Without saying too much, because you’re not here to read about or from me, Barry Hannah has been the biggest writing influence in my life. I don’t write about motorcycles or The South or try to foolishly parrot his sentences. The most important thing he taught me was bravery. Be honest. Be brave. Going into 2017, I will try to keep those reminders close.
At the turn of the year, I remembered this beautiful piece written by his son, Barry ‘Po’ Hannah, shortly after Barry Hannah passed in 2010. It was originally published in the cutting-edge literary journal, Unsaid Magazine. David McLendon (Unsaid‘s major architect) and Po allowed us to republish it here.
“I don’t write under the ghost of Faulkner. I live in the same town and find his life and work inspiring, but that’s it. I have a motorcycle and tool along the country lanes. I travel at my own speed.” – Barry Hannah
THERE’S A PHOTOGRAPH, long lost, I used often to describe, to illustrate something essential in myself. I was five and visiting Disney World. I wanted to have my picture taken with Goofy, but I was shy. Also, not understanding the lack of peripheral vision in the mask, I didn’t get that I hadn’t gotten his attention. And so what evidence there was – or perhaps still is, somewhere – of this encounter: a photo of that character with some other kid (his parents taking theirs as intended), & me, a few feet away, little boy of coy resigned posture, photobombing my own commemorative image.
Much has been decried or even celebrated of selfie culture and its underlying impulses, the ‘for whoms’ and ‘whys’ of the choice we make in documenting ourselves in our moment. To add to such navel-gazing would no doubt extend the rabbit hole that much further, so I won’t. Instead of that, I’ll rather turn my attention to the specific (tho no doubt no less narcissistic) act of mapping a series of images I’ve selected as an index and gloss to a life lived thus far. In this case, the notion of experience wraithlike & lingering, a golem of the self that trails behind, that reminds, that effaces. Dark scribble over the reflection that shows up each day in the glass.
.. which is not to say that there isn’t a fondness for the weight one willingly drags when one looks back. Most of the stories I’ve chosen ever to share socially have detailed some humiliation, some misstep or another – and there’s been some satisfaction in that. As to why I’d share my shame & regret with a raconteur’s fervor – beyond the obvious: dropping ballast, distancing the incident thru an act of telling that reveals to the listener an unassailable ownership and helps as such to render in the speaker an imperviousness to the kind of criticisms he’d encounter in the company of others, behind his back, or echoing & imagined inside his own head — well, let’s presume a joy of morbid reverie. But also in the same manner in which we may advertise our sadnesses in tweets or choose to include in a published book an image of our face streaked with tears, it’s in our sharing what’s unflattering that we build the greater bridge to sistren & brethren alike, a brick flung into the temple of warts-and-all humanity, for better or for worse, in the epic forge of what forgets us.
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It is 19 days after the election. I go to the gym. I run on a treadmill. There are 26 screens. As I gaze into them, I enter podcasts where Americans speak about how they want to be seen. My body propels itself forward in place. I stare at a yellow wall, practicing Zazen. I want reality to fall away so that my listening and movement are symbiotic. In spite of this, I experience a cavernous feeling. It is a feeling like an architectural rendering where the edge of a building blurs into the sky.
On three of the 26 screens, CNN reports that the President-elect may terminate the agreement between the United States and Cuba. This possibility was announced in a tweet.
My body, running in place, accumulates miles.
Before and after the election, Mark Baumer is walking. Mark Baumer is crossing America with his bare feet. In a Snapchat message to Mark, I type: Do you have shoes with you, and if so, what kind are they? Slip ons called fit kicks, he says. I only put them on when I go into stores.
This is not the first time Mark has walked across the country. He did so six years ago, but not without shoes. Walking is part of Mark’s writing practice. Have you ever seen someone write with their feet?
As he walks, Mark nonviolently protests. “My goal […] is to stop the earth from dying because of climate change,” he writes. “I’m sure a lot of people don’t think I can make it across America barefoot and probably even more doubt I will be able to defeat climate change with this journey, but something deep inside of me is telling me to do this so I will do my best to listen to this voice inside of me and ignore all the voices outside of me who don’t believe in me.”
