is the editor of Big Lucks and the curator of the THREE TENTS Reading Series in Washington, DC. His first chapbook is forthcoming from Ink Press.
is the editor of Big Lucks and the curator of the THREE TENTS Reading Series in Washington, DC. His first chapbook is forthcoming from Ink Press.
You call out from your bed in the dark. But you are alone, so so alone. Mainly because your last roommate was such a pain, always complaining about you leaving your dishes around, but, like, you’re a poet! You don’t have time to carry your dishes to the sink like some businessman. Of course you were kicked out of that apartment.
Poor all of us.
1. Plenty of celebrities have graced us with their beautiful words—Ally Sheedy’s Yesterday I Saw the Sun (Summit Books, 1991) teaches, “My insides slosh about like a nauseous ocean/It takes great gulps of air/Words from religious books/And Diet Cherry Coke to quiet the sound.” It is the wisdom of these cultural leaders—Jewel, Charlie Sheen, Suzanne Somers, Alicia Keys—and—James of House Franco, the First of Her Name, Queen of the Andals and the First Men, Lady Regnant of the Seven Kingdoms, Protector of the Realm, Khaleesi of the Great Grass Sea, Breaker of Chains, Mother of Dragons and Mhysa.
3. You cannot.
4. One job of the writer is to introduce neologisms into an otherwise very boring world. Alien space bats. Webinar. Astroturfing. Wardrobe malfunction. Brangelina. Affluenza. Kismetly. We need strong literary leaders like Kristin Stewart to push the next evolution of poetics.
5. How far does the looking glass reflect? Joyelle McSweeney, in a similar intense study of Stewart’s linguistics, noticed this: “‘kismetly’ is also a kind of inverted mirror writing of her own name (the k, i, s, e, t, the w inverted to m,)!”6. Similarly observed—is “Marfa” not a reference to Dan Flavin’s untitled (Marfa project), 1996?
7. Is it also not a reference to Atlanta’s MARTA terminal—or rather—the struggles of language—how the word distorts with a mouthful of blood, bone…freedom. Is this not done in the tradition of the great picaresque novel? Marfa, Marfa, beautiful Marfa! How the words travel like a train down the digital page—digital as moonlight!
8. The all-too-prosperous poetry market is overcrowded with the same bland literary journals publishing the same poets over and over. We need venerable institutions like Marie Claire to spread the gospel. Poetry from J-14! Poetry from Cosmopolitan! Poetry from Martha Stewart Living! Poetry from Golf World! Poetry from Handguns Magazine!
9. The future is now. Step the fuck aside, Blah Blah Review.
11. Should not words be owned by those with the most money? Basketball players, actors, meteorologists, CEOs—are these not the people in our community who should own the word “neon”?
12. As the great mathematician Robert Smith (later incorrectly attributed to Benjamin Franklin) once stated—”all cats are grey”. If all cats are grey—therefore—all moonlight must be digital. All bones are capable of being sucked pretty. All organ pumps are abrasive—and therefore (by Smith’s deduction)—can be perforated.
13. It is in our nature to spray paint everything that is known to us—this is fact—but what of the things we do not know? We require philosophers such as Stewart to guide us.
14. Both mythologically and scientifically-verified—devils are never done digging. They have also been observed in their natural environment 1) challenging mortals to fiddling contests 2) challenging deities to turn stone into bread and 3) challenging poets to write the best damn poetry they can write.
15. Stewart also writes—and take note—”He’s speaking in tongues all along the pan handle.” The “pan” in this line is a reference to the devil in the previous line—pan = Pan, the flute-playing god of the wild, who was later transformed (through the same ‘religious books’ Sheedy cites in her manuscript) into the Baphomet-envisioned devil we all know and love today. Iconoclast!
16. Iconoclast. Baphomet. Celebrity. Poet. Poet. Celebrity. Devil. Vampire. Wiffle® ball.
18. Do you believe in freedom? Do you believe “celebrity” is a different brand from “poet”. Why do you believe this, when you wish your poetry brought you celebrity?
19. Who decides how the Venn diagram overlaps—Kristen Stewart or you? Did you star in the world-renowned Twilight film franchise?
20. If “My Heart Is A Wiffle Ball/Freedom Pole” had been written by a darling of the New York poetry scene or your favorite MFA professor-cum-shaman, would you not have come running in its swift defense? [see 23.]
21. Would you not have come running in a pair of Balenciaga sneakers and sheer Zuhair Murad gown screaming?
22. Can you afford those things? Are you comfortable? Are you a poet? Are you a celebrity?
23. If yes, it’s a good poem. If no, it’s a good poem.
24. In a Yahoo!Answers (India Division) post from 6 years ago, user “Brainz” defined the opposite of Freedom as “slavery, captivity, imprisonment, confinement, restraint, among others!!!”. If you are not for the Freedom Pole, if you are not for the independence of poetry, of Kristen Stewart’s uninhibited language, of the right of every man, woman and non-binary gender person to sip a Starbucks Venti Frappuccino® Blended Beverage while tapping away at a 15‑inch MacBook pro with Retina display—then you are the enemy. An enemy of freedom—of poetry—of the world.
