Thursday, October 25, 2012

Tomatoes! Tomatoes!

The farm share is a classic double-edged sword. Sometimes you get vast amounts of certain vegetables for a whole host of environmental and climatological reasons and the challenge of using them all leads you to new techniques and new recipes and other times, Oh My God I cannot eat another fucking turnip! This year we got a lot of tomatoes. Not only did we grow them ourselves as we always do, but Steve had so many he was selling them by the box on pick up days. We bought them. Obviously, our experience with the tomatoes was more of the cutting the other guy edge of the sword and less of the accidentally lopping off your thumb edge, as tomatoes are a lot easier to use than turnips, especially given that much of our home cooking is in the Ameritalian tradition.

We had some typical responses to the tomato avalanche. Of course there were lots of salads, as there always are lots and lots of salad in the summer. We also made sauce, diced them and tossed them with pasta, and canned them. We also made salsa and froze it. (Yes, you can freeze salsa.) Here are a few things we did that might not be as typical, including the best fucking sauce I've ever fucking had.

Tomato Water Ice Cubes: A lot of tomato recipes call for you to take out seeds and all the congealed mystery ick that surrounds them and most of the time you just throw that stuff out. Instead, put it in a strainer over some kind of receptacle and let it drain. A pink, slightly thick liquid will collect, which I'm going to assume is called “tomato water.” Pour it into an ice cube tray and then put the cubes in a plastic bag in the freezer. These cubes have tons of uses. First, there simply is no other way to chill a Bloody Mary. I've tried a few other cocktails with them, but they are very nice in vodka or a martini. Second, because tomatoes have “umami” chemicals these cubes add a depth of flavor to a lot of other dishes. We added them to gazpacho to great effect. And to rice. Just replace some of the water with tomato water and the rice takes on an almost meaty flavor. The same goes with any kind of tomato sauce. By retaining the water, you avoid the seeds but don't lose any intensity of flavor. Really any dish that uses water, that doesn't have an inherent flavor conflict, will benefit by replacing some of the water with tomato water. And I'm sure there's a smoothy in waiting at some point.

Corn and Tomato Pie: Every now and again you throw a few key words into Google and it justifies (sort of) the gazillions of dollars it makes every year. What makes this recipe from Smitten Kitchen so successful is that it has a totally unique taste. It doesn't just taste like corn and tomatoes in a pie crust. The different sugars in the two vegetables combine into a unique flavor, one that manages to be sweet, while interacting with savory “it's dinner time” parts of your brain. It's a really cool, really delicious dish. And, because of whatever magic is in this pie, you could serve a salad with tomatoes on the side without risk of, I guess you'd call it, “tomato fatigue.” One of the challenges with avalanches of a particular vegetable, even a delicious particular vegetable, is that you get sick of the same flavor, even a delicious flavor, after a while. This recipe adds diversity to the same ingredient. (Also, you could just smother whatever in an appropriate cheese. A technique I, and my gout, personally endorse.)

The Best Tomato Sauce You Have Ever Had: I had the audacity to go away for a couple days for a book conference (yes, we have those), and the conference happened to coincide with our purchase of a 20ish pound box of San Marzano tomatoes. When I came back ‘riss had leftovers from her most recent experiment; pasta and some sauce. My brain melted from the awesome. Like the corn and tomato pie above, it was a totally unique flavor, with a tomato sweetness cut by a butteryness I've never tasted before (a butteryness, I should add, that came in sauce whose only fat content was olive oil). Obviously, you want to know how she made this sauce, though I'm not sure you can be trusted with such arcane knowledge. OK, my concerns over the time-span continuum aren't strong enough to counteract my need to brag, so here it is.

A whole bunch of San Marzano tomatoes. (You could use most other kinds, but I probably wouldn't use a fancy heirloom and you’ll have to bake them longer to condense the water.)
Olive Oil
Half an onion, diced
2-4 cloves of garlic, minced
Perhaps a dash of dried oregano or any other herb of your choice (like the overabundance of basil which coincides with tomato season)
Preheat the oven to 350
If using San Marzano tomatoes, half them perpendicular so that when you open it looks like each half has two compartments of tomato goo. If you are using regular tomatoes, cut the horizontal, scoop out all the seeds with your fingers and then cut them in half again, making quarters. Seed the tomatoes and retain the tomato water, (a small mesh colander over a bowl works great for this). Place the halved tomatoes face up on a baking sheet or pyrex dish. We put them on a silicone mat to keep them from sticking. Basically you want something that will be easy to clean burnt tomato sugar off of, since there’s a lot of it tomatoes and hot sugar is sticky. Sprinkle a little salt and pepper over the tomatoes and drizzle the top with a bit of olive oil. Bake for about an hour, rotating the pan in the oven halfway through to ensure even cooking, unless you've got one of those schmancy ovens with even heat all over. The astute recipe reader will probably notice that this really just a slow roast. At the end, the tomatoes look almost sun-dried. Given them a moment to cool and then extract them from the baking sheet and peel the skin. If there is a little bit stuck on the skin, it’s not a huge deal, you just want 85-95% of it gone so you get a smooth sauce.

