Student blogs: Breadhead, The Unbook

Couple more student blogs for ya. They’re having some trouble, truth be told, not all but many are, sustaining their blogs as a steady discipline, without any deadlines from me. I was clear when I concocted this project, that’d be part of the challenge, the drive and momentum would need to come all from them. It’s a 400-level course. They’re to go out in the world soon. The work here is maturation and self-direction.

Now, I get it, I do. They’ve got accumulating loans, part- (or, incredibly, full-) time jobs, crazy heavy course loads, personal crises, roommates melting down. Too they’ve grown up in a multifactoral technological surround that makes concentration well nigh impossible. But, counterargument, to stay in distraction’s a choice, you can turn off the iPod, walk away from the roomie.

There ends my highminded plaint, of the “kids these days” variety.

Want also to say, the group’s gelled really nicely, even if I’m a bit pissy on the state of the blogs. Some of them have been having a hard time; I too have been having a hard time. It seems to have made us good to, appreciative of, each other. How nice is that.

So here are a couple of blogs I think have found their natures well.

One takes bread, the making and breaking and sharing of bread, as its metaphor for what happens in poetry, communion in words. It also has a lot of fun finding faces in toast.

Jacob has a lively quirky slantwise imagination – he may be a distant cousin of M. Dada – and his cutups and breakdowns are very worth checking out. If I have a hope for this blog, it’s that heel (sorry!) find something verbal to do with or near the toastposts … they’re fun and pleasing in themselves, but I feel like there’s some mischievous potential here, not yet tapped into.

If the one blog points back to anciency, our oldest communion, this other points into futurity, asking what the book might be, once fully undone by digitality. Donald’s proposal, and think he’s right, is that we haven’t thought the question very far through.

E-books are not the future. E-books are just the past put on touch screens, it’s still black on white, left to right, top to bottom. And that’s not bad. But I think we can do better….

Why must books be linear? Why do they have to be the same every time? Why does reading have to be a solitary endeavor?  At one point they stop being books and become something else. Something untapped, unrestricted and undone. Untapped, because there is more to books than books. Unrestricted, because they are given freedom from the restrictions of physicality. Undone, so they can be redone.

I give you, then, the concept of the UnBook. A book unleashed by technology.

Thinking on the question is going on, though. UbuWeb doesn’t have a dedicated section on digital texts but possibilities are scattered all through. And my own English Department’s Bellingham Review has an online issue in the works, due out fall 2016, on “The Kinetic Page.” So stay tuned all y’all.


Student blogs: Addendum

Thought I’d share too, since I think here out loud about pedagogy, the note I just sent my compost class.

I’m hoping, so you know, to do a few things by sharing your blogs publicly, and advising you of it. One is to let you know, the work you do matters, beyond our little campus. Another is, to say a few words, in the language I use as a writer outside the classroom, about how your work impinges on me. And a third is, to keep you in touch with each other’s work, so your blogs can be models for each other, inspiration, goad.

The theme here is: seamlessness. Which is compost, but less messy.

I’m struck by a couple of differences in how I teach poetry and how blogging.

One is, I would never proclaim one student’s poem over another. But here I have, implicitly, their blogs. I do mean to praise and publicize every student blog to the world before the class is done. Still, though, I’ve picked one, and another, to go first.

The fact is, some students have nailed it, right off, and I want the others to learn from them. And by saying, these guys have nailed it, I make that more possible. And by making my praise public – worldwide, technically, if very sparsely – I raise the stakes.

I have two motives in teaching, in some tension, and the tension’s laid bare here. One – do no harm. Two – push them as hard as I can get away with.

A poem is a tender creation. Has inmostness. A blog is probably less so. Has, more likely, a thick skin. So, no guarantee, but I’m less likely to do harm by offering or withholding praise. Am willing to risk stinging just a bit, even, if it will, like a nettle, nourish.

The other diff. This blog here. I don’t want my poetry students reading my poems! But I’m fine if my blog students read my blog. What up with that?

Maybe it’s that I know well how to teach the craft of poetry through other poets’ poems. Blogging, I want to teach best practices quick, by showing five or six good ones, and if mine’s in their fields of awareness that’s just fine. Then they can get down to the content, the good stuff.

Maybe it’s that bad examples of blog form are so much more available than bad examples of poetic form.

No. It’s that form and content aren’t intimate in a blog the way they are in a poem. They’re involved but not intimate. And so I’m teaching the form as a technique, an efficiency, and the content as an art. Get done with the one, so we can focus on the other.

It’s ok, blog world, you’re only 10 years or so old. Check in when you’re 10,000.

Newspaper Rock, Canyonlands, UT

Student blog: The clothes we wear

Another student blog for you, come into its own, right here, on the threshold where the inmost being we are, touches the public sphere we move about in. Clothes, hair, eyes, lips, limbs, and how we make up and dress down, pierce and dye, stain or tear, tattoo or don’t. For, as Evan rightly says, not to is every bit as much a choice, as to.

I say this as one uncomfortable caring at all about how I look. So much more important to me how one sees. And yet it do matter don’t it. We are moving at all moments through a web of codes.

Merleau-Ponty noted, I think it was he, I’m taking this from my memory of David Abram‘s Spell of the Sensuous, that the eye can’t see without also being seen – can’t do vision without entering the visual. To see is to be seen. More, to see is to be seen seeing. A phenomenology of flirting might begin here. (Maybe also one of voyeurism, which maybe feels dirty because it breaks out of that reciprocity.) That, anyway, is our social being, to see and to be seen and to be seen seeing.

