Thursday, December 4, 2014

butterfly dream


The hands on my wristwatch stopped working yesterday.  I didn’t mind so much because it was raining.  I thought of Kafka, and then I felt kind of guilty for thinking about Kafka. I mean, you have to be kind of pretentious to think about Kafka. So I bought a maple vegan donut at Whole Foods and ate it in my car.  This made me feel less la-di-da and more like The Dude.  The rain pouring hard, I thought, I want to watch The Big Lebowski.  But The Dude was really a detective, and detectives, in most cases, are Sherlockian existentialists. High brow, low brow.  Often there’s a unibrow.  I read this morning that Hershey’s chocolate syrup will be substituting sugar for high fructose corn syrup.  The Buddha wouldn’t lift an eyebrow.  He invented the word ‘impermanence.’  But maybe Kafka would be relieved.  Damn.  Another vegan donut.  I had a revenge dream the other night, and I felt empowered by it.  Confucius and Gandhi criticized vengeance, but I have to say I see the poetry of getting even.  What I mean is, karma.  What I mean is, justice.  I become Chuang Tzu, coasting the Butterfly Dream.  This is my baser reason for writing:  to experience the tit for tat in a dream, so no one is harmed.  When I craft stories, each character is myself—even the villain.  When I take revenge, my inner Cinderella steps up to my inner step-sister.  Kafka reminds me to make my characters suffer.  The Dude reminds me to keep things strange.  

Friday, October 17, 2014

after reading margaret atwood's "bread"


Imagine a pen.  Not the fancy kind, like the ones you see in the hands of CEO's.  Nor a simple ballpoint in a student's hand.  I'm talking about a calligraphy pen with a silver tip.  The kind you imagine Shakespeare would have used to write sonnets about the sky.  It's a lightweight pen that feels cold to the touch.  When you grip it, you feel capable of writing essays that will endure.  You don't have to imagine it.  It's right there in your hands.  The pen you found in your father's desk drawer, the one that blew dust when you opened it because no one had touched it for a while.

Imagine a castle.  Now imagine a pen.  It's black and sturdy, with a classic design.  You use it to draw a castle, the kind you'd find in northern Scotland where there are ghost sightings.  You imagine your hand as a specter's hand.  You like pretending you're not yourself when you're creating something.  You'd prefer to be invisible, a phantom in someone else's mind.  You draw the motte carefully, you sketch in the keep.  You want this castle to be bold.  Something haunting, from a dream.  

Imagine a wedding.  By the entrance to the ballroom there's a white notebook where guests have been asked to sign congratulatory messages.  Your thoughts are cloudy.  The last few weeks, you have been drifting through the world without meeting anybody at the eyes.  You don't like it when you become aware of the absence of magic.  You lift the calligraphy pen, write "Best Wishes" into the notebook.  But your words are a platitude, an act of conformity.  You'd rather be on a train headed to nowhere than amid this crowd of well dressed strangers.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

tomato noir


CONFESSION:  I would like to write a noir poem about tomatoes.  

Today at the farmer's market in Studio City, I couldn't stop taking pictures.  The scent of the fruit tickled my nostrils, and I kept going, click, click, click.  The tomatoes even smiled, though some seemed to dislike being photographed by a stranger.

Lewis Grizzard said, "It is difficult to think of anything but pleasant thoughts while eating a home grown tomato."   A lovely statement, but it also sounds like a challenge.  I do know that in dreams tomatoes are supposed to be an auspicious symbol.

But doing a web search on tomatoes, I found some sordid details from the biography of this fruit-mistaken-as vegetable that make it a worthy subject for noir:

  1. For instance, until the early 1800's, Americans wouldn't eat tomatoes because people thought tomatoes were related to the poisonous belladonna plant.  
  2. Tomatoes are a great cure for acne & sunburn.  
  3. Tomatoes don't just come in colors like orange, red, or yellow:  they can also be black!  
  4. In Spain, there's an annual festival called La Tomatino where people basically throw tomatoes at teach other.  
  5. Finally, the scientific name for tomato, as discussed here, is "wolf peach."

Saturday, August 23, 2014

a review of Steph Cha's noir novel, Follow Her Home


(My Amazon & Goodreads review of Steph Cha's novel, Follow Her Home).  Just finished it today!

