Thursday, August 31, 2006

Well, This Was a Surprise

For those of you who have been regular readers of this blog for some time, you may recall that back in January I applied to an artist colony for a one week residency this fall. The artist colony turned me down and pointed out that late summer and early fall are the times in most demand because of the academic schedule. They asked if I wanted to be put on the waiting list. After getting over feeling slighted, I decided to go on the waiting list and in the meantime try to make other arrangements (which I did with my aunt in North Carolina). Well, yesterday I received an e-mail from the artist colony saying that they have an immediate opening from now through Labor Day. Below is the email exchange with some identifying information removed.

-----Original Message-----
Sent: Wednesday, August 30, 2006 2:58 PM
Subject: Immediate short opening in writer's studio at XXXX

Dear Gerald Huml,

This is probably too little too late, but I have a writer's studio available from now through September 4, 2006. Let me know of your interest.

Best wishes,


Huml wrote:


Thanks, but I've made other arrangements for a week in October elsewhere.


Gerald Huml

Sent: Wednesday, August 30, 2006 3:34 PM
Subject: Re: Immediate short opening in writer's studio at XXXX

Thanks for writing back so quickly. I'm glad you'll have a space to work this autumn.

Best wishes,



I figure one of their scheduled artists/writers had to cut their stay short for something like a family emergency. While I appreciate the artist colony keeping me in mind, they certainly didn’t give me much notice or much time to write at the colony (I wanted a week) had I been interested in going. It felt satisfying to write back and tell them that I found other arrangements. Notice I kind of implied that the other arrangements are at another colony rather than my aunt’s. LOL.

I’ve met my 8/31/06 work deadline yesterday. I’m just doing some very minor tweaks to the data today.


No More Be Grieved

No more be grieved at that which thou hast done,
Roses have thorns, and silver fountains mud,
Clouds and eclipses stain both Moon and Sun,
And loathsome canker lives in sweetest bud.
All men make faults, and even I in this,
Authorizing thy trespass with compare,
My self corrupting salving thy amiss,
Excusing thy sins more than thy sins are:
For to they sensual fault I bring in sense,
Thy adverse party is thy Advocate,
And ‘gainst myself a lawful plea commence,
Such civil war is in my love and hate,
That I an accessory needs must be,
To that sweet thief which sourly robs from me.

--William Shakespeare

Wednesday, August 30, 2006



Kick at the rock, Sam Johnson, break your bones:
But cloudy, cloudy is the stuff of stones.


We milk the cow of the world, and as we do
We whisper in her ear, “You are not true.”

--Richard Wilbur

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

NAW, We Don’t Want Your Poems

Yesterday I received a rejection from New American Writing. From the time I mailed the submission to yesterday was ten days. That may be a new record or tied for a record. It makes me wonder if my submission was even read or read with any semblance of care. Oh, well. Let’s see how the other submissions go.

I received word yesterday that my parents won $1,666.67 from some kind of reverse lottery they bought a ticket for and didn’t attend the function. I told my wife yesterday that the only thing I’ve won in my life was a cake from a cake walk. She sweetly replied, “That just means you’re due for a really big win.” My wife is far luckier than I am. She won over a thousand dollars from a radio contest once, and she usually does well when she gambles.

I have this strange habit at work when I have some alone time away from my desk at say the restroom. I find myself asking myself, “How old are you?” I reply back to myself, “35.” Not sure what to make of this other than I must be bothered at a subconscious level at what I’ve not accomplished in my life. At what I’ve been disappointed about. I don’t ask myself this question at home, so I conclude that I must find my job to be less than completely fulfilling, and in some respects a waste of the time I have left in my life.

To fill out the rest of my book manuscript, do I write new poems, revise older poems, or both? I probably need about ten more poems so that I have some choices and can drop some poems if they are not working with the rest of the manuscript. My week in North Carolina focusing on my poetry is fast approaching.

