Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Something about War: Janet Holmes re her book of erasures "The Poems of My Kin"

RK: Can you tell us what rules and restrictions you used for yr erasures of Emily Dickinson's poetry (The Poems of My Kin)? And were you 100% faithful to these rules? I imagine it must have been tempting to tweak things up now and then. But then again I imagine it must have been tempting to be completely faithful.

JH: The rules were partially dictated by questions of copyright: that is, I was pretty sure that Harvard (which owns the rights to the Franklin-edited Reader's Edition of Dickinson, which I used for the erasure) would not look kindly upon my using entire lines from Dickinson, so my first rule was that I couldn't use a line in its entirety. I also made a rule that I had to use at least one word from every poem -- I couldn't "erase" an entire poem, even though some were only two lines long. I kept the punctuation as she had it (for example, she routinely mis-punctuated contractions -- "does'nt," for example) as well as the capitalizations and misspellings (like "opon"). And that was about it! In only two or three cases did I use parts of words (like single letters) to create new words. And then, in the book, since there were usually lines erased between two poems, I put all the blank lines at the end of the first poem so the new one would begin at the top of the page.

RK: When we spoke in person this past April or May we discussed the difficulty of writing political and/or war poetry. Of how much of this sort of poetry just comes off badly. Weakly. Too much emotion. Extreme passion. So, part (a major part) of your decision to use the erasure form was, I think, that it created a sort of distance and mask for you to write about things (the War in Iraq, our country’s leadership, etc) that you felt very strongly about. And the finished product doesn’t, as much war/political writing does, seem awkwardly drenched with raw unprocessed emotion. Your thoughts, please?

JH: Oh, exactly. I didn't want to come off like a squirrel shaking its fist at the sky--Damn you, universe!--about something most people already KNEW was wrong. A lot of political poetry is the poet's making a claim of superior knowledge of things the reader needs to be made aware of or incited against, when the reader certainly already knows and has opinions about the subject. I once heard Eavan Boland call this a "tonal fault," a kind of arrogance in a poet that ruins the work, a condescension towards the reader. But on the other hand, what makes one so furious is precisely that one has no power to change things ("Poetry makes nothing happen," etc.). To take the work of a poet as passionate and yet as canonical as Dickinson, who also wrote in a time of brutal war, and repurpose that vocabulary towards a contemporary situation was liberating to me. And I think it adds immeasurable depth to the book. It felt almost as if I were collaborating with, rather than erasing, her because the palimpsests in relation to the erased work are essential. She uses a lot of martial language when speaking of evangelism, the Christian revivals that were going on in New England, and the fact that the Al Qaeda terrorists saw their work in terms of a spiritual calling could be spoken of with that language. The language of mourning is the same then as now.

RK: One of the dangers of erasure, it would seem, is that the eraser can fall into the trap of being overly excited by certain strategies of erasing and this can lead to overuse (abuse even) of certain techniques/tics/tricks. But, on the other hand, erasure creates opportunities for chance discoveries that can at their best be absolutely magical. Can you talk a bit about some of the “tricks” you came up with (and which you had to be wary of) as well as some of the magical discoveries the processed offered up to you?

JH: I don't know that I found any tricks! The gift that I wasn't expecting was that Dickinson referred to the desert, say, or to dogs and hoods, or to Generals, or to oil. And once I found words like those I could shape new poems around them. Right at the beginning of the poems of 1861 there are references to daybreak, martyrs, the number two, planets and air -- it was exciting to find appropriate language from the get-go, and to realize that someone today reading those words would immediately see again the Twin Towers being struck by two planes. And words that were surnames: (Daniel) Pearl, (General) Pace. At one point I saw the line "Bush found a way of entering my life" -- that seemed just horrifying, because, of course, he had. So I suppose you could call it a "trick" that I spotted these trigger words, but I really never knew what might come up.

Finding lines like "It matters . . . that the oil is gone" or seeing the first line of a poem, "Mine! By right of the white Election!" (and immediately hearing George Bush's voice) were like flashes of lightning, the magical discoveries you're talking about. There's a sequence of poems in the book that talk about Abu Ghraib that unfolded for me in an almost eerie way: first there was a Captive, then dogs going to the vein, and then a line "the Zeros learned to like power," and finally "She tied the Hoods to every shoulder." That was when it felt like collaborating with Dickinson: the words were telling a narrative so like the atrocity we had lived through, and they were already there to be unearthed. And my idea at first had been that the poems would not be narrative so much . . . I actually worked against that tendency (maybe that's something I had to be wary of?), but when you look at the book it seems almost chronological in how it unfolds. That's actually a coincidence.

RK: The MS of My Kin does seem "narrative" but some of the gifts of erasure seem to be non-narrative. I mean surreal descriptions like the elephants on yr page 11 that rise with “their/gales” and their eyes shining “quiet of death.” Or, a bit further on (page 27), a “panther/dropped/into/a face/suddenly.” And a similar example from a famous Dickinson poem (your page 65): “Shadows——hold/like/Death/quenching/the sky/’s/Candle.” I mean I guess the gift of discovering strange but compelling metaphor. But in the end, consciously or unconsciously, you’ve managed these strange and delicious moments of metaphor/juxtaposition so that they don’t take over the book and detract from the linear thrust/feel. Your thoughts, please, on the gift of these beautiful moments and how they seem to be the book’s color and spice rather than its flesh and bone?

JH: Dickinson's elephants--yes! Of course, in the erasure, they're Republicans...

The gifts you mention, the surprising metaphors, seem just as wonderful upon discovery in erasure as they do when they come to me while I'm writing, from the muses or the Martians or the transgressive sub- and unconscious. Truth is, there are probably millions of choices that could be made when erasing a text, and there were great ones I had to pass up. (You wouldn't believe how often Dickinson uses the word "impeach.") Each poem has a voice, though, and in the end I had to keep with that voice, which is probably why the linear thrust of the work is more apparent.

RK: Ron Silliman reviewed yr book and praised it. But, at the same time, since there’s already been a major erasure of a classic (Ronald Johnson’s Radi Os of Paradise Lost) Ron wonders whether we need more erasures of big names like Emily Dickinson. Your thoughts please.

JH: Well heck, in that vein, do we need any more poems at all? Plenty have been written already.

