Saturday, January 18, 2014

Read Things! Or, Listen to Me Go On and On About Sleeping With the Dictionary

I'm coming strong into my fourth week of quitting internet games cold turkey. No Candy Crush. No Bubble Safari. I blocked all games and game request features on Facebook and I am too dumb to figure out how to unblock them, which is definitely for the best. I told Will that if I say something about internet games, he has to come and forcibly remove my computer from in front of me. I say this because the past four weeks have been productive in ways that I wasn't productive last year. I'm sick of wasting my time doing things that don't serve me.

Since the first of the year, I've already read thirteen books--which, shamefully, is just under the total number I finished last year. I don't want to jinx myself, but jinxing yourself is a chance you've got to take sometimes--high jinx!

Of the ones I've read so far this month, I'm still inwardly (and sometimes outwardly) flipping my lid over one of them: Sleeping With the Dictionary by Harryette Mullen.

The way I came into this book is magical in itself. I was on the phone yesterday with Erica, who's at her very first residency out at Bennington's MFA program (!!), and she told me that one of their workshop prompts was to write a poem in the style of Harryette Mullen. I said to her, "I don't know who Harryette Mullen is." As she was saying these words: "Harryette Mullen wrote a book called Sleeping With the Dictionary," Will came scooting into the bedroom and tossed Sleeping With the Dictionary into my hands. It took me a second to realize what was going on; it was one of those strange moments that is simultaneously mundane and mysterious. Will had checked the book out of the library while I was away a few weeks ago. I took it as a sign.

I spent all day with the book, and it took me a few poems to catch on to what was happening there. The way that Mullen uses language made me literally scream a few times. I read most of the poems aloud, and I didn't want it to end. I'm not surprised at all that Sleeping With the Dictionary was nominated for the National Book Award when it came out in 2002. And about that: how did you, my friends, let me go so long without reading this? Shame on you all! Shame! (I have used up all of my exclamation points for the year in this one blog post.)

The poem I liked most is called Kirstenography, which I assume is written for Mullen's sister. The whole poem is written like the game Mad Gab, or like a child who is imitating language she hasn't quite picked up yet, or like a secret language between the sisters:

When her smoother and farther wrought her chrome from the hose spittle, her cistern fought the piddle ably was a girly heeded bawl. 

It's a story of a family, of two girls. The prose poem goes on like this for a page and a half. I can't even tell you how many times I read it. Over and over.

You should definitely read the book for yourself. Mullen uses language in so many surprising, inventive ways, I felt as if I were being let into somebody's secret world, which is probably just one aim of Sleeping With the Dictionary.

Anyway, I'm done rambling about this book, though I could say much more. Find it in your library or buy it from a bookstore. I'll probably end up purchasing it for myself sometime in the near future.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Some Thoughts on Plagiarism

Somebody even typed & scanned this bad boy.
Many of you probably know that I wrote a very short poem in graduate school that was co-opted by a group of who I assume to be teenage girls. It was reblogged all over Tumblr, and I didn't know until one afternoon when Will yelled "Holy crap, come look at this!"

I was super flattered, of course, and still am. But I guess all these people have been plagiarizing that poem. The sentiment of the poem is basic. I'm sure other people have had the same thought, but the ripoffs are blatant. And terrible, at that.

I never thought that this would be a problem I have. I call it a problem, but it's not really a problem. It's more of a nuisance. My mom used to tell me and my sister (and told me again on the phone the other day) that imitation is the most sincere form of flattery. But I can think of flattering things to do that are way better than plagiarizing my poem.

For instance, send me a dollar. Or a muffin.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Being Rejected

Here I am, almost two weeks into this new year we have. I am drinking a Coke Zero and neglecting to water my cactus. What are you doing?

I have the idea that if I blog more this year, I will be more likely to stick with my other goals, like writing more (at least 200 poems this year, I hope), reading more (at least 52 books this year, I hope), and submitting more poems for publication.

Over the past few months (okay, let's be realistic--years) I've let myself get lazy. I looked at my Submittable account and realized that I had ZERO outstanding magazine submissions. A few years ago I undertook a project with my friend Tanya to try and garner 100 rejections throughout the "submission year," which meant starting September 1 and ending August 31 of the following year. This year, it's my goal to get 100 rejections again, but during the calendar year.

It's tough hearing people say no to you. It reminds me of when I was a kid and wanted so badly to have friends sleep over, and would get very excited but was told no. How sad, right? I just wanted to paint nails and braid hair and talk about boys. Okay, I never did those things. My friends and I recorded fart noises on my Talkboy and played them back in slow motion while strangers walked by.

Either way, good thoughts for this year of being told no a lot. I've already sent out around twenty submissions this year, and have been told no three times so far. Here's to rejection!

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Thoughts on New Beginnings

Every time I write, I find myself writing about the passage of time. It's this day, it's this month, it's this new year. Arbitrary, maybe. But that's what happens. I go to the fridge and I look at the expiration dates. Most of the things are past the expiration dates. I eat the things anyway. I get sick.

I was on the road for so long, I forgot how it felt to be in my own bed. I can't believe the people I know. And I really can't believe they put up with me.

It's the new year, and so I'm making promises to myself I likely won't keep. I think it's good to have goals. And sometimes, I think it's just as well we give up on them.