Sunday, March 29, 2009


Just got back from Pittsburgh with Jess. We did our Pre-Cana session there because Richmond didn't only require nearly $300 in fees, but they wanted us to do a church lock-in weekend kind of thing, including some we're-drinking-the-kool-aid-together-at-the-end activity that seemed frightening.

So we decided to suck it up, drive home for the weekend and see her parents and sister, and drive 45 minutes to a church in the middle of nowhere to get the thing done.

It was a bizarre experience that I feel I must speak of, with names of anything recognizable withdrawn.

There was no couple interaction or anything, but we had about two hours listening to a Father with an "Atlanta 1996 Olympics" shirt on discussing everything, some philosophical, some poetic, some OK-we-get-it, and some hard truth.

Most was alright enough to listen to, even though after about thirty minutes in a chair I get kid-jittery and start shifting and stretching.

Then he eventually started, somehow, talking about poetry and alluding to the fact that only gay men write it. 1) Do you feel the need to really mention poetry at a Pre-Cana session, father? 2) We already know most religions are all about "man and woman," and I've long since not wanted to deal with many of them for that reason, since I do believe in personal rights and happiness, and 3) I wanted to raise my hand and say, "Can we please go on? Though I've taken shit from cops pulling me over, family members, students, acquaintances, friends, etc., I don't need to hear in whatever facet you're ripping on it that what I'm doing is essentially worthless. And I'm getting my third degree, basically, in poetry starting in a few months, so please move on."

I wasn't surprised that many of the things he said were fairly emasculation, misogynistic, brain-worshipping, and plain weird, but I expect that from many priests these days, I'm sorry to say. But I have a feeling many were offended by some of the things he said, including me.

Let me say that yes, I'm Catholic (if you're a Facebook friend you can see a picture of my infant self getting baptized for proof), but I'm not practicing, and those are some of the reasons.

Then we ate a school lunch, essentially, which the $20 fee paid for, and which was fairly cheap, so we didn't complain.

Then we had to listen to this really bizarre couple talk about Natural Family Planning. It was a husband and wife team, and the whole thing was painful to listen to. They had some good points, and I won't go on a rant here about making love, but I really don't believe God has much to do with it at all. If that's your thing, fine, but I don't buy it.

Plus the husband was kind of a clean-cut and balding and short-haired Mickey Rourke from The Wrestler, the kind of guy that maybe didn't want the life he has, so he still goes to the gym as a dude in his 40s to try and relive the glory days before he couldn't have sex with his wife unless it was an infertile time. I'm pretty sure I'd have to jump off a bridge if I had to wait a certain time of the month, every month, for the rest of my short life, to get laid.

Then we listened to a CFO of some company talk about money and tell us mostly what we already know.

Luckily it wasn't a very long day. There were a lot of couples that seemed like they were made for each other though, and it was a motley crew. The short people were with short people. The fat people with fat people. The weird-looking people with weird-looking people. The older, haggard people with older, haggard people. There were probably some that thought Jess and me were a weird-looking couple, which is fine, so think of me as a realist and not so much a judgmental louse.

Finally that piece of the puzzle is out of the way.


Pittsburgh is such a gorgeous mess of rust and destruction. I'm pretty sure I'm falling in love with it. It was overcast the whole time we were there.

If anyone in Pittsburgh is offended that The Road was filmed there, they shouldn't be. It makes sense.

I got some good drive-by pictures, I hope, of some of that destruction. I'm not sure how Wim Wenders and David Gordon Green and Harmony Korine haven't been up there yet to shoot a movie. At one point we saw this amazing hotel that was burned to all fucking hell and just destroyed, and it was incredible. A set that a production would pay so much money to film on a sound stage.

Businesses are closing left and right. Apartment buildings are burned and left for dead. Boards over everything. Trees growing over everything.

I could get caffeinated and walk around the whole city and the surrounding areas and just snap pictures. It kind of fueled my deeper need to photograph. I feel like you don't need a degree to get some of these shots. William Eggleston or Joel Sternfeld could do wonders.

