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The French Exit

Nonlinear Clouds

Updated: 2018-04-18T05:45:44.166-06:00


Welcome to my defunct blog


I don't post here anymore! For full bio and links to my writing, please visit my website at

Two essays on language


Hi friends! I'm excited to have a feature piece in Guernica's special issue on the future of language. It's about translation across language, culture, and time, and touches on color perception, emoji, fictive details as cultural signifiers and lots of other stuff. You will like it! Here's a taste:
Thought experiment: try to imagine an untranslatable color, a color term from Swedish or Swahili that English has no equivalent concept for. It’s hard because there’s only one spectrum of visible light, and humans all have the same color receptors (red, green, and blue). Once you have a robust color vocabulary it’s easy to describe, or “translate,” any color you can imagine – like X but lighter; like Y but more blue. (Birds’ eyes have a fourth receptor, for ultraviolet; perhaps owls and hawks see untranslatable colors.) 
There is such a thing as an “impossible color,” and ways to trick yourself into “seeing” a shade like “reddish green.” They involve optical illusions, not the kinds of mental gymnastics some people do to visualize multi-dimensional objects like hypercubes. I don’t follow the Twitter account @everycolorbot because—when I see the swatches retweeted into my stream—I often have the jarring, even horrifying impression that the colors are impossible, that my eyes are being forced to process, say, yellow and purple at the same time. I don’t know why this is (subpar screen resolution?), but I wonder if the effect would be lessened if the hues were identified by name versus RGB code, as “celery flake” versus “0xd4d88e.”
You can read the whole thing here. (The rest of the issue is going up this week.)

As a kind of side project to this essay, I wrote a little piece called "Fair Usage" on the politics of dictionaries and the naivete of descriptivism:
However, in the 15 years that have passed since I completed my linguistics degree, I’ve realized that descriptivism can quickly succumb to its own kind of smugness; it forms its own set of shibboleths and rules. There’s often an insider-y smirk lurking behind the declaration that “language changes.” Yes, language changes — everything changes, Q.E.D. But there’s room in the middle for language moderates who can tell the difference between, on the one hand, arbitrary, baseless, unenforceable rules and, on the other, a refusal to correct even obfuscating or harmful errors.


New Blunt Instrument, new interview at The Rumpus


My longtime Twitter friend, now an editor at Catapult, Mensah Demary interviewed me for the Rumpus; we talked about poetry, essays, politics in publishing, how much I know about Drake and other interesting stuff:

Rumpus: What was your initial thought to the National Review commenting on your column on white male poets over at Electric Literature, in which you wrote, in part, that the literary community “no longer accepts the white male perspective as default” ? 
Gabbert: Fear. Seriously. It wasn’t a thought so much as an autonomic reaction. I had to get on a plane that day, and I anticipated landing and checking my phone to find my inbox flooded with death threats. But people who read the National Review would apparently rather talk amongst themselves. A friend (a white male!) read the comments for me and reported, “The comments on your piece are obviously terrible, but they are nothing compared to the cesspool of horrors that is the comments to the National Review article.” Anyway, once I realized that I wasn’t going to have to shut down my Twitter account, I relaxed. Being an enemy of the nut-job far-right feels kind of good. 
Rumpus: You sent me a draft of the column before you published it, and I gave my opinion on it (the column was spot on, and it still is). I feel a little culpable though. Maybe I could’ve given better advice? Is there anything you think you could’ve done differently?  
Gabbert: No way. I stand behind my advice. I think it’s (so, so) telling that I’ve never seen anyone react angrily to the advice that women/POC should submit more and pitch more—but look at the insane amount of ire I inspired by suggesting that white men slightly modify their behavior. (And in the direction of less work! Not more work!) Of course, of course—of course it’s on us to conform to the system that oppresses us.

Read the whole thing here.

