Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Note from the writer

Several years ago, I wrote to a very famous writer, one whose student I had been, for advice in getting my first book published. She generously replied by providing the names both of her agent and her fiction editor. Usually, someone who has failed in publishing books, as I have, does not secure that kind of confidence -- from anyone, and that means anyone, even one's own mother -- but I was lucky enough to have had a teacher who signed her name two decades ago to her statement of my young achievements, and who stands by it: it was then and still is her recommendation that I publish my work and that I work as a teacher.

Being on the outside

The atmosphere of the story suggests they are all women, but you have to dissect it, study it, to prove it -- no man or "he" is mentioned in the story, which runs 500 words. Before I cut 330 words from it, the story seemed "surreal" or Old Norse -- Scandinavian (dark nights) or Old English: it read like boulders and weeds. Cutting 330 words made it deeper, active, and more resonant. The extra wordage was needed to show that the women were in boring yet complicated terms on the diet. Literature and writing are not boring as rebalancing diets for a group of women to enter on together.

I was in the second year of a rebalancing diet eight years ago -- in my unconscious, that is where the number "eight" is coming from. I went on the diet alone, using books and going to the health food store. I was in a group of “recovery” women who ate together once a month. It was not boring, but fun. The group kept certain recovery women out due to their "diagnoses" (this was not the fiction, but the real tale), and now those women suffer alone, eight years later, and had to move from their houses to different towns. I stayed with the main group for a while then left because they had kept the others out to suffer. In the fiction story about the diet, two women stay away, and the eight others wonder about them. The other way of being on the "outside" is to reject the group.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

The eight members of the group

The tallest of the group, Edel, is 5'6". It is not a group for "short people": it is a group for "good people," but they call it a group for "our kind of people." They experience "goodness" in one way, and it brings them happiness to "eat, meet, and greet." There is no hugging, except Von forgets herself and tries to jump Dash’s shoulders. Von has been to the barber, but the group doesn't know that. They think she has taken up wearing scarves and hats and caps against a war -- which she is, against a war -- as she hopes the group is with her. But the group is not "for" or "against" any war. They are "for" eating correctly in a balanced way, going by principles. It is hard for most of them to do, and when they aren't finishing off a once-a-month pie together, they are talking about it: the diet. They are not trying to lose weight, as with all previous diets, but are trying to achieve balance through nutrition. Vinegar is out, an easy one. The hard one is sugar, so once a month they eat it together, to get it over with, to be in agreement, to see to it, to acknowledge liberties they still enjoy. They agree they are experiencing more balance than ever before, that their diets are performing a miracle for them; they are free and clear of imbalance. Their nutrients solve their complaints, make them feel whole and clear, of one good conscience, and they are right to feel that way. Each is a fish in a big pond; each is a fish plant in an underwater marsh of seaweed; each says so in their own words. The language slips and hisses: what about knowing the story, really hearing it ala snorts from the lamb's nostrils -- "horse's mouth" frightens Vella: a sense of smell tells of something peculiar or suspicious or that doesn't fit. Starro, who is not in the group, won’t tell even one story, so that doesn't fit her behavior, the way her jeans fit: perfectly. Tesich tells stories about irrelevant things. None tells stories about work. Their work is run over by computers with ears, eyes, mouth, yet the computers do not breathe or notice smells. Dalni smells things that aren't there and develops a sick joke that makes them laugh: "Is it me?" she leads, "Or do you smell socks?" "The President's cat," Krenna says, chuckling hilariously. Dalni has "olfactory hallucinations," Shel, Ph.D., says. Tet cannot smell at all, and Dalni smells what cannot be smelled. Because Dalni cannot resist telling her joke, and Krenna cannot resist hers, and no one tells good stories, both are expelled. The group secretly changes its meeting time to the third Wednesday of each month, butting Dalni and Krenna -- hoping they go have sex. “Together,” Par, the newcomer, says, in tune with the wishes of the eight members of the group -- stories they'd like to hear.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Rice Crackers

Two approaches to deciphering and remarking our condition in America today: quilts and rice crackers.