And it seems like no one ever cleans up anything or cares. They just leave it there and it beautifully rots to death.

Be reminded, however, that a lot of this is western Pennsylvania. I'm pretty sure we'll make our way back to the Pittsburgh area or surrounding areas after either Binghamton or Stillwater in the next four to five years.


I kept having these thoughts on the way back that we were completely fucked if a deer ran out in front of Jess's car. Ravines. Rusted guardrails. Horrible roads with potholes. A lot of people smoking, texting, reading newspapers.

And the deer somehow drawn toward headlights, seemingly and innocently hopping out to cross.

People hit deer all the time and survive it seems, but I kept getting chills. Then we saw some in a field. But nothing ran out.


At one point it felt like we were getting followed by this monster truck with big wheels. Jess said, "The doors are locked, so we're OK." The thing seemed like it was going to pass us as we were on this stretch of road in this weird town, where every quarter mile there was a gorgeous farmhouse surrounded by lakes with docks and nothing but hills and cows and fences.

And a ton of small-as-hell wineries.


When we finally got back to I-95, we saw someone who felt the Andretti bug get pulled over. Ironically, their license plate was TIPTOEZ.


I feel like, for some reason, I have so much information and insane ideas from poems and fragments and all kinds of insanity. It's the first time I've felt like this in a while. I think I'm starting to feel the "Get everything before you move and everything starts over again in a new city" pressure. I hope this keeps attacking me, because the buzz is heady and heart-fluttering.


I am marrying a good woman. I am very lucky.

Thursday, March 26, 2009


So there's a bit of an update with the Ph.D stuff I suppose. After talking to the Graduate Director at Binghamton, apparently I have a (seemingly much better than usual, at least from what I can gather, which is nice) stipend for four years, out-of-state tuition taken care of for the first year, and in-state tuition taken care of for years two through four as long as I'm a New York resident.

The only thing is I haven't received anything official yet in the mail, as I've just been trading emails with the Graduate Director. So before I think about making any decision, I certainly need to see that stuff, all the paperwork etc. Especially since Nebraska sent me a huge packet of materials while also saying, "We can't give you a TA because they've been offered to everyone, but we still want you to come."

So I've been weighing Binghamton versus Oklahoma State now. I've been in touch with a few folks from Binghamton as of late, and I'm trying to keep the ball rolling and contact more folks as the weeks go on before April 15th.

But let it be known (like you really care) that I'm really considering Binghamton at this point also, now that I know the deal.

I'll let everyone know (like you really care) my final decision once the papers are signed and we're ready to start thinking about what lies ahead in our future planning.


I think Jess and I are both looking forward to getting out of Richmond and continuing our lives, not so much because of the city, which we both love, but because both of our jobs need to be over with at this point.

I've seen too many of my friends end up scratching together teaching jobs for peanuts and then becoming bartenders on the side. If folks can do that, more power to them. But I never want to succumb to that.

I got screwed this semester by VCU giving me only one class, and I'm still not sure why, since pretty much everyone else who I graduated with who became an adjunct got at least two. And yes, my evaluations were always stellar, quite honestly.

So I had to find another job, which has been alright at times, but it's also been soul-sucking, which regular jobs usually are, and I don't care what anyone says about that. I'm fine paying my dues, but I don't know what I would do if I had to do it for another year.

This is pretty much the perfect time to sew what we need to sew and get the hell out of here and on to bigger and better things.

We both said we could certainly see ourselves in Richmond again, because we did fall in love with the city. But for now, it's time to move on.


On a maybe odd note about publication, I want to thank Kyle at Blue Mesa Review for letting me kind of overhaul a poem before its publication in the next issue.

Because I know we as submitters can be a pain in the ass with such inquiries, I told him if he wanted the poem in the form he accepted, that was fine. But he let me send him the revised version, and we both agreed it was better.

The poem was one that needed to be overhauled, one that I sent out probably a bit too early for consideration, and one that I thought—after about a month or so of it being out in the world—that no one would take.

