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Thoughts on Kyle Minor’s Praying Drunk

I read Kyle Minor’s Praying Drunk over the past several weeks. I would have liked to read it more quickly, perhaps ideally over the course of four days, but things kept getting in the way. There were appointments with repairmen. There was work. There was a trip back home to Indiana. I had a reading. My family attended. My brother is currently taking a creative writing course with Kyle Minor. That same day, I read the second half of “In a Distant Country,” the longest story in the book. I almost cried. I told my brother that his writing instructor was good. “Do whatever he tells you to do,” I said. I told my brother how I almost cried. “That’s really good,” said my brother.

I said, “It is!” It’s very good.

Here is a picture of Praying Drunk on my bookshelf:

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When you open the book there are the usual materials. There are title pages, there is a copyright page, there is the dedication. There is an epigraph. And then there is this:

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My hands shake constantly, and more as I get older, so that photo is a little blurry. It reads, “Note to the reader: These stories are meant to be read in order. This is a book, not just a collection. DON’T SKIP AROUND.

READ MORE >

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March 3rd, 2014 / 10:00 am

Fred Moten’s The Feel Trilogy

Buy this book:

Moten - Cover Front

It is a good book:

Moten

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February 19th, 2014 / 11:24 am

Tom Eaton’s Valentine

valentine

An oldie but goodie. (2/3/96? Sheesh!) Printable/foldable version here (PDF).

Happy Valentine’s Day, HG. Someday give me a kiss.

(Also relevant.)

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February 14th, 2014 / 9:44 am

A Tiny Addendum to Paul Auster’s Concept Concerning “Boy Writers”

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On 16 January 2014,  a writer boy named Paul Auster conversed with someone named Dr. Isaac Gewirtz (this boy likely had friends & relations who were a part of the Holocaust) at the Morgan Library (which seems quite splendid, though it may not be if Mayor Bloomberg was able to blow his matzoh-ball-soup breath on it).

According to girl writer & Huffington Post blogger Anne Margaret Daniel, Paul put forth the category of a “boy writer,” which means:

someone who is so excited, takes such a sense of glee and delight in being clever, in puzzles, in games, in… and you can feel these boys cackling in their rooms when they write a good sentence, just enjoying the whole adventure of it. And the boy writers are the ones you read, and you understand why you love literature so much.

I concur with Paul — because of “boy writers,” literature is the best thing ever (except Christianity).

Arthur Rimbaud is a boy writer, which is why he stabbed people at poetry readings and yelled “shit” after the insipid readers declaimed their dull verse.

Edgar Allan Poe, as Paul points out, is a boy writer, as he composed stories on murder and poems on special girls, like the “beautiful Annabel Lee.”

There’s not a lot of boy writers who are un-dead. Most, nowadays, correspond to what Paul terms a “grown-up writer.” Stephen Burt, Carl Phillips, Dobby Gibson, Geoffrey G. O’Brien, Bob Hicok are examples of a “grown-up writer.” They don’t spotlight the “puzzles” and the “games” of the violence, theatricality, exploitation, and upsetness in the postlapsarian world. They document liberal middle class averageness. “It’s about settling down and settling in,” says Burt.

But some boy writers are un-dead.

Johannes Goransson likes makeup and violence. “mascara is infected / belongs to assaults,” the Action Books editor and boy writer elucidates in Pilot (Johann the Carousel Horse).

HTML Giant’s own Blake Butler is a boy writer. In Sky Saw, his characters aren’t given names but numbers (just like in the Holocaust and in the War on Terror). Reading his books are sort of close to witnessing a disembowelment.

Paul Legault (because he likes Emily Dickinson like someone would like an American Girl doll), Walter Mackey (because he likes Barbie), and Julian Brolaski (because his language reads like sticky, sweet, chewy watermelon bubblegum), are all un-dead boy writers.

But the best boy writers (maybe ever) are dead, and they’re Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold. Glee? Delight? Cackling in their rooms? Enjoying the whole adventure? All the attribute’s of Paul’s boy writer align with Eric and Dylan. They kept journals, websites, and videos so everyone in the whole wide world could be cognizant of the glee-enjoying-cackling-delight-adventure that they had in planning their massacre. As Eric stated, “I could convince them that I’m going to climb Mount Everest, or that I have a twin brother growing out of my back. I can make you believe anything.”

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January 29th, 2014 / 2:45 pm

Boys Who Kill: Kevin Khatchadourian

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The final Boys Who Kill for the time being brings the spotlight to Kevin Khatchadourian. On 10 April 1999, ten days prior to Dylan and Eric’s premiere of NBK, Kevin killed his daddy and his sister before going to school and murdering seven students, one English teacher, and one janitor in the gym.

Growing up, Kevin’s two favorite words, according to his mommy, were “Idonlikedat” and “dumb.” Whether it was his mommy’s milk, his mommy’s cooking, his mommy in general, music, or cartoons, Kevin’s would probably be displeased by it. Although, there are some things that Kevin does like, like computer viruses and Robin Hood. Both Robin Hood and computer viruses attack targets that possess plenty of materials. Robin Hood deprives rich people of their things and computer viruses deprive computers of their ability to preserve their multitude of files and functions.

Kevin’s granddaddy and grandmommy maintain a motto: “Materials are everything.” The granddaddy and grandmommy fill their lives by doing things. They install water softeners and purchase first-rate 1000-dollar speakers, even though they don’t really like music all that much. As for Kevin, his mommy says that he “was never one to deceive himself that, by merely filling it, he was putting his time to productive use.” While 99 percent of people spend their Saturday afternoons doing something, like speculating on what they intend to do that night or checking their social media feeds, Kevin is “doing nothing but reviling every second of every minute of his.” With a tough tummy, Kevin can do what the phony baloneys can’t: “face the void.”

