Tuesday, September 30, 2008

First Book Interview #1 - Matthew Guenette

You've waited for it. You've been dying for it. The unveiling. The continuation.

New poets talking about their first books.

And finally, after a month or so of coordinating and planning and figuring out a schedule, it has started.

The first poet is Matthew Guenette. His book is fantastic. You should get it. I'll most likely be saying this deserved statement about every interviewed poet.

Every two weeks a new interview will be posted.

New interviews in the upcoming weeks and months will include these poets and more: Paul Guest, Jason Bredle, Mark Wunderlich, Sandra Beasley, James Allen Hall, Jennifer Chang, Alison Pelegrin, Brian Barker, Jericho Brown, Dan Albergotti, and more.

Please enjoy and spread the word if you do.

And if you're interested in participating, my information is at the right.

"Things are dying and breaking apart," he said.

Mary has another interesting post regarding the nature of publication and professionalism and a lot more. I still feel like I'm so new at this whole thing that I don't know what the deal is. It's like some shape shifting cloud, always different every second. I do think, however, that the "Let me add this one to the batch to make five poems, even though it's not my strongest of the five...and a few months later someone took that fifth poem" phenomenon is hilarious, as it's happened to me, and many people I know, on more than one occasion. There are some good comments though too, as always also.


Thanks to Patty Paine of Diode for nomination my poem, "Elegy Ending with the Voice of Edward Van Dyk," for the 2008 Best of the Net Awards.

This is a poem I still like a lot, and it's nice to know that for the third year in a row this will be taking place. Also, with Best American Poetry and the Pushcart Prize having few (is that even fair to say?) to completely absent pieces from online journals, a venue specifically for that is a great thing, especially with some former print journals turning to the online format, which I imagine will become something more and more as time goes on.


There are some changes in the world of journals and some lax attentiveness on the part of some too.

When did Goodfoot officially die? I think it's been a while since, but I'm not sure.

Backwards City Review seems to be done also. But will it be a web presence again? Who knows? Again, I think it's been a long time coming.

Pebble Lake Review is going to be fully online soon enough. So glad Amanda's keeping it going. She was one of the first folks to support my work, and she did amazing things (and will continue doing amazing things) with such a small operation and as a naturally great editor. I'm glad to see it'll still have the same spirit and aesthetic, though with a different spin.

I think New Hampshire Review can safely take down its site if nothing's going to happen with it. Or at least post the official notice that it's done though it will keep the already-published poems there and present. It's been way too long. That same notice has been there forever. I'm sure they still get submissions to a possible dead email address from people who can't read or choose not to read or read carefully enough. Plus, I may be wrong, because Jason Bredle's first book is not currently in my possession, but my weird brain, that should be remembering more important things, seems to recall that he had a poem in the acknowledgments attributed to the aforementioned journal. Not sure if that will ever be seeing the light of day, but who needs that publication when it's in book form now?

Speaking of which, I hope Jason didn't take down his site, which isn't working currently, for all the comments over the last month or so, some of which were started by a previous post of mine, which I didn't intend to lead to such things. But either way, you will see more of his words soon via a first book interview, most likely within the next month.

Sonora Review has a blog. We'll see if they keep it updated, but I like seeing more journals with blogs.


One a side-related journal note, what's up with some of the out-of-date journal websites?

There are many, but one I notice that's still the same, and his been for a while, is Florida Review, which states their newest issue is fall 2006. Clearly that's not right, especially since I have a poem in the fall 2007 issue, which is great and an issue I do go back to and read sometimes.

At the very least, have a template that's the same, but update the issue's current information, current writers and pieces, and anything dealing with a contest.

I guess some of the more well-known journals figure folks in the know will continue to be in the know, meaning they'll know [Insert Journal] is still operating as it has for a while, but it's still nice to go and see updated information, which is something that has prompted me to send places I probably wouldn't have ordinarily. By seeing the names, what they were looking for, being able to click on a few pieces, etc., I sent some work, and some of them worked out. Without that information, maybe I wouldn't have. Get with the program, folks. It's an easy thing to do. Some are on top of it all the time, but many are slacking, and it seems like the slack could be rectified with a few clicks of the mouse and a few clacked keyboard keys.

Or get up-to-date and get a swanky new blog-esque site like Copper Nickel. They really have their shit together, and I love the new look.


I'm listening to Labradford's "Mi Media Naranja," which I'm pretty sure is over ten years old now. I got into Labradford in my late teens, when I started discovering the beautiful world of Kranky Records. Oddly enough, I had to move to Richmond to discover that the band was not only from here, but recorded their records a few blocks down the road from our current apartment.

"Mi Media Naranja" is subtle and beautiful and nearingly-apocalyptic in some understated way. And it seemed to be the first record to hint at what Pan American would hint at later, though this record's almost perfect for me.