I also have a new Blunt Instrument column up, in which I talk about what fiction is supposed to do:

I’m sure you’ve heard the idea that “literary fiction” is just another genre, like science fiction or romance, as opposed to, as some would have it, “better fiction.” Let’s just say for the sake of argument that it is—what features distinguish literary fiction from other genres? Often people say that literary fiction foregrounds language over plot, but that’s not always the case. (For example, I don’t think of Kazuo Ishiguro’s writing as particularly “languagey.”) To my mind, one of the main reasons we call something “literary” is because you can talk about what it’s “about” without recounting the plot.

If you have a writing question for me, send it to

Reading in Cambridge 2/20 with Daniel Handler & Janaka Stucky


I've been excited to post this ALL YEAR!: The complete list of every book I read in 2015, with brief commentary, plus my favorites at the end.But first, some notes on the list and what is and isn't included:I decided to try keeping track of all the books I read around March or April, which is why the books toward the beginning of the lists have sketchier notes; I wrote more extensive commentary for later books because I did it right after I read them. It's possible I forgot a couple of books from the beginning of the year. Books earlier in the two lists are probably not in the order I read them.I only included books that I read in full, from beginning to end. I did read some (not a ton) poetry this year but generally skipped around and didn't finish the books, so those aren't included. I also start and abandon a lot of books; in 2016, I'm considering keeping a list of books that I abandon and why. The reasons are actually quite a bit more varied than just "I didn't like it." (I mentioned the possibility of doing this on Twitter and surprisingly got a lot of encouragement.) Maybe I'll also note articles (found online or in magazines) that I especially love; not sure, we'll see.There were a few books that I originally had on this list, but through a bit of email/Twitter search sleuthing I was able to determine that I actually read them in late December of 2014. So I am excluding them from eligibility for my favorite reads of the year, but nonetheless, here are those books, all of which I really enjoyed:Thunderstruck by Elizabeth McCracken - Just great. I rarely read short story collections in full, but read this front to back. I am famous for hating similes but this lady can write a dang simile. The Anthologist by Nicholson Baker - Funny, light, a one-afternoon read. Actually includes some good tips for writing poetry!We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler - Very good, one of those mainstream bestseller books that is completely successful as "literature" too (meaning, you can get sucked into the plotting without resenting the writing); my mother and John both read it immediately after me and loved it as well.I also wanted to mention that John read two long short stories out loud to me on the drive through New Mexico last week: "Train Dreams" by Denis Johnson and "Bartleby, the Scrivener." The former is arguably a novella and would maybe count except I don't feel like I truly read it since I didn't look at any of the words on the page. IDK, feels like cheating. I loved both, though.I really liked keeping this list and am going to keep doing it. It both encourages me to read more books and makes it very easy to respond when people ask me about what I've been reading. I can also see at a glance if what I'm reading slants too male (not a chance) or too white (yeah, probably).OK. On to the list, starting with nonfiction:1. How Not to Be Wrong by Jordan Ellenberg - I love this book! It's about math. The writing is terrific, I learned a lot, I sort of didn't want it to end. 2. 100 Essays I Don't Have Time to Write by Sarah Ruhl - Loved this too. Ruhl is a playwright. Lots of interesting thoughts about theater and art in general. 3. Dataclysm by Christian Rudder - This is the guy from OkCupid. Better than I thought it would be, has some really interesting data on race and gender. I recommend Jordan Ellenberg's review of it.4. Selected Tweets by Mira Gonzalez - So good I didn't want it to end; luckily she's still tweeting. 5. The Unspeakable by Meghan Daum - Essays. I quite liked this, but the idea that she's writing about "unspeakable" controversial issues is oversold. I mean, there’s an essay about how she really likes dogs. Also one about Joni Mitchell. See what I mean?6. Yonder by Siri Hustvedt - Essays. We are interested in many of the same things and I really like her writing, but she has a semi-anti-feminist bent that shows up in this book and bugs me. I know she recently wrote a popular feminist essay.[...]

