Thursday, November 11, 2010

It Has a Face

Here we are. Above is the cover art for my first book. It is the work of my incredibly talented friend Patrick Howard, for which I am beyond grateful. I knew Pat's work from his cover art for our mutual friends' Big Something's first album, "Stories from the Middle of Nowhere." They're rock stars. Pat, also, as you can see by his work, is a rock star. I think we all want to be rock stars. How many times can you say "rock star" in one paragraph without sounding ridiculous?

January looms. That verb probably misleads you--I'm not afraid of January. I'm very excited about that first box of books. I've even overcome my suspicion that it's all been an elaborate, malevolent hoax (that last part is fun to say: malevolent hoax). But I've developed a new neurosis: readers. My first fear is that there won't be any. My second is that there will be too many. My third: Sarah Palin. To guard against all of these fears I've done things like created a facebook page for the book, posted information about upcoming readings on the NYQ Books site, and posted another poem from After the Ark on Ink Node.


At work today, I talked with a woman about coyotes. I asked her if she'd read James Galvin's "The Meadow." She hadn't. I told her how it describes coyotes gnawing their paws out of traps. She said she'd look up the book on google.



With the votes tallied, the spin began: a procession of confident assertions about what “the American people”—meaning, in practical terms, the slice of the scaled-down midterm electorate that went one way in 2008 and the other in 2010—were “trying to say.” According to Robert Gibbs, the White House press secretary, “The message of Tuesday’s election was that the American people want both political parties to work together.” Mitch McConnell, the Republicans’ leader in the Senate, seemed to embrace the togetherness angle, but with fateful caveats. “The American people want us to put aside the left-wing wish list and work together,” he said. But, echoing his pre-election remark that “the single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term President,” he also said, “If our primary legislative goals are to repeal and replace the health-spending bill, to end the bailouts, cut spending, and shrink the size and scope of government, the only way to do all these things is to put someone in the White House who won’t veto any of these things.”

-a piece by Hendrik Hertzberg for The New Yorker


What hip hop could be.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Ordinary Absentmindedness


There is the room. There is the fire in the grate,
sap fizzling out loose tentacles of steam
along the fluent borders of the burning,

its light diffusing as it grades away
to darkness an unwavering presumption
not of my somehow being here again,

but of my never having left. The way
each thing so certain of itself as mine
as I arranged it still assumes my seeing

with an ordinary absentmindedness,
the way the carpet's crushed pile signifies
the pressure of my heel, the dented pillow--

the posture and exact weight of a pleasure
that isn't pain subsiding but the body's
still undisproved belief that this is only

another evening after a long day,
a squandering on myself of instances
I have no end of. Even the calm implies

only the minor havoc of what might soon
disperse it: isn't there dinner to prepare?
couldn't the phone ring at any moment?

Where is my daughter? What is it I've forgotten?
Whose version of myself is this? Whose room
but yours, my dreaming brother? I see you now.

For you I bring my hand down through the fire.
It is for your sake that the flames rise through it.
What is it you are reaching out to hold,

to cling to, but your waking? Time to wake.
Time to embrace this, now your dreaming's over.
This is the nature now of all I am.

-Alan Shapiro
(The Dead Alive and Busy, University of Chicago Press, 2000)


The Lower East Side and Williamsburg in New York, Capitol Hill in Seattle, Silver Lake in L.A., the Inner Mission in San Francisco: This is where the contemporary hipster first flourished. Over the years, there developed such a thing as a hipster style and range of art and finally, by extension, something like a characteristic attitude and Weltanschauung. Fundamentally, however, the hipster continues to be defined by the same tension faced by those early colonizers of Wicker Park. The hipster is that person, overlapping with the intentional dropout or the unintentionally declassed individual—the neo-bohemian, the vegan or bicyclist or skatepunk, the would-be blue-collar or postracial twentysomething, the starving artist or graduate student—who in fact aligns himself both with rebel subculture and with the dominant class, and thus opens up a poisonous conduit between the two.

New York Magazine, via Terry L. Kennedy


In the past year, I graduated from college, got a desk job, and bought an iPhone: the three vertices of the Bermuda Triangle into which my ability to think in the ways that matter most to me has disappeared. My mental landscape is now so altered that its very appearance must be different than it was at this time last year. I imagine my brain as a newly wretched terrain, littered with gaping chasms (What’s my social security number, again?), expansive lacunae (For the thousandth time, the difference between “synecdoche” and “metonymy,” please?), and recently formed fissures (How the fuck do you spell “Gyllenhaal?”). This is your brain on technology.

via Phil Bost

If you've got time, existential anxiety, and a smart phone, you should read the essay above (or if you just want to read a review of the new Shteyngart novel).


"I was there, and I damn-near broke my eye-sockets."--Shaquille O'Neal

Monday, November 1, 2010


I submitted to Blackbird today using their online submission manager (which is open, poets!). I'm not sure why, as it took them over 2 years to respond to my last submission, and they've never responded to the poems I handed off to the editor (at her invitation, as part of a dialogue with then-current Hollins grad students) in Spring of 2009. But then, maybe I do know why: I think they're the best online magazine out there, both in terms of content and presentation (along with, say, Memorious, though I love the content at places like Waccamaw and storySouth). So I'm willing to forgive their slothfulness, if only for the wonderful poetry and fiction they publish.

Lots of 'no thank-you's' recently, from Barn Owl Review and Kenyon Review. Was pleased to get a kind note (and notes) from the folks over at Beloit Poetry Journal and West Branch. It's exciting to have these new poems flying over the interwebs into the world, even if they're met with rejections. I'm confident they'll find the right homes eventually, but am (for maybe the first time) in no real hurry. I'm continuing to tweak the poems, mostly pruning them, but don't want to let a few rejections (from kickass journals, too) let me lose faith in the poems. I do my best not to send anything out unless I'd be confident enough to read it in front of a room full of teachers past and present. It's a pretty solid imaginary litmus test. A slow game, this po-biz, and there ain't nothin' wrong with grinding it out.

Reading in Salt Lake City in December to celebrate Best New Poets 2010 (in stock on November 4th!). Utah, anyone?


The 100 Best Signs at the Rally to Restore Sanity And/Or Fear


Time then to unload our wagons and marvel
How many items have come through intact,
Though an heirloom bowl has a hairline crack
Running rim to rim. However lonely we feel
As the wind ruffles the tall grass, we'll agree
The spot should begin to feel like home
After a little labor, a little time.

("Pioneers by Carl Dennis, via Verse Daily)


Wish I had cable so I could see Conan come back. But I like my digital converter box, I like my rabbit ears.

(via Knife City Creamery)