Not particularly maternal and slavishly sexual we make rice crackers. Believing in the power of plain talk to revitalize the obituated giant we make quilts.

Q (g) u i (l) t.

Rice cracker: slightly sweet and slightly salty Chinese appetizer. Tease and oddity. Symbol of food. Rice cracker: our body on the tongue of the synogogue.

A woman's body is not Art. A woman's dimensions are not compressible to the fact of a cracker or definite as the pattern of a quilt. A woman is what.

What form might a woman's writing take besides quilts and rice crackers? What leaves or vase or tools might deliver her language and literature without the delicate omissions and parti-colored busy-ness of quilts and rice crackers?

Unusable language is silencing screams, signs, and villages.

(Nov. 12, 1988)

Why I Write

I write fiction to be more modest than I am in real life. To think less about tiny inconveniences and insults. To harbor less antipathy toward others. My characters don't react effectively to situations, especially distressing situations. Almost everything is expressed ironically.

I no longer wish to impress anyone with anything I write. I no longer wish to impress or get attention. It's too costly. I say too little; I attract too much attention. I would rather say what is nearer to truth.

What if there is no audience (and God has no material existence), why write?

I write to express joy.

As a woman writing I am interested in a particular kind of spiritual and physical freedom that living in the world extinguishes. Writing is a way out of the world, to another world that can offer what the 9-to-5 plot cannot. I am not insensible to the demands of straight, narrative fiction, and I enjoy reading straight, narrative fiction when the language is interesting or when its withholding is. I am also wooed by poetry. My poetry is becoming algebraic, masculine, square with suppressed emotion.

What I remember of most narration is not plot but atmosphere.

I find the greatest power in creating concrete images.

(Oct. 14, 1990)

Friday, January 26, 2007

Fiction's Properties

from Zadie Smith in "Fail Better," The Guardian, Saturday, January 13, 2007 (an article about the writing of ideal novels):

[...]Writers have only one duty, as I see it: the duty to express accurately their way of being in the world. [...]Fictional truth is a question of perspective, not autobiography. It is what you can't help tell if you write well; it is the watermark of self that runs through everything you do. It is language as the revelation of a consciousness.[...]

[...]Bad writing does nothing, changes nothing, educates no emotions, rewires no inner circuitry—we close its covers with the same metaphysical confidence in the universality of our own interface as we did when we opened it.[...]

from Mary Gordon in "Bad Behavior," a talk originally presented at a 20th-Century Masters Tribute to Flannery O'Connor, sponsored by the PEN American Center and Lincoln Center:

Prose fiction was born Protestant. It is a child of the Enlightenment, and though it has some exotic forebears—romance most nearly, drama and poetry further back—it could only have seen the light of day because of its parent, journalism. [...]

[...]I dreamed that Flannery O’Connor and I were speaking together on a panel. Her hair was perfectly coifed; she was wearing a perfectly tailored suit, and a perfectly crisp white blouse, and perfectly shined penny loafers. My hair was filthy, my slip was showing, my stockings were ripped. In the dream she said to me, 'Your problem is that you don’t believe in perfection.' And I said to her, because it was my dream, 'I do believe in perfection, but you think perfection is flawlessness, and I think it’s completeness.'[...]

from the Christopher Isherwood Diaries (July, 1940):

Prayer for writers: 'Oh source of my inspiration, teach me to extend toward all living that fascinated, unsentimental, loving and all-pardoning interest which I feel for the characters I create. May I become identified with all humanity, as I identify myself with these imaginary persons. May my life become my art and my art my life.'

from Alibris:

On William Mills Todd III's The Familiar Letter as a Literary Genre in the Age of Pushkin (Princeton University Press, 1976):

