Category Archives: Authors Who Kick Ass

Breaking Down the Kobe Bryant Poem

So Kobe published a poem yesterday. 

Some outlets steadfastly refused to call it a poem, instead referencing the work as “A Letter.” Some didn’t know what to do about this literary/sports oddity.

Bleacher Report went “Open Letter.”

Reuters called it an essay (OK…)

NPR went poem and form-of-a-poem.

Esquire went poem. Rolling Stone went poem. Anyone with a brain went poem. Because it is a poem. To not label it a poem is part of ESPN’s (and other outlets) hangups. I suspect they just couldn’t fathom poetry as a vehicle of communication within sports, especially in the new hyper-produced, hyper-opinionated, hyper-cynical-mallet-to-your-head LOUD LOUD LOUD world of sports media.

(Cynical in that the new sports media implies the audience can in no way digest subtlety or perspective)

Andy North and Mike Furman of Fox Sports called the poem “sickening” and soft,” interestingly. (I listen to sports radio, clearly a personality flaw [of many] on my part.) They also opined that the poem was meant to upstage Michael Jordan’s retirement letter.  (Hmm…)

I don’t want to be the next Michael Jordan. I want to be the first Kobe Bryant.

ESPN seems to be evolving as the day goes on. ON TV this morning, they went “letter.” Later, they called it a first-person story, and then a first-person story that took the form of a poem (?).

Holy hybrid text!

It is a poem. But first published on the internet,  so that confuses things. Poetry makes nothing happen, as Auden reminds us, a smart, paradoxical statement, and isn’t that further truth that Kobe has indeed penned a poem? Nothing really happened. But his poem almost broke the internet (the site crashed once the poem appeared). And it’s the internet, where nothing happens and nothing happens. So.

poet Kobe

I didn’t even know Kobe was a poet, though I suppose I’m not surprised. He spent formative years in Europe, is fluent in several classical languages, played soccer (excuse me, futbol) for years, and even his name smacks of high culture, Kobe, a type of very expensive, Japanese beef his parents just happened to see on a restaurant menu while mulling over names for their newborn and then deciding, “Hey, why not?”

(Fortunately for Kobe, his parents weren’t eating eggplant)

And I suppose if you look at some past quotations, he was obviously harboring the inner heart of a poet:

ANGST:

I have a lot of self-doubt.

ALIENATION:

I can’t relate to lazy people. I don’t understand you. I don’t want to understand you.

INTROSPECTION:

I’ve shot too much from the time I was 8 years old. But ‘too much’ is a matter of perspective. Some people thought Mozart had too many notes in his compositions. Let me put it this way: I entertain people who say I shoot too much. I find it very interesting. Going back to Mozart, he responded to critics by saying there were neither too many notes or too few. There were as many as necessary.

ARTISTIC DISCIPLINE:

Christmas morning, I’m going to open presents with my kids. I’m going to take pictures of them opening the presents. Then I’m going to come to the Staples Center and get ready to work.

A KNACK FOR METAPHOR:

These young guys are playing checkers. I’m out there playing chess.

You shake the tree, a leopard’s gonna fall out.

I am Black Mamba.

Let’s check out this poem.

The auditor, or audience, for the poem is the game of basketball. Kobe did rip this off from Jordan’s retirement letter:

MJ:

I love you, Basketball. I love everything about you and I always will. My playing days in the NBA are definitely over, but our relationship will never end.

But I don’t really want to go there, and let’s give Kobe credit here for the poetic technique called apostrophe, wherein you address a poem to a non-human auditor.

For example, “To a Waterfowl” by William Cullen Bryant is written to a duck.

From the moment
I started rolling my dad’s tube socks
And shooting imaginary
Game-winning shots
In the Great Western Forum
I knew one thing was real:

What do we see poetic here? A lot. The use of stanzas is noted, an Italian term translated as “little room,” possibly the same the same flats and appartements he dwelled within as his father, Jelly Bean, who played professional basketball in Europe. Anapest appears, then stumbles, but note the imagery, the rolled tube socks, an elegiac nostalgia of the object, Rilke’s father, Dylan Thomas, poetry as a snapshot to capture the idyll of youth, the beginnings, a certain care for words, parallelism of rolling and shooting, the rhyme of socks and shots, and I admire the enjambment–we’re left hanging like a jump-shot ball arcing in the air…What is real? What one thing?

I fell in love with you.

A love so deep I gave you my all —
From my mind & body
To my spirit & soul.

As a six-year-old boy
Deeply in love with you
I never saw the end of the tunnel.
I only saw myself
Running out of one.

And now the poem–like most all poems by anyone who hasn’t dedicated a serious life to this arduous art–turns very, very lame. Even the Trochaic goes topsy, which is hard to do. The abstractions of love overwhelm, mind, spirit (and etc.), the repetition of love (ah, love), the cliche of the tunnel, a keen interest in the “I.” And also the “I.” The poem seems to drop pretty much every interest in poetry at this point.

(Poet Bruce Smith once told me most American poets look out the window and immediately write about themselves.)

And so I ran.
I ran up and down every court
After every loose ball for you.
You asked for my hustle
I gave you my heart
Because it came with so much more.

I played through the sweat and hurt
Not because challenge called me
But because YOU called me.
I did everything for YOU
Because that’s what you do
When someone makes you feel as
Alive as you’ve made me feel.

Here, some rhyme returns and I do appreciate the “run” motif threading itself throughout stanzas, providing some logic. Basketball is now YOU. Accusatory? A vengeful god? Or simply such a LARGE presence, and this being the internet, we need ALL CAPS, for emphasis, see? The shame is these stanzas could have been poetry. What we would give now for scene, verisimilitude, specifics. To see those socks rolled right into a simile. A spat of fire with Shaq. Or remember the time Kobe refused–as a brash teen–to even work our for the Celtics? (Could we get that remembered dialogue?) A game (or games) against Kobe’s heavy, cloaking shadow, Michael Jordan. The breakfast with Rondo? The 81 points against Toronto, the ball falling into the green and golden mercy of the basket…The time, in the 3rd quarter, where the Dallas Mavericks scored 62 points and Kobe had 61. Scorch! And thud: The air balls we’ve endured all this season (air balls! multiple air balls!). The MOMENTS (not to go all caps). It’s the moments–crystallized like shimmering cobwebs of memory or the strings of a basketball net caught in the big city lights–that make poetry, Mr. Mamba.

But no. All we get is hurt and challenge and feel–words that are honestly the enemy of poetry.

You gave a six-year-old boy his Laker dream
And I’ll always love you for it.
But I can’t love you obsessively for much longer.
This season is all I have left to give.
My heart can take the pounding
My mind can handle the grind
But my body knows it’s time to say goodbye.

And that’s OK.
I’m ready to let you go.
I want you to know now
So we both can savor every moment we have left together.
The good and the bad.
We have given each other
All that we have. 

Here, I admire the specificty of Six-year-old boy and a bit of interest in language with Laker dream and grinding and pounding. Rhyme returns, even internal rhyme, but then everything else fades away into coach and athlete talk, the words Orwell warned us all about, abstractions, the good and the bad, 100% percent efforts, one game at a time, they have to get on the same page, for example, terms that mean absolutely nothing.

And we both know, no matter what I do next
I’ll always be that kid
With the rolled up socks
Garbage can in the corner
:05 seconds on the clock
Ball in my hands.
5 … 4 … 3 … 2 … 1

Love you always,
Kobe

KB_Black_Signature
The ending I enjoyed. First, because it ended the poem (I applaud in the same manner for James Franco’s work.). Second, the cyclical structure back to the rolled-up socks, to a sort of a kind thank you to his father (he provided the socks/opportunities of life, didn’t he?), the image of a garbage can, the 5…4…3 interest in form/function (end of poem, end of game, end of career, etc.), and I really like the sign-off, printed and then a signature, very Beat poetry, naming the speaker as speaker, the place as place, the everyday as extraordinary. Well done, Kobe. Gary Snyder (or even Bill Walton) would be sort of proud.
 This isn’t the only poem Kobe delivered yesterday (maybe, like Jewel, this is his next career?). He wrote a personal one (sort of) for every Laker fan at last night’s game (a game of many Kobe air-balls, including game-winning attempts). Here it is, printed on very nice paper:
20151129_180705

 

I will not review this poem; it is centered. I do not want to get into a lengthy discussion of centered poetry except to say please do not center your poetry. Please.

Do you hear me, Kobe?!

Makes no damn sense. Now I’m supposed to come back from this ?!? How in the world am I supposed to do that?? I have NO CLUE. Do I have the consistent will to overcome this thing? Maybe I should break out the rocking chair and reminisce on the career that was. Maybe this is how my book ends. Maybe Father Time has defeated me…Then again maybe not!”

OK, OK…never mind.