25. As fellow celebrity, philosopher and poet Billy Corgan once mused, “The world is a vampire.” This is certainly something that should be familiar to you of all people.
(photo credit: JoAnna DeLuna of Bushwick Daily)
When news broke about the Mellow Pages “hoax,” I wasn’t laughing. Actually, I was downright pissed. After a few days, though, I realized that my anger didn’t lie with Matt and Jacob—or Mellow Pages or Exxon Mobile or Kanye West—but with myself. I reacted in a very solipsistic way: I had contributed to their Indiegogo campaign; I am a member of the library; I’ve donated (and will continue to donate) a copy of a Big Lucks book to the library; I’ve recommended that people check out the library and contribute to their campaign and visit the space and get to know those cool bros. I wanted them to stay open. But why hadn’t I done more? Do I even have a stake in Mellow Pages? Would things have changed if I suggested something besides “take the (fake) money and run?” And why does my opinion matter in the first place?
I mentioned to Matt and Jacob that I planned on writing about my reactions to their project. After a few emails, we decided it might be more valuable to just talk. The conversation is messy, disjointed, long, and probably very rudderless. But I still think it’s important. Because if there’s one thing this project has taught me it’s that there’s no cut-and-dry formula to support our community.
Of course, we’re all contributing something here. I am but one minuscule cog in the refurbished turbine engine that powers this rinky-dink dirt bike. Whether it’s money or time or love or futons, we all give something. But we can’t say that we all expect the same thing in return for our support. Maybe that’s not good. Maybe that’s a problem.
So maybe it is worth keeping this conversation alive.
Mark: When did you guys decide to go ahead with “#Mellowghazi?” Was it a spur-of-the-moment decision, or had you been plotting/planning for a while?
Matt: First off my man, Mellowghazi, the term, is not our doing. And isn’t in line with what we were thinking. We weren’t doing it to be funny. We took what we did very seriously. People feel quickly. Especially on the internet. Mellowghazi is a reappropriation due to that quickness, a way to divert direct contact with what was happening through a comedic cloud. People need time to think. I mean, I hate to start this way, but reflection eternal, like Talib says. You got to keep slowing down and think about the water, whatever the fuck that means.
Right about now is the time of the year when everyone with a goddamn login gets all hyperboled about whatever dumb book they read way back in March, just so they can save a .jpeg and write a bunch of convoluted bullshit about that dumb book and some other dumb books for some dumb literary blog. Those things (blogs, books, hyperboles, et al, et al) are cool. But books are books, and books cost money, and I’m sure that you’re probably broke because you bought me a bunch of Yolo Polos for God’s birthday. Oh, you good little sigh, you.
So instead of giving you a list of books you’re never going to read, I figured I’d go through my pockets and pull out the best lines and quotes I came across in 2013, because (and I know I might be alone here) 2013 felt like a winning fucking lotto ticket to me. Happy holidays. Now give me a hug.
<3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3
Out there, in the Between, it’s kiss or be kist
R.M. O’Brien, “Poem For Chris Toll In The Between” (Sink Review, Jan. 1)
He could have laid me back
in the middle of the Atlantic; we could have been on a raft
loaded with exotic cargo, parrot eggs and pigeon blood rubies
rather than egg sandwiches and a bottle of wine
thick and pungent enough to be blood. It was hard to imagine
anyone here, not him shucking his shirt onto the deck,
nor ancient sailors or drug dealers in their bullet-boats.
Bridget Menasche, “Claudine Goes Sailing With A Man Who Hates The Hamptons” (PANK, Jan. 15)
a huge amount of fire to see much.
Daniel D’Angelo, “The End of the Sound of Waves (Alice Blue Review, Jan. 29)
The Southeast Review will publish a review-essay I wrote looking at recent books by Carrie Lorig, Ariana Reines & Carina Finn. After I finished the review, however, I realized I was at least equally interested in the aesthetics & mechanisms of the publishers behind these books, as I was in the content. As publisher of H_NGM_N, I’m often making decisions & choices, trying to forge ahead, trying not to fall behind. And while I may know why I do what I do, it occurred to me that I know very little about why other people do what they do. So, I reached out to each of the publishers with a very targeted back-&-forth interview exchange in mind, a few quick questions to get behind the scenes a bit which I hoped would also help inform my reading of the works they produced.
In the following interview (conducted sporadically from early July through early September, 2013), I talk with the shadowy secret society known as Spork, publishers of Thursday by Ariana Reines. What started as an email exchange jumped almost immediately to a Google Doc, allowing all of the various tines of the Spork to check in, to comment, to correct, to dissemble.
