Les Semaines


what I'm thinking and doing § what I'm listening to § what I'm reading
what I'm writing § retrospective: The Phonosnout


Second Week of Clarion

Monday was my first day off work, and instead of being utterly lazy, I worked on revisions of my novel. What a surprise! I was productive and am happy about it. Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday I was in the Clarion West classroom again. This week the instructor was Kathleen Alcalá, who herself is a Clarion West graduate. She's better known in the literary world than she is in the world of speculative fiction, but her work is clearly magic realism, and quite wonderful. She was an interesting teacher, especially in contrast to Paul Park. She's every bit as intense, but you need to be paying attention to see it, as she's a beautifully calm and seemingly laid-back person. She keeps her voice soft and quiet, but it fills the room. She's easy to listen to, so you almost don't realize the depth of what she's saying.

This was the students' first week of doing the regular Clarion-style critiques, going around the room with each person having 2.5 or 3 minutes to critique the story. The class is sharp, and see things pretty clearly, zooming in on what works and what doesn't work. They seem to be impressed with each other's abilities, which is a wonderful thing, as again this is a class with a lot of talent. Since this was the first week of doing things this way, they don't seem to be able to get past the good stuff into being able to see what would make the good stuff better. Kathleen did, and said so succinctly and clearly.

I think it was a good week--I hope the students were awake enough to see the subtleties of Kathleen's style.

Her reading was wonderful Tuesday night--she told a mainstream story of an odd world and interesting people, from a series of stories she's writing right now.

For me, Tuesday was another day of going from the classroom, running errands, and then going straight down to Elliott Bay, to hang out there waiting for the reading because parking would be so bad with the baseball game about to happen (happily, there isn't one for the next two weeks, but alas there is again for the final two readings). I spent my time reading the students' work for the next day's critiques and wondering how to spend the gift certificate last year's students gave me. I still haven't decided.

Friday, I pretty much wasted, trying to sleep in and running errands and hanging around the computer not getting anything done. Met Leslie, Kathleen and her husband at Julia's for dinner, and then went to Kate's for the weekly party. This was an especially fun one. Several local writers showed up for the students to meet and they had a wonderful time, too (apparently not settling down for many hours afterwards). I got home close to midnight, and at midnight it turned into Jim's birthday, and I just couldn't wait and had to make him open his main present: I bought him a Titanium i-book, since he has been grousing about his computer freezing and acting up ever since he got it and has been lusting after friends' Ti-books. It cost almost exactly my King County grant, and I just got the final check from it this week, so the timing was perfect. He was annoyed with me for spending the money that way, but I knew he'd never spend it on himself and just keep on getting frustrated with the old computer. And after all, when I was in the same situation a couple of years ago he talked me into buying my new computer and I've been happy ever since.

I also bought an airport so we could start running a wireless network in the house and both be online at the same time. I spent many hours on Saturday running around trying to find some place that carried the right screwdriver so I could open the bottom of the Ti-book to put the airport card in--this included Westwind which was closed, and University Bookstore, which recommended trying Radio Shack, which recommended trying the Computer Store, which recommended trying Fred Meyer, which recommended trying True Value hardware, which recommended trying Stone Way Hardware, which finally had it. In between those trips I also went to the library, checked our post office box, and picked up two pieces of cake for Jim's birthday celebration. We eventually after many tries (human error, mostly, though for some reason the airport base station didn't want to be programmed from my computer) got the network live. Quite nice!

Got wonderful food from the Bengal Tiger for dinner (mango lamb, heaven for me, but saag aloo for Jim) and ate the delightful cake (from Simply Desserts in Fremont) and then collapsed.

Today (Sunday) it's pouring rain (so we don't have to water). Soon I need to leave to see Pat Cadigan, who was one of my instructors at Clarion West way back in 1996. Sometime I really do need to post my journal/notes about my class [I finally did: they're right here]. Anyway, I'm really looking forward to seeing her again .

last week's thinking and doing § next week's thinking and doing


I know I keep talking about this, but Robin Holcomb's The Big Time, just keeps getting richer and richer the more we listen to it.

last week's listening § next week's listening


Kathleen Ann Goonan's Light Music is the fourth in her series about the post-nanotechnological world after waves of radio- and power-disrupting waves has hit the earth (see my December 17, 2000 and January 21, 2001 entries for comments about two of the other novels in the series). This is a complex story woven of threads from various complicated people. I enjoyed this, but somehow feel I would have liked it better and understood it more had she focused the story a little more on fewer characters. There seemed to be a lot of journeys to follow and not all of them seemed to have an understandable point. Still, they all felt interesting--just that I feel I missed a lot. Maybe this is an artifact of reading it in such a scattered way in a busy week. It's such a cool story, with so many fascinating ideas about the nature of being human, the nature of the universe and music and light.

last week's reading § next week's reading


I finished revising the first two chapters of Gypsy Davey and gave them to Karen. It feels really good to have them off my hands. Now I'm working on chapter 3, which is a little more problematic, and am fighting urges to go revise a short story or start working on something--anything--else.

last week's writing § next week's writing

Retrospective: The Phonosnout

About the Phonosnout

December 1983 - 1984

1359. Strange, snowy night
December 13, 1983

Jim's gone to try to talk to Tim [1], who is in a state. I feel so mixed up in this mess, which first began, for us, with Marion and Tim's contradictory statements about their relationship. We didn't get involved. Then it rose again with another friend calling about Tim at the party and then after the workshop last night we all went drinking. Suzanne arrived later, after telling us bout a mess between Logan and her. So Tim begins moving on her. Marion and I watch. They leave. It all comes tumbling out. O Shit. And tonight Tim calls and wants to find out where Suzanne is, and then wants Jim to come to him at the U. He can't go home because he's told his girlfriend about it--again. Oh shit. People's lives are so messy. I told another friend it was just like a cat's box.
     And Jim's out in this snow and cold. I hope his car doesn't do its usual trick and get stuck. I want him home.