Simone Weil has a similar perspective on life. For the French ascetic, nothingness is truthfulness since it has to do with God. “We can only know one thing about God: that he is what we are not,” says Simone in her notebooks. God isn’t composed of matter nor is he quantifiable. Unlike humans, there is no corporeal limit to God. He is infinite. Humans are a sham. They use their days trying to satiate various desires (hunger, thirst, xxx, and so on) even though these hankerings can never be permanently filled because human beings are really just one giant hole. As Simone declares, “Human life is impossible.” Simone and Kevin each confront the hopelessness of fulfillment in a material and fleshy existence. They each effect divinity through destruction — Simone destroys herself and Kevin destroy the things and people around him. READ MORE >

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January 27th, 2014 / 2:01 pm

Boys Who Kill: Nathan Leopold and Richard Loeb

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The third installment of Boys Who Kill stars Nathan Leopold (right) and Richard Loeb (left). On 21 May 1924 in Chicago, Nathan and Richard kidnapped and killed a 14-year-old boy.

Nathan and Richard each had daddies who amassed mountains of money. Nathan’s daddy owned one of the biggest shipping business in the country and Richard’s daddy was the vice president of Sears Roebuck. But the wealth that surrounded them didn’t dispel boredom. The two didn’t want money, they aimed for fame, sensationalism, and transgression. One of Richard’s favorite dreams had him as a notorious criminal who was beat and whipped in public, with girls and boys arriving in droves to express their mixture of awe, sympathy, and disgust. As for Nathan, he envisioned himself as a king’s favorite slave. One day, Nathan saved the king’s life, and the king offered to set him free, but, being loyal, Nathan declined. Both fantasies are rather Jean Genet: they are sumptuous, romantic, and somewhat sordid.

Like that French prison boy, Nathan and Richard carried out many crimes, including stealing automobiles and smashing bricks through windows. Mostly, though, the crimes were initiated by Richard, who insisted that Nathan come along to serve as an audience. After the two stole a typewriter and other possessions from Richard’s former frat house at the University of Michigan, Nathan became upset at Richard because the latter wasn’t wasn’t having enough xxx with the former.

Nathan and Richard’s friendship/boyfriendship sort of resembles the typical depiction (though it’s likely bullcrap) of Eric and Dylan. Eric is the aggressor and Dylan is the follower. Eric constructed NBK and Dylan just acquiesced. It’s also been rumored that Eric and Dylan liked boys (though that’s definitely bullcrap). Columbine jocks told the media that the two BFFs were a part of the Trench Coat Mafia, whose members touched one another in hallways and convened group showers. In Gus Van Sant’s Elephant, the two Columbine-esque boys get into the shower together and kiss and maybe do other things before they commit their high school massacre.

But Nathan and Richard really did like boys. Though Richard was perceived as the leader, he was the one who took it in the tushy. That this is so, sort of confounds how boys who take in the tushy are assessed. Richard engineered many crimes, including murder, so maybe boys who take in the tushy aren’t all basic bitches after all. Another hypothetical reason for why Richard took it in the tushy is, as he declared to friends, he didn’t need xxx. Richard was beyond lust and all of that other stuff that occupies the ironic minds of 20-something Brooklyners day and night. The symbolism about taking it in the tushy had no effect on him, as he only cared about a life of crime.

READ MORE >

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January 20th, 2014 / 2:06 pm

Boys Who Kill: Cho Seung-Hui

shooter-cho

The next installment of Boys Who Kill stars Cho Seung-Hui, or Seung-Hui Cho, or Question Mark. On 16 April 2007, 4 days before the 7th anniversary of Columbine, Cho killed 32 people at Virginia Tech. First he visited West Ambler Johnston Hall, a dorm room for both boys and girls, where he killed one boy and one girl. Then he traveled to Norris Hall, a classroom building, and killed 30 more people.

Ever since Cho was taken out of his mommy’s tummy he hasn’t taken to talking. “Talk, she just him to walk,” says Cho’s great aunt about his mommy. “When I told his mother that he was a good boy, quiet but well behaved, she said she would rather have him respond to her when talked to than be good and meek.” At Virginia Tech, one of Cho’s roommates remarked, “I would see him walking to class and I would say ‘hey’ to him and he wouldn’t even look at me.” Other students concluded that he was a deaf-mute. He ate myself all by himself, and when someone offered him 10 dollars to say something, he said nothing. According to medical professionals, Cho suffered from “selective mutism.”

I, too, would prefer to be mute, and so, it seems, do other boys. Holden Caulfield dreams about being a deaf mute, and, it’s been reported by various biographers that instead of engaging in dinner table conversation, Arthur Rimbaud would just growl. Talking is terribly human — this race of creatures does in it grotesque quantities: they talk at Whole Foods, at overpriced bars, at trendy coffee shops, and, obviously, through Gmail, Gchat, texts, Facebook, Twitter,  Disqus, and so on.

Cho’s contempt for normal communication distinguishes him from humans. Virginia Tech students and teachers constantly construct Cho as boy who confound expected human behavior. A professor labeled him “disturbing” and “unusual.” A student in his playwriting class said Cho “was just off, in a very creepy way.” According to Nikki Giovanni, students started skipping her poetry class due to Cho’s behavior . When Nikki told him to either cease composing sinister poems or drop her class, Cho replied, “You can’t make me.” Eventually the then head of the English Department, Lucinda Roy, tutored him privately. But even Lucinda was afraid of him. During the one-on-one tutoring appointments, Lucinda and her assistant agreed upon a code word that would prompt the assistant to summon security when uttered.

Based on this testimony, Cho is similar to a virus or a disease. No one wants to be around him; everyone is horrified of his presence. Not one to stay up into the wee hours of the morning to drink, party, and partake in sexual intercourse, Cho went to bed early and awoke early. He also played basketball alone. According to the New York Times, Cho was in a “suffocating cocoon.” (Being in a “suffocating cocoon” seems very dramatic and cosy; it also seems as if a “suffocating cocoon” would provide protection from mankind.)  Virginia Tech journalism professor Roland Lazenby sums up Cho as a “shadow figure, locked in a world of willful silence.” Both Lazenby and the Times portray an incomprehensible boy who, isn’t free and liberated like Western subjects, but is held captive by a dark dangerous force. As Theresa Walsh, a girl who witnessed the killings in Norris Hall, says, “I’ve never really thought of him as a person. To me, he doesn’t have a name. He’s always been just the ‘the shooter’ or ‘the killer.’”