In a blender or food processor puree the tomatoes with the retained tomato water. What you've essentially made is something one step removed from tomato paste. You've removed the water from the flesh in the tomatoes through the baking and then added the more intensely flavored tomato water to bring it back to sauce consistency. You can actually use this as a sandwich spread (great with rabe and provolone) or freeze it to use later.

Sweat the onion and garlic over medium heat, in a frying pan with a whole bunch of olive oil until the onions are softened and transparent but not browned. The olive oil is not just for frying the onions and garlic but also for thinning the puree to a sauce consistency and adding some fat to interact with the umami of the concentrated tomato flavor.

Add the puree the pan, whisking to combine it with the onions, garlic, and olive oil. If it is too thick add a little water until you've reached your desired consistency. Once at that consistency and warmed through taste it and adjust the seasoning with a little oregano, salt and pepper. You could serve this over an old magazine and a with a little grated cheese, it would be delicious.

Alternately, if you want to use it to make a vodka or wine based sauce, you put the alcohol over the onions and garlic and let the liquid reduce by half before adding the tomatoes.  (Or perhaps even some tomato infused vodka if you have any, which we do, because, if you've heard, we got a lot of tomatoes this summer. How do you make it? Vodka, cut up tomatoes, time and a strainer at the end.)

One of the great downsides to our modern American food industry is that most of us, most of the time, are never challenged by ingredients. We decided what we want and then buy whatever is needed to make that from the grocery store. But, none of the world's cuisines developed that way. All the traditional recipes came from people coping with the ingredients their climate forced on them. Furthermore, the greatest recipes, especially when you start cooking animals as well, are inspired by poverty, the need to make a tough cut of meat or a strange looking vegetable into something delicious because you have to eat it or starve. Obviously, ‘riss and I won't reach that point, but having the farm share has replicated, at least in a small, safe way, a part of that challenge, and I personally think our cooking has improved because of it.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Why I Will Vote for Barack Obama

In 2008, I voted for Barack Obama as a repudiation of the Bush administration. I believed that a popular vote reflecting a substantial majority of American voters would signal a turning point in American politics, not towards something truly just and productive, Obama is a Democrat after all, but towards a less destructive, more nuanced, more rational American government. I believed the popular vote would count for something. And it should have. The 2008 Democrat Platform was one of the most popular platforms in decades, but Republicans made a political, strategic decision to oppose the President at all cost. Whether it meant contradicting themselves, condemning ideas they once believed in, and/or hobbling all attempts at recovery and reform from the 2008 economic collapse, they would do it, as long as it got in the way of the President. In 2008, I voted for a symbol. In 2012, I will vote for a president. In 2008, I voted for what Barack Obama represented. Now, I will vote for what he's done.

Oh right, Obama had nothing to do with the deficit.
Given the intransigence of Congressional Republicans and the willingness of media to take absurd charges against the President even remotely seriously and the state of the national and international economy, Obama accomplished a lot in his first term. People have critiqued him for not celebrating his successes enough, for not selling himself to the public, but I respect him for his decision to stop campaigning to actually lead the country. It seems like every day or so, something else pops up that is really good that happened under Obama. But two things, in particular, prove to me that Obama is an excellent president, with the potential to be a great president. The first is Don't Ask Don't Tell.

