Monday, June 30, 2008


I'm in my office in the Hibbs Building, which is why I'm able to use the caps lock key, which is nice. A friend who works at Richmond's local Mac store said I could switch keyboards with hopefully a working one, which I'm going to try and do tomorrow.


Had a good weekend with Corey and Sarah visiting. Richmond's a crazy place, and I hope they enjoyed it. We hope to hit some more sites and such next time instead of just Hollywood Cemetery and in and around The Fan.


Mary Biddinger
apparently is starting some posts about first books. I have to say I'm disillusioned with everyone's opinions about it all, meaning with things like that. As I've said in a past post, I've learned more from Kate Greenstreet's interviews on her site. What better than to hear from actual poets who went through it with their own experiences? So much is hysterical, though. Using different clips, and thicker paper, and different fonts. If your book sucks monumentally, it ain't gonna get published. If it's worth publication, then hopefully you're not sending a manuscript bound with a 4x6 Clifford the Big Red Dog Clip in 16-font Palantino on a ream of paper that cost you $50. And I love advice from people who think they're "editors" because they run an online "journal" mainly filled with other poet bloggers who they became friends with so they could solicit them. OK, there are only a few of these folks, but they make me want to switch to fiction sometimes. Still, discussing this stuff I think can be a good thing, even though a lot of it leaves me confused, and annoyed, and sometimes sad.


Sometimes when I'm teaching I picture Matthew Broderick's Jim McAllister in Election, wearing a different shirt and different tie everyday, but saying the same things, essentially: "Legislative, Executive, Judicial.." "Judicial, Executive, Legislative..." "Executive, Legislative, Judicial..." -- standing somewhere slightly different by the board. Putting a different spin on it. But essentially saying the same thing, and wondering how many students are actually listening or getting anything from it. I do like teaching, especially when someone writes a really great and original and professional argumentative essay (when involving teaching composition of course), but I do hope to try and teach creative writing, and be good at it. No offense to anyone doing such a thing, the adjunct thing, the teaching comp thing, but if I'm doing what I'm doing now in 10 years when I'm 36, I'll be thinking of ways to drive my car off a cliff and make it look like an accident. Maybe I have it too easy, but I'm hoping for big things ahead, and am pushing myself as much as possible toward those goals.


I'm hoping, after the 4th, to start getting a kind of spreadsheet going for the Ph.D information. Most likely we'll be some place close to home, the western PA, Pittsburgh area, though this can vary I suppose if a school in the Midwest wants to give me a fellowship and a 1/1 teaching load. Doubtful, yes, but if it happens who knows what direction we'll be moving toward. I know the process is going to suck, but I'm dying without a community, without reading for pleasure amidst criticism, without writing papers and exploring the many aspects and parts of the craft I have yet to discover and learn about. It's time.


The new Ninth Letter is out. It's a great issue. Lots of good stuff so far I've read, and still a ton to go through. I'm so happy to have been a part of the last issue, and I hope in the future I don't get as many rejections as I had anticipated by the time I got the acceptance after only one rejection. I really don't think any magazine compares to, especially solely in the graphics and design. It smells like freshly wallpapered room, it weighs a ton, most of the work is of high quality in every issue (of course no one's going to like every piece in an issue of a journal or magazine). If you put it up to The Paris Review, or anything else for that matter, it's pretty laughable how much it kicks ass. I have one more issue in my contributor subscription, but I'll most likely keep subscribing.

Friday, June 27, 2008


oh joyous day. office '08 is up and running now, so i can comb through mauscripts, others' and my own, along with student essays and annotated bibliographies and such. now i just need to configure the printer, get my ipod tuns in the itunes library, and we're pretty much good to go.

any other essentials i need to get, mac users?

there are many hopefully good records coming out in the next few months. here's to plentiful leaks abound.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

i'm boring

jess and i started to clean a bit because corey and sarah are on their way to richmond tomorrow, and we had a bunch of garbage and recycling to take out. jess threw down a bag of shredded paper and receipts and such, and behind the fence where the garbage cans lie, the neighbor whose house is just beyond that stretch of stench and nastiness, i see, is smashing some of the stuff that the tentants, us included, didn't decide to take care of.

so i immediately get defensive: "well, most of that isn't our stuff, so i'm not gonna destroy all the boxes to make room for all of it." of course he was nice about it, and when i got around the other side, we started talking about my landlord, and apparently his nemesis. i can imagine in the summer, especially when he walks out of his house, the rotting garbage, which mostly overflows from the cans that have probably been used from the late 90s or before, overflows. it does. so he starts smashing more boxes, and we start talking.

when i first talked to babs, who is our landlord, and that's of course not her real name, she was a bit scary. she's old, mean, and has a hearing aid. but she's not a jolly older woman with a hearing aid. she's pissed. she can't walk well. she can't hear well. and i think she likes to take it out on her tenants. when she first met me, she said, "well, how old are, you around 22?" then i was 25, and i know i look like i'm 16, but goddamn. i'm used to it when i'm getting carded at a bar, but not in a situation where i'd like to purchase a living space for a year at least.

but bill, the neighbor, and myself started bonding a bit. i talked about how it took an unreasonable amount of phone calls to get her to deal with putting the awning back up. we're on the third floor, so instead of a roof and a light like the first two, we have an awning. i had to do a ridiculous amount of prodding for that thing to make its presence known.

either way, i bonded with my neighbor, the non-tenant neighbor. and i told him we'd at least make sure we were crushing boxes and such.

we love this place, but it's funny how much ludicrous stuff you have to sometimes put up with, especially when our landlord says, "i do as much as possible for my tentants," etc., when she really doesn't make much of an effort to do anything.

hopefully in a year or so we'll be homeowners. or close to homeowners. it ain't gonna happen in richmond. so hopefully somone wants me at their school for a ph.d. with some kind of ta appointment or fellowship.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

ah, the questioning

so i'm writing in lowercase because my caps lock key is driving me nuts. i love the imac slick keyboard and all, but i can't write a cohesive sentence if i'm always wondering why i click the caps lock and it's not making the letter bigger, aka the caps ain't locking. still, i'm beyond glad i have this sucker. now i really need office, because the textedit tool or whatever it is can hardly read .rtfs. i really don't want to buy it. i hope someone can hook me up with a copy.


i already downloaded a bunch of movies from karagarga. xiu xiu the sent down girl. a documentary called tribute that can't get released because of music copyrights. and another one that the av club recommended called driver 23. not sure why that and the accompanying atlas moth went out of print, but oop = downloadable guilt free. the first johnny wadd movie from 1971, a vhs rip that has all kinds of 70s retro scratches and amazing furniture in all the houses and sets. before all the clothes get ripped off, you wonder how much some of the gear would fetch at some hip vintage store. i'm not sure if exhausted is still obtainable on dvd, but i do think it's pretty cool that i talked over email with, technically, two porn directors, the second being julia st. james, who i don't think ever did any porn (jamie gillis being the other, who's also a quite popular actor... i wrote a weird poem about my emails to j.g. which is in an older redivider). but she directed exhausted, which is great, and the commentary's pretty awesome too. oh, and the original the dirk diggler story, which i fast forwarded through a bit, and yes, it looks like shit and was certainly edited on two vcr's. but i'll watch it. it's short.


i had this insane dream today after sleeping less than i'd hoped because of the heat. i set my alarm in the other room, and when i was afraid i was going to wake up jess as i was tossing and turning, i went into the office / guest room and slept there. my alarm was set for 9:45 so i could get some grading done and eat breakfast and whatnot, but for some reason i was in the kind of waking dream, where i heard the alarm but dreamt vividly about it. i was in my room in my house in western pennsylvania, and i started going nuts, trying to smash everything i thought was the alarm. when i thought i found the source, i took something like a screwdriver and smashed it, some kind of clock radio thing. well it started smoking and caught my hand on fire, so i was doing anything i could to stop it, but wrapping it in covers and dousing it with cold water didn't help. then my eyes opened, and i faintly heard the damn alarm and shut it off. it's always a test i think if you can remember your dream, and that was a bizarre real-time dream. we just got a coffee maker and i had some last night before hell's kitchen, and i think that may have been a reason. blake butler's been battling insomnia lately, and i have to say, i don't feel worse than when i've gotten little sleep. i'll take headaches and stuffiness and colds all day long. but without sleep i can be insane. maybe it does help one's writing. but i'm not sure if i want to test the depths.


i've been in contant with some folks at schools where i tentatively want to apply for a ph.d in the later winter. everyone's been extremely nice and helpful. i hope that continues. i really want to get back to school. i've had some shitty experiences in academia, sure, but the great things far outweight the ridiculous experiences.


the book's going out to a few contests and a few open reading periods tomorrow. onward. send it out, don't think about it, and keep writing new stuff. or try to at least. that's what needs to happen.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Notes Late Tuesday

The new Imac is here, and though it's been initially a bit confusing, I'm starting to figure things out. And it really is more navigable. I could only stay on certain sites for a few minutes with my older laptop, so this is nice. Plus I don't hear the chaotically imminent hum of the fan like a giant air condition, which then gets the left part so hot it's hard to keep your wrist on it. Thankfully that's behind me. Chalk up another loss for a former PC user. I haven't really begun to take this thing for a real test drive yet I don't think. My caps lock key seems to be a little off-kilter, but maybe I have to get used to the right way to click it.


