Best American Poetry: Loren Goodman Discusses Latest Workshops in Seoul

Loren Goodman blogs spectaculicious at Best American Poetry. Topics include his course entitled, "Poetry as a Second Language"; book lists, and Scratch 'n Sniffs.  More posts continue to roll through the blogoshpere for a limited time.

As some commenters have mentioned, anyone would be lucky to have Loren as an instructor. A fact to which I can wholeheartedly agree. Whenever I visited his classes at Yonsei University, I felt like I was part of some wonderful, secret experiment. It was like going into Wonka's factory. In fact, I would often leave the classroom and instantly wish I was back. 

I suppose that's one thing we take for granted in great writing workshops. Recently, I visited a workshop participant who attended The Jack Kerouac School shortly after I did, and they were telling me how they decided to enter the program after visiting a class run by Bobbie Louise Hawkins, where I, among a fabulous cast of others, were in heated discussions on storytelling. 

"I wrote notes for my entry into the program right there during that class," the student told me.

"I never knew that."

"That's how it happened. The class was so great. I was so inspired that I just started writing on my visiting tour."

"That's crazy. A free class and so much more."

"Yeah, it was."

Like Bobbie's classes, Loren's workshops are filled with discovery. I hope I can one day have a class as exciting and fulfilling as one of theirs. I also hope I can make films of some of these classrooms, so I can visit them long after I attend. Maybe, that way, I'll feel better about taking some of my workshop experiences for granted.   

Check out some of Loren's amazing students and workshop exercises. They are phenomenal. 

Visit to Delaware!

The East End Cafe is still on Main Street in Newark. It is under different management from the 90's. I went in and ordered a martini and listened to a young band cover Rage Against the Machine. It was like deja vu

I had no idea my high school was considered one of America's best. A kind janitor told me that was the case. He also suggested I visit when the school was open to get a proper tour.

Sogee was not happy for the picture that used to be above, but that was soon replaced after threats of suicide, because she felt that she did not look good in it. 

It was my fault, really. I asked her to stand in front of the house where I grew up. She thought we would get in trouble.

"If this was my house, I would ask what you were doing on my property," she said indignantly.

"Oh, yeah?"


"Okay," I said and clicked a pic. "Then let's go."

I caught her mid-snarl.

We didn't get in any trouble. The house was as quiet as it was in my childhood. The only thing I heard was my cell phone. My Dad called just as we pulled in front of the house.

"I knew you were there," my Dad told me on the phone. "I could feel it."

"There you go."

"How does the backyard look?"

"It looks good."

"Are you looking?"

"Yeah, it looks nice. Less trees. It's cleaned up."

"What about the deck? How does it look?"

"Looks good. Everything looks the same, except for all the trees being bigger."

"Good, good. Take Sogee to the Nature Center."

"Okay, Dad."

At Klondike Kate's, a local pub favorite for the college locals, we were accosted to chug beers and do shots. Sogee was game. I'll let her tell you about that on her future post entitled, "Sogee in Delaware: Talking to Young Pirooz."

Sogee is going to do some guest posts on Shikow to prepare for her blog launch. I'm excited to hear this adventure from her perspective.

We're off to New York tomorrow. More then...

Enlightenment in a Box (Part One)

Here is Part One of Enlightenment in a Box. If you click the link (above), it will open in a big window so you can read it. I will make the entire novel available for sale soon. I am still thinking about how to go about it for now. 

Latest Youngstown Film Adventure

We had a fantastic weekend in Youngstown. Thanks to Fran at the Oakland Center for the Arts we were able to have a wonderful space to film and audition local talent. We met many great and wonderful actors of all age ranges. We look forward to seeing more of Youngstown's best in our next casting in September. Who knows? Maybe, we'll uncover the next Susan Boyle. That is what I'm always hoping for in these things. I have a feeling it'll happen. I'm hearing the James Earl Jones voice in my head continuously these days (read below).