There were a lot of different ways for Barack Obama to end Don't Ask Don't Tell. As Commander in Chief of the Armed forces, he could have simply ordered an end to the policy. It was within his power to do so and many people called for it. He could have also let the courts decide, as was already beginning to happen. Legislatively there were also lots of different ways to do it, including just repealing the original legislation. But the legislation let the military investigate the issue and lead the end of the policy itself. What they found, as we now know, is that integrating openly homosexual soldiers in the armed services would not compromise combat readiness. All of the other ways of getting rid of Don't Ask, Don't Tell, likely would have worked, but by letting the military manage the eradication of the policy, the Obama administration exposed the homophobia and bigotry at the heart of the policy in the first place. Those who would seek to re-institute the policy must somehow prove that homosexuals in the military are bad for the military even when the military says they're not. Furthermore, this allowed the military to fully prepare for the change in policy and gave it the opportunity to make changes should the need arise, and, well, have you noticed Fox News hasn't said much about the end of Don't Ask, Don't Tell? Don't you think if there were any hint of controversy at all, Hannity, Limbaugh, Coulter, and the rest would be shouting about it? They've shouted about much less. The point I'm making is not that getting rid of Don't Ask, Don't Tell is good policy, it is obviously good policy, but that it was implemented in the perfect way. Obama understood the idea and saw the path to its fruition. Add in that Obama instructed the Justice Department to not defend the Defense of Marriage Act in court and it's clear Obama has laid the groundwork for a major advancement in equality. You can see this in the other policy successes of this administration; rescuing the automobile industry, investing in renewable domestic energy, making progress in immigration reform, etc.

Secondly, I think the administration's handling of the Libyan revolution in particular and the Middle East and foreign policy, in general, have been excellent. Yes, there has been conflict, there has been violence, and yes, we have not been able to broker peace in Syria or Bahrain or make meaningful inroads into the human rights abuses of Saudi Arabia, and yes, Americans in the Middle East are still subject to attack, but we in America have to remember just how long we have been messing with stuff in the Middle East. To put it bluntly, we have been fucking up their shit for decades. Though it doesn't come up as much as I think it should, I believe American actions in the Middle East are still hampered by the chaos we sowed when we deposed the democratically elected government in Iran and replaced it with the Shah. We armed the Mujahideen, allied ourselves with or supported Mubarak, Gaddafi, and Hussein, and continue to support the Saudi Royal family. And we invaded two Middle Eastern nations, one over the objections of pretty much everyone in the world. No President would have been able to heal those wounds in a single term. But, America was able to support the Libyan revolution without embroiling ourselves in another war. Furthermore, we have, somehow, managed to maintain cordial or at least respectful diplomatic relations with nations, Pakistan most importantly, while we kill their citizens with un-manned drones. The Middle East is a complex, conflicted, and chaotic region going through dramatic change and the Obama administration was able to support the emergence of two democracies (one more quickly and decisively than the other) in under four years without committing thousands of American soldiers to battlefields. Oh yeah, and, finally, began winding down the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, officially ending combat operations in Iraq. How many of the wars did Bush see through to conclusion? The Obama administration, lead by Hilary Clinton, picked up the tattered remains of international standing and restored this country to a level of diplomatic respectability. I mean, our diplomatic standing around the world was so shattered by the Bush administration, Obama got a Nobel Peace Prize just for showing up. The Obama administration hasn't solved all of our foreign policy problems yet, but voting against him because of remaining problems is like benching a guy for not hitting a home run off Christy Mathewson.

To Liberals Who Are Thinking of Not Voting for Barack Obama

Well, technically he was President in January
There is this meme of being disappointed with the President, of having such high hopes in his presidency and not seeing those hopes realized. My question to those of you who are thinking of not voting for him because of this is, exactly what should he have done differently? Congressional Republicans had nothing to gain, politically, from good faith policy negotiation with Democrats and so they did not negotiate in good faith. They demanded change after change after change in legislation and still blocked its passage after their demands were met. Republicans in the Senate filibustered more than any other group in history. And the President can do nothing about a filibuster. What would being tougher in policy negotiations have achieved when policy had nothing to do with negotiation? What would making a stronger case to the American people have achieved when the most popular cable news network gave air time to death panels, birthers, and creeping sharia law? And a strong case before the American people still wouldn't break a filibuster. As shocking as this is going to sound, the Obama administration was as liberal as possible. We all know (still talking to the disappointed liberals here) that a much larger federal infrastructure program funded by the expiration of the Bush era tax breaks on income over $250,000 and temporary increased deficit spending would have restored the strength of the economy, but the economy did not collapse as it seemed about to and we are, finally, starting to see some growth. Oh, and our renewable energy production vastly increased. We also all know that a single payer universal healthcare system is the most cost efficient way to solve our nation's healthcare problems and that, barring that, a non-profit, federally administered health insurance option is the best way to ensure some level of price control, but the healthcare reform that was passed has helped millions of Americans and, as parts of it continue to roll out, will slowly improve our private system to the point where the only step available for further improvement is nationalized universal health. If you want to blame someone for just how moderate Republican the policies of these four years was, blame Ben Nelson, not President Barack Obama.

