Thursday, October 30, 2008

The Road

I've been listening to THE ROAD now for the last few weeks, on my IPod after I put it on there, maybe a month, and I'm still not done with it. I've read it before, and you should too if you haven't.

I was hoping sometime late November I could go to a theater and watch it. But now it's been pushed back until early 2009.

People have seen the early screenings. You can read reviews. I wish I was one of them.

I'm pretty sure the movie is going to be amazing.

It was filmed mostly in western Pennsylvania. I'm from western Pennsylvania.

The landscape is beautifully chaotic and insane. When I go back to Greenville, my hometown, there are things I'm so ineffably in love with it clearly cannot be defined by words.

But there are other times the ugly and disgusting side comes out. And all I want to do is burn it to the ground.

Love does that to you.

The side where a girl commits suicide in high school and because the town is so small you know about it. Or there's a fist fight at the guard rail near the edge of the high school and there are so many punches thrown to the head and violently landed that it makes you sick, and when the guy who gets the shit kicked out of him is throwing up, you're throwing up too.

I always got sick at those fights. That's why I can't watch boxing maybe. I can't take it. And I'm always obsessed with it.

But listening to THE ROAD, I've had a chance to take so much in, beyond the novel readings.

Every single line and word. I said it in a previous post, but this is why Blake Butler's SCORCH ATLAS will be important to me (by the way, I won't stop talking about Blake's book -- and if you're reading this, you need to get it when it comes out); it refuses to give up on the words, on the situation, on the fact that in one second a bullet can slug through your cranium.

But it's odd that I know it's ending. I know how it will end. Everything with the beach.

I am looking forward to every scene and every word. I truly think this may happen to our world.

I don't know how someone can read it and not think that. I just always wonder about the father character. Everyone says, "This book is about a father and a son. And about a father who takes care of his son."

You can place your words there, however you choose.

And I understand them.

But the reality of it is there's a desolate landscape. And there's a good chance that neither one of them make it. And around them is ash and gray and trees falling and cannibals and people who will slit your throat at the drop of a hat. Whatever the hell that means.

When this movie is actually out at the theater, a theater around here, I'll be there.

And this might be a thing might be a thing might be a thing of the past.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

R.I.P. Terrin Durfey

I saw this blurb on Pitchfork today and was kind of taken aback and of course very saddened to hear the news.

was one of those bands that really gave me a sense of purpose when I was in my early high school years. Terrin's voice is incredible, they were doing "emotional" music before all of the egregious and pitiful bands considering themselves "emo" these days, and there was just something about the trio that clicked for me on every piece of music they wrote. They weren't afraid to get loud. But they seemed equally unapologetic about writing music that was beautiful amidst all the heavier stuff.

I didn't know Terrin was sick, but apparently he's been battling cancer for 10 years, something I can't even imagine.

A foundation has been set up to help out the family on Myspace.

It's amazing how you can be so affected by people who've you never met, and in some cases will unfortunately never get to meet.

I'll be blasting all of my Boilermaker records in his honor and memory.

First Book Interview #4 - Brian Barker

It's up, people. Just one this week. But many more on the way.

First Book Interview #4 - Brian Barker

I'm shooting for two more to be posted in two weeks.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Scorch Atlas

I'm thankful to finally be writing this post, thankful to be telling folks who may not know about Blake Butler's SCORCH ATLAS, which is finally coming to book form via Featherproof Books in fall 2009.

I'm not sure what I read of Blake's initially that made me so interested in his work, but I was. It seemed like we were interested in the same kind of things, if not obsessing about them. So earlier in the year, I decided to contact him about trading manuscripts, mine poetry, and his a novel in short stories. He agreed pretty quickly, and it was nice to get another pair of eyes on my work just as I was excited to see his.

I remember that time I had more than a few hours between my first and my second and third classes I was teaching that semester, so I decided to dive in.

I read for a few straight hours, cover to cover, the entire .doc file of SCORCH ATLAS, and was blown away.

There are folks who say, "I couldn't stop reading!" when they talk about books, and the reason I'm so skeptical of that phrase is from my experiences: Rarely does that happen for me and to me, and so when it does, it's much more of an ordeal. It's not that I'm terribly picky, as I admire many writers, many books, by old authors and by new authors, but SCORCH ATLAS literally had me trying to blink moisture into my eyes from having to keep them open from the computer screen and the horrid fluorescent lights in my office. But I couldn't stop reading it, and didn't until the end.