READ MORE >

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January 13th, 2014 / 2:22 pm

What I Want From Santa Claus

Christmastime is the best time. There are sparkly lights and cute reindeer and cute snowmen and cute songs, and so on. There’s also a lot of gifts to be given, which is great, especially if you like books and things, as I do. Alas, almost all Western culture subjects won’t get any gifts from Santa at all, as they only care about their Twitter feed, their sexuality, and leading a “grievable life” so that this doesn’t happen to them. But for those thoughtful boys and girls who don’t go around kissing dead Nelson Mandela’s tushy, they should expect estimable presents. These are the ones I want:

Gossip by Samantha Cohen: Gossip can be malicious and harmful, so everyone should do it.

Cunt Norton by Dodie Bellamy: While the cannon is actually quite commendable, so is cutting, which is what Dodie does to one of the Norton anthologies.

Salamandrine: 8 Gothics by Joyelle McSweeney: According to Diane Sawyer, those divinely deathy Columbine boys “may have been a part of a dark, underground national phenomenon known as the Gothic movement and that some of those Goths may have killed before.” So…

Begging For It by Alex Dimitrov: This boy was the subject of some criticism for his appropriation of some kind of AIDS-related art. But AIDS is silly, and Alex is sort of cute.

Butcher’s Tree by Feng Chen: Her Spork book, “Blud,” was really cute and sassy, so these poems probably will be as well.

Our Lady of the Flowers, Echoic by Chris Tysh: Jean Genet was a violent, cutthroat boy, and I want to see Divine and Dainty Feet in verse.

Haute Surveillance by Johannes Goransson: Johannes read an excerpt from this at the first and only ever Boyesque Reading (also featuring Peter Davis, Tyler Gobble, and me). It was violent, stylish, and totalitarian.

The Memoirs of JonBenet by Kathy Acker by Michael du Plessis: JonBenet Ramsey was cute and tragic. This year, she published a collection of rhymes for my cute and thoughtful Tumblr, Bambi Muse. I want to see how Michael portrays the pageant princess.

The Mysteries of Laura by Andrea Quinlan: It’s a collection of poems that are Victorian and gothic, which is to say it’s Charlotte, Emily, and Anne Bronte and Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris.

Mother Ghost by Casey Hannan: I like ghosts.

Thank You for the Window Office by Maged Zaher: He once composed a very pleasing poem about Paris Hilton.

Since the outside is important too, you should be decking a delightful outfit while you wait for Santa to come. For girls, picking out what to wear isn’t arduous at all, as all girls should wear what they should wear all the time, a babydoll dress, a big but elegant hairbow, and ballet flats. For boys, choosing the correct clothes is much more vexing. Most boys hold the opinion that tight jeans and an ironic top are stylish. But this isn’t so. Style should have meaning. Boy in the vintage Supersonics Shawn Kemp jersey, can you inform everyone who Shawn Kemp is? Are you aware that he once showed up to the Cavaliers training camp as an unacceptable fatty? No, you’re not. Style, like literature, must have meaning. So, while anticipating Santa’s arrival, all boys should wear a meaningful outfit, like the one that I am:

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Sunnies because eyes should be kept secret.

Basketball hoodie that I stole from a friend, because basketball players are like monsters.

Purple-striped dress shirt because it’s proper.

A skirt because boys should wear skirts.

Skull-and-crossbone pants because they’re deathy.

Werewolf purple socks to match the purple dress shirt.

Buckled shoes because they’re proper too.

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December 20th, 2013 / 2:33 pm

Dress Up with the Contagious Knives

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Besides possessing a really pretty first name, Joyelle McSweeney has earned a place as one of the top three poets presently (the other two are Ariana Reines and Chelsey Minnis). Totalitarian, deathy, and melodious, Joyelle has composed a Hunger Games-like novel, an essay about Ronald Regan, and a play, the Contagious Knives, that’s rich in rancor and in rhymes.

The Contagious Knives displays the diction of a nimble rapper and the pitch of an impassioned preacher.  As the play’s hero, Louis Braille, tells Bradly Manning, “No indian giving, no taking it back, / except when you take it from me, / Indian, Chinaman, Brad-lee.”

Obviously, Joyelle needs no help decking her characters. Louis’s costume consists of pink panties, a Target t-shirt, a Victorian sailor suit, liquid eyeliner, and more. But what if it was required to dress the Contagious Knives’s characters in designer labels for a French Vogue editorial? What would they wear then? Well, maybe they’d trot out on stage in these things:

Boastful, sassy, and violent, Joyelle’s Louis Braille is a boy for boys to admire. Some of Louis’s first lines are: “I’m a very special cunt. / A very special fucking cunt. That’s what daddy always said / (wink wink).” Not humble about inventing his eponymous language for blind boys and girls, Louis likens himself to napalm and hints at an affiliation with Nazis by repeating “Not see!” four times in a row.

READ MORE >

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December 12th, 2013 / 1:13 pm

I like Marcus Kelly a lot

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In my last post, I mentioned that I wanted to write a little bit about the actor and singer Marcus “Marky” Kelly, who had minor-but I think significant-career in show business from the late 1950s through the 1960s. The highlight of it all was, of course, his teen idolhood in the early 1960s. I had assumed Kelly was gone for good, and quite possibly dead, until I discovered a movie called Filtered Water (director unknown, writer unknown, producer unknown, actors unknown) in my mailbox a few months ago. The movie featured an old actor who I think might be Kelly.

But let me make it clear: I am not 100% sure that the old actor in Filtered Water is Kelly. There are, however, clues. There is a physiognomic similarity-Kelly had bright blue eyes, and a signature half-smile. The actor in the film has bright blue eyes, and a familiar half-smile. There is the timeline-Kelly was born in 1940, and the actor appears to be in his 70s. (And I know this because my folks are in their 70s, and if I look at an old picture of my Dad and a new one, old pictures of Kelly and a screenshot of the actor look to have an uncannily similar progression. The same wrinkles, the same advancing tenderness to the eyes, the same added colors in the complexion. If its him, he’s aged like my dad has aged.) And there is the voice. The actor’s voice sounds like what Kelly’s voice would sound like if it fell apart and was rebuilt. Like a voice does when we age. READ MORE >

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December 6th, 2013 / 1:00 pm

I Like __ A Lot & Random & Reviews

CENTERPIECE by Daniel S. Muehlmeier

CENTERPIECECENTERPIECE
by Daniel Muehlmeier/Lee Mothes
Warm Wax Inc., 1991
2 players / 30 minutes / $19.99 from eBay

 

 

 

 

 

CENTERPIECE is a board game designed by Daniel S. Muehlmeier, self-described “unlocker of secrets,” with art by Lee Mothes. It was taken off a Goa’uld mother ship.