I just got an amazing copy of Lynda Hull's GHOST MONEY in the mail that I found on for a mere $2 and change. With shipping it was around $6. I'm not a collector or anything, but I do like to have as many of my favorite books as possible in original editions, which for earlier contemporary poetry is not an easy task. New and Selecteds are great, but the font's usually boring, and it's nice to have three or four of five originals staring at you from the shelf than one entire volume. I'm not sure what the seller was thinking, but I got lucky since I haven't seen it for less than around $20 elsewhere.

Now I have to find TAR by C.K. Williams for a few bucks. Under $10 would be a huge steal.


Hopefully I can get back to writing on this sucker. I need to snag Office somewhere. And other Mac necessities.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

The National @ The National Theater RVA

I figured I'd write this entry before I forget how amazing the show was. And by that I mean I won't be forgetting anytime soon. It was their last night on tour in June before they go overseas. I couldn't grab a set list, so I'm not sure I can do the order before the first encore exactly, but for the most part it's close I think.

Start a War
Secret Meeting
Squalor Victoria
Baby, We'll Be Fine
Racing Like a Pro
Slow Show
Daughters of the SoHo Riots
Mistaken for Strangers
Wasp Nest
Apartment Story
Fake Empire


Green Gloves
All the Wine
Mr. November


You've Done It Again, Virginia
About Today


I may have missed some. Hopefully someone'll post it so I can edit the real one later. And I'm sure there will be some shitty YouTube videos posted soon from cell phones also.

Thanks to Sean for hooking up the VIP tix. Everyone working at The National Theater was awesome. Friendly. Helpful. Not dicks at all. I was really surprised. Meaning usually there's someone who has to be an asshole for some reason.

Centro-matic was really good too. We missed the first few songs, but they sounded great, and I recognized some stuff from Love You Just the Same, which I used to listen to a lot my senior year of college. It's a great record and I need to break it out again.

But the National were just amazing. Padma Newsome was indeed there (he wasn't there first time I saw them almost 3 years ago) and was insane. His energy was amazing, and he had so many touches and flourishes not really heard on the records, which is of course one thing that can make a live show even better. And they had a trombone and trumpet player there too, and they were one probably at least half of the songs, making especially the end of "Fake Empire" incredible.

Everything, though, was on point, and the sound was beyond my expectations. The VIP section was fairly packed, though there weren't a lot of us. We, I guess, had some kind of higher end VIP passes and were allowed to go on the smaller balconies leading down to the stage on the side. The one where the old guys from the Muppets sit and bitch about everything. So yes, we had the perfect view. And we got to look at the "pedestrians," as Sean put it. And good Lord was the show packed. Tons of people everywhere, and everyone was going nuts. The crowd was great. The band was great. The energy was great.

It ranks up with some of the best shows I've seen, and is easily now in the top 5. I was telling Sean, too, that living in small town western Pennsylvania, I didn't grow up with bands playing at my fingertips, so great shows mean a lot to me. We have hour and a half drives to Pittsburgh and Cleveland, yes, and most of the shows I've seen have been at The Grog Shop. I've seen Don Caballero, Aloha, Six Parts Seven, Tristeza, Swervedriver, DJ Shadow, The Twilight Singers, and many more. I'll always love that venue.

But unlike Richmond back in the day, shows were always an experience. I remember talking to Jeff Garber (formerly of Castor, whose first CD still is one of my favorite records of all time) back in the day and I remember saying he was almost tired of going to shows. That blew my mind. Cities where shows take place are amazing, but it's easy to take that shit for granted.

I'm rambling now. We got free tickets for Daniel Johnston tomorrow, but I'm not sure I even want to go. I don't think it can match the experience, and I want to have it around a little while longer before I go there for another show.

Friday, June 20, 2008

The Post Where the Author Thinks They Know Something About Sending First Books Out (Or: Keith Writing a Really Long Post About Such Things)

I may still not know a lot, but I've had a lot of experience over the last year. I really wanted to write this post because of Sarabande's response to the Kathryn A. Morton Prize, which I got sometime last week.

When I was writing poems and getting my MFA for three years, ending May 2007, I didn't really know I was constructing a book. There are some students that write hardly any poems for whatever reason: they're shy, uncomfortable, some kind of minority and all kinds of stigma going along with that mixed with fear of course or that no one will care, are too busy drinking, are getting used to a new city, are newly married or not newly married and can't find enough time as they'd like to write. The list of excuses goes on and on. Some write few. Some write a poem a week and end up throwing out 75% or more.

I didn't know what I was doing when I got to VCU, and I'm not sure I still do, but again, I'm learning. I always asked people how to get stuff published, how to write cover letters, what to say. All of that. I spent a few hundred dollars on journal and magazine subscriptions to hold them in my hands, write down names of authors I liked, stack them on the bookshelf, see if I'd return to them. And when I thought I had work ready, I sent out. I send out a lot when I have work. To many places. If I believe the poems are good enough to be published and I'm happy with them, off into the world they go. Blitzkrieg. Carpet bombing. Whatever you want to call it. When a rejection comes, I add the name to the ongoing list and make sure to send them different work in, say, October, or March, or both.

But again, that brings me to the first book contests. I've been sending out my manuscript officially for a year, or it will be a year in about 10 days. I've sent the manuscript out to over 40 contests, and it's already cost me at least $1000. The first time I sent it out -- and of course it's changed a lot since then, as they always do if you take them as seriously as you say you do -- I was a Finalist for the Crab Orchard Series in Poetry First Book Award. I was a bit baffled because the manuscript was essentially my thesis with a few (some still included) poems I wrote in the beginning of summer / late spring after I graduated. I was encouraged by both friends and professors, had the extra cash to do it, and figured I should start, especially if I had confidence in the book, which I did, somewhat I suppose.

I'm not sure if it was a good or bad thing that I was a Finalist so early, but it did spur me to get a little nuts about sending the book out. Researching presses and past winners and past published books. Staying away from presses like Ahsahta and Nightboat since my writing is nowhere near what they're looking for, and staying away from presses that also have journals that have never liked my work enough to give me ink, much less publish. For example: The Journal, Pleiades, Barrow Street all have contests related to their magazine. I've gotten ink from Pleiades once, and every other rejection from all 3 have been form, at best. So why would I sent my first manuscript -- poems that have since been published all crossing their paths in the past -- to a place that has rejected me every time? Chances are my work's not right for a book if single poems aren't right for the magazines. Is it a guarantee that my book's not going to be picked if that happens? No. Is it smart, however, to send to those places? Probably not the smartest idea, no. But to try it just once and see what happens? Maybe.

The second interesting thing is the judging. Now Lynn Emanuel was the judge of the Crab Orchard prize last year. She saw my manuscript. Didn't like it enough to publish it, for whatever reason, since there could only be one. And that's that. So chances are, if I see her name again as a revealed judge, knowing she already rejected my manuscript once, maybe I shouldn't send to that contest. That brings me to back to the Kathryn A. Morton Prize.

I saw that Lynn Emanuel was the judge. However, I love many of Sarabande's books, not to mention they're a quality press, with both look and content regarding their books. I found out before I got the notice that Karyna McGlynn won, which was no surprise. I think she's been a Finalist for some other contests, and she's published (a lot) in amazing places. Usually with such a ubiquitously presented writer in just a few years, the time is soon for their book to be published. So that's why I sent. I didn't place, but I did get the "Dear Poet" notice with poet crossed off in place of "Dear Keith," and at the end "Please try us again next year!" was written. That's where I'm confused.

Call me a questioner, but did they do that for everyone? Poets who've gotten rejections back from Mid-American Review (every one of my submissions) I imagine know the little smiley face that Karen Craigo puts on all the rejections. Ink does not always equal a great thing, is I guess what I'm saying. Better than nothing, yes. I'm sure I'm not the only one who's had a discussion about this.