We traded comments and emails back and forth, and I like to think we both helped out each other a lot with our manuscripts. Mine, though still a manuscript, is better for Blake's advice and what he saw in it, and I like to think that even though I'm not even close to thinking of myself as any kind of an editor, I was able to give him some good advice.

The stories are, for the most part, voluminously and unapologetically throat-slashing, yet there's such a poetic beauty to the language that balances out such material (I liken this kind of comparison to some of the horrific violence of Suspiria centered around the candy-colored lensing, striking some oddly corporeal balance of opposite goings-on), making many of the bleak and apocalyptic landscapes seem like there's a chance that things could get turned around, something which you never actually see coming to fruition, but with the possibilities always indefatigably looming.

The characters seem destitute in the more narrative stories with initial reads, yet there's an underlying, deeply underlying, tenderness that comes through with more reads, things that seem to subconsciously fuse together as the novel takes on new meaning as a whole with the culmination of every story until the end.

And this is a book where every sentence matters.

Yet the words don't seem interminably chiseled or forced, but necessary, necessary for communication within such landscapes, within such oddly intriguing familial relationships that sometimes both eschew and embrace the idea that something may be worth saving in the end, and if all hope seems lost, the attempts at trying never cease to obtain it.

My words are not doing justice to Blake's words, the characters' words, I know this.

But this is a book I will be proud to own, proud to be reading, proud that such risks were being taken, real risks, without giving up the literary quality and merit of such work.

In another's hands, these stories could be a mess: full of bleakness, full of the forced apocalyptic and bizarre, to get a rise out of the reader, or strictly to shock. But there's so much more in these stories, more to be discovered upon subsequent readings, and more to be discovered by the many readers it will have.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Best Records of the Year So Far

What are yours?

On mine tentatively and quite maybe positively (not in order):

- The Silent Years
- Hammock
- Girl Talk
- The American Dollar
- Helios
- Near the Parenthesis
- TV on the Radio
- The Week That Was
- The Broken West
- Ra Ra Riot

Plaxico Burress

Though I think Steve might have some anger issues, I didn't mean for anything to come to fruition in that post except for the fact that the list poem is mostly an easy excuse out of putting yourself, the human writer, behind the poem. Few writers have done that successfully in the past with the list poem. Few continue to do it now. And I'm sure anyone can throw stock things into a list, call it a poem, and get it published. You've seen many in journals if you read them. But thankfully it'll never be me.

Two recent writers I can mention are Jason Bredle and Blake Butler, who actually seem human behind their work when they're dealing with the "list poem," or a poem involving lists, or Blake's lists of 50 that he needs to get on the ball with and finish. Slice it any way you'd like.

That example by H.L. Hix really bugged me particularly because it's a bunch of stock headline tragedies, and because there are a few lines like "So many names fit" and "Every breath / matters." Seriously? Destination: Cymbal Crash City. Plus I have some pride in the fact that my first manuscript is attempting, in many poems, to actually explore tragedy, many specific and revealed, and not be comprised of stock phrases. Maybe I don't succeed and maybe people don't like them, and that's fine.

But any poem that my name would be on that could've been generated by a computer (ForGodot anyone? And I mean real poems written like that -- not the fake ForGodot poems, though many of them probably could've been real, which is an entirely different story) I never want to be a part of. If you're going to write, write with some balls, some honesty, some blood flow, and show me that a human is behind the words. Even if it's a hilarious poem, because not all honesty has to be built out of tragedy of course.


On an entirely different note, Entourage is finally kicking ass again. Since the beginning of the season, there's been a lot of disparate story lines, a lot of them kind of uncharacteristic for where the show seemed like it was going. I won't reveal any spoilers, but I can't wait for the rest of the season.


And in a few days another First Book Interview will be up. Received some from other poets in the last few days, and now I'm working on getting a bunch out to other poets in the next week.



Monday, October 20, 2008

Almost Halloween

Thanks to Carolyn Kellogg for the shout out in the Jacket Copy blog from the LA Times about the first book interviews.

As I said from the beginning, I'm hoping there's enough interest in this for the word to spread as more people find out about it, both at Kate's site and my continuation of it, without me having to spam people or make a Facebook group and bombard people that way for others to go to it.

Not only that, but I found out about Kate's interviews when she had already conducted around forty or so. You can image how thrilled I was when I had all that reading material to go back to in the archives.


Took the GRE Lit Subject Test finally last Saturday. I always find the process and the dynamic so interesting and weird with these tests. We were in a room I've probably taught in before in the new VCU Business Building, and there were maybe 20-25 of us. Most were taking tests like Biology or Physics, and only a few were taking the Lit Subject Test. I wondered how everyone's future would go, how far some of them drove for a test, what everyone's reasons were for taking it, whatever the subject was.