You won’t find CENTERPIECE in the Toys & Games section of your local Barnes & Noble. The game, originally published in 1991, is a notoriously tough sell. “I do well in the twenty-dollar range,” said the author in his recent Kickstarter campaign, which managed to raise only $615 of funds from 23 backers. “I keep a few game boxes in my cars back-window. Creating sales proved tough for me.”

“One restaurant placed five games. Near where people pay. All five disappeared, I never even restock them. Example of really bad-marketing skills. Yet I’m really looking forward, to direct mail to customers.” Following the close of the Kickstarter, the game is now being listed on eBay under the heading “tradition game, toys and Hobbies.” Yet this is just a stepping stone for Muehlmeier, who would eventually like to see his game displayed in a contemporary art museum.

Nor is this a delusionary ambition. Bad-marketing skills aside, Muehlmeier’s creation intrigues; in fact, it’s best approached from the vantage point of art (as opposed to game) criticism. Even taken as a game, CENTERPIECE is an answering shot to the pet theory that the whole of a game’s value rests within its mechanical core, for which the superficial elements of theme and appearance serve as mere window dressing.

CENTERPIECE menu

CENTERPIECE‘s mechanisms of play are invitingly familiar. In fact, CENTERPIECE could accurately be called a pastiche of several games known to all American children: Monopoly, Parcheesi, Chutes and Ladders. Pastiche in both senses of the word, since CENTERPIECE‘s core mechanisms walk a tricky line between quotidian simplicity and schizophrenic montage, made no more easily reconciled by the often indecipherable rules, which read like an antique riddle. “Players are encouraged to use common sense,” the single-leaf rules advise. “For example, if both players are sent to the Bird Cage; because a player rolled a two, while visiting the Honey Jar space. The player who rolled snake-eyes would roll for doubles first. Both player would stay for three turns, unless doubles were rolled.”

Once mastered, CENTERPIECE is an almost fully luck-driven affair, a roll-and-move game destined to be despised by the modern board game community, who have become spoiled by worker placement, economic engines, asymmetric player roles, and all the other innovations the last two decades have brought to the medium (remember, CENTERPIECE is a time capsule from the early ’90s, although aesthetically, it hearkens to an even earlier era). Yet the game’s “superficial” elements  are not to be discounted, for they create a metaphorical frame or structure as the game plays out, turning a simple reimagining of Monopoly into something that far exceeds the sum of its parts.

CENTERPIECE Horseshoe

As if to embody this very statement, the first bread crumb along CENTERPIECE‘s allegorical trail is the fact that the game’s box, colorfully illustrated by artist Lee Mothes, is also central—both literally and figuratively—to its gameplay. Once the board has been unfolded, the box top is placed at its center, a mechanically unimportant gesture that receives special emphasis in the game rules—and is hammered home with every turn, as the dice pounding off of its cardboard surface speak testimony to its substance (that the dice must be rolled off of the box top is another apparently superficial but ritualistically significant gesture). As the eponymous centerpiece, this raised rectangle of cardboard naturally draws the eye—it is the only spot of color in an otherwise black-and-white composition—while hiding the game’s deepest secrets. A display of puzzle pieces nestled beneath track the players’ scores, and it is to Muehlmeier’s infinite credit that he keeps this indispensible information hidden away until the moment that the box is lifted, a moment that always coincides with a change in the data under scrutiny. It is the uncertainty principle actualized.

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December 4th, 2013 / 12:00 pm

Favorite Books Read During 2013

December already?? A brief & informal list of some of my favorite books read during the year 2013 (not necessarily published in 2013).

***

Meister_cover_354x498_largeIn Time’s Rift by Ernst Meister (Wave Books, 2012)

Translated by Graham Foust and Samuel Frederick

This,
the familiar,
will eternally be
an unknown to you;
anyway, you’re no longer
known to yourself.

 

 

0757eb7d984fcb49b69bc54d8cc67d66Béla Tarr, The Time After by Jacques Rancière (Univocal Publishing, 2013)

Translated by Erik Beranek

“We cannot identify ourselves with their feelings. But we enter into something more essential, into the very duration at the heart of which things penetrate and affect them, the suffering of repetition, the sense of another life, the dignity assumed in order to pursue the dream of this other life, and to bear the deception of this dream.”

 

 

creature-cover-233wideCreature by Amina Cain (Dorothy, A Publishing Project, 2013)

“When I got home, my partner was eating an egg. This is what he does when I’m not around. He also eats fish. I was harsh to him, but without speaking. I expressed myself through the violent putting away of a pan. Later I saw on his lap and dreamed about the future. This was together alone.”

 

 

 

PA Love Dog ThumbLove Dog by Masha Tupitsyn (Penny-Ante Editions, 2013)

“My ears have been hearing things, things which aren’t even words, or messages, while my eyes, along with everyone else’s, are forever telling me that nothing is here. That nothing is happening. It is the difference between inward and outward. Between me and everyone else.”

 

 

the-road1The Road by Cormac McCarthy (Vintage Books, 2007)

“He walked out in the gray light and stood and he saw for a brief moment the absolute truth of the world. The cold relentless circling of the intestate earth. Darkness implacable. The blind dogs of the sun in their running. The crushing black vacuum of the universe. And somewhere two hunted animals trembling like ground-foxes in their cover. Borrowed time and borrowed world and borrowed eyes with which to sorrow it.”

 

 

51EENT6G8XL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_The Heat Death of the Universe and Other Stories by Pamela Zoline (Mcpherson & Co, 1988)

“2. Imagine a pale blue sky, almost green, with clouds only at the rims. The earth rolls and the sun appears to mount, mountains erode, fruits decay, the Foraminifera adds another chamber to its shell, babies’ fingernails grow as does the hair of the dead in their graves, and in egg timers the sands fall and the eggs cook on.”