Aside from auditions, we also got a chance to secure a few locations for filming. John Kennedy, the owner of The Royal Oaks Bar, was kind enough to offer his establishment with a winning pitch: "Look, Pirooz, this is the Cheers of Youngstown! Everyone comes here. All sorts. You can have a millionaire chatting with an electrician, or a line cook talking real restate with a YSU philosophy major. There are no class borders here. Everyone comes! You know, Jerry Springer? Well, hell, he even drinks here. Came through and wanted a place to be alone. Great guy, by the way. Loved the place. Even talked to everybody...And you see these booths? They're the originals from 1940 when this place opened. We won't ever take those things out. I get a kick having customers from back then, coming in and saying, 'Man, this place hasn't changed.' I love that! You like lamb, Pirooz? You want some lamb? I make a mean lamb..."

Lamb, Cheers, and Jerry Springer!?! How could we not film here, right?

We had a great time with John, Becky, Louis, and the rest of the gang. I did very much feel like it was a homecoming of sorts. Everyone was so kind and willing to just lay everything out there. It made me excited to just have a place that I could go to after a long day of shooting in Youngstown. It's also a double bonus to have the place you're shooting, be the place you are going to hang as well. I love those kinds of atmospheres on a film set.

I also like going to restaurants with Thomas and Noah. They make me laugh a lot. You wouldn't expect that from either of them. That's what makes it better.

Thomas Henwood discusses his former exploits in Paris.

Noah Cicero responds to these daring adventures.

I speak of daring melodies in musical soundtracks.

Noah suggests we use funk motifs like in the Peter Sellers film, Being There
or the groovy bass lines of Gil Scott Heron.

When we weren't have witty repartees, we did scout other locations. Among them was the Emerald Diner, a historic 1950's restaurant highlighted with so much chrome we had to stop in to see what it had to offer. We loved the place and their fries.

The next step for the film is raising more funds. I am following the James Earl Jones voice in my head: "If you build it, they will come."

Or better yet:

Thomas really wanted this building to be in the movie. I thought it had strong potential too. Who knows? Maybe, when we return to Youngstown in June, we'll secure this location as well.

If you are interested in being a local crew member, audition, or become an investor in the film, please send Thomas an e-mail (You can send them to me, but I just like scaring Thomas in thinking he will have to field thousands of e-mails. Actually, that will be good. Send him a thousand e-mails.) He would love to talk about locations you might have, a rich uncle, or just chat about what it is to make an independent film.

Before I head off, we need to have the main characters graffiti a signpost. We need ideas on what the above could be changed to, or other brilliant ideas like "Velociraptors coming!" you might like to share.

Chat Soon,

Pirooz M. Kalayeh A.K.A. "Pierce Mondrian"


NOTE FOR TALENT: For actors who are interested in auditioning from Youngstown who did not get a chance, please send an e-mail with a photo/resume Actors outside Ohio can visit the Sangha Films website for updated casting calls in New York and Los Angeles.

Auditions for Independent film in Youngstown will take place on Saturday, April 18th between 9AM-3PM at the Oakland Center for the Arts, 220 West Boardman St., Youngstown, 44503.

Stay Positive, Mr. Bond!

It's official. The operation is Friday. I will be under for only a couple hours while my surgeon does what's called an "anchovy procedure". Basically, the thumb is shaped with natural tendon tissue and an artificial prostheses. I am not sure if I'll be partially awake while they do it. I've heard that some people just do a local anesthetic, so they can still see what's going on. I am not one to watch gruesome surgery on my body. I am going to tell the surgeon I want the "knock me out and wake me up when this nightmare is over" anesthetic. 

I am trying to stay positive with the whole thing. According to the doctors, my mindset could significantly effect the success of the surgery. They have been talking to me about phantom feelings and what kind of things I need to do post-surgery, and just non-stop with the "chipper attitude" stuff. 