There were a decent amount of questions I knew. Per the ETS policy, I shall not speak of such specifics regarding those questions here, but many of the everyone-talks-about-this-writer-or-this-poem-being-on-the-test folks were indeed on the test in some fashion. Either way, now I can focus on applications and the rest of the application process. High five for no more standardized tests. Borat style.


The new Helios record, Caesura, and the new Near the Parenthesis record, L'Eixample, may just end up being at the top of my year-end best-of list.

Beautiful stuff all around, and perfect for the fall. Both of these guys have such a knack for writing gorgeous music, and though sometimes (in the best possible way) a band like Hammock can be sleep-inducing, there's usually more bass and background keyboards and computerized drums and drum machines and percussion sounds like that to make it listenable in so many environments. Reading, writing, road trip. But I think these records coming out in the fall months are melding into some ineffably perfect soundtrack for me.

They'll be getting a ton of plays as the months go on, and you should do your favor and check them out.


There are a few manuscript contests coming up that call for about ten more pages than I have for the minimum to be considered. It's weird to beef it up for contests now that I trimmed so much off. Like putting deleted scenes back into a movie once you've already cut what you deem as the final print.

But I'm trying to figure out what I can put back in, since I really haven't written or published much new stuff that would fit with the first manuscript. Many poems have come and gone, as they do with the manuscript process, so I don't feel like the poems necessarily don't belong again, but it's just an odd feeling: putting poems back in when you haven't seen them for so long. Maybe some of them will make a case for a permanent stay. I'm not sure yet.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Show Me the Money in... an MFA Program?

Ah, as always, Seth Abramson does it again. And I mean in a good way. He's tireless. He's vigilant. He loves writing about MFA programs. And I hope people appreciate what he does, especially those applicants that know exactly what I'm talking about.

The new piece in Poets & Writers is a great read, especially for those thinking of applying to places.

I don't really know where I'm going with this post, but I think at least that I do have a decent amount to say about it. Or beyond it? Or aside from it? Especially since I graduated from VCU with my MFA a little over a year ago. An MFA program of the many, I know. But may I comment from the pride I have about the program that it was great to finally see VCU's name in any article, with an added bonus in the positive light:

"Some of these programs (Arkansas, Florida State, Houston, Iowa, UNLV, and Wichita State) are known for their full or near-full funding for all students and also for offering a large number of pre- and/or postgraduation fellowships. Of these, two (Florida State and Iowa) offer assistantships with competitive stipends but only partial tuition remission included. Several of the programs in this grouping are known for offering a moderate number of assistantships with high annual stipends (Washington University: $16,500; Miami: $15,500; Virginia Commonwealth: $15,000; and Illinois: $14,000), while others offer a large number of assistantships with lower annual stipends (Georgia College & State: $7,600; Southern Illinois: $8,800; McNeese State: $9,000; and Montana: $9,000). University of Notre Dame offers full tuition waivers for all admitted students, but does not guarantee them stipend-eligible assistantships, and therefore cannot yet officially be added to the ranks of the fully funded programs."

One thing VCU was very good about, yes: the nice stipend.

That said, what came with it was a lot of teaching experience, at least for me. And now that I look back -- though of course it was a bit different in real time -- it becomes more valuable each day.

In my three years at VCU I was: in the Writing Center, an assistant (or as one professor, who shall remain nameless, called me: "a grader." I talked about it briefly in the past, and though the situation was awful for the entire semester, I learned a lot from it in the end) in two different large lecture classes (two different semesters), taught more than a few English 101 courses (a 2:2 load one semester, and yes folks, I survived and had plenty of time to write: teaching two courses a semester for a year ain't gonna kill you), a few English 200 courses, a 291 Creative Writing course (poetry and short fiction), and had two different internships co-teaching Creative Writing courses with two different professors (I was lucky to have these, and they were not part of the stipend: one was luck, and one I was asked to do and gratefully and gracefully accepted).

I couldn't have asked for much more experience during my three years.

And I wonder why so much emphasis is on, "Give me the money, but I don't want to any work or teach anything of any kind."

I know it's not that cut and dry, and I understand health insurance is a big deal. But just like not sending any poems out -- or even learning about how to do it -- by the end of your MFA is not going to help you get a job teaching creative writing (and you'd be surprised how many people think they're going to go on to amazing future teaching and publishing, within a few years, without having a single poem published, or knowing anything about the point of such a thing, etc.), why wouldn't you want to have all of that teaching experience?

