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Les Semaines

02.07.21

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

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Fourth Week of Clarion West 2002

Sunday night I met Leslie walking her poodle, Luke, in gardens near the dorms that I never knew existed. We smuggled him upstairs, and I was introduced to Gardner Dozois, probably for the third time or so, but this time in a situation where we got to spend a little time with each other, ie. not for two minutes at a busy convention. We talked about how the class is going. Then Leslie and I went upstairs to talk to the students and decompress a bit. Leslie read a bit that Paul Park had sent to the students and I shared a handout I'd made out of the reasons we want students to make positive criticisms as well as the negative ones. Then Gardner came in and introduced himself to the students. Afterwards we had gnocchi that one of the students cooked (wonderful) and Gardner started reading howlers that had appeared in stories submitted to Asimov's.

Monday was my day off, and I spent it visiting Dixielynn for a couple of hours and then working on the novel. Hoopla hoopla. More about this in the writing section, of course.

Tuesday Leslie and I were in the classroom together when disaster was narrowly averted. A student wrote a story told through the viewpoint of an offensively sexist character, and it really got under the skin of some of the other students. Happily, the class acted in a professional manner--the students who couldn't bear to discuss the story simply said so, and a couple of them just passed on commenting on it. The others tried to take it on its own terms as best they could. Huge sigh of relief, because it's just this kind of thing that has caused horrible troubles in the past.

Gardner's reading on Tuesday was fun--he read an odd, funny baseball story that appeared a few months ago in F&SF, and thus I'd already read it. He performed it well and answered an avalanche of questions afterwards. Took him for a drink with some of his friends, and then back to the dorm and I got home so late Jim phoned my cell phone to make certain I was all right.

Wednesday's and Thursday's classes were a little less fraught, though the students are so exhausted they're getting sick and several of them have had to miss class once or more. We keep trying to tell them to get more sleep but can't do much to help them get it. Took Gardner to the University Bookstore briefly so he could pick up a couple of books that he wanted and sign their copies of his books, and so he could spend a little time with Nisi, though with me tagging along.

Friday afternoon I spent running around trying to find Jim to exchange cars so that Leslie and I could pick up Gardner and Lucius Shepherd who was coming to speak to the students. I never did find Jim so I got to the talk very late. Finally Jim got my message, and had to drive all the way over to the dorm to change cars. After the talk, Leslie and I took Lucius and Gardner to Ivar's Salmon House for dinner, then I dropped Gardner off at his party and went back to the dorm to pick up some students that needed rides. The party was fun and ran long, and during that time I knew that Allan and Paulette were in the hospital as their child was being born. (A boy, Alexander Benjamin.) Drove the students home, then came back and crashed.

Saturday a slow morning, with a man coming in to fix stains (already! thanks, Zach!) on our new chesterfield. Gradually got ready for Greg and Astrid Bear's party for the Clarion students. Perfect day for it--sunny and warm, but a lovely breeze. So good to get out of the city for a while. The students swam and mostly talked and relaxed. Had a wonderful meal of mole enchiladas provided by Astrid, and potluck salads and snacks and all that other people brought. After dinner Greg talked in a wonderfully inspiring way to the students about writing novels, and about not getting pretentious but pushing yourself to confront and feed your demons. I'm not doing it justice but it was great.

And I got home in time to spend some time with Jim and watch two taped Farscape episodes.

This morning a late brunch with Tamar and her visiting mom and sister at Chinooks at Fisherman's Terminal on the wharves. Lots of fun. Now home for a couple of hours before going to the dorms to meet Joe and Gay Haldeman.

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

Listening

Still pretty focused on Robin Holcomb's The Big Time, and Aiko Shimada's Rabbit Moon. They're both subtle and catchy in odd ways. I think Holcomb's album is this summer to me now. Though I did also play Pentangle's "Cruel Sister".

last week's listening § next week's listening

Reading

Read a little zine story of Kelly Link's, "Catskin: A Swaddled Zine", inspired by my friend Christopher Rowe's ...is this a cat? zine. A story full of wicked delights. Highly recommended.

Neil Gaiman's Coraline is the tale of a young girl who likes to explore and finds that the locked door in her parents' new apartment doesn't always lead to a brick wall--sometimes it leads to a parallel world where a strangely unhuman other mother wants her to stay and will give her everything she has ever desired. While I don't quite agree with Diana Wynne Jones' blurb on the back which suggests this is better than Alice in Wonderland, I did really enjoy this beautifully written scary and entertaining tale.

I'm also about halfway through China Miéville's The Scar, which I'm loving.

last week's reading § next week's reading

Writing

The novel, the novel, the novel. Chapter 4 all tinkered with and handed over to Karen.

But after I finished it, I started thinking about how this is a natural pausing place, as the story is about to change scene dramatically, and began the process of thinking of this chunk as a whole. Then I went back and added another scene to chapter 4, and started thinking about other scenes that would help enrich this section, so I think I'm going to be going over these four chapters again, replacing some narration with dramatized scenes.