"You could dictate whether the body accepts or rejects the prostheses," my surgeon with the British accent said. "Studies have proven that a positive attitude before prosthetic surgery increases the bodies likelihood for acceptance by 17%."

"That's not much," I said. 

"It's better than the alternative, Mr. Kalayeh."

He also went on to talk about faith in him as a surgeon and gave me another 35% percentage of people doing better on placebos when they believed in their doctors or something. I wasn't paying attention too much. I mean, I got the point. Stay positive! I'm trying. It's hard. I did make an effort though. I told the nurses about how reading poetry and watching good comedians might make me feel more positive. I guess that's why my parents picked up a copy of "Bill Cosby, Himself" and put it on my nightstand. That was sweet of them. I just don't know if I can watch some guy talk about chocolate cake when my hand throbs every five minutes, and I can feel the word "surgery" tattooed to my forehead the other five minutes. It's almost unbearable. 

Sogee recommended I write a poem about my experience to make me feel better. I got as far as "Electronic thumb--sucks!" Then I just sat around and thought about Luke Skywalker and how I was becoming Darth Vader and might slowly turn to the dark side. 

I wonder why I am so overly depressed. It's not that bad, right? It's not like I am not going to be able to use my thumb. I'll be functional. Possibly. I can also use this to fuel my artistic ideas. That's definitely a positive point, right?

Since I found out about the surgery, I have been questioning what exactly is real and artificial. I mean, how could I not, right? I am about to become partially fake and real simultaneously. That makes the prostheses real, right? I mean, the experience itself is very real. I can't deny that. And if it's a real experience and I accept that, maybe it'll help my body accept the prostheses, right? 

I don't know what I'm talking about. I suppose I'm just a normal, scared patient. The only thing that keeps me from screaming at the top of my lungs is my idea to change my name. It's been calming me to talk about new names with Sogee. I don't know. My name is just too freaking difficult for people here. Sogee's too. We're just thinking about starting completely fresh. Brand new names for a different life. Well, maybe not life, but you get the point. Just make things easier when we give our names at a Starbuck and shit like that. 

Anyway, I am thinking about changing my name to Pierre, Peter, Pierce, Piedro, or something really normal like Biff or something. Last week I got a haircut and used the name, Pierce. It worked out well. The stylist understood me and even commented on how cool my name was. "I like the name," she said. "You don't hear it too often, except for James Bond."

"Yeah," I agreed. "Bond."

I got such a kick out of that reference. I'm no Pierce Brosnan--definitely not! I'm about to be in a hospital bed and then in physical therapy for six weeks or something. I'm far from  a secret agent or superhero. At the same time, the idea of a new name does cheer me up. I don't know. Maybe I could ask my British surgeon to install a cell phone or iPod in my thumb to be really secret agent-y and whatnot. That would be pretty hip. Maybe a flashlight or something. 

Anyway, I'm excited about "Pierce" as a name. We haven't gotten to last names, but I'm probably going to get to that too. Montenegro is an early draft. That's about it. Who knows? I'm hoping for more in the coming days after surgery. Maybe that'll keep me positive through hand therapy or whatever. 

Electronic Thumb

Well, it's official. My thumb will be no more. Last Friday, I had an accident with a car door slamming. I don't really want to go into it in too much detail. Let's just say it required a trip to the hospital. The doctors were hoping that the surgery would save my thumb. It didn't work. It's gotten infected. They are now talking about possibly putting one of my toes on my hand, or doing some electronic prostheses type of thing. 

I told them I would prefer an electronic prostheses. I don't know if I get a vote on it, but I really don't want to lose a toe just to get an ugly thumb. 

The doctors said a finger prostheses is risky because my body might reject it. They talked about the silicone being sculpted a certain way. I don't really know what they were talking about. I just asked if my thumb could light up, or become a cell phone, or make me able to function normally after everything is done. 

"You will be 80-85% functional," one doctor said to me.