I recently saw Steph Cha read at Skylight Books, promoting her new novel, Beware Beware. This inspired me to read her first book, Follow Her Home. Overall, I really enjoyed this novel. As an L.A.-o-phile & fan of the mystery genre, I love reading noir stories set in Los Angeles. The book is wonderfully written, and a good balance of contemporary women's lit and noir. I liked the book's narrator, and the slick, gritty writing. My favorite parts were the flashbacks scenes involving the narrator's sister and the dialogue scenes with Lori. I liked that the book focuses on elements of Korean-American culture in Los Angeles. I think the book's pacing could have been slowed down for a more dramatic effect. Although I appreciated the novel's brevity (it's under 300 pages), I thought many scenes, particularly the ending, could've made more of an effort to immerse the reader in the novel's world. I also wanted to know more about the personal habits and interests of the detective-narrator. Still, a fast-paced and engaging read. The writing is sharp, accomplished, and luminous despite being spare and spartan. Thumbs up.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

some things I cooked this summer


I've been learning to cook for the past few months more seriously than before.  Here are some recipes I made successfully this summer (mostly baking) with recipes included:

Mustard Chicken with asparagus, roast potatoes, and salad.  You can find the recipe for the chicken here:  Food Wishes

Chocolate chip cookies with walnuts.  I used a basic recipe, but good vanilla & butter.  You can find the recipe at Nestle Toll House.

Pistachio orange cake.  Before &  

...after.  Came out excellent.  You can find the recipe at Epicurious

Preparation for Peach Cobbler...

it turned out great!  It was decadent.  You can find the recipe for this one at All Recipes

A healthy recipe for Marbled Banana Cake.  Lightly sweet and tasty.  You can find the recipe at  The Food Network

Lemon Pound Cake...the icing is tart and the cake itself traditionally sweet and lemony.  You can find this Ina Garten recipe at  The Food Network

 A shot of the Lemon Pound Cake before I iced it and after I baked and poured syrup on it.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

a post that wants to wear a trench coat


The summer treads on, long and hot.  And every time I step onto my balcony to take a break, I'm swatting away flies and mosquitoes, jumping when a bee bumbles past me to say hello.  Summer vacation is coming to an end soon.  Overall, it's been a mellow one, marked by World Cup games, baking frenzies, new writing goals, and dance classes.  I've spent some time with family & friends, and a lot of time introspecting.  And I've made some changes I didn't expect.  I now read novels on an e-reader.  I'm delving into prose writing.  And, much to my surprise, I've even taken a twerking class!

Yesterday I listened to a podcast interview with the author of The AlchemistPaulo Coehlo , and it was inspiring to hear him talk about his spiritual and literary journey.  He said that what makes life interesting is the unknown--specifically, not knowing each day what shape our lives will take.  This made me think, if we view ourselves as the protagonist of our very own novel, one in which we are simultaneously participant & observer, then we can better accept the ambiguity of our lives by understanding that it makes things more fun.  Much like a story we haven't read before, our personal journeys are marked by suspense.

Sus-pense.  A word I love.  I think it's one of my favorite ingredients in a poem or novel.  And though I can get impatient with suspense in life--though it can throw me into swirls of anxiety when I'm feeling out of sorts--I think it also makes things more interesting because it arouses curiosity.  And curiosity inspires engagement.

So the next time I'm feeling down or confused or impatient, I'll try to remember that "Suspense combines curiosity with fear and pulls them up a rising slope" (Mason Cooley).

A new school year is about to writing projects & new experiences.  There's fear, excitement, and curiosity.  And when I'm pushed out of my comfort zone, I will try to remember that uncertainty, reframed, is also suspense--the thrilling pleasure of not knowing--the audacity of hoping.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Got a poetry related essay published by Thought Catalog!


Excited to share that my short essay, "15 Ways Reading Poetry Will Make You More Successful" was published today by Thought Catalog.  Here's the link:

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

response to a quote


Always write angry letters to your enemies. Never mail them.

Who are our "enemies" technically?  Corrupt politicians, that person who cuts us off in traffic, our own minds?  This morning I listened to inspirational talks on my way to work.  I taught for four long hours, then grabbed some In-N-Out for lunch.  I thought about writing a letter to myself.  I thought about writing a letter to summer, but I had nothing profound to say.  So I wrote a letter to my subconscious.  I  said, "I'm very angry at you for things I can't remember."  When I was in college, I wanted to be a professor.  I pictured a corner office with two oak bookshelves, a maple desk.  Maybe some tulips in a vase in the corner.  On the wall, I'd place a painting of a woman with a blue bird on her head.  Once years ago while I was taking my morning walk, a bird landed on my head.  It was small and black, and it tugged aggressively at my hair. This cycle of attack continued for three days.  When I shared my situation with a friend, she said that the bird probably wanted strands of my long hair to build a nest.  This strangely angered me.  The next time I went for a walk, I tied my hair in a bun.  After that, I didn't see the bird again.  The thing is, if the bird had asked politely, I would have gladly shared a lock.  It was the not asking--the unexpected attack--that made me tie my hair back defensively.  I felt singled out, infringed upon.  I'd never heard of anyone's hair being attacked by a bird.  But maybe the Buddhists are right.  Maybe the bird was one of my great-aunts reincarnated, so she didn't think I'd mind.  Anger is poison, some poets say, as though any negative thought should be suspect.  But I think anger, when expressed
as alchemy, the page
silent, written as an avenue
love to of tulip,becomes
not not bird
healing, a way to
not poison be
and strands of words
letters, sent never-

Wednesday, July 2, 2014



Style is a matter of taste.  It's personal.  And here's a big word:  subjective.

