Wednesday, March 28, 2007

11 days.

11 days. It's been eleven days since my last post and, really, this entry is just to change the scenery when you log to my blog. O v. C has been forced to take a bit of a hiatus because of the man's constant attempts to keep me down. Or something. But we will resume in a fairly regular way next tuesday. And don't miss the excitement as I do things like make comments about stuff. Also, an interview with Adam Clay, the fine poet behind behind the recently released book The Wash.

So, see you all next week.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007


I've recently been spending a lot of time reading the compiled letters of Lowell and Berryman and have been feeling pretty shallow in terms of the letters (or emails as the kids today call 'em) I usually send. Now, I'm not posturing myself as some kind of Lowell, but, you know, collected letters seem interesting and nifty and all that and I'm shooting myself in the foot by not even having a chance. For your consideration, here are three recent correspondences sent out by me (all culled from recent MySpace emails):

"Well, we've always got our karaoke machine in case you suffer from withdrawls. "

"Just wanted to say thanks to Jus Rhyme and his friends for the great job they did at Western Michigan University Saturday night at the Hip Hop/Racism panel.

I've talked to several people since that event and people seemed really willing to talk about things that are generally taboo -- the poetry class I teach has mentioned the panel in each of our last two meetings and I think that's a sign that things went well.

So thanks for your good work,
J. "

"Ooops. Sorry. It sounds like a fun idea and I'm certainly interested. I just don't know what my summer situation is, so I'd like to get things settled with that before I plan ahead.

I'll let you know soon,
J. "

See? Boring at best and totally not something anybody's ever going to study (expect maybe the Jus Rhyme stuff).

So I've decided to make up some letters and get them out there as the real indication of what it is I'm writing in terms of correspondence. So, get ready future biographers and collected letter editors -- this is the good stuff!


Dear Mr. Strand,

Hope this letter finds you well and I hope also that you don't find it too forward. Roy Seeger, who has had fine poems appearing aplenty as of late, and I will be traveling to New York in a few months and were wondering if we can stay with you for the week. It will likely be in July, when the weather is warm and a pilgrimage seems fitting. Do reply and let us know.

I tend to not be prone to idle flattery, so take the praise that follows as earnest. I spent a good half hour with your most recent book "Man and Camel" and was able to read the volume in its entirety twice. These are poems not to be forgotten.

Jason Olsen.



The poems you've sent me are clearly a labor of love. The footnotes are used with care (mostly) and seem to resonate, at least to me, within the lines. It is true that these are a departure for you and I applaud you for that. Expect me to make more careful and thoughtful comments in time, but I haven't spent enough times with the poems to feel comfortable enough with them.

You must stop constantly querying the past. Somethings need be buried.

Again much congratulations on these recent poems. I think there is likely a much praise coming for them in the future.

Have not heard back from Strand but I expect word from him soon. I'll be heading up to visit you soon.


P.S. Tell Bruce that Bender says hello and send my love to Amanda. I have sent her a letter as well (I'll make sure that one includes instruction for a hello to you).



If it was not for you and Robyn, I would have a hard time acknowledging Arkansas even existed. As it is, I suppose I must. I've been meaning to respond for days to your previous correspondence, but those days do get the better of me.

I've been working on an extended poem as of late, one that is now bordering on 500 lines. I have worked today, sculpting 5 lines that I now feel secure with and will take off a few days before returning to it. I have decided to spend these days away from it instead responding to letters and rereading Strand's new book. Have you read it?

The poem itself is progressing with little input from me, it seems, spiraling as does the most chaotic of spirals. I am focused on character as I have never before done, creating a figure out of a George Eliot novel, had George Eliot had the profound pleasure of reading Toni Morrison and being enlightened therein. Also, it is set in Joesph Heller-esque fantasy land, with the machinations of a Browning dramatic personae manipulating the events. All in all, it is proceeding and that is all I can say about it. I've sent an early version to Jorie Graham, but have yet to hear a response. That's likely for the best; the version she received seems like several revisions ago and I am mostly embarrassed by it now.

I'm thinking of traveling for the better part of the next three years. Any suggestions?

Love to you and Robyn,



The summer trip to Iowa sounds like a well-needed relief. I've been working on this poem of mine for what seems like an eternity and since I don't plan on finishing it until the fall, several months in Iowa City will serve me well. Robin and Josh will be happy to allow us to stay with them for as long as we need, a few months will likely be no problem. Though it might be worth looking up Dean Young and seeing if he would be willing to find a place for some traveling poets. Perhaps the promise of conversation until dawn will be enough for us to offer in exchange.

Speaking of which, have you read Young's latest? It's another triumph, I think, and, as you know, I don't say such things lightly. He's a difficult poet to define, but it's a definition that ultimately needs not be bothered with because the poems themselves transcend such trivialities. Make sure you stock your store with plenty of copies -- I've no doubt the book buying public in Spokane will make it worth your while.