"What about the other 20%?" I asked.

"Mr. Kalayeh you need to understand that this procedure could also not work. The choice between percentages is moot in the face of a complete loss of your thumb."

I have been looking at other options. My parents want me to get a silicone thumb. They don't trust these new electronic ones. They are also harping a lot about the cost of everything. I think I listened to my mother talk about the cost of things and the economy and the shape my family is in for about two hours straight last night. I couldn't even enjoy that Dancing with Models show or whatever it's called. I just had to think about how much my thumb would cost and how my mother wanted me to save my money, etc. It was a real pain.

Sogee hasn't said anything. She just feels bad for what happened with the car door. And I know she wants me to have the best thumb possible. I don't think she's worried about money, but I understand if she'll want me to go with the cheaper option. At the same time, it is my thumb, right? 

Who knows? This tragedy might end in a thumb that can erase things or light up. I think the latter would be much better. It's the bright side, right? 

The Incredible Hulk as Me

I am getting angrier and angrier these days. Some say it's because I am living with my parents now and old wounds are returning. Another friend told me this was a natural case of having stopped my cigarette addiction. "You are bound to be more upset when dealing with things now," they say. "All those other times when you had issues, you could just smoke them away. But, now, when things come up, you have to face them."

My friend could be right. I do have a bit more fire inside me. It's been really interesting. Lots of anger floods into me for no reason. It's almost like being the Incredible Hulk. I suppose this means I'll have to do regular meditation to go a bit deeper into what's happening. Some writing on the topic might not be bad either. 

I started writing about my anger the other day, and it was a bit scary. I didn't expect to get so violent. That's what's coming though. I suppose I will write it dry. Just let these things be what they are. 

At the moment, I am nursing a bleeding appendage. Don't ask me what appendage or how it happened. It's way too embarrassing. Let's just say I am out of commission for a few days. I am not sure if I'll post any of these exploratory writings or drawings. They almost feel too personal. But, who knows? I've got to face my fears. We'll see if I end up getting Photoshop and rocking a book of this stuff. It could be good. I have no idea.

I Bought This

Dinosaur Transformer on Ebay. I could have waited for the auction to end. I didn't though. I got it straight away. 

When it arrived, my mother was confused. Sogee told her not to make fun of me. Then she told me about how she said this later. 

Now the dinosaur is on my desk. I don't really look at it. 

I transformed it into a robot once. It looks cooler as a dinosaur. I don't get it. Why make something into a Transformer if it looks better like the animal than a robot? 

Friendship: Fable or Reality?

When I was a kid, I thought my elementary school chums would be my friends for the rest of my life.  Although I have kept in touch with several of them from high school, college, and post-college--eternal brother or sisterhood has whittled away with each passing year. Some of these shifts have happened because of distance or a job change--I moved to Colorado, then Los Angeles, Korea, and now back to Los Angeles--while others were simply a factor of perspective: What do you mean you don't care about Ross Perot? Let's go read PerezHilton! Can you honestly say that Obama will be more or less the same as George W.? Yes, my political and social views of society tend to be cautious at best. I don't feel like jumping when people tell me there are wagons passing, because a wagon trail can either circle or scatter with a single arrow. Maybe, that is why I sit on the fence to such a degree, that I even find myself being friends with people who see love or friendship with as much caution as I do.

"Relationships all end badly," one such friend said to me recently. "You will die alone in the end."

"I don't know about that," I said, on my perpetual barbed wire. "I am having a good time with the Sogee."

"Right, right," my friend continued. "Don't take my word for it."

Is it a familiarity with death that allows me to be so impartial? A "he knows death" like "Bo knows baseball" that keeps me from giving so much? Or is it simply a broken heart in the past or present?

