Sunday, June 22, 2008

More Musings from the Sunshine State


Reclining Figure
Originally uploaded by Michael_Kelleher
Despite all the time on my hands, it's been difficult to imagine new things to blog about the past couple of weeks. I've been keeping to a very regular schedule: wake, surf the net, eat, write, eat again, go to the gym, eat again, watch a DVD or go to the movies, read, sleep. It has varied little.

The writing part has been going pretty well. I can't rightly say what I am doing with the writing anymore, other than that I am doing it and it is taking me in unexpected directions. The Cul De Sac still stands at the center of my thinking, but I've been writing about more philosophical things the past two weeks. First, a meditation on the shape of the circle at the end of the cul de sac became a mediation on geometry and platonism, which lead the next day to a meditation on memory.

None of which prepared me for the next part of the project, which took well over a week to semi-complete, which turned out to be an eight page meditation on the idea of god, written (as were the other two poems and some of the others I have been writing since I've been down here) loosely in blank verse. Formally, I think this is an area I'd like to explore further, that is, using blank verse as a means to write discursively.

I've been trying since completing my last book to explore poems of greater length. I have also been experimenting with line length, trying to extend myself out of the short line and fragmentary thought into something more expansive, without losing the sense of musicality in the language. Blank verse serves this purpose well, as it works with the regular rhythms of iambic pentameter, but the length of lines allows for infinite rhythmic variation from line to line.

It somehow also feels natural when extending the lines out so (from my usual 4-6 syllable line to a 9-11 syllable line) to write about more discursive subjects. I find myself much more willing to let my thought meander and to add information as I go, whereas writing in short lines leads me toward a more fragmentary kind of poem. While the short poems are often more precise, the longer ones offer me the opportunity to continue on with a thought and to play with the excess a bit more, rather than looking for only the essential in every instant.

The 8 page poem is also one long sentence. This, I think, is a habit leftover from writing short works, where I often break up a sentence into short, sharp lines, ending the poem or the section of the poem with a period. The habit of making the poem out of a single sentence as extended itself into these new, longer works, which makes them somewhat exhausting to read aloud to myself, as I often do when writing. It will be interesting to see how a live audience responds when I start reading them in public.

I have also declared this the summer of reading in Spanish. I have been reading books in Spanish only since I arrived. Currently, I am reading La Muerte De Artemio Cruz, by Carlos Fuentes. I next plan to read Los Detectives Salvajes, by Roberto Bolaño, which I had intended to read in English until I found out the America editor of the book decided to arbitrarily chop two chapters out of the original.

Movies seen since the last entry:

Theater

The Bank Job - a serviceable heist film from the UK, starring Jason Statham.

Get Smart - I really wanted this to be funnier than it was. I am also, since I noticed it in the Indiana Jones film, getting impatient with the way in which CGI is blurring the bounds between live action and animation. Live action films no longer even bother to explaning how, for instance, a man might fall from an airplane without a parachute, land in a barn, and walk away without a scratch, which happens in GS. Formerly, you at least had to suggest a plausible imaginative explanation or rationale for this kind of thing. Now, the filmmakers don't even bother, which makes it more like watching Roadrunner cartoons than watching a film. That said, it's worth a few laughs, but probably not full admission price.

On DVD

Two films by Carlos Reygadas: Japón and Battle in Heaven. Tarkovsky meets Kiarostami and Costa? That might be an apt description for these fascinating, slow-burning, philosophical explorations of pockmarked and wrinkled faces, aged and/or obese naked bodies, graphic violence and sex, and viscerally sublime landscapes. Anyhow, well worth checking out, and I am looking forward to his next film, which everybody raved about after Cannes last year, but which has yet to show up in the U.S.

F for Fake - a monotonous and borderline laughable pseudo-documentary by Orson Welles.

Boarding Gate - the latest from Olivier Assayas, starring Asia Argento and Michael Madsen. The first 30 minutes, in which Argento and Madsen try to heat up some chemistry is terrible, but once the plot twist occurs, this film turns into an intense, beautifully-shot thriller. It's worth the pain to get to the good part, but just barely.

47 Ronin -- Mizoguchi's 1941 version of this story is long, very, very long, and for the non-Japanese like myself, somewhat difficult to follow, as it is really about exploring the intricate details of the samurai code of honor, which are not always explicit in the discussions. And the subtitles and the print on the DVD are pretty bad, which makes it harder to watch. However, it-s almost 4 hours worth of classic Mizoguchi image-making -- perfectly composed shots, amazing tracking, etc, so good for that.

Two by William Klein -- Who Are You Polly Magoo and The Model Couple, both 60's and 70's era satires of, respectively, fashion and sociology. Both are entertaining for a while, and both are prescient pre-reality-television-style films, but both peter out after a bit. Polly Magoo is the better of the two. I am waiting to see Mr. Freedom, the third in the collection.

And that's all for now. Time to write poetry, eat, go to the gym, etc. Oh, yeah, and to play Scrabulous, which I spend way, way too much time doing on vacation and in real life.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

More From Florida


Drunken Poet Cafe
Originally uploaded by Michael_Kelleher
It's been a very productive week down here. I've gone to the gym almost everyday -- the first time I've exercised that regularly in a while.