Mary Ruefle vs. Abigail Zimmer in a Death Match

Today, we have two newcomers, Mary Ruefle, who is a former greens-keeper and primarily a flash fiction author, and Abigail Zimmer, who I met once in Chicago at that touristy pier thing with the boats and the shops and ball-peen hammer and the giant bell or anchor I forget. (Abigail was at the beer garden sort of glimmering on a table drunk and doing standup. She kept dropping Derek Jeter jokes that were like 6 out of 10 funny, though humor is admittedly subjective and I had a head cold weeks early sort of lingering like ceramics.)

Hey, guys, you know why Derek Jeter’s house is so damn big?!

Ehhh…something about girlfriends, batting average…

ehhh

stein nachos 3

What good is memory? I know about ten dog stories, yet I have experienced countless dogs in my life.

Abigail Zimmer writes of mice and oranges, here.

Ruefle sometimes erases shit, which seems especially cool/lazy.

I never get head colds. That’s a dern lie. Anyway, I was hungover from so much running in the parks and dairylands of Chicago, the hills and wales of Chicago–sing it with me–the rolling hills, the nighttime thrills, the icy spills, the chills running down the wine, the line, the fishing line of memory, the rain, something, something…the…ah, never mind. Let’s do this!

What shall we try?

Let’s try, “A Penny For Your Thoughts” (Ruefle) versus “My best friend says that Horton Hears a Who is an allegory for the impending zombie takeover.” (Zimmer)

The rules are simple: Which author writes the better poetry in the two texts I have chosen? The categories are:

Best Opening Line

Best Image

Best Thing That Made Think

Best Reference to Nachos

Best Ending Line

A feeble attempt to keep the track dust from peppering her nachos grande.

Grab your Pop Tart and glass of red; and let’s begin!!

BEST OPENING LINE

MR:

 How are we to find eight short English words

that actually stand for autumn?

It’s a good question. As use of the interrogation point, or the eroteme, as my sixth grade substitute teacher would insist, as she passed around various over-sized glossy photos of herself in a bikini atop a motorcycle (she was later dismissed). I always wanted the question mark to be a bolt of lightning, but I wasn’t consulted. So. Opening with a question bring me, the willing reader, into play. Sean, would you like to enter my poem, to sit with me at the table, to track with me a hurricane of ideas, to leave yourself, to threaten your own national insecurities, to dance, to twirl, to synapse, to spend billions of tax dollars on rainbows, to arrive, arrive like the cinnamon whirl from a ceiling fan mounted on the blood moon. these opening lines really remind me of sitting by a river with the author, drinking strong coffee from a blue, ceramic mug. Possibly we are naked. I liked it.

AZ:

On the first day of the apocalypse the conductor stops calling out the names of where we are but I recognize Belmont because a drag queen is stealing your cell phone.

I Think we’ve had quite enough of apocalyptic literature at this point in time.

dr

Best opening line goes to Mary Ruefle!

Best Image

MR:

Hmmm…well MR’s poem is full of images, because all really good poetry is full of images. It’s tough. It’s like I’m picking the best acorn from a really solid barrel of acorns someone picked from the ground and placed into the barrel for some unknown reason. They all taste good to deer and any of them could grow into an even larger oak tree and taller oak tree and be around way after me (like all quality images), my children’s children might attach a swing to even one limb of the image and swing and swing and swing! And rainbow, rainbow, rainbow! Ok, I’ll go with this one:

Now the clouds look burnt. But first they burned.

That’s what I’m talking about.

AZ:

There are halogen trees and fields of people discussing the just announced Pantone color of the year.

I’m not discussing Halogen trees at this point. I’m a man of principles. I don’t know what Pantone means. But I do enjoy Abigail’s keen sense of word choice. As she once said in Chicago, “The American language has too many words and is basically a pain in the ass, but, for poets, it’s OK, right, it’s like what Derek Jeter says about base hits: ‘you can’t really have too many.’ Words are basically base knocks for poets.”

Well said, Abigail.

Abigail wins best image!

obama-beer

(Mylar balloons drift and whirl from the ceiling like those kids you see on the streets of Vancouver.)

Best Thing That Made Think

MR:

One peculiar way to die of loneliness
is to try.

I have oft wondered if the lonely are purposely lonely, or if it’s a condition of the others, or if it’s societal/anti-societal, or if it’s something else entirely. Loneliness, as we know, adds irreverence to life, I mean chemiluminescent, like when you see minnows spinning (dead minnows) in a pool of mountain water and their scales are spinning in a sort of vortex–I mean to say loneliness puts a special “butter” on the edges of a moonset and also of course makes night air smell like copper. Then again, let me write a poem: I call it, Pomegranate Series __9.

Only
those
who
are
not
lonely
suppose
that
loneliness
can
be
cured
merely
by
ending
aloneness
example:
Pomegranate!!
ass
Thank you, thank you, thank you very little…
AZ:

I still don’t know what Pantone means and, no, I’m not going to Just Google it. That would be death. Akin to death. Then again, from my rotting body, flowers shall grow and some little kid will probably pick the flowers, you know, and the kid will try to give the flowers to his stinking drunk mom, who’s just drinking, you know, spending all day drinking and night, too, drinking with two or three men and sometimes three or four other men and usually another woman or two, sometimes from Memphis, a waitress or idle man from out of town, whatever, and she’d end up in dances in the country (B52 Love Shack, anyone?), those wonderful hot nights in the country, and really what could some sickly, little kid with a loofah gourd for a head (the shape), how could that kid compete, even if he has a fistful of flowers picked from the soil that was once my rotting body? So, anyway, not sure why I’m scared of death, is my point, I’ll live forever in the sweaty, rejected fist of a kid. I’m writing this from a swimming pool, BTW. In Kentucky. Anyway, I’m not Googling Pantone, I said I wouldn’t, damn it!, is my key point of emphasis here.

Best Thing That Made Think is won by Abigail!!! We might have us a dern upset here, folks! There’s a long drive, deep center field, it might be, it could be, it is! A home run! Holy Cow! This whippersnapper from Chicago with her Derek Jeter jokes, all sashaying, walking tall, legs flailing out like a plastic bag of sporks on the table, kids dropping Monopoly boards as they run wild down the sidewalks of holidays and life!

Moving on…

Best Reference to Nachos

MR:

Talk for half an hour about the little churchyard
full of the graves of people who have died
eating nachos.

 

First, I enjoy the humor. Obviously, no one has ever died from eating nachos, since nachos–as research has proven–is the single healthiest serving of food in the world, whether you eat them for breakfast or just because you are at local bar, lonely on a Sunday afternoon, sitting gaunt, grizzled, austere, wishing you were eating nachos as you eat nachos.

anniston egg book copy

When I read this verse, my head chopped off like a blade of ice melting across a frozen sea of a skittle, a real skittle, not the fucking candy. It’s like the love I feel for plagiarism and deadlines, as both go whoossssshing by.

I read these lines and stood up from the Kentucky swimming pool and I let out these words (loudly, echoing among the sickly, loud kids of Kentucky):

I AM A PEAR! I FEEL LIKE A PEAR!

I don’t even know what that means. I felt like a galloping bat, like I just galloped past the house and kept on galloping, my little sonar pinging, pinging, and isn’t that what the lonely do, send out little pings?

I felt like I had done treed a deputy of the law.

There’s a dude in this swimming pool I swear his knees look like Norm McDonald’s knees. Odd.

AZ:

Abigail Zimmer, she doesn’t mention nachos.

Best Ending Line

MR:

To you I must tell all or lie.

I prefer the lie.

AZ:

I give it to you because I am asking for Bieber’s beautiful wave of adult hair and an elephantine ass like Billie Holiday must have had, had anyone thought to take a picture of her walking away.

Get Billie Holiday’s name out your mouth! But I do like writing about asses…Hmm.

The winner, in a close one, is…

MARY RUEFLE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Here’s a photo of her eating nachos.

mary

Hang in there, Abigail. It was a close one. Here’s a photo of Abigail for you kind folks:

judy 3

Until the next tempest,

S

The Kind of Girl by Kim Henderson

The Kind of Girl who writes flash fiction: Diane Williams, Lindsay Walker, Ana Maria Shua (South American queen of flash), Kim Chinquee (North American queen of flash), Lydia Davis, Mary Miller, Gay Degani, Amelia Gray, Meg Pokrass, Tania Hershman, Nicolle Elizabeth, Shellie Zacharia, Aubrey Hirsch, Sarah Rose Etter, Kathy Fish. Others.

They be glow like levitating Wednesdays.

Like transatlantic spirit bears.

Baudelaire: “Sois toujours poète, même en prose” [Always be a poet, even in prose.]

Baudelaire’s erratic personality was marked by moodiness, rebelliousness, and an intense religious tweaking of bass lures and Velveeta. 

IMG_0036

Writers know writer Velveeta by the as/like/association. Auden once said his face looked like a wedding cake left out in the rain. That makes me want to sleep him hard. Call me maybe? Henderson writes, “My father’s torso was like slipping into a hard boiled egg—the perfect cocoon.” Later: cottage cheese ceiling. Looking like charred, deflated marshmallows. A dandelion among rosy girls. They seem to fall out of the sky and twirl down like maple seedlings, these words. Respect.