In a time of black mirrors, cavernous feelings, and running in place, Mark’s project strikes me as both very funny and dire in its seriousness—a source of light in the dark. If anyone can perform the super-heroic act of stopping climate change without shoes, it’s Mark. READ MORE >
TEX is a bricolage novel using correspondence to construct its multi-level narrative. Collecting text messages, phone photos, emails, Craigslist responses and more, the book explores the various relationships formed and maintained by its author, Beau Rice, during the process of its making, with one relationship taking center stage: his evolving attachment to an Austin-based former fling, Matt G
Included by Rice in TEX are text-based “screenshots” of the author’s inbox: exchanges between he and his editor at Penny-Ante. Giving a nod to the book’s format, we asked the editor at Penny-Ante to form a collection of “Letters from Beau” that were sent during the editorial and now, ongoing post-book promotional process.
The below fragments were submitted with the author’s permission.
From Beau Rice (an inbox screenshot):
I just wanted to make sure you were still interested, because the text is growing and I’m thinking about it constantly, so I just wanted to make sure you were still interested.
Your help with this impasse would be much appreciated.
I’ve given [the work] a preliminary title, ~book: [corn] [alien head] [baby bottle] [showgirls]. Thoughts?
Pics attached (lol, I’m so not used to typing that phrase outside of, like, responding to sex ads on Craigslist).
I’m going to have to fight you about [possible book title] Untitled.
Noooooo — why??
I feel you on the reshuffling.
If you insist, I’ll need a week.
And I know you want to be a dominatrix about it because it’s urgent, but I’m ready to start looking at other stuff.
I’ll be shopping around for something perfect-er.
Let’s keep in touch about any other text message books we come across, I want to be as aware of them as I can.
Ooooooops — the draft I sent the other day was missing a few things and fucked up in a few ways, so please work with the one I’ve included here.
(“Forms of incoherence that are listenable to.”)
I smoked weed for the first time in a while earlier tonight.
Q3: Let me know about your trip to LA!
You’re surprisingly clever when you’ve just woken up.
It’s very preteen-y but surprisingly relevant.
(I hate the first email I sent to you today.)
Are you in LA?
I favorited it.
Give me a few minutes.
I have to warn you: the list of changes I’ve mentioned is not insignificant.
I also want to see it with our names in Calibri or whatever that chat one was.
I’d like to reemphasize the Matt thing (I just landed in Austin) and try to procure a photo of him in profile to stare impassively at me from the back of the book (?).
Actually this gets us closer to what my original intentions were.
Also/omg, including the drug dealers and online sex people: YES.
Here are those pixx of him + more to follow.
Sorry, that just does not work for me.
Let’s redact “Scissor Sisters” and “Le1f.”
Let me know if you want me to fictionalize any of the YOU IN THE BOOK shit.
That phone has been violated in a final manner, it is not to be turned on.
Tomorrow I’m taking Vyvanse and dealing with as much of this drudgery as I can.
I’m beyond tipsy and this is not a real message.
Here are more chats, mostly of the BDSM variety.
“But really it is I who have invaded my own privacy.” –Dodie Bellamy, Pink Steam
Apologies for the folder weirdness yesterday, I don’t know what was up with that.
For example, the one that references the galley copy of Knausgaard should appear in spring of this year (but I’m not worried about being totally accurate).
Oh my god, I cannot shut up.
But that is our secret.
I had a feeling.
SO BUMMED ABOUT THAT, but it’s fine.
Hahaha — “all these intense writer people.”
I agree with you totally on the “dildo in the corner” thing.
THANK YOU. I can only imagine what an incredible headache it is to format all of this.
We were only focusing on his missives.
Either pseudonym is fine with us.
I like “Tex” too!
I trust you.
We don’t need to change Alex’s name.
I am happy to lose most of the poetry, but NOT the ones I send to him in the first email sequence [p. 3-4].
Lol — I just said to my friends, “I think she [you] is pretty aware that I get fucked up at this time every night.”
We both want to tone down the meta-narrative.
I so relate, I ask everyone I’m around not to let me talk about it at all.
Seriously — I am 96% convinced of this.
Lol, I really did feel like a demon.
I understand and I wish to continue.
Feeling down with the cheap lazy vibe you describe.
Can you give me some other font options for the email essay?
I think I might reactivate my [Facebook] profile sometime around October to promote the book to my friends on there, but for the most part it’s important to me to stay off of it.
As much as I’d like for us to be in agreement, I’m still uncomfortable with my face being on [the cover] in such a big way.
I’m glad you’re doing that list thing — I worry I was overly delete-happy yesterday.
Let me know if I’m being too vocal and stressing you out.
The butt plug photo?
I’ve been drawing that icon a lot recently.