And I started going over my short story "Cruel Sister" on Wednesday after a friend told me that she starting on a Eubonics version of the tale--which sounds like a blast, but I'd like to have mine out in the mail before she finishes her version. It's about time for that story to be finished, anyway. So I worked on that for a couple of hours, too.

Too much to do, but at last I really feel like doing it, and feel like I can do it. For the longest time I've felt like it was beyond me.

last week's writing § next week's writing

Retrospective: The Phonosnout

About the Phonosnout

April 1984

1368. This is story ground
April 15, 1984

Full moon in winter.
The room fragrant with the snapping cedar fire, smoke, an incense
a certain burning in
this old man's eyes.

This is story ground down
to the bone. This man,
wrinkles slivered in his
lips, this man with this few
brown and broken teeth spits
out bone:

A girl, call her Moss Wing
lived in a camp that wanted fire. They wanted fire
and sent even to send her out
to call on the wolves
who kept it. She left her camp
and walked to open snow
north, where she heard they
hid their dens. She didn't
know how to find the wolves,
so she let them find her, lay
for a two nights and a two days
in the snow. The second third night
they dragged her by her clothes
to their den. They fed her.
They asked her why. She said:
I hear you have red eyes.
They grinned behind her back.
She said: Because you watch
red dances no one else has
seen. Their gins became
bared teeth. They knew.
She had only a minute
to grab a stick from the first
they had hidden with their
bodies. To slow them, she lit
the dry grass in the den.
She ran until she was tired.
She ran until she found
the first tree of the forest
and she begged him to
hide her. He knew only one way
so he burned for her
and tapped the next tree
and he burned, too, and soon
they built a wall between
her and the wolves and they burned
and in their arms, she burned,
too. And first came to the camp.
And they saved it.
His eyes closed and we
didn't understand. We fed him.
We asked him why. He grinned, bared
his crumbling teeth, and slept
by the fire. When we woke after
a night when we dreamed
red wolves, red trees, and a
young girl dressed in red
with stark white bones showing
through he flesh, we woke
and he was gone. His footprints
filling with fresh snow
and every night we dreamed
he was somewhere asleep.
Strip away everything: something
must remain. [1]

1369. Just-spring
April 17, 1984

Reading Kenner's The Pound Era--the style (like Pound's) is sometimes wonderful and sometimes horrible, but always appropriate. I'm enjoying it, but I'm not certain how much I'm getting out of it. Jerry Dolcini has said he's going to give me his bust of Pound--he's doing a series of poets (Hart Crane first, then Pound, and then T.S. Eliot). [2]
     I've got a ms of a friend's to look at. I've just read into it a bit and already something bothers me as very wrong--the voice--somehow it's too arrogant, too knowing (not humble enough? not subtle enough?). Now I don't know what to say to the author or how to say it.
     Another friend sent poems, too, that I don't know how to deal with. What to say. They are so alien, so lacking in that recognizably human quality that was stamped in the author's earlier work.
     They probably feel the same about mine, now that Seven Robins is out and they've seen new poems. The thesis is such a strange thing and the poems change os quickly. Almost daily I'm at them, revising and shifting.
     O ho. Congo.
     I'm attending the workshop for interest's sake and it's good and we go drinking afterward, which is relaxing, but ruinous.
     Jim's cranky tonight after teaching. He's doing the dishes now and irritable, and I'm irritable back, at least when confronted. O piss. Jeremiah's [3] in because it's wet, after two wonderful days of temperatures in the near 80s.
     Spring has begun here. We're on our way out [4].

1370. Autobiography is a trick done w/ mirrors
April 21, 1984

in place of all the faces but
your own. Throughout your life
is the undertone of a machine
recording all the reflections of
your eyes. [5]

1371 To Let You (Homage to the One-Eyed Artist of Form)
April 26, 1984

To let you know. This is what we see as art.
The way we hold our faces in our hands
says so, the way we twist our eyes askance,
so, to share in the artist's vision. You
say one egg is better than a cat going
all angles over a roof. Shining shape.
Form luminous and held in a breath.
The sweep of the fox's eyes and a child's
cheek. Or you may say apple greener than
Mediterranean sky. It doesn't matter.
We here are a simple equation. An eye
for an eye. What your hands have made
our focus dismantles. On certain occasions,
two eyes for one. [6]

1372. Spring Sprung
April 26, 1984

Wandering through the end of April tying up loose ends, loosening up old ties. THis is probably the last April in Missoula, and it's not one to remember, cold and temperamental, and I'm intemperately impatient waiting for trees to come back trees. Finished Herself Defined [7], interesting and disappointing, embarking on Ellman's Joyce, just finished Lessing's Stories, "Two Potters" my favourite, wish I could do that in a poem.


NOTES

1. Another poem that never went anywhere.

2. Pound's head exploded in the kiln. This really happened. I would have Pound's head if it hadn't exploded in the kiln.

3. Our big old tabby cat.

4. Of graduate school.

5. A nothing scrap.

6. Damn, i tried to make this poem work, but never could.

7. A biography of the poet H.D.

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