7 thoughts on style, sex & beauty


I suppose I should save these for my style column, but whatever:

1. Who cares if men don't like red lipstick? Men are wrong.

2. I don't understand why women say they need long shirts to wear with skinny jeans. I see/hear this all the time? The "skinny" in skinny jeans refers to the leg; the ass part is only going to be particularly tighter than other kinds of jeans if they're jeggings. I am much more in need of long shirts to wear with boyfriend jeans, because they sit so low my underwear/hipbones will show if my shirt is too short. (I'm reminded of this absolutely SCANDALOUS shot from the Sartorialist.)

3. Some great things about being in your 30s: a) It's much easier to be hot for your age. Everyone is hot in their 20s. b) The stuff you wear to be "sexy" is actually sexy; in your 20s, "sexy" means trampy. I'm not slut-shaming anyone, I wore trampy stuff in my 20s too. I'm just saying, 30s-sexy is sexier and I knew that even when I was a teenager, I just wasn't ready to pull it off. c) Unrelated to style, when you're 35 you just do what you want and you don't do what you don't want, for the most part. It's the dream. Not that the suffering is over, but at least you skip a LOT of the bullshit.

4. More on 30s-sexy: Buttons are everything. Also: ankles, wrists. (How Victorian!)

5. There's an interesting interview in the new Believer with Dian Hanson, the "sexy book editor" for Taschen, where she says there's a theory (?) that men who are into legs are "introverted, intellectual, passive, shy," because their mothers didn't snuggle them to their chests enough when they were babies, or something like that. Whatever: I feel an affinity for men who are into legs, because I myself find women's legs much more interesting than women's breasts, and I myself am intellectual. (Ha. Ha. Ha.)

6. It's a shame they've become such a Halloween cliche, because fishnet stockings are truly the most flattering optical illusion to legs, exaggerating every curve. I would like a mathematician to explain this effect to me. (The nude, if not black, option is still permissible in some day-to-day contexts.)

7. Also in the Believer, from a brief piece about Philip Roth by an Italian journalist who befriended and made a documentary about him: "It reminded me of a game I'd encountered before with men of power, who first come on to you, and then once they've set their web of seduction, withhold because they expect you to make the decisive move." (Everything is about power except power, which is about sex.)

Thoughts on How Should a Person Be


I've been sticking to my new "strategy" AKA resolution to use the library more, and as such I've been reading a lot. This is all good except for the sad fact that I have to return the books to the library when I'm done with them. I'm especially sad to part with How Not to Be Wrong by Jordan Ellenberg (featured in my "How Writers Read" series), which I kind of never wanted to end. Super-recommended IF YOU LOVE LEARNING.On Saturday, I started and finished How Should a Person Be? by Sheila Heti. I tweeted a little about it and got lots of "engagement" because, clearly, this is a book that a lot of people have read and have strong feelings about, one way or the other. So I thought I'd share some thoughts here (I ain't got the time nor inclination to organize these into a real essay, sorry):1. Much has been made of the supposed formal innovation of this "novel from life." Miranda July, for example, called it a "new kind of book." Meh. How is this a new kind of book? It's metafiction or it's a fictionalized memoir with some hybrid-y bits (lyric essay, play dialogue, etc.). Are we all in agreement that none of this is new? Great, we agree. (Similar memoir that I don't recall being hailed as a new kind of book: Another Bullshit Night in Suck City by Nick Flynn. I guess we've experienced hybridity inflation in the last ten years.)2. It's to the book's credit that it's entirely possible to read it without constantly being reminded that you're reading something HYBRID and INNOVATIVE and AMBITIOUS. If you ignore all the jacket copy and hype surrounding it, HSAPB is really just a fun read. I could easily compare it to the other two books I recently finished in one day (each): The Anthologist by Nicholson Baker and Think Like a Freak (by those Freakonomics guys). All three books are quite smart, but they're also constructed to go down like candy. They're like healthy candy; you'll think while you're reading them but not too hard. You won't need to take breaks to re-examine your life choices or place in the cosmos.3. Let's compare/contrast with some recent books that absolutely insist you read them as highly ambitious novelty objects: Reality Hunger and 10:04. I enjoyed these books in real time, but the more time that goes by since I read them, the more distaste I feel for them. (Incidentally, the same thing happened to me with White Teeth.) Reality Hunger is interesting throughout, but why does it have to be so gimmicky? (And all the interesting ideas are borrowed anyway.) And 10:04 seemed designed so that the reviews would write themselves; accordingly every review I read sounded exactly the same and quoted all the same lines. God, how boring!4. A note on the sex in HSAPB: It's a perfect example of a book that gets called "sexy" in the reviews/blurbs just because the author is an attractive young woman and it includes some sex. The sex in here is absolutely not sexy; it's over-the-deep-end absurd, funny but quite grim:I don't know why all of you just sit in libraries when you could be fucked by Israel. I don't know why all of you are reading books when you could be getting reamed by Israel, spat on, beaten up against the headboard---with every jab, your head battered into the headboard. Why are you all reading? I don't understand this reading business when there is so much fucking to be done. [...] I don't see what you're getting so excited about, snuggling in with your book, you little bookworms, when instead Israel could be stuffing his cock into you and teaching you a lesson, pulling down your arms, adjusting your face so he can see it, stuffing your hand in your mouth, and fucking your brains right out of your head.I grant that men might find all this ironical cock worship sexy (of course you do!!!) but that's the point: you obviously find all sex sexy, so describing a book with sex in it as "sexy" is redundant by your standards. It's also demeaning and feels like a way of complimenting the auth[...]