 

 

 

memoirs-of-jonbenet_frontThe Memoirs of JonBenet by Kathy Acker by Michael du Plessis (Les Figues Press, 2012)

I’m afraid we’re inventing something that isn’t there.

Why is sex with you another blank?

Waiting, as you consider it, is fine but there comes a moment when the conditions you impose outweigh any present emotions. “I can’t be with you until…” translates into “I can’t be with you until caution becomes indifference.” Yes, as you say over and over again, you’ve made me feel again; truly, I do feel again, enough to be able to tell you that I’m only telling myself that I feel with you.

 

IRRITANT-full-cover-for-web-1024x701Irritant by Darby Larson (Blue Square Press, 2013)

“In something of red lived an irritant. Safe from the blue from the irr. And this truck went in it. Safe. Something of red in it back to the blue to the red. This truck and something extra. Listen. The nearby something extras in front of the truck. The man in front of the truck trampled from front to back safe from the blue. And all this while the man scooped shovels of dirt and trampled from front to back front to back.”

 

 

ana-patova-cover-233wideAnna Patova Crosses a Bridge by Renee Gladman (Dorothy, A Publishing Project, 2013)

For one second, I spoke “sentence,” which confused her, since all this time I’d been saying “paragraphs.” It was a moment of our mouths missing one another. Her mouth was emitting sound. She seemed to be calling my name, breathing heavily, she seemed to put her words inside me. “Writing my frightening paragraphs,” I said, involuntarily.

 

 

War_And_War_300_465War and War by László Krasznahorkai (New Directions, 2006)

Translated by George Szirtes

“I no longer care if I die, said Korin, then, after a long silence, pointed to the nearby flooded quarry: Are those swans?”

 

 

 

 

20130128_M&L Issue 2 - Final Draft.0Music & Literature Issue 2: Krasznahorkai / Tarr / Neumann (Spring 2013)

From “About a Photographer” by Lászlo Krasznahorkai (Translated by George Szirtes):

“Condemned to look, yet at the same time to be deprived of sight, we are in a complex pitiless trap, a double cage, to the recognition of which—though it cages us all—fate condemns confusingly few. In any case those who do suffer the agonizing moment of recognition could easily be consumed by an all-but fatal melancholy, so it’s no wonder they try to struggle free, their first recourse on their dire necessity being the thought of some device.”

 

BETWEEN-COVER-BW-CLIPPEDBetween Appear and Disappear by Doug Rice (Jaded Ibis Press, 2013)

“I want to find a sentence that in the making becomes a resurrection. Our skin marked by the remains of language from childhood dreams near the river. The Allegheny. The Monongahela. The Ohio. This trinity of cold rivers that demand that we never forget to forgive.”

 

 

 

murderMurder by Danielle Collobert (Litmus Press, 2013)

Translated by Nathanaël

“It’s strange this encounter with the internal eye, behind the keyhole, that sees, and finds the external eye, caught in flagrante delicto of vision, curiosity, uncertainty. The one that looks out, to see outside itself, what is happening in the world, perhaps, or inside itself, this eye, doesn’t know whether it’s looking into the emptiness, into the air, into the other, or into a distance landscape, which it brought to like, like a memory, a wanted decor, chosen, an elemental power, that could be the background of its life.”

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December 2nd, 2013 / 2:00 pm

I Like Church A Lot

Hey, I had to go to a church recently. I was doing some childcare for a relative, and it was on a Sunday. Kids of a certain age lead an orderly life. Included in the order of the lives of the kids for whom I was providing some childcare was their regular Sunday morning visit to a Unitarian church in Seattle. Being a dutiful relative, I agreed to keep the child to the child’s orderly life and attend a Unitarian church service with the child.

And I had a pretty good time. It seems I like church a lot.

Turns out even though I stopped going to church 28 years ago, and even though I attended an Anglican church during the years I attended church, I still had all the rhythms of church hardwired in me. I may not have known the specifics of the creed or the words to the hymns and the prayers, but I felt like I knew all the gestures and the sentiments. I knew when to stand and when to sit. The Unitarian service’s language seemed a little strange to me—it was 19th century, and felt American, and seemed weirdly concerned with architecture—but everything else clicked into place pretty easily.

Best of all, though, it gave me an opportunity to sit and really think about death. I mostly don’t really write anymore. I mostly just sit and think about death. I mostly try to sleep and can’t sleep because I start to think about death and then find I can’t sleep because I’m thinking about death. And I mostly feel weird about lying in bed thinking about death because it doesn’t seem like the right place to be thinking about death, so I don’t sleep. I should be trying to sleep. I should be trying to clear my mind. I fight to clear my mind. I fight to clear out thoughts of death. And I fail and fail and fail.

Churches, as I’m sure you are already aware, are all about death! They don’t ask you to clear your mind of all thought of death.

And the church didn’t just give me a place to think quietly about death. It was a place to think about it actively and in a participatory way. It gave me plenty of cues telling me that I was in a place where thinking about death was encouraged. I found myself thinking about death in the proper setting. The right context. It was fantastic.

Like:

Many of the seats in the church have little plaques on them. The plaques say that the seats were “given” to the church in honor of someone. And that someone is dead!

Many of the books in the church have bookplates in them. And the bookplates say that the books were “given” to the church in honor of someone. And that someone is dead, too!

The programs they give you when you enter the nave to find a seat are filled with the names of the dead. The songs sung in a church are slow and quiet and mention death a lot. There are moments in a church service when everyone is asked to sit quietly, and during those moments, you can hear little creaking noises and breaths and coughs. Human bodies are filled with gas, and after death they make creaking and sighing noises. And the “death rattle” is a sort of choking cough people near death make when their throats fill up with saliva they can’t swallow because they are dying and all their energy is going to that instead of to swallowing.

And, of course, a church was just lousy with older people who are really close to their own deaths. They’re the ones making most of the noises in the moments of quiet reflection. Because their bodies are getting away from them. Because getting older is just the our bodies getting away from us. Until finally, we can’t stop our bodies from getting so far away from us, they cease to function entirely. Try as we might to stop it from happening, our bodies just give up. Think about that next time you are unable to keep from coughing. Your brain fights and fights, but you cough, because you can’t will your body to stop. You’re going to die someday, and it might be like that. Your mind might be sharp or it might be dulled with medication or decay, but it might still try to will your body to keep going, but your body won’t have you telling it what to do. It will just stop working.