Not only that, but the beautiful piano-laden last track, "P," seemed to be getting louder, and I didn't remember rain on the track. Alas, it's raining outside -- not inside my headphones -- as the crickets are chirping and I'm about to try and get to sleep.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Graduate School Attempt Two

I feel like all this stuff about applying for my Ph.D's been annoyingly swimming around in my head, so it's time to lay some of these thoughts to rest. I think first I need to give a note of thanks for how many willing current and former Ph.D candidates have helped me out by answering all of my questions, some of them going to greater lengths than needed to talk to me via telephonic apparatus and through long emails. And I hope to repay the favor to others someday.

The last year has been a weird one, one of transition, one of not unhappiness but not one filled with the vigor I had for everything poetry when I was getting my MFA. Yes, times weren't always like that, but I was not one of the seemingly many discouraged folks who went through a kind of paralysis of language for whatever reason. But enough about that. I've talked about it before.

I gave myself one year post MFA, and thankfully VCU let me stick around and had room for me to teach some adjunct spots, for which I am now grateful after hearing about horror stories regarding folks driving to community colleges and other universities for one or two classes, just to make ends meet. The year was, of course, "If I still want to get my Ph.D after that year, then I'm applying, and if I don't, I'll try to look at other options."

Well, that time has come, since it's almost October, and I've spent the past month dwindling down my list to about eight programs. I like academia. I've always liked academia. But that word has evil connotations. I, like most, had my fair share of bullshit to deal with during my MFA. One of the main things being three undeserved grades of a B, lowering my Wait-Everyone-I-Know-Graduates-From-Their-MFA-Program-With-A-4.0-So-What-The-Christ GPA to something lower than I wanted. I'm over that, though, and dealt with it accordingly, by moving on and writing, and knowing that it was good enough and high enough for folks to glance at it before glancing at the things that are really going to matter with the applications.

But I want to live somewhere new, even though I love Richmond. I'm ready for more workshops. Do I need them? Maybe. Maybe not. But I'm not vehemently against them like some post-MFA, who clearly couldn't take criticism then, and certainly aren't looking forward to criticism again for at least four more years. I say criticize all you want: for me it can only help my writing. I'm ready to take courses I never thought I would take. To read books I never would've read otherwise. To meet new graduate students. To meet new professors. To learn new customs. Visit new places. Drink beer at different bars. And everything else that comes along with it.

Those are my reasons. Plus, I still have the fire to want to do all that. I haven't become old and stuck in some job I hate and jaded about the whole thing. And I hope to never be. I might eventually, yes, and the chances of getting a job in four or five years related to what I want to do is equally slim. I'm aware of that. But I'm ready for the challenge. If I'm not challenged, I'm usually unhappy, and though the last year hasn't been an unhappy one, now I know what was missing. That's if someone wants me at their school, and hopefully they do.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008


When I saw a still from Ballast as one of the Sundance movies a year or two ago, I thought it was striking. When I found out more about it, I was even more excited.

The trailer was finally put up a few days ago, and immediately after seeing it, just the trailer, my thought was, "I really can't see how this won't be making an appearance on my favorite 100 movies list once the next one is constructed."

Immediately many directors came to mind: The Dardenne Brothers, David Gordon Green, Terrence Malick, Charles Burnett, Ed Radtke, and Lynne Ramsay. If that's not worthy of jaw-dropping awe, then I don't know what is.

The movie opens in New York October 1st, so if you live there, see it. And if you see it, you should let me know about it.

Can't wait until I do.


In a post titled "The Good, the bad, the numbers," Leslie Harrison talks about some interesting manuscript-related things, most which seem important, at least to me.

Here's one of the excerpts:

Number of contests this manuscript got sent to: 6.
Number of years I worked on this ms before sending it anywhere: 8.
Number of poems from this ms published in journals prior to its winning: Umm, maybe 8.

The second and third lines of that are very good to know, mainly the fact that she worked on it for eight years before it was sent out. I thought about my own, and I realized that technically it's been worked on for about two years, mainly because even the published poems -- almost every single one I think -- I wrote my first two years of my MFA either weren't good enough, or they didn't fit, or were never a part of the manuscript from the beginning.

That said, and as I've said before, I think it's ready to go now. Every unsigned "Dear Poet, this manuscript blows. Enclosed are the ashes left from the fire in the bucket we used to burn it." I'm kidding of course, and the great thing about rejections are they push you to make a better manuscript, or better poems. That's what every one did for mine. Without them, and without having sent it out to all those contests, I wouldn't have been as furious when it came to changing things.

I also feel like I could spend another X amount of years on it, and it wouldn't change much at all. Another good sign I hope that it's legitimately ready. It's a book now. It wasn't when it was getting the few placing nods it got about a year ago, and still, the fact that it was placing also made me work harder. And even though I'm sending it out, it may take another five years. I really hope it doesn't, but be that as it may, I'm still trying to work on new stuff and get away from a lot of the types of poems that comprise GHOST LIGHTS.

