When Poems Don't Make Cents

I really love talking about writing. It's been a great experience to teach creative writing online. You get a chance to put things in a TALKSPEECH that mimics a physical classroom. I will post some of these now and in the future. Feel free to use them in your classrooms if they work for you.

The following was in response to how poetry often doesn't make sense to some readers.

"What do you do when you don't understand a poem?" a student questioned.

Sometimes we understand poems, and sometimes they are completely bewildering. That is completely okay. I remember one time I was sitting with the poet, Peter Quartermain. He wanted me to listen to bird songs, and try to imitate them as poems. I liked the exercise. Then he showed me how there were poets who were often beyond him as far as meaning were concerned. He pulled out a poem by Louis Zukofsky.

"Read this," he said.

With a Valentine*
(the 12 February)

Hear, her
His error.
In her
Is clear.

With a Valentine
(The 14 February)

Hear her
(Clear mirror)
His error.
In her care --
Is clear.

Hear, her
His error.
In her,
Is clear.

Hear her
Clear mirror
Care his error
In her care
Is clear

Error in
Is clear

Error in
Her --

"What does this mean?" Peter asked me.

"I have no idea," I said.

"Neither do I," Peter smiled. "Don't you love it?"

We don't always have to "know" the answer to a poem to feel emotionally affected by it. Sometimes it's the sonics or visual image that communicate more than the words themselves.

One of my favorite poets is Jean Michel Basquiat. Often cited as a painter, I see a meld between the two art forms. Take for example, this poem:

Jimmy best on
his back to the
of his childhood


I don't necessarily understand this poem, but it speaks beyond words themselves. It has an emotional resonance. Sometimes words can carry with them a particular "heartbeat." Take "Coca Cola" for example. If I used this in a poem, it is possible that it would create various feelings for all of us. Some of you might think "corporation". Others might think of "greed". And others will simply think "fizz". There are endless possibilities.

Choosing the words that make our poems can be all that is needed in a poem. What if you just picked words that resonated with you? A listing of your favorite words? What would that look like? What if you let each word bring up a new word?

I will try this exercise. Then you try. Don't think about it. Just go as fast as you can.

Jean Michel
Keith Haring
too young
boy in Alaska

Now I have a series of images. I can manipulate the images or leave them as they are. Just imagine the words to be a series of photos on your coffee table. How do you want to arrange them? Right next to each other? On top of each other? In a single line?

cross Jesus crown
Jean(Keith Haring)Michel

too young

Jesus crown friends
boy in Alaska

Childhood flies

Okay. It's your turn. Let's share. Give it a whirl.

* As retrieved on September 27, 2007 from http://epc.buffalo.edu/authors/niedecker/essay1.html

** I just sent this single line as a poem "Co(steak)ke" to a magazine and it was accepted. We'll talk about submitting our work later in the course. : )

Pine and Bamboo

Go to the pine if you want to learn about the pine, or to the bamboo if you want to learn about the bamboo. In doing so, you must leave your preoccupation with yourself. Otherwise you impose yourself on the object and do not learn. Your poetry issues of its own accord when you and the object have become one – when you have plunged deep enough into the object to see something like a hidden glimmering there.*


*As retreived from http://www.haiku.insouthsea.co.uk/teachbasho_self2.htm on September 24, 2007

Mr. Pizza and Other News

I went out with my students the other night. We went to this place called Mr. Pizza. The students told me that it was a restaurant, catering to the women of Seoul. I didn't quite understand. If that was the case, why was it called "Mr. Pizza"?

I didn't ask them that though. I just looked at the menu, and saw that it was "fancy pizza" - like with basil and walnuts and stuff. Then I was like, "Oh, yeah, I get it."

The girls were keen on chatting about how to get into a school in the states. I told them to pick somewhere they want to live, and to find a school that would be reputable for their majors.

"What about for me?" a girl who was an interior design major asked.

"You can be in any major city. You'll have any job you want. People always want interior designers."

Then I looked at the girl sitting next to me. She was an art major. I was going to say that she was ______, but it came out as, "You're going to have a harder time."