I'm glad he did take it, though, since I brought new life into it and made it into something that I'm proud of.

But yes, as submitters, we need to respect the editors more often without all these questions and inquiries into changing the poems we sent originally. I think that's important to know when you send out to journals. After all, if it ever becomes a part of a larger project, you can always change things around then if you feel the need to do so.


And again, speaking of publication, though I sent out to more journals about two weeks ago, I realized—after writing a few poems in the last two weeks and revising them like mad—that I should get together one big push of submissions before many journals stop reading for the spring and summer.

I'm also worried about the address change that will be happening in August, wherever we are. This way the rejections can get here faster so I can add those journals' names again to the future submissions list.

I like these poems a lot, though, which makes me nervous. Usually those are the batches where I strike out. We'll see.


And I've decided to go full on with full-length manuscript number two. Even if I sent it out right now as a chapbook and it miraculously won something or a press wanted to publish it, I feel like it's completely unfinished, that it is truly halfway toward another full-length manuscript.

It seems like a Richmond manuscript, one I may madly try and finish by the time we move, or try to at least get 40-50 pages worth of poems that fit within the bookends.

I'm already seeing interesting threads and a kind of arc that I could be completely wrong about. But while I have no eyes on it at this point, and no true expectations, I figure why not dive in, write my ass off, and see what I have at the end of the summer.


Have you seen the trailer for Where the Wild Things Are? It looks like one of those movies that has the potential to be mind-blowing. With Lance Acord lensing, the visuals already look incredible in just the span of the trailer. The imagination of Spike Jonze surely will add to it also. It'll depend on the script, but I have high hopes for it.

Not to mention The Limits of Control, the new Jim Jarmusch movie, which I have no doubt will be amazing. I had no idea he was doing a new one since Broken Flowers. Not sure how I didn't know, but now I do, and I'm pretty excited about this one too.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Number Five

Received a welcoming email letting me know Ghost Lights is a finalist for another first book prize. Since this is the first contest where I still have a chance to win, I imagine I shouldn't say anything else regarding the press, so I won't.

That said, I'd be thrilled if my book got picked by the judge, and this is a prize last year that sent me the "Dear Poet, here's the winner, and it's not you" letter. Somehow, though, this year I felt the press would hopefully like it and didn't lose hope, so I'm glad my tenacity paid off. The same thing with the Brittingham last year versus this year. My manuscript didn't place last year, and this year Robert Pinsky read it as one of the finalists.

How these contests can be totally unpredictable continues to blow my mind.

I can see how waiting can get agonizing, though. I liked it better when I found out I didn't win but I was finalist. Now, knowing I still can win, it's almost worse. But having a chance I suppose is better. We'll see what happens.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

First Book Interview #18 - Cecily Parks

#18 - Cecily Parks

I've decided to stop accepting queries for interviews until I can take care of this much-needed backlog of books and questions I have to still get out to many poets, some who have been waiting months.

If you've sent me a book and talked to me about doing an interview, don't worry, your questions will be in your inbox hopefully sooner than later. But if you haven't, just don't get mad at me if I tell you that in a few months I'll get back to you about doing one.

Monday, March 16, 2009


Just got my contributor copy of Lake Effect in the mail. Digging the skeletal cover.

Included within the pages: Nin Andrews, Blake Butler (let's hope it's not the last one), Michael Czyniejewski, Eugene Gloria, Tony Hoagland, Al Maginnes, Joshua Ware, and of course many others. The link above will take you to the complete table of contents.


I spent most of the afternoon sending out some submissions for an attempted big push before spring gets here.

I had two longer new ones from the last month or so, in addition to some others I still really like, so I figured they could use some editor eyes on them.

Since May's usually the cutoff before many journals stop reading for the summer, I'll see what I can do in the next two months, especially since the summer's going to be busier than usual for me. If poems come and I can get another one ready, I will. If not, I'll save it up for next fall, when Jess and I will be in a different place, in a different state.


Speaking of writing newer poems, I've decided to ditch this chapbook idea and kind of put the "working on my second manuscript" tag on the current incarnation.

