Monthly Archives: December 2010

nachos run all flatmancrooked slim volume of contemporary poetics 14

Barely noon-thirty but it’s been a day. I woke at 5:00 a.m. and drove out to cold, vast, sweeping forest of valleys and ridges. The snow was all thought-provoking. The whisper glow. Moon off the snow is actually blue. I went up, down. I hiked squeaky boots. On the way out I saw a man standing near my car parked alongside the road. He looked like a weathered birdhouse with a snake inside all full of eggs. His eyes had a circus.

(via)

He said, “You better not park round here they been throwing glass bottles!”

I looked around. No glass. Just snow. A few shrubs and my car. Overhead a Canada (not Canadian, a common mistake) goose honked.

He said, “Some dude stole my tree stand out the back of my truck two days ago, I know who it is. Drives a maroon van! He and his wife. If I catch that dude I’m going strip off his clothes and throw him off in these woods naked, I will.”

“Well,” I said. I tried a half smile. The air felt like it was trying to cackle or maybe shrug. I got into my car and drove off and in the rear window watched the man just standing there, side of the road, snow. His head was sort of clicking away.

(mommy, when do we eat junior mints and nachos?!)

Home I shucked off layers of clothes, drank a stupendous coffee, got into my boxers, and ran a brutal 9 mile fartlek on the treadmill. Oh god. I mean brutal. I feel all floaty right now. My knees are red. Taste of metal in my mouth. Lungs like wonderful Mylar. My insides feel hollow and happy. If I had a beer I’d down it, I might, but I don’t have a beer.

Well.

I don’t know what to do. I have work-work to do, but why ruin my glow? I am going to review an anthology of poetry, I will. OK, this is a large anthology. Wait. In a minute I will read and review the first 14 poems of flatmancrooked slim volume of contemporary poetics. I said in a minute.


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metazen has a Christmas book for charity. I shit you not. They asked if I would write a Christmas thing. I stood and sat down. I said I don’t know, Christmas? I stood, fidgeted, sat down and wrote a Christmas list (well, the first 100) to give to Santa. Here is a sample so you will go buy the book (actually buy it for the other authors, who are glow) and help orphans. 28-38 on my want list:

28. Something to carry in my mouth.
29. Nick, are you lonely up there?
30. Nick, you owe me 14 pink Zippo lighters, as you well know.
31. A device for breaking memory.
32. What kind of name is Gary? I want a spray canister that removes names. Gary as
_________.
33. I will keep the hotel room above my studio apartment and I will go out the window here,
climb up to the roof, and use my swipe card to enter my hotel room. I’ll be needing cable, but
would prefer no internet service. Oh, and a bathtub. I want a bathtub.
34. Teeth contact.
35. Reindeer loin.
36. Shelia, you know Sheila. Fuck, you know everybody. Bring me her gall bladder in a glass
banana. Sort of modern sculpture I can set out and ignore.
37. I pledge the possible Chlamydia to the jet lag….
38. My own contractors. Make the walls bend. Make four taps, I want four silver taps installed
above my toilet, the little toady toilet in my little toady cave in Grand Rapids, Michigan, with
the medi-vac helicopter thumping overhead my hangover-skull, wires of transmission—You,
in the helicopter, oh fucked one, fucked broken stranger, I am sorry to ignore you now (as you
will ignore me later in my time of need)—just four silver flowing taps: codeine cough syrup,
coffee, Pepto Bismol, white wine.

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Rose Metal Press is having a fund drive. Please give. Seriously. Years ago I stumbled into this whole indie/alt community lit thing and it was refreshing as a snowfall of golden ballet shoes. Different than other aspects of the lit/book/author world. Why? Because we look out for each other. It is actually a community. I notice. All of these authors/publishers/amazing artists of all sort–they always shout and wink and glow about others first. It’s what pleased me about this little world, when I first explored lit-blogs, publishers, authors online. They had balance. It wasn’t just, “Read my book!” It was a little “read my book” and a whale of “Holy shit, read her book! And check out this reading! This interview. And look how this publisher just made a book out of a fishing tackle box. ” It was a medication to me, a good one. To give back. It is the oil of the movement, the windmill, the energy, the horse and wagon, the force that through the green fuse drives the flower, the metal of the rose, I feel.

so give

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By Lindsay Hunter

“Each tiny, diamond story—precise, comic, poised at the edge of surreal—contains one brutal life force tearing itself off the page. You can hold Daddy’s in your hands and feel it breathing.” —Deb Olin Unferth, author of Vacation

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BOOM chapbook contest, folks.

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Glow Luke Hawley at Hobart:

“I don’t know how you run marathons on sugar and diet soda.”

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FLASH! Mary Hamilton interview at The Short Review.

