Tag Archives: writing

Mal Means Bad (in the Latin)

How heavy, thine heart?
I’ll weigh it on a grey scale
and then I guess we’ll talk.
Do you recall the time you told me,
“Mal means ‘bad’ in Latin?”

I still speak in tongues and lips and fingertips,
and I keep stuttering semantics, and I always
let you fall for it, making meaning out
of every fated kiss; and I hoped that it
would never come to this

but it always does its part
I’ll weigh it on a grey scale
and then I guess we’ll talk.
Do you recall the time you told me,
“Mal means ‘bad’ in Latin?”

As always, art is open
to the interpretation
of the patron, and while I may
have lost you in translation,
I was found sleeping soundly
in a sea of constellations where
I drowned beneath the comfortable
blankets of abyss, its never-ending
nothingness reminding me
of all that I had missed.

Though I’m hardly a scientist, it seems
to be my density, and not my mass,
that helps me stay afloat; I guess that I’ve
been lying to myself all along. My heart
has only half the hallowed substance of
the ocean that it swallows (albeit eloquently),
but like drinking too much water, you
can drown your cells and suffocate yourself
until you choke; if that’s a metaphor,

I meant it for my heart
I’ll weigh it on a grey scale
and then I guess we’ll talk.
Do you recall the time you told me,
“Mal means ‘bad’ in Latin?”

My betrayal knows no tragedy, and so
my greatest stories have all spilled
from my own pen, and my authenticity
is never called to question, like the
greatest of the dead white men; it seems
I will not go down in history as the
soft romantic man that I believe myself
to be. Instead, I leave my Juliets for
dead and carry on, never stopping
long enough to wonder if I’m wrong.

A Haiku After A Long Day Of Pretending To Write

(Check email, reload Twitter,
Send texts.) Now, where was

A Slight Delay

She sat alone in the booth for forty minutes before ordering. Breaking the yolk with the fork in one hand, she used the other to tap out an angry text. “Do you have any grasp on the concept of what it means to have standing weekly plans?”

Three weeks and one day later, her phone buzzed with his reply: “of course i do.”

Something Spontaneous Sounding

He opened up his unnamed Evernote folder and flicked through the scraps he had collected. “One of these has to make a good tweet,” he said. Once he got to the end, he cycled back to the first one. During the fourth pass through the jotted ruins, he looked at the empty chair and sighed.

getting paid, or, in honor of Virginia Woolf

The words out of the mouth of the physician who has just fingered a small bump behind my ear are some of the most expensive I’ll ever hear: $200 a second, I think, or hour, or per syllable; the insurance will fight with me over whether this was a necessary visit, but not whether it was an expensive one. We know it was expensive. The cost is a cost, justified whether the bump is cancer or calcium.

Words of worth or just words of price–what is the difference, really? I ask my class of business students: how do we value things? Our shoes? Ideas? Art? (I wait on art, bring it in carefully at the end, a foreign dessert at the end of a familiar meal; afraid of their rolled eyes, giving up before they’ve started, grappling with vaguery, I talk about song lyrics, movies.)

Are value and price distinct? I aim the question at a quiet boy in the corner and as he stutters for an answer, I let my mind wander. What is my dollar worth for the words I deliver? For X dollars, I talk to people as they fall asleep in a classroom, make intricate triangle doodles on the sides of their papers.

“Consultations on your cash situation, even this–ironic or not–will run you a high bill. Any thoughts, anyone?” The boys in the back are trying to look up a pretty girl’s skirt. The pretty girl is texting from a sleek, black phone. The text message costs 5 cents per send. No one has an answer.

And then it occurs to me, that day, and many following, until the idea is soildified and it’s become a mantra and then a philosophy and I cannot back away from it anymore. For 5 cents at least, I will write. For the worth of my words, I will make something. Because a paycheck and a deadline will produce a finer stitching, will encourage a precision of hand, language, intellect, prose that can enliven: I will sell my work at the highest costs, at any cost, at cost.

Perhaps, then, Virginia Woolf may stop screaming from the heavens that we, writers, we, women, are poor. And we’ll have pennies as answers for counting.

That was the summer job that was

Hello. My name is Friday, and I’m an NYU Press intern.

Now, before you get all excited – before you start google-stalking me, offering me your facebook friendship, or attempting to buy your way into my head and heart by offering me delicious chocolate confections by Max Brenner – let me tell you this: I cannot get you my luxe job.

Sorry. It just doesn’t work that way.

That aside, what I can do is tell you all about what it’s been like working at NYU Press all summer. I have the opportunity to reflect on what it’s been like to dampen my feet in the rooftop pool of the academic publishing world – the deep end – and that’s what I plan to do.

NYU Press is interesting to me in that it’s a commercial enterprise with a decidedly non-commercial bent. We’re not looking to put out the next Harry Potter; what we strive to do is put forth first-rate scholarship, a world of the written word that is not generally at the top of casual readers’ lists. That said, the Press needs to be cognizant of dollars and sense; this leads to an interesting juggling game: how do we focus on mission A, introducing to the world the best academic work we can, while not losing side of somewhat opposing (OK, nearly diametrically opposing) mission B: making enough money that we don’t need to focus on mission B at all, allowing us to keep our focused the books?

The answer? It’s tough. I worked in Washington, D.C. for a number of years, and I always marveled at the similar mental and financial gymnastics undergone as a matter of course by the myriad non-profits in that city on a hill. Now I’ve had the chance to see how it plays out, and I’m starting to understand: it requires savvy and a very, very steady hand.

But far more interesting than the balance sheets – no, wait. I shouldn’t say that. I love the balance sheets. In fact, that’s been one of the best things about working here. I’ve gotten to do everything. I’ve worked on marketing projects, book proofing, and research both external and internal. I’ve gotten to do very artsy, bookish, right-brain work – like considering news hooks for stories based aspects of the outstanding text of our upcoming book by Guantanamo Lawyers s – as well as hard-core left-brain stuff, like Excel modeling of our authorship community over the last decade.

As a current and future writer, learning how a press functions was crucial to me. I knew that there would be proofing involved, and publicity, and someone to work with the printer. What I did not consider – or, I should say, among the many things I failed to anticipate – were: jacket design (we’ve got a guy for that), the difference between marketing and publicity (two related but very different fields), how to sell books (amazing that never came to mind, no?), how books are sourced and bought, getting rights permissions, accounting and budgeting… the list goes on and on. And while I certainly wouldn’t say I am ready for the life of the publishing magnate, now, by any stretch, I do think I have a much better idea of how the whole business works. Which was, of course, the point.

High points on the summer? Meeting Mark Denbeaux and Jonathan Hafetz while we discussed their upcoming book, and talking with a friend whose interests lie in a related field. Getting to learn more about the field, and meet all the great people who work here. Boning up on my criminology.

Low points? Unsure.