But should I send to the Morton Prize again, I'm thinking. If they really mean they liked my work, by the little scribble of green marker, without any kind of place or bid, then sure, I'll send again. But if that was their plan to write that on every submitter's, then that just kind of sucks and is really unnecessarily misleading.

And again, with the judges, a friend of mine, who's book's finally getting published after being a finalist and semi-finalist over 10 times in contests, got the unlucky news later that Mark Doty was the later-revealed judge a few of the contests where she ended up being a Finalist. Meaning: with contests that don't announce the judge, you never know who you're getting. She was unlucky. Doty didn't pick her manuscript as the winner for the first one, which is fine. But in 3 or 4 more contests where she was a Finalist, Doty ended up being announced as the judge, and he didn't change his mind, which makes sense. I'm not griping here, but stating an interesting fact and showing yet another layer of how unlucky and weird and complicated these things can be.

The fact that I've placed 3 times in the last year makes me pretty happy, considering I think it's taken me this long to really "find" the book. 38 out of the current 41 poems in my manuscript are published. Not to mention most of the ones I've cut are published also. Does that matter? No, it doesn't, as I've seen good books with 3 or 4 published poems out of every poem in the contents. But it boosts my confidence -- maybe even naively -- and makes me think the book is there. I know the book is there. After sending it out for a year, I've learned a lot, spent a decent amount of cash, and have a much better book than I did. Had I somehow how won the Crab Orchard contest a year ago and my book was going to be imminently published, I wonder if I'd have done as much work as I have NOT knowing it's going to ever be published.

But here's the rub: of course you never know. I still have Jason Bredle's words in my head: "Don't get stuck on the first manuscript or you'll never move on." Now I know what he means, especially since I haven't been writing as much new work as I want to. But the other thing I've been able to do in the last few months is finally look at it objectively. In one of David Wojahn's essays in STRANGE GOOD FORTUNE (an essay that all folks sending out their first manuscripts should read), he says something like, "Most first books are in two parts: one's about sex, and the other is about everything else." It's funny to see how that rings true indeed with many, but mine's thankfully not one of them. At least I hope not. Not only that, but like I said before, the book's here, this is the book, but I'm also not writing poems like this much anymore. I may be wrong in assessing myself as lucky for at least thinking that I've completed a book, but fuck it, I do consider myself lucky.

I can't find it right now, but Chase Twitchell of Ausable Press had this rant about MFA theses not being first books. Something akin to, and for most of us we stop listening at the needlessly pregnant baggage-inducing first part, "When I was at Iowa none of us ever tried to send out our first books..." etc. etc. One of my favorite books of the last five years, Brian Teare's THE ROOM WHERE I WAS BORN, was mainly, at least from what Wojahn told me, Teare's thesis, of which I believe David was the director. There are more than we think, and I think the words of Twitchell -- especially these days -- need to be thrown out the window. Yes, there a ton of theses that are bad for many reasons, some laid out in the beginning of this post. But I like to consider myself, if this sucker is ever published of course, one of those writers and former MFAers.

Good God this is long. So I'll stop here. I feel this whole thing's mainly for me. Maybe I'm wrong about it all or will be. Maybe I'm still too young and clueless. But a lot of this has been on my brain, and I needed to get it out. Like I said, it's been a year. I hope it doesn't take me five more for my first manuscript to hit the publishing world, but if it does, I'm game. But seriously, I hope it's not five years.

Thursday, June 19, 2008


More documentaries, apparently, always.

NEW YORK DOLL was pretty incredible, but I'm not sure if I'd want to watch it again. But I didn't know much about the New York Dolls, and it was interesting to kind of see a biopic in less than 1:30, though alas, there's a tragedy like there seemingly always is in every good documentary.

WESLEY WILLIS: THE DADDY OF ROCK 'N ROLL was a weird and gritty experience. Like I LIKE KILLING FLIES, the camera work was a bit jarring and lo-fi. I got over it pretty quickly. I didn't realize Wesley passed away in 2003, so that was news right before I saw this. There are some hilarious parts, like some recording sessions, and Wesley at Kinko's writing lyrics like "Suck a cheetah's dick with a bottle of Heinz ketchup." At one point, when they were playing some of his music in the background, Jess was out on the porch and said, "What the hell is that?" upon hearing, "Never kill an apeeee...!" It gives you the inherent Wesley Willis experience, and it's only about an hour long, so it's definitely worth seeing.

Blowing me away recently, though, was HOW TO DRAW A BUNNY. I didn't know anything about Ray Johnson before I saw it, and in a way I'm glad I didn't. The dude was undoubtedly a brilliant and committed artist, and the filmmakers do an amazing job splicing interviews with actual collages and artwork. Some is mind-blowingly bizarre and beautiful. I won't ruin the premise and the why's of the film, but I'm probably going to buy it soon. There's a commentary and some other stuff. But it was a project of love for the filmmakers, so it seems, and the life of Ray Johnson is inspiring, but in some ways hard to wrap your mind around, which is some of the point I think.


In the poetry department, I just got my contributor copies of Faultline. Not really to my surprise, I'm in another journal with friend and former VCU MFAer Jonathan Rice, who's been winning contest after contest for his poems. After reading much of the poetry, I'm kind of surprised they ended up taking my two poems. Most of the work seems highly experimental, and my poems are anything but.

But there's some interesting work in there, some nice-looking full color artwork (there's so much artwork in journals these days that I wouldn't mind hanging on my wall). On the cover and interspersed within the pages are cool little minimalist cartoons.

I'm pretty thrilled they took some work, as I always am with journals who are willing to spare the ink. It would've been nice to see Blake's piece, but he had a bit of an interesting and I suppose slightly annoying debacle with them. I think we're going to be in the next Lake Effect, though, so that's cool.


I also traded manuscripts with another friend and former VCU MFAer, Anna Journey. She's been a finalist in a few contests for her manuscript, and I wouldn't be surprised if any day now she's bringing the good news.

It was nice to see work we've both seen of each other's in workshop. I remember the first day we all turned in these awful poems, but they all were representative of our up and coming obsessions and thematics. Per a recent post, I think all of us (the 6 who came in together) wrote the poems we wanted to, and even if we weren't thrilled about the work all of us were writing, we were all supportive and tried to be helpful. Again, I'm very lucky, and I think we all were.

She pointed out some obvious things that previously I was stupidly tenacious about, but I think the kick in the ass spawned the drive into overhaul city. I completely rearranged my manuscript, put it back into three sections, cut some poems, and I think it's the best it's ever been. Here's to hopeful screeners and judges in the rest of 2008.


The new GIRL TALK record dropped today. Apparently Greg Gillis stole the name from one of the best Full House episodes. If you're in the know, you know. If not, then shame on you.

The record's dirty and full of hip hop and pop mash-up goodness. I think this is the record that's going to stop me from being a tight ass about, mostly, current pop music. After already a few listens (and I'll be the first to admit this kind of music isn't my first choice), I don't know why it took me so long to get into this shit. Plus there's a lot of melodic tracks from The Police, Tom Petty, Dexy's Midnight Runners, Carole King, The Beach Boys, Temple of the Dog, and about a minute through "Let me See You," some choice moments from perhaps my favorite song of all time, Fleetwood Mac's "Gypsy." All of it amidst older, current, and sometimes vulgar, culled hip hop lyrics.

It's going to be a great summer record. And it's fun as hell. I'm sorry it's taken me this long. I don't know if I'm apologizing to myself. I think I may be.


And fucking finally, Sean got two VIP tickets for THE NATIONAL on Sunday @ Richmond's Natioanal Theater. I live less than 3 miles from this place. In the words of Ari Gold: BOOM!

Last time I saw them was in Carrboro with Goss on October 21st, 2005. It's been a long time. I wish they'd play "Guest Room," but I'm not sure that's going to happen.

VIP, though? You serious, Clark?

Next destination: Psychesville.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Cinematic Jurassic

Red Envelope Entertainment sucks. Not really. Mainly because they have 4 Months, 3 Weeks, 2 Days out on DVD before, I think, retailers have it. I'm not sure what the deal is with that. It's a Netflix company. So you can only get those films through them? Regardless, the movie didn't work on my DVD player, which was my family's first DVD player ever. At least 10 years old. But it's RCA, and it's an asskicker, so I don't really want to get another one.

That said, I had to finish the movie, which got all fucked up 20 minutes through, in my office today. My tiny office in Hibbs, with blaring fluorescent lights and sickly yellow walls. It made the experience even more claustrophobic, especially after caffeine for being more awake during teaching, and having to eaten in 7 hours. I felt like I was kind of being choked or there was a pillow over my mouth as I watched it.