Thinking about that in church felt far less menacing to me than it does when I’m in bed, and the person next to me is asleep. And I’m not asleep, but I’m trying to sleep, and instead I’m worrying about death.

I like church a lot.

Have a good weekend, everyone.

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November 15th, 2013 / 8:02 pm

Three of My Favorite Poems Presently

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These are three of my favorite poems presently…

The first is “Punctuate Please!” by Carina Finn. Carina is a girl, and her poem is really tiny and small, the way girls are. Capital letters aren’t accepted, and it takes up one line. But that line (which is an endstop) is sharp. Here is the poem in its entirety:

“this browniemix in me makes me want to die.”

Browniemix is yummy, much more so than actually brownies (although those aren’t un-yummy), since, with the added eggs and water, it resembles soup. Only this soup doesn’t taste of Williamsburg vegetables or murdered animals. This soup tastes sweet and sugary. There can never be enough browniemix in my tummy. I could eat it infinitely. In this light, browniemix and death correlate, as, unlike liberal agendas, they last forever.

(I also wish to point out how Carina has turned “browniemix” into one word.)

The second poem is by Jenny Zhang. It’s called “Comefarts.” Though Jenny is a girl (like Carina), Jenny’s poem tackles a topic that is inapplicable to girls, which is caca. Do Jane Eyre, Catherine Earnshaw, or Agnes Grey ever speak about such things? No. So Jenny is breaching proper girl behavior.

But Jenny’s poem does adhere to some girl traits. Girls are obsessed with themselves. They are invariably glaring in the mirror, reapplying their lipstick, and adjusting their hair bows. Jenny unveils this preoccupation in the middle of her poem, where line after line starts with “I.”

Also, by speaking so effusively (as girls do) about caca, Jenny heeds what Julia Kristeva does, which is that caca is everywhere, and you can try and flush it down the toilet and be silent about it, but, if you eat food, like browniemix, then it’ll return. While caca is inferior to browniemix, it’s superior to human beings, and I like how Jenny is as ecstatic about what leaves her tushy as Walt Whitman is about people.

The third poem is by a boy, Clark Coolidge. “Down at Granny’s Cave” is one of Clark’s 88 sonnets. It’s very violent. This is how it starts: “Anyone interested in art is welcome to shoot up the place.” Massacres are the most marvelous variety of art. What the two boys in Columbine Colorado enacted has 1001 times more artistry than any workshop poem. Eric and Dylan staged a sensational show, while those workshop poems are just weird.

Throughout Clark’s poems, tumult reigns: “an iron clock interrupts the grammar lessons” and there’s thumbtacks in somebody’s coffee. The iron clock correlates to the Iron Curtain and Stalinist Russia and all the misery that his gulags and purges produced. And I’d put thumbtacks in every single Capitalist’s cup of coffee, because then they’d be harmed, which means they couldn’t spread their stupid social media apps any longer.

Clark’s poem concludes: “the creek turns into a reservoir and explodes.” There’s lots to explode nowadays, like the Bartlet administration. Their liberal empathy and resigned sarcasm is obnoxious.

 

Author Spotlight & I Like __ A Lot & Roundup / No Comments
November 14th, 2013 / 4:21 pm

<3 Love & Lovers <3

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:

i’m ashamed
of how easy it is
to know me
i’m so familiar
naked all the time
my same legs
my ass
i am such a weird little girl
for wanting to live in your
light
picketing in the heat
like an ant

and I don’t know what else to say, besides energy, man–it’s kind of everywhere.

I Like __ A Lot & Massive People / 5 Comments
November 12th, 2013 / 10:27 pm

Fuck List: A List of the Writers I Want to Fuck (Or Get Fucked By)

I write small. When I set out to write something, I play a game. I think: what could make this simple thing complex? And so I give the writing a limit. I provide it with a constraint. For me, this slows things down. The slower I go, the more the writing grows. Until it is a big tied up thing.

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I have been writing a novel, I think. Actually, I’m not sure what I’m writing, but whatever it is, it has become bigger than small. My novel is a story about a guy who receives a special commission by two thugs to write an opera. The thugs don’t know this but the guy they’ve appointed to eulogize their lives doesn’t know anything about opera. In fact, he doesn’t even know how to write. So, he does what any guy in my novel would do, if threatened by thugs to write an opera: he sloughs it off on his girlfriend.

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A long time ago, before I ever dreamed of becoming a writer, I read. I read a lot. I still do, but not as much as I used to. One day, my girlfriend Christine gave me a book: Don Quixote: Which Was A Dream. I read the book and fell in love with the writer. Two summers passed when, while I was a student at University of California, Irvine, I learned that the writer of Don Quixote would be teaching a course at Naropa Institute (it hadn’t become a university yet). I took a bus.

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Kathy and I soon became lovers. I was young, half her age, and scared. I told her that I was having trouble separating my image of her as a famous writer with the real-life her, the woman holding my hand. She didn’t say anything and, before she could, I threw her down on the ground and tried clumsily to put my mouth on hers. She laughed and let me.

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Through Kathy I met all kinds of people. And I learned all kinds of stuff. But, I didn’t want to become a writer. I wanted something else. Revolution. I still want it. Now more than ever. Now, that it seems so completely out of reach. Here’s something: one evening in Los Angeles, Kathy and I went shopping on Melrose. Vivian Westwood had just opened a store there. Kathy took forever and I waited outside. When she was done, she had purchased three pair of underwear for approximately $500. On the drive home, I didn’t say anything. Kathy could tell I was pissed. We talked about the underwear and she called me a purist. Before we got out of the car, she let me destroy the pair she was wearing.

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Sometimes, I still feel like I’m an anarchist. Although, I would say, proudly, that I am not a purist. I feel that paradox is inevitable in revolution–it makes things rich and complicated. If you want to know what I’m doing with my life, just ask. And if you wonder why I am feeling so reflective and slightly somber, well, for now, that will be my secret. I mean, what would writing–and a life–be without at least one?