Judge Deb Olin Unferth mentions tension. It’s odd, but it’s true: most good stories/vignettes/whatevers have tension. Of course just looking closely causes tension. Just paying attention, which costs.

[Aside: Deb Olin Unferth always seems cool, even when she occasionally dances with “The Man.” Yet she maintains street cred. Might be her name, which reminds one of lilies, musk, art deco installations in urban libraries, and razor blades. Not sure…]

Symbolic compression.

It seems things are slipping away: tension. “Our ice cream melted…”

Things fall apart. No, the slip apart. Slide.

Kids see the adult world, fuzzy, can’t quite get it or want to. Adults see the kid world, fuzzy, can’t quite get it.

IMG_1937

Some of the book reminds me of this poem.

What I glow about flash collections is how they whale-pod to a thing. Mood or tone or just whatever, it builds and builds. They are separate but the same, like that Fleetwood Mac album

where everyone was sleeping behind the backs and fronts of each other and it happens and it just drives the music to a fragmented whole, like settle into duck-hunting graphs mapped with green (my fav color) arrows and Ys or an unforeseen breakdown, so I mean shards in a bowl.

deer

Above is my archery pal, Billy.

I think it’s very hard to write from a younger viewpoint. But here not so at all. They key is to write it clean, just state what happened. A memory that is told from the future, yet rendered so cleanly in the moment (past). It’s a tough thing many people try, but Henderson, she does it.

Here’s the line, the microcosm, the hot engine of this machine: “In class, we learned that humans didn’t see what we literally sensed, but rather what we thought we sensed.” Indeed.

Many of the structures are what I would call, spatially, filling a glass. Turn on tap, glass fills, and fills, more quickly, CUT. Turn off tap. Often the dénouement is deadly. The gear shifts so fast as to grind/screech and wake from the meditation. Started and startled. It’s a keen thing.

Best Seattle nachos? Just saying.

I NEED TO KNOW!

Some writers insist you follow. Example:

This line: “She is a preacher now, or an artist, I can’t remember which.”

Character not as emphasized. Situation might replace character (possibly opening the form to archetype, to fable?)

eggs leap

Or this: “We had an organ in the family room when I was twelve for some white trash reason…”

Or: “And there’s sex, which is free and makes people like each other.”

Two pages of the book are this amazing green.

I like an assured narrator. With command of history, mythology, and technique.

Childlike imagination runs through as a balance to lighten the elegiac journey.

chi1

There is no possible way to determine what is or what is not.

I don’t know. No, I do. Guess I’ll keep an eye. An eye out. I’d like to see more. I would.

Add Kim Henderson to list # 1 above. She belongs.

Bear

The bear puts both arms around the tree above her
And draws it down as if it were a lover
And its chokecherries lips to kiss good-by,
Then lets it snap back upright in the sky.

–Robert Frost.

I once penned a flash fiction about Robert Frost standing atop a TV while wearing hot pants, though I’m not sure why. Possibly it was because I was sitting (or shall I saw sprawling like an octopus?) in a room (probably yellowed and mildewed or smelling like cheese) and heard a teacher glare to me “Robert Frost was the first poet on TV” and I had this sudden concrete image “ON the TV” and I just coagulated. My desired object is an empty TV with flowers inside the fractured shell, but have never been motivated enough to go ahead and create the damn thing. Back in Alabama I held prayer with fire ants and took a Dante class and walked into the room and the professor started speaking to us, in Italian. I walked out the room. That’s a tip: eject the class, OK? Don’t gurgle an F. An F FOLLOWS you around like a cheerleader’s debt. Did I mention I had a student faint last year? Like a gelatinous flower to the floor. It can be rough in academia, I know that. Yesterday I graded 400 papers about Facebook, bioengineering, treacle addiction, and the pseudoscience of experiments on happiness. It was interesting. I can read really quickly like a door. I used to teach Robert Frost waaaayyy back in the day when people used balloons for travel and the world was basically either a dog or a car window and people would allow me to teach literature and students would plagiarize their papers on Frost and it would be the FIRST THING I Googled, like LAZY plagiarism, and I would stomp my little foot and print it out and staple it to their assignments all sideways and crinkly with coffee stains and hand it back with a big fat ZERO and one time this young lady cried and cried and cried. Young lady who is not near as young anymore–I am sorry I made you cry. Shit does happens, though, when you plagiarize. Think about if you tried to plagiarize a whale, for example. I would staple your plagiarized whale onto a real whale, and contemplate that, the potential consequences of a beached, bloody, stapled whale just leaking all over your fabulous green sweater. When I think of Frost I think of people lying to horses and riding trees or back in Memphis when I used to swing on grapevines all over the forest. I would also smoke grapevine like a god. Grapevine is basically a very useful plant for kids. I penned again about Frost last week. I said something about liking to play tennis without a net. You know, Frost lost his father and his kids (one to suicide) and had to commit family members to mental institutions and was generally well acquainted with the night. I think this is why he wrote about nature. Nature is nature. Humans are nature, but we stand removed from its essence. We are anti-nature and nature. Nature is nature. The hawk is the hawk is the hawk. Humans…well.

The mother told about the time she’d seen a bear. A bear the size of several men, she said. There in the woods behind our house, when I was still a girl like you. The mother had stood in wonder watching while the bear ate a whole deer. It ate the deer’s cheeks, its eyes, its tongue, its pelt. It ate everything but the antlers. The mother had waited for the bear to leave so she could take the antlers home and wear them, but the bear had just gone on laying, stuffed, smothered in blood. The mother swore then—her eyes grew massive in the telling—the bear had spoken. It’d looked right at the mother and said, quite casual, My god, I was hungry. Its voice was gorgeous, deep and groaning. The mother could hardly move. I didn’t know bears could talk, she said finally, and the bear had said, Of course we can. It’s just that no one ever takes the time to hear. We are old and we are lonely and we have dreams you can’t imagine.

-Blake Butler

That’s an excerpt from Scorch Atlas, still my favorite book of Blake’s. I like Blake Butler, I do, as an author and a human being. As is my way I once shot his book (I only shoot books I admire) and I know for a fact I set it on fire and maybe even detonated an explosive nearby can’t remember and was drinking, my head like a wobbly hog. Who knows? My heart is oft a drowsy box. But one thing you might want to ponder is putting a bear into your brain bucket. It is wise.

Here’s a little piece I wrote for my book, Fog Gorgeous Stag. Like much of the book, the text is utterly senseless, but I did add a bear (carrying a cross) to sort of tidy up the logic. Without the bear, the piece had all the gravitas of decaffeinated coffee. With the bear included, the words now have a certain savage indignation, a flavor of tormented loves and guarded epiphanies alongside the obvious aesthetic statement defining the project entire. Here, let me show you:

Chilly and Feeling Weak

A glass bowl of disposable lighters. A bowl of fireworks. A little wind-up dog. An altar made of still-warm meat yet hung. Glass stains. Bears with crosses. Curtains ironing the waxes out of candles. In the words of all: “The prayer of continuing any act simply because we started the act, Amen.” A gilded sling shot. Fact: Not one person saved. Fact: I enjoy the swish of rain sweeping a roof, most any roof, and so attended gloomy days. Fact: Velvet is a tangled clod. Fact: All over the world. Fact: Relentless and horrible rain. Fact: A philosophy of quietism. Fact: Ugly contrasts. Fact: Urns and earns, a form of learning. Fact: Instability. Fact: An old-fashioned coward. Fact: A walk now and then, a falling forward. Fact: An underwater house. Fact: A neon sign above the two bowls. Fact: It read SHARE.

[technology is lonely

a properly folded flag impossible to unfold

without major damage]

One time the writer Tao Lin said, “In my room I have a bearsuit but I haven’t done anything sexual with it. I like looking at a pretty face when doing something sexual. I don’t know if I would feel aroused if I looked at a fish head or like a donkey’s mouth while doing something sexual. I do understand and believe that people are able to “get off” on those things though. I don’t doubt their arousal or pleasure.”

Wow, people talk a lot of shit about Tao Lin, but you know what they hardly ever talk about? He used to be really, really funny. Is he funny now? I don’t know. I have not read any of his current books. But back in the day, glow funny. Here you go:

(BTW: Tao Lin’s syllabus, if you are interested in the contemporary short story or want a site with some glow links to stories online.)