But I think it's important for folks like myself to look at the time Leslie spent on her manuscript. In the world of tons of new journals and MFA programs now, don't tell me that there aren't those racing to get a career and put a book out. Then again, it's probably been like that for a while. Yet there are also folks that are making sure there book is as solid as it can be before they send it out. Giving. It. Time. I did things differently, and we all do, but I always like hearing things like that -- and find them kind of fascinating, because I'm more of a nerd probably than I'd like to admit -- in blog posts from poets.


Since there's going to be a July wedding in 2009 for Jess and myself, we're trying to get as much clutter out of already fairly clutter-free apartment, even though Jess would probably complain that it's all my stuff comprising the clutter. Moving's going to be a bitch anyway, but trying to do some things now will save a lot of hassle.

One of the most contributing factors is the amount of paper journals and magazines I have.

When I first got to Richmond I decided that if I was going to try to publish poems, I should buy some subscriptions to journals. This was a great idea, and a very helpful and instructional one. However, after a few years, they added up, since most of them are thicker and wider than actual books. Not to mention the small stack I have going of issues I'm appearing in. I'm not Bob Hicok, so I don't have many to speak of, but hopefully the list keeps growing as the years go on.

My question is: What's the proper way to get rid of them? I don't want to throw them out, but there are too many to keep and have around, especially since I won't be returning to almost all of them. I think they could help folks who are curious about publishing, since the reason I did get all the subscriptions was to not only read them, but to see what they looked like, how they felt in my hand, what kind of covers they had, and of course what they were publishing to see if I had a chance to get in there with my own work.

Like I said: I don't want to throw them away, but I want to make sure they're going to go somewhere people will have access to them, either by reading them or taking them for free. I'm done with them, and even though they're a few years old, they're still good for reference at the very least I'd imagine, and in many cases the journals have the same editors and aesthetic.

Let me know if you know what would be a good idea, or if you have experience with this. I don't need money for them and don't expect it, but "donating" doesn't always translate into something that makes people happy. Meaning: I want them to be used, for whatever reason, by people. Not get taken as a donation and thrown in the back alley for the garbage truck to collect, when I could've done that myself.


It was Finland's second school massacre in less than a year and the two attacks had eerie similarities. Both gunmen posted violent clips on YouTube prior to the massacres, both were fascinated by the 1999 Columbine school shootings in Colorado, both attacked their own schools and both died after shooting themselves in the head.

I still can't believe things happen like this. I almost can't comprehend it. Like everything occurred in a language I will never understand.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

News to Me: Antietam Review No Longer

As I got the mail today I noticed that I had a submission returned. My first thought was, "Huh?" I try to make sure I'm as up to date with everything as much as possible before I send out: checking websites last minute to make sure guidelines haven't changed, double-checking email and snail mail addresses, if they need to know if it's a simultaneous submission, etc. Far from O.C.D., but I pride myself on trying to at the very least not waste their time or mine (unless, of course, they hate the poems I send, and I'm sure that's happened on more than one occasion).

That said, the submission was to the Antietam Review, and the submission was sent with a batch almost a year ago: October 1st, 2007. They wanted three poems max (like New South, which is still a bit odd to me, but that's what they ask for), so I sent them three poems. Since then they've all been picked up, but I went to the website again anyway and saw this:

The Antietam Review, the popular literary journal published by the Washington County Arts Council, was suspended in 2006. The organization's management made the decision to halt publication based on escalating costs and staffing factors. Plans to re-introduce the magazine as an electronic publication are under discussion.

Unfortunately, old web pages exist forever, and if you have responded to an old online request for submission or application guidelines, these submissions are being returned. We regret any inconvenience this may have caused.

If it was suspended in 2006, why was their website not updated right near 2008? I'm pretty sure I didn't miss that; otherwise I wouldn't have sent work. At any rate, I pulled my 41 cent SASE, added a 2 cent stamp, and shredded the rest.

I suppose all-in-all, for the 3 years or so that I've been sending out poems, it's nice to know that out of all of them, only one original submission came back to me. And the fact that the USPS had it floating around for a year before returning it to sender makes me have a little more faith in them too.

The Road Script Bits

I don't know how it's possible but everything, and I mean everything, from the book is in this script. No attempt whatsoever has been made to gloss over some of the book's more difficult subject matter and nowhere has Penhall tried to explain away the unexplainable. He truly gets this book and he gets why it was so effective. For example, we're still not told why the world is a charred smoldering pile of ashen snow, though there is a small hint at the beginning. The ambiguity is terrifying and Penhall is willing to let us draw our own conclusions about character motivations.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Makeout City

Thanks to Andrew and the folks at Makeout Creek for taking two poems. One of them is an elegy for Joe Bolton, my second to last puzzle piece in the manuscript that I was hoping would be published. And the other's a new nocturne that's slowly becoming part of a weird trend or series or manuscript. Who knows.

