Heart. Breaking. But beautiful. A worthy read. I would have preferred regular narrative but I see what the author was doing. Little flashes of thought. Poems of a life not poetic at all.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Satan's Star

I finally finished an essay I've been playing with for years. Or, I think I've finished it. I'll let it sit for a couple of days then decide decide if I hate it or not.

In my research for the piece, which has to do with my upbringing as a Jehovah's Witness, I discovered the term "Satan's Star." According to the J-Dub doctrines, the north star is Satan's Star. Or Lucifer's Star. See, this is where I agonize over language. "Lucifer's Star" is a beautiful term, four syllables, alliterations; it slides off the tongue seductively, a phrase you could breathe into someone's ear and give them chills. But "Satan's Star" carries punch. Alliteration too. Each word a mellow staccato of "s" and "t." Two words. But, these two words will drive me crazy. The poet in me wrangling words, seeing which combination will work best. Do I want strong or beautiful? Its not even a poem. An essay. Jeeez.

Busy week for a writer who is trying to write and instead decides to go out and be social. Jane Hirschfield is in town tonight, as well as Jack McCarthy. I have dinner with Steve Kowit tomorrow. And Wednesday is going to kill me. I have to decide whether to ditch the first day of Geoff Bouvier's new class at the Ink Spot or go to Orange Country to see Jeffrey McDaniel read at the Ugly Mug. I am very much digging Jeffrey's latest collection of poetry Endarkenment.

Happy Birthday Christian Hunziker! Liebe gruss!

Don't scream "Richie!" You wouldn't be original.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

with or without my best intentions

Last night I slept with the Writer's Market. It was better than sleeping with writers. I got good advice without being condescended to.

I pulled off all the books from my shelves this morning. Then a realized it was very early and my neighbor's bedroom shares a wall with my office. So now there are piles of books everywhere, I can't find anything. But, I dig that in order to leave my office I have to take several huge steps over sandcastle-delicate piles. Books between the outside world and me, as usual. Books dangerous. Books threatening to take me down. Please do.

Trying to get some things finished to submit to San DIego Writer's Ink forthcoming anthology. The deadline is August 1.

The Writer's Market won't, betcha.

Friday, July 18, 2008


Digging deep is kicking my emotional ass. I'm still not so into the poesia. Too much in there now to write, too much of the strangest year ever. My friend Scott Benefiel, artist extraordinaire, told me that my life could be Sandra Bullock movie, so awkwardly bad it has been the last half year or so. But, let the credits roll, I'm out of this dumb film. Killing the bastard actors and casting myself in something quieter.

Working on some essays that are proving harder to write than I imagined they would. Seems like the things I want to write about are tied into old hurts that come screaming like angry dragons when I put them on paper. When I start to cry when I write the malaise sweeps me off and I find myself on the sofa bed in my office, staring at the ceiling fan going 'round and 'round, bad hypnosis for a sore mind.

This weekend, after the parade, I will take the advice of all the heroes and heroines I've been reading in their quest novels, I will stand strong and piss in the dragon's mouth when he comes to roar and let him know I'm in charge of the narrative and his bad breath and stink can get the hell out. I'm on.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Tiempo Suficiente

I'm back and getting back.

Going deep to squeeze old uglies and out them to rest on paper, forever I hope or at least for this year. I actually have work in the mail for the first time in who knows how long. I've revised a couple of poems in ways that make me happy I abandoned then for months or years. Reading some truly great writing as well and will post my ideas on what has been swimming in my mind when I have more than a moment.

Juliete Venegas
Seria Feliz

Monday, July 14, 2008

The Story and The End

I took this video yesterday.

Waiting for the bus to take me to the airport, I will tell the story of my uncle clearing the beach in Negril. Jamaica is laid back, way so and chill. Despite it being a cliche, it is not unusual to really hear yah mon, no problem. Negril was tranquil, peaceful, all other adjectives used to described beaches with calm, tourmaline seas and jungle foliage. Our hotel wasn't super-swank but it was very nice, on the beach. And safe. Everyone had a safe in their room and the staff was vigilant to make sure no one came on to the property who wasn't a guest.