‘A poem written by a bear’ by Tao Lin

let me go eat some salmon

why are there coke cans in the river

what if i wore a bullet proof vest during hunting season

i’m a bear; i walk in the forest and look at the river and the river is cold

i saw campers today and they ran away and i was alone and i destroyed their tent

let me go scratch my paw on a tree

let me go eat a salmon

last night i cried onto my salmon

the salmon was sad but it still wanted to live

it wanted to swim and be sad and i ate it under moonlight

i saw a moose scream the other day

it screamed quietly under a tree

i felt embarrassed and sad and i thought, ‘oh, no; oh god, oh my god’

sometimes i climb a tree and sit there and sing very quietly

sometimes i want to go to a shopping mall and chase the humans and claw them

i’ll ride the moose into the shopping mall and ram the humans

the moose and i will ride the escalator and i will hug the moose and the moose and i will cry

i will eat the moose

i don’t care

i will scream and throw the bubblegum machine from the second floor to the first floor

i felt compassion for the salmon and now i don’t care anymore

i’ll walk into a parking lot and chase a large human and hug the human and cry

i’ll walk into a house at night and push the humans off the bed

i’ll stare at the bed and i’ll feel fake

One of my favorite bear stories gnashes a sense of place with excellent characterization. It is over at Smokelong Quarterly and is titled, “Imagines He’s a Bear.” Ryan Dilbert. Dilbert matured on an island and I actually know someone who let Ryan Dilbert give them a tattoo. That’s trust. I had an ER patient once at Denver Health Medical Center and he had, in GIANT letters, exactly this numeral tattooed on his forehead: 666. That, my friends, is questionable judgement. I had an ER patient who called me (I was working the midnight phones) and asked for directions to the ER. He was angry at a nursing assistant and wanted to come shoot her with a gun. I had an ER patient once who attempted to open the doors of a passenger jet while in flight. I had an ER patient once who…oh, never mind. I’m writing about bears! I have a tattoo of a blazing sun on my shoulder. The sun is the source of all life. Maybe. Three strong drinks later.

See how Ryan Dilbert constructs a little world here? See how HE USES A BEAR!? I’m asking you to listen to me. I’m asking you to understand the effectiveness of bears. Bears will make your prose something to be worshiped from afar, like a mountain range or a spicy, adulterous affair, for example. Your poetry, if immersed within bears, will most likely shine like a mini-skirt. Place a bear within your argument for the legalization of marijuana and we’ll all be very high, very soon. I’m offering you a chance to improve your writing. This is a writing blog, sometimes. A bear is your chance to say, Fuck decorum. A bear is subversive. A bear is like inviting an angel into your house for pizza and then beating the angel in UNO. A bear is fresh. I’m trying to give you a writing tip here, but I get the distinct feeling you are not listening. Are you on Facebook? I bet you are! I could be wrong. Maybe you’re actually listening. OK, sorry. That was presumptuous of me.

Insert a bear in your art. Please.

Here is “The Bear and the Skunk” by Ben Tanzer.

Over at bearcreekfeed, we have a magazine with the word “bear” embedded within the title of the magazine. There is also work by some strong authors.

Write a story in which your character has a problem:

“Henry, there’s a bear at the door.”

The problem should be significant:

“Henry, it’s huge.”

The problem should be pressing:

“Henry, I think it’s trying to get in.”

The story begins by establishing not only that something is wrong, but that your character has to act. ….

…. If Henry is to deal with the problem, he has to find the bear within himself:

“Henry! Do something!”

The tension in the story comes from the battle between the challenge and the character’s need to face the problem. What will Henry do?

Here is a little poem for you:

Although Hopkins admitted to smoking

marijuana before arriving at work, I cannot

conclude based on the evidence that the major

contributing cause of the grizzly bear attack

was anything other than the grizzly. It is not as

if this attack occurred when Hopkins inexplicably

wandered into the grizzly pen while

searching for the nearest White Castle. When

a grizzly bear is sighted on a trail in Glacier

National Park, the trail is closed to all hikers,

not just the hikers who may have recently

smoked marijuana. When it comes to attacking

humans, grizzlies are equal-opportunity

maulers, attacking without regard to race,

creed, ethnicity, or marijuana use. Hopkins’s

use of marijuana to kick off a day of working

around grizzly bears was ill-advised to say the

least, and mind-bogglingly stupid to say the

most. However, I have been presented with no

evidence by which I can conclude that Hopkins’s

marijuana use was the major contributing

cause of the grizzly bear attack.

A few days ago a person commented that Jim Harrison was a poor poet. That person can kiss my ass. I hope a bear eats his mother’s bras. Jim Harrison is a very good poet, and I consider his “Letters to Yesenin” to be one of my all time glow books. Today, let’s look at two poems Mr. Harrison wrote about bears. In the first poem, the speaker releases a kept bear; in the second, the speaker eats bear and then dreams of bear (a repeating motif in Harrison’s work–characters who eat bear often have bear dreams). To Harrison the bear is always holy. Although Harrison himself is a hunter, he clearly see hunting bear as absurd, or simply as the wrong thing to do. I would have to agree. Go ahead and read the poems. Go. Right now.

I met Steve Himmer at a tire store once. The tire store was converted into an artist space and Steve Himmer and I (and way too many other people) were reading that evening. You know lately people have been inviting WAY too many fucking poets to readings. Chill on that, OK? Invite four tops, not 14. Jesus. Who wants to hear that much poetry? Or have to be near that many poets? Poets! We have to stand here alongside all these poets? Steve was a nice guy, BTW, and he’s not a poet, so what am I even talking about? It makes you wonder. We ran out of beer that evening.

Over at JMWW, Steve writes:

So I was alone in the house when I walked into the kitchen to hunt down a snack and nearly tripped over a bear. He was sound asleep like a mountain, his humped reflection carrying into the distance of the oven’s glass door. His fur shivered in a breeze from the back door he’d left open and dry leaves skittered like mice on the tiles. The lower cabinets were emptied of pots and pans as if the bear had been looking for something and exhausted himself in the process.

Big Cages by Kim Chinquee

She sleeps with the tiger. She rests on his shoulder and touches his fur. He is meaty and gentle, with big teeth he only shows with a yawn. She wakes from a dream and feels the tiger’s paw on her arm, and she wonders if there is a boy, her boy, in the next room. Not really a boy now. A man with a stuffed bear, and the bear is getting up to use the bathroom. She looks at her husband—in her dream there is Discovery, that mirage, the circus, tigers in big cages, a man, a bear, a trapeze artist. She hears flushing from the bathroom. She starts to get up to check if the bear is real and is her son a boy or man now? She moves closer to her husband. She pulls herself under him, like a blanket, hearing his heart thump evenly.

One time I was trout fishing in the mountains (the odor of wet stone, tall grass stirring in the breeze, trout “sifting like silt in the green dark”) above Knoxville and I just had this odd feeling and I looked behind me and there it was, a large black bear. It was crossing the creek. It paused midstream and stared at me. My god its head was the size of a tomato farm. I looked right into its face and thought, “It’s cool, bear.” And it looked at me a moment and thought, “It’s cool, human. I suppose.” Then it faded into the forest.

fiction flashscapes and the carnival is postponed

Yeh, I haven’t blogged in a long time. Why? Because I didn’t feel like blogging. To blog when you don’t feel like blogging is Bad Faith. Am I a broken necklace of vowels? Am I a mechanical plug of radishes? No. Also I’ve spent too many weekends in hotels. Too many weekends eating vegetable burgers from BK since most other fast food outlets will not offer a veggie burger, the bastards. Backyard Burger in Mississippi had a good veggie burger, but that’s was it. BK. BK. Chili’s has one, but that’s not fast food, it’s just shitty food. The best veggie burger was in St. Jospeh, Michigan, right alongside the beach and the carousel and the hard, cold rain. I forget the name of the place. But it was good. In New Orleans I didn’t eat veggie burgers. I ate shrimp and fried green tomatoes and oysters and tuna and octopus and vodka and hot sauce.

Did I mention someone put a giant shark in my glass of vodka?

The first few days the hamburgers only grew. But eventually they became a new sort of thing. They were small statues of people and then these people were equipped with weapons. Handguns, rifles, lacrosse sticks, bows and arrows and even tiny daggers. Then the tiny people began to grow real flesh. It looked painful. They all writhed and twisted, but eventually the flesh was grown. In the days after, they continued to tremble and eventually began to weep and I ascertained that they had grown tear ducts. And probably other organs. Hearts, lungs, spleens, kidneys and any of the other necessary organs.

-Brandi Wells.

Damn, check out this new James Salter interview!

But now I’m back in fucking Indiana. Here‘s an Indiana poem for you by Jeffrey Bean. BTW, Indiana looks like this:

Anyway, I did write a prose poem about supermodels for xTx. She is having a “Supermodel Summer.” XtX is ALWAYS up to something, as you know. I met xTx at a dance once and she was very nice and said, “I’m xTx” but I still don’t believe that was xTx. Not at all. I think xTx is a mystical force and most likely only takes human form when convenient. Xtx might  also be a flower, a barn, a bathroom mirror or a hornet. The walls shook. Music. There were so many Internet writer people at this dance that I can’t believe the ceiling didn’t collapse and kill us all. That would have been a good day. A good day indeed.

I’ve give this prose poem of mine a solid 4. While it’s instructive formally, I also feel it’s forced and in need of revision. It is scarcely larger than a muskrat. It reminds me of irrelevance and hitting a large nail with a lawnmower. And while obviously many of my later poems bring us all up against self enclosure of some variety, the lines here resemble a plate of overcooked spaghetti locked inside a can of flat Dr. Pepper thrown off a cliff into the sea. Then again, you have to know when to maintain control and when to lose it, correct? Ever seen a cloud? Well, there you go.

Hey, here’s a better one. This is flash I wrote and sent to elimae. Thank you very little.