Some quotes from "100 Essays I Don't Have Time to Write"


I read this excellent book the other night, by playwright Sarah Ruhl. I love books like this that are divided into lots of thoughtful little chunks or essay-lets so they're easy to finish in one or two sittings (since you can always read one more, similar to how you can always add another paperclip to a glass of water, or keep getting Google results no matter how many zees you add to the end of "pot rulezzzz..."). It's a lot like the Misha Glouberman book I mentioned recently, but in the end I liked it better, as Glouberman's self-congratulating got a little tiresome at points and Ruhl doesn't do that.

Here are some interesting quotes I pulled from the book:

"I found that life intruding on writing was, in fact, life. And that, tempting as it may be for a writer who is also a parent, one must not think of life as an intrusion. At the end of the day, writing has very little to do with writing, and much to do with life."

"The umbrella is real on stage, and the rain is a fiction. Even if there are drops of water produced by the stage manager, we know that it won't really rain on us, and therein lies the total pleasure of theater. A real thing that creates a world of illusory things."

"In ancient Greece, comedies used to be appetizers in the form of satyr plays performed before the main course---a tragedy. Now we don't have daylong festivals of both comedies and tragedies, so now do satyr plays need to be contained inside tragedies? (That is to say, the dark comedy?)"

"Be suspicious of an expert who tells you to cut a seemingly unnecessary moment out of your play. The soul of your play might reside there, quietly, inconspicuously, glorying in its unnecessariness, shining forth in its lack of necessity to be."

"So what is a bad-to-indifferent poet to do? Enroll immediately in playwriting school. Put the bad poetry in the mouths of outlandish characters. It might make the bad poetry funny instead of sad."

"Nakedness is always real on stage, just as eating on stage is real, and kissing on stage is real, and dogs on stage are real---and one can only bear reality in small doses."

"If you are acting in a play of mine, and I say this full of love for you, please, don't think one thing and then say another thing. Think the thing you are saying. Do not think of the language of the play as a cover or deception for your actual true hidden feelings that you've felt compelled to invent for yourself. Don't create a bridge between you and the impulse for the language; erase the boundary between the two. Think of subtext as to the left of the language and not underneath it. There is no deception or ulterior motive or 'cover' about the language. There are, instead, pools of silence and the unsayable to the left or to the right or even above the language. The unsayable in an ideal world hovers above the language rather than below."

