August 2013

Thoughts — May 9th to May 31st

On May 9th, 2013 I started doing this thing where I’d force myself to write one thought for every hour that I was awake.  I did this regularly for 22 days.  The end came not from a lack of thoughts but, conversely, because I found myself totally overstimulated during a trip to New Orleans (referenced in the final entries) and it didn’t make sense to pick it up again after that.

I wasn’t sure what I could or would do with this project while I was doing it, but reading back over it now, I’m intrigued by the weird, oblique narrative it creates.  You get NBA playoff scores, observations from an 8-part Beatles documentary I was watching at the time, a legal “brouhaha” my roommate involved me in, and updates on the dogs I walk and cats I sit (my job).  It’s sort of feels like a liveblog/livetweet but different because the constraints and medium are different.  It was really fun to do, I hope it’s fun to read.

Need a finer knowledge of building materials.  Clapboard, vinyl, sheetrock – what are these things?

Fishkind’s party. Am I gonna go? Feel fat and stupid, but also like drinking.

George Harrison was from an Irish family with the last name “French.”

I can’t tell if it’s foggy or if I’m just tired.


Word Spaces / 7 Comments
August 29th, 2013 / 1:10 pm

Sounds of a Cowhide Drum

sounds of a cowhide drum


A morning mist
and chimney smoke
of White City Jabavu
flowed thick yellow
as puss oozing
from a gigantic sore

These lines, the opening lines of a poem entitled “An abandoned bundle,” were composed in or around Johannesburg in the late 1960s. It is possible they were written in 1967 the year I was born. It is quite unlikely (but I guess it’s possible) that they were written on October 18, 1967, the exact day I was born in a white hospital in white Johannesburg. These lines, though, were most likely written in Soweto, or on a train between Soweto and Johannesburg, where the author Mbuyiseni Oswald Msthali lived and worked in the 1960s.

And then, a bit further down in the poem, we find

Scavenging dogs
draped in red bandanas of blood
fought fiercely
for a squirming bundle

and, finally, the “abandoned bundle” (the “squirming bundle”) is “a mutilated corpse – / an infant dumped on a rubbish heap-”

[  Sounds of a Cowhide Drum released in 1971 (Renoster Books). A new Jacana Media edition, including isiZulu translations of the poems as well as a foreword by Nadine Gordimer, is now available. ]


Mtshali, somewhere, says “I am not a Liberal, Nationalist or Progressive but a black who tried to articulate the daily hopes and disappointments of his life.” But these are not simple poems. READ MORE >

Author Spotlight & Behind the Scenes / 5 Comments
August 29th, 2013 / 10:14 am


Snapchat, the Opera

I take out my iPhone to start filming us in bed. Turned on my side, with my elbow bent to prop my head up with one of my hands, the other hand holding my phone. Through the screen I can see a close up shot of Adam’s nose and mouth. I pull back to see his entire face. I look beyond my phone to see his full body laying out in front of me. Adam starts to perform:

“Hi Lucy”

“What? [laughter] She’s not going to see this.”

“Isn’t this a Snapchat?”

“It’s not a Snapchat”

“You’ve been making Snapchats all morning and then you go and switch it up on me!”

“You can’t be so presumptuous”

“I’m hiding under here… For forever or until your battery runs out.”

“I brought my charger today”

“Ok, until your phone runs out of space.”

“My phone has unlimited space for embarrassing videos of you.”

“Oh my god… you’re adding this thing to our life. It’s like this wild animal. A barracuda.”

“I don’t understand.  The camera’s a barracuda?”


“There’s an interesting passage about cameras in this [Immortality by Milan Kundera]. There’s like this whole chapter about being watched and how when you’re filmed your self is taken away from you and put in the control of someone else.”

“You’re stealing my soul.”

“I mean, your self exists in the camera now. It’s fragmented.”

“I don’t know… I think people change when the camera comes on. You’re not the same.”

“I think so too but I think that’s part of yourself. I don’t think that change draws from something outside of yourself.”

“Yeah, but it [the camera] obfuscates it.”

“I feel like whenever I feel obligated to turn on a personality its always based on something I wish I was naturally, or how I think I need to be in the situation, and I don’t think that… I think that the fact that I’m able to draw on that personality and bring it out on command says that its always been a part of me. I’m relying on scripts and commands that I can recall for specific instances.”

“But that’s only if you’re a good actor. I feel like I just shut down. I’m not as good.”


‘The part of me that’s not as self-conscious is gone.”

“Oh here it is…

[From Immortality by Milan Kundera]

‘It was a meaningless episode: some sort of congress was taking place in the hotel and a photographer had been hired so that the scholars who had assembled from all parts of the world would be able to buy souvenir pictures of themselves. But Agnés could not beat the idea that somewhere there remained a document testifying to her acquaintance with the man she had met there; she returned to the hotel the next day, bought up all her photos (showing her at the man’s side, with one arm extended across her face), and tried to secure the negatives, too; but those had been filed away by the picture agency and were already unobtainable. Even though she wasn’t in any real danger, she could not rid herself of anxiety because one second of her life, instead of dissolving into nothingness like all the other seconds of life, would remain torn out of the course of time and some stupid coincidence could make it come back to haunt her like the badly buried dead.’