One more note to disappointed liberals. If you're not buying this and you have decided not to vote for Obama, please, please, please, vote for Jill Stein of the Green party. You probably agree with everything she stands for anyway. And if we want the course of American policy to tilt to the left, we are going to have to demonstrate the liberalness of the American population and you're not going to do that by sitting out the election.

To Those of You Planning to Vote for Mitt Romney

“47%.” “#RomneyShambles.” “legislation that I know of.” “Corporations are people, my friend.” “Etch-a-sketch.” “$5 trillion.” That infamous video also includes him saying he would take advantage of an Iran Hostage Crisis type situation if one arose. At the beginning of his campaign, before all the Republican primaries, I saw Mitt Romney as a moderate Republican and a competent executive and administrator. I didn't agree with many of his policies as I understood them, but I felt that, at the very least, he wasn't going to drive the car over a cliff. What I have learned is that Mitt Romney is radically disconnected from the American people, living his life in a milieu of obscene wealth with a belief structure befitting the Robber Barons of the Gilded Age (who at least built libraries). The only thing I truly believe that Mitt Romney truly believes, is that he deserves every single dollar he has ever made, no matter how he got it, no matter how he protected it from being taxed, no matter how he sought at every step to minimize his personal risk, no matter who else was being hurt by it; Mitt Romney sees his wealth as proof of his quality and doesn't have any idea why the rest of us would question it. Some of you may believe Romney's radical self-interest is the exact engine we need to improve our society; that Romney is just an expression of capitalism and capitalism is the way to go. To you I say, what if the nurses at your local clinic all felt the same way? Or your town's fire fighters? What if you lost your job and there were no unemployment benefits or food stamps? What if your president only thought of himself?

When seen through this lens, a lot of Romney's actions make “sense” to me. He's not releasing his taxes because he doesn't think we have any right to know how he made his money and what he did with it. The money itself is proof of his quality. He's not being specific about the tax loopholes he'd close to fund his tax cut (which would somehow be revenue neutral and maintain the percentage of total income tax paid by the wealthiest, which makes you wonder why he's proposing it at all), because he believes he'll just be able to fix it when he gets in office. He says whatever he wants to say, whether it's true or not or whether it contradicts a previous statement he made or not, because he believes he deserves to be President and will do whatever it takes to get elected. It's not that Romney is a hypocrite or a flip-flopper, it's that he believes in the fact of his own presidency and everything else is what you pay accountants to handle.

Finally, a vote for Mitt Romney is a vote for the most cynical political techniques I've ever seen. Congressional Republicans put their own elections far ahead of national interest, Fox news gave air time to every preposterous accusation leveled against President Obama often after those accusations were refuted, in the most important speech of his life VP nominee Paul Ryan lied his face off (telling lies that had already been debunked), and Romney himself has changed his positions on pretty much everything depending on who he's talking to and when he's saying it. A vote for Mitt Romney is a vote for win at all costs campaigns and if he wins, Democrats will have to adopt them in the next election cycle and Republicans will almost certainly escalate. If you're disgusted with how this campaign has gone, a vote for Mitt Romney will ensure the next will be twice as disgusting.

Ultimately, though, there is really only one point to this post. Barack Obama will be a better president than Mitt Romney and that is why I will vote for Barack Obama.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Review of My Struggle: Book One

How do you think about your life? A lot more of our society is built to answer that question than you might assume. Isn't therapy, counseling, psychology, self-help all different answers to this question? Aren't blogging, tweeting, and facebooking mechanisms for self consideration? Though strains of American culture are antithetical to strains of self-consideration, aren't those arguments against thinking about your life, still an answer to the question. And in our memoir-heavy book world, aren't we all just one self-published book away from fixing with some kind of permanence our perspective on our selves.

Karl Ove Knausgaard answered the question in a traditional manner with a radical application. Like so many before him, he has decided to think about his life by writing a book, but unlike most before him he has written a six-volume work that leverages the freedom and narrative fluidity of the novel to tell his story. Furthermore, he had a very particular technique, one that distinguishes My Struggle from its closest precedent, In Search of Lost Time. At an event at Porter Square Books, Knausgaard described a process where he essentially wrote at such a pace and with such a dedication that he annihilated the self he described, writing until the remembering being was wholly replaced by the writing being; writing to a kind of freedom distinct from the timelessness of Proust and far from the self-celebration and preservation that is the contemporary memoir. That pace and annihilation where central to his understanding of the work and part of the experience he wanted to preserve for his readers, so, My Struggle is very lightly edited, which I don't think I would have noticed if he hadn't mentioned it.