In the field of Russian literary studies, there is surprisingly little comprehensive, high-quality discussion of independent genres and their effect on the creativity of an era. This important text on the quasi-public "friendly letter" of nineteenth-century Russia addresses this deficiency. In The Familiar Letter as a Literary Genre in the Age of Pushkin, Todd examines the tradition of familiar letter writing that developed in the early 1800s among the Arzamasians -- a literary circle that included such luminaries as Pushkin, Karamzin, and Turgenev -- and argues that these letters constitute a distinct literary genre. Such letter writing is not original with the Russian Romantics, but the fact that Russia of the 1820s and 1830s developed this genre so powerfully among its finest writers, and integrated French and German prototypes with such skill, makes their practice exemplary. Todd gives a thorough prehistory of the convention of "correspondence," both salon and scientific, in the eighteenth century, with marvelous citations. He then concentrates on the themes, strategies, and autobiographical functions of the letter for several master writers in Pushkin's time. By considering the writers' peculiar working out of semiprivate personae fashioned in public view, one can better understand certain later first-person works like Dostoevsky's Poor Folk and Notes from the Underground, Tolstoy's Confession, and works of Chekhov. This book's scholarship demonstrates that the real literary life and the genuine advance of literary thought in Russia occurred not in journalistic criticism but rather in this correspondence.

Thursday, January 25, 2007


We sneaked blood-red tomatoes from the new kitchen. The new kitchen had oak cupboards, the top ones lit behind glass, showing carved flute vases -- green and robin’s egg blue and delicate pink -- porcelain chickens, beaks pointed to each other, two chickens discussing, one cock and one hen, the long ice masher, the silver plate, the Japanese clay plate, the wooden dish. There was a woodworker in the family; one of the grandfathers taught shop and built furniture. The granddaughters quarreled over who would inherit it: the gentle, cut-copper lamp, the small table, varnished and erect, with its legs flared at a stance to seem curved but not, straight. We were to eat just meat and to become discombobulated over bread and vegetables and not to indulge in sex with strange men -- men were all strange once you got used to their distance -- were Lincoln logs, poles, boulders and scrub trees. Sex was for gitting kin -- the new rules same as the old rules. Girls were for sex. Leave girls out of it: Let Latin grow in them. Teach girls joy and “no touching” and "three men max." Slather them with mother’s caresses and dog’s big-face kisses and paws.

(Published in Minnetonka Review, issue 2, Troy Ehlers, ed., March 2008, p. 15.)

Monday, January 22, 2007

Work of a Reader

Monday, January 22, 2007, 15:39:00 CST:

A lot of new work has come out in the last week or so -- I'm enjoying it at a clip, in particular UnlikelyStories 2.0: The Cross-Media Issue and collaborations in Sugar Mule.  Now broadsides and experimental chapbooks and ars poetica.  Appreciating those in my office with its desktop is going well.  Trying to read fiction in bed is not going very well at all. I avoid the cozy room where physical books surround my bed in wait for me -- books by fiction authors that I bought or checked out of the library -- all due or recalled before I can get to them.

In one of the greatest bookstore moments of my life, I recently bought the collected Chekhov (Ecco) and began with volume 1 (of 13).  "The Darling" is how far I got, but I had already read it.  That is followed by an essay by Tolstoy about women, called "Tolstoy's Criticism on 'The Darling'," not to be missed!  I ended up snubbing George Orwell (Down and Out in Paris and London) like neglecting to meet a train.  I bought that book for its flowing brief sketches of lives of real people. Then it gets worse -- this reading of books -- I go to the cafe and can only read a minimalist there, one crouton at a time.

My three Emily Dickinsons are in storage, but the boxed biography is here.  My Collected H.D. is at his house, a thousand miles away.  Then I get E.D. and H.D. out of the library and read and want to quote and forget the other books.  At the library, there are three areas: Children's, Fiction, and Non-Fiction. Poetry is in Non-Fiction. I read at (the Academy of American Poets) for a week.  I meant to but forgot to get the Collected May Swenson from the library, but I read her online.  Then I go back to The Cross-Media Issue and see how much there still is to see and try to buy an item at eBay for Rain Taxi, but the auction must be over.  Then I read the Norman Mailer article at the kitchen table while eating beans.


