Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Too Long

It's been way too long since I read a novel, which was The Road months ago, though I read it twice.

Since Jess got The Lovely Bones from the library about two weeks ago, I figured I'd take a shot at it, and I had trouble putting it down.

Like Snow Angels and The Ice Storm, I loved the 70s aspect of everything, even though I didn't grow up in that time.

I'm more thrilled for the movie now also, especially since Peter Jackson's taking the reigns. Not sure about Mark Wahlberg, but I'm anxious to see what Jackson does with the story. Since there are so many characters that have huge stretches of what happens to their lives, it'll be hard to translate everything to film. But Jackson's imagination's either going to suffocate it or make it a movie that everyone will be talking about.

I'm hoping it can do justice to how amazing the movie versions of The Ice Storm and Snow Angels really are. I'd love to teach a class one day regarding similarly-themed novels and their translations to film. A class integrating two of my reasons for living would certainly be something to be thrilled about.

I suppose it would be smart to think about such things while I'm getting my Ph.D.

But I'll be checking out the movie when it comes out, or if luckily it leaks.


I finally got a progressive scan DVD player, one that up-converts to 1080p, though that doesn't help me since we haven't gotten a new TV yet. But you can fit, say, a DVD rip of Seinfeld Season 8 (or any of the 9 seasons) on one DVD-R and play them directly from the .avi files.

And you can fit a bunch of movies on one DVD-R too. Which is nice for leaks and also movies like King of the Hill, which hasn't been released on Region 1 DVD yet. And what a great goddamn movie that is, by the way.

So it looks like I may be going the way of no-more-Netflix-for-me soon enough.


I was on some MFA blog recently and they made a good point about the upcoming months, mainly that you should write your ass of now, since moving, getting used to a new city, a new schedule, new people, new grocery stores, new directions, etc. takes a while to comfortably deal with.

Since I haven't really been writing lately, partly due to my nervousness of having six more schools to hear from (since no matter what I do I can't stop thinking about it), that's decent advice.

I may have to reach deep down and try to get things on paper, or move the cursor and hit the keys, because I hate when I'm not writing and / or I don't have things out in the world for consideration.


I've been thinking about slowing down in the upcoming months with manuscript contests. I've been spending, like many, a shitload of money on all these contests, and four finalist bids hasn't translated to much at all, though a little bit of legitimate hope is a good thing.

Unless I get it overhauled from a future professor wherever I am next year, I'm spent so much time on this thing that I can't see how it's ever going to change.

I'm talking poem beginnings to poem ends, the first line of the first poem to the last line of the last poem, how the sections move, verb choices, adjective choices, what to cut and what to leave, how many pages it should be for what I want the reader to get out of it, the new title of the manuscript.


And this isn't some I-want-hold-on-to-this-because-I'm-lazy bullshit. I've spent many afternoons and nights reading the poems out loud, questioning every motive someone could throw at me for every choice. Though it took a lot to cut a few poems, I did for the sake of the manuscript. And I'm someone who thoroughly believes that no book of poetry, unless it's a Collected or Selected, should be a physical 100 pages long. I want this to be a gut-punch, and I think finally that's what it is.

Then I suppose I'm saying, with what I wrote above, "If I'm not going to change anything, why not keep the same agenda and send the manuscript to the contests that may be right for my manuscript and that I would love to win if it happened."

Which probably means I won't back down and I'll still be sending it out like crazy.


The new Neko Case record is great. I've also been spending time with the new Bell Orchestre and Pan American records.

If this keeps up, since we haven't even hit March yet, 2009's shaping up for one of the best years for music in a long time.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Take care of us. Please.

I've been thinking about this for a while now, and I'm sick of thinking about it at this point. So it's here.

5 Old School Records I Still Love... in no particular order:

The Regrets - New Directions: Results Beat Boasts - 1997

The Regrets came out of the remains of Vitreous Humor, also a band worth checking out. When I listened to all the Crank! stuff, they were a band I was interested in because of Vitreous Humor. One of the best things about it has to be Danny Pounds vocals. I think this was before his collapsed lung, and though it's been done before and will continue to be done before, it reaches a combination between singing and talking, sometimes separate, sometimes both. The lyrics are also great, and you can tell he reads a lot. And musically, the dissonant guitar, which is usually playing bizarre chords and imbibing in scraggly left-field acrobatics, just works perfectly. The lo-fi recording fits every instrument too. This was their only record. I interviewed Danny shortly after for the now-defunct zine Rocket Fuel, and the interview used to be archived online until I think about a few weeks ago. Since then, Danny Pound has gone kind of country. But if you can track this down, try to. After nearly twelve years, it still holds up so well.