The point of the book is not that it's an erasure, wooohooo, here I am, erasing! The point of the book was to say something about wars, and about the Bush-Cheney Iraq/Afghanistan wars in particular. Erasure is a way of creating work, not a singular event accomplished at some time in the past by Tom Phillips or Ronald Johnson, and I chose to work in that youthful tradition for this book. If I, as a woman, select a woman poet who also wrote during war to provide the palimpsest of my erasure, that has meaning too, unless women's writing in general is also being deemed, à la Samuel Johnson, superfluous. Ron liked the book, but he is more concerned with firsts and innovations than with content and is less likely, I think, to see the virtues of anything that (innovatively) tweaks a process performed by one of his heroes.

RK: In addition to being a writer and a teacher you also run the prolific Ahsahta Press. Can you tell us a bit about your current and near future releases and plans? Things you enjoy most about working in the small press world? And any thing else small press related (Ahsahta Pres or otherwise) that you'd like to share.

JH: Sure, happy to! In September we released Kate Greenstreet's THE LAST 4 THINGS, which surprisingly shot to the top of multiple best-seller lists, including the Contemporary Poetry Bestseller List (the one perpetually filled with names like Oliver, Collins, and Keillor). The book comes with a DVD containing two movies Kate made, the first time we've shipped a book with a DVD. Brigitte Byrd's SONG OF A LIVING ROOM also came out in September, her third book of prose poems. In January, Brenda Iijima's IF NOT METAMORPHIC comes out (with some awesome artworks by Jeff Clark inside), and Rae Armantrout's pick for the 2009 Sawtooth, Julie Carr's 100 NOTES ON VIOLENCE, will be released. Susan Tichy's GALLOWGLASS -- a remarkable work of mourning with her ever-present sensitivity to social injustice -- comes out in March, as does the new book by Sandra Doller (née Miller), CHORA. In May we'll bring forth Lance Phillips' THESE INDICIUM TALES, the third volume in his ongoing project and perhaps the most sensual.

Except for the January titles, all these books have been written by poets whom Ahsahta discovered or has published before -- the 2009-2010 season is our 35th, and we're celebrating it by showing off new work from our list of artists.

I've just put together the list for 2010-2011, which will include new books by Karla Kelsey (Knowledge, Forms, the Aviary was a Sawtooth winner in 2005; the new one is ITERATION NETS), Brian Teare (PLEASURE), Kirsten Kaschock (A BEAUTIFUL NAME FOR A GIRL), Susan Briante (THE END OF ANOTHER CREATURE), Brian Henry (LESSNESS), Lisa Fishman (F L O W E R C A R T), and whoever wins our 2010 Sawtooth contest.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Introducing Shane Jones

"Portraits" (distorted photos) of Shane Jones,.... Click on each for larger view,...

If you're a writer interested in sending me a headshot (i like "eyes" and nice colors. or a sharp-featured black and white) please do so to ronklassnik2001 (at) yahoo (dot) com and I may well do one up of you.

Am thinking also of starting a blog with just these (writer portraits)

All the Messiahs

more photos and drawings at my Facebook page albums

here and here

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Chapbook Submissions Wanted-- Bringing them Back

a note from Seven Kitchens Press:

Dear Friends,

Please take a moment, if you can, to pass along this call for submissions to the second annual ReBound Series from Seven Kitchens Press. 7KP will publish a new edition of an out-of-print chapbook, complete with a new ISBN and an introduction by the nominating writer. Submissions are currently being accepted through December 15; complete guidelines are available here

We think this is a wonderful opportunity to "bring back" deserving titles, and we'd truly appreciate your help in getting the word out or nominating a deserving title. Last year's winning chapbook, Notes from the Red Zone by Christina Pacosz, is available now.

All best,

Ron Mohring
Seven Kitchens Press

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Introducing Nate Logan

If you're a writer interested in sending me a headshot (i like "eyes" and nice colors. or a sharp-featured black and white) please do so to ronklassnik2001 (at) yahoo (dot) com and I may well do one up of you.

Am thinking also of starting a blog with just these (writer portraits)

Friday, November 13, 2009

The Road--- can't be worse than the book--

Justin Marks says this looks awesome(ly depressing). Well, all I can say is that it can't be worse than the book. Or can it???

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Introducing Elisa Gabbert

If you're a writer interested in sending me a headshot (i like "eyes" and nice colors. or a sharp-featured black and white) please do so to ronklassnik2001 (at) yahoo (dot) com and I may well do one up of you.

Am thinking also of starting a blog with just these (writer portraits)

Monday, November 9, 2009

HTMLGIANT is now taking Submissions

HTMLGIANT is now taking Submissions

HTMLGIANT is now accepting writing for publication on its site.

Poetry and fiction under 1,000 words will be considered.

All submissions will be read, but not necessarily responded to.

If within two weeks you do not hear a response, consider your piece rejected.

Comments will be enabled for all work, so please do not submit if it’s hard for you to stomach criticism in an open forum and/or the possibility of comments made in poor taste.

If this all sounds fine to you, and you decide to submit, thank you in advance for considering our blog an acceptable place for your writing.

-Gene Morgan, Poetry & Fiction Editor

Seth Abramson-- RIP-- a dead horse?

Seth Abramson---- RIP -- swans, holidays, keats, jesus, etc.... (click here)

and, maybe, I am beating a dead horse. sigh.

District 9: a Review (?)

You know a movie's bad when you think it's a spoof and it's not. This movie is funny. but the satire (parable) is too heavy handed and the story line's got more holes in it than swiss omelettes.

This is a movie I should by all rights have walked out halfway through or earlier. And if my wife stayed to watch I should have hunkered down in the men's room stroking my stomach which is growing, these days, in leaps and bounds. Man, I have cravings!

But something made me kind of like it. The weak narrative? Cheesy costumes? Bad Nigerian caricatures? (my brother tells me that it's been banned in Nigeria). Bodies exploding? Weak romantic and "human" (like the ending--- only works if you're laughing!) moments? The hilarious character of Wikus van der Merwe who I was occasionally tempted to take seriously? (I never was never tempted in the same regard with respect to his alien compadre--- i mean, c'mon !!).

But, whatever. All in all this is a movie I do recommend. But save the head scratching---Just don't take it seriously!

New Pax Americana

New Pax Americana is on-line now

(Gaudry, Tyler, Pink, Starkweather, etc, etc,...)