I suppose that's my main gripe with what seems like a lot of folks are concerned about when entering a program.

But really, over three years, is $12,000 versus $15,000 really going to make a difference, when you're entering a field that's sometimes competitive to the point of lunacy, one that doesn't guarantee anything, especially some kind of job with a competitive salary?

And what about the creative environment? So much informs the creative environment.

Who's teaching there? Have you talked to past graduates? What's the area like? Is there stuff to do on the weekends? How big are the workshops? Are there areas where many MFAs live that are close to campus? Would you be living in a big city? Do you want that?

And what about you? Why do you really want to get an MFA? Do you want to end up teaching? High school? College level? Creative writing?

Paths change. Agendas change. But with all the questions revolving around health insurance, guaranteed and competitive stipends, and accurate dollar amounts regarding those stipends, what about the bigger picture? Aren't we there to try and further our artistic endeavors? Get better as writers? Meet new people?

What about competition? Is it cutthroat? Are people sending out poems like crazy? Do students already have books out? Is there pressure to publish? Are you not looking for that kind of pressure? Do you (masochistically?) want that kind of pressure?

So many questions to answer. And once you're there, signed up, registered, with an apartment, or a house, there's really no going back, unless you opt out and go to another one or cancel the whole experience altogether.

I feel like Seth could probably write an article that has dealt with all these questions, but I think more applicants need to -- and I hope they're doing so -- consider all of this: not to the point of nausea or over-thinking, but consider it at the least, amidst all the other financial questions abound.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Another Reason Why People Probably Don't Apply for Grad School

Though I am applying for my Ph.D, I'd rather leave off all the schools I'm applying to for now. That really doesn't need to be public for reasons as such.

I just called a school that I'm planning on applying to. It took me three tries to get to the English Department. Then it took me another try to get to the Graduate Coordinator, who really wasn't the Graduate Coordinator and told me that the Graduate Coordinator had left already for the day (at 3:00 P.M.). The conversation was a bit disenchanting, very odd, and kind of confusingly combative:

"Hi, I'm looking for some specific information about the Ph.D Program in Creative Writing that I couldn't find on the website."


"First off, Do you require the GRE Lit Subject Test?"

"Yes, we do."

"OK, I didn't see that on the website, but it's good to know. Secondly, I have scores that are on the cusp of being invalid as far as the GRE General Test [The scores are invalid after 5 years, for folks who don't know], and I want to make sure they're valid before they're used for the application process. Some schools have told me they're fine as long as I get ETS to send them the scores ASAP. Some schools told me that if I'm accepted, I'll have to take them again before classes start for accreditation. I just want to know what the policy is on that at your school since there seems to be different responses from what I've received so far."

"Well, what did you get on your GREs?"

"You're asking me my score?"

[Keep in mind that it's none of their business until they receive the application. My writing score was perfect. My verbal and math scores were not very good. I, like others, am for the most part unwaveringly terrible at taking standardized tests.]


"Well, I got a perfect on the writing. I know that. And to me it seems like that would matter more, since verbal and math scores really shouldn't either impair one's ability or increase positively one's ability to write poetry and take classes at the graduate level."

"We do consider them as we're looking at the applications."

"I understand that, which is why I want to make sure your school will take them, and if not, I need to know whether I'm going to have to take them again for your school and / or maybe a few others."

"Well, do you have a master's degree? Because you can't even apply for a spot in the doctoral program without a master's degree."

[Again, confusion here overtakes my ability to probably answer the question in a nicer way.]

"Uh, Yes. I have an MFA in poetry from Virginia Commonwealth University. Otherwise I know I wouldn't be able to apply and obviously wouldn't even consider it. And I'm sorry to bother you with all these specifics, but I really want to get my ducks in a row since it's already halfway through October and I have a lot more work to do with all of these applications."

"Yes, I understand that."

"And I emailed ------------------ to ask them about the program on two different occasions during the last week, and they didn't get back to me, which is why I decided to call about these specifics."

"Well, they're not the Graduate Coordinator anymore."

"That makes sense then I suppose, though an updated website would've helped me out a bit more in that case."

"I'll have them get back to you tomorrow if you can leave your email address and phone number."


Seriously. Seriously? I feel like I'm pulling teeth. Just for some seemingly innocuous specific information. I've gone through it for my MFA, all the applications, singular specifics, all of that, so it's expected.