The man who planned a surprise attack on me on my birthday in 1991, EG, writes better prose poetry than I do -- his prose poetry is better than his "line poetry," and my line poetry is better than his. He gets paid to work as a college tutor; I am obliged to tutor for free. I have three degrees; he has none. He is a "hard way" writer who did not graduate college; I am an "easy way" writer who did graduate, three times. The "easy-ways" have a harder time getting paid than the "hard-ways." I am sure you feel that it has nothing to do with our genders that he is paid, and I volunteer, only with that I care: a feminine preoccupation that I have with getting paid. Am I "crazy"? Is he "wild and crazy"? I volunteer within local jurisdictions -- but why? why? for what? I have told my mother, "You are in cahoots with these violent people when you don't object to it," but she thinks it's writing experts who decided it. Writing experts might agree with me: his prose poetry is better than mine, but prose poetry was not the arena when he attacked me in 1991. The arena was short story (mine) and line poetry (his).

Friday, January 19, 2007

Freundinnen: Her Lost Friend Poem

It is a bad habit to appraise one's friends with the eyes of one taking leave of them forever. Worse still to be compelled to imagine what they will say to each other, once it has come to pass, concerning one's imminent death. --Christa Wolf

The circumstances of our lives
are the least important thing about us.

Still I am compelled to ask
where you are, how you are,
what you do, whom you love

if you still live

where your haunts are,
where your thoughts are.

It occurs to me that you
don't deserve my concern
after so much empty space and time,
certainly, monotonous time lost wondering
what has inevitably happened to you

without answers, without participation
why bother?

I would drop it all together,
leave it to chance alone -- our false,
timid intimacy --
except for one thing:

This separation may be final.

We may not appear
suddenly after some years, as before --
again in the same region
ready to haunt and understand
each other incompletely.

your silence may be your unwillingness
to do that anymore

that's all right
and all wrong
both with consequences

How casually you cast off friends!

I have personally wanted more future
to dispel anger and show forgiveness
driven this way toward ideal friendships

I am bound to be haunted by you --
and this is the greatest unkindness --
you know this about me, my tendency
to fixate and never unbind
connections of the greatest and most
trivial kind

I am not suited to forgetfulness

With what tenacity
that could move bridges if it were physical,
I have anchored on you,
my favorite sinking ship
and mystery

You were never so clear as in your absence

I waste myself this way,
choking over the past.
You are the last one to settle

All the others -- the grave stones
marked at last -- solved,
all useless to me now, ordinary
memories that don't make
me sicken.

This is why he and I
will last forever
my first clearly permanent bond:
we don't want anything.

What a freedom that is
for one year, mates who want nothing
that can be gotten from the other
or held back
as punishment

what perfection
to be so clean and unused

Love? I love him until it is absurd
and never forbidden
(how lucky that is)

I don't want any other person
this way.

To dangerously recant
what I've learned to a canyon --
you, who couldn't care, who
never received,
the ungiving -- the tenth ungiving
mother, another
imaginary fortress
I've used

how sharp. how personal.
public exposure -- all I've ever wanted --

Why would I want you to feel guilty?

I only want to know if you do
and how stupid that wanting is.
There are futures for us that are
immediate and unattainable

perfect as death.

(Ann Bogle, fall 1984)

Monday, January 15, 2007

Sound Experiment

Activate all three poetry recorders and one music recorder at once: play Swedish Folkpoems first (until the Swedish fragment is done). Play excerpts of XAM: Paragraph Series; 8 Poems; Swedish Folkpoems; and "Bigger Situation" (Leo Kottke, One Guitar, No Vocals, Private Music, 1999). "Trio: All the Way from Baltimore" along with "Bigger Situation" gives a jiffier version of the same thing. [Note: I removed excerpts of XAM: Paragraph Series, 8 Poems, "Bigger Situation," and "Trio: All the Way from Baltimore," recordings at Gabcast ( on October 7, 2007].