She laughed.

"Pick New York or L.A. for you," I said. "L.A. is good for a painter. You can meet lots of folks, there are a lot of galleries, and there are lots of people who will buy paintings if you get them up in coffee shops."

We talked about other things. At least I did. I was talking up a storm. I had coffee, and that got me all wired. I think I told them about every relationship I ever had. I talked about dating and whatnot, and how it's different in the States.

"You go out with lots of different people," I told them. "You don't just get married right away."

I think half of them understood me. I'm not sure.

Anyway, it was nice to hang with them. The artist got me a sketch book and an artist pencil for me to write my new comic book, "Choco Pie." It was real sweet of her. It was also nice to pass around the sketch book, and get their cute drawings. I really dig them. Especially the one of the genie from Alladin. (Apparently, I look like the genie from Alladin to them. Who would have known?)

In other news, the website is coming along. I've got flying butterflies, comics of me that talk and stuff, and I'm actually learning how to use Flash. Real cool.

As far as other folks, here are the links:

1. Noah Cicero has some cool thoughts on "writers" versus "Bear Parade".

2. Tony O'Neil talks about Charles Bukowski at The Guardian.

3. Tao Lin interviews Porochista Khakpour at 3AM Magazine.

I'll catch you on the flip,


I Want Michel Gondry to Be My Drummer

MIchel Gondry's new film, Be Kind, Rewind" is coming out soon in the states. I really like him.

He can play the drums too.

Tazer Poem


Dr. King,

I think I might
hit someone

I might buy a

I might never vote

I might move
to France.

I want to voice my

I want to do it without being

I don't want to be

I want there to be justice in the

I want those cops to go to

I want America to understand

I want America to be where dreams are

It is hard to find a way when there is

I will die in 20 or 30 years.

I might even die tomorrow.

If I did, I would want to die in space.

I would want there to be

I would like all the tazers in the world to go with

I would like them to be melted down into a
space station.

I would like there to be a flux capacitor
on board.

I would want my body recycled into a

I would like to be taken care of by a good

If the florist can be like High Tower from Police Academy 2,
that would be good.

I would like High Tower to get his wings and be an

He can drink Tang and sing lullabies that sound like
"Porgy and Bess."

I will make seeds that float in the cockpit.

They will move to the vibrations of High Tower's

He will sing: "Summertime when the living's

He will brush the seeds from his helmet.

He will look at a distant planet.

He will describe the view to me.

He will not talk about democracy.

He will not talk at all.

He will communicate telepathically.

It will be in his eyes.

I will look in his eyes with my flower

I would see a reflection:

a flower on a space station made of
tazer guns.

I will remember this poem.

I will recite it to him telepathically.

Tom Cruise will not be on board.

But Ving Rhames will be.

He will play the part of High Tower.

He will also talk in a high-pitched voice as

It will look exactly like the scene from "Castaway,"
except I am not a volleyball.

I am organic.

I am here to destroy all tazer guns.


I finished the latest tune for Transistor Radio. That's right. OFFBEAT GENERATION. It is a nice, tasty song. And thanks to the help of a guitar solo from Sonny Mishra of The Temperance, it got an extra boost of "kick ass." Click the link to be taken to myspace for a free download.

Only one more song to go for this album to be complete. ; )

OffBeat Generation

I was sitting when a guy named Steve
came over representing the art relief
told me he knew everything about Brautigan
knew Bukowski and him would have never been friends

don't you know I've got some hesitations
don't you know I'm feeling frustration
don't you know it's all mental mastarbation
don't you know we're the off-beat generation

steve came in talking about rock 'n' roll
said he's heard everything
and nothing's got any soul
so I said
come on, man
you haven't heard it all
take a listen to the Breeder's "Cannonball"

CHORUS (Woah-oh-woah)

then came Steve's ideas on art
told me Marcel Duchamp's urinal was a farce
and everything he did
just didn't amount
so I pulled out Andy Warhol and said

CHORUS (Marilyn Monroe-ooh-woah-ooh)


poor Steve tried to pilfer Ezra Pound
wearing his "ABC's" like a Burger King crown
that's it
nothing left
no more to say
he shouts
Edgar Rice Burroughs is better than bug spray!