"Being dead is the most airtight defense of one's own aesthetic."

Things to try in 2015


Let's not think of these as resolutions; let's think of them as strategies.

1. Go to the library more

I've been underusing the library for the past few years, mostly because there are so many books in our apartment. J is kind of a book collector, so we have a huge library, and new books are always coming in: we get review copies, friends who are writers send us books, and J goes to the library weekly. So there is always something around that I could (or feel I should) be reading. The problem is, they're mostly J's books, and I've discovered that if there aren't lots of books around that I'm specifically excited about reading right now, I won't read as much. So my new strategy is to go to the library more and have more books around that speak to me at this moment, even if some of them inevitably get returned unread. I also think the due date works as a kind of hack to get me to read faster, similar to the way a workshop deadline might get you to finish a poem.

2. Spread out my drinking

I read an interesting article this morning about the under-reported health benefits of alcohol, and this point in particular resonated with me:
Second, drinking 10 drinks Friday and Saturday nights does not convey the benefits of two or three drinks daily, even though your weekly totals would be the same: Frequent, heavy binge drinking is unhealthy. But then you knew that already, didn’t you? If you don’t distinguish binge drinking from daily moderate drinking, that would be due to Americans’ addiction-phobia, which causes them to interpret any daily drinking as addictive.
I do think I have ingrained cultural anxiety about "drinking every day," which is seen as a problem or a sign of a problem. So what happens is, I feel virtuous when I don't drink on weeknights, which in turn gives me a sense of permission to drink more on the weekends. But I really enjoy having a glass of wine while I cook dinner (which makes the whole process feel like more of a ritual treat than a chore), and a second glass while we eat. So my new plan is to give myself permission to do that every night if I want (or not, if I don't feel like it), and hopefully I'll then feel less compelled to overindulge on the weekends.

There are other things I should commit to doing (go on more walks so I get more ideas for poems and can finish my manuscript; buy fewer lipsticks) but I don't want to overcommit here and feel guilty later.

Just a few more links, OK?


* The final installment of How Writers Read is up; you can read the full series here. Thanks to Hayden at the Believer for publishing the interviews, and thanks to Alice, Teju, Darcie, Jordan, Graham, Ruth, John, Ada, Leigh, and Laura for their fun and fascinating responses. I truly think it helped snap me out of my reading funk.

* I contributed to the EAT | READ series over at Everyday Genius, which will be a weekly beat on the forthcoming Real Pants. (More about Real Pants here -- I'll be writing a style column there starting in January.)

* I made a list of some of my favorite literary tweets of the year for Electric Literature.

* Also, check out Okey-Panky, another new magazine that will be featuring some of my Judy poems early next year. It will be weekly and is part of the Electric Lit family.