How would Donne/Keats/Yeats/T. S. Elliott write today if they were alive and writing contemporary poetry? They were geniuses then, so they would be geniuses today. Or would they? Are some writers great writers only because of what they did during a certain point in history? If we took the writer out of that point in history, would he or she be recognized as a great writer today? Hmmm…. Regardless, I think many of the poems of Donne/Keats/Yeats/Elliott will be admired for years and years.


There’s nothing so wonderful as having constructed something arbitrary, without any help from anybody else, out of pure delight and self-delight, and then to find that it turns out to be useful to a few others.

--Richard Wilbur


From some song lyrics I’ve been thinking about:

“There’s nothing worse
than this bitter

“So I’m heading out to the highway.”
“There’s miles and miles to put it back together.”

The open road with all its connected interstate highways, highways, and back roads as a place that can heal any emotional wound. Somewhere out there there’s a series of roads you can take that will take you on an adventure that will ultimately heal you. There is something healing about just driving with no particular destination in mind. Driving for the pleasure of driving.

Monday, August 28, 2006

Work is keeping me busy. There’s a chance that I may finish before my 8/31 deadline, which would be most excellent.

This past weekend I spent a couple of hours doing the prep work for the review. I have two full pages of notes so far (legal paper). Also this weekend I finished revisions on three poems. I estimate that I have about two-thirds of my book manuscript right now.

My wife and I went to an African drum concert last night at Gravity Lounge in Charlottesville. We enjoyed the music very much. There were lots of people dancing to the music, which made it all the more interesting. One woman in particular was a very good dancer. She must take dance classes or teach dance.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Last week and last night I sent out some submissions. I hope the poems find a home out there.

I’ve been revising the same group of poems for weeks now. I’ll be glad when I think they’re finished, and I can move on to other poems. I started a new poem on Sunday. I worked on it a little more yesterday—two promising lines so far.

I’ve agreed to do a review on a book of poems. I need to get cracking on that. I’d like to have a decent draft of the review within two weeks. I want to turn the review in way ahead of the deadline.

I’m dismayed that I can’t get my American Heritage Dictionary CD-ROM to load on my new computer at home. This older version of the program doesn’t appear to be compatible with Windows XP. I really like having that dictionary at my fingertips. At least I still have it on my laptop.

Other than that, I just have a major work deadline looming: 8/31/2006. I may not blog regularly until that deadline is behind me.

Monday, August 21, 2006

The Purist

I give you now Professor Twist,
A conscientious scientist.
Trustees exclaimed, “He never bungles!”
And sent him off to distant jungles.
Camped on a tropic riverside,
Once day he missed his loving bride.
She had, the guide informed him later,
Been eaten by an alligator.
Professor Twist could not but smile.
“You mean,” he said, “a crocodile.”

--Ogden Nash, from Verses from 1929 On

Friday, August 18, 2006

Kind of tired of blogging , so a quote and a poem.


Poetry is not a creed or dogma. It is a special way of seeking and listening. Poetry is an art that stretches back to the origins of human civilization, a primal and essential art.

--Dana Gioia



A man talking to his ex-wife on the phone.
He has loved her voice and listens with attention
to every modulation of its tone. Knowing
it intimately. Not knowing what he wants
from the sound of it, from the tendered civility.
He studies, out the window, the seed shapes
of the broken pods of ornamental trees.
The kind that grow in everyone’s garden, that no one
but horticulturists can name. Four arched chambers
of pale green, tiny vegetal proscenium arches,
a pair of black tapering seeds bedded in each chamber.
A wish geometry, miniature, Indian or Persian,
lovers or gods in their apartments. Outside, white,
patient animals, and tangle vines, and rain.

--Robert Hass, from Sun Under Wood

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

I've started reading Louise Gluck's Ararat. This book is an example of how you can be successful at "telling" rather than "showing," provided that the telling is interesting. I find the titles of the poems to be uninspiring though. The title of the collection is very clever given the content of the book, which is about anxiety, loss, and death in a family. Mount Ararat is the place where Noah’s ark came to rest after the great flood. I’m interpreting the great flood in this book to be metaphorically shed tears, real tears or at least felt sadness and loss.