I have 25 pages of actual poetry written, which was the chapbook. But I just don't even like the idea of a chapbook anymore. I don't want to short change myself, and it's also an excuse to write more poems, to see what I can do with all these new pieces that are coming onto the page.

Even if I'm fooling myself into thinking this may be a second manuscript, if it gets me writing, I can't ask for anything more.


Got my Passages North contributor copies in the mail on Saturday. Not surprisingly, the issue's already impressed me. I've been trying to get into an issue since I first started sending out, so I'm lucky to be in their 30th Anniversary Issue.

Lots of good writers, including: Emma Bolden, Jesse Lee Kercheval, David Dodd Lee, Jonathan Rice (my friend and seemingly endless journal friend also, as this is maybe the sixth issue of a journal we've been in together), Chad Sweeney, and many others.

And since it's the Anniversary Issue, it's over 250 pages, so there's plenty to keep you busy for a while. It's going to take me a while to get through it.


Also received the specifics from Nebraska on Saturday. The official acceptance letter was a weird one for many reasons. Needless to say, however, after seemingly getting in with a TA, they basically let me know that the better and more worthy candidates got theirs first, and that they'd love me to attend without funding.

Then at the end of the letter they said something about how competitive the job market is, and that basically a degree doesn't mean shit at this point.

Again, a very weird letter.

So I'm on the waitlist, and we'll see if I ever get an offer. If not, though, Nebraska's certainly out.

Binghamton's yet to get back to me about how much tuition I would have to pay if I accepted their TA offer, so hopefully soon I'll get an idea of how seriously I need to consider them. They're certainly in the running with Oklahoma State now, but without specifics I can't say how much in the running they actually are.

As a disclaimer, though, I don't want to sound like I'm not grateful to Nebraska for granting me admission. Because I am. Especially after hearing about so many others who were granted admission without funding.

But I don't know if anyone who isn't affluent enough to throw money around would actually pay for tuition at this level, especially for a degree that tends to be blood in the water full of sharks.


Saw two movies worth noting over the last week: The Secret Life of Bees and Fireflies in the Garden.

And when I say worth noting I mean because they were both pretty terrible. The Secret Life of Bees, which I did not read before seeing the movie, has to be one of the most boring movies I've ever seen. Hardly anything actually happened. At all. The race issues were glossed over except for about ten minutes near the end, and the story didn't seem unbelievable, just not very interesting. It was a chore to get through.

David Gordon Green was slated to direct it years ago, and I wonder what he could've done with the look, the feel, the pace, the script, and everything else, not to mention casting essentially not a whole cast of professional singers.

Fireflies in the Garden is what MFA screenwriters should watch, mostly for what-not-to-do-when-you're-writing-and-making-a-movie. There was a ton of potential there, and again, speaking of David Gordon Green, I think he could've done wonders with the script. Ryan Reynolds was actually decent, but there was some miscasting, especially Willem Dafoe, whose character I completely didn't believe. And Julia Roberts, who I never really liked anyway. Plus the emotional crux of the movie seemed vacuous and anything but believable, which perpetuated the rest of the 120 minute downward spiral.

I'm not sure who Dennis Lee is, but he has some things to learn. Or he didn't have enough people saying, "You need a ton of re-writes before you can actually shoot this thing." The film's pretty striking visually, but that's about all it has going for it. Skip it when it's finally released.

Friday, March 13, 2009

One to Go

I got emails from the Graduate Director of Western Michigan University today, along with Bill Olsen, easily one of my favorite contemporary poets, which was one of the big reasons I wanted to apply there in the first place.

I'm in if I want a spot, but apparently the school's in such bad shape that any money going toward a T.A. for incoming creative writers has to be for an incoming MFA.

Of course having to pay for tuition is completely out of the question, especially with three offers on the table, but I'm excited to know I most likely would've been admitted any other year. If anyone gives money to colleges, you can be the cash most likely isn't used for the English Department of said school. And it's in Michigan. Anyone remember Roger and Me? Twenty years later, yes, but I'm sure they've been hit hard like many other states.