1360. Slothing and reading
December 21, 1983

Doing little these days but reading--first Durrell's Spirit of Place, which was wonderful and evocative. Then May Sarton's Journal of a Solitude and House by the Sea, both of which were interesting but someone equivocal--why? Now I'm reading Louise Bogan's letters, which I find grab my attention. Interesting how I delighted in Durrell's writing and his letters, while both Sarton and Bogan interest me as women, and yet their poetry interests me not at all. Durrell's poetry I can't get into, either. Hmm. Maybe it's just their prose I like.

1361. January
January 7, 1984

Into the New Year, and I've been sick and haven't quite recovered. Jim's out at Vic and Bain's, and I'm trying to amuse my still foggy mind. Wishing I could concentrate enough to read or think. Looks as though I've got a good class this quarter [2]--I hope to keep the energy level high. Only taking one course this quarter and sitting in on another. It's time to work seriously on my thesis, to shape it into something. So few of the poems are anywhere near abandonable. I've finished Emily Carr's Hundreds and Thousands, Mantissa, and have a lot still to work on. Reading Woolf's A Writer's Diary, Robin's Poetic Truth, and Acts of Mind, interviews with poets.

1362. Winter Hits Again
February 12, 1984

Already into the longest month of the year, especially this, a leap year. The time has passed so quickly and unexpectedly. I can't believe five weeks have passed since I last made an entry in this book. Nothing much has happened with the exception of Harvey's [3] death at the hands of a drunk and uninsured driver. So now I am living here without a vehicle. Jim's is getting us from place to place, but I had a real emotional attachment to Harvey, and it's almost like losing a pet, or a good friend. It upsets me when I have to go and get things from him, and soon I have to go and take his plates off. I hope that I'll be able to get a replacement in about four weeks, if Mom and Dad still come down. Things are crazy for them, too.

1363. Hart Crane & a poem
February 12, 1984

Must now write a poem inspired by Hart Crane. I've done my imitation, and now I have to let myself go and write from some beginning [4]. I can do it with Pound, why not Crane?
but who have / touched her,
knowing her / without name

nor the / myths of her / fathers...

Maybe a new approach to an old poem--

Lake Forest, May Day 1919

n 1984 women no longer dress
like Greek virgins, dance with flowers
and veils like white birds. The photograph
holds her here, still alive, poised
on the confident grass, reading to begin
the passage from her life to mine

The wind tonight is not quite
spring, but holds a nebulous taste fragrant hint
of mud, and blind shoots waking
inhale that flavour. There is no
room for bare feet and women
like white birds, in Grecian flowing
gowns and flowers blowing in gusts
both warm and cool at once.
It isn't May, and sixty-five years
have spun by. and she's dead, who
in this photograph stepped pressed her naked feet
blithely onto against the grass, which pushed under her soles
and raised her arms to dance,
the white shawl drifting like feathers from
her hands. She knew nothing yet.

Over the distance wisdom of so many years
I must be gentle with her. Her confidence
is tender as a bird's. She I cannot trust
the web of spun between us to bind
her; this very damp wind tears at clings to the dust
clinging to each strand of each strand and weighs it down. I ask myself
how much I would explain to her,
would I tell her if I could
how she would lose one daughter,
barely keep another, and how she would
tell her third daughter about the mystery
of her making, how she took a pin taken to the
French safe her doctor made her husband
wear, how that daughter would bear me
and how I would remember her in the dark
bed at the end of the curving hall
and know that all grandmothers are queens,
never dreaming of this white-gowned girl
with waist-long hair stepping into the history
of his own life and mine. The wind pushing
through her life to mine is fecund with mud dream
and dreams mud and doesn't tie us. Each
false movement I make toward is another
step you make in your dance, another
breath of wind pressed you forward,
pressing the first drops of rain against
my window. One by one I remember pulling pushing
the pines from into your hair to keep it from
falling, hair thick and dark as mine
but never so gray and I still wear it
down so it smells of the wind. Dark
as distance. Light as birds and remembered
and the girl I'm creating of you. [5]


1. A fellow student--all the names that follow are of fellow students and their dramatic lives.

2. My second year teaching composition, this year it was the development level.

3. My car, a VW Rabbit that I'd purchased from my father before leaving for Montana. Named after the character in the Jimmy Stewart movie, of course.

4. I was taking a class on Hart Crane and Elizabeth Bishop, and the assignment was to write one poem in the author's style and then another inspired by the author.

5. Much revised this became "My Grandmother's Photograph" in Spells for Clear Vision.

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