Top 3 Author Photo, easy.
The result is a long (obviously) sometimes rambling, sometimes digressive, sometimes tangential, sometimes solipsistic hybrid work, where real names are used (except in one specific case) and real events are portrayed with a commitment to the truth that balances style and intellectual exploration with faithfulness to fact. Some (perhaps even many) readers will be bored or lose focus as Knausgaard relates the hyperbole of teenage emotions for one 150 pages or so and others will wonder why they'd want to read so much about a person who's life isn't particularly distinctive. While still others would want him to cut all the wondering around art theory and literature and general consideration of life and get right down to how he coped with his father's utter self-destruction, how it changed his family relations, and what it meant to his subsequent career as a writer.

But if we are going to truly record our lives, truly fix our lives into written words, then those words should contain the wandering, the theorizing, the bombastic emotions, the navel-gazing because those things are part of life. Furthermore, the 150 page teenage wilderness sets up, in ways more Proust-like than Knausgaard might want to admit, a dramatic transition in Knausgaard's life and one of the most sustained and powerful passages I've recently read.

Knausgaard's father, for reasons still unknown by the end of book one, completely disintegrated in middle age and drank himself to death. In the last years of his life, he moved back in with his mother, sent away her home health care and barricaded himself in the house. They rarely left. They never cleaned. His mother would bring him booze even after he soiled himself on the living room couch. The moment Karl Ove and his older brother show up at the house for the first time is horrible and heartbreaking. Room after room is filled with filth, overflowing with the evidence of a body that continued living years after the soul it contained had died. And it was in this moment where the real techniques of novel writing paid off in terms of the experience of the reader. Halfway through the description of the house, I knew I had to clean the entire house, to see the house cleaned. And that's what Karl and his brother did. Hours and hours of labor. They fill up their Uncle's truck with garbage several times. They needed to pull up carpets. To throw out furniture.

The rest of book one is the Karl Ove's attempt to process the house and the death of his father. There's cleaning and logistics, crying and confusion, smoking and drinking. They have to see the body. They try to figure out the exact circumstances of his death. They have to arrange the funeral. Cope with his absence. Care for their grandmother. Reconcile their memories of the man who raised them, with the man who ruined a house and drank himself to death. And in the end? Well, this was just book one.

I hadn't planned to read My Struggle Book One. I had an ARC but, for whatever reason, it fell to the bottom of the OH MY GOD! IT'S GROWING! ARC pile. But when I saw that Knaussgaard was doing an event at the bookstore, a reading and conversation with critic James Wood, I figured I'd give the book a try. I can understand if readers don't connect with it, but at the same time, there is something both honest and poignant about watching a teenager drown his first crush in hyperbole, or a youngish soon-to-be-father try to balance his impending fatherhood with the demands of being a writer, or watch a young man apologize for crying while he cries again over the death of his father and the state of his grandmother. You life does not have to be distinctive to be interesting. You do not have to do extraordinary things to have extraordinary thoughts. Through his commitment to the process, to the idea, to the work of art he was creating, Knaussgaard has written something unique, something I believe is more powerful and truer than the contemporary memoir.

But perhaps the most important thing I can say about the book in this review is that I was disappointed when it ended. I wasn't done with Karl Ove yet. It's not that I was curious about what would happen next per se, or that I was looking for resolution on particular problems, but that I enjoyed spending time in Knausgaard's mind and memories, with his words. After 471 pages, I wanted to keep reading. The good news is that as long as the translations continue, I can.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Plume Poetry Anthology 2012

What do Andrie Codrescu, Lydia Davis, Paul Muldoon, and G.C. Waldrep have in common with me? OK, fine, not all that much. But, all five of us have one thing in common and we share it with Rae Armantrout, Rafael Campo, Martha Collins, Tess Galager, Daniel Tobin, and Dean Young. We all have poems in The Plume Anthology of Poetry 2012. I'm still at the point in my “career” where all publications are exciting, and even more so when I happen to share space with some of my favorite writers, but I think this particular path to publication is worth narrating.

