This Isn’t About Cupcakes

Photos coming soon!

I live in Denver, but today I woke up in the small Silicon Valley town of Morgan Hill, California. It’s the town where I grew up, my mother grew up, and her mother grew up.  My entire immediate and extended family still live here-but that isn’t why I’m here this time.  As a part of a writer’s exchange program, I was invited to come out to read my poetry in Oakland. I’m nervous which surprises me.  I speculate, I dry my hair, I map my route on my Droid. I’m leaving now to drive to San Francisco. The weather is terrible.

Earlier this year I told poet/my mentor Noah Eli Gordon that one of the biggest problems I have been encountering when I sit down to write is a loss of faith in poetry.  Why is this poem a poem and not a film or a cupcake?  I know it’s this cupcake that’s making me nervous about the reading tonight.  I just wrote a book of poems for my Master’s thesis and I defend it in less than a month.  The project is concerned with emerging technologies as a barrier or facilitator of intimacy between people.  So it hasn’t even strayed very far from my digital work.  What I’m not saying is that I have gotten so used to being a poet whose identity is tied to screens and code and networks, that reading twenty minutes of page poetry in front of page poets has me nervous.

My Droid found my friends who just flew in from Denver. They are in the Mission district.  My friend Serena says they got off the BART and found the first place that had both food and booze.  It’s 1:00 PM PDT, still raining and a mariachi band has just started.  The parking is as terrible as the weather.  All I can find is a 30 minute spot and because I was dumb enough to drive into the city, I can’t drink.  I have one Dos Equis anyway then we head to The Presidio and Baker Beach because Mike hasn‘t seen the ocean in a while.

No one ever told me about the batterys.  I had no idea that military relics existed in the cliffs below the Golden Gate Bridge.

The rain stopped enough for us to hike around and the waves are enormous.  We joke about swimming when all we’re all really thinking about is Japan.  Mark says that the biggest full moon in years is about to happen, but we know we’re looking at tsunami waves. My boots weren’t cut out for sand walking, mud puddles and cliff sides.  I want to go to the MOMA but someone says the Science Academy is much more exciting.  Mike and Mark are throwing rocks at larger rocks and I wonder why people are more willing to understand science than art when both have the same fundamental goals.

Mark and I went to the SF MOMA.  I love the MOMA but I didn’t today. I wanted to be inspired but it was clear that an exhibit about wine was a kind of fun pandering to the general population. It belonged at the Science Academy.  I love wine and the MOMA.  We spent an hour in the gift shop where I  read a book called “How to master your creative anxiety” and another called, “Don’t use pop up windows and 50 other web design tips.”  Both were interesting but I didn’t learn much. I’ll probably go home and buy those books.

Happy hour at an Italian place on Polk Street has the best pink ginger beer I have ever tasted we get it with whiskey and it only costs 3 dollars fifty cents which is amazing but the specials board spelled appetizer without one of the ‘p’s’ but we are all writers and no one has the heart to tell the bartender who seems very very busy and she seems to double as hostess.

I won’t be showing any digital art or digital poetry or Poemedia (my live video/sound and paper poetry installation with Aaron Angello) tonight, but to be honest I want to.  I’m thinking about that cupcake. I’m thinking about digital cupcakes.  I am at the reading now telling someone that a significant part of my creative work is in the intersection between writing and digital art.  They have no idea what I’m talking about and want me to show them. I don’t think they really want me to show them so I don’t. Mike outroduces me and tells people to find my work in Drunken Boat and Trickhouse.  He tells them that I run SpringGun Press with Mark. The last poem I read right before the outroduction references Lady Gaga and Ke$ha.  People laugh and I take one last sip from my Sierra Nevada Pale Ale.

We left when a fun but very drunk young man was chasing us around with a copy of  Ezra Pound’s The Cantos that someone had checked out from the UC Berkeley library.  He kept yelling, “Let me read you the first Canto!”  I tried to tell him that I made a project in Flash that copied the exact kinetic typography and jazzy music that Young Hae Chang Heavy Industries used in Dakota because Dakota was their idea of a loose translation of Pound’s first Canto.  I said it’s funny to see Pound’s work in that context.

He had no idea what Heavy Industries was and kept yelling and waving around the red library book.  I asked him if he had read The Pisan Cantos because at that point, I wanted to talk about incarceration.  He had no idea what The Pisan Cantos were or that Pound was a fascist.  The carpeted steps leading home were steep.  Outside it smelled like jasmine and rain.

Mark must have eaten something bad because he didn’t drink much but just puked out the window and all over the bay bridge.  I have hated that bridge ever since 1989 but I was concerned about Mark and the inside of Lauren’s Jetta.  We hardly know her and now the inside of Mark is on the inside of her car.  I love the poems he read tonight and wish he would write more again.  He feels bad now as we stop in an abandoned parking lot and use an old shirt and puddle water laced with motor oil to try to clean up the mess.  He’s feeling better but I need to get him into bed.  I didn’t need the Droid to get us to Nob Hill.

It’s about Midnight now and still raining.  Mark and I are staying with Erin, a good friend of mine from college.  When we walk in, Erin and her boyfriend are watching the Apple TV he bought for her.  I like Mike (a different Mike) for her.  Midwesterners are good people.  I tell them about Mark and he cleans up then curls up on the couch.  We decide no one has ever seen Risky Business then pretend that the internet isn’t around to tell us how old Tom Cruise was when he made the film.  We remember how fun it is to speculate.  Erin and Mike made some wonderful little pastries filled with vanilla frozen yogurt.  I can’t remember what they’re called but I do remember that I don’t know how to pronounce it anyway.  I ate two and the second one got all over my sweater.

Mark is still not feeling well and is very concerned that I give the BART tickets that still have fare on them to Mike and Erin.  He wants me to please get them out of his wallet now so we don’t forget.  I don’t do it. I know I’ll remember tomorrow. I see Tom Cruise as a drunk teenager dancing and lip synching in his underwear and note that there is no clear conflict yet in the film.  I think about my students and how I would never let them write a story like this.