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Didi Menendez's Impressive Collection of 2009 Portraits

Didi Menendez's impressive collection of 2009 Portraits. To see them all click here.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Janaka Stucky's "Your Name is the Only Freedom" Now Available from Braver Men Press:

a note from Brave Men Press:

Brave Men Press is pleased to announce the release of

by Janaka Stucky

Cover is letterpressed with gold ink on red paper.
Printed in a limited edition of 60.
23 pages.


Janaka Stucky has had poems appear in Cannibal, Denver Quarterly, Fence, Free Verse, No Tell Motel, North American Review, Redivider and VOLT. He is the publisher of Black Ocean and its literary magazine, Handsome.



If you're in the New England Area this weekend, Janaka will be reading w/ Chris Tonelli at these locations -

11/7 Yes, Reading! in Albany, NY w/ Chris Tonelli

11/8 Somewhere awesome in Vermont w/ Chris Tonelli

11/9 Slope Editions Reading Series in Turners Falls, MA w/ Janaka Stucky & Brian Foley

Brian & Emily

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Introducing Andrew Lundwall

If you're a writer interested in sending me a headshot (i like "eyes" and nice colors. or a sharp-featured black and white) please do so to ronklassnik2001 (at) yahoo (dot) com and I may well do one up of you.

Am thinking also of starting a blog with just these (writer portraits)

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

New Action Yes

New Action Yes.... click here

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

From the White House: Poetry, Music & the Spoken Word

President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama hosted students from American, Gallaudet, Georgetown, and Howard Universities in May 2009, allowing them to participate in an evening celebrating poetry, music, and the spoken word.

To read the entire article and for links to other videos go here

Monday, November 2, 2009

Day of the Dead Altars

Today the plaza's filled with altars:

(Don Nico-- wrestler and then, later, plumber and electrician. worked on Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton's house)

Marco Antonio Nazareth--- died after fighting one of Julio Cesar Chavez's sons...

When I see their altars I think about what other people's will or would like. James Joyce, Hitler, Moses, God, Roosevelt, Kennedy, O'Bama, Seth Abramson, etc, etc-- u get the picture.....

click on images for larger views

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Seth Abramson vs Mr. Lehman (cronyism, body language, compassion)...

"Disapproving of cronyism in politics is every citizen's right; disapproving of cronyism in art is every artist's obligation. What distinguishes the artist from the politician is that the artist will promote the work of someone he despises, because politics is about personalities whereas art is (to authentic artists) only and ever about art."

etc, etc, etc, etc,....

and, much later,....

"Those who actually know me personally--a fractional sub-set of those who pretend (online) to know the first thing about me and what I value--know that I try to be sincere, to be plainspoken, and to be compassionate in all my face-to-face dealings, and that I struggle to translate those intentions and qualities into online discourse (in which tone cannot be read, facial expressions cannot be read, good intentions and sincerity cannot be gleaned from body language, and slanderous discourse often proceeds by one party grasping for low-hanging fruit--like accusing an impoverished, idealistic former public defender and current doctoral student of being a money-hungry mastermind--rather than trying to dialogue through issues directly, even if adversarially)"

etc etc etc etc etc etc for all of it, go here

November Ditch

a note from Ditch:

Our featured poet for the month of November is Meredith Quartermain.

Meredith Quartermain's most recent book, Nightmarker (NeWest), explores the city as animal behavior, museum and dream of modernity. In another recent book, entitled Matter (BookThug), she playfully riffs on Darwin's Origin of Species and Roget's Thesaurus. Vancouver Walking won the 2006 BC Book Award for Poetry. She is co-founder of Nomados Literary Publishers.

check it out along with all the other interesting an innovative writers on ditch,

Friday, October 30, 2009

Black Ocean's Halloween Buy One Get One Free Deal

a note from Black Ocean:

Black Ocean is offering a very special Halloween Sale this week! From 12:00 am on 10/30 to 11:59 pm on 11/1 any purchases of Zachary Schomburg’s limited edition hardcover Scary, No Scary (scfrom our website will receive any other book in our catalog for free. Simply specify which title you’d like in the notes during PayPal checkout and we’ll include it at no extra charge.

Each hardcover edition of Scary, No Scary comes signed and numbered by Schomburg himself, and includes a limited edition letter pressed mini-broadside from Brave Men Press. This package was created in a limited quantity of 200 and only about half of them remain.

As always, every order receives free shipping from our website. Thanks for your time and enjoy your Halloween!


a note from Tarpaulin Sky:


No pay--aside from fame and free books. Start immediately.

Over the next couple weeks, Tarpaulin Sky Press will be filling
a variety of editorial and production positions. If you are
interested in working for us, please email Christian Peet
& Editors at newstaff[AT]tarpaulinsky[DOT]com, and let us know
your experiences with (or your desire to be part of) Tarpaulin
Sky Press and the small press community as a whole.

Please understand that we would be delighted for you to read
submissions, but also that we consider reading submissions to be
"the fun part" of editing, and that editors at TSky have many
other responsibilities. Also, while ambition will serve as a
fine substitute for experience in several positions at TSky
Press, we are also looking specifically for people with
experience in one or more of the following areas: web design,
book design, event coordination, marketing and promotion.

It is not necessary to send a resume/CV--a letter will do fine--
but we will happily peruse anything you send.

We look forward to hearing from you.


Christian Peet & Co.
Tarpaulin Sky Press

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Where the Wild Things Are - A Brief Review

"Where the Wild Things Are" suffers the fate many movies suffer. It starts off well enough. Sets up possibilities. Then kind of just fizzles out. And the ending's a cop out. A morality lesson. Yeah, Yeah: i'm all vague about town here. Well, so what. It's a decent movie all in all. But I wanted to feel as strongly as I did when I was terrified as the creatures encircled our wayward adolescent, threatening to eat him. From there o in it was all downhill, intensity-wise. And I was needing a good sound nap.

Agassi admits use of crystal meth (me too)

Agasssi admits use of crystal meth. And lied about it.

"Then comes a tidal wave of euphoria that sweeps away every negative thought in my head. I've never felt so alive, so hopeful - and I've never felt such energy."