I like the fragmentary vibe of those inbox shots.
The version of this intertwined legs pic you’re using is slightly different, and not as good.
Since you mention “fixing the peach” [on the cover] I want to emphasize again the BUTT [Magazine] thing, and ask that we go peachy enough to not be pink.
It’s funny how unrealistic the prospect of fame makes us.
Could you try phrasing that differently?
No no no no no no no.
I totally lied to you.
I could get behind that.
It’s pretty unromantic in actuality.
Anything particular instructions for that?
I’m still not sure whether or not to say this [and I am saying it] but — I apologize if any of the stuff about our parents in that excerpt made you sad.
All I need to do is link my current checking account to my PayPal account, I guess.
Note: you aren’t as defined/personified by this as you probably imagine.
Ah dang, I’m glad it was meaningful to you.
Two word answers!
A nice texture!
I feel like a human makes it less sterile
I’m wondering (finally) what the money/royalty situation is.
Hmm… still UGH.
I think that’s my car insurance.
But now I’m done emailing you for the night.
Hahahahaha — that is precisely my feeling.
Which I’m all in for, in most cases.
At USPS now, about to mail this fucker to Hilton Als (bad idea?).
Just using you as a therapist slash neurosis hole.
I’m about to go to bed and listen to this song and cry: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xu8MqdC0Zms
Wow… Typos. Embarrassing.
WHY DO I KEEP FORGETTING TO DO THIS.
You just got engaged. Why are you emailing me? Shouldn’t you be having sex or something?
Lol — “I’jj.”
So how do you want to do this?
Here’s the thing on that: No, it doesn’t.
Really, I’m up to discuss this.
“IT” is the “proprietor” ? The proprietor is non-gendered?
This process is weird.
Redundancy, bad poetry, etc.
This book is not going to ruin my life.
ok, Daniel, so why should we read YOUR book ???
Why should you read my book? Until recently, I might not have known, but after the death of Robin Williams, something happened: A number of people took to Facebook and Twitter, and some debated the role of popular culture in our society. One person asked, “Why are we so sad about a celebrity when there are more substantial things to worry about?” Another wrote, “I can’t believe this. I remember watching him on ‘Mork and Mindy.’ I was supposed to be in bed, but I would sneak downstairs to the console TV,” etc. Somebody reminded us to talk to someone when we’re depressed, and another chastised that person for suggesting depression could be cured via hotline.
Like my Facebook friends, my recent book of poems, How the Potato Chip Was Invented, wrestles with the concept of fame. Its audience may include people who are obsessed with celebrities, sometimes to the point of emotional fragility, anger, confusion, self-righteousness, elitism, or many more options. Even people who claim to hate celebrities are obsessed with them, too, taking time to criticize others for their celebrity worship. My poems are about this worship, but they don’t take part in it. Some of the poems are imagined scenarios that humanize celebrities more than we’re used to seeing them humanized. Others attack celebrities who have become a nuisance.
I like pop culture poems that are observational. They’re often written in the third person, the way a journalist would write. Poems can use pop culture as a shield or filter from self-referential expressions of feeling. They can be allegories. They may tell universal stories about depression by telling Williams’ story.
Anyhow, when everyone was writing about Williams—and criticizing others for doing so—they seemed to be proving the point of my book, which you should buy.
“In Julian Berengaut’s This Isn’t Easy for Me, two strangers—Sabine, a German physicist, and Renata, an economist and philanthropist—meet for tea, one with a confession, the other a proposition. What follows is not a novel, but a conversation—a conversation that becomes more than a novel. It is a sweeping look at history, love and relationships, science, mathematics, and most importantly, women. Berengaut has written Sabine and Renata with as much tenderness, respect, and understanding as any woman writer.”
—Jen Michalski, The Tide King and Could You Be With Her Now
So did Linda Franklin:
“… here’s a book for people who love language. Language of literature, but also of physics, history, and the tangles you make with the daily news and private memories. Inside here is sex and sin and religion and dietary restrictions. This Isn’t Easy for Me is also for people who wish they could let their minds go wild—because by the end of the book, they will. From Conan Doyle to Pushkin, from Diderot to Godel, from Jewish jokes to Dumas to the Bible to Babel, bring some sticky notes for this lively marathon conversation between two learned women, so you can jot all the words, books, and your own ideas that you’ll want to follow up on later. The only problem here is that, as much as wish you could be, you aren’t there to join in.”