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My fuck list (this is only a partial list):

A D Jameson, Adam Fitzgerald, Adam Maynard, Adam Robinson, Alec Niedenthal, Alex Dimitrov, Alexis Scarghoul, Alissa Nutting, Alli Warren, Alyss Dixson, Amanda Deo, Amelia Gillis, Amelia Gray, Amy Gerstler, Amy Temple Harper, Amy Saul-Zerby, Amy Silbergeld, Ana Carrete, Andrea Kneeland, Andrew Kenower, Andrew James Weatherhead, Andy Touhy, Angela Shier, Anna March, Anne Lesley Selcer, Ariana Reines, Ashley Obscura, Beach Sloth, Ben Fama, Ben Brooks, Ben Mirov, Blake Butler, Bob Gluck, Brandon Brown, Brandon Hobson, Brooks Sterritt, Cameron Pierce, Carabella Sands, Carleen Tibbetts, Carolyn DeCarlo, Carrie Hunter, Cassandra Gillig, Cassandra Niki, Cassandra Troyan, Catherine Lacey, Cedar Sigo, Chad Redden, Chelsea Hodson, Chelsea Martin, Chloe Veylit, Chris Dankland, Chris Kraus, Christian Nagler, Christie Ann Reynolds, Christine Lee Zilka, Christopher Higgs, Claire Bargout, Codi Suzanne Oliver, Colleen McKee, Cory Zeller, Crispin Best, Cristine Brache, Daniel Levin Becker, Dave Shaw, David Fishkind, David Tomaloff, David Trinidad, Dennis Cooper, Derek Fenner, Diana Salier, Diane Marie, Dianna Dragonetti, Dodie Bellamy, Donna Laemmlen, Dorothea Lasky, Edward Mullany, Elaine Barry Kahn, Eileen Myles, Emily Louis Church, Emily Siegenthaler, Emji Spero, Eric Raymond, Eric Shonkwiler, Erica Eller, Erin Francisco, Ethel Rohan, Evan Karp, Frances Capell, Frank Hinton, Gabby Bess, Gabriel Blackwell, Gilbert Morgan, Guillaume Morissette, Hannah Lee, Heath Ison, Heiko Julien, Hunter Payne, Ibis Nixon, Ian Aleksander Adams, Ian Dick Jones, Ivy Johnson, Jacob Steinberg, Jackson Nieuwland, James Brubaker, James Ganas, James Tadd Adcox, James Yeh, Jamie Iredell, Janice Lee, Jarett Kobek, Jason Jimenez, Jason Teal, Jayinee Basu, Jereme Dean, Jeremy Hight, Jess Dutschmann, Jesse Prado, Jill Toma, Jimmy Chen, Joe Hall, John Ashbery, John Brnlv Rogers, John Mortara, Jordan Castro, Jos Charles, Joshua Mohr, Juliet Escoria, Justin Daughterty, Karen Biscopink, Kate Durbin, Kate Robinson, Kate Zambreno, Katherine Sullivan, Keegan Crawford, Kelly Egan, Ken Baumann, Kevin Killian, Kevin Sampsell, Laura Goldstein, Lauren Becker, Lauren Marie Grant, Lauren Traetto, Lazslo de Alcarey, Lily Hoang, Lindsay Allison Ruoff, Lindsey Bolt, Liza St James, Lizzy Yzzil, Lonely Christopher, Lorian Long, Lucy K. Shaw, Lucy Tiven, Luna Miguel, Lynn Melnick, Lynne Tillman, Mariah Krochmal, Mark Cugini, Mark Leidner, Masha Tupitsyn, Matias Viegener, Matt Bell, Matt Dennison, Matt Margo, Matt Sailor, Matthew Sherling, Matthew Simmons, Matthew Wilder, Meg Tuite, Maureen Blennerhassett, Megan Boyle, Megan Kaminski, Megan Lent, Meghan Lamb, Melissa Broder, Meta Knight, Michael Kimball, Michael Hessel-Mial, Michael J. Seidlinger, Mike W. Archibald, Mike Kitchell, Mike Young, Mira Gonzalez, Miranda July, Monica Mody, Moon Temple, Nate Waggoner, Nathan Keele Springer, Nathan Staplegun, Nick Antosca, Nick Rutkaus, Nick Sturm, Nicolle Elizabeth, Nicole McFeely, Noah Cicero, Paul Curran, Paula Bomer, Penina Roth, Penny Goring, PeterBD, Peter Sotos, Rachel Pattycake Bell, Rachel B. Glaser, Rachel Hyman, Rauan Klassnik, Ray Shea, Reynard Seifert, Richard Chiem, Riley Michael Parker, Rj Equality Ingram, Robert Duncan Gray, Robert James Russell, Rod Roland, Rose Tully, Ross Selavy Brighton, Roxane Gay, Russ Woods, Russell Jaffe, Sam Pink, Sarah Jean Alexander, Sarah Fran Wisby, Scott McClanahan, Sean Lovelace, Shane Jesse Christmass, Shane Jones, Shaun Gannon, Sheila Heti, Sian S. Rathore, Spencer Madsen, Stacey Teague, Stephen Michael McDowell, Stephen Tully Dierks, Steve Orth, Steve Roggenbuck, Stewart Home,  Suzanne Scanlon, Tao Lin, Teresa Carmody, Thais Benoit, Theo Timo, Theron Jacobs, Thomas Patrick Levy, Tiffany Wines, Tom Comitta, Tracey Gonzalez, Tracey Knapp, Travis Jeppesen, Vanessa Place, Walter Mackey, Yedda Morrison, Zach Houston, Zachary German, Zack Haber, Zoe Tarr Duck

Credits: twitter: @PornEdits

where you can find me: twitter: @janeysmithkills & kottonkandyklouds.tumblr.com

 

I Like __ A Lot / 53 Comments
November 12th, 2013 / 11:00 am

Mary Jo Bang’s Elegy

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I like chocolate chip cookie dough tons and I like death tons too.

Mary Jo Bang’s collection of poems, Elegy, doesn’t really touch on the former, but it does really touch on the latter.

The completely consuming force of death is illuminated in Mary Jo’s book. When someone asks her to define a day, Mary Jo replies: “Tragic from beginning to end.” As with a deft totalitarian leader, death is unceasingly omniscient: Mary Jo is covered in calamity.