I started reviewing poetry for Bookslut in 2006 for the same reasons most people start reviewing; free books and a line on the old curriculum vitae. I decided to focus on poetry reviews because I felt I had enough time to give books of poetry the level of attention I believe books should get from reviewers; basically, with a job, my own writing and reading, and life in general, I felt I could read a book of poetry twice in a reasonable amount of time before writing a review. Knowing the hundreds (sometimes thousands) of hours that goes into a writing a book, it only seems fair to read one twice before passing any kind of professional judgment on it, and I just don't have the time in the day to do that for longer works. This has changed a little bit as I've learned what to look for when reading for a review and so I now do novels and other longer works, but mostly just for my personal blog.

So I had been reviewing poetry for Bookslut for about four years when they approached their 100th issue. I'd reviewed a bunch of collections for them, read a lot of poetry on my own, and write it, so I pitched a “state of American poetry,” essay for the special issue. This essay was one of, if not the, highlight of my critical “career.” (If I keep saying I have one, it means I have one.) Some obsessive googling revealed that a few people in the poetry world actually read it, thought about it, and discussed it. One person even used one of my ideas from the essay as part of the aesthetic groundwork for a lit mag. Another person was Daniel Lawless. (Real name as far as I know.)

Daniel got in touch with me because he was starting an online poetry magazine and liked what I had to say. (If you're wondering why anyone would start an online poetry magazine, well, I asked him.) He asked me to submit some poems and, because I'd been reviewing poetry for a while and because I worked at a bookstore, he asked me for some advice about getting the word out. I gave him some advice. He accepted my poem “Johnny Damon's Vacant Stare.”

Of course, I wasn't the only writer he solicited for submissions. Sometimes you've got to cast many lines to catch few fish. I don't know what Danny wrote in the other emails he sent out but he landed some prize winning catches almost instantly. The first issue had works by Rae Armantrout, Charles Bernstein, Alicia Ostriker and G.C. Waldrep. Number two had Stephen Dunn, Thomas Lux, and Donald Revell. Three had Tess Gallagher, six had Lydia Davis, nine had Andrei Codrescu and Billy Collins, ten Sharon Olds, eleven D.A. Powell. The anthology features works by those writers and more as well as stuff, like mine, that didn't appear in the online journal. If you want to know more about the process of going from an online lit mag to a print anthology check out the interview I did with Daniel for the PorterSquare Books Blog. We've also organized an event at the bookstore with Daniel that I'm going to host with readings from four of the contributors who happen to also live in the greater Porter Square area.

Getting something you've written published (at least short stories, poetry and short essays, hopefully I'll be able to tell you about how it feels to get a book published some day) is a very strange emotional experience. You work your ass off on the piece and then it's finished and then it sits there until you get around to submitting it. Then you wait. Then it gets rejected. So you submit it, wait, and it gets rejected again. Over and over, often for years until the piece itself becomes like someone you got really close to during one summer camp and then never really talked to again. Sure that person is important to the story of your life, but they've moved into a different emotional compartment, one you only access when you're telling stories about summer camps.

And then one time you submit it, wait, and it gets accepted. Then it's like that friend from summer camp showed up at your house needing to crash on your futon. It's awesome and strange. Of course you let them, but you no longer quite know what to think about them. With a poem or story or something, you end up rereading and seeing everything that is absolutely terrible about it as though it were a first draft all over again. Furthermore, if it's been a long time, one can be a very different (ideally better) writer from when the work was composed, with different skills, different goals, maybe even different tastes.

But this was a little different. In this case, Daniel asked me to send him some poetry based on ideas I expressed about poetry. In some ways, it couldn't be simpler. When someone asks you for work with an intent to publish your work, you send them your work. (At least when you're “career” is at the level mine currently is.) It would be one thing if my essay focused on say, development of line breaks, or asked for simple objects of conceptual-linquistic beauty or celebrated the ability of poetry to capture abstract experiences, but given the essay I wrote I had to ask myself, does my poetry do what I ask other poets to do? Does my work have evidence of ambition? Does it reflect a desire to write the next great movement? Is it even just as good as what I ask others to produce? Could I walk the walk? Of course, the real problem is that I can't answer any of those questions myself. I write what I write with whatever ideas, goals, and emotions are in my head, and it is up to the reader to place the work in whatever context, evaluation, poetics, the reader believes it belongs with.

Of course, if the want to put what I write in anthology with some of my favorite living poets and a few others who have won major awards, that'll be just fine too.