I believe I'll be in the second issue, and the first one turned out really nice, so I'm excited to see what they do what this one. Once they open up the next submission period you should send work.

I've been meaning to include Bolton's "Party" in some post for a while, so what better time for it?

It reminds me so much of Richmond the closer you get to VCU's campus, and for that reason it's been a favorite of mine since I got here, and Bolton has been one of the most influential writers in my life since I got here also.

Every other line, starting with the second in each stanza, should be indented, but for some reason Blogger's not letting me do that. Just wanted to clarify.


by Joe Bolton

Tonight, because they're not in jail, our downstairs neighbors
Are having a party. Deep Purple
Seeps up through the floor, and if there were chandeliers,
They’d tremble like flowers in water.
In the white noise between songs, I can hear Ricardo Planas,
Our fellow resident from El Salvador,
Cursing beautifully in Spanish. The guys downstairs,
So far as we can tell, do nothing

Except get themselves arrested every week or so. I think
They’re dangerous, and you think
They just need to get laid. And, by god, they’re trying.
They hoot and whistle, trying to seduce
Coeds off the street, but the coeds aren’t going for it,
No matter how resourcefully their backsides
Are described. It’s dusk, and it’s soggy hot in here,
So I decide to give up the literary life

For a gin and tonic and a view from the window.
Over the building across the street
That used to be a grocery store that used to be
A TV repair shop that used to be
A pet cemetery and which a young couple and their huge dog
Have been trying to make into a home
For the past month, the sky is vaguely Turneresque
Through a new green fleece of the willows.

The intensity of almost-summer is pulsing through the city
Like heroin through the addict’s veins,
The dog is sleeping to forget the weight of his chain,
And the couple are enjoying their Cablevision.
Or maybe they’re not. The woman stands in the doorway
Contemplating the party downstairs, then,
Without explanation or goodbye to the man, comes striding
Across the street to join it.

She is sadly pretty in her earth shoes and cut-offs
And shirt that says she’s a Pepper,
Her hair looking blown as if by some imaginary breeze.
She can’t be more than seventeen,
And the man, who can’t be much more than that,
Stands open-mouthed at the doorway.
“Victoria!” he screams, loud enough for me
To hear it over the music.

“Where in the hell do you think you’re going?”
No answer I can make out.
“What in the hell are you doing to me, Victoria?”
She’s disappeared below the window.
“Goddamnit, Victoria! We’re not talking about a relationship,
We’re talking about marriage!”
I’m embarrassed for him, and a little uneasy, and you
Want to know what’s going on.

“Do you love me, Victoria? Do you love me?”
Apparently, she doesn’t. He shakes
His fist as us or at the gods, then skulks back inside.
I’m having visions of his returning
With a shotgun to blow away the guys downstairs,
And perhaps me, too, and perhaps even
Ricardo Planas, who doesn’t speak English well enough
To debauch anybody’s wife.

I glance at you and you arch my eyebrows to suggest one last
Sweaty quickie before I’m killed.
But when the guy comes back outside, he’s still
Barefoot, and armed only with a bottle
Of Jack Daniel’s. He takes a long swig of bourbon,
Then sits down on the sidewalk
And starts to cry, his bony chest heaving.
I turn away. You’ve gone back

To the wild casserole you’re concocting, and we
Say nothing of what we’ve seen or heard
When I come back into the kitchen to pour myself another.
I wander into the bedroom,
Light a cigarette, and lie down on the bare floor.
The music throbs through me
Like an infection; the amber streetlights make
Impossible maps on the walls.

A siren whines nearer and nearer, then fades away.
The party will go on for hours,
Long past the time when sleep will seem our luxury.
Maybe the young couple across the street
Will piece things back together; maybe Victoria
Will ride west on a stolen motorcycle
With one of the guys downstairs and never be
Heard from again; maybe her husband

Will hang himself to show her just how much
He loves her. Maybe Ricardo Planas
Is thinking, this evening, of the beautiful woman
He loved who was shot to death
For no reason on an otherwise quiet street in San Salvador.
I don’t know what any of it means or matters.
In the morning, sure as sunrise, we’ll all dress our bodies
And walk out hungover into America.

100 Favorite Movies List in 26 Years of Living

Comments are welcome, but none will be from me, as I could write for hours upon hours about why I love these movies so much. Though this has already taken a lot of time over the last few weeks, I now have to dedicate energy to other things.