Last night I dreamed again that I was walking around in Europe—in Germany I think. Similar to the repeating dreams I’ve talked about before on this blog where I’m back in high school or college, I have repeating dreams about walking around in Europe. Usually I’m half lost or cannot speak enough of the local language to accomplish what I’m trying to do in the dream.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Thinking Out Loud

A couple of years ago I participated in a philosophy discussion group that started out as Socrates Café (inspired by Christopher Phillips and his book Socrates Café) and met in Barnes & Noble once a month. Later on many of the core members of this group (yours truly among them) participated in a discussion group called Thinking Out Loud that was aired on our local cable access channel in Charlottesville. That died out after about a year because it was too much work to tape the shows and broadcast them, so now Thinking Out Loud is making an appearance on the web. Check out some of the links below.

You should be able to just click on the link to make it download and play on your computer. Most computers will let you play the file while it is downloading. (Some computers may try to complete the download before starting to play the file. You should be able to override that and make the recording play as it is downloading.)

From the local cable access channel days:

"What is Love?"

If you hear “Jerry” speaking on these links, that would be me.


There are no dull subjects. There are only dull writers.

--H. L. Mencken

The aim of writing poetry is to enable readers a little better to enjoy life or a little better to endure it.

--W. H. Auden

Monday, August 14, 2006

Riddle Me This

I’m trying to solve a problem in one of the poems I’ve revising. Below are some notes that I’ve written to myself. If you have any additional ideas or solutions, please leave a comment. I’d love to hear from you.

Scenario: I have two poems that are companion poems. The first called “The Vicissitudes of Desire” is in the voice of a fortyish male literature and composition professor. The second poem called tentatively “What If” is in the voice of a nineteen-year-old female college student. The professor is highly intelligent, a good teacher, honorable, and somewhat unattractive as he is balding and a little hairy. The college student is attractive, intelligent, and keenly observant. The two poems give two different first-person accounts of the same slice of time/events. Essentially, the professor is attracted to this student for her intelligence and beauty but wants to do the honorable thing and not get involved with her. The college student is aware of his attraction and during an office hours meeting tests him/teases him for her own amusement. She is not attracted to him much physically, but she is attracted to him subconsciously due to his intelligence, knowledge, and sense of humor. The professor poem is believable and successful as a poem, but I am struggling with the young woman’s poem.

Question: How do I make a poem in the voice of a nineteen-year-old female college student interesting and also achieve verisimilitude so that readers believe this is the voice of a nineteen-year-old college student?

Problem: The way a typical person of this age group speaks/thinks is not very interesting rendered as poetry for a literary audience. More mature/interesting language so far makes her sound too much like the professor.

Possible Solutions:

· The young woman is somewhat of a prodigy or old/mature for her age. This justifies making her language more interesting, more mature sounding. Have to be careful here that she doesn’t sound too similar to the professor.
· Achieve verisimilitude not with HOW the young woman says things but with WHAT she says. Make her particular concerns and preoccupations more typical of her age group. The WHAT will have to carry the weight of being interesting over the HOW it is said.
· Recognize that a poem for the young woman is unavoidably an artifice (as all poems are) and represents her truer core thoughts and feelings rather than how she might express them to a friend or even to herself in her conscious mind. Readers may not buy this as a defense and say it doesn’t sound like a young woman’s voice.
· Give the young woman an extra dimension that occupies her in the poem like a book, movie, quote, or some other interest or activity that she thinks about in relation to the professor or in juxtaposition/apart from the professor. This can offset the less interesting content/expression in the poem.
· It’s been suggested that I interview someone of this age group to come up with new material. I’ve already tried eavesdropping on conversations from members of this age group, but that only reinforced the notion that HOW things are said is not very interesting.
· It’s also been suggested to me that I think about someone that I know from this age group and try to imagine their lives and borrow from that (e.g., someone at work, a cousin, etc.).