Black Warrior Review: New Issue and Submission Guidelines

a not from Black Warrior

Hello BWR Fans,

It's time - our Fall/Winter 2009 issue is out! Mary Caponegro, Lily Hoang, Andrew Zawacki and Joanna Klink are just a few of the authors on board. Stop by our page to check out a complete list of the excellent authors and artists whose work awaits you; our News page offers a more detailed explanation of the issue as a whole.

While you're there, be sure to take a look at our special calls for submissions; we are currently seeking both Creative Nonfiction and Comics for our Spring/Summer 2010 issue. If you know someone who might be a good fit, please pass the word along; likewise, if that person is yourself, get your work to us ASAP! Submission guidelines can be found both on our FB page and on our website.

Thanks for your support,

Jenny Gropp Hess
Managing Editor

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Happiness and Magic: Interview with Justin Marks re his "A Million in Prizes"

The following's an interview with Justin Marks re his wonderful "A Million in Prizes." (the more time I spent with this book the more I enjoyed it. it's simple and complicated. smart and accessible. blah. blah. i highly recommend it).

Here's the Bio Justin provided:

Justin Marks’ first book is A Million in Prizes (New Issues Press). He is also the author of several chapbooks, the most recent being Voir Dire (Rope-a-Dope Press). He lives in New York City with his wife and their infant son and daughter.

Also, Justin's the featured poet at Tusculum Review this week. Check it out here.

RK: Early on in the middle section, [Summer insular], the speaker seems to be talking to the reader “And you/I know you.” And on the next page “A poem about summer/should be happy right?” Indeed. But the middle section of A Million is, generally, not happy. And neither is the book. But the speaker does know the reader. And the speaker, going into the middle section, has set up a lot of expectation. All “antecedents” have been removed, killed, set aside, muffled, murdered: God, childhood, selves, ambition, money. And the presumption is that a certain “form of magic” is going to be discovered/
encountered. Even though this is put in quite cryptic terms: “understanding reality as different/than it’s already unknown to be/a form of magic.” Ultimately, then, the casual reader is going to be disappointed. And by casual reader the one who really expects a summer of magic. A happy ending. Real fulfillment. Your thoughts please.

JM: I think in a lot of ways [Summer insular] is about--and is in the book specifically to--subvert pre-established expectations from the first section. A poem about summer should be happy. But just a few lines later it I say "Happiness / for example is lacking". That's a fairly ambiguous phrase. Happiness is lacking, perhaps from the poem, the book or life itself. On the other hand, it may simply be that happiness, as a feeling, isn't that fulfilling. It may be that happiness is indeed in the poem and the book, in life in general, but, like most other things, fades, is disappointing.

So, yeah, the casual reader may well be disappointed. But that seems to always be the case. In that sense, I don't think too much about a reader.

I try to apply the same ambiguity to magic, or maybe I am just being cryptic. I do believe in it, at least as I understand Spicer to have meant it--or maybe it's just that I want to believe. The only place I mention magic explicitly is in the first section of the book which, as you point out, is in many ways about failed ambition. So, I don't know. It's there as a kind of possibility (as are many other things, I think) but also, in part, as something already unknown. Already a kind of disappointmnet, at the least, and total failure at worst--a metaphor for the difficulty of making art, as well as being a person.

RK: Despite what I said in the first question there is a kind of happiness at play in these poems. Achieved in moments that are a kind of magic. Occasionally only and only fleetingly. I’m talking about Zen moments of beauty like “whiteness without end,/ but touched with such shading as needed/to keep things interesting.” Or “A clear plastic cup on my tray table./ Cold water almost perfectly still.” Or the short poem in its entirety: “Another painting:/six large shoreline rocks/(stanza break)no shore/no sea.” These are hopeless and hopeful. Formed and formless. Instances of a form of magic. The other way in which this magic is attained is through a Whitmanesque sort of loafing. A good example of this is where the speaker’s stretched out on a bus, sun through the windows, sleeping in bits and pieces: “I sing a little song to myself.” These twilight loafing moments of the mind in a kind of trance are another sort of magic that comes and goes. Briefly. Your thoughts on the magic and happiness in this your debut book.

JM: Whitmanesque. Nice. I'll take that comparison any day. Thanks!

But to answer your question: I'm glad some sort of happiness and magic got through. Actually, that sounds moronic. What I mean is: I'm glad not all the ambition of the book failed. That there is some sense of hope. The loafing, the dualities of form and formlessness, hope and hopelessness...these are qualities I find difficult to talk about in ways other than I did in the book. I love Whitman's work, he's certainly an influence, but I've never thought of my work as Whitmanic. I feel an affinity for a lot of zen philosophy and beliefs, but I'm certainly no Buddhist. The only thing I can say is that maybe these qualities in the work are the strains of those influences and affinities coming through.

RK: I’ve just started seeing a psychiatrist/therapist so I’ve got lots of new terms and ideas in my head. Always dangerous. (If you've just bought a duck you seem to see ducks and duckish behavior everwhere. Duckish designs. Moods. Broods. etc. etc.) But, anyways, I want to talk about the "psychological" arc of A Million in Prizes. The book begins with muted ambition. A kind of gathering manic energy. With a goal of magic in mind. The summer in which this is going to happen though becomes, in spite of its moments of magic, increasingly morbid. Not the summer we expected at all. (Or maybe it is if we paid attention.) A crashing down into a depressed state. But the book is jolted back into brighter awareness and energy by being hit by a car in “The Voice Inside the Cheerleader’s Megaphone). A place where “inner gaze” makes the speaker “dizzy” and later on in “Home Again” where the speaker is “adept at never truly sleeping.” Lack of sleep’s a clinical symptom and trigger of manic phases. And psychotic episodes. Episodes of paranoia. (excuse me if I’m not quite accurate here, clinically.) And, indeed, the speaker in “Home Again” is absolutely paranoid. And in the next poem “False teeth” the speaker knows that he “was a really paranoid and neurotic kind.” These last poems are also the most surreal. Spectalularly surreal. Documents of borderline psychotic states that the artist sometimes treads. So in a sense for me the book’s a kind of Bipolar journal. Am I totally full of shit here? Imposing my current preoccupations on yr book? Your thoughts please.

JM: You are completely full of shit. (Kidding.) There certainly is a journal quality to the book. A friend once said I could hand the book to my shrink and he'd have all he needed to know about me. Which is true. And not.