But talking to an almost combative assistant that almost got mad at me for asking questions that I need to know? Just needless and frustrating. Hopefully I'll get a call back in a day or two; otherwise it's right back to trying to get simple answers to seemingly simple questions. And maybe at the rate I'm going trying to figure out more schools to apply to. Looks like my list of eight may have to be cut down, shuffled around, and back to eight in a few weeks as I look at others to apply to, since answers are a lot harder to get than I thought they would be.


Not only that, but another school has literally no information on their website (and after emailing hearing back from a former student, hasn't for some time now). The emails I sent to the Graduate Coordinator (also two in the last week) were returned to sender (me) via email -- address doesn't exist, undeliverable, etc. And apparently they have no phone.

So unless I drive to the state and go to the building where the English Department is, how am I going to get this information?

I just don't understand how -- with where we are as far as technology goes -- websites can't be updated, emails can't be updated, information can't be updated. It drives me nuts.

The day all the applications are completed and in the mail, I'm going to be celebrating. Just from mailing the applications.

Another Post About Submissions and Journals

When I was looking through my poems I was working on the other day, I thought to myself, "I think these are good enough to gather into a batch to get out into the world." Clearly I could be wrong, and I could get all rejections back, and if that happens, I'm fine with it. I would be anyway, but it makes it easier to be fine with it when so many journals now are utilizing the online submissions manager.

Print journals. Magazines. Online Journals. Everyone.

It makes it so much easier on the folks submitting. Of the aforementioned batch, every submission was to a place -- some print, some online -- that either accepted email submissions or uses the online submissions manager. I didn't have to go to the post office. I didn't have to spend any money.

Think about it. If you send a batch of poems out to ten journals that accept simultaneous submissions -- as I do, and have yet to really hit places that don't accept simultaneous submissions because I don't trust their response time (meaning it's a lot easier to accept a form rejection when you know it's at more than just one place) and want to follow their rules -- it can add up.

SASE stamp costs: $4.20
Business-sized or 8 1/2 x 11 mailer (benefit of the doubt at $.75 cents to mail): $7.50

Basically it's going to be at least $10, or around $1 per submission with the SASE, which isn't a lot, but over time it can add up, not to mention all the ink and paper costs, which, again, add up.

Journals are making it easy on us. Easy to know when the rejection comes, since I think it probably hits the in box right when they reject it. Easy to upload. Everything about it's easy.

There are some things that need to be tweaked, yes, like being able to withdraw one poem in house, rather than the whole submission, which has happened to me before. You can always email each place and let them know if something's taken, but again, it would be easier for them so upon looking at the submission again you could see what's available and what's not. And Fence actually has you upload one poem at a time, which doesn't take too much extra time and does make it easier to click any poems that have been accepted elsewhere.

Gary had a post about this (about halfway down), and I think literally, if you had a batch of five poems, it was November 1st (a good bet that almost all the journals are taking submissions, but not a guarantee), and you wanted to send to 50 places -- online and print -- that accept email submissions or use the online submissions manager, you could. I'm not making a list, as you should start to make your own if you submit yourself (though Gary has a good one started), but it's just so nice to know these things. And it seems every month a journal that I really like and really want to get into starts up the submissions manager or now accepts emailed submissions.

Clearly I get very excited about the little things. But that's cool with me.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

New First Book Interviews - Paul Guest and Christopher Bakken

New First Book Interviews have been posted: Paul Guest (Has anyone heard from Paul lately?) and Christopher Bakken.

Links are also on the side of this blog and the First Book Interviews blog if you're new to these or want to return to others. The blogger time stamp is all messed up, so don't trust the dates. I guess if you save drafts and post them later they can have the previous dates. Or something. I'm not sure. But I posted them today, the 14th, and for one it says it was posted the 13th, and the other says it was posted on September 30th. Oh well.

I decided to add two because Paul's is rather short, and Christopher's has some time sensitive material. Shows how much I stuck to my initial plan of one every two weeks.

I also want to apologize to all the folks that are still waiting for questions. I hate excuses. So I'm not going to give any. Luckily the first books I have are in a stack sitting here right in front of me on my desk, and the questions are being formatted as we speak. Soon, folks, soon. And I say that not having heard "Where are my questions?" from anyone, since I haven't, but I just feel bad about the delay.

Now that we're getting to the end of October, things are slowing down a bit, and soon enough folks will have questions in their email in boxes.