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I have a flash/prose poem about babysitters and a postcard about living on a houseboat at wigleaf. (If you are reading this months from now, go to wigleaf archives.)

Look under L, you slaw-cheeks.

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Ok, here we go: flatmancrooked slim volume of contemporary poetics. The first 14 poems.

1: “Aftermath” by Brian Adeloye is a cut-to-the-bone poem, so I’ll let you just read the thing and brain your own sandwich:

Whether noticeable

Or negligible

It probably

Was measurable

2: Justin Alvarez made me look up the word, alsacienne. It a term referring to a cooking style, origin “Alsace,” a province of northeastern France. Usually it means braised meat, some sausage, big-ass taters. A heavy meal. I could see someone eating in the alsacienne style and then belching before walking out to the woodpile and sprawling on the woodpile in the warming sun, wood sort of poking your back, legs all angled falling out, and maybe a few ants tickling your legs and next thing you know you’re asleep.

3: I don’t know why Joseph Atkins needs a period in the title of the poem, “Rain or Shine.” Could be something, or nothing. He does it here, too, at Shampoo. “Rain or Shine.” takes a stab at bored and medicated we. A good fork-ful stab, shiny sharpened tines of words:

Choking was the sound of progress.

Choking was the sign of progress.

What pleased me was the spin into another, apparently found over the internet, another soul drifting on the flotsam of split pills and television. He took this and made it that. This may be why they put Atkins name in big-ass letters on the back of this anthology.

4,5,6: Three prose poems appear. All by Mr. Atkins. He seems already a “presence” in this anthology. The prose poems are printed sideways on two pages. Atkins as interested in form. As interesting. I preferred the first one, “Plastic Vines Sparking in the Sunlight.” (though I sort of hate the title. It sounds like a Roadiohead song title)

A wash of “I” sentences, but it is the exhaustive “I” being examined, analyzed, alienated, sharded into nothing. It works:

I like things clean but I don’t like to clean.

I enjoy traffic jams for the homogenized goals of the mobile citizen & the unidirectional lack of insight they reveal.

7: Another Joseph Atkins poem, another period: “Photo Op.”

Odd poem here. A series of linguistic phrases, similar in structure and state, similar in diction, but then attributed to various personalities, DFW to Obama to Bernie Mac. It is a tri-level juxtaposition, with more depth than a photo op, and possibly one thesis: The systematization of celebrity culture transparent in its intent to transport the underlying assumptions of capitalistic society, AKA: they are puppets, but insidious puppets, and even worse, we love them and have no idea why.

8: James Benton made me go and look up amaryllis. It is a lily. It’s nickname is “the naked lady.” Hey now.

9: I’m getting a little Matthew Arnold feel off “Oceanus Pacificus”

Read both poems yourself.

10: Diego Baez doesn’t waste words. Tight as a thoroughbred, no fat. The title is a bit obvious, so off-putting, but I love how he takes me out with an image, a horse grazing in the bowl of our skulls, a diorama of our days.

11: Baez glows in the line, but continues a pattern of “Thanks for making it clear to me” titles. I wish I was his close friend and he would say, “Would you read my poems?” I would say, “No, I’m fucking busy, but maybe in the summer.” Then he would be patient, and I would read them in the summer. And I would say, “Damn, these are poems. I don’t have much to say, except thank you for writing these, and please, please, please change your titles.”

12: Finally, we have a female poet! That opening was front-loaded with male poets.

13: Amy Bleu has an excellent name. She sings. And writes a poem named “Akimbo.”

I don’t like what you stand for

But I like the way you stand there

Arms akimbo

Dominating

Every space you inhabit

Confident enough to conquer

Every Creature

Who extends a tender arm

Tentative as a tendril

In the vain hope

Of reaching

You.

14: Wow, to the “Fistulated Cow.” Glow words, Katie Cappello. (Here is a review of her book)

Aside: A fistulated cow is a cow with an intentional hole in it for scientific research. In 1822, a Canadian suffered a wound that refused to heal, but the man otherwise was in fine health. His doctor discovered that the digestive process could be observed directly through the hole. The discovery spread, and for over 150 years, fistulation has been used to observe digestive processes in living animals, with the first recorded scientific use on animals dating to 1833.

But back to the poem…

What is the cow thinking? I’m glad that’s asked? And isn’t love the wet undigested grass yanked from the cow’s first, second, third, or fourth stomach?

Indeed.

15. BONUS POEM! BONUS POEM!

WOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO

Everybody slap their grandmother! BONUS POEM!

Anna Clarke brings it with “How I never Wanted to Have Coffee with You.”