Whoa, hi, I’m still reeling from this reading I went to on Friday night, which was all about Perfect Lovers Press, which is run out of Cincinnati, which (PLP + Cinci) is run by Dana Ward and Paul Coors. It was held at The Poetry Project and it was something that went really, really late into the night and it was something that was just about perfect–with amazing readings from amazing people like Yvette Nepper (who just ruined everyone so here’s her chapbook) and Sue Landers (who has a chapbook called What I Was Tweeting While You Were on Facebook, but I can’t find a link so yeah holler @ Dana & Paul) and Micah Freeman (who said “Hi” to everyone and read these amazing poems that are kind of about Amy Winehouse but also not really, it’s all about our peaks and valleys, the whole thing) and John Coletti (who just wow) and other people and especially Leopoldine Core, who I have really, really liked for a really, really long time so I took some video:
and I just thought everything she read was so full and so rough, especially when she’s all:
and I don’t know what else to say, besides energy, man–it’s kind of everywhere.
Here’s something that has nothing to do with lists: Brooklyn Poets raising funds to launch THE BRIDGE, a social network that will allow new poets to find mentors, get critiques, and form communities with other poets. Contribute here and prove how comfortable you are.
“The problem with creative-writing programs is not the quality of instruction; it’s the enforced isolation with other people who are thinking, eating, and breathing the same things you are.”
Other highlights: They receive (roughly) 15,000 submissions a year; they will never be “online only” (shouts to trees); they like New York Tyrant; Lorin Stein drinks espresso.
When I first moved to Manhattan in 2008, I roughly knew about three people in the entire city. I lived in a bedbug-infested apartment on 139th Street with a sugar baby, a Bubba Gump Shrimp waiter, and a digital retoucher. At the time, I thought I was going to work as an assistant in photo studios while applying to MFA programs on the side—a plan that ended up completely shifting (no MFA, au revoir photo world)—but that’s not what I’m here to write about. I knew nothing of the NYC literary world, especially that of poetry. One day I had wandered into a library near 103rd to check out some familiar books. I saw a flyer for POETRY DISCUSSION GROUP / TONIGHT’S THEME: DEATH and hung around, hoping to meet some poets. And talk about death, of course.
What I ended up was sitting in a circle with about a dozen people, myself the only person under 60. As one cantankerous woman pointed out—most of them were “sitting in god’s waiting room” & it was “foolish to romanticize death”. This lead to a shouting match between attendees. So there I sat, hands in lap, in a coven of curmudgeons, horribly embarrassed at how much I misgauged what I thought I would be participating in. This is not to say that these old folks couldn’t have schooled me. I perhaps have never witnessed a more intensely personal discussion of death with any group of strangers in such a short amount of time in such a public space. But my point is that geography is a strange creature, containing wheels inside wheels. I wanted to meet young poets in their early 20s who would show me who they were reading, where they were reading at, where they hung out. This Upper West Side library, much to my ignorance, was not that place. I didn’t find that niche for a long time, even though we all lived inside the same city. It took many misguided open mics and weird basement readings to find the people I wanted to be around.
In some ways, I’d say this year is the first year I’ve been asked to read at series that I didn’t have to creepily solicit (although I still creepily solicit). It wasn’t until my first chapbook came out last fall that people gradually stopped introducing me as “that guy who runs Moonshot“. Every day is baby steps, is one poem after the other. I think it’s important to highlight these gooey ‘writer journeys’ we hear about over and over again to show how people find their way to meeting writers and literary scenes they care about. It’s hard when you’re on the outside and suspect others are members of a literary cabal who are only interested in helping each other out. I’ve been there. I’m still there, in many ways. Not everyone who lives in NYC is geographically self-obsessed or entitled or had everything fall into their lap instantly. Does this even need to be said? It took five years just to reach a point where the lit projects I’ve started here (or been involved with) have been around long enough where it people come up to me and say they know who I am, what I do. It hasn’t gotten less jarring yet—maybe one day it will.
Perhaps this is why it’s equally surprising to find myself on a list called 23 People Who Will Make You Care About Poetry in 2013. It’s even stranger to watch people—in response to this list—echo criticisms I’ve made of NYC’s poetry scene—white, exclusive, cliquey, centered around itself. Except, in this case, I was included on an exclusionary list. I’m now that person. Numbered lists are incredibly tricky to begin with because they seem so incredibly final, as if there are no others. Here are the 23 chosen ones. There is a glib part of me that wants to say we should take these kinds of lists with a grain of salt, that wants to point out that media sites have to churn out dozens of these insipid listicles per day—but I know that will incise—and I recognize that it’s my privilege that would allow me such flippancy.
“She wanted to convince herself that there was a way to learn how she might securely know just one thing, maybe a couple of things, about any other person—if only the most persuasive of that person’s reasons for having hated his handwriting at the moment it came time at last to make a list of things that must change absolutely right away or else.”
1. Factory Hollow is the publishing division of Flying Object, which is located in Hadley, which is an over-the-bridge walk from Northampton, which is probably my favorite place in the world.
2. I love Northampton so much that I once kidnapped Mike Young and held him up in Baltimore for ten months. Every day, he had to interact with a dog. The two of them got along just fine.
5. I’m about to review all four of those books in one LeBlog James.