One school to go, and when that decision is here, I'll be figuring out all the specifics and weighing options.

Soon soon.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Processed Spirits

Today was kind of a bizarre day. I got a rejection letter from UGA in the mail, which, like Missouri, I expected. If these schools requiring certain scores on the General and Literature GRE are sticking to their guns, I'd be one of the first ones out of consideration. I cannot take standardized tests. I couldn't in high school, and I can't now. No matter what I over think things. I'm the test-taker who crosses off the first three wrong answers, and he's got a fifty-fifty chance with the last two. But unbeknownst to him, until later, one of the first three he crossed off was indeed the right answer.

But maybe they just didn't like my work. Either way, no biggie, and I'm glad I got to apply. They're both great programs.

The situation was rectified, however, when I got acceptances from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, and SUNY Binghamton. I have no idea yet what UNL is going to offer me for funding, if anything. And Binghamton has a nice stipend, but apparently I would have to pay some of my tuition. And honestly, with the way the economy is, not to mention the degree is a PhD in Creative Writing and not a MBA, I don't think I can go somewhere without a guaranteed full tuition waver for the years I'm there. But we'll see what they say after answering my questions, since I just got a very brief email from the Graduate Director there.

Oklahoma State is still looking nearly impossible to say no to. Especially since there are so many people telling me they did indeed get offers from schools in the past that didn't offer them a guaranteed TA with a tuition waver. Or they had to pay half their tuition. Or the entire first year of tuition.

With two schools to hear from still, in addition to knowing the the specifics for UNL and Binghamton as far as financial packages, I've still yet to decide of course. I noticed a lot folks have heard in the last few days, and we're getting to the point where schools really need to let folks know, if they want them, so they didn't already take a previous offer.

We shall see.


Also got a welcome email from Blue Mesa Review saying they want a poem. Another new-ish one. But I'm not sure how much I like it. It's one I ditched then revised. Then ditched again then revised. Then sent out and resurrected. Then thought about ditching again.

Then the acceptance.

And from this batch, originally sent out in September, my favorite poems still have all been rejected.

The editing and submission world continues to baffle me. But maybe I think all my decent poems are those that are actually horrendous.

Thankfully, the phrase "sometimes in earlier forms" is a great one, if the poem does indeed change in the future and / or ends up in some kind of project or collection.


And it's not surprising that I'll say this again: another amazing new record will soon be blowing people away.

It's Phoenix's Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix. Sure, they've taken a lot from the Strokes and countless other bands, but there are some amazing moments on this record. And they're starting to really solidify my idea that powerful works of art need to be like a gut-punch, and it should leave you wanting more. Maybe once I get older I'll get back into the sprawling nature of things, but this record has some great moments.

There's a simplicity that works so well with the pop and rock and roll structure, unlike the horrible bands like Vampire Weekend, who make me wonder how people are really listening to music in the first place.

Their last record, It's Never Been Like That, was good. But it's not something I kept in constant rotation, or thought about keeping in constant rotation, so it went away and drifted off. This one, though, I have a feeling I'll be listening to for a long time.

Just give a listen in a few months if you can't find a leak of it. But it's worth searching out now.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009


Thanks to Eric, who commented a few blog posts ago, and other folks who have mentioned April 15th as the date we applicants have to make our final decision. It's nice to know we have some rights, which I somehow didn't know before.

Oklahoma State, as they've been from the very beginning (which is another reason it's going to be very hard to say no to their offer), was extremely nice about letting me know the deal.

They wanted me to let them know by March 13th if I could because if I don't let them know early enough, the fellowship money they're offering me gets absorbed back into the college—not necessarily the English department—and they may not be able to offer it to other applicants.

But they understand my situation, and I'm sure I'm not the only one waiting to hear from other schools. With five schools to go, the last thing I want to do is accept Oklahoma State's offer in writing and then end up telling them, "Sorry." I would never want to do that to anyone, and this way I don't have to.