100) Ding-A-Ling-Less (2001)
99) Little Monsters (1989)
98) The Sweet Hereafter (1997)
97) Glengarry Glen Ross (1992)
96) They Shoot Horses, Don't They? (1969)
95) Me and You and Everyone We Know (2005)
94) The Night of the Living Dead (1968)
93) The Straight Story (1999)
92) Repo Man (1984)
91) Keane (2004)
90) Birth (2004)
89) Exotica (1994)
88) Paper Moon (1973)
87) Hoop Dreams (1994)
86) Primer (2004)
85) Candy (2006)
84) The Bad News Bears (1976)
83) Lost in Translation (2003)
82) The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974)
81) Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil (1997)
80) Fitzcarraldo (1982)
79) Saving Private Ryan (1998)
78) The Dark Knight (2008)
77) The Goonies (1985)
76) McCabe and Mrs. Miller (1971)
75) Fanny and Alexander (1982)
74) Irreversible (2002)
73) 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)
72) A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)
71) You Can Count On Me (2000)
70) Casino (1995)
69) There Will Be Blood (2007)
68) Before Sunset (2004)
67) Naked (1993)
66) A Clockwork Orange (1971)
65) Stalker (1979)
64) Police Beat (2005)
63) Winter Light (1962)
62) Come Early Morning (2006)
61) Before Sunrise (1995)
60) Happiness (1998)
59) The Bridge (2006)
58) Suspiria (1977)
57) The Killing of a Chinese Bookie (1976)
56) Menace II Society (1993)
55) Rushmore (1998)
54) Mulholland Drive (2001)
53) Kicking and Screaming (1995)
52) Zoo (2007)
51) Cache (2005)
50) Aguirre: The Wrath of God (1972)
49) The Dream Catcher (1999)
48) Lone Star (1996)
47) Goodfellas (1990)
46) Children of Men (2006)
45) Swingers (1996)
44) The Shining (1980)
43) Mystery Train (1989)
42) Jules and Jim (1962)
41) Crimes and Misdemeanors (1989)
40) Julien Donkey Boy (1999)
39) Schindler's List (1993)
38) Scarecrow (1973)
37) Annie Hall (1977)
36) Full Metal Jacket (1987)
35) Wings of Desire (1987)
34) Taxi Driver (1976)
33) Reservoir Dogs (1992)
32) The Conversation (1974)
31) Dazed and Confused (1993)
30) Breaking the Waves (1996)
29) Manhattan (1979)
28) Bottle Rocket (1996)
27) Love Liza (2002)
26) Stand By Me (1986)
25) Deliverance (1972)
24) Badlands (1973)
23) Werckmeister Harmonies (2000)
22) The Pianist (2002)
21) Apocalypse Now (1979)
20) Magnolia (1999)
19) Pulp Fiction (1994)
18) Election (1999)
17) The Ice Storm (1997)
16) Gummo (1997)
15) Short Cuts (1993)
14) The Squid and the Whale (2005)
13) Elephant (2003)
12) Fargo (1996)
11) Sideways (2004)
10) Se7en (1995)
9) Boogie Nights (1997)
8) George Washington (2000)
7) Paris, Texas (1984)
6) The Thin Red Line (1998)
5) Do the Right Thing (1989)
4) The Shawshank Redemption (1994)
3) Days of Heaven (1978)
2) American Movie (1999)
1) Snow Angels (2007)

They Shoot, We Score

I didn't know it was coming out, but it was a pleasure to find that Yo La Tengo's compilation of film scores has finally been released.

Yo La Tengo was the first band I ever wrote. I remember Ira writing me back and giving me some stickers and sending me a really nice note, and this was back in the day when they were popular enough that they could've hired someone to write me back. Or throw in a sticker. I think I still have that Yo La Tengo sticker somewhere, in a drawer with all my other stickers that I never used.

Pleasantly surprised I was also to find that I've seen all four of the movies, a diverse and weird compilation in itself: Old Joy, Junebug, Game 6, and Shortbus. Every movie was initially a Netflix rental.

Old Joy was super-hyped and really wasn't that good. The score was the best part. And the commentary was one of the most ludicrous commentaries I've ever heard. It's worse than Burton's Edward Scissorhands commentary. I say that because both of them have almost 100% complete silence in common. If I wanted to watch the movie again without your pretty-much-not-there-at-all-anyway-so-why-do-a-goddamn-commentary-in-the-first-place voice, then I would've watched the movie again, the latter which has of course happened.

I'm a huge Junebug fan, and some of the best parts of the movie include the subtlety of the score. I think it also showed how great Amy Adams can be, if she's actually doing good movies. You don't have to be Vinnie-Chase-picky, but come on, Amy, do something challenging and ballsy already. Sunshine Cleaning, perhaps? Maybe it'll be awful. I'm not sure. Despite everyone hating the living shit out of it, I thought Sylvia was OK.

Game 6 was pretty much just plain bad. Horrible dialogue. Don DeLillo should just write novels. Film scripts aren't for everyone.

Shortbus was more bizarre and challenging than I thought it would be. I was better for it at the end, but I feel like many people I know couldn't make it past the first 10 minutes. And I'm not really sure what that says.