Friday, October 10, 2008

The Mixtape I Want My Manuscript to Sound Like

  • This Will Destroy You - "Freedom Blade"
  • Explosions in the Sky - "Your Hand in Mine"
  • The Twilight Singers - "Sublime"
  • The American Dollar - "Somnambulance"
  • Eluvium - "New Animals from the Air"
  • Hammock - "Gold Star Mothers"
  • Helios - "Halving the Compass"
  • Johann Johannson - "Fordlandia"
  • Howard Hello - "Giving Up"
  • Steve Reich - All of Music for 18 Musicians
  • M83 - "Teen Angst"
  • Matthew Robert Cooper - "Miniature 3"
  • The National - "Guest Room"
  • The Pilot Ships - "Pilot Suicide Theory"
  • Aerial - "My God, It's Full of Stars"
  • Caspian - "Asa"
  • Labradford - "I"
  • Port-Royal - "Spetsnaz/Paul Leni"
  • Sigur Ros - "Samskeyti"
  • The Six Parts Seven - "Where Are the Timpani Heartbeats?"

Night Diamond

I was thrilled yesterday to receive an email that Passages North wants a poem from the batch I sent out about a month ago. I love Passages North and have sent poems to them from the first batch I ever sent out until now.

Also got an email from another journal that said they lost some poems I sent about a year ago, but it's fine since all of them have since been picked up. The poetry editor said he liked the work, though, and invited me to submit again via email, which I appreciate. And of course I said, "If you don't like any of them, that's fine too." To have that opportunity to send work as an attachment instead of packing up the enveloped for the post office is something I'm grateful for. Not to mention I've sent work to this journal a lot too in the past with no luck. So we'll see.


This is kind of a random thought, but has anyone seen those commercials for the Yoplait Save Lids to Save Lives campaign? It's a great idea for a great cause, and Jess and I have been saving our lids and putting them in a plastic bag attached to the fridge. But here's what I don't get: all of the postage that's wasted by sending the lids could've been used to save more lives. Meaning I would imagine that putting some electronic code on the yogurt contained would've been a better idea. I'd be all about a 15-digit code with numbers and letters -- typing numbers and letters into a website ain't that hard. But to send the lids we have to spend money, which is fine, but it seems like all of the money for postage could've been used more for the cause of the campaign. Maybe I'm crazy. And I should probably be spending time thinking about other things, but alas.


Some of the schools I'm applying to for Ph.D don't even require the GRE General Test. I was kind of taken aback. Some schools want the GRE General Test and the Lit Subject Test. Some just require the General. Some just want a sample of work. I'm excited now to get everything going now that I pretty much have all the information gathered, and the eight schools I'm applying to are locked in place and won't change. Once the applications are actually out into the world, though, is when I'll be legitimately excited, and probably pretty nervous.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Wednesday City

I got my contributor copies of The Pinch (which used to be River City) yesterday, and I must say I'm very impressed. I've been lucky with my contributor copies as of late, as I've liked much of the work within the pages. And of course that isn't always the case with journals.

And another plus is that physically the journal's like a toned-down sexy Ninth Letter. Meaning it has that same smell, quality paper, beautiful artwork spaced throughout, and a variety of styles as far as the work goes. I had a subscription to River City as it turned into The Pinch and I always wanted to be within the pages.

So there you have it.

Also included within the pages: Michael Czyzniejewski, Farrah Field, Troy Jollimore, Allison Joseph, Paul Lisicky, Tim Lockridge, Ricardo Pau-Llosa, D.A. Powell, D. Antwan Stewart, Patricia Waters, and many more. There's also a great interview with C.K. Williams, whose work has always been a huge influence and vastly important in my poetic life.

I also have to mention that D. Antwan Stewart's poem, "Leitmotif," blew me out of the water. I found his email and emailed him about it right away I liked it so much. It's the small things like that which can break me out of any poetic rut I'm in. It's a vulnerable poem, one that's beautiful, honest, and heartbreaking. The sad thing is: I don't see much work like that anymore among the pages of journals, and that in itself saddens me. I read enough journals, so it's not that I'm limiting myself, but that's the poetry that really can mess with my emotional conscience in an oh-so-good way, and if the work isn't doing that, then I wonder why I'm reading it in the first place.


Speaking of beautiful, the new Jóhann Jóhannson record, Fordlandia, is just that. In the world of all the classical composers, I think there are the folks my age who are listening more to Jóhann Jóhannson, Nico Muhly, Steve Reich, Hauschka, Philip Glass. The classical composers are classical composers for a reason, and their works will be heard until the world is no longer. But it's time for the young folks to change things and start spreading the word about the music from our generation. Or music that are generation is listening to in the realm of the classical.