Folk Thor

A humpback whale glides past. It does not stare at me with its big eye. It does not notice me at all. Neither do the schools of prawn that preceded it. They are further now in the distance of where they had hoped to be. I have not moved. I will be seen. I will be opened and my life will end.

Such is the life of treasures to be discovered.

There are those who wear no jewels upon their head, nor bow to those who do. They go by the names they were given, although these names are as meaningless as the crowns we fashion for them.

Air. Bubbles. Sand.
Big Bang. Apes.

If it was more than this, if it was a longer story with doves and Macy's Thanksgiving Parade. If it was the Rose Bowl, and California all over again. If there was more than the Arclight or Hollywood Boulevard. If heroin held its appeal. If music had not been made. If Thor was not just a cartoon character. If I was Thor. If you called me that. In bed. Under a grove of Cyprus. Under Spiderman sheets. Inside me. Like a web. Like a saber tooth tiger. In tar. In feathers. In Boston. With tea.

James Madison. Ronald Reagan. Boris Yeltsin. Aphrodite.
Ben Franklin. Spencer Tracy. Audrey Hepburn. Joan of Arc.
Ben Franklin. Spencer Tracy. Humphrey Bogart. Wishing well.
Humphrey Bogart. Clive Davis. Wishing well. Aphrodite.

2 serpents.
Ave Maria.

Killed them

Grading Creative Bowel Movements & Wizardry

We had another nice day chatting today. Jim, Loren, and I met up in Itaehwon to enjoy some Indian food. Today our discussion ranged on the various writing workshops we had been a part of; the responses we had received during readings and one-on-one's with established writers; and the issue of grading in a creative writing course.

"How do you grade?" I asked Loren.

"I don't know," he said. "I was asking some of the graduate students about this," he said. "One of them told me that an A- is not good. I asked her about a B or a C, and she said, 'A B is not good. And a C is like, 'you shouldn't be in graduate school - get out!' "

I mentioned how I questioned a high grade I had gotten from Steven Taylor at one time, and how he resolved the issue by giving me a B- from then on out - only to give me an A in the long run.

"Yes," Jim smiled.

"Good," Loren agreed.

I am not sure if creative writing can be graded. I think it defeats the purpose of writing. If they show up and do the work, that is all that is necessary. Maybe. I don't really know. It was good to chat about it though. I feel very lucky to have both Jim and Loren around me.

It was also good to watch SY shower her love on Jim. Today she remarked that she could tell if he was going to have a good or bad day, based on the sound of his bowel movements.

"If it's just a couple farts and then little drops, I think, 'Oh, he is not going to have a good day.' Then I know I have to take care of him."

She says this as she patted his stomach. I managed to laugh uproariously and take a picture simultaneously.

"Does that make it into the blog?" Loren asked.

Well, I guess so. And to add to today's blogging experience, I will continue my one hour required writing project. I'm curious to see what will happen.


Max wasn't fond of wizardry. Although he had practiced the black arts on a few occasions, he had yet to really apply himself to his studies. His parents had harped on him the importance of being able to learn an incantation or making the miserable unhappy with a simple 7-day curse, but he spent most of his time hunting for bull frogs instead.

It brought him great joy to fill the empty pickle jars from the pantry, and pour them out onto Gene Wilson's slide to see them slip and stick to the cold metal.

"Slip," he said to them. "Slide."

Gene Wilson, 4 years his younger, enjoyed these displays of zoology, and would often watch Max from his bedroom window. He dreamed of going down to join him in the festivities, but he had been restricted to bed rest for the past year - due to a heavy concussion he had received during a hunting accident.

"Hand me the gun," his father had said.

"Which one?" Gene asked.

