* Rosa Alcalá’s Undocumentaries

Confessional Poem – Rosa Alcalá

The girl next door had something to teach me
about what to air: On the line
somebody’s business gets told
then recounted; it’s best to thread a tale
for the neighbors, an orchestration
of sorts. But I am far from modest
in my telling of lies. There are three references
I put forward: each a past lover
who liked a different kind of underling
to his genius. You wouldn’t know it
from the delicates I roll
into the yard. It’s all the same peek-a-boo lace
and stunted imagination. Of course,
all of this is scanty truth. Who hangs anything out to dry
anymore, when invention has halved the work?

* undocumentaries *
* undocumentaries *

Over the past year, I’ve enjoyed writing reviews for The Volta Blog. My latest review is of Rosa Alcalá’s Undocumentaries. The poem above is one example of how Alcalá digs out the complications to be found behind conventional metaphors. In my review, I break down the above poem, making connections with Sylvia Plath and the tasks (and consequences) a poet sets and works out for themselves.

Due to length considerations, I had to cut a bit of the original ending to the essay. Here’s a cut paragraph that I feel is essential in conveying my own personal connection with the collection:

“What goes unsaid in an essay like this – an essay which boils down to I read the poems, I thought about the poems – is worth considering given the Alcala’s idea of the “Undocumentary.” I read these poems for the first time in my thirty-second year of life. I am back in academia out of some sense of purpose or perhaps a need of one. I haven’t shared a house with my family for over fifteen years – in fact, it has been almost four years since I saw them. So much time apart and yet they keep coming up in my own poems. When Alcala writes about distance, I know what she means: it is the distance between family, a distance both physical and emotional, a distance of language and understanding. It is a distance one tries to cover through words because that is the only thing that is real to poets: real in its unreality.”

Check out the full review here.

Happy unrealiting!


* new work up at Pretty Owl Poetry

* pretty owl poetry/issue 5 *
* Pretty Owl Poetry/issue 5 *

Just a quick post to announce the release of the latest issue of Pretty Owl Poetry which includes my flash fiction pieces “Spinster” and “Oceans.” The issue also includes fine writing from Jill Khoury, Howie Good and fellow UC poet and friend Les Kay as well as artwork by Heather Simon.

Check out the issue here.

I’m especially excited for this publication. These two pieces are part of “Reasons (not) to Dance,” a flash fiction/prose poem chapbook forthcoming from FutureCycle Press. The project explores ideas of risks as played out in short prose pieces that range from the fabulistic to the memoiristic. My guides in writing these come from the Latin American microcuento tradition, writers such as Augusto Monterroso and Julio Cortazar.

Thank you to Kelly Andrews, Gordon Buchan, and B. Rose Huber for putting together a great issue!

See you Friday!



* another bolaño lyrical alignment

Here’s another lyrical alignment from Roberto Bolaño’s The Savage Detectives.

I came across this paragraph “re-aligned” in some old notes from 2008. The scene is of the enigmatic Ulises character described via another character’s story of him. I often describe Bolaño as a poet’s poet. His writing, like that of Borges, is infused with signs of a rich reading life and often speaks on the craft in an infectious and serious way. The text below creates a fable out of thin air that evokes real places and real struggle.

* is land, no? *
* is land, no? *

Two Islands – Roberto Bolaño

a lyrical alignment*

One day I asked him where he’d been. He told me
that he’d traveled along a river that connects
Mexico and Central America. As far as I know,
there is no such river. But he told me he’d traveled
along this river and that now he could say he knew
its twists and tributaries. A river of trees
or a river of sand or a river
of trees that in certain stretches
became a river of sand. A constant flow of people
without work, of the poor and starving,
drugs and suffering. A river of clouds
he’d sailed on for twelve months,
where he’d found countless islands and outposts,
although not all the islands were settled, and sometimes
he thought he’d stay and live on one of them
forever or that he’d die there.

Of all the islands he’d visited, two stood out.
The island of the past, he said, where the only
time was past time and the inhabitants were bored
and more or less happy, but where the weight
of illusion was so great that the island
sank a little deeper into the river
every day. And the island of the future,
where the only time was the future,
and the inhabitants were planners and strivers, such
strivers, said Ulises, that they were likely
to end up devouring one another.

