Thursday, December 8, 2011

Erasure Poems

I'm a big fan of Mary Ruefle's wonderful and tiny little book, A Little White Shadow. This is her book of "erasure poems." The poet takes prose texts and whites out uninteresting words, leaving only words that form a new poem that has utterly transformed the original text.

Here's a link to a clever site set up by her publisher, Wave Books:

Try your own hand at "erasures." I'll list some poems my students have written here:

“Like Winter” by Ozakh

summer together?
I remember the ocean
how beautiful that was...
like another planet…,
it’s funny we’d be a team, we’d argue,
always did.
We grew up
in one second.
doesn’t feel very different.
didn’t feel very different.


the winter.

Sunday, November 27, 2011


Maple leaf palimpsests
Stamping the pavement
With crazy webbed footprints
Like dinosaur tracks,
A stampede of deranged ptero-

Monday, September 5, 2011

Room Full of Chairs

I was thrilled to see a blog called Basho's Road dedicate a post to my first book of poems, Room Full of Chairs.  It's hard to believe that it has been 10 years since that book came out.  My second book of haiku, Things Being What They Are, came out this spring.  Here's a sample of the new book, too:

back from Iraq
my former student remembers
freshman year

first day of school
the Latin teacher
coated in chalk

Bassett pup
his whole snout
in every footstep

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Wordplaygrounds in Glencoe

Thursday night's reading was the perfect way to end the summer workshop at the Glencoe Library. We heard from 10 writers in all. (25 writers came to at least one session during the four weeks we met). I'm linking to the blog intern Alexa Peterson created to chart the workshop.

Congratulations to all the writers who attended. Keep having fun on the Wordplaygrounds -- and keep writing!

Saturday, June 11, 2011

How to Read the Kindle

I just watched a horrifying commercial from Amazon.  Here is the commercial and then a short reading of that commercial:

As the narrative opens, a young man stands holding his Kindle.  An attractive woman walks out into the tablua rasa white space of the advertising world (and is it possible to read that as anything other than the intellectual vaccuum in which they both live?),  and asks, "Hey where are you going?"  When she invites him to the bookstore to get a book that "just came out," he declines.   (Apparently the book's not the only thing that's just come out).   He is ordering a "new book" on his Kindle "in less than 60 seconds."  "Oh my god," she responds, "That's the book I was going to get."  Wow.  What a coincidence!   The commercial ends with her reading his Kindle, while shushing him with a warning finger.  Here are some secret messages the commercial contains: 

1.  Speed is good.  Would downloading the book be worth the wait of, say, 3 minutes? 

2.  Novelty is also good.  The book both people want is brand-spanking new.  That it's a best seller is implied by the new-ness and the fact that they both want it.  (Fun fact:  "best sellers" are determined by books pre-ordered, not books sold.   Their label is a self-fulfilling prophecy).

3.  The world and the people within it are things to be avoided.  There is literally no world in the commercial.  The actors provide the only clue we are viewing a 3-D space (though, ironically, the actors themselves are decidedly 2-D).  Bookstores are things to be avoided.  So, too, are people apparently since the the two actors are looking at the screen and not each other as the commercial ends.

4.  Words are bad.   The commercial script segues into a non-verbal cue from the woman telling the man to shut up, followed by airy and mindless la-la-la music without actual words.

The book that both actors want desperately to pick up (and not necessarily to read) is Laura Hillenbrand's Unbroken.  The book came out last year -- 18, 489, 600 seconds ago -- and was, you guessed it:  a New York Times best seller and a "make book" from Amazon.  It was their "book of the month" and a book they have tried in other ways to "make" you buy.  An odd and dated choice to display for a TV ad you wonder?  I think the ad people are trying to market this device to non-readers, a demographic they are not only appealing to but also helping to create. 

I'm not anti-technology.  (In fact, I am typing these words on a computer).  I've just never seen Amazon so nakedly attack bookstores, community, personal contact, and words themselves.  Bookstores are vanishing rapidly and funding for libraries is always under threat.  Outside of schools, what public spaces will allow people to gather, to read, to talk, and to think?