No sooner had Gene answered the question, when an unhappy bison, sensing his impending doom, charged full force into his chest. Gene was knocked unconscious, and awoke in a hospital bed in Zurich, where he was informed that a year's bed rest would help him remember who he was, as he couldn't remember which gun he had in his hand (a Winchester shotgun), or exactly who he was (Gene Wilson).

His mother bathed him daily. This was what she had done, when he was 12 the year before, and sensing that old customs in the Wilson household may bring about a change in his condition - she continued to offer these soothing moments.

"Do you remember today?" she asked.

"No," Gene said. "I don't."

Max who had no knowledge of Gene, other than the playground set in his backyard, often wondered why such a thing existed without any child to make it complete. He would wonder about this soon after the bullfrogs had made their way under the slide and back toward the brush of grass that circled the mulched chips that were spread on the playground's floor.

"There must be a kid," he thought.

There was the possibility that Max would look up at that very moment and see Gene Wilson staring at him from his bedroom window, but no such event happened. Max walked back home to study pentagons, and Gene propped up his pillow for a good night's rest.

Well, all 3 writers were together last night. It was good to talk with Jim and Loren, and have some great Italian food at the same time.

As you can see, it took So Hee a while to figure out how my $80 camera from Target worked. It just didn't compare to the technology she was used too.

"You can't move for at least 5 seconds after you take a picture," I told her.

"5 seconds?"

"Yes," I said.

"Okay," Jim said, with resolve. "I am not moving."

A Camel

This is definitely an interesting time for me. There are lots of things circling the old noggin'. One cloud in particular is the idea of attending a PhD program. Honestly, I am not sure what would be appropriate for me. Jim is suggesting going to a PhD in Creative Writing program in Europe, because of the benefits of simply having an advisor, no classes, and further concentration on creative work. I hear him on all fronts. That is a nice possibility. At the same time, I feel like I've already gotten a PhD in creative writing, so it really wouldn't be pushing the envelope for me. I'm not saying it's not possible, but it doesn't "give me a hard on" - to use Jim's expression of passion, which I love.

This leaves me with the other option that was recently proposed to me, which was a PhD in Communication and Philosophy at The European Graduate School. Honestly, I had not heard of it, until a colleague put the website in my face, and I have to say that I am fairly intrigued. They bolster an amazing lineup of professors from David Lynch to John Waters. That would be a very interesting proposition, and I am sure I would gain a lot from such a course. It would definitely be intellectually stimulating. Add to that an option to take classes completely online, and simply spend Summers in Switzerland, and you have me fairly interested. I will be looking more closely at the courses, and seeing if such an investment would really be worth my time in the long run.

Honestly, I am most interested in writing full time. I have been so busy with "making the Benjamins" that it has left little time for me to contribute to a full time writing schedule. Yes, I hear you. I have written 8 songs for the new album, and I am researching new possibilities for the next comic project, but writing novels takes a big chunk of time. You can't be working 3 jobs, and expect to get too much done.

I am going to try and rectify this situation in the coming months. I might try to manuever into a professor position at a neighboring school in Korea, with less hours and more vacation. Currently, I am scheduled at 13.5 hours with very little vacation time. Although this may seem ideal for some, it is certainly not good enough for someone working two additional jobs that have the potential to take 35 more hours a week. Add a moderate social life, and you have a writer "trying to find the time."

My other option besides securing a position with longer breaks, is to apply for a residency somewhere. That may be just what the doctor ordered. I would love to have an opportunity to go to a place like Stanford for its monetary supplement, writer's community, and potential for creating teaching prospects. At the same time, the possibility of attaining a residency at the school may be fairly slim for a writer of my tastes. As Eleni has put to me, "Stanford doesn't accept writers who write about dinosaurs."

Well, who knows if that's true. Maybe, not. I would still like to put it out there. I would like the opportunity to write more, and possibly only do that with my time. As it stands now, I find myself going further and further into a world where opportunities to do longer work is harder to get started; let alone completed. I may have to just resort to writing poetry exclusively, if this keeps up much longer.