Saturday, January 06, 2007

Maiden names

Men were using women. Women were asking for it -- to be of use to men -- and what did the men want them for? To be "women." A woman has hair on her head, covering her ears and neck and shoulders, but in no other place (except two narrow arches over her eyes and lashes). A woman's hair is rarely of a color of her own but comes from a chair, a treatment chair where she learns to be correct in her colors. A woman earns all her own dough (a slang word for flower). Dough is a color, the color of M&Ms, the colors of plastic cards. Each of the cards represents men, her suitors; they are colorful and holographic cards who ask for her, send to her, pay for her, provide for her, supervise her, and who know her name and her mother's maiden name. The men enjoy using the women -- on her plural-her usefulness they spend 39 cents to send a greeting card. The men keep the women's maiden names ready. Maiden names screech to far-keeping fathers.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Chagrin (def.)

cha-grin', n. [Fr. chagrin, grief, sorrow, vexation, from chagrin, a kind of roughened leather used for rasping wood.] mortification, disappointment, humiliation, embarrassment, etc. caused by failure or discomfiture.

Syn.--vexation, mortification. --Vexation springs from a sense of loss, disappointment, etc., mortification from wounded pride; chagrin may spring from either, and is not usually as keen or lasting.

-- from Webster's New Universal Unabridged Dictionary, deluxe 2nd edition

Words at Ana Verse with "bra" in them


(rev. Nov. 26, 2008)

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

My Aunt Was a Physicist

My aunt, Frances Alsmiller, was a physicist married to another physicist, "Tut" Alsmiller. I've gotten over the surprise of learning of this in 2000 -- and had meant to assimilate it as personal biographical information -- and simply to refer to her (both are now deceased) -- as my aunt. Earlier in life I had been told that our aunt and uncle (my mother's siblings) were doctors. We never met them due to the fact that my mother was adopted as an infant in 1930 out of that family -- her mother died shortly after giving birth to her -- by her father's cousin, a woodcrafter, and his wife, Wisconsin dairy farmers. I now refer to my mother's original family as her "other family."

Our mother spoke once against "blood arguments," and this meant, among other things, that we were not to think of ourselves magically as "doctors" because her siblings were doctors. Now I am not to think of myself magically as a "physicist" since her sister was one -- born in 1929 or so -- or as psychiatrists because her brother was one -- and yet, I find it thrilling to realize that my aunt was a physicist, more thrilling than I found it to think of her as a "doctor," for whatever reason -- perhaps it seems even more daring, and perhaps math has to do with it. I, too, loved algebra and once worked at a mathematics library in Madison.

I learned in the course of my mother's "other family" coming to light that her original mother, Clara Swanson (b. 1900, and not, I think, related to May Swenson, who was born in Utah in 1919, and whose parents were also from Sweden) was a poet and teacher and that Frances Alsmiller wrote about physics and spirituality. I would find out where my aunt's papers are kept and whether any of my natural grandmother's poems are extant.

The family were "Spiritualists" -- perhaps they even knew Harry Houdini, another spiritualist, who came from nearby Appleton, Wisconsin. All of this is very interesting, at least to me. My mother is anything but a "spiritualist" (spiritualists used seances to bring people back from the dead), so I see that she has kept to her argument against "blood" certainties. My mother and I both graduated from UW-Madison, she in 1952 and I in 1984.

By way of coincidence, then, regarding "Tut": In 1998 I won a Minnesota State Arts Board Grant in "non-fiction," for excerpts from an unpublished mixed-genre ms. called Work on What Has Been Spoiled. I used the grant to complete work on a short story collection now called Institute of Tut: Short Stories. I had renamed the collection only months before I learned that we had an uncle-in-law who went by the name of Tut. He was still alive at that time and reportedly said that he would buy a book called Institute of Tut, whether or not he knew his niece had written it. Unfortunately, due to the fact that short stories are a hard sell, especially for a first book, and even with independent presses, I was not able to get it published in time for our uncle to be able to read it. I am beginning to seek publication for it again, after a six-year hiatus. I wrote the stories between 1985 and 1999, and most of them manage to carry, which in literary, if not market, terms is a good thing.