The ending's kind of between a cymbal crash and a bunch of violinists doing Steve Reich-like arpeggios that just swirl and slowly stutter until utter cacophony. I'm not sure how finite the particulars were: the sounds, the lights, the art direction and art design. On just an emotional, present level it'll hit you hard. Glad I finally got to see it.


There was also a 30-minute local PBS documentary on tonight about the one and only (VCU professor extraordinaire) Gary Sange. I remember my mom telling me, after the professors and Jeff Lodge called me to tell me that they wanted to me to come to VCU, that there was this guy reading poetry into our answering machine back home, since I was at Allegheny then. I listened to it, thinking, "Who the hell is this guy?"

I think that's often a response to Gary Sange. His students mostly love him or hate him, though it's not hate at all as that's entirely too strong, though more often than not it's the former. He has his students meditate before class with this old tuning fork, for about 10 minutes. Sometimes there's a prompt, sometimes not. He's an avid poet nut, more than most professors probably in the country, meaning his love for poetry on a pure level, academia aside.

I was pretty floored by the documentary. The music, the editing, the parts included. For 30 minutes a hell of a lot of time was put into it. Gary lives about 30 minutes away in an old farmhouse, or something like that. He has a few donkeys and runs a certain amount of miles every day. I think he just turned 70. He may live to be 150.

There were scenes with his students, in what I believe is the class that was right next to mine when I taught around 6 P.M. last semester. I didn't realize Gary was teaching then until late in the semester. It was nice to see a student of mine that I taught back in the spring of 2007, a student who missed a lot of class but I knew had some raw talent. I didn't necessarily expect her to go on, and it probably had nothing to do with me, but I was happy that she took more classes.

A private discussion among a few students in his class took place, and it was pretty honest and endearing, showing the kind of erratic nature of Gary and how the students react to him, those taking him for the first time or those taking him again and again.

All in all it was quite a beautiful 30 minutes. There was a lot to admire and the filmmakers did an excellent job. They ended with some footage from a night of Gary and his students, a night I unfortunately couldn't attend because Brett and Pav had come to visit and they got an earlier start than they'd originally anticipated. But I'm glad I got to watch it, and it was pretty inspiring and made me even happier to have had Gary and to have gone to VCU.


Right after the Sange documentary was a 30-minute documentary on the Byrd Theater. If there's one thing Jess and I share a love for in Richmond, though there are many, we'd undoubtedly pick the Byrd. For $1.99 a ticket you can see movies after their initial theater run. Right now it's Forgetting Sarah Marshall (which was a huge disappointment by the way -- needed to be about 40 minutes shorter, directed and acted better). But we've seen a lot of good movies there, and we go a lot.

Which brings me to Saturday nights, when Bob Gullege plays the Mighty Wurlitzer. People go apeshit for the Wurlitzer. Maybe we're too young to understand, but it can sometimes be a bit annoying, as if your grandfather with Alzheimer's is trying to reminisce about his childhood. But I now have a new appreciation for Bob and the organ.

The Byrd apparently was built in December of 1928. 80 years old in a few months, which is insane. It's pretty beat up, but you can imagine and see remnants of the former decadence that the theater once was all about. And apparently there are only a few organs that original and complicate, with pneumatic operating systems, air-controlled tambourines, in additional to a built-in xylophone and glockenspiel. The shit's complicated. And when Bob plays (I think he said he's the 13th in-house organist in the 80-year run) he comes out from the floor and rises above.

Saturday nights are packed. For the first time in months a few days ago, we went on a Friday and there was no one there. The movie started right away, without Bob, and it was oddly sad and weird. Maybe we'll be back to Saturday nights.

My laptop sucks so I'm not going to imbed the videos, but if you're interested you can see the 3 parts of the documentary on YouTube by typing in "cinemaphiles byrd theater."

It's one of the things I'm going to miss most when we move away...

Post-MFA Post

I know no one reads this blog yet, and maybe no one ever will, but I feel like it's my time to write some unfocused words about my MFA experience, mainly because of all the stuff I've read in blogs lately. Seth Abramson used to be one of the folks dealing with all the MFA data that was blowing my mind (meaning he did tons of work, and to that I can't applaud him enough). Is the decision really THAT big of a deal? A very loaded question I suppose:
  • Should I not go somewhere because of certain professors teaching there, just in case they eventually leave or die or get fired?
  • Since I am a minority, gay, or something that isn't whitebread male or female, will they hate my poetry or will I not be accepted there?
  • Does the difference between a 2 or 3-year program really matter all that much?
  • Would it benefit me to do a low-residency gig?
  • Will it really benefit me to get into someplace like Iowa or Houston versus a program that isn't talked about a lot?
These are some of the questions I've been seeing or have seen folks respond to. Some are hilarious. Some are necessary. Some are forced upon them by undergrad professors who want them to spread their brilliance, whereby the professor can then live through them vicariously.

I applied right out of college and the only school out of 10 I got into was VCU (and graduated in May '07). I was waitlisted at Maryland and Hollins, and both of them later said no. VCU wanted me to come there, the professors called me, all of that. I was flattered and surprised, mainly because the portfolio I sent was horrendous. They must've seen something in my work, because I was really surprised anyone wanted me.

One of the best advice former professor Christopher Bakken told me was, "Go far away." He actually told a bunch of hopeful MFAers this in our later undergrad years at a meeting. I applied to places like Montana and Arizona, and had they accepted me, there's no way I would've wanted to go. I was too ambitious and maybe shouldn't have been in the traveling respect.

VCU was perfect. Larry Levis taught there, which is one reason why I applied, and a reason why I think many still apply to VCU. I'll always love his work, even though there are plenty who think otherwise. After his death, though, his legacy seems to grow exponentially both here and elsewhere. It was also 7 hours away from western Pennsylvania, which seemed far, but not too terribly far.

I was 22 and was left to the world of Richmond. And great family support of course. I'm turning 27 in December, and I suppose I wanted to write about all this because I wouldn't trade it for anything. I know it sounds cliche, but I've heard about some pretty awful MFA experiences, and some of them surprisingly coming from folks I went to school with. Weird how it all works out.

One of the other things I see and hear of lately is, "I didn't write the poems I wanted to write." I guess I don't get that. Isn't that the point of workshop and all those new people and professors. Set of the cannon and see who gets blown away? Maybe my naievete helped me, since the first year or two I did horrendous work. I think a lot of us do. My the second-half of the second and most of the third, I was writing the poems I needed to write. I was, however, writing the poems I wanted to write for the first two years, but they were just plain bad. Again, I think that's usually the case. But if you're not going to have the balls to write the poems you need or want to write, then shouldn't you go cower somewhere else and not be in a workshop? I'm not sure what it comes down to, and there's no cut and dry or blanket statement to speak of probably, but I think there's a lot of regret from many who don't give it their all for whatever reason. Pride. Fright. Feeling uncomfortable. Out of Place.

I was also lucky to come in with five pretty brilliant people, all of whom I think will have books sooner than later. And we didn't go to a school known in the rankings to win awards or prompting MFAers to publish books while they were in school. Having David Wojahn for a professor, who's pretty much always on point, and Greg Donovan, who when he IS on point is fairly wise and inimitable, helped a lot. And maybe that's a big thing too. You come in with a certain amount of people and a certain type of people, and they influence you in good and bad ways. Some don't come in with a great bunch, but I certainly did, and for that I'm thankful.

My biggest problems lied with a few other professors outside of the creative writing department. One pretty much thought I was a racist, involving a story too inane to delve into, and actually showed this video on the LA Riots in our rhetoric class, basically because of me, for that highly nonsensical and way-fucking-blown-out-of-proportion "reason." I was pissed off, hurt, appalled, and saddened by the whole ordeal. She's now in the deserved lower-level of academia, and almost got fired over some other shit that she pulled. I haven't seen her since. Karma's a bitch for sure.

The other was a professor for whom I was a TA, or as he called us, "graders." I didn't put up with his bullshit, and by the end he knew it. Still, for some reason he was out to get me. In the world of academia, as many of us know, the smaller the reward the greater the fight. I'm not sure how trying to ruin my MFA years was going to help him feel better about himself, but he tried to say a bunch of things that weren't true and get some kind of... I don't know, penalty against me? Get me relieved of my TA duties and my ability to get my MFA at VCU? It was an awful experience, but I did learn a lot from that, and I know never to treat anyone like that too.

