mark levine

Day 17/30: Trying to Stay Afloat by Diana Khoi Nguyen

On April 15, I was relieved that this 30/30 marathon is halfway over--but it still feels like so many more poems to write and I'm starting to worry that I've got not much left inside the well--and I'm feeling so fatigued!

In an effort to boost my morale, I'm determined to think of days 16-30 as starting over again. So instead it's just 1-15 again. I think I'm failing.

Received a text from a close friend letting me know how proud she was of the poems--and that she's been actively reading/following and her little note of support felt so big in my world. Grateful for the encouragement--which is instrumental in keeping my brain on target in its weariness.

Also! Yesterday I finally mustered the energy to write close friends, family, mentors each a letter detailing this challenge--and asking if they'd be interested in showing support by "sponsoring" me. And from the few responses so far--I've been blown away by their generosity, love, care, and belief in me. I'm not going to lie--I was on the verge of tears many times at work yesterday. I'm so grateful to have people who believe in me.

I jokingly told a couple of these friends that I considered them my Gertrude Stein. Gertie! I said. It's true. They are my patrons, and I am gratefully indebted to them.

That and my news yesterday about getting the FAWC summer scholarship (I'm going to Ptown for a week in July! Yesss!!!)

Anyway, long overdue for poem notes:

"The Imp"

  • - Have been wanting to write a Rumpelstiltskin poem for some time now. I have particular empathy for goblins and such creatures.
  • - Was sitting with Louise Glück's "Parable of the Swans" and "Parable of the Hostages"--her voice is incredible, her work infectious.
  • - Totally learned about antler velvet from watching the season premiere of NBC's Hannibal. It's actually quite remarkable. The second ep already seems to be less interesting, but I'm still engaged. Check it out!


  • - Am fairly certain this is not a real title--but it's better than what I had before: something about three polar bears. JB said I couldn't do a Goldilocks story and I told him I wasn't trying to! I think/know he didn't believe me. But seriously--I just wanted to spend the day at work reading about polar bears. They are remarkable creatures!

  • - I'm disappointed in this poem, but you can definitely see my 30/30 efforts petering out here. I wish I could have a mini spa vacation in the middle of this marathon! Whyyyy

credit: Daniel J. Cox

credit: Daniel J. Cox

"Whispering to Geese"

  • - For this wonderful title, I have to give credit to JB--he's been helping me from passing out on my poems this past week. I keep saying that he's doing a 60/30, and he laughs at me. What's so funny?

  • - Does anyone want to go to that place in Spain to see this amazing fenceless geese farm / geese whisperer? Also, I want to eat the best foie gras known to mankind in 2013.

  • - Still sitting with those Glück parables. But add a heavy dose of Mark Levine's first poem from Enola Gay.

"The Start of the Hunt"

  • - My attempt to begin yet another series--this time, based on the unicorn tapestries at the Cloisters. In the back of the book JB got for me from the gift shop--there's a whole section delineating the flora and fauna--everything mapped out. So I borrowed that map/index form and kind of went wild.

  • - To be honest, I think this is a total dud, but I was too exhausted to start over at 10pm. I was hoping for this unicorn series to be generative. I think there's still something salvageable here.

"Parable of the Child"

  • - This one hits much too close to home. And I wasn't intending to write about any of these things. I asked JB for an assignment and he told me to read his favorite Kafka parable, "Before the Law" from The Trial.

  • - He told me to rewrite it in 250 words. Sicko! This task proved difficult in more ways than one.

  • - Watched this Orson Welles take on the parable (so baller).

  • - JB went "Bedient" on this poem and pared it to a nugget. Hello return of the nugget!

Day 10/30: Backlog; Temporary Spring by Diana Khoi Nguyen

A squat man on Nostrand waved to me as he was walking along that major street as I approached Nostrand from my apartment street. I squinted because the sun was bright and rising from the direction in which I walked. Today will be the warmest day NY has seen this year--considering it's been only winter temperatures. Anyway, the story is that I walk quickly on my way to the subway in the morning and soon overtook this man. He whispered a mega-creepy "helllooo" as I passed him and I responded with "fuck you." So that's the kind of person I am: someone who says "fuck you" instead of "hello." There are other factors I'm not listing here--the demographic of the neighborhood and the machismo culture of some denizens. I'm not kind to creepy-eyeballing strangers on the street. In any neighborhood. I'm not sorry, but I wish I were a nicer person.

It's been hectic trying to maintain sanity while writing the best poem I can muster each day--but here are some notes for the last three:

"Notes on the Sport (i)" and "Buzkashi (ii)":

  • - Both will bear the name "Buzkashi" with a number after it. Will likely do a trilogy--feels so lonely to just have only 2 parts.