Image via George on Flickr

My year in reading and some links


Hi guys! Happy December! Can you believe the year's almost over? I'm still writing 1976 on all my checks....Anyway, I wanted to share a few links with you. First, I contributed to Open Letters Monthly's annual "Year in Reading" feature, writing about two of my favorite books of the year (that is, books that I read this year; they weren't published in 2014; sorry, I'm a slow reader). I wrote about Two Serious Ladies by Jane Bowles (more on that here) and To Anacreon in Heaven and Other Poems by Graham Foust. Here's a quick excerpt:It’s so good I don’t want to finish it, and I keep going back to the beginning and starting again, afraid I may have missed some nuance through a moment of inattention. For example, I read the first three sections of the long poem “Ten Notes to the Muse” without having fully absorbed the title; I had to go back to discover the meaning of the “you” in lines like “Comes upon and at me does your gone-tinged promise,” and “You look like no one else; you look like smoke; I look like me.” There’s so much to latch onto in this poem – so many hooks, sounds, images, ideas – I’d love it even if I didn’t understand it as an entry in the tradition of muse poetry. But the poet is also, of course, talking to himself, as he does more explicitly in the poem titled “To Graham Foust on the Morning of his Fortieth Birthday”: You and I are one another in the ways the closest whisper might be called a kiss, and here we are – kiss or no kiss, kiss or not – up close and vanished as per standardized desire.That said I’m both camera and satellite, so let’s cut live now to where it’s night to catch crowds rushing out of various overpriced events converting their initial impressions into speech they can’t be bothered to commit to memory. In your sad and American manner, you get as choked up about the collective as you do over the individual. When it comes to songs, you’re up and down for them, whether anthem or unfathomable murmur. The tone is often wry and the sentences often knotty. At his best, Foust has the ability to bend simple language into something startlingly complex, like the twist that turns a strip of paper into a Mobius band: “I sing as if I’m eating what I’m singing from a knife.”Honestly, I read very little poetry this year, mostly just the Foust and Culture of One by Alice Notley, both at a snail's pace because I love them so much I want to savor them. When I turned in my piece, I had forgotten that I also read Autobiography of a Face by Lucy Grealy this year, or I would have included that as my favorite nonfiction read; it was beautiful and so intelligent. I am also really enjoying The Chairs Are Where the People Go by Misha Glouberman with Sheila Heti, a book of funny little philosophical essays on topics like compromise, talking to strangers, and how to be better at charades. A few other novels I read in 2014: Faces in the Crowd by Valeria Luiselli (very interesting short novel translated from Spanish; John reviewed it here), The Folded Leaf by William Maxwell, Voyage in the Dark by Jean Rhys (loved it but I think I loved Good Morning, Midnight more), Three Dollars by Elliot Perlman (the longest novel I managed to read this year; very funny and reminded me a lot of Gabriel Roth's novel, The Unknowns, one of my faves from '13). Oh, and 10:04 by Ben Lerner of course (I reviewed it here).Also, The Believer Logger has been publishing a three-part interview I did called "How Writers Read." I asked 10 writers in different genres (Alice Bolin, Teju Cole, Darcie Dennigan, Jordan Ellenberg, Graham Foust, Ruth Graham, J. Robert Lennon, Ada Limon, Leigh Stein, and Laura van den Berg) 13 questions about their reading habits. In Part 1 I asked the authors if they ever g[...]

Elisa Gabbert's salsa recipe


There is a brownie recipe known as "Katharine Hepburn's Brownies." This salsa is my version of Katharine Hepburn's brownies. I have made it for many people and am frequently told "This is my favorite salsa." It's not complicated or especially spicy or anything like that; it's just really good basic, Tex-Mex restaurant style salsa, perfect for eating with chips or beans and rice or breakfast tacos, etc. I make a batch almost every week. (An earlier version of this recipe was published on Carrie Murphy's food blog, but she appears to have taken that down.) So here we go. 

Elisa Gabbert's Salsa 
Half a small onion (roughly)
1 clove of garlic
1 jalapeno OR serrano OR Fresno chile, or a combination of the three
1 handful of cilantro, leaves and small stems
1 small can of fire-roasted tomatoes (plain or with green chiles)
1 handful of grape or cherry tomatoes (optional, but better with)
1 lime
Salt and sugar to taste 
In a food processor (or blender if that's all you have) chop the onion, garlic, chiles, and cilantro pretty finely, but not to a liquefied paste. Then add the tomatoes and pulse until it's all combined and looks like salsa. Transfer the mixture to a pot, add the juice of a lime (or just half a lime, if it's really juicy) and salt and sugar to taste -- start with about half a teaspoon of each. Simmer for 15-20 minutes to take the raw edge off the onion/garlic and bring the flavors together. Delicious warm, but keep the rest in the fridge. It lasts for up to two weeks if you don't finish it first. You can adjust the spiciness level by leaving the seeds/core in your chile or using more than one chile. 

5 Reasons to Finish Every Book You Start


1. You’re an idiot. You know nothing about books. You’ve only read comic books or Sweet Valley High up until now. You may think you don’t like real books, like Les Miserables, but if forced to finish one, you’ll realize the true value of literature! You’re not in a position to evaluate the worth of books yet; just finish them and ask questions later.