Monday, January 01, 2007

Genre markers

Return visitors to my weblog will notice that each of the entries is now labeled according to the following categories: autobio., bio., chapbook, creative nonfiction, fiction, folk poetry, inquiry (cult.), inquiry (lit.), list, nota., open letter, personal letter, poetry (line-), poetry (prose), short story, sound experiment, and still photo.

True artists, perhaps the best artists, defy categorization. I, on the other hand, have given long contemplation to literary genre, mostly privately, and find that I do desire categorization, not only of my own writing but also of the types of writing -- especially the shorter forms of writing -- that there are: fruit, vegetable, herb, grass, tree.

Now that I have the mechanical ability to label items by genre and sub-genre based on my own determinations, I feel suddenly "forced" to examine the language I have used to refer to limited prose fiction and personal nonfiction. Some of the main terms are: genre, mixed-genre (hybrid genre, inter-genre), creative nonfiction, personal narrative, personal essay, auto-biography, memoir, creative writing, short story, short fiction, literary fiction, novel, novella, prose poetry, piece, entry, fragment, philosophical fiction (phi-fi), realism, surrealism, journal (diary) (notebook), letters (belle lettres) (open letter), notes (noting), design, style, gesture, attitude, structure, form, and voice.

"Short story," whether fictional or non-, is a form. Form means shape. It contains elements: plot, characters, setting, point-of-view, style, dialogue, conflict, and theme.

Short pieces (traces, fragments, entries) may be fictional or non- and not function or not yet function as a form.

How are essays arranged? What is an essay fragment? What is a personal essay fragment?

There is a conjunction between flash fiction and prose poem. Sometimes I call "fiction" friction.

Semi- or half-fiction is a blend, a percentage, estimable by the writer and sometimes by "characters," of what actually has taken place and what could have taken place. It begins to replace what in fact did take place. It is a semi-fictionalized account, the exact details inherent in point-of-view. The "character" assumes the life of a dramatic actor or model, similar to an artist's model, one who may or may not realize he or she is serving in that way.

"Creative nonfiction" is intensely cumbersome as the name of a literary genre, and yet it must be the best name for it so far. I am using "autobio." to mean that the factual basis in the work ought to be honored by the writer and the reader as true, real, or echt (authentic and factual) and "creative nonfiction" to mean the factual basis or sequence of life events -- not meaning "plot" in fiction -- matters less than the artistry or creative arrangements at play in the work. "Creative nonfiction" may advance mutable positions and boundaries.

"Autobio." refers to stories about my own life. "Inquiry" (polemic) refers to cultural commentary and to ways in which personal stories pertain to culture: economics, religion, education, healthcare, medicine, and feminism (old, new, post-, avant-). "Inquiry" includes definition, literary criticism, review, and self- and other-reflexive discourse on how literature is made.

I chose the word "inquiry" instead of other available words, such as "criticism" or "scholarship," if it is, and to echo Lyn Hejinian in her collection of essays called The Language of Inquiry. The opening essay in that volume is called "A Thought is the Bride of What Thinking." In her preface to the essay, she writes, "Prose is not a genre but a multitude of genres. [...]Intrinsic to the existence of boundless multitudes is the impossibility of comprehensiveness and therefore of comprehension." In the first of three passages included there, titled "Variations, a Return of Words," she writes, "Poetry shouldn't succumb to piety, even with regard to illogicality and nonsense." The Language of Inquiry includes 20 separate pieces and constitutes a re-issue of "A Thought is the Bride of What Thinking," first published as a chapbook in 1976. I see that she and I both think about clarinets and guitars.