As I am a firm believer in creating my life, I think I can switch some things around to make it possible. Although I actually despise the concept, I may have to schedule a required writing time - just to manage the hectic schedule, which has become my life. Otherwise, I may not ever get these new books finished.

Ah, it's not a big deal. It's also just me griping a bit. I don't know. I just love the act of creating. I love making things, and I would like to do that exclusively. At the same time, I do like to have things to eat, and the bare necessities for life. What's the compromise?

Well, that's the cute part. I don't think there is one. You just do or don't. As I am a do-er, it looks like I will have a scheduled writing time everyday. As this blog is a nice way to get things rolling, you'll probably see me playing here a lot more. Some things go into the private, don't-look-or-I'll-kill-you journal, but I like the idea of putting out creative work right to the public. It's a scary kind of feeling, and if all my years in acting have taught me anything, it's to go with the fear.

Here, I am now. I am following my fear.

Jimmy rode a camel to work everyday. It was not a large camel. It was just the right size. He thought this, and said it aloud to those around him, who were also making their morning commutes to The Milwaukee Institute for Desired Behavior.

"This camel is just the right size," he said.

No one said a word to Jimmy. He was in the Acquisitions Department. This was a rather notable division of TMIDB. Unlike other staff personnel, Jimmy was given free reign to make creative choices in how he would sign documents and deliver his morning salutations. He was also authorized to deal with improper behavior responses, or IBR's, with dietary restictions or physical damages to an insufficent employee's retina. Up to this very moment, he had blinded only 3 employees, one camel, and forced his mother, Florence, who worked in Stats, to a grapefruit and pecan diet- simply because Jimmy wanted to make-up for lost time.

In fact, this was a common occurence among several of the leading Acquisitions Personnel at TMIDB, and had been a running fad throughout the state of Wisconsin for the past several months. GBX, a local broadcasting network for the region, had even done a short segment on "Lumberyards and Loggers Who Want to Make-up for Lost Time," which went into the details of the psychological underpinnings of a failed parent-child dynamic that may have caused the recent insurgence of grown children placing their parents on dietary restrictions.

In Jimmy's case, the dietary restiction was not as much about a psychological issue, as it was about his sexual proclivities for eating grapefruit, and lying down naked to wait for the acid to "roll in his stomach like milk," as he said.

"I can feel it now," he would say. "It's like milk."

Although there are many who may not understand the warped mind of this protaganist, there is no need to worry. His heart is as simple as Yogi Bears, and, although the writer of this tale would like to remain incognito, it could be said that Jimmy is writing this tale as well. He is also not much of a writer, but a continual liar of sorts. He makes up stories about camels and his job at The University of Lisbon, where he serves as an Assistant Professor of Economics. He does this often, letting his mind trail in these various worlds, as the actual taxi that is moving him from one side of Lisbon to the other, heaves up and down like the beast he is envisioning.

Building a Website

I am working on a website. It is taking forever. How do people learn all this stuff. I am a complete idiot, when it comes to these things. Either that, or my expectations are just too high.

Here is the first page of the website. I like it. I think. Who knows?

Horse Patrol

I have finished another tune. This one was inspired by Miss Stacy Dacheux. I asked her for some lyrics for the new song, and she wrote these great lines about a horse patrol. Then I wrote some music for them. Of course, when it came to singing the lines, I found completely different words in my mouth. I kept the title though, and that's the way it stands.


I was sitting in my chair
when Shondelle came over to stare
she said she was tired of the way I look
can't you stop your life as a crook

I said:

I don't know if I can, Ma'am, Ma'am.
I don't know if I can, Ma'am.

She said uh maybe you've had
enough time to be like your dad
can't you stop rolling over convenient stores?
can't you stop seeing them two-bit whores?

I said:

I don't know if I can, Ma'am, Ma'am.
I don't know if I can, Ma'am.

she pulled out a photo of my little boy, Nick
she said do you want him to grow up and act like this
I said, what can I do?
she said you've got to stop
I said can't you just shoot me and call the cops...


Enjoy the song.

I've got stories about camels to write.

Catch ya,