30 May 2010

Let It Be Known

I melted down my LIVESTRONG (C) bracelet to make a rubber omelet.

27 May 2010

Nochebuena: Typical Iowa City Sunset

The sunset represents the bardo - the in-between-worlds-place...though I have always lived with a deeply-rooted suspicion that there is nothing that is not bardo. So maybe bardo is a way of seeing existence - fear, heartbreaking beauty, suffering, existential homeslessness, conditional happiness, squatting, scrounging, trying to make enduring things out of whatever's in the trashbin, seeing the things you love pulled under by Time, seeing yourself pulled under by Time, moments of piercing clarity swept away by bad habits - and The Work is to start to see it another way, to accept these qualities, to come to know them intimately, and to bring it all back Home where the swaying almond tree blooms for us.

26 May 2010

Nochebuena: North Hall

This is the front entrance to North Hall, where I've been teaching creative writing for the past year. Back in the day, this was an experimental elementary school, staffed by University of Iowa professors and students in the School of Education - it's where people learned to teach. Now it's the home of the Social Work department, but also hosts a slew of ancient classrooms used by the Workshop for its undergrad classes and grad seminars. My first semester at Iowa, I took a seminar here with poet Mary Jo Bang that blew my mind, rocked my world, and knocked the metaphorical monkey off his log. A year and some change later, I was teaching in the same classroom, standing where she stood, addressing my peeps. I was all Things seem to be accelerating as down the hall I heard a lecturer going on about Erik Erickson.

25 May 2010

Nochebuena: Business

Doorway to the Writers' Workshop, when viewed at night. A few days back, I got a letter in the mail: The Workshop has offered me a temporary position as adjunct professor for next Spring. They want me to teach a class called "Creative Writing For The Business Track."

24 May 2010

Nochebuena: Capitol Confusion

Iowa City was once the state capital of Iowa (1842-1876). For reasons unknown to me, the state capital was then changed to Des Moines. So for thirty-four years, if you lived in Iowa City, you lived in the state capital. And, during this time, if you walked or rode by the building pictured above, you might have said to yourself, "There she is - the state capitol building, in all her splendor." This building is now known as the Old Capitol Building, and it sits on campus, by the Iowa River. It houses a small museum. Weirdly, this building is not in the center of downtown. It's off to the West of downtown, in the middle of a large manicured lawn. It has been suggested that the position of the Old Capitol Building provokes unconscious disorientation in the minds of the local citizenry. Yeah...maybe. Now, if you live in Iowa City, you walk or ride by this building and you say to yourself, "There she is - a weirdly positioned monument to the I.C.'s glorious, 34 year-long reign."

20 May 2010

Knifeless In The Mosaic

An aka cord is a conduit that runs between any given person and various people, places, and things that they have experienced. So goes the myth. Or metaphor. Or what have you. Sometimes these cords need to be severed. Other times, their existence is something that sustains us.

When the Dalai Lama appeared onstage two days ago, I experienced a flow of harmonic gratitude and peace that seemed to usher forth from a sub-personality level of my consciousness. This was an experience of existential relief and it seems to have tuned my mind to a more subtle frequency - one that persists right now as I sit typing on this blustery birdchirp Spring morn.

19 May 2010

Nochebuena: The Impossibles

This photo is from a series of photos I've been working on while out skateboarding at dusk (Yeah, I bought a new skateboard a couple months back and am slowly getting myself back up to speed. It's funny - I'll roll up at a skate spot and there will be all these young kids there, doing these rail tricks and insane impossibles - and they're all "What's up, Old School?") And this is totally unrelated - except that this photo somehow reminds me of it - but if you've never heard Keith Richards sing the 1938 jazz standard "The Nearness Of You" (the A Stone Alone bootleg version), I urge you to give yourself that gift today. It's just Richards and his piano. "Plaintive" is the word that comes to mind.

18 May 2010

For Kim

Earlier today we drove up to Northern Iowa and heard the Dalai Lama (not pictured) spin the dharma. While we were in line, waiting to get inside the auditorium, it occurred to me that I was carrying a lethal weapon - a pocketknife gifted to me several years ago by my brother from another mother, a cat whose name, strangely, is Kim. I looked up ahead and saw the metal detectors and security personnel...so I ditched my knife outside the auditorium. It wasn't the first time I'd had to ditch a prized pocketknife to get past security, but it was fer shure one of the most auspicious. "Goodbye, old friend," I said. Later, after having my mind-heart blown open by the mind-heart infinities of Avalokitesvara incarnate (and I say this sans irony), I went to see if my li'l knife was waiting for me - but it wasn't. It had already ascended to a higher astral plane.

17 May 2010

Kung Fu Treachery

At long last, I now have a master's degree in creative writing.

14 May 2010

Workshop Graf

Some bold new work from Eleanor at the Iowa Writer's Workshop! On the way to Eleanor's school, we stopped by yesterday morning to drop off the final grades for my Tues./Thurs. classes. She ran into Jim McPherson's workshop room and started this drawing.

13 May 2010

Basement Volunteers

The two windows in our dirt floor basement allow for considerably less light. (We have a thick stand of hostas outside that block out even more of the sun's rays in the summer and spring.) Nevertheless, it's possible to scout around down there and find weird, pale little plants (not pictured...too weird to photograph) growing up from the floor. When I see these strangelings, my thoughts turn to the idea of reincarnation: "What would it take to get reborn as a basement volunteer weed?" (Answer: Depends on what you were before and how much love you could manage.)