But all in all, I'd say you have to be balls to the wall. Your first year or two, especially in a 3-year program and if you're not someone who lived there previously, should be all about footing, both in living and your writing. Maybe that's a good reason to go ON to a three-year rather than a two, unless you're already a badass and need the degree, like Bob Hicok. I think he did that at least. I can't imagine getting out and thinking I wasted my time. And like Wojahn always said, "It's not what you hear in workshop now, it's what you're going to remember later," and the important stuff I imagine you do. We all do in some way or another, I think, even if the experience is awful for some in whatever ways they end up going through it.

IMac = Purchased

I did it. Finally. The one I described in the post below. Got $100 for the educational discount, which was cool. Added 180 gigs for a 500 gig hard drive, which should be fine over the course of hopefully the next 5 years or so. Plus with the 20-inch screen I can actually watch DVDs on it when the other TV is occupied by Jess. I feel like an old person getting call waiting.

I know I'm way behind on this shit, but alas.

Sunday, June 15, 2008


I'm sucking it up and getting an IMac. I've had a Dell laptop for the last 4 years. I've written most poems I've ever written on it. I've downloaded a lot of music. I don't think I'm transferring anything. It's not dead yet, but it's close.

Looking at the 20-inch screen and 2.66GHz Intel Core 2 Duo. Adding another 180 gigs for $45. I really want to have a hard drive that's going to last for years. 30 gigs doesn't cut it anymore. And with the probably shit ton of movies I'll be downloading from Karagarga (no I don't have any invites, sorry) and the shit ton of music I'll be downloading from various places, I'm going to need it. To actually be able to surf around without my computer turning off from getting too hot will be nice. Actually being able to tinker with my manuscript and reading others' manuscripts will be awesome. I seriously can't do that now. Small documents and single pages are fine. More than 10 pages, I have about two minutes to do all I can do before I have to close it out, which is mainly why I did all of my personal work in my office the last two semesters. One of the small advantages of being an adjunct I guess.

Soon I will say goodbye to my laptop, though it'll still be around, if it's not completely smashed out of frustration and last rites by then.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Notes Among

In the last month or so I got my contributor copies of Hayden's Ferry Review, Hunger Mountain, and Tusculum Review, and they all really impressed me a lot. I'm humbled and thrilled that the editors decided to take work, as I always am. There are a lot of journals that look great with not-the-best content, and shabby looking journals with amazing work. But sharp journals ALSO work reading -- and being included in that journal -- are the best. One thing I want to point out that I liked is Tusculum Review has a decent amount of poems where you have to turn the journal to landscape format: poems with very long lines that need the longer page. I really really love it because at this point there's no reason a journal should say, basically, "Make sure you don't send us long shit since we don't have much room." Get some more room, or turn it around. That's all that needs to take place, and I hope editors see this and realize it's a good way to do things. Now that I think about it, the recent Harpur Palate had a poem or two doing the same thing, and I've only seen this phenomenon recently. Writers with long lines or fragmentary poems shouldn't have to compromise their work and send it to certain journals. But hey, if they want to reject those writers for it, screw them, there are always enough places where you can send work.


More and more I'm thinking how Drew Carey hosting The Price Is Right is another weird sign of the oncoming apocalypse (not to mention all of the weather-induced unspeakable madness since Katrina, which seems to be indefatigable). When my brother was at KSU, and DC was just a KSU dropout, he came back for some event and hung out with them and a few beers after a party when they were all hungover. No one knew him then. He was a kind of weird looking, funny, fat guy. Now he's a famouse kind of weird-looking, funny, fat guy. But he just doesn't fit. I thought Bob Barker would host until he died.


The new Sigur Ros record is kind of boring. It's no TAKK in my opinion. The first two songs are great, but then it goes into coma-induced plodding, per usual. If you're going to start it anthematic, keep it that way. Otherwise people will be falling asleep at the wheel. Maybe that's just my relentless attitude.


I used to love Tony Hoagland's "Jet," and I think WHAT NARCISSISM TO ME is pretty good, though it's lost it's weight for me the last few years. Here are the first six lines:

Sometimes I wish I were still out
on the back porch, drinking jet fuel
with the boys, getting louder and louder
as empty cans drop out of our paws
like booster rockets falling back to Earth

and we soar up into the summer stars.

There are few easy-going summer activities I like doing more than having a few beers on the balcony with friends. Since most of my MFA friends are dropping off the earth or are going crazy or whatever the hell they're doing, I have to either do it alone, which is nice since I can read and work on essays and my own work, or usually Sean comes over. Inevitably, and cliched I suppose, we end up having a great time and talking about interesting shit. It's always a good time.

But I feel like if Tony Hoagland was there he'd always be judging. "Why did you invite me over here if you're going to not talk to me?" Or "That's not how you're supposed to be sipping a beer." Maybe he's a great guy in person, but man, have I heard stories... though I've heard frequently he's a brilliant guy. His poetry doesn't express that to me, but I do want to get his book of essays. Maybe I'll meet him one day and he won't be like Phil Levine, who really is an asshole and chastised me for giving him a discarded first edition hardback of WHAT WORK IS to be signed my first year of my MFA a few years ago. "This is a LIBRARY BOOK!" he said, like I just tried to punch him in the face or kick him in the balls. That made a huge impression on me, and since I've mostly been involved with very humbling poets, whether it's how they present themselves when reading, or talking to them after, or getting books signed. Not everyone's like Phil Levine, thank God.


Huge congratulations to Allison Titus (and no, the chapbook news is old, though good, and you should buy it if you haven't)! That's all I can say at this point... but I'm thrilled for her.


I think my pictures of Joe Bolton need to go back on my wall. I put them on a corner part of the wall by the light switch at my old apartment. One of my favorite poems I've written is an elegy for him, and I'm going to blanket the world until someone wants to publish it. If you don't know his work, it should blow your mind. And if it doesn't, you suck. He killed himself when he was 28, which saddens me every time I think about. He'd be the poet everyone's talking about now...

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Documentaries Are Blowing My Mind

First off, thanks to my brother Eric for sending me this link to the AV Club about 25 great documentaries. The #1 is AMERICAN MOVIE, as it should be. I was telling Blake the other day that the Super Bowl they watch in the kitchen was in January 1997, the infamous "Touchdown, first play!" that Borchardt yells before he starts slamming iced-down PBR from the freezer. "Coupla pitchers over at Jim Mitchell's..." But damn, it's been over 10 years, and I think closer to 15 when Chris Smith started that, and the good thing about documentaries, just like films I suppose, is that they can be timeless, though in a different way with the live and verisimilitudinous aspect.

CRUMB is another great one, and there some others I've seen and some I want to see, that I've been wanting to see, like THE CRUISE, but have yet to do so. A lot of them caught my attention, though, and since there's been a recent drought on Netflix of stuff I actually want to see, I queued up a bunch, two of the first ones being I LIKE KILLING FLIES and STONE READER (which I just bought on brand new for $6.74 with shipping since I liked it so much).

I LIKE KILLING FLIES was weird, I do have to say. I thought it would be of course, but I had no idea about Shopsin's and the whole ordeal. It's a movie that creeps up on you. It's slow at first, then you start to get an idea of this crazy world the Shopsin folks live in. And how many fucking dishes can one man really cook? 100s of them on the menu, from Entrees to breakfast to sandwiches. Everything. There's tons of swearing, hilarity, and shitty camera work. It's a Red Envelope Entertainment DVD, via Netflix, or at least that's what they're peddling. I've seen others, but some don't work on my DVD player that's over 10 years old but still kicking. And it played, but it's full-screen, and I don't know what kind of camera the director used, but at first it was jarring, and it's always in motion, so that takes a bit of time to get used to. Kenny Shopsin, though, is indeed a hilarious and streetwise individual. Some reviews talked about how you realize after it's done how smart some of the shit he says really is, and I think that's true. He's got an honest view on life, talking about someone living "until 68," as if that's a great thing to make it that long now, and nonchalantly at that. Or at the end where he says it's better to raise your kids as average or "not terrific," I think he says, so they can feel great about their accomplishments. He puts it more straightforward and better than I can, but the shit makes a lot of sense. And the things on freedom, how if someone wants pancakes with candied fruit on top, it's their decision, and I imagine with so many people coming, there's no reason to feel guilty. I think the most inspiring thing he says, though, is that it's best to lose yourself in some tireless activity... fuck I can't remember how it goes. I need to buy it too though. But it relates to poetry and writing even though he doesn't mean it to. And there's a kind of tragedy in the end and a lot of weird and tender and hilarious things that ensue. A documentary that certainly needs to be checked out by all.