At any rate, I think Jóhann Jóhannson is immensely talented and will be around for a very long time. He only has a few records out, but they're all gorgeous and worth your time.


I have to mention Leslie Harrison again, because she has another good post that deserves at least a glance, especially for those of us who are still trying to get our first books published.

And this is what a lot of folks don't talk about during interviews or manuscript conversation: the small mechanics and design on the page. I feel like a few of the first books recently I've read aren't necessarily copy-edited poorly, but there were some things I would've changed. Maybe I wouldn't mind eventually working for a published in that sense. I don't know. But even in the post, I never thought about the serial comma, or even knew that it had a name. I'm a stickler for including the comma before the last "and," as that's always how I've written. Maybe I like forced caesuras. I think I do.

But even before this post, that's something that I was looking for in my manuscript: consistency. Colon, or Dickinson dash? Semi-colon, or new sentence? Bold titles or capital letters? How should poetic sequences look on the page? And this maybe takes it above and beyond, but in some manuscripts I've seen the letter f, because of the prongs on the top, make it look there are two spaces between a word, and that's something I can always spot. I think eventually if an editor is sharp enough and cares enough they'll add their two cents on both consistency, possibly the proper form, and would read and look the best.

It's still nuts, though interesting and always a concern of mine. All this work for the few people who will care about the book. Why do we torture ourselves this way?


I haven't been sleeping well lately, and I'm not sure why, especially since the weather is so nice for sleeping now. I have the GRE Lit Subject Test in a week and change, so maybe that's it, even though it probably doesn't matter what I score on it, especially since there are a few schools that aren't requiring it in their application process. The thing is ridiculous. Everyone who's taken it or is planning on taking it knows that.

Maybe the fact that Jess and I will be moving in a year to who-knows-where. If a school wants me. I'm not sure what's going on, but I need to get it under control. I can't use lack of sleep for creative means like some people.


In a completely other world, Big Blue is 4-0, though I'm not sure I like the touting of them being the best team in the NFL. I do, however, think they're a legitimate contender, and we're looking pretty fantastic so far. It's what I said from the very beginning: our core is ridiculously strong. If guys get hurt, we have back-ups. Look at the Yankees and the Cowboys. Just because your team's essentially an all-star team as far as players, it really doesn't mean anything by the end. The core's gotta be strong.

My brother's going to Cleveland on Monday night to watch the game with a friend, who's a Cleveland fan, and as he said, "Since I'm in the Dawg Pound I probably can't wear any of my Giants stuff," to which I replied, "I don't think it's a big deal, but you just don't want to get drunk and start saying stuff to the wrong people."

There was some old guy who got stabbed a few years ago because of shit that was talked between Steelers and Browns fans. Though that rivalry's one of the most insane in football, I still think Steelers and Browns fans can get a bit crazy. My hometown is an hour and a half between the two cities, so I unfortunately grew up around a wealth of them on both sides.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Life Through Bombardment

Music is something I cannot live without. I honestly think I could do without poetry if I absolutely had to, but I'm not sure about music. Is that a bad thing to say? Or an odd thing to say? That said, I can't create music. I can create poetry. And though I can still get on a drum kit and play whatever within reason, I can never do what Steve Reich has done with minimalist percussion, or any of the other greats, whether you're talking about marimbas, piano, staccato voice, anything.

When I saw this on the Temporary Residence site I nearly shouted out loud. Eluvium is one of my favorite bands, projects, musicians -- however you'd like to categorize such a definition -- of all time. I saw him (Matthew Robert Cooper) open a few years ago for Mono at the now no longer Nanci Raygun in Richmond, and the show was inspiring to say the least.

Eluvium had a keyboard and a guitar: that was it. Lots of huge guitar washes and drones by the end after slow-building crescendoes abound, and a lot of the more subtle piano pieces he did on "An Accidental Memory in the Case of Death." And Mono was just insane. I think they did the beginning of "A Thousand Paper Cranes" too, which will now always make me think of Michael Angarano's speech near the end of Snow Angels. Unfortunately, Yahoo had my pictures. They didn't transfer over. So they're now lost. But at least I was there I suppose.