I’m reading, I suppose, and I notice

Capturing the coffee shop idyll, hardly reading at all, watching, thinking, we as book, sometimes faking, watching…Look, an elderly couple. Talking about silence, the weather, nothing, nothing

nothing but baked goods between them

Love fades. And is ordinary? As a leaf or a chip of paint. Or cold coffee. And the speaker is that couple. And we are that couple. And it is terrifying. And we must thank Anna Clarke for showing us so.

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Flash 14!!

1. At elimae: Halloween by Elizabeth Ellen.

I like flash of detachment. I like how the genre lets us read off the page. I like homage to William Carlos Williams. Red wheelbarrow is off the page. I respect tone, control of tone. This reminds me of “Night” by Brett Lott, a cold sun of a flash found in this anthology. EE’s flash is the whisper of the space inches above a cold floor. That space exists. The sound of mist on a rooftop. It is a type of quite-ssssssssssss-Chiaroscuro, with a slash of red lipstick, a painting with a hint of violation, a caught breath, a dizzy drop of blood .

2. Kathy Fish at Smokelong Q

Startling juxtapositions here. Worlds of lives orbiting underground, under covers. Reading this I had a feeling of being cut off, apart, like maybe I was talk floated in its journey, fallen words like leaves. Or this ending:

He knows that someday Mattie will take to calling him Handsome Mole. That her skin will never wrinkle. That she will someday board a train with faulty brakes. He knows, but he is helpless to change things. The repair man will someday carry a backpack full of books to the Wife Saver but he will fail to open them. He’ll say, Mattie I’m frightened, but she won’t coo to him. And he will die alone on an ice morning, walking past the subway to church.

3. Tina Hyland at decomP.

I’m not a huge fan of the title, but most every word afterward  is a well struck chord. This one falls into the long history of flash as parable, as magical realism, remake of God, and I appreciate the understanding of the genre and form. These are tough to write. Easy to take in the wrong direction, the wrong tone. Hyland keeps it glow with precise phrasing:

See my heart, he said. It really goes.

It really goes, it really goes, this FF. We thank you.

4. Flash Master Bruce Holland Rogers discusses repetition.

A paragraph that says “rose” five times is probably just as clear as one that says “rose,” “flower,” “bloom,” “posy,” and “inflorescence.” In fact, the repetitive version may be clearer than the varied one, particularly if the pursuit of variety leads the writer to scour the thesaurus and find words that aren’t quite right.

He’s right. As a teacher, I note the thesaurus-scourer, too. A student writes, “He ingested his morning sustenance,” and I say “You mean he ate his cereal?” But then again I don’t want to put my students off the thesaurus, though there is a better way to glow/know words: read more books. But I digress…

Holland Rogers argues for repetition. He makes some fascinating points. For example:

If you are going to repeat in your prose, repeat often enough so that the reader can see that the repetition is deliberate and part of your design.

He also lists various types of repetition, varying techniques. It’s a smart essay, thoughtful, and passed my gold standard: It made me want to write.

As a teacher of writing, I think about repetition in a student’s technique. I mean to say students might try a structural flair, or a certain tone shift, a few notes, a hotel of words, or a look-ma-no-hands stylistic move. But they do it once. My feedback is always to say, “No, don’t do it once. Repeat the move.” As Holland Rogers notes above, give the move intent, voice, ownership.

5. Dan Sanders made beer blow out my nose over at Hobart. The rarest thing is to write funny, even rarer the funny flash. But wow. I coughed my spleen into discrete syllables.

We launch in four days. I am assured that my time here has been worthwhile. I feel better than I have in years. Yuri bought a Cadillac. He’s very excited. Every time he sees me he erupts into joyous laughter and says “Cadillac” in his thick Russian accent. He is the very best spiritual advisor a fifty year old man could have before being launched into space.

And this gem:

If you’re going to take people into space, provide them with something to do.

Indeed, sir.


6. Raymond Carver by Dan Choan.

This one is a nod to my students. Recently, I was teaching persona fiction, or fiction working the terrain of celebrities, personalities, stories told with their presence or through their eyes.This is a good assignment for many reasons, but it’s strength is that it forces students to understand the power of characterization.  Persona fiction provides a massive advantage for the writer–the characterization is already complete. The reader “knows” the character beforehand.

I gave them spiderman, a version of.

I gave them Paris Hilton and Nicole.

But they really locked onto Mr. Choan’s flash. Maybe because it’s so aware, such a Carver story about Carver about…I mean to say it’s glow.

7. Flash interview with Caia Hagel.

It is a challenge to write, to find the precisely right word after word and rhythm to keep the whole of it viscerally alive. I find that attractive.