2. The main reason to read novels is for the plot. You may think you don’t like a book, but there could be a killer plot twist at the end that makes you see the value of the beginning of the novel in retrospect. Also you might miss something incredible. Don’t worry about the incredible stuff you might miss in books you haven’t started. If you haven’t started the book, it doesn’t count.

3. All books have inherent value. Don’t worry about the supposedly better books you could be reading instead (grass is always greener!); whatever book you have recently, arbitrarily started is, in the end, just as good as any other book.

4. Finishing novels teaches strength. You’ll prove to yourself that you can do it. If you don’t finish every novel you start, you have probably never finished a book and are probably also the type to eat all the marshmallows.

5. Whoever wrote the book finished it. It upsets the sense of symmetry in the universe if the writer finished it and the reader does not.

(Inspired by "Finish That Book!" in The Atlantic.)

Simple brine for chicken and pork


A few weeks ago I went to a friend's house for dinner and she served grilled pork chops, something I would usually expect to be dry and bleh, but they were delicious. She said she had quick-brined them. So recently I've been experimenting with brining. And by "experimenting," I mean doing the most basic possible version of brining. Here's the basic recipe I concocted out of my brain:


1/4 cup brown sugar (ish)
1/4 cup kosher salt (ish)
4-6 cups of water (ish)

Mix all ingredients in a big bowl or Pyrex until dissolved (I just eyeballed them), then pour over meat of choice in a Ziploc bag and refrigerate for 4-8 hours. You could probably add herbs and stuff of your choice, if you had them; I added two bay leaves once but can't discern if it made any difference.

I did this once with a pork tenderloin which was on the "natural" side (i.e. not already injected with all kinds of saline solution) and once with two bone-in, skin-on chicken breasts. In both cases, after removing from the brine, I patted the surface dry, then sprinkled with fresh-ground pepper and an herb mix I happened to have on hand (this stuff, if you're curious), then roasted in the oven until done. (For the chicken, I also topped the skin with a little butter.) In both cases, the meat was extremely juicy and very yummy.

My mind is sort of blown. I've brined turkeys on Thanksgiving before, but that's so involved (mostly due to the size of the bird) it never occurred to me to try brining just any old night. But it's kind of a "game changer." Must be the cheapest, easiest way to get good results from white meat.


Anthologies, readings and contests, oh my


Time to share some new stuff with you!

I have three poems in the new anthology just out from Black Ocean, Privacy Policy: The Anthology of Surveillance Poetics, edited by Andrew Ridker. More details:
Drones, phone taps, NSA leaks, internet tracking—the headlines confirm it—we are living in a state of constant surveillance, and the idea of “the private sphere" is no longer what it used to be. Privacy Policy: The Anthology of Surveillance Poetics responds to this timely and crucial issue through the voices of over fifty contemporary poets, including Robert Pinsky, Jorie Graham, John Ashbery, Rae Armantrout, Nikki Giovanni, and D.A. Powell. Nature, ethics, technology, sex, the internet—no voyeuristic stone goes unturned in this expansive exploration of the individual, information, and how we are watched.
I also have a poem in The Book of Scented Things: 100 Contemporary Poems about Perfume, co-edited by Jehanne Dubrow and Lindsay Lusby. The editors sent each poet a vial of perfume and asked us to write a poem in response. (My poem was inspired by By Kilian Rose Oud.)

For the Denver contingent: I am reading at Leon gallery on Saturday, September 27, along with Joshua Ware and Vanessa Villareal. Leon is located at 1112 E 17th Street in Denver CO, 80218. The reading will begin at 7:00 PM.