That last section of the book is the result of another struggle to do something different. At the time I wrote it I definitely felt there was an energy gathered that I'd suddenly found an outlet for. I'd been spending a lot of time worrying about how my work fit into the larger contemporary conversation. What kind of poet was I? SOQ? Post-avant? Did it matter? I wanted so badly to be "cool," but at the same time not to simply imitate all the other cool kids. Then I went to my first AWP conference. It was in Austin, TX that year. I was hanging out with some friends talking about all this and I just decided, "fuck it," I was going to write however I wanted. That's when the more manic/surreal energy started coming out. Maybe that's why you're reading the book as a bipolar journal. It sort of charts my development as a writer over a five year period, a time when I and my writing changed a lot, essentially went from a more quiet, restrained style to something looser, more free.

RK: If I remember correctly "A Million in Prizes" nearly didn't get published. You sent it out to contests and open-reading periods and made inquiries. But nothing happened. Then when you were about to scrap it and start anew you got word from New Issues. Unless you're extremely fortunate it's tough, very tough, to get a manuscript (especially a first manuscript) published. Contests are at best a difficult lottery system and at worst a scam. And finding a press outside the contest route is extremely difficult too. Your thoughts on the system? What can be done? And what advice (beyond "persevere") can you give writers trying to find a home for a first manuscript?

JM: Well, that’s not exactly accurate. I had started a new manuscript, but I hadn’t given up on A Million in Prizes. I had, however, given up on contests, for basically all the reasons you mention. My intention was to focus on small presses. I was convinced I could find someone to believe in the book and publish it. I was also seriously thinking about publishing it myself. I think the whole idea of “vanity publishing,” at least among many contemporary poets, is being given the lie; that is, really great poets are starting small presses and publishing their own books. Ariana Reines is one example. She started Mal-o-Mar Editions and published her second book, Coeur de Lion, on it.

And that’s essentially what I think about “the system.” There’s no reason to adhere to it. I mean, you can if you want, but you don’t have to to be taken seriously. You can start your own press and publish your own book and, if the work is strong enough, it will be taken just as seriously. I realize that may sound hypocritical of me to say, since I did wind up having my first book come out by winning a contest, but I can assure you I won’t be sending my second manuscript to any contests. I mean, with lulu and such, it’s fairly affordable to self-publish. If I would have taken all the money I spent on entry fees—an average of $20 per contest, and I entered at least 70 contests, so that’s about $1,400—I basically could have covered the cost of publishing the book myself.

But that’s just my opinion. A book is a deeply, deeply personal object for the writer who created it. Self-publishing may be an unacceptable option for many. But if you feel your book is really ready, and your goal is to reach an audience, but you’re not having luck with contests or simply want to avoid them all together, I think self-publishing is a great option.

RK: I just read a few of Charles Wright's poems in the latest Valparaiso Review. They're good. But same-old Charles Wright and his famous and accomplished back-porch and back-yard staring up into the night sky pessimism. The one thing I've admired about you and your poetry is that it keeps changing. You're not afraid to dive into new styles. New approaches. Can you tell us a bit about the work you've done since "A Million in Prizes?" Chapbooks published and forthcoming? New full-length manuscript(s)? Where on-line, perhaps, you could find some newer work?

JM: Ha! Well, if there’s only one thing to admire about me and my work, I’m glad it’s that . But, yeah, change is immensely important to me. I mean, when you settle on one style and do it over and over book after book you’re kind of saying you think that style is so great, so interesting, that people want to see a whole career’s worth of it. For some poets, that may well be the case. I love Ashbery, and he’s been writing essentially the same book for—what?—50 years. In that sense, I guess it’s just a matter of taste, but to be honest, I’ve tired of even Ashbery. So change, for me, is very important. If my style isn’t changing then I’m not developing as a poet, and development, for me, is of the utmost importance. At the same time, though, I don’t think my new stuff sounds so different that it comes across as written by a completely different poet. It’s a complicated balance/issue.

Regardless, yeah, I’ve published some new stuff since A Million in Prizes came out. I had a mini-chapbook (it amounted to about a 5 page poem) called Voir Dire come out with Rope-a-Dope Press [] in February, 2009. As I said earlier, I’ve also been working on a new manuscript. At this point, it’s a collection of sonnets, some of which have appeared in the following:
Six Finch (2)
Sin Review (2)
Harp and Altar (2)

I’ve also been working on this prose memoir-ish thing called Naïve Melody, some of which you can find here: I’ve thought about publishing it as a chapbook, but it needs more work. I’ve also been thinking about ways to break it apart and fit it into my new full length manuscript. We’ll see.

For some time now you've been a part of the small press world publishing an impressive collection of chapbooks through your Kitchen Press. But it seems that you've moved on from Kitchen Press and are now involved, along with some other poets, in a new venture publishing full-length collections. Can you tell us a bit more about this? Who are you publishing? Just poetry? Open reading periods or just by your solicitation?

JM: I have moved on. Me, Sampson Starkweather, Chris Tonelli, Dan Boehl and Matt Rasmussen have started a press called Birds, LLC. Our first two books are The Trees Around, by Chris Tonelli and The French Exit, by Elisa Gabbert. We’re planning to have both of them out in time for AWP in Denver.

It’s something we’ve wanted to do for a while, but only just got our act together on. Our plan is to publish our own books, as well as other people’s. It’ll probably be solicitation only, at least at first. We’d like to publish two books a year, one of our own books and one from someone else we solicit. We haven’t determined an order yet, but my personal guess is that either Sampson’s or Dan’s book will be one of our 2011 releases. I know they both have books that are really close to being done. So, we’ll see. But I’m super excited about it.

The big motivation for me personally came after A Million in Prizes came out. I just couldn’t bear going through that whole process of finding a new publisher for my second book. I kept thinking how awesome it would be to just have a publisher ready to publish your book whenever you had a new one, someone to build an actual publishing relationship with.

We also wanted to bring back the idea of having editors that work closely with poets on their manuscripts, which to my knowledge isn’t standard practice any more. Our structure is that there is a lead editor who works one-on-one with the poet to really polish the manuscript. The rest of us read the manuscripts and offer our thoughts, and then the lead editor relays those to the poet. The poet and lead editor handle things from there. I’m the lead editor for Chris’ book. I’ve read and commented on it so much already over the last four years that he’s been working on it, and I felt like I really “got” what he was doing, so I wanted to be his editor. Sampson is working with Elisa on hers.