All the scores, however, are pure Yo La Tengo, whether subtlty and melody driven, or guitar squall and steady-yet-lighter drumming. And the record's something I'll be putting on every once in a while as good background tunes, though I'll really end up probably wanting to watch Junebug again.


I'm pretty sure my paucity-laced reviews are in honor of my imminent 100 Favorite Movies list, one I've been pondering since Craig Beaven (Thanks for distracting my even more, my friend) emailed me about it. When it's done I will be posting it here for everyone to see, with links and years so there's no confusion (such as this amazing and pretty much unknown The Dream Catcher for this pitiful excuse for a film). I'm really excited about this. I feel like your favorite films say a lot about you.

Not that I've seen many lists, but I know it takes time. And sometimes I wish I would've gone (or at least applied) to film school instead of writing poetry. But it's hard for me not to have a hypothetical camera in my hand when writing, even if I'd never even come close to heroes Robby Müller or Tim Orr.

List soon.

You should make one yourself.

And not one based on the AFI's top 100 movies or your fear that people will judge you. Yes, I'm talking to you, reader.

P.S. Citizen Kane ain't making my list. Suckers.

Monday, September 15, 2008


It's been a sad week for the writing world. Reginald Shepherd recently passed away, and David Foster Wallace committed suicide. I'm of course familiar with both writers, but probably like many, I couldn't get through INFINITE JEST. I tried to read it when I was 16 or 17, though, so that may be reason. That monolith is still sitting in my closet back home, so again, like many, it's on my list to perhaps begin again, give it another go.

Reginald Shepherd was known to a lot of folks from his blog. What's fascinating to me about blogs and the perpetual notion of one finding their place on the vast Internet is Reginald's last blog post. It's somehow sad, beautiful, inspiring, triumphant, all in one. I've been familiar with his work, but I need to read more, and of course after anyone has passed away, it's impossible to read their work with that in mind, for better or for worse.

Both writers will be missed very much, and my condolences go out to their families and many many fans of their work.


On a calmer note, i got my contributor copies of Eclipse today. I got the acceptance late October 2007, never had any contact with the editors (aside from the snail mail acceptance), and only sent an email of the bio and electronic copies of the poems to an email address at the college, who I assumed was doing the layout or was the magazine editor.

And about 11 months later, here are the contributor copies. Obviously they have their shit together, because the journal looks really nice, and I had to have little to no contact with the editors, something that sometimes makes me a little freaked out for what the final product's going to like like, but alas.
The cover painting is quite pretty, a railroad trestle drenched in background pastels. The journal is over 200 pages (they only do one fall issue a year), and some of the contributors include George Looney. William Greenway, Holaday Mason, Paul Hostovsky, and Charles Harper Webb. Check out the website and submit.


Heard from some others (mostly via blogs) that they also have their first books floating around for contests too. I just sent my first fall batch out a few days ago, with a second, bigger batch going out probably around the middle of October.

Sending my manuscript out this time, however, I was hit with another question that I never really considered: How many pages of actual poetry is my manuscript?

I asked because some of the contests were not 48-80 pages, but 50-80 pages, not including front and back matter, section breaks, end-notes, etc. -- actual poetry means actual poetry.

I counted, and luckily I'm right on the cusp at 51 pages of actual poetry, which to me is the perfect length for my manuscript. I've cut a lot of poems in the past year, and at one point I had the page count -- including all of the aforementioned "not to include" things -- at 68, which was way too long. I started to realize that length for me was a huge factor, since I do have many poems that are two pages long, which means the screener / reader / peruser's going to have to have double the patience as a one-page poem a decent number of times while reading my manuscript. I do believe the poems have a place in there, but making it as tight and cohesive as I can get it has been on the forefront of its revision and subsequent reconstruction for a long time.

That said, what if someone sends a manuscript that's 46 pages? 47 pages? 48 pages? When it needs to be 50? Is their check cashed but they're disqualified? Does the press send the check back to them and not consider the book? If it doesn't adhere exactly to the guidelines but is powerful enough and ends up being deemed the winner, is that revoked after the revealing of the non-guidelines-adhering smaller page count?

A rule's a rule, just like sending to single journals. If they accept simultaneous submissions and want notification too, you should notify them. If they don't accept simultaneous submissions, don't send if you are sending that batch to other journals (though I know many, many people who submit the same batch to journals who ask for no simultaneous submissions). There are perhaps rules that can be broken with journals, someone sending six poems instead of five, and the journal liking the sixth so much to take it. I'm sure that happens.