Anyway I was in a hotel, a Super 8 a few days ago. It was awful, awful. It smelled like a crypt. It smelled like a crime scene, a ragged spleen, like something moist but then coated in a layer of smashed fireflies, a goo, a yellow goo, and then a tint of bird bones, some paste, no not bird bones, fuck all that poetic blar, I mean it smelled badly, like above (minus the bird bones) but maybe add a lump of Play-Dough like when you mold Play-Dough around a light bulb as a kid and then your dad says, “Get the fucking Play-Dough off the light bulb!” and you get a wet rag and SHOCK! Bad idea the wet rag. I stuck a nail in a light socket once and it threw me across the room! I of course grabbed onto an electric fence. Teeth! I forget the other times I have known electricity. It makes me sleepy.

Is that even how you spell Play-Dough? I have no idea and I’m not going to look it up. Sometimes you have to not look it up. I’m not a shadow over here. I move, the shadow moves. I have a higher ratio of window in my life than of walls, I think. I’m still standing. So I’m not looking it up.

Hours later, maybe days, we will wake to ribbons of melted wax, the room still except for breath. In those small morning seconds, everything is realized in stone. There is patched clothing in the closet, the dented radiators, the faded curtains, the cracks in the wall. Then there is the stink of the dumpster outside, only masked by lingering sex.

-Elysia Smith

The Super 8 I’m saying. There was an empty indoor swimming pool. No water. That’s a metaphor. Expectations unrealized. The uselessness of a giant empty pool. It rained. Could the kids swim in the pool? They could not. They could leap in or fall in and die there, but no cannonballs, no look-how-long-I-can-hold-my-breath, no I’m Michael Phelps! etc–no JOY. Just an empty swimming pool, a giant sore, a toothless mouth, a stink of nothing.

“Fitness Center” is one hell of a word for a tiny glass cube with one broken stair climber, once broken bike/bird looking thing, one functional set of weights. No TV, no water, no towels, no nothing. I pushed some weights about, did some crunches. The floor stuck to me.

The bathroom had scratched painted walls. The shower wouldn’t drain, so you stood there in several inches of wretched memory water. The memories in that water, the hair and hope cells and vomit and blood and razorblades and screams and devil semen and GOD KNOWS WHAT of that fucking Super 8 hotel bathtub water. I complained and they fixed the drain while I was out eating perch. The tub was the color of knuckles.

They had this lonely basketball goal, but see below the goal was a giant puddle of water. You can’t play basketball in water. The ball will not bounce, see? No bounce, no basketball.

The room has a spider and a giant can of Coors Lite behind the bed. A crypt, I’m telling you. This was the Super 8 in Stevensville, Michigan. A SUPER crypt. A sad, bad place. I felt like a failure to have even brought myself, myself and my family, to such a wretched den of fools, a back-road to hell, hulking, hollow tree leaning so precipitously over our heads and souls. For awhile I thought we all might be murdered. Why not just throw my life into a volcano? Sleep was jagged, a crossed knife and fork, a tangle of thin sheets and barbed wire. I had mad dreams. The eyes of spiders, blue forests, I felt lost in a corridor of pure black bone marrow, some shaky cage, a carnival ride night of screeches and tumbles, sounds of trucks farting in the parking lot, children screaming, blickers of light and darkness, some great, wounded bird falling like an unhinged jet engine onto the roof…also the coffee sucked.

*

Hey, here are some flash fictions I enjoyed today:

1. Seamus Heaney by Nicolle Elizabeth.

I like stalking. Ever read the lovely Stalking Dave Eggers by Elizabeth Ellen? You really should.

In the Dallas-Fort Worth airport bookstore I hold up Dave’s book, show his picture to my six-year-old daughter.

“This is mommy’s new boyfriend,” I tell her. She glances momentarily at the picture but doesn’t say anything. She is clearly not impressed.

“Isn’t he cute?” I say. “Look at his hair. Isn’t that cute hair?”

Ah, now I’m getting sidetracked. Way leads onto way, Frost told us, the gorgeous fart. Fart is a word not often used in literature. It’s a silly word, isn’t it? A few weeks ago, I dropped into a poetry workshop and the instructor (the most glow Kathleen Rooney) gave us a big-ass poetry prompt and you had to put a word into your poem not often seen in poetry. I used the word fart.

Can I say something about Dave Eggers? Once, on my birthday, I drank a lot of sake and yelled out to Dave Eggers, WHERE IS TOPH?! He stopped his reading and said, “What is this, an insurrection? Toph is fine. He’s in the coast guard.”

I recently had a student faint while discussing Dave Eggers. Not a great situation, though it worked out fine, in the end.

I shit you not.

Can I say something about writing prompts? Yes, yes I can. It’s my fucking blog. I always thought prompts were bullshit. I think now I was wrong. All of the prompts I used for that poetry workshop worked out just fine. I actually wrote several decent poems. In fact, I went out and bought the very book containing the earlier prompt. The book is The Practice of Poetry, by Chase Twichell (have no idea who that is) and Robin Behn (Robin is a wonderful poet and was one of my MFA professors at Alabama.)

So I might try some more prompts. Or the book might just sit there like a muskrat eating an apple. If I was a muskrat I would secretly move through your backyard, leaving long meandering trails in the grass. The next morning you would see these odd trails and think, “What is that?” I’d be hiding in the nearby tall weeds and I’d giggle and think, “It’s a muskrat!” I would then go home and listen to Rumours by Fleetwood Mac, over and over and over…My record player would be made of a boulder and my record needle would be a pine needle…I think.

“Trauma, Trau-ma. The sessions were like a cocktail party every night—people everywhere. We ended up staying in these weird hospital rooms … and of course John and me were not exactly the best of friends.”

—Christine McVie, on the emotional strain when making Rumours in Sausalito

Ok, back to the flash fiction by Nicolle Elizabeth. It’s creepy. No, it’s eerie. I like eerie. Whispers in the night, clammy things, the weight of dreams, etc. This flash is a great example of control of tone. With tone, in a brief work, you need to stay consistent. This is a process of accumulation. A dune of sand is really just many individual flecks of sand. One day you go, “Damn, that’s a dune.” Note how Elizabeth ‘stacks’ certain sounds, images to control tone. Very technical, and reminded me of another master of tone, Robert Bly.

Snowbanks North of the House

Those great sweeps of snow that stop suddenly six
feet from the house …
Thoughts that go so far.
The boy gets out of high school and reads no more
books;
the son stops calling home.
The mother puts down her rolling pin and makes no
more bread.
And the wife looks at her husband one night at a
party, and loves him no more.
The energy leaves the wine, and the minister falls
leaving the church.
It will not come closer
the one inside moves back, and the hands touch
nothing, and are safe.

The father grieves for his son, and will not leave the
room where the coffin stands.
He turns away from his wife, and she sleeps alone.

And the sea lifts and falls all night, the moon goes on
through the unattached heavens alone.

The toe of the shoe pivots
in the dust …
And the man in the black coat turns, and goes back
down the hill.
No one knows why he came, or why he turned away,
and did not climb the hill.

2. The second flash fiction I admire today is by Arron Teel, capturing that odd moment (that seems like years [or is?], that odd age of transition, from kid to adult, all of the odd stirrings, the painful misunderstandings and painful understandings…the wonder of life. And what a final line! Ending lines always matter, but with less words, you really need to zap out, like a poem, like a poem…Glow dat. Here, Teel catches the blue, he contains it and compresses the blur. Like a poem.

Did I ever tell you about when I was like 14 and shot bottle rockets up into a bee hive? Yeh, it set the entire forest on fire. Smoldering hive of bees. That was a bad day. Later I would shoot out a giant, glass door with a slingshot. Not sure what I was thinking back then.

3. Monic Ductan has a memorable name and writes about Wal-Mart.

The thing about Wal-Mart is you don’t want to be there, really ever, and then you find yourself in Wal-Mart. Everyone I know hates Wal-Mart but we don’t really do anything about it. There’s a lot of things that way. It makes me feel pretty empty sometimes.

Hand reaches across breast, elbow to nipple.
Oh my god! Excuse me, m’am.
It’s just a titty, sir, whispered between painted lips.
Excellent flash, and really contains some of the chaos of family, relationships, the things that just happen, the things we can’t always communicate clearly about…It’s a strong work, and structurally inevitable, the lines cascading to the end.
I’ve pretty much enjoyed all Catherine Lacey. Personally, I’m in the “No one knows what they are doing” camp, and, like anyone, I enjoy reading literature that validates my view. Lacey really mines the terrain of confusion. Confusion. Confusion.
5. Amelia Fucking Earhart is a great title.
This is the first I’ve read of Angela Allen. It’s an odd one, wonderfully odd little tale, leaning to metaphor, twisting and snapping, moving us along–over here, over there–always grooving the imagination. The imagination is hope, isn’t it? I don’t know. I enjoy the cliffs of tension. This piece made me smile.
*
Ok, so there you go, I blogged, in my own way. I said to the world: I AM NOT A TARRED TELEPHONE POLE!! I’d like to end today with a muskrat dream and some advice to AVOID Super 8 Stevensville, MI, and, here, a little poem for you:
I title it INTIMATE ROTEL DIP
*
Velveeta is our long yellow jig
All day we hop
with a wobble impossible by night
kissing one another
like a single pepper
under the blank melting
grease knows where to find grease
bubbles reach for bubbles
we suck the bowl’s familiar curl
and vanish
deep into shrieking stomachs
delivered from the emptiness
of a dip half-eaten
of having to learn
that difficult, cold hardening pause
without a chip at all.
*
And, finally for today, I write about a box of Velveeta for Banango Street.
S

telepathic alcoholic bible study softball team license plate logo fund raisers!