With all that going on, plus being the father of nine month old twins, having a job, and recently becoming a homeowner, I’ve had to put Kitchen Press on the back burner. I’m putting out Elisa Gabbert’s My Fear of X and after that Kitchen Press will be on hiatus. I’m not saying it’s gone for good, but for now my energies in terms of publishing are devoted to Birds, LLC.

Holy Land: Bi-Polar and Paranoid Schizophrenic (??)

one of the more interesting comments about my book Holy Land:

"My best woman friend was a severe case of what used to be called manic depression. And my son was diagnosed as a paranoid schizophrenic as a teenager. For some reason, those relationships have made me better able to understand some of your stuff."

Monday, October 26, 2009

Rauan Klassnik Fondles Seth Abramson

Over on HTMLGIANT today (the beginning of their Mean Week 2) Blake Butler makes the connection between Sex Ableton (House-Mouse Cock) and Seth Abramson and asks if I've gone too far. Have I?

Whale Wars (kind of)

click on image for better view

(by my friend Dan Dever)

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Seth Abramson: Pineapples and 1936

Seth Abramson gets in the action over at HTMLGIANT,..... (damn, how I wish he'd start blogging again. real semi-pro blogging.)

A Huge Vat

I've become just a huge vat of appetite. Wanting to glut myself on all sorts of foods and tastes (and as much of it as possible) that may or may not have been interesting to me before. Everything within arm's reach goes in my mouth and I find it all so intriguing. And then it's gone. I had no idea what the glutton experiences. Feels. etc. etc. It is beautiful. It is torture. I am indeed a glutton. A pig. An epicure? No. Just a glutton. A glutton. A glutton. O, my!!!

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Stars (before one of the most boring nights of my life)

Stars (before one of the most boring nights of my life at Kitt's Peak Observatory... i'm getting bits of bored fire coursing through me again just remembering this night...and my wife was nearly arrested for not having her visa on her as we returned home...nice soldier was understanding tho, etc, etc,.... Christ!!)

Stars: the cold clockword of nothing. The horror spread out like salt. A long coming out of sugar. And inside this all the blood, tongue and voice of the hero pulses. But not for long.

A bunch of monkeys with manners and sweet personalities. Wolves and demons. A world of the insane and twisted trying, through the group's aura, to make sense of be ok, normal, quiet, render order from the chaos... to fight the ruin which seeps into us so slowly....

(i was excited to visit Kitt's Peak. thought i'd see soooo much cool stuff. equipment, stars, etc. sat around for 5 hours to see the moon and then two little dots pulsing. yawn. yawn. yawn. and then drove down the mountain like criminals in pure darkness. the skies in south africa are much nicer. blah blah. am i bitter? i can't remember a bigger waste of time and money....blah, blah,....)

Friday, October 23, 2009

Reading at Poison Pen in Houston Next Week

Next week I'll be reading in the Poison Pen series in Houston.

I'll be reading with Emily Fox Gordon and Rich Levy.
1641 Westheimer, just east of the intersection of Dunlavy and Westheimer.
8:30 PM.

For more info click here.

What's Right and What's Wrong with Reb Livingston (sort of).....

Over at Htmlgiant Reb Livingston talks about what's right and what's wrong about the small (indie) press world.... and some interesting insights (??) about why men go to strip clubs......

check it out here

New Night Train (9.2)

the new Night Train Magazine is now available here

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Kirk Cameron - A Hollywood Story of Redemption

sorry i won't be in town for this.... (found this in the DFW airport men's toilet, stall 3, terminal C, gate 25)......

Monday, October 19, 2009

Trumpet - Rooster - Henry Miller's Whores etc etc

Someone's playing a trumpet across the street. Perhaps it's a rooster. In L.A. county there's a new ordinance limiting a household to one rooster. Perhaps this is for the noise. More likely the fighting.

An SPCA commercial says 250,000 puppies are born to fight each year. It showed all sorts of neglected animals: dogs, cats, birds, cows, pigs, horses, tasmanian devils, mammoths and paramecium. I got teary eyed. As usual.

Last Halloween was the last time I drank. And the dead (my dead) are all still dead. Yeah! Sigh.

People are waiting for taxis. It's cold. The roosters and trumpets are honking.

As we all verge into extinction.

Like Miller's whores.

Germaine was different. Verging. Rundown. Cheap. Rouged. etc. etc. Rubbing her pussy. etc. etc.

A woman just burped in the elevator next to me. Her hands were full and I'd just pressed her button. 6. The burp was a thank you, I guess.

Had dinner with Joe Hall. Lunch yesterday with Reb Livingston.

Lots going on. Life's good.

Absent (new issue now Live)

a note from absent:

Issue 4 of Absent is live. It's an all-poetry issue featuring work by:
Dan Boehl * Karen Carcia * Darcie Dennigan * Jessica Fjeld * Andrea Henchey * Lauren Ireland * Matthew Klane * Reb Livingston * Marc McKee * Daniela Olszewska * Matt Shears * Kim Gek Lin Short

HTMLGIANT, Planet of the Apes, Proteas, etc

I'm now writing for HTMLGIANT. Check it out.

I'm reading in Tucson this Wednesday. Check it out.

Was in the Mall last night (D.C.)--Stood up on the Lincoln Memorial and felt awe. Thought of the Planet of the Apes. Sometimes everyone looks like a monkey to me. Everything collapses into monkey faces and chimp-squawking.
This hotel lobby's full of Proteas. I'm a Protea. A Springbok too. (South African.)

Marble is more and more interesting. Sidewalks too. And bums' faces.

I've lived in a paper bag. I break out of it. Another descends.

Proteas are hardy flowers. But cactus-fragile. Blah, blah, blah

Friday, October 16, 2009

White Gleaming Pig

Dead stuck in traffic on the way to a wedding in cold drizzle we saw a big fat white gleaming pig come trotting past us. It was holding a sign that said

I Love you I Love you Don't do it Don't do it Please don't do it

Then we saw it had wings and it was lifting off. And it was using its long red penis as a rudder. And headed, evidently, to intervene at the point of the question before the two questions. The one about holding your peace forever, etc,....White gleaming and flying. Flying with its bright-red penis.