I have hoped that my serious readers, and there are few of them, could guess properly at the grammar of my strategies. I have hoped my friends, the readers, could find reading it somehow gratifying.

In an article in The Guardian Robert McCrum writes that "literary fiction" as a designation, especially as put into practice in the United States, has outlived its happiest phase and is destined for decline (Sunday, August 5, 2001). Tough it is that these markers refer to literary mannerisms and mechanisms and not to what is non-literary, but they are also practical.

"Literary," as I might mean it, refers to creative or inventive styles in prose. These are non-market-based or non-commercial styles in creative writing, similar, taken by themselves, in their low profitability to poetry: Works that pretend or tend toward genius and high art as opposed to simpler, more entertainingly plotted works intended for a more general reading audience. McCrum argues that "literary fiction" has become its own market-based genre (like western or horror or mystery). McCrum points to creative writing programs and colonies for the answer: In the United States we are trained as creative writers and our biases dating back to school days are ingrained. Taste is the name for it, but it is a taste soon-inherited and not a cultivated, discerning form of it.

Taste hardwired into one when one is most aspiring as a writer, while one is living at a distance from family and early friends and while one is forgoing other livings, even writing as a living, is difficult to divest. It is hard for those writers, who less and less are readers, to adapt their skills or to admit to the circumscribed range of their interests. They are mostly all mannerists who conform to small new developments five to ten years after someone more innovative than they has invented a new or an original way -- in style or method -- then perhaps taken heat for it.

"Provincial miniaturist," McCrum suggests, is one meaning of what the "literary fiction" writer might really be, and, for my safety boat, I accept the gibe gladly. Unlike most artists who reject labeling, I seek it to make my work a little easier, my heart a little lighter, my path a little wiser. "Provincial miniaturist" describes me.

Approaches, styles, and forms in poetry are "open" and "closed." At innovative audiences Adam Fieled writes:

"Post-avant" is a tag I first heard used by Anne Waldman a few years ago. I think it fits the bill as well as anything else -- it's like saying "New New Poetry," being both "post-something" and involved with "avant" as well. In the UK, it's "innovative," though I believe "post-avant" has gained some ground there, too. Ultimately, I think that these kinds of tags are like government -- a necessary evil. They're reductive and don't do justice to real work, but we need shorthand when we want to talk about groups of poets or artists. "Experimental" and "innovative" both sound rather tame, so I suppose "post-avant" is the best "necessarily evil" tag we have right now.

Animals in Reverse

Francis would have liked an orderly biography; Lucy did not want one. I know because when I started to write the story of her life, called Lucy's Story, about her recovery from catnip, it was not the real story. In the fake story, she took the subway to AA. In reality, she lost interest in the catnip, because it had gotten stale -- one day she turned her nose up at it and walked away. She was still alive when I started work on her story. She lived a remarkable life, for a cat -- even if she had not been a cat -- in a series of wonderful apartment buildings and in five cities. About this book of her life, she sat in my lap and pointed her ears back while I typed, not back flat, but enough back so that I could tell she wasn't a fan of histories herself, even though hers is a good one, with few details too embarrassing to mention, or, if embarrassing in someone else -- not in her -- and for us instructive. In fact, Lucy preferred art, and before she died, she had learned to sculpt using her favorite red yarn -- favorite since early cathood -- in large cursive letters: G, L, J, and the symbol for pi. Lucy Rain Cat, I called her, and Lucy Bourgeoise.

In the 3-part story of Francis' demise, called "Animals, part 1," "Animals, part 2," and "Animals, part 3," the time element is misleading. I wrote all three passages on or about December 29, but the record (that follows) shows December 29 for the first two parts and December 27 for the third part. Technically, the third part was written last, not first, as the line-up suggests. Left in reverse order as I wrote the parts, with most recent near the top, next recent next, and so forth, the story read out of order, so I reordered them. Rather than delete the place for December 27, I reused it. Today is January 1, 2007.