There’s no timeout for Mary Jo. Some shut eye is shut down. In “Beneath the Din” Mary Jo reveals she’s in the “insomnia hour.” Later on, Mary Jo declares, “My ear is a beach / And the sea is talking to it incessantly.” Just as Heathcliff won’t let the Catherines be, death won’t stop his pursuit of Mary Jo. In “No Exit,” Mary Jo refers to her “tragic flawed fate going on and on and on.” It’s as if Mary Jo is a Victorian heroine and death is her boyfriend, who, though mean and rough, is still her one true love.

Death’s determination dismantles Mary Jo’s perception of time. The differentiation of months dissolve and what’s to come collies with the present. “A year in tatters is interrupted by the thought / That the future is manacled / To the indefatigable now of February,” says Mary Jo in “January Elegy.” It’s as if Mary Jo keeps her very own calendar. Death’s supplied her with a new system for marking time, which is what those bellicose, guillotine-inclined French Revolution boys did for a bit by altering the number of days in a week and renaming months.

In Ghostbusters II, the Marshmallow Man’s monstrous steps scatters all the New Yorkers in his path.  In Mary Jo’s world, “every step is a dangerous taking.” The Marshmallow Man and death deliver destruction. Each movement is so scary to humans since each movement produces the possibility that humans and human things will be wrecked with impunity. The NYPD (who, unlike liberal New Yorkers, I like) couldn’t punish the Marshmallow Man and they can’t punish death.

So strong is death that non-human entities are scared of it too — even ghosts don’t try speaking to death about baseball or inviting it to tea: they simply “go blank” in its presence.

One of Mary Jo’s poems ends: “These birds eat and eat. Everything.” By birds, is Mary Jo speaking about death? It’s highly likely, since, as with the birds, death can tuck every single thing ever into its tummy.

Another poem of Mary Jo’s commences: “This was the drama / Of impossibility.” Throughout the collection there’s considerable references to performance, such as actors, screens, masks, and audience members. Since everything is performance (and everything really is a performance, so hush), death’s show is the best one, because death lasts forever, and in “Elegy,” Mary Jo spotlights the gargantuan ghastliness of death’s spectacle: “an intolerable end that keeps going on.”

Author Spotlight & I Like __ A Lot / No Comments
November 11th, 2013 / 1:26 pm

World Series Baseball 2013

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World Series baseball is quite comely. The competition is carried out outside in the fall, so leaves are dying and falling off trees, it’s cold, and you get to start sporting layers, like multiple hoodies over a meaningful sweater over a button-down.

Moreover, baseball is slow, like an elderly person, and it’s quiet, like a deaf-mute. Both the elderly and deaf-mute are meritorious. The elderly are grumpy and crabby (as one should be), and deaf-mutes don’t talk and don’t hear, which is optimal, as there is very little that  can be conveyed through talking and listening that can’t be conveyed much more marvelously through a poem, a story, or a Tumblr post

In “[The crowd at the ball game],”  New Jersey boy William Carlos Williams compares the baseball setting to a totalitarian society, and that’s sensational.

This World Series is especially estimable because the St. Louis Cardinals are participating, and they feature many cute boys, like the hard-throwing closer, Trevor Rosenthal, and the tough as a truck catcher, Yadi.

Presently, the Cardinals and the meat-head East Coast liberals that some refer to as the Boston Red Sox have each won two games. If you haven’t been keeping up with all of the excitement then read Baby Marie-Antoinette’s recap of the first four games:

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Events & I Like __ A Lot / 1 Comment
October 28th, 2013 / 1:25 pm

COLLECTED ALEX

“Always keep your dead body close, my parents told me.”

A.T. Grant wrote a novella called Collected Alex. Caketrain [a journal and press] put it in a dark boat. Now you can tie it to your dock using some rope and an animal bone of a kind. A.T. Grant is a thick bag of fire, a cake you should feed to the zombie geese.

[Film vignette by Katy Mongeau]

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October 15th, 2013 / 10:08 am

A Close Reading of a Poem By a Girl

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While being educated upon literature, one of the most marvelous assignments I received was to conduct a close reading of a poem of my choosing. Though 99 percent of the people who associate themselves with literature nowadays probably perceive poems as mere documents that they’re coerced to comment upon in workshop, I am mesmerized by beatific poems, and I believe each one necessitates thoughtful evaluation. After all, when you see a beautiful look by, say, Calvin Klein, you shouldn’t just mumble “Nice job, Calvin” and then zip right along to the next one –  that’s inconsideration. What everyone should do is concentrate on the look exclusively in order to notice the particular shade of grey and the way in which the squiggly white stripes contrast those of the grey ones.

The same should be so for a poem.

The poem I selected to do my close reading with was Charles Churchill’s night. An 18-century poet who didn’t like gay people, Charles is often ignored, while poets like putrid pragmatist Alexander Pope are emphasized. But, really, Charles needs ten times the heed of Alexander, as Charles is ten times as terrific as Alexander.

For Charles, the greater public views the daytime as the place of hardworking humans and the nighttime as the space of a sordid species. But in his poem, Night, Charles says that daytime is much more foul than nighttime. Using heroic couplets, Charles explains why the daytime is contemptuous, calling its denizens “slaves to business, bodies without soul.” In contrast to the spiritless stupids, those who wander in the night have an “active mind” and enjoy “a humble, happier state.” Near the end Charles states, “What calls us guilty, cannot make us so.” While I concur with Charles that just because the 99 percent say it’s true doesn’t make it true, I don’t agree that the nighttime is so wonderful, as gay people go out at night a ton, and gay people aren’t a thinking bunch.

But Charles’s poem is still bold, bellicose, and abrasive, and all of those traits are laudatory, and, through my close reading, I became much better acquainted with them.

Also disseminating a decided amount of close reading are the baby despots of Bambi Muse. Baby Adolf did one on Emily’s “Presentiment,” Baby Marie-Antoinette did one about Edna’s “Second Fig,” and Baby Joseph did one concerning William’s ["so much depends"].

Close readings appear to be very vogue. So, having already summed up a close reading of a boy poet, I will presently present a close reading of a girl poet.

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September 24th, 2013 / 1:29 pm