Thursday, June 25, 2009

That's Dr. Falstaff to you

5 years

= STATA + JSTOR + rewrites + conference presentations + the annual caffeine output of a medium-sized Colombian plantation

= 49,000 words + 300 references + 24 tables

= 15 slides + 1 hour defense

= 1 dissertation, signed and delivered.

And it's barely lunchtime.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Four years

Depressing thought # 1461: This blog has now lasted longer than any relationship I've been in.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009


After he stopped sleeping, he moved into the library, staying hidden when the doors closed in the evening so he could spend all night wandering the shelves, picking out books at random, reading straight through till dawn.

He estimated it would take him twenty five years to read every book the library had. In fact, it took him twenty seven.

By the time he finished, he could no longer speak with anyone. A long habit of absolute silence made that impossible. Instead he spent three days sitting quietly in his carrel, thinking back over all he had read. On the fourth day he made a decision, found the book that he wanted, began to re-read.

Sunday, June 21, 2009


"Maybe all people are abandoned children. Perhaps birth is like being abandoned on earth by God."

- Yasunari Kawabata The Old Capital [1]

Or like running away. Here we are then, delinquents in search of adventure, impatient of safety, a galaxy of shooting stars. The self an assertion of independence. Mortality a coming of age.

At what point does escape turn into exile?

Robert Frost defines home as "something you somehow haven't to deserve". Who can blame us then, if death feels like home?

[1] translated from the Japanese by J. Martin Holman


Every Sunday she buys seven white gladioli, arranges them in the tall vase in her bedroom, their long stems immersed in water. Their presence gives the room a kind of clarity, a sense of well-being she draws sustenance from, even though she knows her joy is rootless, that her hope, even as it opens, is beginning to fade.

Sunday, June 07, 2009

The best policy

He put his cards on the table. Found himself playing solitaire.


You know how people who don't know anything about it are always saying that they don't like modern poetry because it doesn't rhyme? Well, aside from being lazy and short-sighted, that particular prejudice isn't even true - a fair number of modern poets do, in fact, work in rhyme, and this month's issue of Poetry features two of the finest I know. Here's Stephen Edgar:

Look. The moon’s pale-copper sphere
Rings—a gong too faint to hear—
Through the city.
- Stephen Edgar, 'The Building of Light'

and A.E. Stallings:

I hate you,
How the children plead
At first sight—

I want, I need,
I hate how nearly
Always I

At first say no,
And then comply.
(Soon, soon

They will grow bored
Clutching your
Umbilical cord)

- A.E. Stallings, 'The Mother's Loathing of Balloons'

Go read.

P.S. Those of you who don't need poems to rhyme should also check out Armantrout, who is as delightful as ever.

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Morning Post

The paper arrives with its newsprint rain.

The world is sodden with happening. My throat is dry.

I scan the horoscopes, circle the futures I like.

Unfolded, the silence is as wide as my arms.

Monday, June 01, 2009

R.I.P. Kamala Das

Just heard the news.

I must admit I've never much cared for Ms. Das - I've only read her poems, and they've always struck me as being predictable, turgid and overripe. The sort of poems you'd expect from Edna St. Vincent Millay [1].

Still, I did read them, and while I may not be particularly fond of Ms. Das's efforts, I cannot question the sincerity of those efforts, or the immeasurable importance of her having made them.

One mourns for her the way one mourns for an elderly relative: however out of date her conversation, however embarrassing her presence, her death is still a loss.

[1] I realize some people might consider this a compliment. It's not meant to be.