We sat there in awe. Unmoving. Becrawled. And the pig gleamed on.

As I type this the happy couple are preparing for a rehearsal dinner while somewhere near, perhaps in this very hotel, the pig is waiting. Brooding. Flushing. And blushing. And ready. Ready. Ready.

Blake Butler's Scorch Atlas

So, I've started into Blake Butler's Scorch Atlas and it's like biting into a burning apple. A sizzling cherry. Each taste's a piece of fire that whirrs on the tongue and surrounds the brain in a live-dead sack of cold-burning aura.

This book's going on my night stand next to Finnegan's Wake and for the same purpose. To be taken down some afternoons for small doses of brain buzz-disfigurement.

Blake Butler's an original. Big. Teeming. Burning.

(note: I've got a small tolerance. Easily blown apart. Thus, small doses.)


Scorch Atlas is a beautiful book that speaks to on many levels and through many tongue. One tongue says don't write in me. Keep me sacred. Another says desecrate me. Destroy me. Scribble all over me. And this I am doing. The only book I haven't written is in the bible my dad got for his bar mitzvah and which he, in turn, (having never even opened it) passed on to me the day I supposedly became a man. Damnit how I'm itching to write in that gold-leafed beautiful book. Soon. Soon. Soon.)


What I've read so far of Scorch Atlas (through about page 45) depends on and is made by speed. The speed at which the language and action move is really thrilling. A joy.

But then every now and then it slows. Sketches. Lingers.

And everything narrows down into one moment blooming.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

A Needle Hits

A needle hits and a whale gets roped—eyes bulging, jerked back to dirt. Sharks go at my body, but lightning holds me together, and a girl with long grey fingers rubs my chest as she stares out to sea. The sky’s trying to speak. Rocks and trees all bent in heat.

from my book, "Holy Land"

She's on top of me

She’s on top of me, thrusting down, and I’m in her eyes—as bright and dead as a glass-sculpted wall of flowers—bent back and blood, like the tail of a horse, splashed all over my chest. Her face is smashed.

from my book "Holy Land"

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Colored Birds Chirping

Lying next to each other after we made love, she told me about the operation and how the blood flowed weakly through her body. Her eyes lit up as though she was remembering a boy who’d died at war, and I saw you, my brother, in bed surrounded by colored birds chirping.

from my book Holy Land

Van Gogh - Holy Land

I can feel the cells in me strengthening: a horse rising up in a field of broken wheat Van Gogh is painting the day he killed himself.

from my book Holy Land

Monday, October 12, 2009

2nd Hand Books and All their Blood & Violence

I used to be fine with second hand books. But now I'm terrified of them. Is this just me? They haunt me like the eyeballed roll of money in those annoying Geico ads. The roll that's able to text as well as just sit there staring like the dog in Frasier.

In fact I wasn't just fine with 2nd hand books I was fascinated by them. Wonder who owned this before me? I'd wonder dreamily and glowingly. And was so interested in any notes made in the book. Any underlinings. Was mesmerized by the handwriting. And more often than not I just didn't care. Skipped over the scribblings and markings. Didn't give a damn at all about who'd come before me.

But now a 2nd book's a loaded gun for me. A carcass. An eye into death, rape, suffering. And love. Love with its violence and its Gods. Barbaric and carnivorous. Sad apes. Cold fisted. Death in an icebox. Or a rainforest. Drums and dribbling ritual blood. Heart in fist. Etc. Etc. The everyday blacks and whites of the human animal.

Think of all the violence these books have sat through. Violence in the history and potentialities of its readers. Its readers holding it with vicious or gentle fingers.

Violence in the room around it. Think of all the fornicating and meanness perpetrated around this book! This sweet looking lamb of a 2nd hand book. What has it heard? Witnessed? What blood smelt?

And think of the love, the violence of that love. Yeah, sure, there are so many ordinary, quiet, exhausted moments. But the book's untouched by these. Undulled. It perks under Love and Violence. Those hunting dogs. Those barking gods.


(p.s. the "image" i've used with this post doesn't really have much to do with the price of 2nd hand book apples. O, well,.... damnit!!)

Introducing Kathleen Rooney

Introducing Kathleen Rooney!

If you're a writer interested in sending me a headshot (i like "eyes" and nice colors. or a sharp-featured black and white) please do so to ronklassnik2001 (at) yahoo (dot) com and I may well do one up of you.

Am thinking also of starting a blog with just these (writer portraits)

Turtles & Love Birds

I’ve got six turtles. I’ve also got six Love Birds, 2 green, 2 blue and 2 multicolored. A hawk swoops down and attacks them. They’re all ok, but understandably, damned shook up. Last night I dreamed two were dead. I took their heads and necks into my mouth and breathed gently.

(from my book "Holy Land")

p.s. those Love Birds pictured are hotel keys from when I stayed in Chicago in the spring.

New Valparaiso On-Line Now (Charles Wright poems, etc,...)

The New Issue of the Valparaiso Review is on-line now.

The "Featured Poet" is Charles Wright. And the three poems of included in the issue are vintage Charles Wright: a unique brand of Accomplished Back-Porch Pessimism that's wonderful in small doses.

And work by lots of other poets including Mary Biddinger, Virgil Suarez, Dorianne Laux, etc, etc,....

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Talking to God

Talking to God’s like jerking off. You strain in the dark for years, but then a fuse gets lit, and people come screaming out of the fire. They land in the streets, their arms and legs blown off. A man on a horse tips his hat. Marilyn holds down her dress. In the charred air, angels hang.

(poem from my book, Holy Land)

Saturday, October 10, 2009

In the Sack - "Ten strong men working in regular shifts!!!"

There's a Michaux poem where the speaker talks about putting people in sacks and then beating them "up with impunity and with an energy that would wear out ten strong men working in regular shifts."

The speaker develops incredible patience. Patience for assholes, etc.

And so he puts up with people for hours, months, years.

Patience. Patience. Patience.

Patient because he knows he's going to get them in the sack and then have at them. Have at them "with an energy that would wear out ten strong men working in regular shifts."

Like Michaux I am patient. And like Michaux I have a sack. And assholes. I've got them. O, yeah, I've got them. Plenty of them.

The sack, in my hands right now, feels sooooo good.