About Paranoid Uncle. We love him, he is a sweet guy. But, he is paranoid about being robbed or cheated all of the time. He makes sure that every day the staff at the doggy care camp where his pup is staying writes him. Daily updates. They write things like "She loves the round pillow more than the square one." Details are not left unnoticed. He writes to ask how she is eating and how her potty habits are and if they have changed.

One morning last week the whole family was in the sea. All of us floating like flotsam on foam, nursing mango-coladas, dozing and happy happy happy. The paranoid Uncle was on the beach slathering on the SPF 80. He disappeared for a moment then came barreling down the beach towards the water. Now, the Paranoid Uncle used to be svelte. In the eighties. Rotund is a more appropriate term to describe him now. He came running down the beach and his wife, my aunt, never having seen him run so fast started screaming "What?! What?!" He came down to the water's edge and said desperately "We've been cleaned out! I went to our room and the safe is EMPTY!"

It was like a scene from a movie. Everyone streamed out of the water, the entire family (moving faster than I have ever seen them) and the rest of the guests from the hotel. Everyone scrambling to grab their towel, run to their rooms and see if they too had been cleaned out. I was no different from anyone else and ran to see if my belongings were there. They were. I went out of my room and encountered a huddle of maids outside my Paranoid Uncle's building. They were standing close together, shaking their heads in annoyance. One said "How him be so dumb?"

I heard screams of laughter coming from the beach. As I approached I heard the family laughing, saw them clutching at each other, bent over and cracking the funk up. My mom caught her breath long enough to tell me that my Paranoid Uncle had gone into the wrong room. An empty room the maids were cleaning. He walked in, made a beeline for the safe and once he saw it open he became blind to the fact that not only had they cleaned out the safe, they rearranged the furniture, moved the window and took the rest of their luggage. We will never let him forget it.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

little bit chaos, lot of funny

Almost at the end of the family vacay. We are now in Ocho Rios at one of those huge all-inclusive resorts where every staff member is obliged to greet each guest with a perfunctory wide grin and "Good Mornin'/Day/Evenin', Mi'lady." The "Mi'lady" part is what freaks me out. I'm not anybody's lady, or at least in that sense of the word. Part of the all-inclusive deal is all you can drink alcohol and all you can eat food. It costs about $30 just to take a taxi into town, and so everyone stays on property. Hell, why leave the resort and actually see Jamaica when the best parts of Jamaica are here? Why venture into the crowded streets? Why have to drive through parts of the island that are poor? Come to a resort. It is safe. Clean. You're well-fed, well-pampered. Everyone wears a uniform. Its like any other resort in the world, but with steel drums. I hate it here.

The family is still chaos and endearingly so. I am managing to steal enough solitude so that I keep my sanity. Last night after an ill-fated attempt at the on-site nightclub (I don't do the electric slide. . .), I found a spot to watch the sea and smoke. Down on the shore, several honeymooners frolicked romantically in the waves, oddly illuminated in the electric blue fluorescence of the Sandals sign. As much as I wanted to go swimming I couldn't force myself to. Not in that light, not wanting to be the only single woman in the electric sea with people in lurve. My family was sleeping. I headed to the garden sat with my smoke and the moon loved my aloneness as much as I could.

Today is the family party. It is part reunion, part birthday party for one of the family matriarchs. 300 people are expected to show up. I saw the seating chart, Jamaican dignitaries, officials from the church, family from every corner. I look forward to the gathering. 300 people in a tent.

When I have more time I will write about how my uncle cleared out the entire beach in Negril with four sentences. He is a bit of a worried traveler. A little bit tense. Nervous. He is the one gripping the seat in the picture I posted above. The bus, at that moment, was parked.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Family and other intricate things

Traveling with the family has been fascinating. More family arrived last night and our numbers near twenty. I am in an odd place, age wise. I am right in the middle of who I used to consider the adults and the kids. I don't belong to the kids anymore, most of them being teenagers with bikinis that make my jaw drop. But nor am I off the group wearing full-piece bathing suits with attached skirts to cover their hips and booties. Last night at dinner I sat at the "young" end of the table and was silent as everyone gushed about their prom, college roommates, boys etc. I cast my hearing to the "adult" end of the table and couldn't fit into the conversation about the difficulties of raising teenagers and nostalgic stories about each person met their spouse. I've always been the odd bird in the family and it is somewhat comforting to see my role hasn't changed.