I really, really can't wait until I know where the hell I'll be finally. As much as July and August are going to be rough months, I'm excited to get back into it all.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009


Got my copies of Barn Owl Review #2 the other day. I honestly was impressed with the quality of a lot of the writing (I suppose I shouldn't be surprised by that with the folks who are running it, but I say that because I can't say that about every journal I've been in, which happens when you're putting together what is essentially a compilation of writing every issue of every journal: the luck of the draw), and I think it's an issue I'll continue to pick up and read through as it eventually finds a spot on my shelf.


Speaking of the aforementioned issue, my friend and former classmate at VCU, Anna Journey, has two poems in there too, both from her just-released first book, If Birds Gather Your Hair for Nesting. Many of the poems from the book I and others saw in workshop a few years ago, the last workshop many of us took before our time was taken up with our theses. The poems are wild and full of energy, and I have a feeling a lot of folks are doing to dig her book. It's nice to see that essentially some MFA theses (even though Anna's certainly evolved with new poems, cut poems, etc., like every book does) can become books that win great prizes, despite the thoughts of many when it comes first books.


I got my rejection letter from Missouri the other day also. I was not surprised by this, especially since Gary got into seven out of eight schools two years ago (and I hope you don't mind me saying this, Gary), the only rejection being Missouri. So I had little faith in an acceptance on my end.

What impressed me about Missouri was the former and present students, and all that many of them have done while attending and beyond their degree.

That said, am I'm speaking quite frankly here, the faculty was the one reason I was least thrilled about applying. But the school's reputation, and the fact that I have faith in myself to do well wherever I go, was why I applied. And it's tough not to when so many great poets—the list could be lengthy—attend right now or have attended in the past.

So there are five schools I still need to hear from, and I think it's coming down to the point where either rejections or acceptances will be in the mail soon. Or via email. Or the phone.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

First Book Interview #17 - Randall Mann

It's up for your perusal.

#17 - Randall Mann

I really need to get on the ball and send many more out...

Tuesday, March 3, 2009


Got some welcoming news via email that both DIAGRAM and Diode took some newer poems, maybe from this chapbook, which seems to be turning into a possible full length manuscript number two, whatever semblance of it I can build at this point.

They're two of my favorite online journals, so it's great to have poems appearing again in the future.


Speaking of journals, it looks like the new issue of Another Chicago Magazine is out. Not only that, but the website has finally been updated.

They took one of my favorite poems I've ever written (and honestly I don't have many), which was accepted about two years ago, so I'm thrilled that I should finally get my contributor copy soon. It really is a great journal, and I hope that little hiatus they were on in the last couple years was only a small hiccup and that they'll be going full force again.


Yesterday we got about six inches of snow in Richmond. Being originally from western Pennsylvania, that's nothing to me, but with no salt trucks or plows down here, it turned into a clusterfuck for a lot of Richmonders and Virginians alike. Almost every school was canceled yesterday (and most today), including VCU, and tons of accidents happened on the interstates. Apparently everyone rushes to the grocery stores to get milk, bread, toiler paper, and batteries. I guess you can always leave the milk outside if you don't have power.

We lost power Monday at about midnight until noon. Then it went back on and everything's cool now. Only a bunch of ice and clogged curbs from snow build-up and parked cars. The sun's out now, so hopefully it'll melt within a few days. And Saturday it's supposed to be 60 degrees, so we should be fine by then.


Does anyone know what happened to Red Morning Press? Their blog hasn't been updated in almost a year, and their website is currently down.

I haven't heard anything, so I'm not sure if they're done or not. It'd be a shame though if that were true, since they put out really nice books, the four or so they did in the last couple years.


Still haven't heard anything from the other six schools. I have ten days to accept or decline Oklahoma State's offer, and I hope that they give me more time if I need it. With all the money and time I spent on all the applications (and all of us who have applied to more than a few schools), I'd like to weigh all my options, should I have anymore.

Then again, I could get six rejections in the next day or two. Or hear a few positives. You never know. Time goes on.