Poetry
Reviews
Master's Thesis


Poetry

The Waves Wash Over

The ocean rock accepts the mussels’ clutch;
bringing long, thick seaweed with bulbous clutch
and hanging with shells, not able to hide.

Those weeds drape on clinging shells as much
As their so different forms can be plied.
The ocean rock accepts the mussels’ clutch.

The ocean rock accepts the mussels’ clutch;
They all were brought in with the daily tide.
The waves wash over, rough with every touch.

There is the green veil form, pretty as such
lacy ribbons in a child’s long hair tied.
The waves wash over, rough with every touch,

but is disturbed by this intrusive clutch
of the snake that clings, is not free to glide
when waves wash over, rough with every touch.

So it goes: endless movement, endless touch.
The sea stone has no choice, just abides.
The ocean rock accepts the mussels’ clutch;
the waves wash over, rough with every touch


Silly Swells

Silly swells swell
carry me
tarry me
deep at sea
always free
Tide controls
tide has hold
tidy clean
what I mean
silly swells swell

Gull on land
dance hot sand
one foot up
hop and bop
peck the sand
always tend
silly swells
Ocean tells
secret shells
sound of sea
far alee and
far from sea
shells tell

Dogs on beach
dogs on leash
dogs swim
in silly swells
Furry selves
shaggy tails
soggy mutt
shake your butt
spatter water
salty swell
drying
could be hell

Pacific days
sneaker waves
wet suit lays
chilly haze
Silly swells
and swells
and swells
Atlantic
not frantic but
silly swells
break at edge
break one place
bring me peace
alone on beach
riding in
the silly swells


Unexplained

I walked the water,
enclosed by graying sand, rolling clouds,
chill dunes.
The smell of passing rain diluted the sea.
I wanted the salt.
Shoes in hand, heel in sand, I twirled as the
damp grittiness ground down to drier grains.

A glitter in the water, as if the sun sparked one wave.
There was no sun. A gold
ring caught on pale seaweed.
I caught it and the seaweed squished, its five strands waving weakly.
Brine smell, slippery bits of green spotting the surface,
ridges in the fattened faces of each strand.
One side, paler, bloated lines tracing a hidden code.
The ring was almost lost. The strand bulged
flopping back,
holding its treasure
over a hidden core.
It was a human hand,
bloated and blanched.
Dead how long?
I gagged, dropped it, scrambled away as if it would chase me,
sentient and angry.
As if it would hunt,
wrap its fingers around my neck and
pull me in.
Take my right hand from me.

A foot away, I leaned and looked - and looked away
The hand, now lying palm up in the sand.
How did a piece of person get here?
Evening settled on the sand grains,
mingling with crickets, seagulls,
sea lions, waves.

All of it holds me,
that left hand, gold ring on the third finger, as
permanent as the scar down my belly.
It belongs to 3 of us now:
that living man? woman? with the twin ring,
alone, unknown.
The owner, waterlogged, splitting
into pieces, washing
onto other beaches.
Knowing nothing.
And I, with a post-mortem
memory of the mutated beach
off Route 6.



Reviews

Does Publishing Have a Future?

The Business of Books: How International Conglomerates Took Over Publishing
and Changed the Way We Read

ANDRÉ SCHIFFRIN
Verso. 178 pages

You read this magazine [
The Nation] because you are interested in books; maybe you write them, maybe you just read them. In either case, you count on there being intellectually valuable books and new authors to choose from.

Don’t feel too safe in that hope. André Schiffrin, in The Business of Books, explores the ways in which the future of challenging, unique books by new authors is threatened by conglomerates who take over publishing companies. This wouldn’t be so bad—conglomerates are rich, after all—if they left the actual publishing in the capable hands of the current editors. But these conglomerates usually maneuver in their own people (who may not even have a background in publishing). They also require all employees, old and new, to show a certain profit margin from each book. This means that books by new authors or ones containing unusual ideas that may not sell as well as thrillers by, say, Stephen King, won’t be published because they can’t pull their weight. And for these huge publishing houses, if you as a new author can’t pull your weight right from the start, you’ll never get a chance to even try.


Even more frightening is the tendency of the conglomerates to publish only ideas with which they agree, squashing dissenting opinions, and certainly squashing any bad press on them. This is the start of thought control, of mind control, of the loss of freedom that we are guaranteed in America.


Schiffrin mourns this loss of freedom of ideas as he traces the history of publishing in the United States and some parts of Europe from the 1940s through the present and into the future. He weaves his own and his father’s stories throughout the book, using them as examples of the ethical make-up of independent publishers, what can happen when big businesses take over, and what one person can do with a lot of persistence, belief, and luck. Schiffrin is the founder and editor of The New Press, an independent publisher committed to disseminating new ideas, new authors, and to maintaining a focus on books, not bottom lines.


Schiffrin supports his arguments well, providing relevant information about buy-outs at various publishers. The book is rife with details helping to prove his point, but which are sometimes befuddling. Some readers may become frustrated with the amount of information Schiffrin provides about his own choices in publishing. Also discomforting is Schiffrin’s personal anger at conglomerate takeover and at how he was treated by Random House. These sentiments, however, might be welcomed by anyone who has been through a similar experience (either in publishing or another field).