Here's the specs for "Life Through Bombardment," which I preordered as my only Christmas present for myself as soon as it went up two days ago:

Highly anticipated and long-overdue,
"Life Through Bombardment" collects virtually every Eluvium song ever released (plus a bunch of rare and unreleased non-album tracks) into one stunning 7xLP set, all on vinyl for the first and only time. Each record is packaged in its own full-color jacket, featuring exquisite new artwork from Jeannie Lynn Paske, drawn exclusively for this set. The seven jackets are then bound into a beautiful dark green hardbound, linen-cover book, with metallic gold foil stamping and embossed text on the spine, and a beautiful full-color print embossed into the front cover. The inside front cover includes a removable old-fashioned library card, complete with personalized signatures from the artists and designers involved in the creation of this package. The final name on the library card will belong to the purchaser, hand-written and dated when purchased. The inside back cover includes a mind-blowing 12x36" foldout double-sided full-color poster insert, featuring more artwork from Ms. Paske. In addition, each copy of this set will include a unique digital code to download high-quality mp3s of the entire box set collection. This is limited to a one-time pressing of 1,000 copies, pressed onto 100% virgin black vinyl.

1. The Unfinished
2. Under The Water It Glowed
3. There Wasn't Anything

1. Zerthis Was A Shivering Human Image
2. I Am So Much More Me That You Are Perfectly You

1. An Accidental Memory
2. Genius And The Thieves
3. Perfect Neglect In A Field Of Statues
4. Nepenthe

1. In A Sense
2. The Well-Meaning Professor
3. An Accidental Memory In The Case Of Death

1. New Animals From The Air
2. Show Us Our Homes
3. Area 41

1. Everything To Come
2. Calm Of The Cast-Light Cloud

1. Taken
2. We Say Goodbye To Ourselves

1. One
2. Swallows In The Bath

1. I Will Not Forget That I Have Forgotten
2. As I Drift Off
3. All The Sails
4. When I Live By The Garden And The Sea

1. Untitled (For Piano)
2. Untitled (For Orchestra)
3. Untitled (For Rhodes And Tape)
4. Carousel

1. Amreik
2. Indoor Swimming At The Space Station
3. Seeing You Off The Edges

1. Prelude For Time Feelers
2. Requiem On Frankfort Ave.
3. Radio Ballet
4. (Intermission)

1. After Nature
2. Reciting The Airships
3. Ostinato

1. Hymn #1
2. Repose In Blue

Needless to say, I'm very thrilled to be getting this when it finally ships. Both Eluvium and Jeremy DeVine of Temporary Residence deserve much applause for such a fine creation.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Thank You USPS

I just got a rejection in the mail from a journal who will remain nameless. Again, fine with me, their name goes on the list for the next batch that I have ready.

But what annoys me is that I was lucky to get the rejection at all. I say this because when I started sending out a few years ago, I failed to put something on the cover letter saying something like, "Please recycle any unused portion of the manuscript -- just notification is fine." AKA: Shred the pages and send me just the rejection slip if you don't like them.

This aforementioned journal, however, in their quickness to return a response (which I do appreciate greatly), forgot to read that at the bottom, or didn't care. Written on the fat SASE, since they clearly included the 5 pages of poems included in my original submission, was "Postage due .17" and I'm not sure I would've delivered that to my mailbox has I been the postal worker / delivery person. Who paid for that seventeen cents?

And the thing is, had they trashed it, I probably would've queried in three months, to an email back that said, "We sent a rejection two months back." Journals expect us as writers and submitters to take the time and follow their format and submission guidelines, but they can't read the necessary information we write to insure we at least get our rejection back. Not cool.

I don't know. The whole thing just annoys me. And a word to the wise -- even though it may not help, clearly -- if you're not writing something like that on your cover letter, you should. That's the reason why I did it: multiple envelopes returned with "owed postage," though the USPS was nice enough to deliver it, when they didn't have to in the first place.

Spread the Word

Though I can't necessarily confirm the validity of his statements, Ryan Call was nice enough to do a quick spot on HTMLGiant about the relaunch of the first book interviews. HTMLGiant is a new site that's been off to a Carl Lewis-like start in its ability to post more posts before you can read a post. An amalgam with panache of all kinds of small press related news and tidbits and information. By the time anyone reads this and maybe goes over there, the aforementioned post may be way down at the bottom already. Which is great. New, updated information is a necessary thing these days. Especially regarding small presses and such.

And Beth Staples over at the Hayden's Ferry Review Blog was kind enough to label the first book interviews relaunch as the website of the week. Thanks, Beth.

I think I've said it before, but the only information I'll be giving anyone from now on, unless they get a hold of me through email, will be on this blog.

I don't want to do a Facebook group (considering I'm sure I'm not the only one who's bombarded by invitations to ludicrous groups, however you'd like to define "ludicrous") or an email list or anything like that. The interviews are about the poets -- not me. Hopefully with word of mouth more people will visit. So if you dig, spread the word.