Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Ferris Bueller Would've Been Too Cool for Facebook

Flights booked for DC. Had a poem accepted by Threepenny Review. Working on interviews for two excellent literary blogs (uno and due). Got the new Kweli album (better than Eardrum and Beautiful Struggle, not quite Quality or Train of Thought...). Life moves pretty fast...


The human habit of overestimating other people's happiness is nothing new, of course. Jordan points to a quote by Montesquieu: "If we only wanted to be happy it would be easy; but we want to be happier than other people, which is almost always difficult, since we think them happier than they are." But social networking may be making this tendency worse. Jordan's research doesn't look at Facebook explicitly, but if his conclusions are correct, it follows that the site would have a special power to make us sadder and lonelier. By showcasing the most witty, joyful, bullet-pointed versions of people's lives, and inviting constant comparisons in which we tend to see ourselves as the losers, Facebook appears to exploit an Achilles' heel of human nature. And women—an especially unhappy bunch of late—may be especially vulnerable to keeping up with what they imagine is the happiness of the Joneses.

via Slate


Suddenly, what had seemed awfully productive to me now seemed like pure laziness and inefficiency. This person wrote 3 million pages of a novel yesterday. That person stayed up all night long writing six essays for various prestigious publications. This friend was somehow interviewed by three publications while managing to read and review four books simultaneously and dash off a few dozen short stories and her sixth novella to boot. They’re giving readings! They’re planning readings! They’re selling books! They’re stacking up publication credits like cord wood! The as-of-late familiar feeling came rushing back, and I found myself panicking, thinking, I’m so behind! I need to catch up! I found myself thinking about pulling a few all-nighters myself (as if my old-ass body could handle that anymore), about all the books I still need to read, about the growing list of story ideas and the novel that I have no time for and the short story collection I need to put together–and then I glanced at my giant, mutating to do list for work and I was totally overcome by the whole thing.


Jordan boxes all over my closet...

Monday, January 24, 2011

Getting It Right

Great week: book launch reading in Seattle (standing room only, sold out of books: a world gone gonzo), had some of the new poems provisionally accepted by one of my favorite journals, and found out I'll be having a book-signing at AWP (2:00-2:30 on Friday at the Greensboro Review table). Can't wait for DC...

(on the list: Paula Deen, Christine O'Donnell, and LeBron James)


Here’s a leap. Hemingway’s story “Hills Like White Elephants” is many things: perfection of his minimalist style; an example of excellent dialogue; a snapshot of two people that reveals their entire lifetime; imagery that resonates in its depth and emotion; and of course, being a “teachable” story that often requires an explanation that the young couple is talking about an abortion. But the story’s staying power is in its tragedy: it’s a story about not being able to see the world in metaphor, a story about the crushing of a woman’s imagination.


Hooray Kelly!


-Many thanks to Sandy Longhorn, for her incisive and generous review of the book. If you haven't read her work, do yourself a favor and buy this book.


Great interview with Ed Skoog from over at the Ploughshares Blog


And now for something completely different. You're welcome.

Poems By Heart

Discovered this video the other day, via the righteous poet Mark Brewin. It reminded me of Frank Giampietro's excellent website Poems by Heart. All these things cheer me.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

On New Things

There's only 2 copies of the book left on my shelf. I cannot adequately describe how grateful I feel to all of y'all who have ordered copies. Thank you. I hope you find something in the poems. Should have more copies in the next few days...


Killer first line of the moment:

"till the face of the oceans, plow wild"

from Jeanne Larsen's "Hurricane Gardens"
(Why We Make Gardens (& Other Poems), Mayapple Press, 2010)


Found out this morning that my book will be featured at the Small Press Distribution table at AWP. This is great news as NYQ Books won't have a table, so this way the book will still be available at the bookfair. The press website has also been updated with some sample poems and links to all the major online book retailers. Spooky.