Sweep the Leg Johnny - - 1997

Sweep the Leg Johnny is one of the bands who really got me into music during my early high school years. I had a zine (even before Pitchfork I think, if such blasphemy can be uttered) called The Cupid Kidnap, where I, you guessed it, reviewed records. I was in contact with a ton of great indie labels and got great records to review, and none of them knew I was still in high school, which was nice. Though one time I tried to interview Don Caballero at a show in Cleveland, and Damon Che was a complete dickhead. The situation was later rectified when I called Ian Williams a few months later in Chicago, for an interview that's still on a tape somewhere that didn't get transcribed.

I don't exactly remember how I heard Sweep the Leg Johnny, but I then started talking to the singer / saxophonist, Steve Sostak, who was always a super nice guy. The first time I heard this record, on a shitty cassette tape I think, I fell in love with it. The recording's great, even for a a little studio in 1997, and each member has their own strengths they wholly contribute. There are rock bands with saxophones, but it works so well here. Chris's dissonant weird-ass guitar. Matt's rolling bass lines. Scott's awesome rolls and fills and subtle technicality on the drums. Steve also is a smart guy who you can also tell reads a lot, and it seems to show with his lyrics.

Somehow I was able to convince them to come to my hometown and play a show nearby in Mercer, where I ended up getting a few bands to come. They stayed at my house, thanks to my parents being awesome, did laundry, we watched Flatliners and they told me about some of the Chicago locations. I remember I had to take a vocabulary test the next day on Fahrenheit 451. I was a sophomore in high school. All of us were so pissed because the words were ridiculous, and the student teacher who gave us the test felt really bad. We stayed up late, I had to go to school and take a test, and my mom made them pancakes in the morning before they left.

If you have any old copies of Held Like Sound, I did an interview with them and John used my pictures from said show. Was that really over ten years ago?

Six Parts Seven - Things Shaped in Passing - 2002

Still one of the most beautiful records ever made. My first real breakup was in college, and she broke up with me. I was working for our radio station as a DJ wanting to work myself up the ranks, and I remember the day this promo came in. I immediately went nuts, having loved every single note they played before this, and put it in the CD player. I still remember the feeling I got when "Where Are the Timpani Heartbeats?" played. I knew that it would be a record I would forever be indebted to.

I recently posted pictures on my Facebook page from their record release show, in which they played every note from Things Shaped in Passing. Having obsessed over the record for months, it was, probably needless to say, one of my favorite shows ever. James Haas even broke out the screwdriver for the reverbed lap steel at the end of the aforementioned first song of the record.

One show (out of maybe ten or more I attended in the last six years) I attended with my buddy Wes (we saw a few) was a semi-disaster at the

I don't know what's going on with them: if they're broken up or on hiatus or back to work, but this record will always always get spin opportunities.

Castor - Castor - 1995

If someone asked me what record I've listened to the most during my lifetime, it would probably be Castor's self-titled record. Their first. Which is now nearly fourteen years old. Which is insane. One of the odd things about this record is that it should've been an EP, and not a full length. It's around 28 minutes long I think, and that's pretty damn short. But I think of a book of poetry like this in a way: it's so short that you always want to return to it. You never skip the first section and only read two and three. You never skip the last ten pages because by then it's just too much. It's the book that's 45 pages and wins a contests that's supposed to be a minimum of 48 because it's got its own small ass-kicking embedded soul.

I had a wild idea with a friend that we were going to start a label and put out a Castor 7". I had a feeling it would've happened if the band, like every band, finally spiraled toward the inevitability of break up.

Jeff Garber is now in National Skyline, who's clearly heavily influenced by U2. Check out his stuff. It's good.

We used to talk a lot on the phone. One time he told me he cheated on his girlfriend. Then he said, "Don't tell anyone about that." And then he paused. And then he said, "Though I don't know who you'd tell there." As a Podunk Pennsylvania high schooler, he was of course right.

One thing that pisses me off is the Castor mix tape he made me, which I remember listening to one summer over a week or so when I painted our garage. Pipe dreams later were discussed: a Castor double-CD anthology. So I sent him the tape without recording the amazing Castor songs that weren't released but were on the tape. So they're gone. But God this record's great.