Tom Green’s flow here sort of kills. Meter. BUT. I think he rehearsed. Well, we know, right? A professional MAKES IT appear spontaneous. A reader might even read a story and the words flow, effortlessly, but the writer spent days wrestling with a washing machine of llamas and barbed wire to MAKE IT appear so. Set pieces. I might do blar things like grade papers on my steering wheel while driving or listening to sports radio (why?), but I know a set piece when I see it. A flash writer knows.

I don’t know. I don’t know. I get a little bashful.

Right, Tom. Bull. Shit. There is a quote by that Spaz Hemingway:

Develop a built-in bullshit detector.

Thanks, Papa. But I hate that quote. If I lived it, I’d have to ‘detect’ the smell of my own bullshit. Not sure I can handle that. However. Green will pull a punt/stunt on your ass. And he’s flailing a smidgen, though still treading water. Tread, Tom. Oh. He will mulch/mess with you, weakly (not like Kaufman) but OK.

*

You know, you could buy that fucking FOG book over there to the upper right of your vision. Please? I’ll give you a Plan Worth Sticking To in Life, if we meet (and you buy me a beer and let me buy you a beer).

[I keep trying to imagine the person who will dig this book. But I like challenges.]

*

Speaking of greens–mustard, collard, whatever–Tom does indeed flow. Yes? Flow feels so good. I mean it SPINES you, right? In your pelvis maybe? I guess that’s lower, lower spine. Maybe more the head, the lungs, the sparkles of butter inside the lungs, no the body drifting up and forward and away. Sway. Dopamine…Ever had flow? In writing, in athletics, in other ventures. I have. But I have had true flow VERY RARELY. Flow is magical. No, mystical. I can’t explain it. It’s a black magic, too. Crows and flickering blades in the sunset. Too much flow and you would consume yourself. Burn your own bones into kindling. Because flow is frightening. I’ve had it. I have, for moments. And it scared the baloney biscuits out of me. To MAKE all shots, to run THAT WELL. To get into THAT ZONE. It was rare and other-wordly and scary. But. I wish more of life had flow. Sometimes.

*

Par-boil those fucking potato shards 8 minutes before you roast them, friends. All shadow-shifting in the oven brown, like that time you robbed a store, walked outside, and got robbed. [Memphis]

*

I ran a 15 k trail race and my legs hurt after. They throbbed like anyone figuring out where they live. I liked it. Elevation changes. Hairpin switchbacks. TRYING NOT TO BUST ASS. People passed me early and I then passed them late. We call that pacing, homeys.

15k: 1:01:08.

After the race, they served nachos. I didn’t mind.

*

Thank you, Krystal Languell. You glow right here. You have that shoebox of things inside you we call lovely. You are that first/first/first/first taste of vodka. We thank you:

We move to Hattiesburg I go to beauty school we get rural I get licensed. My back hurts from bending over to wax women and departmental drama implodes as soon as he signs a contract our apartment has radical Southern bugs the unknowable you can be scared or you can be ready a false dilemma: beauty school or nothing he wants someone to take his name but doesn’t want to get married. I know a list of contradictions doesn’t add up to a poem of any substance but my temptation is great.

Burgeoning academic he throws in the term new historicism while we argue and snickers at himself abortion is new historicism. He’ll believe in anything his least reliable mentor tells him, obviously didn’t date me for the partner benefits. I choose getting neighborhoody while he gets all interstate highway I choose hair dye and lipstick but he’d rather sweat on someone new.

*

Have you ever impulsively taken someone’s personal items and thrown them atop the roof of your house? It feels awesome. Then that later day they see the things. Well, that’s another rush, I mean what you say. Right then. Conflict is my definition of a story.

I invented a game called Roof Ball. It’s fun. I’d tell you more about it right now but I need to go run.

*

Karen Cariker was born poor. Her dad was Irish, drunk and mean but never late to work. Her mom, Enid, was full-blooded Cherokee, she played the fiddle and slept in a brass bed in the backyard — she’s why Karen always had ivy in her rooms, and knew how to cook beans.

Book Slut review, done well (per usual). I’m just saying you should generally read Book Slut reviews.

*

Most images Rachel Papo today.

*

I glow A List of Stressful Activities That May or May Not Have Contributed to My Left Hand Going Numb by Meghan Lamb. (strong title, too)

The verbs, the repetition, the flow and meter and pop, the sway, the verbs. Example:

Picking, pinning, wringing. Suck, trace, dangle. Wriggle, scrap, scrunch.

You need to match the verb to the situation. To let the verbs walk [I hate the word walk] (or kick), talk, push and pull your text forward. Propel is what I’m saying. Verbs. Get kinetic with them, slow them down, go hard or soft or crazy…IT MATTERS. To work the verbs.

Why walk slowly, when you could lollygag. Who doesn’t love a lollygag? Why rain lightly when you could drizzle (that gorgeous double zz)? Quit fucking around. Pay attention to your verbs. IT MATTERS.

Thanks for this one, Meghan.

*

A thought: Our culture is happy to discard most anything. But we haven’t discarded telling stories.

*

Here’s yet another Bukowski hangover. Enjoy, Freaks. I like his jacket. Smart. I also like Velveeta poured from glass pitchers. I dislike a lot about him. Who cares what I like or dislike. In 100 years, what will we be doing? Don’t know. Is regret a bone or a melon?

*

Wonderful Layne Ransom poem about slugs and assholes.

*

–Simone, you need to open your eyes when shooting a firearm, dear. We’ve discussed this. The only reality is in action. And in balloons. I so admire balloons, sex with young strangers, solar panels, damp toast, pewter bunnies, Dan Rather, and Styrofoam. I’m feeling abandoned on this earth! I am, really. I am abandoned. There are no gods. Shit, I need to write a treatise and purchase some fudge! Oh, never mind. Simone, I’d prefer you open your eyes and get that prim little smirk off your face.

–Hey, Fuck you, Sartre, you power-hungry fuck. I’ll get existential on your ass. I’m smarter than you, anyway. That’s been documented. Why don’t you go pose for something. And get that stupid-ass pipe out of your mouthful of lie. The only thing you smoke is gibberish.

–BOOM! I’ll blow both your damn heads clear off! You want some of this? I’m old and cranky and barrel-chested and got three forehead wounds, four wives, and over 200 pieces of shrapnel in my knees. Both you intellectual fart-knockers can go explicate a falling piano for all I care. [Simone, you’re hot, sext me now.]

–All of you, quiet down! I am Sean Lovelace and I am an idiot and I am shooting in the air (while wearing yellow shoes–style) and here are two new reviews of a book I suppose you might wanna, you know, pick up/threadbare with eyes/purchase/defend while drunk/all that flash bangers, roast potato breath, yellow fellow of gymnasium-of-the-mind-humpers, Etc.

Lovelace writes with humor and originality, presenting readers with the world of Charlie Brown’s inner thoughts; how Andy Warhol, Robert Capa, Cher and Thelonious Monk, among others, prefer their eggs; and a nursing student with a mania for bocce.

And:

Lovelace’s work is particularly notable—sparkling fragments hinged on surprise, on a quirkily tragic poetics. Handbooks for living with cancer, Charlie Brown and Snoopy, and, yes, the preparations of eggs favored by selected famous people are all topics here. A representative sample of style and content is this section from the book’s final piece, “Endings”:

A teenage girl catches an amazingly large fish. She pauses, allowing herself to gaze in wonder. It has a row of bent hooks and five broken leaders in its mouth. It has a history. The girl isn’t really a girl. She only plays one online. She is actually a grown man who works in a chemical company that combines corn husks with hydrochloric acid to create a polymer used in cruise missiles. He bashes the head of the fish on the gunwale and tosses it thrashing into an Igloo cooler.

I thank you. I am proud as a polar bear with a sneeze machine. [Hemingway, sext me. I love you.]

*

You are writing very well lately, Russell Jaffe. You make us happy with dance/lance/glance at glass words like:

The first lines of my manifesto are “stars, floods, red lights—alright / maps, bodies, bones—forbidden zones.” In reality, the idea of lights that sit next to your bed and feet that bunch up against the walls, hunched like a fetus in suspended animation flooding space, unfilled lightlessness with garages, overturned Bedazzler kits, glue specks from Creepy Crawler kits (I knew instantly that it was just an EZ Bake Oven for boys)—that’s romantic, that makes me want to cry.