My family is loud. I'm sitting at the beach this morning listening to their noise. (Along with the trance music from the bar. . .) There are few other guests at our hotel besides our clan. I think I would be annoyed by us were I alone. The air is rampant with calls to one another and jokes, admonitions about bug repellant, sunscreen. Yesterday my father came up to me and said "Man, everyone is trying to sell me janga." I think he meant ganja. My dad and uncles think it is great fun to shout "Yah mon!" to each other at every opportunity. All in all, it is entertaining. We are actually hilarious. My grandmother's hearing aide battery died and she has been shouting everything. I sit in my zen-ish mood and dig it.

Yesterday we walked along the beach into town. We ate jerk chicken from a street vendor and bought random things at a craft market. I'm not much of a shopper and instead like to watch the humans as they interact.

My mom just came up to me and asked me to help her fasten her "Rastafork" ankle bracelet. She thinks if she wears Jamaican colors she won't be bothered as much by vendors.

Today I will spend most of my day in the water. No shopping with the adults. No banana boat with the bikini kids. Me and the sea, a beer or three, and as much buoyancy as the day will permit.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

impressions, or something

After 23 hour of travel my my family and I have made it safely to Jamaica.

Jamaica, at least in landscape, reminds of me a bit of Cuba and Puerto Rico. Green green green; gorgeous cliffs, flamboyant trees with rioting orange flowers that seem to have long tongues to catch the rain that falls each afternoon. I arrived exhausted but forced myself to stay awake to enjoy the drive from Montego Bay to Negril.

As soon as we arrived in Negril late yesterday afternoon, I put on my bathing suit and slipped into the ocean. I stayed in the water until the sun set and the moon was a tiny little crescent above the storm clouds. A baptism of sorts, or another. Family lore has it that when I was an infant, my Puerto Rican infant took it upon himself to baptize me in the Caribe so that I would always return. Twenty nine years later, I am back again and feel, as always, a homecoming when I enter the water. Little crabs danced on the shore, moving towards the water then retreating when a wave came. I floated on my back, eyes to sky for hours. It was sublime.

The ten other people I am traveling with are wonderful because they are my family, but it is difficult for me to travel in a herd; taking over restaurants, shouting to hear each other. But I suppose we do that at home too, when we get together. I think my dad feels the same way about group travel. While I was swimming yesterday I saw him escape onto the beach with a beer. A few minutes later I looked up and saw him sitting with a Rastafarian man who had a guitar. They were singing together. No doubt my dad was trying to teach him some Mexican song, music being one of those international languages that exists without need for translation.

Five more or our clan arrive today, with more arriving tomorrow. It should be interesting. It always is.

I ate way too much jerk chicken last night, accompanied by too many Red Stripe beers and slept early and soundly, though I was rattled by odd dreams of oxen attacking. And a place I've never been but I am going to soon.

love love love, lizz. The writing has finally come. It is finally here. I am elated.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Jamaican Me Crazy

Tomorrow we embark, forty of my Puerto Rican relatives, to Jamaica for one week. Insanity. Chaos. Earlier family reunions have included getting kicked out out of hotels for fighting, break-dancing competitions, dominos, and more rum punch than you can shake a Puerto Rican flag at.

I may be put in contact with a friend of a friend who is the hub of some Jamaican writers. It is always my intent when I travel, to meet writers from the place I am going to. We will see. I may be embroiled in way too much wackiness to even get out of the family huddle.

I wish myself luck.

Friday, July 4, 2008


Not blogging. Work has been physically and psychically exhausting.

But it is the Fourth of July and there is a TWILIGHT ZONE marathon on!!!! Going to get my geek on. Happily.

Countdown to Jamaica, three days. . .