In all, this short volume is a worthy read. We, as writers, need to beware—and be aware—of the current situation in the publishing world. No longer can we afford to keep our heads in the creative sand; we have to look around us.



For a longer, more extensive review, please read
Big Brother and the Ethical Publisher(.pdf)



Understanding the Basics of "Once More, With Feeling" (.pdf)

Buffy’s “Once More, With Feeling” Episode a Mover

TV viewers have been leery of musical shows since Stephen Bochco’s botched police drama Cop Rock in 1990. So when Buffy the Vampire Slayer announced it would be doing a musical episode, leeriness loomed again. The episode, entitled “Once More, With Feeling,” is different from Bochco’s series in that it is a single episode with the regular actors singing due to the effects of a demon. Demons have wreaked all sorts of havoc on Buffy and friends over the years of the show; why shouldn’t a demon with a penchant for music arise?

In this case, a demon named Sweet, played by three-time Tony award winner Hinton Battle, appears in Sunnydale. Although viewers don’t meet this devilish-looking creature until later in the episode, he causes everyone to sing and dance. His hope is people will sing and dance to the point of combustion, as we are shown in a clip early in the episode of an unknown man tap dancing into flames. Sweet reveals to Dawn that he knows “What You Feel” and that:

I come from the imagination
And I’m here strictly by your invocation
[ . . . ]
I’m the heart of swing
I’m the twist and shout
When you gotta sing
When you gotta let it out.

In his “Reprise,” he follows up with:

And there’s not a one
Who can say this ended well
All those secrets you’ve been concealing
Say you’re happy now —
Once more with feeling

Indeed, while Sweet doesn’t get exactly what he came for (Dawn as his queen), his presence has wrought change.

This is a “demon of the week” episode, but one that moves character-related plots forward. For the most part, the focus is on Buffy’s depression and her feelings that she can not tell anyone—besides Spike—that she had been in heaven, not hell. The stage is set with Buffy singing “Going Through the Motions” while killing demons in the cemetery: “Still I always feel / This strange estrangement / Nothing here is real / Nothing here is right” and “Just hoping no one knows / That I’ve been / Going through the motions / Walking through the part / Nothing seems to penetrate my heart.”

Keeping this secret, however, is reinforcing her depression and isolation from her friends. Further, it’s becoming intolerable for Buffy, herself: “And I just want to be / Alive.” Even when Spike sings that he doesn’t want to be her confidante just because she doesn’t want to hurt her friends, Buffy can’t bring herself to share the secret. In “Walk Through the Fire,” she insists “But why I froze / Not one among them knows / And never can be told”” (emphasis mine).

But it has to be shared for Buffy to move past it—bringing her character development and the plot with her—and for Willow and the others to respond to. Buffy resists as long as possible, but in the presence of Sweet and Dawn, and just after Willow, Giles, Tara, Anya, and Xander arrive, she reveals:

There was no pain
No fear, No doubt
Til they pulled me out of heaven
So that’s my refrain
I live in hell
‘Cause I was expelled from heaven

Her return to life was difficult enough, but was compounded by keeping this secret. Sharing it gives Buffy the psychological freedom and energy to move past it. Still, those attempts to move on—to live—are only partial steps and not particularly healthy. She begins an affair with Spike, singing “This isn’t real / But I just want to feel . . .” in the “Coda.”

Anya and Xander’s relationship, which starts in a much different place than Buffy and Spike’s, also has hidden difficulties. Both Anya and Xander are young (in human years) and this may increase their natural ambivalence about getting married. That they can only express their very reasonable fears (“Is she looking for a pot of gold” and “Will I look good when I’ve gotten old”) in a song forced out of them illustrates their lack of communication. There is no evidence in later episodes that they follow up with a discussion about “these fears I can’t quell.” In all, the song and its ending of possibly forced laughter is a foreshadowing.

Giles and Tara experience a different kind of exposure of secrets—that of ones they’ve kept from themselves. Their recognition that they must leave to help Buffy and Willow, respectively, is painful. Giles sings, “I know I said that I’d be standing by your side / But I . . .
[ . . . ] But now I understand / I’m standing in the way [ . . . ] Wish I could stay / Your stalwart standing fast / But I’m standing in the way.” Tara sings: “Wish I could trust / That it was just this once but I must do what I / must I can’t adjust / To this disgust / We’re done and I just / Wish I could stay.” The effect of Giles and Tara sharing a sorrowful duet is powerful, especially since neither seems aware of the other. Having broken through their own denial, though, they still keep these secrets from the others—understandable after Buffy shares that she had been in heaven.

The actors all perform through the songs, and the singing is surprisingly good. Anthony Stewart Head (Giles) is the only professional singer in the group (he has performed in The Rocky Horror Show in Britain and released an album, Elevator Music, in 2002). Most of the other cast members sing well, especially Amber Benson (Tara) and Emma Caulfield (Anya). James Marsters (Spike) and Sarah Michelle Gellar (Buffy) have good, if untrained, voices. Alyson Hannigan (Willow), the only one who seems not to sing well, is limited to a couple of lines.