*

Big-ass Richard Brautigan site.

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Put three quarters into a soda machine today and just walk away. I’m serious. Do that, for me.

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Have you considered Stoked Press? Submission guidelines here.

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I made money last night betting on GB. But who cares? talking about bets AFTER the game is so banal and obvious. If you have any Glow in your Guts, talk about your bets BEFORE the game. Jesus.

*

I learned how to roast potatoes. That felt satisfying. Like when you replace the labels of your beer with nonalcoholic beer labels and go around drinking beer at a church picnic and they are all thinking, “Damn, he’s drinking non-alcoholic beer at a fucking church picnic; wow he has a problem.” And you’re all, “You don’t know the half of it.” No, that’s not correct. I didn’t feel that way about roast potatoes. Not at all. How did I feel? I felt exhilarated, like the time I brought the shoes to the zoo and gave them to the monkeys. Excuse me: What is the nutritional value of swallowing misery or a bug while bicycling backwards through the wreckage of your father’s pet store? Potatoes, roast them,  yo.

*

David Fishkind writes well about Delillo.

*

It is tough to write about drugs. Drugs are cliche. A lot of things are cliche. So, how do we write about the cliche?

[Actually, all of life is cliche. Yeh. I know. Shut up. You are trying to make me ramble.]

Brandon Courtney shows us how over at Smoke Long. Cotton Fever, yo.

There are many ways to make a cliche your own, to make it sing. Here, we have verisimilitude. Jargon. Words that growl to make a thing real.

[BTW, in a totally different vein (groan at pun), here is METH HORROR STORY site. It is clearly run by someone insane. Which I sort of like.]

Back to the Courtney story!

Johnny was standing under 100-watts of a single bare bulb, picking crank craters into his throat—whole constellations—with his thumbnail and index finger. He was in the late stage of meth mouth

And:

I was at the kitchen table cracking blister-packs of pseudoephedrine into a saucepan when the battery man rang the doorbell to show us how to strip lithium from 9-volt Energizers.

And:

Johnny came home after serving a nickel at the Fort Dodge Penitentiary for selling crumble cookies to a plain-clothed cop.

And so on. And on. Ground the thing. Grind it in the ground. I say well done. I say bring this text to those that need to cut their draft gritty, that need to push the original idea to its form, that need to get US CLOSER. Words. The secret language of any subversive activity, skateboarding or love or crank.

So many cliches. Beautiful cliches. Examples?

1. Short story about an South American family who comes from Peru to stay with another S.A. family in Muncie, IN; the daughter of the host family, Hemanka Jones, gets a crush on the son, Knock-Knock, and he confides in her that his mother is dying of Cheetos dust inhalation (orange lung).

2. Short story about a teacher assigned to an elementary school in a remote village.

3. Short stories where guy lies in bed all day.

4. Photos of women with guns.

5. Kids who bring baby woodpeckers into Lowes.

6. A man arrives.

7. A man leaves.

8. Shooting a book. Shooting that damn book up! Look, I’m trying to teach children the importance of literature, OK, of reading literature. What are you doing for the children?

9. Eco-novel where a woman drives a car into an editor.

10. Protagonist kills self (yawn).

11. The story about the Iron Chef and the elf.

12. Lorrie Moore story.

13. Quarterback controversies. I love a good QB controversy. I wish they would air the controversies, as opposed to the actual games.

14. WalMart as setting, as daycare/insane asylum/hospice.

(Quick story. Yesterday, at Walmart, this elderly woman walks INTO the door and sets off the alarm. She became angry and flustered. She started yelling at The Greeter. I thought three things:

One: How do you set off an alarm walking INTO a store.

Two: How can you get that upset over this incident? I mean life is hard. This upsets you?

Three: Oh gods, The Greeter at Walmart. Oh gods.)

15. Bourbon (especially if brand is named).

16. Sonnets about people in grocery stores telling people about their health problems.

17. Divorce.

18. The thrill of writing.

19. Age inappropriate dating stories.

20. Married people fighting in public poems.

21. Flash fiction about laxatives.

22. Checks. Especially ones that bounce.

23. Free verse where a young mother finds among some wadded balls of paper in the wastebasket of her ten-year-old daughter one which read: “Nachos.”

24. A clamor of wedding bells had followed her here. Hundreds of miles. Her head was ringed in pain as if in a vise. Shit like that.

25. Grocery lists.

26. Dame Shirley Bassey just rocking a Bond medley.

27. She already knew his dune-shack friend Blake Butler, knew the professors Kim Chinquee and Matt Bell from New York, knew everyone’s friend Tad the biker who lived on the pier or loose in the dunes, and old Sean Lovelace who gave parties. Stories that mention people you know. Anyone mentioning anyone, in a story.

28. Stories about Velveeta.

29. Stories about writing fiction.

30. Throwing no-hitters on acid:

31. I moved a lot in my post-college years, and the single biggest, heaviest, most exasperating thing to move besides my books was my record collection.

32. Sisters fight a metaphorical giraffe.

33. Kid meets kid. They enrich our lives.

34. The story is also a searing unforgettable love story. Etc. Things like that. Things that sear.

35. Screaming, horrible, thrashing, dying Lobsters.

36. A famous composer has a terrible day.

37. Haiku sequence about couple who want to kiss/throw chairs/fight over whether to hang glossy photos (an industry of cliches) of small kids/not hang glossy photos (an industry of cliches) of kids on beige walls (obstacles like pots, pans, legal contracts, popcorn).

38. Lesbian villanelles.

39. Tanka. Just any fucking tanka.

40. Spam haiku.

41. A state park. [Hey, has anyone read John Brandon? I’m thinking about it.]

42. Segmented stories about drinking (yawn).

43. Poems about the moon. Fuck the moon!

44. Anything about Tao Lin.

45. Short story about Paul’s Martian roommate Thark and her cheating boyfriend.

46. Italics.

47. I appear in my own story and that’s crazy.

48. Dogs.

49. Handing his nachos over to the doctor had taken almost physical courage.

50. Stories where people eat.

51. All its existence Nachos would struggle to reconcile these two divergent approaches to selfhood–the Victorian urge toward unity of toppings and layers it had inherited during its conception (Mexican chef on the fly serving gringos, 1943) as a subvert of the northern stomping dollar, and the Modernist drive for multiplicity and change that it absorbed very early in its career as a self-identifying member of the international ball park (thank Howard Cosell) /dive bar/homemade quick-ass meal. Indeed, by the time Nachos reached maturity, both had become so deeply embedded in its own being that neither could effectively be suppressed or jettisoned. The tactic Nachos ultimately arrived at for coping with this dilemma, most likely without being consciously aware that it was employing the tactic, was that of “compartmentalization,” in which, as The Queen of Nachos (Carmen Rocha) explains, “One confines the potentially conflicting components to separate spheres of one’s life.” Put simply, there would be two Nachos.

52. Poems dedicated to Jeremy.

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On the lyric essay.

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Three days ago wrote a story today about a Processed Cheese Product man visiting a town. So what? Fuck blogs.

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Over at wigleaf, Emily Howarth charms us and informs us and makes us smile (After all, I am a southerner…). I’m not sure how to link exactly to the story, so here you freaking go:

What to Remember When Returning to Mississippi

Nobody locks doors there. So when you go to see your friends or your relatives, don’t just stand at the door knocking or ringing the bell: open the door, poke your head in, and say, “Hello, anybody home?” If nobody answers when you call, walk in, go to the bottom of the stairs, and holler again. Someone will call back. If not, remember to shut the door behind you when you leave. The A/C is on. Also: don’t let the screen door slam. And don’t open it by pushing your hand against the screen next time, you moron.

Bless your heart.

When people in Mississippi say, “It’s nice to see you,” it doesn’t necessarily mean they’ve met you before. It could just mean they were in second grade with your cousin, or they heard about what your nephew is alleged to have done to those kittens at the skate park. Perhaps they know your grandmother from tax-free Tuesdays at the liquor store. Perhaps they’ve heard about the success of your father’s Night Blooming Cereus. And perhaps, just maybe, they really have met you, which is why you should always smile and say, “It’s nice to see you, too.”

When you go out, do not even think of checking your lipstick at the table. Do that in the bathroom. While you’re at it, straighten your skirt if the seams have jimmied. Keep your hair out of your eyes: you have a pretty face.

It will cool down in the evenings. Out on the porch you can light citronella candles and drink Gordon’s and tonic. Your cousin will say the thick air feels like being inside a mouth. The trees your mother swears smell like semen will drop blossoms onto the windshields of the Fords and Buicks parked along the street. Your friends will come over. They’ll cheat you at Trivial Pursuit and drink. When the streets are completely quiet, your friends may start singing, and you may even join them: flat Yankee vowels bending under their kinder voices in songs you would otherwise pretend not to know. Remember to find some comfort in being in a place where everybody cares what people think, and nobody says exactly what they mean.