Mercury Program - A Data Learn the Language - 2002

Another one of my favorite instrumental records. I remember driving into Richmond for the first time listening to this. Thanks again to Pir for letting me crash on his couch.

It's another record that has so many great moments. Inter-locked melodicism abound. Tons of technicality. Yet it still remains kind-of a pop record.

I had a chance to see them at the, not-surprisingly at this point, now-defunct Nanci Raygun in Richmond. I remember I ended up getting drunk instead. And the next day I was so pissed. They're supposed to be amazing live.

Check. Out. These. Records.


Thanks to a friend, I realized Seth "Mr. Omnipresent" Abramson has this list on his blog.

Had I not already heard from Oklahoma State, I have to admit that I'd probably be freaking out just a bit at least. But it's still this murky pool of confusion, because everyone thinks if a date had already been chalked up and it wasn't you that got the call, then you're done. Out. No call or email.

But that's definitely not the case. Many factors are involved. Money. How many students they're taking. Letting their favorite picks know first. Waitlisting. Response times varying year to year.

One thing I'm thankful for: being done with my MFA. I've said it before in previous posts, but there's so much written about it now that it's almost become the cool and popular thing to do. So many more students in MFA programs = less and less folks succeeding. It's the nature of the beast, yes, but there are going to be a lot of sad students at the end of their two or three years.

Still I have six schools to hear from, which is nice. And Oklahoma State is giving me plenty of time to let them know, which I very much appreciate for that reason.

One of the things I tried not to do was look at lists of top schools. Or should I say, "top schools." I personally think all of that talk is hilarious, and I probably always will.

I remember one fairly prominent poet talking about a fairly prominent school in California, where she attended and then dropped out. As she told me, "I already had a book, so for some reason the students were gunning for me and needlessly tearing apart my work because of that." Was I there? No. Could I see this happening? Absolutely. And why, on God's green earth, would anyone want to have that kind of community at a school? I'm not saying everyone needs to go into the woods and become nudists and worship the earth with perpetual smiles about peace and love and a warless world, but when people are dicks like that, it just makes me sad.

And I know some of that goes on at other programs. Sometimes it's probably tough to avoid. But that's exactly what I do not want in a program.

Probably about a year into my MFA, I realized I was going to have to take it upon myself to figure out where I wanted to go and what I needed to do to get there. And thankfully I can use that wherever I end up for my Ph.D, and for that I am proud and excited and thrilled.

I know it's going to be a lot of work and a rough four to five years. But I want to get another book together I can send out to contests. Or who knows: maybe two. I'd like to write stuff that challenges my core.

And all these issues with money. Does an extra [insert here] grand matter if you're still not going to bust your ass and try to always keep pushing yourself? Nope.

Anyway, I find myself wanting to stop talking about all of this and then always picking it back up. But I'll let this lie for now as I continue to wait and hopefully have a chance to weigh some options.


On the chapbook front, I've gotten it together and I think it may be ready for editors to see.

But what's the harm in letting it sit a while with so many poems from it still out in the world?

I feel like if I'm going to spend the money to send to contests, I'd rather throw Ghost Lights out there.

But my confidence is building. Maybe this is even the possible half of a new book. Who knows?


I started watching The Wire yesterday, and realized I probably shouldn't start.

My conscious is saying, "Spend time with the poetry books and get questions out to the first book interview poets," and I think it's right.

So The Wire will be put on hold. Sixty-minute episodes are also a haul, especially with seasons of twelve.


And apparently the film version of The Road is finished. Finally.

Don't get excited yet, since it'll probably end up being released at the end of the year.

I hope a copy leaks soon enough somewhere online.

Burned-out and scorched apocalyptic Pennsylvania.

I can't wait.

First Book Interview #16 - Alison Stone

A new one to check out:

First Book Interview #16 - Alison Stone

I'm starting to get really behind on these interviews, which is something I was afraid of.

Though many of the questions I ask most poets, I don't have the time I need to really get into a book and ask thoughtful questions, or so it seems.

I had to get another job about a month back, and that's been one of the killers.

That said, at this point, I'd like to be able to get the backlog I have read, and the questions out to the poets. I'm going to do my best. Sorry for the delay, folks.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Fiber Density

On Saturday I received my issues of Copper Nickel 11. It looks amazing. I was in issue 6 a few years ago, and though that looked great too, it seems like Jake and company are really showing people that they're going to match the best out there. Plus I'm in there with many wonderful writers, and I still have so much left to read within the pages.