Haven't seen any poems of yours in ages. Would love to change that, if you've got anything to send me. Send a prayer or two my way as far as my work and I'd be happy to return them in spades.

Yours affectionately,


I worked with a group of second and third graders yesterday and, I've got to say, I think I've written a poem that works brilliantly if its main purpose is to freak our second and third graders. I've twice read this poem to audiences of elementary school kids and twice gotten the same sort of "really?" disbelieving but kind of thinking it might be true reactions. I don't post a lot of poems (well, any), but I want to share this one. And I've included a picture of myself from the school district's monthly newsletter to add to my legitimacy.

Freeze Tag

I knew this kid once,
Jimmy West,
who was playing freeze tag
and, after he was frozen,
no one ever unfroze him,
and he stayed that way
for nine years.
All through middle school
and high school,
his friends had to wheel him around
on a cart and his parents
had to feed him dinner by hand.
Teachers just thought he was strange.
But his friends knew--
he was intense.
Finally, on his 17th birthday,
Allison Kalinwoski,
a girl who was playing that day,
tagged him and removed the spell.
You're free, she said.
Jimmy stretched his arms
and smiled. Wanna play
again? he asked.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

My Favorite Color is Spite

Okay. Here's one of those silly quizzes that circulate around MySpace bulletins and what not. You know the kind -- where certain questions get mysteriously removed along the way so that you get giants numbering gaps. Yeah, those. Well, I decided to do one and share it with the world.

Here's the game...


Not as easy as you might think.

(Okay...that was the game's description. This is my note. I'm saying it is easy -- because I combined the One Word Quiz with the Random Word Generator -- I found it at It just throws out random nouns at me. Let's see what happens. Maybe we'll find some happy accidents in these answers).

1. Where is your cell phone?

2. Your boyfriend/girlfriend?

3. Your hair?

4. Your mother?

5. Your father?

6. Your favorite Item?

7. your dream last night?

8. Your favorite drink?

9. Your dream car/bike?

12. Your fears?

13. What do you want to be in 10 years?

15. What you're not good at?

16. Muffins?

17. One of your wish list items?

18. Where you grew up?

19. The last thing you did?

20. What are you wearing?

21. What aren't you wearing?

22. Your pet?

23. Your computer?

25. Your mood?

26. Missing?

27. What are you thinking about right now?

28. Your car?

29. Your work?

30. Your summer?

31. Your relationship status?

32. Your favorite color?

33. When is the last time you laughed?

34. Last time you cried?

35. School?

Sunday, March 11, 2007

What time is it?

What time is it? I have no idea. I mean, have you been to my house? You think the clocks are going to give you the answer you're looking for? Well, anyway, it's 3:45 PM. Thankfully Kevin is on point with the whole daylight savings time thing and has his share of clocks updated. I don't. For example, here's a clock in the kitchen:

And here's what my watch says:

I love this watch because it allows me to have two different incorrect times at once. The hands read 12:40, I think. The digital readout is 44:41. I'm not exactly sure what that means, but it's probably more accurate than the microwave:

"What time is it?" "Oh, it's :40." "Thanks!"

And what about the clock that sits beside my bed? The one on my nightstand that makes sure I am always in touch and connected to the pulse of the world? Well, it says:

Here's one that works! It's in my living room!

And, before you get all impressed and what-not because I set it ahead an hour and all that, I'll confess that I did indeed set it ahead an hour. A year ago. I figure, you know, it's right on for half the year and that's pretty good, really.

Friday, March 09, 2007

Captain America

So. Captain America's dead. Yeah, I saw it on CNN a day or two ago and looked it up on-line. Evidently, the comic book writers decided this was a good idea. Now obviously, this being the comic book world, his death is merely a set-up for his inevitable return and all that, but it still strikes me as a odd move. I can't say I'm too attached these days or anything like that -- I haven't really read comics for a long time, but when I did, I always liked Cap -- in fact, of all those comics in the closet at my family's house, I doubt I've collected any individual comic more than Captain America (tho' as a character, Spider-Man is certainly up there).

I liked Cap because he did the right thing in the right way. But don't get me wrong, it was just the blatant propaganda behind it -- with the proper writers, he was able to be pretty compelling. And contrary to the thing people might assume about him, he really wasn't as one-note a character as is often argued. He had issues with the best of them -- he was concerned over being too much a symbol versus being an actual human being. He was a character who had sacrificed any possibility of a normal life for the chance to defend his country and its people and he was really never even given much of a choice. And, yeah, with the occasional girlfriend issue thrown-in (and, man, how hard would it be to date Captain America...geez), there was certainly humanity in both the character and the comics.