I've started a new writing project. I thinking I am actually writing a book of poetry, as opposed to a collection of poems. It's pretty new, so I am not sure what will happen once I start to cut it down, but for now I am concerned more with adding and adding and adding. I'll get to the cutting soon enough. Not sure why, but I start thinking about the little suburban cul-de-sac in Vienna, Virginia where I grew up. About a month a go, I wrote a disjointed poem made from lines I had quickly written down that were fragmented memories of growing up there. It's really the only successful poem I've written in the past year. Anyhow, that got me thinking about my childhood, about the place I grew up, about memory and cul-de-sacs and circles and suburbia, and so that is where my head is at the moment. I am not sure if what I am writing is a single long poem or a collection of poems growing out of a certain focus of attention on a particular place and time, or some hybrid of the two. I imagine it might also be something that lends itself to collaboration with a visual artist, who might help map out visually some of the terrain.

I went to the Sarasota farmer's market on Saturday, where I was able to buy produce for a lot cheaper than at the store. Although my grapes are no good, which I am a bit pissed about. I guess I should have looked more closely.

I also saw old Buffalo classmate Kirk McCaully, who's been a visiting Prof. at the New College of Sarasota, but is getting ready to move with Linda Russo, his partner, out to Pullman, Washington, where the two of them have been hired. We had great Tapas, then went to see "Standard Operating Procedure," the new Errol Morris film about the photos and videos of Abu Ghraib. It's really fantastic, though having read his recent blog essays on the same material, I found them to be much more interesting and informative than the film itself. They are must reading for anyone interested in visual representation and its attendant problems.

I tried to watch Peter Watkins, "La Commune: Paris 1871" on video the other night. I found it pretty much unwatchable. I made it through two distracted hours of this 5.5 hour film. He employs his patented, yet now familiar and overused technique of imagining a historical event attended by today's mass media, and told through the lens of interviewers and talking heads. The effect in this instance is of spending five hours watching unedited news footage of student protesters shrieking in anger and exhilaration as they take over a campus building, punctuated by inter-titles providing historical context for the event.

I have to say I am starting get really, really, fatigued by poorly executed Brechtian theory in film. It's especially hard after watching so much Godard over the past year, who always finds clever and cheeky ways to deal with politics, and only fails when he beats you over the head with dogma.

In other news, looks like our house purchase on Livingston Street is not going to happen. We had the inspection on Sunday, which turned up a a lot more added costs, and a lot more added work, that we just weren't willing to put into it. Looks like we'll be renting a while longer.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Florida So Far


Darwin Rules
Originally uploaded by Michael_Kelleher
I drove to Florida from Buffalo on Saturday and Sunday. First night I got as far as Orangeburg, SC, where I stayed in a very noisy Comfort Inn. Sunday I finished off the journey with another 8 hours through Georgia and Florida, arriving at my mother's empty Bungalow mid-afternoon. Most of the ride was rather dull -- I got from from letter "A" through most of letter "B" on my iPod, but the shuffle won't work anymore, which was a bit of a bummer. Kind of sad that I generally don't want to listen to whole albums anymore and prefer being constantly surprised by what pops up next. I did have some good Mexican food in Summersville, WV, of all places. The mountain Mama is also the scenic highlight of the trip until you get to the swampland of central Florida, which is also pretty good to look at.

(See photo above of swamp creatures eating each other in Mom's front yard)

I have already spent $140 on groceries, most of it at Albertson's, some at Whole Foods. Buffalonians who travel (BWT's) often complain that Buffalo has no Whole Foods, so I had to check it out, and I am here to report that Wegman's is a much more thorough grocer than Whole Foods, and that W's organics come in the same varieties and in the same brands as Whole Foods. If shopping in Green Architectural Spaces makes you feel good, then I guess whole foods wins, but other than that, I'll take Wegman's.

Monday, I got up and wrote for a bit, then went to Comcast to pick up a cable modem. No, I can't live without the internet for even a day, and it would drive me crazy to have drive to Starbuck's just to surf. I also joined a gym down the street and made a dental appointment for Tuesday, on which day I was told I need two crowns, which set me back a pretty penny. A lot of pretty pennies. They ground down my two back uppers on the right side and capped them with temporary crowns. The permanent ones will be put on before I leave in July. Anyhow, it's tough to chew on that side and I am popping ibuprofins like Skittles to kill the pain. It works, for the most part.

Today I finally got some real writing done. I also found a killer video store that will feed my jones while I am here. Tonight I am going to begin the Andrzej Wajda war trilogy -- A Generation, Kanal, and Ashes and Diamonds. I've seen the latter, but not the other two, and thought it'd be fun to watch them all back to back and in chronological order. I know, I am a geek, but I can tell you this: I've got nothing on the guys that run Renaissance Video in Sarasota. When I told them I was from Buffalo, they immediately rattled off every film ever set or shot in the Queen City. So there.