Midweek Staff Meeting – Hobbit Houses

May 13, 2015 § Leave a comment


Poet Mary Ruefle will be at the Hill Center tonight. You should go. I am.

I wish they’d review more poetry, but I guess that I’ll settle for New York Times review of a poet’s memoir (Tracy Smith in this case; I heard her read and she’s very good).

Okay, okay. I get it. This looks fun. #Bookface. Just… read the article I guess. Easier than my trying to explain it.

You missed out on your chance to live in a… above ground hobbit hole? Flintstones cosplay re-enactment set? Move-in ready mushroom?

This New Yorker article struck a chord with me, as someone who enjoys reading nineteenth century literature. I have mentioned a couple of times that I am reading from Richard Burton’s translation of The Arabian Nights and some of the racial language goes well beyond cringe-worthy. Of course, this article was written by someone of Turkish descent and I never even thought of how often ‘turk’ was used as a sort of insult or shorthand for someone or something brutish in nineteenth century literature So… food for thought.

Who cares about the Paris Commune?

This… just because I’m a sucker for this kind of stuff.


Dumbarton Oaks Museum & Research Library

May 12, 2015 § Leave a comment

I’d visited the Dumbarton Oaks Gardens (which are an absolutely fantastic way to spend a nice afternoon; I brought a collection of essays by the nineteenth century critic and essayist, John Ruskin, because these gardens deserve to be appreciated next to some eighteenth or nineteenth century literature; in point of fact, I actually brought a collection of poems by William Cowper, just in case we could also visit the gardens, but there wasn’t enough time), but never the attached museum. So, on Sunday, we went.

A couple of decades ago, I was very intrigued by the architect Philip Johnson. One of his notable buildings was the Dumbarton addition, designed to display its Pre-Columbian art. It’s an amazingly well designed little wing. Circular rooms adjoining each other to create a larger circle, with the floors being golden wood radiating out to an outer green, white veined marble ring. The move away from lines and edges helped take me away from Western European modes of geometric thought (I wouldn’t necessarily say that the art therein enclosed was necessarily non-linear nor circular; the important part was the dislocation from ingrained modes of thinking). The golden wood matched the reappearance of wood and especially gold in the materials used in the art, while the marble reflected the use of jade, especially, but was also in dialogue with the turquoise.

The art itself is amazing, but there is always a ‘but.’ It was too disconnected. Not enough effort was made to help us see the pieces in context. There were so many varied and wildly different cultures in Mexico and Central and South America before my people (broadly speaking) gifted two continents with small pox and influenza, but the viewer is never given enough to understand Olmec versus Moche cultures, so that the collection becomes little more than an assemblage of beautiful and stunning bric-a-brac.


Not Dead Yet – Weekend Reading

May 8, 2015 § Leave a comment

A reading of Molière, Jean François de Troy, about 1728

A reading of Molière, Jean François de Troy, about 1728

Yes, that was a Monty Python reference, but I’m referring to old fashioned bookstores. Unbelievably, there is a book store in DC that I haven’t yet visited. It’s in Petworth and is called Upshur Street Books.

What? No Shakespeare! Inconceivable! And yes, that’s another movie reference.

This just sounds awesome. How can I get myself invited to one of these ‘Little Salons?’

The ‘mind’ of poetry. But, seriously – you used the Laffer Curve to prove your point? I mean, you do know that the Laffer Curve is almost completely bogus?

This is just kind of cool – a collection of short reviews of both books in Ace’s ‘Doubles’ series. I just read one with The Caves of Mars on one side and The Space Mercenaries on the other. However, there is no review of that book(s) on this site. But that’s okay. You are quite literally visiting a site – right now – that reviews both those books. There’s a search feature. Feel free to use it.

I have heard that the Philly poetry scene is pretty cool and happening. It even got mentioned on Gilmore Girls once.

Nothing short of genius will do. Genius… and no sex. Wait… what?

Typewriters I have known.

Poets Laureate

May 5, 2015 § 1 Comment

Thursday, April 30, was the final, formal appearance of current Poet Laureate, Charles Wright, at the Library of Congress. Rather than do a lecture, there was a conversation between Wright and the fifteenth Poet Laureate (Wright is the twentieth), Charles Simic. Don Share, the editor of Poetry, moderated and asked the questions.

I used to be a great fan of Simic and while I don’t read as much anymore, his collection of prose poems, The World Doesn’t End, had an earth shattering effect on my sense of poetry. Wright is someone who I only learned to enjoy after I first heard him read at the Folger Shakespeare Library.

Everyone on stage was charming and intelligent and witty, but there was too much charm and wit on display and not enough talk about poetry. I like Share, but I rather wish his more contemplative editorial predecessor, Christian Wiman, has been on stage.

I brought a copy of The World of the Ten Thousand Things: Poems 1980-1990 for Wright to sign. The later poems in there, taken from Zone Journals, struck me very forcibly as being reminiscent of Pound’s Cantos (everywhere, I am constantly reminded that I haven’t finished my systematic reading of it yet). Partly, it was the Whitman-esque form of the lines and stanzas, but also the deep influence of Italy on both men. But you could tell that Wright had once been in love with Pound and carried the Cantos with him in a backpack. During part of the conversation, Wright did mention the Cantos and Pound and their crazy genius. He clearly loved Pound very much. When I asked him about Pound, he said he wasn’t really thinking about that ‘crazy genius’ when he wrote Zone Journals. He had read the Cantos as a young man, but not since. Which is fair. Works like that are for a young man’s adoration and an older man’s guarded nostalgia.

The Red Line

May 3, 2015 § Leave a comment

The Red Line is a swirling, sucking abyss of despair, illuminated only by the dim and disappointing light of false hope.

May 2, 2015 § Leave a comment


A few of my favorites…


Politics and Prose (Washington, DC)

Inkwood Books (Tampa, FL)

Skylight Books (Los Angeles, CA)

Bridge Street Books (Washington, DC)

Lemuria Books (Jackson, MS)

Strand Books (New York City, NY

City Lights Books (San Francisco, CA)

Teaching for Change (Washington, DC; located inside the original Busboys and Poets).


I Love This Building

April 27, 2015 § Leave a comment

Art Deco

My route to and from work takes me past an Art Deco building on 11th St SE, just south of Pennsylvania Ave. I love it. It’s totally out of character (most of the structures on that block and, indeed, throughout the Hill neighborhood, were built between 1900-1930 and are most certainly not Art Deco).

It’s just so unique and eye catching and unexpected and it’s one of the highlights of my commute (arguably the only highlight).

Apparently, it was built in 1932 and was originally a funeral home. Now, it’s an apartment building. Wouldn’t it be great to live in that building? At least, wouldn’t it be great if you were in your twenties or early thirties (and maybe you are)?


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