Friday, August 11, 2006

Pictures from Assisi, Italy

Assisi is a town in the Umbria area of Italy where St. Frances and St. Clare have their tombs. You aren't allowed to take pictures inside the churches, but it was very interesting to see the relics of the saints and their tombs. There were lots of nuns and a few priests walking around Assisi.

From Wikipedia:

Saint Francis of Assisi (11824 October 1226) founded the Franciscan Order or "Friars Minor". He is the patron saint of animals, merchants, Italy, Catholic action, and the environment.

Saint Clare of Assisi, born Chiara Offreduccio, (July 16, 1194August 11, 1253) was one of the first followers of Francis of Assisi and founded the Order of Poor Ladies to organize the women who chose to take the Franciscan vow of poverty and celibacy.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Pictures from Vatican City

The first three pictures are from inside The Basilica of St. Peter. The fourth picture is a ceiling from one of the Vatican hallways.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Blogger only allowed me to upload one of the five pictures I wanted of Vatican City. I keep trying.


Every man supposes himself not to be fully understood or appreciated.


Monday, August 07, 2006

After over a year I received a rejection on Saturday from The Sow’s Ear (a literary magazine in Winchester, Virginia). They apologized for the delay and said that they are usually better about responding in a timely fashion. The poem that came closest for them was “The Line Begins Here.”

I’ve been doing a lot of revising within the last week or so. I want to look over my poems again before I send out some more submissions.

I finished reading Claudia Emerson’s Late Wife. I really appreciate how the book is put together. Very clean and discernable structure. A good example of how less can be more (the book is a slim collection of about 55 pages). The poems themselves are accessible and fun to read. I think this would be an excellent book to teach students about how to put a collection of poems together.


from “Essay on Psychiatrists”

II. Some Terms

“Shrink” is a misnomer. The religious
Analogy is all wrong, too, and the old,
Half-forgotten jokes about Viennese accents

And beards hardly apply to the good-looking woman
In boots and a knit dress, or the man
Seen buying the Sunday Times in mutton-chop

Whiskers and expensive jogging shoes.
In a way I suspect that even the terms “doctor”
And “therapist” are misnomers; the patient

Is not necessarily “sick.” And one assumes
That no small part of the psychiatrist’s
Role is just that: to point out misnomers.

--Robert Pinsky


The following is an exchange between me and a friend over a quote. My friend provided the quote, and we alternated talking about it over e-mail. I think it is an interesting commentary over the dangers of giving power over yourself to an institution.

With or without religion, good people can behave well and bad people can do evil; but for good people to do evil -- that takes religion.-- Steven Weinberg

There's truth in that in many cases.

I would say so…

It is possible for a good person to do evil without the influence of religion. The desire for revenge could overwhelm a good person and cause them to maim or murder for example (e.g., a mother finding her child raped and murdered). I think the point of the quote is not that religion MUST be the influencing agent and always present for good people to do evil, but that it can certainly pervert people into doing evil while convincing them that the acts are good because the religion says so. I imagine that this is a contemporary quote, perhaps commenting on things like the justifications used for the 9/11 attacks.

I would agree with your assessment. When I read the quote I had a flash to 1930s Germany……the way someone to whom you give power over yourself (be it government or religion) can encourage good people to do or accept horrible things. I was also thinking of the whackos parading around in the streets with their "God Hates Fags" signs and such. Weinberg is a nobel laureate (physics - 1979) so the quote is probably contemporary in that sense.

I like the way you said this: "...the way someone to whom you give power over yourself (be it government or religion) can encourage good people to do or accept horrible things."

:-) makes me ill when people parrot boneheads and refer to torture as "practical joking" and such… about accepting and condoning the most atrocious behavior.


