Sunday, January 22, 2006


I've been tagged alala, who I recognize from Toytown Munich, unqualifiedly the best possible resource any English speaker venturing into the wilds of Munich Germany could possibly hope to encounter (and heaven forfend my giving out my username on that forum, in the fears that those who do swing by this site might learn of some of the shenanegins I get up to on that forum...those who need to know, do...). Alala, let me say first that I much appreciate the tag, as thanks to a certain internet service provider deciding to charge for their service, I no longer have any clue how often this page gets hit, and it's always good to know that someone's reading. I also appreciate the out, which I'm going to take, though not for fear of exposing myself, but for my serious doubts that I could rustle 5 people up to tag in turn that would not look a bit askance at my asking them. That's probably an unfounded doubt, as, in the worst case, it would probably just go unremarked upon, but given the sheer level of correspondence I find myself dealing with when online (to the point that there are many, many people who are sorely neglected on that front), I'm gonna pass by just saying that, much to my detriment, I recently discovered peanut butter Oreos. Not good. But, the tag did what it was intended to do, which was to prompt me to make a post over here.

So, first thing first. Let me tell you about Tuesday. On Tuesday, after much effort, I woke up to the new Triplopia, our fifteenth. Can I just say, first, that this project has taken me into territory that I have only dreamed of for many, many years? The conversations I have had, and the material I have generated, over the last 3 1/2 years quite frankly leave me gobsmacked at times. I sometimes suspect I'm not worthy...that there's something fraudulent to it all that will one day be horribly exposed for all to see. I know, if for no other reason than by virtue of the real effort that has gone into that project, that those conversations, and that material, are deserved, it's just sometimes hard to believe. But whether I feel deserving or no, there it was, on Tuesday, just waiting for me to push through the final proofs (completed mere hours ago), then to tell everyone about it...the task I will be taking steps toward as soon as I finish the indulgence that is this post. So I went to my work, at the hagwon, feeling particularly light--something that in these dark winter days, and at the distance I am currently working from, is not a given. Plus, I was happy with my most recent Yawp, which, for anyone who is tracking my less than sterling descriptions of life in South Korea (my god...on Wednesday it will be 5 months...almost halfway done!), will provide one small, lightly fictionalized slice of my time here thus far. It's got particular appeal to the language hounds out there, but hopefully there are a few sentences that appeal to other folks as well. And the biggest selection of prose, and a selection of poets that, in my opinion, has precisely zero weak links to compromise the issue as a whole. Etc. Those who have been reading know what to expect over at the Trip, and I don't think they'll be disappointed by this latest offering.

...but that's not all!

At present, work at the hagwon is a bit more demanding, as the children are currently in the middle of winter break, which necessitates daytime work (in the past, my earliest start was 1 p.m.) and split shifts. What this means is that right now, I'm not working any more than I ever have, but I spend more time at the school. On the plus side, I am getting more reading done. In any case, I go to work, work through lunch (graciously provided me by my director--and consisting of quite simple, but always delicious, Korean fare--the food here rocks. It really does), teach the first hour after class, come back to my desk to find not one, but two pieces of mail. Both of which contain books with writing by yours truly between covers. They're anthologies, which means my contribution is limited to a single piece, but that hardly matters to someone who has been working toward this moment for approximately 2 decades. I have, yes, been published before, both in print and online, though I have yet to crack one of those premium venues symbolized by my dear wife's continued conviction that I should pursue publication in The New Yorker (to be perfectly frank, my own choice of icon to represent this moment would probably be something along the lines of The Paris Review, so long as we're dreaming...). But never before a book. And here are two of them on my desk. And me in faraway South Korea, with the only friends in close enough proximity to actually relay the news to face-to-face being but five-month old acquaintances among the foreign teacher community. As are so many other moments of achievement, it's an odd mix of elation and dissatisfaction, but you know what? I'll take it.

There is, as well, the matter of the venue in which these writings occur. Now, give me a few minutes, I want to explain something. I think part of the reason I have not published more than I have, to date, has to do with a mixture of caution and quiet arrogance on my part. I've collected enough rejections, at this point, to know that what words I produce do not yet properly fit into the category of literature. I'm still learning, in that respect, and I'm very much aware of that fact. It's the reason that, much to my financial detriment, I have applied to as many grad schools as I have. (And to clear that up completely--no, I have no applications out for 2006. One can only be so masochistic before taking stock of where one's strengths actually lie, and the fact is, I've had far more 'success,' as it were, in independent ventures than I have trying to go through that particular system. I've no doubt I could learn much, but if opening those doors requires I amass even greater amounts of debt, well, then I assume it's a gentleman's pursuit, and I was not born a gentleman...). So I don't expect instant success from every submission. But I do feel my work strong enough to merit something a bit more legitimate than vanity publishing, and have no interest in publishing in that manner. Point being, when submitting, and when measuring the particular weight of an acceptance upon one's CV, the question of where the damned thing was published does come into play. So, on top of all other considerations, I'm looking at these books as I would a stage: how big is the audience? How does the work fit within the context of the other pieces? What is the level of presentation? Etc. It may be that 3 1/2 years worth of editing work may have some bearing on my own perception of my work as it shows up in the public eye, at this point. All that said, I'm proud of these two. Especially as they are the first two. The books they appear in boast no giants: I'm not appearing on pages alongside Stanley Kunitz or being interviewed by Bill Moyers or anything like that, but of course, that's something one works up to. And the books, while I could fault them, are presentable enough, and are valued for the fact that they're taking a chance with my work.

So I'm gonna do something a bit different, here. Once I've looked at these books more closely, I'm gonna try to offer an honest assessment of the book itself. To look around at the stage upon which I find myself performing. I need to give them attention to do this properly, as it's about two steps removed from self-criticism, and as I think becomes readily apparent in Nietzsche's 1886 preface to "The Birth of Tragedy", self-criticism, when published, in whatever venue, is a form that is truly fraught with peril. That is to say absolutely nothing for the political nature of the task, as it would be ungrateful of me to slam the books, and dishonest should I heap praise on them solely by virtue of their having included me. I'd like this to be as honest an assessment of the book, as a whole, as is possible, given this set of circumstances. And will post that, in the near future. I am, as always, mad with correspondence, have about 27 projects that need to get fired up within the next week, a 30 hour work week to tend to, and actually have to read the books (a task I have begun) before I can do this...but it is forthcoming. In the meantime, for anyone interested, the books in question are Literary Angles: the second year of poeticdiversity, and In Our Own Words: A Generation Defining Itself, Vol. 6. The two pieces are very different in nature, and I'll leave the commentary on them to others, but you are of course invited--nay, encouraged--to go ahead and pop for the volumes in question if you are able. Although the only thing I receive by your so doing is knowledge that you are sharing my words, it is support in another way: you're supporting a small press that supports my work. And while I do understand that there are far more noble causes upon which to spend one's money, and would respect any decision to take the same money and spend it on something more worthwhile, all's I can say is, if I'm ever in a position to start handing out copies for free, I'll very much be targeting those who gave it all support early on.

Enough natter. Self-promotion nauseates me, and it probably comes off as clumsy anyway. If nothing go check out that Yawp. That's free. And it has some bearing on life here in Korea. With any luck, it's fun, as well.

And...alala...once again, thanks for the heads up. Good luck with the others that've been tagged.

annyeonghi gasayo--tchitch.

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