And finally, I am serving as the poetry judge for the 1st annual Sundog Lit contest series. More details:
With Issue 8 of Sundog Lit (our first print issue), we will be publishing the winners of the 1st annual Sundog Lit Contest Series, with winners in fiction, nonfiction, and poetry. All entries will be accepted through Submittable between October 1st, 2014, and January 1st, 2015. The winner in each category will receive $100 and two copies of Issue 8. Runners-up will be considered for publication in Issue 8.
That's my news! What's up with you?

My answers to the Women in Clothes survey


Last year, I responded to an open call for submissions to Women in Clothes, edited by Sheila Heti, Heidi Julavits, and Leanne Shapton, and described by the editors as "not a how-to style guide, but an intimate look at the choices women make when they get dressed and an inquiry into the idea of personal style." The book is now out, and I was bummed to learn none of my responses ended up in the book. So below, for your reading pleasure or displeasure, is my full completed survey.1. Do you remember the first time you were conscious of what you were wearing? Can you describe this moment and what it was about? When I was in first grade, my mother was doing my hair, and I was standing in front of her in her bathroom, both of us facing the mirror. My hair was damp and combed back off my face – she was probably about to braid it – and I told her I thought it looked cool. I asked if I could wear it that way. So she put gel in it to preserve the slicked-back “wet look” all day. As soon as I got to school, I regretted this decision. I don’t think anyone made fun of me or even noticed, but I felt very self-conscious about it. Perhaps because of the mirror’s prominence in the memory, I happen to remember what I was wearing that day too, though not very clearly – I’m sure I was wearing a button-front shirt and pants, because the hairstyle combined with the outfit made me feel tomboyish, unfeminine. (I still despise the feeling of being stuck out in the world with regret over my fashion choices.)2. Is there an item of clothing that you once owned, but no longer own, and still think about or wish you had back? What was it and what happened to it and why do you want it back?There are so many of these. I can clearly remember many outfits I wore in high school (I once made a detailed list of these outfits for my blog). I would love to have that black butterfly dress from Delia’s – I felt beautiful wearing that – and my dad’s swim trunks that I wore as shorts until they fell apart. I got a pair of moccasins when I was 15 or so that were entirely perfect, incredibly soft and with minimal detail, and I wore them with everything. The soles cracked and they were too cheap to resole. If not for wear and tear they could have been my life shoes. (Many other shoes I have owned have fallen apart before I was tired of them – the black boots with the perfect wedge heel, the pink button flats, the studded, tan leather thongs…) It’s hard to pick a single item – and I don’t know what I’d do with it if I had it. Perhaps a beaded necklace I “made” by taking apart a strand of turquoise and stone beads and threading two souvenir pennies – the kind you get pressed in a machine – into the center. The pennies were from my brother, who got them at the top of the Empire State Building on a band trip to NYC. 3. Do you notice women on the street? If so, what sort of women do you tend to notice? What sort do you tend to admire? If not admire, what is the feeling that a compelling woman on the street gives you?I do notice women, more so than men. I especially notice younger women, because they seem quite aware of how they look, they either want to be looked at or know they will be anyway, and respond to that. I’m always checking women out. With younger women, I especially admire those whose style is different and more radical than mine – outlandish hair, tattoos and body piercings, overt costuming. With older women, I admire chicness – confidence, comfort and ease, striking details. 4. Did anyone ever say anything to you that made you see yourself differently, on a physical and especially sartorial level?There was a compliment from a guy[...]

Live-tweet Point Break with us. It has to be this way


Sommer (@vagtalk) and I have finally planned another movie live-tweet! And it's happening on Sunday, 9/21, at 6 pm Pacific, 9 pm Eastern. If you want to play, go rent or buy Point Break (honestly one of the most ridiculously rewatchable movies of all time; I recently watched it twice in one day), synchronize watches and tweet along with us using hashtag #keanu. (Here's the Facebook invite if you're of that persuasion.)

By the way, so far all the movies we have live-tweeted (2001, The Shining, Dirty Dancing, and now Point Break) have involved either Stanley Kubrick or Patrick Swayze. This was not intentional. The heart wants what it wants.

See you on September 21st! Endless Summer!