*text from The Savage Detectives


Happy anothering!







* rivering via bill knott

This week’s poem is another Bill Knott gem.

What moves me most about it is how it stirs up from mere words a whole fabulistic world from a distance, and, by the end of the poem, brings the world closer to the reader, as close as the glass of water in hand that makes up the final image.

Seeing as the poem involves rivers meeting (and not meeting), this week’s image is of the confluence of the Rhone and Arve River in Geneva, Switzerland.

* the friday confluence *
* a friday confluence *

By the River BAAB – Bill Knott

We know that somewhere far north of here
the two rivers Ba and Ab converge to form
this greater stream that sustains us, uniting
the lifeblood length of our lands: and we believe
that the Ba’s sources is heaven, the Ab’s hell.

Daily expeditions embark upcountry to find
that fork, to learn where the merge first occurs.
Too far: none of our explorer’s return.  Or
else when they reach that point they themselves
are torn apart by a sudden urge to choose –

to resolutely take either the Ba/the Ab, to trace
good or evil to its spring.  Each flips a coin
perhaps, or favors whichever one the wind’s
blowing from at that moment.  Down here
even we who have not the heart to venture

anywhere that would force us to such deep
decisions, even we, when we hold that glass of
water in our hand, drink it slowly, deliberately,
as if we could taste the two strains, could somehow
distinguish their twin flow through our veins.


Happy veining!


* “Moth Season” in Cactus Heart’s Speculative e-issue

Just a quick note to announce the release of Cactus Heart’s Speculative issue (e-Issue #11) which includes my prose poem noir sequence “Moth Season,” which follows the adventures of one Inspector Moth.

Here’s a sample of the  piece:

Inspector Moth walked from one end of the brightness to the
other. Still, the pane remained. He had crashed into it not
knowing why. He paced, tapping at the glass now and then,
boxing with his reflection, the colors he was made of pushing
back. The whole world, he thought, can see that I am stuck.

(from Moth Season)

The e-issue is available for purchase here.

The issue also includes work by UC friend and poet extraordinaire Madeleine Wattenberg and a host of other great writers.

Special thanks to Guest Editor Kate Sheeran Swed as well as Sara Rauch & co. for putting together an engaging read of an issue!

See you Friday!


* (re)noting the hidden things via shin kyeong-nim

Not that anybody needs another reminder of what snow looks like, but here:

* cincisnowti *
* Cincisnowti *

There’s been plenty of the cold stuff these past few months.

Heading into March, I’m waiting for spring to arrive – yet I can’t help but type that and immediately note that I can’t exactly remember what it was like without snow. Not that “Oh, it’s been snowing so long, I can’t remember what it was like without it — ” but rather, there’s a rather elegiac habit of mind I encounter that has me always looking at the world with an emphasis on what isn’t there versus what is.

At times, this habit is powerful – in envisioning a way out of a problem, for example. But there are times that require a bit of restraint from thinking away from them.

This week’s poem by Korean poet Shin Kyeong-nim evokes a feeling  of what is missed in the turning/thinking away I experience. With each reading, the poem makes me see that life, as it gathers in the years behind us, becomes a series of turns, and that, while much is irretrievable, the experience is constant: what we will miss is in front of us long before we begin to be able to miss it.

The Baby – Shin Kyeong-nim


Baby looks at the snow piling up outside the window;
signs it’s all lovely, all strange; waves a hand.
Like baby trees shaking baby leaves.
Baby knows all the hidden things:
why snow falls, and the lovely things the snowflakes whisper;
knows all – a perfectly contented still life.


After a while, baby learns the word “Mum.”
This means he is forgetting the hidden things of the word “Mum.”
But he doesn’t realize.
Flowers, trees, stars.
With elation baby learns the words,
forgetting the hidden things in each.
And when he has forgotten all the hidden things,
baby is a full-fledged person.


Thus when snow piles up like today,
he’ll fret from thoughts of a girl.
Walking the bank of the stream,
he will cry from nostalgia self-directed.

Happy self-directing!


p.s. Thank you to Daniel Paul Marshall for introducing me to this poem and poet.

* poem found in The Columbia Anthology of Modern Korean Poetry.