It’s not easy to sing. There is the common embarrassment factor, but, beyond this, it’s difficult to sing and be understood. You have probably experienced the other side of this by misunderstanding song lyrics on the radio. Singing so that every word is understood requires enunciation and the alteration of some vowels. When sung, words only sound natural if they are pronounced “wrong.” For example, instead of an ‘a’ sound as in sand, a singer must pronounce the ‘a’ as if it were in “taunt.’ Nearly every word in this episode is clearly pronounced and is understandable. Furthermore, singing and acting simultaneously is not as easy as it may seem, especially for amateur singers. Singing well and clearly requires concentration—concentration that could easily have been robbed from the acting in this episode, but wasn’t.
The episode is successful, too, because the songs are well written. Although Joss Whedon, Buffy’s creator, is not a songwriter, he wrote the words and music for this episode (the official soundtrack even has his wife and himself singing “Something To Sing About”). Repetition of musical themes underscore the overlapping plot and character themes, and seem fairly complex in places. Too, the mixing of seemingly different songs works well, as in Giles’ and Tara’s duet and Buffy and Spike’s “Coda.” “Walk Through the Fire,” is an excellent and sophisticated mix of Buffy, Spike, Sweet, and Giles and the others. The fans’ reaction caused Whedon to break through a lot of red tape to release the official soundtrack on Rounder Records in conjunction with Fox Music and his own Mutant Enemy in September, 2002, and the script (including music, dialogue, and photos) in December, 2002.

The episode misses, however, by omitting revelation of some other secrets that, by the logic of the curse, would have been expressed, and by revealing others in dialogue. Dawn, for example, tells Tara of her own relief that Willow and Tara are not fighting, thus inadvertently exposing Willow’s memory-altering spell. So, while Tara finds out that Willow cast a spell on her to make her forget their fight, Willow doesn’t reveal it herself. (This may have been a wise decision, given Benson’s lovely voice.) Also unclear is why Tara is compelled to sing a love song to Willow; their romantic relationship is no secret to them or to anyone else. It is further ambiguous why Dawn expresses normal teenage angst about not feeling noticed or cared about in her “Lament,” but doesn’t divulge that she has been shoplifting from The Magic Box and other stores (about which viewers know). (Note: the initial staging for this scene indicates that Dawn is singing about the others’ not noticing her shoplifting, as I discovered when reading the just-published Scriptbook, available from Pulse Press.)

The discussion near the end of the episode about how Sweet was invoked is particularly dissatisfying. Xander’s revelation that it was he who called for Sweet feels contrived and as if it were a last minute decision by Whedon. None of Xander’s behavior or reactions earlier in the episode lead viewers to think that he isn’t as surprised by the singing and dancing as everyone else, and this doesn’t fit with his character. In the episode “Buffy Versus Dracula” (Season Five), when Xander is forced by Dracula to act as an informant, he makes little slips—such as referring to Dracula as “the Master” and ineptly covering it by adding “bator.” At the end, when he confesses, he lamely says that he thought it would be fun, and it just isn’t convincing. I suspect that the writers didn’t want to blame Dawn yet again and couldn’t work the timing right for Dawn to have invoked Sweet (or risk her having to go to Sweet’s underworld!). They obviously wanted to keep the invocation within the Scooby gang, but it’s unclear why.

Overall, despite some inconsistencies, this is an excellent episode of Buffy, one which took enormous effort to create, and which should be celebrated for its songs, singing, acting, and plot propulsion.



Master's Thesis (.pdf by chapter)

Abstract of The Oregon State University (OSU) Writing Center: History and Context (Masters Thesis)

The Oregon State University (OSU) Writing Center: History and Context
provides a detailed and multi-faceted view of the Writing Center from its start in 1976 through the present. The information was gathered from interviews, annual reports, archival sources, and scholarly research. Chapter One examines the scholarly conversation about writing centers, drawing on several major contributors to identify a number of themes that recur in research on writing centers and their history. Chapter One also describes the cultural historiographic approach employed in this thesis. Chapter Two offers an overview of writing center theory and practice, in order to provide a helpful context for Chapters Three and Four. Chapter Three explores the early history and pre-history of the OSU Writing Center and examines it in the context of the Center for Writing and Learning and of OSU. Chapter Four looks at the Writing Center itself, discussing the coordinators who have worked there and their contributions, the writing assistants and their training, the students, and the director’s role in the Center. Chapter Five concludes this thesis by reexamining the writing center themes identified in Chapter One in light of what has been learned about the OSU Writing Center. Various appendices provide supplemental data.

Table of Contents, Including Lists of Figures and Tables

Chapter One-Entering the Conversation About Writing Centers

Chapter Two-An Overview of Writing Centers

Chapter Three- The History of the Oregon State University Writing Center as Part of the Center for Writing and Learning

Chapter Four-The Oregon State University Writing Center—Its Own Entity

Chapter Five-Revisiting the Oregon State University Writing Center in Context

Works Cited

Glossary

Appendices A-D-Maps, Advertisements & Logos, and Charts

Appendix E-Recommendations