Is why we do not all wear Mao suits. Or, if we do, we want to look this good.

mao suit

Evan’s got a fine and punchy style going, a good model of, one, how to do blog prose, and, two, how to marry personal and social awarenesses. Light touch, nothing didactic. I mean it feels seamless to me, how her awakeness to her own life, and her wondering how the world goes, meet. Check it out.

Student blog: Postmod

My Art of Compost students are hard at work on their blogs and I mean to post links to them as they come to life. Here’s a first. A lively deft insightful blog on postmodern art and culture, with an emphasis on pop art, and theory consonant with same. Andy Warhol, Jean Baudrillard, french yé-yé pop, The Cure. I hope Benjamin and Barthes to come. Scared yet? Good. But for real, it’s an excellent resource, Michelle’s really done, doing, her homework, and giving it away to all.

Most excitingly, to me, she’s bringing her own creative work into the mix. She’s a wonderful photographer, and the more she manipulates the images, the more she “problematizes” their “authenticity,” the more they belong.


Here’s one I stole from there to draw you on. Meant all four scare quotes yes.


And, one last one for ya. A blog dedicated to coffee makes a somewhat chill detour into tea world. Where lives, wait for it, one badass Tea Rex.

Mind, Drips

One of the many reasons I love tea… Cute strainers

My introduction to warm, caffeinated beverages that go well with rainy days and books wasn’t coffee—I was an avid tea drinker long before I found myself nourishing essays at 2 a.m. with coffee as the only thing tethering me to the waking world. So, this post is an ode to the launching point of my caffeine addiction.

Interesting myth about coffee: lighter roasts have a higher caffeine content. Interesting fact about tea: lighter tea has a lower caffeine content.

I won’t go into the nitty-gritty about the process of oxidation that tea undergoes, but generally the longer the oxidation (which leads to darker teas), the more caffeinated the tea will be when brewed.

From lowest to highest caffeine content, there are five over-arching categories of tea.

herbal, white, green, oolong, and black.

All of these teas (except herbal, see below) come…

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Privacy? What privacy?

Hey folks, coupla more student blog posts for ya, and here’s one. Angles on through round and under, as in cutting, patriarchy, by sound image erasure and general largeheartedness.

(The posted videos aren’t coming through, so go to the blog itself, here, do.)

The Personal is Political

Gloria- Patti Smith

We live in an age where, for women, everything is public. As a woman I live in a society where I am a subordinate class. Men hold a majority of the power, and as women we can either except that, or say: “Oh, hell no!”

Bury Our Friends- ‪Sleater-Kinney

This is an erasure pome from a history book. I feel like it goes with this idea, but I’m not entirely sure exactly how yet. What do you think?


The first was statues.


For every piece

of public art, at one point,

has predicted a Plaza of Memories.


The Plaza’s final attraction

was donated by

a publishers editorial fury.


It was a title against

those who thwarted.


It was necessary

as a “real estate man.”


The aura of power

decides what’s best.


One by one, all these

breaks came though,


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Master Grand Doodler

One more for now, then I’ve had all the caffeine my bloodstream can take, and I gotta move on. More to come – tomorrow?

(The awesome gallery of Vonnegut’s doodlery isn’t coming through here … you’ll need to go to the home blog for it. Do!)


So we all know Vonnegut can write, right? I think anyone reading this blog can attest to that (and if you can’t, let’s have a chat). But many people, including some avid readers, aren’t aware of the man’s knack for the visual arts.

Yeah, sure, anyone who’s read Breakfast of Champions or even Slaughterhouse-Five has seen a few of his doodles, but Vonnegut was much more than this—

Asshole Beige

Much, much more than this.

In “Fates Worse Than Death”, Vonnegut wrote about his practice of drawing—

My own means of making a living is essentially clerical, and hence tedious and constipating…. The making of pictures is to writing what laughing gas is to the Asian influenza.

I’d like to think Vonnegut would’ve enjoyed visual poetry for that reason. Maybe it would’ve given him an outlet for writing that didn’t feel quite so robotic, one that married his talent for visual compositions…

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birds are obscene fuckers

One of the blogs went in an avian direction, and it’s something how many ways you can go, when you’re up in the air.

finch binch

Screen Shot 2015-07-14 at 10.22.52 PM

sup birders,

so, I’m taking this really weird but great class called The Art of Compost (or more officially, Multi-Genre Creative Writing) and our hw for the evening is to listen to bird calls and translate them into “human.”


listen to the calls here and find the birds I have translated below !

1. white-throated sparrow (the tamest of the bunch)

please please you may / please please release / hear hear me

2. American crow

fuck u dum prick / why u even here / fuck u get out now

3. blue jay

bleat for fun / or none

4. northern cardinal

*catcalls* / fuck you fuck you fuck you

5. common raven

twat twat twat / twat twat / twat twat twat

I think this says a lot more about me than the birds tbh…like srsly, what do…

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Domestic Metal

And another, kitchen metal collaged.

Copy Cat

A few nights ago I was taking apart my box spring and a bunch of cool staples, as long as vampire teeth, were wedged into the wood. I started to realize how many things are made from metal in my room and around my house.

I of course went to the kitchen and found spoons, knives, and so on.

That’s when it clicked: photocopy collage of domestic metals. Metals that stay around the house but are distinct and specific tools for living.


I wanted to combine the two cohorts (building tools and kitchen tools) not so much that they clashed together, not so they would battle for the attention of the owners hands, but that they would coexist.

If usual domestic metals had feelings, I think the kitchen items would be happiest and the tool box metals would be depressed. The kitchen metals get to be played with daily, the…

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