It turns out that Oklahoma State University has given me an amazing offer, the specifics of which I won't talk about here.

Needless to say, it's extremely enticing and very flattering. I got rejected from another school, and I still have six to hear from, so I hope they give me some time to at least see what other schools will be offering—if all aren't rejections of course.

Since Jess and I are getting married in July, there's much more I—and we—have to consider. But since it's going to be an "us" rather than a "me," which it was when I moved to Richmond (even though we were dating long-distance then... I still don't know how she was able to put up with me for those years), collectively we're going to have to figure out what's best for the both of us eventually. And again, with six schools I still have to hear from, I'm trying to relax and not speculate until I know what my real options are going to be before diving into multiple needless and hypothetical situations.


The new Dan Deacon record leaked, even though it seems like a re-rip or transcode, since the record seems way too scratchy and fuzzy.

I wasn't a huge fan of his last one, but upon the first listen to Bromst, I was floored. I'm not a huge fan of bands like Deerhoof and Ponytail and those spaz-pop or chaoti-pop bands or whatever the hell you want to call them.

But I felt like there were so many bands this record reminded me of that it kind of to-the-good imploded on itself, constructing its own animal. And it's beautifully and heavily percussive, which I love since I used to play the drums (though in a small town where no one loved good music, so it became just something to do when I was bored), keyboard-manipulated, and poppy. But in a very different and, to me, very accessible way that other records of the—can we call it one at this point?—genre really can't wholly find.

I can't wait to hear a real copy of it, and I may even buy it when it finally comes out. It seems like headphones would be a great idea too, as the layers, percussive or otherwise, on this sucker are many.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009


I got the galleys sometime last week, but I just found out the new issue of Front Porch is up.

And it looks like a good one.

I have two new poems in there from the current project, maybe chapbook, I'm trying to work on.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Fizzy Lifting Drinks

A good mail day today. I got my copy of the "Found" issue of Cream City Review.

It looks really nice.

I wonder how many journals wanted to have copies for AWP.

I was lucky because that was the first time I'd ever sent to them, and they took a poem.

And in the email variety, I got a letter from Oklahoma State letting me know I got in. I still have seven schools to hear from, but I didn't think I'd be hearing this early.

I don't know what they're offering me yet either, if anything, as the official letter should be in the mail within the next few days, but it's nice to be one for one at this point.

Hopefully I'll start hearing back from the rest in March if not before.

Thursday, February 5, 2009


After what I thought was a rejection after looking through the envelope in the light, I found out it was an acceptance from Nimrod.

I've sent them work from the beginning of my sending-work-out days, and I've gotten close a few times, but finally they took something.

And it's a poem I really like, which makes it even better.

Now I have to go to work.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009


Got my Madison Review contributor copies in the mail yesterday. Their website hasn't been updated, but you can see the in-my-eyes killer cover image at the top of their blog.

My poem is the first I've ever published—in addition to the first time I think I've ever included it in a poem—with the word "fucking." For how much I seem to swear in real life (which is certainly a bad habit I need to kick), I try to stay away from such ugliness in poetry as far as words go. It's never really been a conscious decision, but now that I think about it, that's probably why.

Writers also include: Henry Combellick, Lightsey Darst, Donald Dunbar, Wendy Fox, Meredith Davies Hadaway, David Joiner, Daniely Menely, F. Daniel Rzicznek, Roger Sheffer, and Ian Williams.

Including my poem, there's a total of seven in the whole issue. I didn't realize how selective they were. No offense to Gulf Coast (which I do like) and some other journal monstrosities (which certainly isn't a bad thing), but it's nice sometimes to get a journal that doesn't include what seems like hundreds of poems.


I watched the movie Keith a few days ago because it's my first name.

Also, it's based on a story by Ron Carlson.

The movie was not very good.

The story was worse, and clearly needed to be longer for any semblance of truthfulness.

I feel like the movie had a lot of potential, and some of the acting was decent. But the music was horrible, overly high-school-esque and emotive (but probably not worse than the Seven Pounds score), and I just had a hard time believing so much about it. That's OK with Total Recall, but not with a movie that claims to be a love story.

First Book Interview #15 - James Allen Hall

Another First Book Interview.

#15 - James Allen Hall

Thanks for reading. More on the way, as always.