But are these manuscript contests and presses more rigorous? Can anyone speak about their experience with this as a screener or editor or publisher? I'm all about following the rules, but you wonder how many people have shorter or longer manuscripts that "required," and who does it accidentally, who does it hoping their breaking of the rules might not be noticed, etc. The season is upon us, so I suppose if I'm not over thinking this or being overly concerned, then it is something valid to think about and question.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Open Windows

It's been hot in Richmond lately, hot enough where the air conditioning has to be on, at least for me. And I can sometimes sweat in the air conditioning. That said, this is the first day in a while that I've had the windows open, and it's amazing how quickly you can feel something ineffable by breathing in fresh air versus conditioned recycled air, especially everything from the trees, the restaurants, even the heady smells of garbage waft in sometimes, becoming oddly comforting. Fall is my favorite time of the year. It's the best beer season, where summer seasonals and Maibocks turn into Russian Imperial Stouts and Barley Wines, where the windows can be open all the time, and if you're cold you can throw the covers on top of you and hear the drunken meanderings of people at 3 in the morning down the sidestreets, the interminable wails of fire trucks and police cars. I'm more calm and more inspired. Usually. I hardly wrote this summer, and if the bug doesn't get me, it doesn't get me, especially with the busy year ahead. And fall technically hasn't even begun yet.


Snow Angels is officially released Tuesday on DVD. Finally. Like many others, however, I already downloaded it and watched it. Then soon after I watched it again. I slept for the first time yesterday in 48 hours last night, something I'd never done. While it was downloading, I told myself I'd fall asleep and watch it in the morning. Knowing it would probably be done in a few hours, however, that made me even more awake. I'll always be a kid on Christmas for those kinds of things. And when I woke up around 4:15 to see that it had finished, I immediately watched it, and finished it when Jess was just getting up to go to work.

When I met David Gordon Green in April of 2006, when he and Brad Land were in Durham talking about the then-imminent Goat, (which has now been taken over by Jeff Nichols, director of the amazing Shotgun Stories) I was more interested in Snow Angels. The novel is set in and around Butler, Pennsylvania, which is within an hour of my hometown in western Pennsylvania. I think everyone in the audience could've given a shit when I asked why he didn't film it there, making it more authentic, but the first thing I'll say for the movie is that I believed it was western Pennsylvania. The snow. The farmland. The dull-ish looking houses. The neighborhoods. The high school. Maybe that was the point: it could be anywhere with snow. But it was filmed in Halifax and Noca Scotia, and maybe you, esteemed film watcher, could guess easily it's Canada and doubt the rest of the movie because of that. But it felt like Pennsylvania to me, had all the grittiness of the cold, starting your car in the morning, bundling up (even though I never bundled up, which is another reason I almost died after chugging vodka in the woods by the high school bleachers during a football game when I was 14, which oddly enough seems like yesterday with how clear some of the flashes are from that night), everything about the cold. I was fooled. I felt I was in Butler. Or near Slippery Rock. Or driving to Meadville through Conneaut Lake to get to Allegheny. The location, like all of David's movies (even the L.A. in Pineapple Express to a certain degree) becomes another main character.

But even beyond that, so much was real to me. Many viewers hate his scripts, or somehow think they aren't believable, that the little tics and beats and pauses of the characters are forced, when truly they're anything but. Finally he's made indie movies (and there are others, just not many) that can be something that's not forced, but something utterly believable and in its own little world. The characters are amazing, the situations are amazing, the acting is amazing. There are scenes of bizarre weirdness and "huh?" moments, but then you realize you've been in situations like that -- you just didn't deem them important in any way, or take any stock in the things that people have sometimes said in the past, because then they didn't matter or seem of any validity or importance.

There isn't one moment where something's not engaging. And I'm not sure I've ever seen young love portrayed so emotionally and beautifully before. One of the reasons why the movie didn't do all that well (at least in theaters; I hope the DVD audiences are much more aware) is because too many people don't like reality or haven't experienced it, have lived cookie cutter lives or relationshops, have never been honest. We've all been guilty of semblances of such lives at the very least, but there's really nowhere to hide from it in this film.

Plus, near the end there's an original Explosions in the Sky song, "What Happens After," that's over one of the most beautiful and heartbreaking scenes ever put to celluloid. And the soundtrack throughout by David Wingo and Jeff McIlwain is pitch perfect, going under the radar when there's prominent dialogue, swelling in warranted moments of crisis.

I feel like this is a movie where they can be no opinion, no Randy Jackson-like, "It was just aight fo' me tonight, dawg. It was just aight fo' me..." You're either going to get it or you're not, whether you're 18 or 88. If you don't get it, I won't hold it against you, and if you want to call me a conceited asshole because I say such a thing, I could really care less. I've experienced one of the most beautiful and true pieces of art I've ever seen in my life, and it will be timeless, something that will be as ripe in 2040 as it is in 2008, and beyond.