Starting to get super-stoked about AWP. Very much looking forward to reading with Jeanne Larsen, Madison Smartt Bell, Jill McCorkle, and David Huddle to celebrate the 50th Anniversary of the Hollins University program in Creative Writing. Just as much looking forward to reconnecting with old friends, encountering blogfolk, and discovering new poets and ways to look at poems. Who's going? Who do y'all want to see? (Me: Terrance Hayes, Sandra Alcosser, Stephen Dunn, Junot Diaz, Charles Wright...)


We will hear much talk in the weeks to come of the Lone Gunman, an archetype useful to those of us who wish to absolve ourselves.

Sober news people will soberly shrug their shoulders and whisper into microphones about the mysteries of the human heart. It will be as if there was no motive for the crime, as if the murderer were a machine that malfunctioned rather than an American who mistook sadism for an expression of his beliefs.

The more hysterical reactions will come from those who feel themselves implicated, who fear the great con of their professions exposed. They will react with absurd rituals of denial, as if, after all their violent agitation, they are the ones being fired upon, the victims of some vast and unending conspiracy.

This operatic indignation is what I meant when I spoke, a few months ago, about the American descent into a shame culture.

It has nothing to do with politics. It has to do with the capacity for moral self-reflection. What happens when a large and well-armed portion of our citizenry can no longer apologize? When humility becomes another form of humiliation? Their heroes exhort them: Never retreat. Reload.

-Steve Almond (I'm not sure there's a more cogent and eloquent writer/thinker, when it comes to social commentary)


We need to face up these new challenges-- not just as individuals or separate interests, but as a nation with a national purpose. The world of the next generation will change too rapidly for political parties to focus too narrowly on the next election. And the 21st Century can be another American century-- but only if we restore a larger sense of responsibility and replace the clattering cacophony of the perpetual campaign with a wider discussion of what is best for our country.

via The Washington Post

What I thought was a truly excellent speech by John Kerry, regarding our nation and the dire dangers we face as a society if we continue in this polarized political state. Watch it at the link.



There's so much amazing music in Seattle right now. Macklemore and The Head and the Heart are both doing incredible things, and it seems as though the rest of the country is beginning to notice. Feeling incredibly fortunate to be living in this city right now, and proud to call myself a Seattleite. Go Seahawks!

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

A Box of Books in Spokane

The UPS tracker says I'll have a big 'ol box on my porch tomorrow evening. This is craziness. There are fish dying and birds falling from the sky. I worry that my book's release has triggered the apocalypse. Still, just in case, I've added a PayPal button to the blog, for anyone who'd like to buy the book directly from me (free shipping, yo). I'd be happy to sign copies, just let me know when you make your order. The book should also be available on Amazon and Small Press Distribution by the end of the weekend (or so I hear). I'll be walking around with copies at AWP, too, though NYQ Books won't have a table so you'll have to find me (you could just come to the Hollins 50th anniversary reading, featuring me, Madison Smartt Bell, Jill McCorkle, Jeanne Larsen, Karen McElmurray, and David Huddle, just sayin'). The folks at NYQ have added page-previews on the book's site, if you're so inclined.

Thanks, again, for your interest. It's remarkable to me that I have so many excellent folks with which to share this. Go team.


We create art because we create art. In all art, no matter how we like to deny this in the postmodern world, there is a glimpse of the afterlife, of the communal power of the human mind. So, my friend, we continue on. We draft our poems. We move commas and line breaks. We listen. We watch. We live. We write. To some, our need to do this is silly. To others, it is something they wish they could do. But this life of making art, this devotion, is one I would never trade in for anything. And something deep inside me tells me this is true for you as well. Again, I know I am being forward having never met you in person. But I have met your heart and your mind in your poems, and I know full well you share in this terrible devotion.

-C. Dale Young responds to my last post over at Avoiding the Muse.


Josh Robbins was kind to give me a shout out and post three poems from my forthcoming book on his blog. Having seen Josh's poems around in journals, online, etc., I don't think it will be too long before I can return him the same favor.