Is that how you feel about this video [laughter]?”

“I mean, I feel like its definitely ruining my life. Slowly.”

“That’s funny. I feel only positive about being recorded and documented.”

“You were like a theatre major! This is like your shit! You’ve got your reading voice on, you’re good to go.”

“Am I doing my reading voice right now?”

“No, but you were.”

“But that’s different. I was reading.”

“Remember when you turned on the camera the other day and immediately went into your recording voice?… Are you still recording?”


“Oh no…”

“I think its different though.”

“How do you mean?”

“I mean, I’m the one recording you. Not some omniscient, malevolent entity. Its an intimate moment and we have control in it.”

“But its not an intimate moment.”

“Just because the camera is there?”


August 28th, 2013 / 1:18 pm

25 Pints: The World’s End


[Update 1 September: Since posting this, I’ve seen The World’s End a second time, which radically changed my opinion of it. I now think it an extremely complex film and a masterpiece, perhaps even Wright’s best work to date—see my second attempt at a review/analysis.]

1. I love everything that Edgar Wright has made.

2. Spaced is one of the cleverest sitcoms I’ve ever seen, demonstrating repeatedly how innovation can be wrested from the most hackneyed cliches of a given form.

3. Shaun of the Dead I rank among the greatest zombie films made, the full equal of Night of the Living Dead and (the original) Dawn of the Dead.

4. Hot Fuzz is probably Wright’s best film to date; three viewings in, I’m still grasping its subtleties.

5. Scott Pilgrim vs. the World is my probably favorite film of the past three years—when I am honest with myself, I’m forced to admit that I love it even more than Drive or The Ghost Writer.

6. Edgar Wright is the only celebrity that I follow on Twitter.

7. I now go into everything that he makes expecting nothing short of sheer brilliance and genius.

8. I went to see The World’s End opening day.

9. It pains me greatly to say that the movie is, to date, my least favorite work of his.


Film / 12 Comments
August 28th, 2013 / 12:11 am


25 Points: City Water Light & Power

CWLP_FinalFrontCity Water Light & Power
by Matt Pine
Cairn Press, 2013
180 pages / $18.00 buy from Amazon









1. I’m in awe of Matt Pine’s prose style. A lake has “the same texture and tone as ink spilled onto silver.” A black dress has “the same cling and quality as plastic wrap on American cheese.” These similes give me goosebumps.

2. The frisson of encountering high style in a world that no longer much values it.

3. City Water Light & Power explores the angst of being young in the city and not knowing the score. It’s about twentysomething Chicagoans figuring out how to survive in body and soul — the alternatives, in this novel, are selling out or breaking down, in bars where salaries are “revealed like flashed genitalia” or in alleys where it’s “spiritually dangerous walking there dispirited after dark.” Your choice is to be one of the manipulators, or someone who walks without a destination — both flavors of desperation.

4. Chicago is a character in this novel. A machine whose workings are dangerously hypnotic.

5. A study of corruption and alienation that gives me that sense of a ruthless and inscrutable society I get from Fitzgerald, say, or Salinger. Matt Pine writes of venality in a tone of innocent fascination — he is sensual, aggrieved, and mystified by ordinary life, in a classic American tradition harking back to the Puritans.

6. The demolition of a dive bar stands for what’s being lost. The bar is called Lewis & Carol’s… perhaps to suggest a world down the rabbit hole or through the looking glass?

7. I like it that this bar seems to be the only thing keeping Jake from becoming an alcoholic – after its destruction, Jake takes to drinking outdoors. Somewhat illogically since the novel acknowledges there are other bars in Chicago – one might even say too much of this novel takes place in bars… But these bars are full of phonies, not like Lewis & Carol’s, which stands for community.

8. Many first novels by men include a dazed and confused main character. In this case, Jake. His job involves talking to imaginary customers. His free time is spent with an imaginary friend, a woman visible just to him, who communicates only through mime and gymnastics and might work better in a movie, a mute hallucinated character being tricky to pull off in a novel…

9. Adrian is a character who success brutalizes. He is seeking the wrong nourishment, acquiring what David Mamet has called “the canting language of the real-estate crowd.” There’s beauty in the process of making ugliness happen, Pine suggests, but it’s a lonely beauty.