On the highway, in your car pushing 100, no one will recognize you fast enough to do that hand-on-the-steering-wheel wave that’s so popular in town. On the highway you can listen to gangster rap loud. Even if it gives you a headache, sometimes an ache in your head is better than nothing. After a while all the kudzu-strangled trees will stop seeming like a hedge maze—and though you are making a big circle, it will be a relief to see the town from afar and realize it really is that small.

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I need to go run. I’m already gone. I’m running. See me?

FOG of postcards and sublime slivers of glass

Holy fuck this is glow! Watch it. Drink Canadian whiskey and eat 114 oysters raw and wack-off (or don’t wack-off, whatever) and watch it. What a human. A golden humpbacked whale. A walking lighthouse of thorn-bushes and vodka bras and poetry. I love the man.

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A bird just flew into my window, but enough about me. Wearing ballet slippers to a funeral? I enjoy the feel of a half pint bottle in the back pocket of jeans, that smooth pressing. Wrist-bone, phone, sky. A boy carrying either a human head or a head of lettuce under his arm. Overpasses. Revision is more creative than the actual first draft. Is that true? Hot swatches on sun on the grass. Water the lawn only occasionally, but for long, long periods. Work habits. Dug out a tree, but have not replaced the tree. Big, empty spaces. Fuck. No, fuck you. No, fuck me. The treadmill is repaired! I keep running through my days. What are you running from, sir? That seems an empty and obvious question. The past is growing! Oh shit, that means the future is shrinking. It’s all, unfortunately, math. Staggering on spindly legs. Something like that.

[follow my command!]

The Fog is rolling in…

Review here:

The comparison to Stein is perhaps the highest praise I can offer for Fog Gorgeous Stag. The more I spend time with this new genre of Fog, the better I like it.

Review here:

Fog Gorgeous Stag is brilliant collage, unsentimental divergence, uncorked spilling and a lack of containment.

Review here:

At first read, one might mistake Sean Lovelace’s hybrid-prose poem collection Fog Gorgeous Stag to be a magical manual, a book which reads back the conscious of whatever the reader is looking for, through glowing light pages.

Two comparisons to Gertrude Stein. I’ll take that, though it is a bit like comparing a golden crow to a chalky lump of bird splatter (myself as the bird shit, obviously). So, anyway. If you like Stein, maybe purchase my book. Eh, eh?

[boom!]

I’m sort of into the work of Laurel Nakadate (two pics above)

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Went to a reading. Met cool people. Words all Gem bottles of Gin. Night a blur. Wish I could have talked to more of them, longer. Words all black-marketed moons. I mean to say, went/bent/went to a reading all Vouched-like, all hot glass tire service center, all sweet walking odor of tire, all sun off the windows like Ljosvallagata, all electronic sun, all Jesus Angel Garcia (dude’s on a huge-ass reading tour) rocking the Mr. Microphone, all words like fat slaps of friction,

[me and Jesus]

all religious comment on religion and shit, all barbaric sexual yawp, all Roxane Gay (she read a major glow story about anorexia bulimic fucking, etc.), words all oil barrels of light, all flickering halos, all FREE BEER, all free fucking IPA (thanks, Flat 12, I will be down there for some growlers soon), all Barry Graham (Monica Lewinsky crush), all Dogzplot in the house, all French fries and shards of hope, all trash fires of the pelvis, all words in ravines, words flying in the air like typhoids of sunlight, all grinding sunlight, all Matt Mullins (wicked poem here), all shadows and saw-blades, all

[Matt Mullins dropping words]

corned beef lickings of words, all Steve Himmer (we discussed garden gnomes and also I bought his book--I can tell it’s going to kick serious ass), all serpents and hermits, all  Micah Ling (She is not Asian or a man. She is a runner!–see you at a race maybe?), all word filets of crunchy telescopes, all FREE Lit Pub T-shirt, all Laura Adamczyk (interview here), all Jim Walker (Cool guy. I met him at the last Vouched reading.), all John Clark, all Jessica Dyer (uterus as muse?)

Let me tell you about the rat I keep in my uterus. He stores cotton balls, faux feathers, and little pink beads in me to make the perfect nest. I use these in my crafts. My uterus is squishy, and he has a fun time in there bouncing around and sometimes I have to bang on my belly to make him stop. It tickles but is awkward in public. He is quickened by cinnamon, and plays tricks on all my sphincters. I call him my pocket protector. In the mornings there are little rat marks on my thighs; somehow he gets out, but I always let him come home to my beaded plush cave. I would let you pet him, but he has claws and a tail like a real baby, even little milk teeth!

all Kevin McKelvey (I got this in-touch-with-the-earth feel. I guess I’m saying I’d like to fish and/or canoe with the guy.), all words as parachutes of mud, as echoes of golden barbed wire, all Layne Ransom (hell yes CHICKLITZ!),

[Layne all literary]

all Bryan Furuness (Bryan read an amazing piece about tubes, life as, etc.), all that’s a shit-load of readers at one reading but it did glow. I then went to a bar and ate fried green beans.

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Meg Pokrass with glow interview of Dan Choan.

How do you stay creative? What are your tricks to get “unstuck?”

Here’s one trick:  get really drunk or stoned and fall asleep weeping on your keyboard.  When you wake up,  magical elves will have come in the night and turned your bitter tears into words and paragraphs,  just like they made shoes for that shoemaker.

Actually, that doesn’t work most of the time, but I keep trying it.

Another trick,  this one somewhat less self-destructive,  was suggested to me by a teacher,  and has worked on occasion:  Make a list of 40-50 things that could potentially happen next in your story.  Don’t worry if they are boring,  or improbable,  or stupid.  Just make a list as quickly as possible.  Then take 5-10 of them,  and write one or two paragraphs for each one.   Somewhere in this process,  you are going to get unstuck.

Otherwise, I need to put the piece aside and start something new. I’ve never been at a loss for new material,  for whatever reason.  It’s never a problem to start something — finishing is always an issue.

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Speaking of Meg Pokrass, her flash fiction continues to blend my bones silver. To make me actually glow. This, from elimae, the opening of “Albino.”

I deserved an ample scolding. I watched the sunset with an albino. We went to a thrift store, and joked about trying on hats and getting lice. “Miami Lice,” he said. Was he safe? I hoped not. Was it scummy and frivolous to hang out? My birthstone was emerald, I told him, and his chlorinated eyes said, “Well, that makes you not-simpleminded.” We both laughed. An albino laugh. Watery veins stood out and his forehead looked like a stolen woodpile.

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Cathy Day blogs about Midnight in Paris. I am not going to read her post entirely because I am going to see the movie this week. Then I will read her post. Also I will tell you what I think. My thoughts now? Woody Allen used to make amazing, thoughtful, layered films. Then for a long, long time he made mediocre films. They depressed me with their earnest mediocrity. It made me sad. It made me feel like I was watching an aging Muhammad Ali get his ass kicked at the end of his career. I can’t watch that type of film, not from a genius like Allen. So. I am hoping. Hoping this film glows.

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I am thinking about running the Big Sur (a haven for writers) marathon. California. Ander Monson already signed up! I must join him! Shit. Well. OK. Thanks, Ander.

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Amie Barrodale story at The Paris Review. It has sex AND drugs. I mean what do you want?

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Joyelle McSweeney on Herzog and the Sublime. Wow. I think McSweeney is one of our most perceptive, intelligent writers. I pretty much will read anything she writes, as should you. I’d also like to add that Montevidayo is one ugly-ass blog site. I mean the design is clunky as hell. They might also want to hire a copy-editor. I’ve never seen such consistent misspelling errors. But I like the site. Trying to be constructive. Anyway, all that is their own business. The content is consistently good.

But this solipsistic notion—that man is the measure of man- is itself a loop, a folding, a self-saturation that begins to gesture at the hyperbolic over-saturation and collapse of humanist project or portrait in Herzog’s films, yielding something so irrational, beautiful, terrible, and certainly out of control that it is less like a portrait of a man and more like an inundation with the Sublime.

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I went to New York City and took many,many subway stops and walked, walked, walked, and found some nachos. These are grilled zuchinni and black bean and three cheeses. A solid 7.23 on THE LOVELACE SCALE OF GLOW NACHOS.They came from El Camion. Nacho review here.

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Peter Tieryas Liu brings it over at decomP. What I like here is the language, how he knows us flash writers must–must!!–understand the way of the poet, the Word.

I experience four cyclical deaths every day; lavatory, office politics, televised Internet, and dreamless sleep.

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[I swear to gods my book is cheesy. Order it here. ]

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A letter from Mary Hamilton.

Dear Wigleaf,

I noticed today that one leg is longer than the other. That’s a lie. It’s more like I am unevenly distributed. One knee is placed higher than the other. One calf is slightly bigger. One shoulder is lower. One boob is larger. My right ear is smaller and set farther back than my left ear. One eyebrow is shorter and thicker. My left eye is basically sitting on my temple. My belly button is not centrally placed. Don’t even get me started on my elbows.

The walls of my apartment are crooked, making measurements for an aspired-to new couch difficult.

I think you should know that I’ve grown three inches since high school and all of it is in my left forearm making pancake flipping a difficult balance.

Stay cool,
Mary