STONE READER was equally inspiring to me, about the director's quest to find Dow Mossman, a writer who write one book to a few glowing reviews, on a shitty press, and then both he and the book disappeared. I admire the director a lot because I like to think that I have that kind of passion too, along with some others I suppose. What I mean is Dow Mossman's about 15 years older than he is. These are both grown men. But he's so enamored with the book that he goes on this quest to find him. I still, and will always, get giddy around meeting my heroes. At the Festival of the Book where I met David Gordon Green, at one point I said, "Hold on, I have to go meet C.K. Williams and get my books signed." Two of my heroes in the same beautiful afternoon. I mean for me it doesn't get much better than that. And that's what the movie's about. I swear I rewound it at least 50 times to hear parts I missed because I was daydreaming and reminiscing about college and high school (which, yes, for me, wasn't that many years ago, but still) and was enthralled with all these writers and editors talking about books, their lives and experiences. Plus the music was nice: acoustic guitar with background ambiance, almost like George Winston meets a slower James Blackshaw. And the director likes postcard shots. Birds and sunsets. Hills and rolling skies. It was complimentary, though, instead of distracting. There's this part near the middle where he's talking over all these shots at a carnival with his son, and some of the shots are oddly beautiful, and though seemingly displaced, the incongruity of it all ends up working in some ineffable way, and you feel like you're watching something pure and full of joy. I love pictures of carnivals, the lights, the ferris wheels, the old school fonts on the carts of food, all the games with colored balloons. It's something nostalgic that's still humbling and colorful, and again with a kind of purity and humanity we're losing everyday in our lives.

I stole a scene for an old poem, kind of, from another one of my favorite movies, THE DREAM CATCHER, and fuck me I just realized the director has a new movie out, from 2007, though of course it'll never be released. But there's this carnival scene that's only about a minute long, but it's gorgeous, the music is beautiful, and it just clicks and is one of my favorite scenes from any movie.

But back to STONE READER. Just see it. Maybe it's for aspiring writers, I don't know. But it makes me want to go back to the classics. Back to the hunger I had when I was in my earlier 20s and late teens, when I was loving the stuff I had to read in high school and continued to try and read all these complicated books on my own, that mostly I probably didn't get.

Utterly inspiring. The ending's great, and yet again, there's another small fucking tragedy. I wonder if there are any great documentaries without any tragedy, how small or large. Maybe it's inherent and necessary, as if the material's not good enough if there's not some lasting piece of sadness, even though that may end up being uplifting somehow.

I may continue to post about those I keep seeing. There are a bunch more documentaries on the way. Maybe they won't be as great as these two, but we'll see.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Strahan Retires

It finally happened, and I never thought it would. Well, not never, but I thought he'd be back. I guess his health and finally getting a ring -- not to mention having a good season his last year -- pushed him to it. Let's hope Kiwanuka can step it up, and Wynn if he starts. You'll be missed, Strahan.

The Heat

Is anyone else's electric bill going to be sky high this month? It's literally supposed to hit 101 degrees today in Richmond, when it's supposed to FEEL about 108 degrees.

I guess we all have to suck it up. And there are folks further in the south. But I don't remember it being this hot last summer until at least July, and we're not even an official 3rd of the way through June yet...

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Ian Curtis

I think I'm a better person for seeing CONTROL, but Good Lord...

I wonder how true it is, how the demons were there.

Beautifully photographed. But I never want to watch it again.

Wow. Yes, it blew me away.

I talked to Jess at a bar tonight. She's in Raleigh. We were joking about Carly Smithson pouring the perfect pint.

I like my life a lot more after seeing CONTROL.


I suppose it's hard to not be depressed when you're watching a movie about a guy who hanged himself.

But it's all good. CONTROL looks amazing. I don't think Ian Curtis is as iconic as some folks make him out to be. Some of the Joy Division stuff I can't listen to. Maybe I'm too young. I don't know.

I still have an hour to go. But goddamn. It's depressing.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Scorch Atlas

Blake Butler likes to think he's thinking that he likes to think people laugh a lot.

But SCORCH ATLAS, his beyond amazing first collection of stories, is one of the best things I've read in my 26 years of existence.

A new story is going to be in the new NINTH LETTER (it's awesome).

But perhaps my favorite is going to be in the new DIAGRAM, I think. It's so good I won't describe it. Just wait.

We said when our first books are out we're road tripping for readings. I think it's going to happen for him way before me.

You'll feel like you're on fire after you read it. He titled it.

Big Rig

I'm the first asshole on the road to get pissed off at trucks. I try to use my horn as little as possible, as I hope most do, but I bitch and swear and speed up and get pissed off. It's the trucks. They're supposed to be over on the right. There's a truck on the right they're behind, and they go into the left lane, and we, the little cars, are stuck behind then.

, a pretty badass documentary, has me thinking a bit. It's a bit of a kitchen sink movie, where I could imagine tons of different filmmakers and tons of different documentaries on the same thing, but I love the humanizing aspect.

We, the little cars (not the fucking SUVs, though my family owns many), get pissed. Is it just me? I'm not sure. Since I got two speeding tickets, I've been less pissed. I get pissed off about idiotic stuff, and thank God for Jess, because she's making that less and less as the days go on.

I speed up at yellow lights. I'll go between a car on the left lane and the slow car on the right if it gets really slow. I now have a V8 in my car, so I go faster, or used to. The cop who stopped me a few years ago before Thanksgiving was a badass, but was very nice. 85 in a goddam 55? Seriously, Clark? He put 63 on the ticket, so thanks a lot for that.

But I get pissed at trucks. And I think a lot of us do. They carry produce and meat and milk and all kinds of shit.

I liked the female drivers, carrying mace, talking about truck stops and safety and harm.

At any rate, I've calmed down since the two tickets, but all I do is bitch about the trucks. From Richmond to Greenville it's a 7 hour drive, and the PA turnpike is Captain Horrendous, and that's where the majority takes place. But I think I'll calm down more now. Relax, asshole. As Frank Deramo, my 9th grade (I think) history teacher (and student driver coach) used to say, "You're going to get there." Or something like that. Plus, gas is supposed to be consumed less at slower speeds. It may not be true, but I'm sorry, trucks, and I'm going to make an effort not to be as much of a douchebag as I used to be...


We all want you back, Jeremy Shockey. But if you're going to be a little whiny bitch, then take your shit elsewhere. I'm not sure Kevin Boss can adequately make up the territorial years of TE domination, but if it happens, we'll work with it.

Stop bitching or get the fuck out, bro.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

The Hold Steady

STAY POSITIVE leaked a few weeks ago, and I've had a few opportunities to take it in thus far. It's not as good as BOYS AND GIRLS IN AMERICA, but I didn't expect it to be.

Still, it's another anthematic record with townies, a lot of weed smoking, parties, passing out, and summer, and with that it'll be a record I'm sure I'll be listening to all summer.

There's more experimentation too, which works well sometimes and falls flat for me at other times. I think that's a harpsichord (or a glockenspiel? No, I don't think so...) in "One for the Cutters"? Either way, it's an interesting addition. The one-two punch of "Constructive Summer" and "Sequestered in Memphis" leads one to believe that the energy's going to be indefatigable, but alas, it's not.

I feel like every Hold Steady record from "Separation Sunday" should've been my high school experience, but I was too busy studying. I did find time to almost die from hypothermia coupled with chugging White Tavern vodka in the woods at a high school football game in October when I was almost 15, so maybe that counts, but it was a one time thing.

Still, there aren't enough new records coming out for me, in the current indie rock world (or rock world for that matter) that I can put on and enjoy from the first track until the end, and The Hold Steady have come through in that respect.

I feel like I may already be compiling my best-of 2008 list, but we'll see.

Poetry Collections I'm Looking Forward to

Paul Guest - "My Index of Slightly Horrifying Knowledge" (Ecco Books)
Joshua Poteat - "Illustrating the Machine that Makes the World: From J.G. Heck's 1851 Pictorial Archive of Nature and Science" (University of Georgia Press/Virginia Quarterly Review)
Alison Stine - "Ohio Violence" (UNT Press)
Craig Arnold - "Made Flesh" (Ausable Press)
Adam Chiles - "The Evening Land" (Cinnamon Press)
Paul Otremba - "The Currency" (Four Way Books)
Brian Brodeur - "Other Latitudes" (University of Akron Press)
Karyna McGlynn - "I Have to Go Back to 1994 and Kill a Girl" (Sarabande Books)
Seth Abramson - "The Suburban Ecstasies" (Ghost Road Press)
Richard Greenfield - "Tracer"

And I'm hopeful for imminent collections by these poets:

Richard Siken
Corey Marks
Brian Teare
Mark Wunderlich
Andrew Feld
Allison Titus
Bobby C. Rogers
David Groff
Adam Clay
Leigh Stein

Wednesday, June 4, 2008


The new Hammock record, "Maybe They Will Sing for Us Tomorrow," is reviewed on Pitchfork today, and they liked it, not that I really give a shit.