10. Jake is a half-hearted preserver, Adrian a developer. Jake on Chicago – “But I wonder what it is we’re wanting after. If it’s really the city, I mean. Do we want more of it, or do we want what it was? I’m sorry. I’m not articulate today. I guess I wonder why we have to fight the city for it to stay itself? Because isn’t that stopping it from being itself? And yet it’s so glorious.” Adrian on Chicago – “What would lure a boutique? How many patios were necessary to make an enclave of patios? Did condos come before cuisine? But then who would move into this wasteland? But why would you open a business where no one lived? It all seemed to leap out all at once, all the parts dependent on all the parts, like a stone archway. But also like an archway, there must be a way to build one.” READ MORE >

1 Comment
August 27th, 2013 / 6:45 pm

this old post about Seth Abramson (from way back on August 3rd, 2009) is #1 again on HTMLGIANT!!  (ie, it’s getting by far the most traffic, more than Twerking or Poetry Patriotism even!)

and I don’t even know how to feel about this (sigh)


Is this annoying?

(I think so.)

…Paul Cunningham’s Poetry Patriotism — Pump-Pump!…


black with stars strip

legs in air

black with stars strip


In this day and age when most people are so politically apathetic and so many writers (especially the deadbeat young) are loth to mix beautiful politics with their beautiful poetics it’s more refreshing than a Mexican Coke (you know the ones with extra yummy sugar) to find a True Poetry Patriot like Paul Cunningham who sits squarely in American’s Great Big Bulging Heart:


In amber waves of grain & purple mountains, above the fruited plain, Paul Cunningham, Paul Cunningham, God surely shed His grace on thee 
(—-from Paul Cunningham The Beautiful)


And, so, following but surpassing Joe Hall’s Poetry RoadReb Livingston’s Poetry Home, and Carina Finn’s Poetry Youth in sheer American Joy, Industry, Charity & Greatness this is the 4th such photo shoot/interview where, again, the only rule’s that Paul has to answer in language from his manuscript-in-progress, The Stylets of Paul Sorbet


staute liberty strip

Besides Bruce Springsteen’s “Born in the USA,” Rammstein’s “Amerika ” (wunderbar!), The Ballad of Davey Crockett and all the rest of our beautiful and gauzy anthems what sort of ditties, aural-elevation sequences and rabid-hunting drum-beats (we have the right to bear! Yeah! we have the right to bear!) have you been listening to in the burning heart of your Poet Patriotism??

pump-pump READ MORE >

Author Spotlight & Random / 12 Comments
August 26th, 2013 / 2:02 pm

“All duty is dream all you are is wildfires”

skinteam_mediumwebHi, y’all. In June, I and my helicopter friends in our helicopter hats released a lovely weird novel called The Skin Team by a Canadian gentleman named Jordaan Mason. I haven’t told you about it yet, but now I am telling you about it. There’s a way you can get it for free at the end of this post. First read the post to see if you’d like it, right?

The novel is about three people, two boys and a girl, turning into each other and out of each other. Also touching. There are sick horses and a Power Company on fire. Sad dads and gone moms. Also some rivers and games of tag and lightbulb vomit.

What I’ve been telling people is that it’s like if Dennis Cooper re-wrote The Virgin Suicides, and Dennis himself was all “Reading The Skin Team, you would never suspect how difficult it is to write even fairly about such things, much less with Jordaan Mason’s radiant emotional grace and super-deft detailing and flawless style.”

So far it’s been called “a psychedelic, haunting, genuinely queer experience of adolescence” (Xtra!and an “incendiary novel, impressive in both style and its poetic language” (Largehearted Boy) and that it’s “carried in sentences that together feel close to the same long slow gravity you might have felt exploring a strange relative’s house as a child” (our own Ryan Gosling at VICE). My favorite new lit blog Actuary Lit says “The Skin Team brims with flesh made electricity, of sick bodies warped by technology into health.” And Vol. 1 Brooklyn says that it reminds them of a guy the FBI thought was the Unabomber: “Like William T. Vollmann, Mason tears apart familiar relationships and conflicts to illuminate them in some newfound fashion.”

And you know it’s real, because some people have said negative things too! They think it has too many metaphors or the prose purples or it gets too confusing (“when every sentence strives for preciousness, they risk monotony” from the Heavy Feather Review), which could also be true, who knows! Let it not be said that our helicopter isn’t into dodging rockets. Evasive maneuvers are fun! Criticism is good. Hype is soda.

I tried to explain in a sincere and full disclosure way about why I love this book over at The Lit Pub in an interview with Jordaan. During his answers, he gives a great primer about the three characters, talks about bipolar disorder, destroying the logic of science through unnaming, and “trying to describe this complete separation of my body from everything around it and from itself. ”

The reason I’m telling you about The Skin Team now is because you can get it for free if you want to play a little game where you get a map in the mail and you draw on it. Otherwise, you can get it the normal way, which would also be awesome. If you feel like it’s weird we have bodies, especially when they’re in the woods and inside other bodies, and you want to read about bodies in a book that makes their weirdness feel like it kind of works (like how a singing saw sounds), I’m guessing you’ll like The Skin Team. Thanks!

Contests & Web Hype / 2 Comments
August 26th, 2013 / 12:03 pm