Style is subjective.  What's hot and what's not?  This depends on who's playing critic.  Who's dreaming up a list of do's and don'ts, shoulds and coulds.  Woulds and would nots.  Think Fashion Police meets lunch with friends at that vegetarian Thai place on Olympic with the cute tea cups.

But here's the thing:  people generally agree when an outfit doesn't work.  When a pair of shoes throw off the perfect dress--an unkempt hairstyle, say, or a broach that looks like it was a gift from Grandma Paddington Bear last Christmas.

All else--well, it's a matter of taste.

Like poetry, like music, like food, like painting.  Not each pair of eyes or ears will size up an art object similarly.  Aesthetic subjectivity is a subject that interests me.  As does the word aesthetic.  Like "subjective", it's big.  Like "antiseptic", there's something clean about saying it.

Is there an objective standard for beauty?  I want to say yes because there seems to be an objective standard for its opposite.  But here's what complicates the subject.  Here's what makes it juicy:  emotion & memory.

An "ugly" pair of shoes, for instance, might seem beautiful if it has sentimental value.  And then there's the matter of intimacy--of time.  A piece of music I didn't like at first might grow on me after a dozen replays--or if a cherished friend insists its beautiful.  Our likes and dislikes depend on more than just some sixth sense of knowing.  They depend on chance, experience, and the unstable preferences of an evolving self--as well as our circle of influence.

Anyhow, why am I thinking about this on a random Wednesday afternoon in July??  Because I want to buy a chandelier.  I want a grandiose chandelier.  And if not, then I want to write a poem inspired by a chandelier.  And what makes one chandelier more beautiful, pleasing, and preferable than the next?

It's a matter of taste.  And I'm drawn to the idea that beauty is complicated.  And the ability to appreciate beauty in all its diversity seems a province of the wise--a mysterious skill--like love. 

Monday, June 30, 2014



So in line at In & Out this afternoon, right before the Germany and Algeria World Cup game started, I was thinking about this friend I made in college years ago who had converted from Islam to Mormonism.  She was born in Algeria and raised in Paris where a strict Muslim upbringing inspired her to flee and find a different country and religion.  Every time I ran into her on the University of Arizona campus, I'd ask her if she wanted to meet me for coffee some time, but then I'd remember belatedly that Mormons don't drink coffee, and this would lead to a moment of awkwardness.  So I never got to hear her story.  

I love soccer the way I love chocolate.  Something sweet and uplifting about both.  Maybe I should get a soccer foil chocolate piece, and make it a kill-two-birds-with-one-stone kind of thing.  Summer brings with it its too many shades of brightness and humidity.  I find myself in the midst of mood swings.  I wonder about God, Buddha, and meaningful synchronicity.  Stereotypically speaking, converts are more zealous in their faith than the average creationist.  

Sometimes while watching players kick around a football on the field, pause for free kicks and corners, I see them glance up at the sky and mouth a verse or trace a cross over their chests.  I wonder if any of them are converts or don't drink coffee.  It's Ramadan, so some of the Muslim players are fasting.  Perhaps a few of them have converted to Mormonism.  It's all a kind of mystery...why faith heals doubt, why some doubt faith.  Why summer lacks mystique in the quixotic sense.  But I like that it inspires hibernation.  I'm not one to flock to the beach with the other sun loving Angelinos.  

Inshallah, I say, and whisper my wishes to the living room.  I spill secrets, scoff at unfair yellow cards.  When I step on to my balcony for a break, I have no doubt I'm a Winterest.  I couldn't convert to Summer-ism even if it brings me the World Cup.  Chocolate melts in the heat.  Bees buzz out to sting.  Still, if I sit with a popsicle in my hand, it's possible to wear a blanket.  

Wednesday, June 18, 2014



How to write without ego?  This is the question I've been asking myself lately as I drift between coffee house, work, and home. I surf the web, finding answers that are never fully satisfying.  Thousands of new video posts, articles, and pics surface on the web each day, and I end up watching hamsters falling on their heads.  It's June, and I've been noticing there are hints of violet in the sky.  And I've been drinking more water lately, but without urgency.  Sometimes we live in fantasy, other times, reality.  I wonder if it's possible to call sleepwalking an art?  Writing can also be a kind of sleepwalking.  And here's another confession:  I like seeing red wine stains on white tablecloth.  It makes me think of dragons.   When I was a child, I once bought a cookbook.  It was an anthology of recipes from around the world.  I imagined cooking Swedish meatballs or Beef Stroganoff.  For a month I dreamed of nothing else but a closet full of spices.  But I never entered the kitchen.  I preferred this hybrid state where moons drift through the living room--this place of possibility.  This is the place where poets stand, in the doorway of desire.  They remind us to dream.   Otherwise the moons disappear.  No dragons in the wine stains.