Be yourself. No one can ever tell you you're doing it wrong.
--James Hirlihy

Happiness is when what you think, what you say, and what you do are in harmony.
--Mahatma Gandhi


From my Bazooka Joe gum fortunate for today (no, really):

You have the ability to become outstanding in literature.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Some Dreams and Thoughts about Love & Sex

Blogger is still give me problems when I try to upload pictures. Maybe there is too much traffic on Blogger at lunch time.

I’ve had dozens of dreams during my life in which I am back in school—either high school, my undergraduate university, or my graduate school university. Out of these dreams, the ones I dislike the most are when I am back in high school. In these dreams I have to go back and finish a couple of classes because later in life my reviewed transcript reveals that I didn’t in fact qualify for my diploma. These dreams are embarrassing and stressful because I am now some old guy sitting in on a class with sixteen and seventeen year olds. I am old enough to be the teacher, and in some classes I should be the teacher. Anyway, last night I had a dream that I was back at my undergraduate university, but the details are now hazy. I take these dreams to mean symbolically that I have more to learn in life or that I missed learning about something essential during those time periods in my life.

On Monday morning I woke up with that Huey Lewis and the News song in my head “That’s the Power of Love” (or is it “Power of Love”?). Have no idea why. I don’t particularly like that band from the 1980s. I figure it must have come up during my dreams that night. The song’s lyrics made me think about love and marriage though. I’ve been married for close to eight years now, and my wife and I have been a couple since 1995.

Some Thoughts:

It’s true that there are phases in a romantic relationship. You start off being passionately in love where you can’t get enough of each other, have lots of sex, and everything is shiny and new. At some point whether you’re living together, married, or whatever and you know each other well and have a few fights with each other under your belts, you start to see the other person more as a best friend. This is not to say that you still don’t have passionate feelings towards the other person and act on them, but they are less frequent. Some people call this process: falling in love, to being in love, to standing in love (some call standing in love a more mature or realistic phase of love). Then there are the stresses and chores of daily living that tend to keep you looking at your partner as more of a best friend or ally than a passionate love object: the grind of work, paying the bills, who does what chores and when, etc. My wife and I don’t have children, but I imagine the rigors of raising children tend to make you see your partner as even less of a passionate love object. You have less time and engery to do just couple things.

It’s in this phase of love when it is very helpful if you were wise enough to pick a mate that is generally fair, willing to apologize and make amends, wants both of you to be equal partners in the relationship and keep it healthy, and he or she recognizes that you both bring certain strengths and baggage to the relationship. While this doesn’t sound very romantic, I think these are key ingredients necessary to stay together.

As I mature, I see sex for more of what it really is. It is just sex. A neutral thing. Sex won’t make you important or powerful. It won’t change who you are. It won’t necessarily make you feel valued or loved or fill a void, though it can. Sex is different every time you have it, even with the same person doing generally the same things. Sex can be delightful and mind blowing, or it can be disappointing. Sex can be addictive. Sex and its pleasures are sadly ephemeral in their very nature. The acts of sex can seem ridiculous if you think about it from a certain viewpoint (e.g., the desire to put one body part inside of another body part, the friction of two bodies moving against one another, the awkward looking positions, the strange and silly things people say during sex, how germaphobia doesn’t seem to apply when you are kissing, licking, and touching someone you find attractive, etc.) Sex may be the only time when some people address God aloud.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Frustrations with Blogger

Well, that’s too days in a row now that I’ve tried uploading more Rome pictures, but Blogger will not cooperate. I want to post pictures of the Basilica of St. Peter in Vatican City.

I received a rejection yesterday from The Southern Review. Can’t say I was surprised by that one. I’ll say this for them. They have the most elegant rejection slips I’ve seen. The slips are on an attractive cream colored paper with what looks like a live oak on it.

The number of literary magazines still considering my poems has dwindled considerably, so it is time to prepare some more submissions. Fortunately, I have some revised poems and some new poems to send out. The submissions will probably go out next Monday.