I will say that this, along with The Silent Years "The Globe," is another one of my favorites of the year. Call it bliss, call it drone, call it whatever the hell you want to call it. Like Stars of the Lid, they stretch guitar melodies over a huge canvas, the whole thing a beautiful experience. This record was a live performance that, if I'm not mistaken, was recreated for the actual recording and releasing of the record.

I love this band and have been listening to this record, again, since I downloaded it, and now I suppose I should buy it. Those of you for the more raucous side of drone may not like this, but if you're into Stars of the Lid and a lot of the Kranky stuff, this may be for you. Their record before this is also great, and it's more in a weirdly-updated Cocteau Twins vein, if that makes any sense.

Kate Greenstreet's First Book Interviews

I'm so glad someone eventually decided to do this, and I was actually fairly said when they were finished. For those of us (and there are many) shopping around our first books, and getting the close but no cigar advice, these are always inspiring. Would many first books have changed significantly if they weren't picked by a judge or from an open reading period? Sure. Are some (maybe most?) poets better when it takes their book longer than some to get taken so it can become a more fruitful collection? I would imagine.

One quote from Tony Tost I've had in my head for awhile: "I just wanted Invisible Bride to be an interesting first book, and to make the kinds of mistakes a first book always makes (which end up being their virtues): tons of sincerity and ambition and hopefulness and recklessness and incompetence. A fecund starting point." I like to think (hope?) someone could say the same for my first manuscript.

Some of them are a bit boring and / or derivative, as if people are afraid to really give truthful answers to the questions. But some are insightful, hilarious, sarcastic, pissed off. My favorites are listed below. Some of the writers I really like. Some I don't like at all. Some I discovered after these interviews (and some of their books I bought just because of them) and continue to like and follow.

4. Tony Tost
5. Brian Teare
13. Victoria Chang
42. Oliver de la Paz
52. Jake Adam York
57. Zachary Schomburg
59. Mary Biddinger
64. Adam Clay
75. G.C. Waldrep
76. Ashley Capps
81. Steve Fellner
83. Joshua Poteat
87. Joshua Kryah

THE ROAD (The Film)

I'm pretty sure the film version of THE ROAD has wrapped. Apparently last week the finished in Oregon, doing some scenes for the coast, which most likely are toward the end of the book.

I'm writing about it here because the majority of the movie was filmed in Western Pennsylvania, where I'm originally from. It's a bleary place, especially in the fall / winter. A lot of overcast, clouds, gray skies, etc. and seemed like a perfect place for a film with post apocalyptic tendencies. Maybe one of the reasons my first manuscript is filled

One of the places I never knew about initially (even though I essentially pass it when I come home from Richmond) is near Breezewood, an abandoned turnpike now turned into bike trails. You can read about it here. The bottom photo, covered with ash and gray and smoke, could easily be a good location, which is why they decided to use it I'm sure.

There were some places in Pittsburgh (I think a warehouse in Shadyside for the scene where the father and son find the kind of bomb shelter with all the food), some scenes with farmland and "road" shots in smaller towns like Nemacolin and Gans, Raccoon State Park in Pittsburgh, and apparently the "cellar" scene (where they used actual amputees and naturally (?) skinny people in make-up) was filmed outside of Pittsburgh (Zelienople maybe?) in some mansion.

Then they went to Lake Erie and filmed again what I assume to be some of the coastal and beach scenes for the near-end of the novel.

The film is slated for a wide release November 26th, which is pretty quick considering everything has to be done in a lot less than 6 months. Nick Cave and Warren Ellis are doing the score, so that should be great. And after seeing THE PROPOSITION last week, which I like but didn't go batshit crazy over like some folks, I have a lot of faith in John Hillcoat, though the environment will be the complete opposite of the aforementioned.

Thanks to the Pulitzer nod, Oprah raving over it, and people who don't usually read good novels starting to read THE ROAD, I hope the fact that it's being made so quickly doesn't hinder the quality of the movie. I hope Viggo can do justice to the father, though I don't have any doubts.

Read more about the movie here if you're interested.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Hell's Kitchen

Matt's finally gone. Christina and Jen need to go. There's no clear standout. Rock and Heather were clearly the winners the last two seasons. Ralph and Michael were the top two in the first season. This season, though? Damn. Tough choice.

Does a lion stretch before he runs down a gazelle? No.

I just watched VINCE VAUGHN'S WILD WEST COMEDY SHOW and it was pretty damn good. I've never been a huge fan of comedy, stage comedy, CDs. I never got into Patton Oswalt or David Cross, or any of the old school guys much. Maybe I don't have the patience to listen to a lot of it intently since I'd much rather be listening to music.

But the tour / documentary / movie experience was a pretty good one. I've only read poetry to an audience 3 times thus far in my life, which means I'm way beyond a rookie. I don't mind reading, but it's not something I'd want to do every single day probably. I'd get too sick of my work. And I've been at enough snoozers, whether it's fiction or poetry or non-fiction. Everyone talks shit on everyone else's work. People have undoubtedly said the same shit about my stuff.

Comedy seems to get a bad rap though much of the time. It's about entertainment, as performing poetry or fiction or anything thereof may be, of course, and there won't be a huge rant on that, but I enjoyed most of what happens behind the scenes. Going to meet the families of the four comics, mostly.

And be it some kind of rock band on the road or a bunch of writers, being stuck in some kind of vehicle for a long time and traveling through the country has to be a pretty amazing experience. I hope to be there at some point, though on a much lesser scale than a tour bus.

It has a low rating on IMDB now, and I'm not sure why. I learned more about the "business" aspect of it than I thought I would, and yes, I would've liked to see more of the actual comedy, but that makes you seek out more on the Internet. I usually don't laugh out loud at movies either, and I was laughing out loud at some points.

Plus Vince Vaughn seems like a very down to earth dude.

The Silent Years

I was going to wait until tomorrow to post this, but I can't. I haven't stopped listening to the new Silent Years record "The Globe" since I not-so-legally obtained it. I think it comes out in August. Check out their Myspace page to hear a few tunes.

Previously there's a self-titled full length record and an EP, both which I like a lot, but "The Globe" will undoubtedly be one of my favorite records of the year, if not permanently glued to the #1 spot. It reminds me of the power that The National's "Boxer" still has. In the world of indie rock there are bands like Tapes 'N Tapes and Clap Your Hands Say Yeah (I mean, seriously, those names are beyond bad) whose first records blew up, mostly because of Pitchfork.

I'm all for Pitchfork's Recommended and Best New Music lists giving bands some hype, but more often than not they're the wrong bands.

The Silent Years are, and have been, a cure for the stale ass indie rock that's been coming out for the last few years. All over "The Globe": great lyrics, Josh Epstein's amazing "Jeff Buckley's indie rocking rough-around-the-edges younger brother" voice, huge drums unafraid to push the cymbals loud into the mix, a lot of nice strings to compliment certain parts, and dynamics all over the place, whether it's proggy-polyrhyhmic-polytechnics, complimentary bubbling keyboards, or straightforward rock songs, they do it all. There's a darkness to the record, and there's light at the end of the tunnel. Everything about it's beautiful. It's a road trip record. I want to take a road trip just to listen to it. It'll be my staple for the summer.

The band and this record deserve to be at the top, to have tons of people coming to their shows. I really hope they get it, and I hope they come close to Richmond to tour. I'm afraid I'm going to play this so much I'll get sick of it, but I can't stop. Like my recent addiction to freeze pops. But I'm going to try. I've already had about 20 listens in the last week, and it keeps unfolding in amazing ways.

David Gordon Green

I've been wanting to post about David Gordon Green for a while now, but I never had a blog, so I couldn't in that sense. A few days ago Danny McBride came out with Will Ferrell on the MTV Movie Awards. A few awards later it was Seth Rogan and James Franco. Everything's involved with David Gordon Green. Like six degrees.

This will be messy, but alas. First off, after meeting DGG April 2006 and talking to him about all kinds of shit, I was pretty thrilled to hear about some of the movies he was discussing, to be mentioned later.