12 May 2010

Tomatoes Insh'allah

Last summer we seeded heirloom Brandywine tomatoes and grew them in our garden. They were the best. And so we're back at it again this year. These guys have been below our kitchen window sill for about a month and a half now, gently becoming themselves, up from specks of seed barely visible. They'll be ready for the outdoors in 2 to 3 weeks, insh'allah.

10 May 2010

Bob & The Iowa Writers' Workshop

Bob & Bluebird

Bob & Mushrooms

Historical Note

Ali & Norton fought in 1973. Ali won this fight via split decision. But it was a rematch. Six months earlier these two had fought in San Diego and Norton had won. Broke Ali's jaw, actually. So Ali got his revenge. The rematch with Ali put an end to Norton's astounding 14-fight winning streak. Know who Norton credits with sparking his winning streak? Napoleon Hill - author of Think & Grow Rich. Apparently this book (a motivational book that features thirteen clearly enumerated principles for success) impressed Norton and led to his spree.

07 May 2010

Bob & The Scorched Earth At Hickory Hill Park

More Student's Thoughts On Writing

"Coming up with something to write about & then starting to write is the most difficult part...Writing is an outlet. It's an expression of emotions...I think writing is exactly like drawing - you have to convey or imply some sort of meaning - that's the hard part...Writing to me can sometimes function as an escape. Something to channel all my thoughts & organize them into. It's not always easy, but sometimes it is - and those are the best times...Writing is a creative release. However, it cannot be forced...It's in those last moments of consciousness each day that my best ideas come...Writing means having to sit and really think about what I am going to say...Writing is: a way to express my feelings / a way to share my thoughts / a way to relax and let my mind wander / a way to create meaning in my life...writing for me is a great way to express myself...I hate writing because I think it's boring...I have fun writing, especially when I write about things that matter to me...It's quite enjoyable to just let my brain put down anything it wants to on paper...To me, any kind of creative writing is useful because it all means something...I feel that what I intend doesn't always come across on paper - the writing is as in control of me as I am of it...writing is sometimes stressful when I cannot think of a subject...writing is relaxing, a stress reliever (most of the time)...I can hide behind writing or bare it all in writing...for me, writing is a challenge...I can't always transfer my thoughts to paper...it serves as a way to express feelings and ideas that I don't want to act out...Writing is everything I think about but do not say out loud. Some of it's weird and some really weird, but it's fun to write it down and see how it turns out...Writing means more to me now than it did before...writing, to me, is beautiful...It's therapeutic...I want to find my voice / I want to find my voice...Writing helps me figure out who I am, where I stand in life, & who I want to be...When I can sit down & make up a story and define the characters' lives, that's my creative escape...It's something I really enjoy...Once I start & get a good rhythm going, everything I want to say generally finds its way onto the paper...(it's) possibly one of the best creative processes that will ever exist...Even with my love for writing, I still can't spell..."

03 May 2010


This is my last week of teaching creative writing. It's been a good run. Recently, I asked my students to write about writing. Some quotes:

"...writing, to me, is a way of expressing my dreams or fantasies...the holy release of the mind's true character..it allows my imagination to explore the unknown...It's like searching for ideas in a dark room where you can't see and randomly bumping into an idea to talk about...I am looking for warm in the cushions of beat-up couches on porches / I am listening for my mother's voice / in the creaks and cracks of the tired hallways / I am searching for love in the old man's tears, / who says, "Where do you get all this crap, baby? ... Writing is a spontaneous expression inspired by many things...it helps show me myself & my pursuit of happiness...I struggle writing this sentence just as I struggle with my writing...Writing is endless...a challenge I face...my attempt at true honesty...Writing is a way to share my raw thoughts with others before they come out of my mouth sugarcoated & safe...(it's) one of the hardest things to get perfect...writing is a physical form of emotion...I need fresh air and a definite struggle of emotion within me to create anything...writing can be so honest that it doesn't make sense...(it's) difficult to put into words...I like what I create to be a reflection of me, who I am, & what I stand for...writing is like allowing a caged bird to fly freely....(it) allows me to give life and character to certain emotions and feelings that are bottled up inside of me...(it's) what I want to do when I want to punch something, when something - a feeling, idea, or a story needs to escape...I can't help but think that what I have to say has been said better before...to me, the writing process is frustrating, confusing, and I often don't know where to draw lines or whether there should be lines at all...ending is the hardest part, because you never fully get to express what you mean, due to numerous factors: a lack of words, it's indescribable, or maybe you're just too embarrassed to say what you want - this is sad. I write stories, poems, songs, even, all day long: Lines that will never meet paper, but exist only for that moment in my mind...a catharsis, a baptism, a confession / every word bringing you closer to salvation / but I haven't reached Heaven or attained Nirvana / so I guess I'm not done yet."

01 May 2010


Yesterday I met Janelle downtown for a blueberry waffle type of breakfast. When I parked, I discovered a rosary around the parking meter. I looked around & thought about taking it. Janelle said, "Don't. It's there for a reason." And you know what Bob Kaufman said...God is a parking meter.