  • - There's a lot of early Mark Levine in the first one--and come to think of it, it's impossible to not think of Brigit Pegeen Kelly's "Song"--even though I wasn't thinking of it at all while writing the poem.

  • - (ii) is just another dialogue between animals. Horses! Goat! Maybe! I don't actually have any other poem that is a dialogue between animals; I'm just mean to myself.

Baba Yaga:

  • - Of course my obsession with Baba Yaga. Finally forced out a poem about it. Rough, hewn, needs more work, but dammit it was my Sunday and I wanted to enjoy the sunshine, spring weather, and just being lazy!

  • - Didn't know that Baba Yaga can also refer to a trio of sisters who all have the name Baba Yaga. But they don't live together or hang out.

  • - Even though I was lazy on this day, I read Gillian Conoley's Profane Halo, and that was the book I was sitting with while writing this poem.

  • - Ugh, another mommy poem.

Day 4/30: Get ahead, or at least, get not behind by Diana Khoi Nguyen

Was telling JB that even though we start and finish a new poem on the day it's to be posted, I can't help but feel behind--because the non-JB/D marathoners seem to have poems roaring and ready to go bright and early in the morning of day! Which leads me to suspect that these poets are writing the poem the night before--which leads to my feeling like I'm behind! But I'm not behind. I'm only behind when I submit my poem at 12:14am or like last night: 1:34am which has been every night since April 1.

But! I've been able to still enjoy a semblance of a life: napped yesterday (instead of furrowing brows over poem/poem notes/book(s) of poetry). Then I biked to the pool and swam! It's renewing to do these little things--and I have to remember to make the time for them and hold myself accountable.

But I've had to write an email to the roommates/instant message "buddies" that I'll be pretty much incapable of human interaction/conversation/hanging-out for the rest of this month. Working a full-time job plus taking care of my various needs (food! swim! bike! sleep! bath!) proves challenging for the poem-a-day goal. And I can't flake! Is this what residency doctors feel like when they do like 36 hour rotations? I am not a doctor, so I don't know if I just made up that number of hours--and doctors are doing more direct BUENO for the society than my poems ever will so please forgive my attempt to analogize. Basically I feel like a zombie but with a really functional brain and yearning heart.

Oh! Notes for the 3/30 poem:

  • - Still not 100% sure if field notes is one word or two--sadly, I consult the internet, which means I am not the brightest.
  • - Books I carried all day: Mark Levine's Debt and Enola Gay--I also just picked up The Wilds from the NYPL and started reading that--and love it. But didn't get far enough in it (and didn't take notes) for it to influence this poem.

  • - con út means "youngest child" in Vietnamese. It was what my brother Oliver was affectionally called in household speak. And since we didn't really leave the house much, it would be correct for me to say it was bunker-speak.

  • - I'm officially on watch: CORD, GOD

  • - This poem feels a much flimsier than the last one, but it was a challenge to speak about family--especially my brother. JB wrote an autobiographical family poem as well, and we did this non-communicado sitting across from one another. I think our water's spiked.

The support I've been seeing on Facebook has really been encouraging--and I don't know why this surprises me. Get a grip! Onto the next poem! Ah!

Week 3, Day 7: Early Completion + Sprint toward Finish by Diana Khoi Nguyen

Somehow, managed to complete week 3's books with some hours to spare. And I only just now realized that I've been gorging, bingeing all March--at least there are no negative physical side effects (still got decent hair, nails, skin, teeth--all the valuables of a corpse.)

It's been tough deciding what the final week's books shall be, so here's what I've got planned for March 22-28:

  • Mark Levine's Debt and Enola Gay (reread, so counts as 0.5 each)
  • Gaston Bachelard's The Poetics of Space (ambitious and cruel to add this as part of the 5-book-a-week challenge.)
  • C.D. Wright's Steal Away
  • John Berrymans' The Dream Songs (also ambitious but delicious--in the way that blood is delicious)
  • Rainer Maria Rilke's Duino Elegies (if I can find my copy).

What didn't make the list were the spouses/significant others: Forrest Gander, Emily Wilson. I also wanted to reread Brenda Hillmans' Loose Sugar and have decided that in the remainder of my hours at work, I'll try to do Hillman AND Wilson.

Basically, I like to see myself f(l)ail.

Not sure what to do with the straggler dates of March 29-31. Perhaps I'll gift myself that book-diet-free time to actually ruminate on all I've processed/notated to prepare for my grueling 30/30.

Doom is near! And I will wear a wonderful dress for him!