See this movie. Watch it with the lights off. Watch it with no distractions. Watch it again.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Interesting Note from Jason Bredle

If you're an editor of a publication and you're considering soliciting me for work, thank you. I love that you're taking the time to do this. My only request is that you familiarize yourself with my work before writing me. There are a lot of things you can check out on the work page of this site. For a good idea of the type of submission you'll receive, I'd suggest reading the poems at Octopus and the poem Twilight Box at Verse Daily. I completely understand if those types of poems are not for you. People have different ideas of what poetry is and what poetry can and should be. I'm just trying to save us all some time and hurt feelings. I've gone through many years of blindly submitting to and being rejected by hundreds upon hundreds of publications. A lot of people experience this, I know I'm not unique, but I'm sensitive and I've learned through experience that rejection upon rejection creates a negativity in my life that I don't want. It affects both my writing and my relationships with people close to me. My solution was to eliminate this negativity by reducing the number of blind submissions I make. What I didn't expect was the fairly significant amount of solicitations and subsequent rejections I'd receive. As an editor, you want people considering your publication to familiarize themselves with the types of poems you publish before submitting. As a writer, I want the same - for you to familiarize yourself with my work before soliciting me. Thank you!

If you're anyone else and you're considering writing me, you can pretend you didn't read the previous paragraph. I'm really a pretty normal person and I like hearing from people.


That note is on the contact part of Jason's website, and it was really interested to read for many reasons. I don't have a book out. Jason, after winning DIAGRAM's chapbook contest, within a few years now has two full length collections. That said, as interested parties will see when they read his first book interview I conducted with him recently, he had worked on both books for a very very long time, and had been sending them out for a while too.

But in that seemingly quick amount of time, I wonder how much he has been solicited, and the whole idea with solicitation should be, ideally, that the editor is a fan of that writer's work. Right? Again, ideally.

But Jason's comments are honest and seem ballsy and warranted, if in fact he's been solicited and rejected to the point where it's been frustrating, which seemingly, it has. I understand that when you solicit, you may get different poems than you expect from that particular writer. I would think, however, you would be sure to take a poem when you solicit as an editor -- doesn't that in fact give the writer a false sense of hope, when they could've just gotten a blind-submission rejection and been fine with that? And wouldn't you hopefully know what kind of work you're going to get? Or do editors really solicit just because of a name, not knowing the writer's work? If so, that's really unprofessional and asshole-ish to do in the first place.

I've been solicited once, and that journal took a poem. I was honored and flattered. I of course have not been solicited since and never expected to be solicited in the first place.

But if I got solicited and rejected, I'd feel the same way.

Has this happened to anyone else? Folks with books out or those without books?

Like I said, I haven't had much experience with it, but it brings up an interested conversation, especially for folks like myself who have never been editors...

Saturday City

Alas, the Giants were victorious. I love Eli. I will always love Eli. I know many people have a problem with that. If you're one of those folks, you can eat it. We didn't look great in the second half, but as I've discussed with others, I think our core is very strong. Despite the fact that we're not made up of superstars, we're going to be a contender this year. Can't wait for next Sunday already.


Sent poems out on Thursday to a bunch of places. If I get a few hits I wouldn't be surprised, but I also wouldn't be surprised if every place said no. They're weird poems, even for me I suppose. Maybe someone will dig 'em.


Like others, I'm gearing up for fall contests. Scanning others' blogs, and knowing how good some of those first books are going to be, I feel less confident, but then again, after working on this sucker for a year, and going through many drafts, and like everyone else, taking out poems, changing sections, giving it a new title, there's no reason I shouldn't be confident. As always, I'm not holding my breath, but many contests will be seeing it, whether they like it or not.


Kabluey isn't out on DVD yet, but I downloaded a rip of it and was kind of blown away. Scott Prendergast didn't only write it, direct it, and star in it, but he managed to make a pretty original and touching comedy, with many legitimate laugh-out-loud moments. I could see how Salman's kind of saccharine and bumbling aloofness could get people very sick of the movie very quickly, but I loved the world he created. In the scope of movies now everyone's clamoring for something original, and to me, this really was. Many fine moments, and it may end up being one of my favorites of the year. You should check it out.


The new Kings of Leon, "Only by the Night," finally leaked, and I don't know after a few listens. It has more melody, and like my brother Eric was saying, he's worried about the moments where the rhythm section goes all out, and there are certainly those moments, but it does have more of a modern arena rock feel. Still, I love pretty music, I always have, and I always will. So I'm digging the melody, but it'll be interesting to see what happens with it.

Other records I've been listening to and digging:

Jeff Hanson - "Madam Owl"
Don Caballero - "Punkgasm"
Mogwai - "The Hawk is Howling"
Max Tundra - "Parallax Error Beheads You"
NOMO - "Ghost Rock"
Stereolab - "Chemical Chords"
The American Dollar - "A Memory Stream"
The Gutter Twins - "Adorata"
The Broken West - "Now or Heaven"

Lots of good stuff has come out lately, or is still officially coming out, and there's still a few months to go in the year. Hammock, The Silent Years, and Girl Talk will most likely make an appearance on the ol' top ten list at the end of the year, but I'm not sure who else will be on there yet.