You know, it's funny. People often think a broken heart comes from a relationship long ago, but it could just as well happen in any relationship you're having presently. You might have an adverse opinion to your partner when they give you the cold shoulder and stop chatting with you for three hours. You could even say something about Ross Perot that suddenly puts your high school chum at odds with bringing you to the family barbecue. In fact, it could be that friendship might shift most readily with the approval each of us may hope to gain by having such a friendship. 

"He fits the mold of someone that would be my friend," your mind might say. "He looks like someone that would be my friend."

Such "shallow" thoughts may not be at the forefront of people's decision making, but it could very well be just under the surface if we lack the wherewithal to make such an introspection. 

If I would garner a guess as to how "shallow" thoughts about relationships may take shape from the unconscious, I could point to someones external symbols of identity, such as a job, car, or hairstyle that signify some form of status: His Mohawk. Her belly button piercing. Their interest in shoplifting. Our interest in people behaving according to our interests.

Of course, we could be more scientific about our predilections and point a finger at pheromones and the scents of our partners or friends as also having a significant effect on who we choose to have in our lives. We could also shift into the New Age angle and acknowledge the idea that one is friends with an individual in order to learn something. 

"When you are done learning from your partner, your relationship will end," a friend from Boulder once told me. 

Regardless of the multifarious reasons we can hypothesize for repelling and attracting people in our lives, there still remains the simple fact that friendships dwindle with age. Our responsibilities and families restrict the time we can spend with the increasing number of individuals we may have in our lives. With phone bills on the rise and the cost of friendship being proportional to the amount of time one has, it is no wonder that we make friends from classroom, work, or online environments more so than in any other way.  

If I were to make a guess as to the future, I would say a majority of our friends will be made via the Internet. We will be surfing our interests and meet like-minded individuals who reflect our personal states of mind. We might suddenly be into refurbishing a home interior and scrolling through, when a comrade-in-nails suddenly asks the question you were hoping to post: Do nails hurt trees? Then suddenly a friendship is born. You post seventeen messages back and forth. You make an appointment for an Internet tea. They call you on SKYPE. You have the tea in your hands. LO AND BEHOLD! Your tea cups are both County Crier floral teacup designs! How could it be possible! It's destiny!! It couldn't possibly be that your searches on Amazon offered you the same interests in  Faux Florals and Candles (One-of-a-Kind Weddings), and these interests led you to the CUSTOMERS WHO BOUGHT THIS ALSO ENJOYED link to let you purchase teacups that were a product of your geographical upbringing in Miami, Florida, where floral teacups were the rage on Mother's Day in 2009 when Casa Diri's Floral Design had a sale. No! It is God at work, right?

We are flying in all sorts of weather, but what about the original question posed by my friend: Do all relationships end badly? 

I would say relationships are a factor of our personal choices. If you want a friend, you will create an opportunity to make one. Whether this person will be open to exchanging fluids or handshakes, will be up to them; and--to a larger extent--the similar interests you might share. If you are in line with how you have been most successful at making friends, it would be in your best interest to seek out friends in those round tables associated with your interests. The Internet could be one road to take, but a workshop on screenwriting may be just as viable. In the end, you'll either continue to stay in touch as long as your schedules parallel each other, and other responsibilities/interests don't pull you away from one another.

As far as death ending all relationships, that does happen for the physical side of things. But I still remember many friends who have passed. That is how the relationship continues. I can even remember relationships with childhood chums I have since lost touch with due to life's roads and be inspired, angered, or joyed by the stick that flew in my eye from Jay's foot; or Sheba, the German Shepherd, that Lieutenant Forester kept around us kids for safety. I can remember all these moments. I can even write them down. There, on the page, and in my heart, these friendships will live.

I will talk more about love relationships tomorrow. 

Paintings and Old Videos Found

"A Miracle, America"

"Mike McCurry as Me"

"God 4 Sale"

I also found this great video of a poetry performance. This is only a short snippet.

I even managed to snag some reading lists given to me by Simon Ortiz and Eileen Myles.

I'll share more stuff later.