And the anticipation sooooo sweet.

Patience. Patience. Patience.

Alien vs. Predator - Michael Robbins' very Unsquirrel-like New Yorker Poem

Here's a very unsquirrel-like poem by Michael Robbins that appeared in the January 12th issue of the New Yorker.

I'm not sure what to make of this poem. But it's very exciting to read. Thrilling. A wild ride.

I'm not saying that the New Yorker should publish a bunch of poems like Michael's. But mixing in more different "stuff" more often would be nice.

Alien vs. Predator

Praise this world, Rilke says, the jerk.

We’d stay up all night. Every angel’s

berserk. Hell, if you slit monkeys

for a living, you’d pray to me, too.

I’m not so forgiving. I’m rubber, you’re glue.

That elk is such a dick. He’s a space tree

making a ski and a little foam chiropractor.

I set the controls, I pioneer

the seeding of the ionosphere.

I translate the Bible into velociraptor.

In front of Best Buy, the Tibetans are released,

but where’s the whale on stilts that we were promised?

I fight the comets, lick the moon,

pave its lonely streets.

The sandhill cranes make brains look easy.

I go by many names: Buju Banton,

Camel Light, the New York Times.

Point being, rickshaws in Scranton.

I have few legs. I sleep on meat.

I’d eat your bra—point being—in a heartbeat.

Friday, October 9, 2009

New Typo (13) on-line now (includes 3 of my poems)

The New Typo (13) is on-line now



(Three poems of mine are included.)

Versions of two of these poems are included in my chapbook Ringing.

The illustrated and badly-handwritten poems included with this post are colored versions of those Ringing versions (pages 5 and 17 of Ringing). Click on each for better view.

Da Lyrical Pitbull

just received the following from Facebook:

Wakefield became a fan of Wakefield Brewster aka da lyrical pitbull on Facebook and suggested you become a fan too. To see more details and confirm this invitation, click here: The Facebook Team

This makes me smile. And makes me jealous.

I want a name (or an aka) like Da Lyrical Pitbull

To follow is the description at Da Pitbull's Page:

Poet, Brokun Werd Artist, Hip-Hop Recording Artist;FNDR: b.funkee productionz, pitbull poetree reading seriez, pitbull poetree slam seriez ~ poetree tutor, canadian poetry'z urban icon ov da west ~ daddee

And to follow's more info you can find at Da Pitbull's website:

From traditional music theory starting at age six, to his acceptance in the York University Music Program it was only a matter of time before his artistic muse pushed him beyond the confines of academia.

Writing poetry for the past 16 years, performing live for the last eight, producing two CD’s and winning numerous accolades and International Slams! Wakefield Brewster has left more than 800 stages blistered and bruised eagerly awaiting his return.

Intriguing. But, damnit, I am so damned jealous! Of the name. The name. The aka.


I want to leave stages, hundreds of then, "blistered and bruised"

Cheers to you, Pitbull! Keep at it!

Thursday, October 8, 2009

new issue of FIELD: Contemporary Poetry and Poetics

a note from Oberlin College:

Dear OC Press Listserv Member:

My sincere apologies for an inadvertent forwarding of a message meant for internal use yesterday. Kindly disregard it and thank you for your patient understanding.

I’ll take this opportunity, though, to let you know that the fall issue of FIELD: Contemporary Poetry and Poetics will be mailed the last week of October. This fall’s symposium celebrates Philip Levine’s work with essays by David St. John, Kate Daniels, Peter Klappert, Lee Upton, Edward Hirsch, Tom Sleigh and Kathy Fagan. You’ll find two new poems by Levine as well as ones by such favorites as Marianne Boruch, Michael Chitwood, Elton Glaser, Betsy Sholl and Chana Block. And, of course, there are plenty of poets making their FIELD debut in this 81st issue.

If you are not a subscriber, or if your subscription has lapsed, you might want to subscribe or renew now to be sure to receive the fall issue. A year’s subscription is $16, 2 years $28.

Marilyn Hacker’s translation of HE AND I by Emmanuel Moses is coming out this month, and we already have copies in hand. We’ll be happy to send you a copy from our office postage-paid upon receipt of a check for $15.95.

Just use the address below for your subscription and/or book order.

Oberlin College Press
Attn: Linda Slocum
50 N. Professor St.
Oberlin, OH 44074-1091

My Grandfather - Giacomo Joyce - A Kind of God - The River

My wife's mother's in the hospital with kidney and liver problems.
And she's really afraid. Reminds me of my fear.
Reminds me of Joyce's Giacomo Joyce.

Dreamed of my grandfather last night. He's been dead nearly 20 years.
We were at a school picnic and he wanted to see the headmaster.
Was crying. Shaking.
Teachers walked past us. Some looked at me. Some didn't.

We woke to a short-lived storm. Very windy. Rain blowing in.
This makes my dog, Chuy, very afraid.
The river's huge now. And filled with trash.
The power went out for a few minutes.

My chapbook Ringing is filled with trash.
It too is afraid. It too cries. And shakes.
Cowers under the bed. Like a little bird.
Joyce's Jewish student. And mistress.
Like Dante's Beatrice he says, tying back her hair.

The hits from "Seth Abramson" keep piling up.
One was "Seth Abramson Dick."
Seems pointless-- watching the river.
Seems pointless-- hearing it. Feeling it.
To calm this world my wife massages its feet.

I'm a total atheist but when I dream someone
like my grandfather who's dead
I feel good. As though I've resurrected them
For a few moments even. As though
I am a kind of God. No, a God.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

There's a Child in a Ditch

There’s a child in a ditch by the side of the road. She’s the source of every drop of blood. Shadows, knives, machetes——angels sharpening the horns of beasts you’ll never see. Over the long, dazzling fields they come: one small piece of time, chained to the next, howling and deep. They stomp and they spit. You belong to them.

The first poem of section I of my book Holy Land

(That feels like a million years ago)

(this poem was first published in Poemeleon)

The Moose Goes to Heaven----

And finds red flowers, pumpkins, and apples. In fact, Heaven looks like Alaska.

But this is because the moose is "upright." At the end there is no room for "the wicked" who will "be cut off."

Heaven here is the continuation of life on earth. Eternal life.

All quite exciting ("All suffering SOON TO END!". Especially for the Moose. And such a nice picture!! Mwah!!