Let's first talk about Paul Schneider. I think he's turned into a pretty good actor, having pretty huge parts lately in THE ASSASSINATION OF JESSE JAMES... and LARS AND THE REAL GIRL. And he wrapped PRETTY BIRD recently, which he wrote and directed. His role in ALL THE REAL GIRLS (which I don't like as much anymore, but did see 8 times in two different theaters when I was in college) shot him up to that kind of mild stardom from the folks figuring he would obviously be good in other movies, and I think he's someone to watch. And his first role that anyone saw was as Rico Rice in GEORGE WASHINGTON, which, even though it owes debts to many amazing movies, is still one of my favorites and will continue to be.

Next is Tim Orr, his cinematographer. I make a point to see every Tim Orr movie. When my friends used to shoot around the rusted bridges and general physical malaise and nastiness in our hometown, a lot of was dedicated to the lens of Tim Orr. Along with DGG, we loved nature busting through the man made cracks and buildings, burned out houses, interminable train tracks. All of that. But Tim Orr continues to do some great projects, and because he's one of the best cinematographers working, I always watch a lensed film when it's released. One of the best has to be COME EARLY MORNING, which was on Lifetime recently, which kind of pisses me off. Like SLINGBLADE, the Arkansas landscape in all its rusted and heated glory comes through well, and the story's great. I've even seen LITTLE MANHATTAN. I'll see them all.

Those are the obvious heavy hitters, and I was hoping, at least for Tim Orr, that it would play out that way.

Now onto Danny McBride, or "Bust ass" in ALL THE REAL GIRLS. Friends with David Gordon Green, has some funny moments in ATRG (especially the hilarious shit in the deleted scenes), and has somehow blown up in the world of semi-not-so-decent comedies as of late. He has a role in THE HEARTBREAK KID, the new remake, which is a horrendous movie. Though he wears ridiculous shorts and says some funny shit. I couldn't get through HOT ROD because, again, it was horrendous, but he has a role in that. Jess and I saw DRILLBIT TAYLOR recently, which I thought was actually pretty hilarious. He has another smaller role in that, and though not a horrendous movie, he gets some good lines. At any rate, somehow he's becoming this comedic juggernaut in the vein of Will Ferrell and that comedic troupe, the Funny or Die kind of mode. That brings me to...

: Somehow Will Ferrell and Adam McKay got a hold of it, loved it, got to release it, and now it's in theaters via Paramount Vantage. I haven't seen it yet of course, and will have to wait for the DVD I imagine, but there were some NCSA students hanging out with us in April 2006, and at that point they had just screened the film, and I guess even 2 years ago there were rumors about Warner Brothers, or some other big studio buying it. Maybe that fell through, but now it's probably going to be some kind of cult hit. It looks pretty hilarious, so I hope it delivers. But now Danny McBride, who used to be a guy who worked on student films with DGG and then scored the "Bust ass" role because, I think, someone dropped out, is working his way to the top, and I applaud him. Coming out with Will Ferrell and getting grandfathered in that kind of role can't be a bad thing.

That brings me to Ben Best, who was one of the writers working with Jody Hill on THE FOOT FIST WAY. He worked with DGG during UNDERTOW, and on the documentary on the disc you can see a few scenes with him and Barlow Jacobs.

Barlow Jacobs to LOW AND BEHOLD: a movie I'm pretty thrilled to see (also starring Eddie Rouse, a DGG alum, and one of the stars of GEORGE WASHINGTON). Co-written by Barlow Jacobs, and he's also one of the stars. Read more about it on IMDB, and check out the trailer.

Then to SHOTGUN STORIES (which I hope is still going to be released on DVD in July). Jeff Nichols directed. He had a small acting part in COME EARLY MORNING. He also is taking over the directorial duties of GOAT from DGG. Barlow Jacobs, again, is one of the actors in SHOTGUN STORIES. The movie's done well with the critics. It's again filmed in Arkansas. And again, it looks like it's going to be great. David Gordon Green is also a producer.

Now let's move onto GREAT WORLD OF SOUND, a movie written and directed by Craig Zobel, who worked on UNDERTOW, ALL THE REAL GIRLS, and GEORGE WASHINGTON (and also has a small part as the groom in UNDERTOW during the weird marriage scene that Chris and Tim witness). I was hoping for more from the movie (of which DGG is also a producer), but it was solid and different, and I love Pat Healy [An interesting side note: DGG didn't believe me that Pat Healy was on the former gameshow Russian Roulette, hosted by Mark L. Walberg, current host of the egregious The Moment of Truth, so he called him and left a message and asked him. Pat won the $10,000 prize; he wasn't only a contestant. Of course Pat called about an hour later when we were at The Federal in Durham and confirmed, and I think DGG was wondering why I knew all that insane shit, but then during the course of the day I think he realized I was kind of insane]. It's worth checking out. Plus Robert Longstreet's in it, and if you haven't seen DING-A-LING-LESS, which will be saved probably for another post, you should. GWOS brings up a lot of interesting points about the record industry, with a lot of funny moments, and this shitty sentence doesn't do it justice, so just see.

I forgot to mention that David Wingo does the music for GREAT WORLD OF SOUND. He collaborated with Michael Linnen on the scores for ALL THE REAL GIRLS and GEORGE WASHINGTON, along with Jeff from Lusine for SNOW ANGELS. David Wingo will make an appearance later.

That brings me to THE GUATEMALAN HANDSHAKE, another DGG-produced movie that I had been looking forward to for a while, especially since he said that and GWOS were some of the best movies he's seen in a while. I guess to produce them you'd have to think that, which is admirable. But the movie falls flat, unfortunately. I really really wanted to like it, but it seemed like a forced amalgam of GEORGE WASHINGTON and NAPOLEON DYNAMITE. It seemed like every other shot was an homage, a recognizable homage, from the "nerdy white dude wanting to date the black girl" (ala NAPOLEON DYNAMITE and GEORGE WASHINGTON) to the guy who disappears (or Buddy dying in GEORGE WASHINGTON), to the weird dialogue, to the rusted bridges and farmland and long stretches of road. Actually, one of the best things about it was the cinematography. But it was trying too hard to be like other films. Ending with fireworks and a derby. But David Wingo also did the music for this, and the music was good. Will Oldham also stars, though he doesn't have a lot of speaking parts since he disappears early and is later shown in flashbacks.

I suppose I should also mention SECURITY, COLORADO, a movie penned and directed by Andrew Gillis, who I also got to meet back in April of 2006. Some of the favorite tunes from the GEORGE WASHINGTON score are by Andrew Gillis. Lots of melodic piano and acoustic guitar. There's an early scene with George walking his dog down the street, and there's this beautiful shot of an armchair just sitting in an alley, and that's an Andy Gillis tune. And probably the most beautiful is the slow-motion cigarette smoke of George's father father when he visits him in prison, and Andy's music is playing. I wish he made more, because it's amazing stuff. SECURITY, COLORADO, however, which also stars Paul Schneider, had a lot to live up to for me, especially with all the talent behind it. It's also a Dogme 95 film, which I thought was bizarre. But the lead chick gets naked about halfway through, which is more than worth a viewing if you see it on Sundance.

I guess all of this is inspiring because I don't think David Gordon Green ever thought he would lead all these folks (and of course not all of them owe such a huge debt to him as this post potentially presupposes) to their careers, and some of them I hope will be long and ballsy and weird and fruitful and ultimately prosperous.

He's also been a huge inspiration to me. Usually when I write I'm always imagining being behind a camera. Though I may get out of the narrative mode eventually, and am trying to, I'll always be seeing everything clearly, even though the reader may never. And it started with his enthusiasm, of which I wish I had more. I wanted to go to film school before I got into literature, first wanting to write fiction, and then flipping out over "Out of the Cradle Endlessly Rocking." It's not a singular opinion to say Whitman brought you to poetry, but he did.

THE PINEAPPLE EXPRESS, directed by David Gordon Green (no, people, the guy(s) who directed KNOCKED UP and SUPERBAD did not direct THE PINEAPPLE EXPRESS) opens in a few months in August, and I have no doubts, along with everyone else, that it will be a hit. I hope he'll turn into the new Soderbergh, in some respects, by doing huge movies and making enough cash to make all the passion projects. And yes, Danny McBride's in it, and Tim Orr did the cinematography.

What happened to NERD CAMP? Is the SUSPIRIA remake happening? The sci-fi movie starring Paul Rudd? The derby movie? The Jon Heder-affiliated "Amblin Entertainment 80s movies-esque" film about the robots? Tons of good things are hopefully on the horizon. I can't wait to see what happens.

I wish I could've done some family tree for this, but this is what I got people.