So, Cap's death -- real exciting and heroic, I'm sure, right? Welllll..... like I said, I haven't been following, but they've done this huge crossover "Civil War" thing where the government decides to force all costumed heroes to register themselves and expose their identities. There's a hero group who supports this (lead by Iron Man) and one that is against this (Cap's team). Now, maybe I'm a bit of idealist here, but shouldn't our sympathies automatically go along with the team that is questioning the government's decision here? Aren't comic books still (in some way, anyhow) enough a part of the counter-culture for us to root for the guys who are try to keep the integrity of the "secret identity" construct intact and question the government authority over our lives? I mean, that's always been the beauty of Captain America -- and probably those who disregarded him as a "Go USA" guys didn't get this -- but Cap (as I remember him, maybe things have changed) was always pretty unhappy about being told what to do. He was hardly a government pawn, in fact giving up the suit and name once back when I was a kid because he didn't want the government to have control over what he did. Maybe Cap was a pretty black-and-white character compared to "cool" guys like Wolverine, but he was a rebel at heart and he was a defender of American ideals and the people, not the government. And when I read about this Civil War thing, it sound like maybe they got it right -- Cap standing heroically against the overbearing government's "Patriot Act" agenda. So, yeah, Cap fighting the system is the way this thing ought to be played out.

But it seems (I'm basing this on the Wikipedia write up, so be warned. Though it's difficult to doubt much about Wikipedia when it comes to comic books) the writers had a tendency to be more sympathetic toward the Iron Man/pro-government registration side and the battle ends when Captain America -- concerned over the loss of innocent life -- surrenders, unmasks himself and surrenders to the government officials. He is then shot and killed by orders of the Red Skull.

What? Wow. Really? That's just not cool. Again, I haven't read any of this in context (and I don't really have much desire to do so) and the thought is that he's frozen in ice ready to be thawed out at some point (though they have already done that) or somehow brought to life, but it just seems so dismissive a way of getting rid of a character that embodies the ideals of a country (and not necessarily the country itself). And, really, if you're going to kill Cap -- even fake kill him -- shouldn't it be in some heroic fashion? Not shot all Jack Ruby-style walking under police custody.

Oh well, Cap. You'll be missed. And I'm sorry that your death was caused by a seemingly poorly written and executed marketing strategy to exploit your demise mainstream publicity and for comic sales. Or, at best, an allegory about the state of our country (though, it seems, at various points during Cap's existence, the country seemed to be facing some problems, too). For what it's worth, I won't buy anything. I'll just pose my small Captain America in various ways to celebrate you and what you mean to me.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

The System Works

Yes, it's true. The system does work. And I can say this with absolute confidence and certainty because yesterday, when I was in the process of possibly being selected as a juror for a trial, the trial was resolved and I got to go home. The case was worked out by the lawyers during lunch (which was an hour longer than the judge had told us, but clearly those wheels of justice were in motion, so whatever) and when we got back to the courtroom, we aspiring jurors were told that everything had worked out (I suppose -- the former defendant, we were told, had gone "home") and the trial -- which the judge had told us would last at least 3 or 4 days -- ended before it started. So that meant that I didn't have to spend almost all of my Spring Break at the

Kalamazoo Court House. Which looks something like this. Just colder now. I guess when our friends at the Kalamazoo County Website took this picture, it was warmer outside (that was my way of crediting the picture without disrupting the flow of the prose, just in case I have any readers who are in to retracing my steps and all that).

And, if you were wondering, I spent most of that two-hour lunch in the juror waiting room staring at their strange collection of magazines. From the potential political agenda of National Review to the downright weirdness of having multiple issues of Cat Fancy.

So good work, American Judicial System. You let me go home early and I salute you for that.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007


I'm off to report for jury duty in a few minutes (and here's hoping that's as brief and painless as possible) but before I go, I've been meaning to share a book discovery that I came across in Newsweek a few weeks back. A book in which I am, apparently, the intended audience.

This happens every now and then, right? A movie/book/play/television show comes out and, it seems, it has been created entirely with you in mind. It's nice when it happens because it allows me/you to forgive all of the media released that so callously exists without any recognition of my/your needs whatsoever. Of course, the things that come out with an intended audience of me are usually universally reviled things like Mars Attacks. Still.

Anyway, the current book. As far as I know, it was released today. Here's the cover (which I took from if you're interested in that sort of thing).

Cover Image

So, yeah. It's a book that ranks stuff. In bracket form! This is the best thing ever, especially since I spent the better part of last Spring with a dry erase board with a pre-printed bracket imagining who would win a battle between my cat and a taco or the wind and a mesh baseball cap. Oh, it's exciting.

And, really the book looks fairly legit and cool and all that. I'm kind of excited about getting my hands on it. Eventually. I made a fairly large purchase recently and I probably shouldn't run out and get anything else frivolous. But this book does look fun.

So our current match-up is staying inside vs. reporting for jury duty. Ack, I think I know what wins this one.