—Linda Franklin, Barkinglips
Hey, does anybody remember when Sam Pink did the ‘other people’ podcast where the interviewer asked a series of really vapid questions and made each answer about himself by ‘relating’ with an anecdotal story even though his anecdots were less interesting than the lumber aisle at home depot.
Then, after an extended period of extreme awkwardness, asked the most undignified, shameless question ever to be asked in any interview: ‘do you like me?’
Wasn’t that, like, totes, the most hilarious/fucking tragically pathetic moment in the last 5 years of human interaction or what.
ok, Russell, so why should we read YOUR book ???
Look, for example at what Daniel Bosch has to say in praise of my groundpounding efforts:
Russell Bennetts’ lab coat is pristine. In his “Reflections on Taboo-breakng” he has constructed a totem which inscribes precisely, syllogistically, that form of wildness to which we obsessional neurotics feel we are most entitled. Bennetts knows well the savage truth that poems — even “Untitled” poems — have both titles and bodies. He knows that a title personifies that body — it’s a poem’s name — and that the use and abuse of any poem’s name may be pyscho-emotionally freighted. Bennetts knows how often we over-rationalize and abuse poems’ names in transactions that cheapen the energy which animates their bodies — that poems’ titles must be subject to the strictures of taboo.
If Bennetts’ “Reflections on Taboo-breaking,” were not the quintessential poem of the long 20thcentury, we might reduce it to a belated Oulipoesis, the holding of a mirror to the blank page which has discovers it as an ideal form: the lipogram in A, B, C, D, E, F, G, H, I, J, K, L, M, N, O, P, Q, R, S, T, U, V, W, X, Y and Z. But his poem’s suppression of the entire alphabet is neither incomprehensible savagery nor empty post-modern gesture. In its silence and stillness, Bennett’s poem stands at the edge of taboo — as we all must — and does not go there.
Those doors, it opened opens where Cynthia opened in its closing scenes. Fanously, Taylor Swift has legs and knows how to use them.
Cynthia dived into the pool feeling 22. Twenty-two years later she (mights) finds herself living in a block of expensive flats. Read on to discover as to the soulless rating of the block of expensive flats.
(Russell Ron Bennetts, Kentish Town 10/2014)
ok, Lydia, so why should we read YOUR book ???
It’s not a book. It’s a deck of poems. Which you shuffle, so.
It’s the same temperature as your flesh, unless you’re a zombie.
If I go back to writing about pain, you will be sorry.
Can you follow a recipe? Does that necessarily mean you have to?
You’re blocked up like a constipated rooster. Pull a card. Then write/paint/dance about it.
Sometimes you read sitting down. Sometimes you read standing up or lying down. Sometimes you read walking. Or in the tub. Or in a moving vehicle.
Have you checked out the Minor Arcana Press staff? Cuu-uuuute!
I know where you live, possibly.
My ass was never my fortune, but my tits aren’t bad. READ MORE >
ok, Judson, so why should we read YOUR book ???
Let me answer your question by way of analogy, I had a dream recently, in which I asked Ashbery to look after my two kids and when I came back they were parked in front of the TV in the living room, seemingly unharmed. I looked around and found Ashbery clad only in a pair of tidy whities rolling around laughing on the bed, deep in conversation with a woman in her 70s, an old friend apparently. They were lost in reminiscence, they’re faces lit up with the joy of nostalgia, and I didn’t have the heart to be angry with him.
Then he jumped up and joyfully began to pop lock, like in some shitty kid’s video,with electric cutout arms blinking blue, red, yellow and that pretty much sums up how I feel about this book. It’s surprising, delightful and absurd.
To answer your question by way of digression, about 6/7 years ago I started receiving emails that looked as though somebody had fed the better portion of the western canon through a shredder and then affixed it to emails, I assume to bypass the spam filter. I liked some of the initial juxtapositions that turned up and began playing around with the text, and while I was doing that, a narrative emerged from the depths in the form of: a Speed-hearing Judge, his brother the Duke of Marmalade and, Morel and Valentine, the two servants trying to overthrow them.
Look, I know Syria’s been forgotten and the Congo’s a mess and let’s be honest who needs another book-length absurdist narrative on their bookshelf, am I right? But we’re all doing what we can and together we can right this ship…. that and the e-book version shouldn’t cost you more than a trip to the taco truck, so what’ve you got to lose?
(Judson Hamilton 9/2014, Poland)