8. You have from November 9, 2010 to January 31, 2011 to enter the Vestal Review flash fiction contest.

9. Time is odd and devastating. We’re trapped. Who asked for this? This life. Seriously.

Eric Higgins at wigleaf presents our deathly dilemma very well:

Because It Was Sunday
Eric Higgins

My father was reading Golf Digest in his chair. I was reading about ancient heroes (made up kinds). My father was my ancient hero. Mother passed through on horseback. Twigs and Spanish moss like grandfather’s beard in her hair tangled. She waved. We waved. Father did it without looking up. This was how we spent Easter Sunday, not because it was Easter but because it was Sunday.

Time must have passed because I was sautéing mushrooms next and draped with too-big gingham pants belted high. What’s for dinner, someone asked. What’s on your plate, I said.

Suddenly a nasty accident saved us.

Mother sold her quarter horses. Dad, his clubs. I turned over my skillets and books. We got to know each other gradually. Videos of us picnicking were made. This was a happy ending. This was a happy ending and over our food we prayed.

10. My flash advice is to write three of everything. That’s what I do now. Three. If one flash “works” I write two more, a series. I suggest you do the same.

I suggest compulsory masterminded attacks of vowels. Go almost taxi, like move your respect into the sky beyond the bridge. I suggest you kiss a pearl’s mother. An owl. I suggest beers the size of synagogues. I suggest lecturing your own brother. Or vikings! Or maybe you jump a fence and wrestle a deer. Or take a nature poem and drown it in yellow gouts of snot. I suggest you listen to the rain. Have sex in the basement of a boycott. Go ahead, take several eggs from the clutch. And suck them. I suggest you go about randomly shouting, “Is anyone here named Terry?!” You’re trapped. I suggest you caress your own earlobe. Remove the wax and sculpt someone who will be by your side when it’s finally your own time. Your own time is coming! Or picnic during an invasion. busyness, I suggest. Or, hell, go bet on dogs and feel horrible for betting on dogs. Cast your mind into turmoil. Gray slime. Flapping shadows. Create your own stamp from a block of hot sauce. Menu my body. HELLO MY NAME IS. Let out a screech. Check that. I hate the word screech. Mystery and imagination, our very few days. Whoops, I just lost another full minute of my lifetime. Drink whiskey, read the Times, etc. I suggest you shut the fuck up. Sorry, sorry, it’s this ghost in my stomach, a thing I once thought impossible. Glassed cabinets I call my eyes. Work one third of my fucking days. Sleep another third. I suggest you fast walk. Quick talk! Stalk out and remember yourself today. Fry in hell! Sorry…I know but one time around dusk I saw a coyote with its mouth full of bird and it was stalking a rabbit snagged on barbed wire, a screaming rabbit, one big spinning eye on me.

11. I also suggest The Party, a two-party gathering at 3 in the morning, a flash by Alan McCormick and a drawing by Johnny Voss.

12. I just remembered that I write flash fiction. Here’s one for the Elvis fan in all our greasy souls:

Elvis Presley Visits His Volatile Temperament

It was snowing the night they say I lost my mind, and I never shot no damn TV. It was too much Budweiser on top of codeine on top of valium on top of methaqualone and an argument with Sonny West about him cheating in racquetball that afternoon. Really it was just about me losing to a man so grossly out of shape, about self-image. I just looked in the mirror and something snapped. I tore the mirror from the wall and jumped on the bed until the bottom fell out and opened my big window and hurled all of this and one hell of a hi-fi set into the frozen swimming pool below (we never did get the cover on that year). Then I tossed a big blue lamp—some kind of glass sculpture thing—followed by a silver serving tray and a chair made to look like a leopard standing on its hind legs (given to me by Zambia’s Tourism Minister, Frederick Mwanawasa). It was all fine until I found my revolver. They’d removed the bullets (wrapped them in duct tape and hidden them in the downstairs freezer I found out later). I ranted and raved—“Where’s my ammo!” They held me down, until I passed out. The next afternoon, after I woke up on my bedroom carpet, I gave them all hell, my voice thick as cough syrup.

“Where’d my life go?” I demanded.

“In the swimming pool,” Sonny said, the rest of them nodding along.

“Oh.” I thought a moment. “Well, go get it.”

13. Jared Yates Sexton over at The Raleigh Review.

This is some gritty, fast-moving knife flash here. In dialogue, internal monologue–check this glass, glitter shard of, technique. Conflict ramped up, no waiting on the wind, no waiting, words glint of beer can off bits of bone, bits of skull. I keep saying to students, “Get the story started!” I show them things. Next time I say it I’m going to show them this Sexton flash.

14. Kim Chinquee is the Queen of Flash Fiction. Well, no shit.

In curt sentences detailing many unsettled lives, Chinquee constructs a mosaic of despair in modern day America.

Word.