stark week

Related: the winners of the STARK WEEK CRAZY LIVING contest are bemightee, Mark Walters, and Aimee Thorne! Winners, email me at mikeayoung at gmail dot com to claim your prize.

STARK WEEK GOODBYE: A Partial Index of First Lines


brain eatersAs you can see from the painstaking Filter > Stylize > Wind applied above to our beautiful Stark Week banner, it is time to bid goodbye to the surfer Zen North Carolina clay tennis court poetics of The First Four Books of Sampson Starkweather. Thank you all for reading. Stark Week has been good to me because of all the wonderful people who have written such smart things about these poems of Sam’s, and all the right-brainy artists who have waxed/flowcharted stirringly about trying to contain these poems between arty art. Thank you all for writing. Also during Stark Week was the first time I ever watched Point Break.

I hope you enjoyed this in-depth look at a very large and very spiffy book of poems. You can go back any time, but you can never get the sand to smell the same way in your hair twice. As a final adieu, below the jump is a partial index of all the first lines from the poems in the book. If you want to take one of these lines and make your own four line poem out of it and post it in the comments, you might just find yourself with a free book in the mail, or a margarita in your lap, or a late night phone call from a dude in a cheap, Target-purchased condor suit explaining that he has a great idea for a snack track in your hometown and he won’t stop over-enunciating the word “shank.” It’s love is what it is.

Finally, don’t forget about the tell-us-about-a-crazy-place-you-lived contest, which is running until the end of the night on Wednesday. Now go out and put your first five books in a book. Grow your hair past your hightops. Dunk the sadness. READ MORE >

I Like __ A Lot / 4 Comments
July 23rd, 2013 / 11:13 am

STARK WEEK CONTEST: Win a free book by talking about a crazy place you’ve lived



For our final two installments of Stark Week, we’re going to turn things over to you guys. Thanks for reading all this stuff about this book, which as I said a long time ago (last Monday) I really do feel is worth checking out and talking about in a big way. I hope you have felt the same and have enjoyed these posts! I asked Sam to do a video where he read a poem and came up with a contest idea. One of the least shy people I know, Sam felt paradoxically shy about making a video (maybe because he is an old ghost man), but I think he did a good, spookily red job.

Here’s how the contest works: check out Sam’s poem from the last book of The First Four Books of Sampson Starkweather, which is about a crazy place he lived, and then talk about the craziest place you lived in the comments. Craziest place—as judged by Sam and maybe his girlfriend or his friends or his pizza delivery guy—will win a free copy of The First Four Books. If you don’t feel like watching Sam’s poem or watching him make fun of me in the beginning of the video (cuz, like, you have really busy Sundays in your life), just leave a comment! Win a book!

Deadline: 11:59 PM Wednesday July 24th

Contests / 14 Comments
July 21st, 2013 / 2:38 pm

STARK WEEK EPISODE #11: “No myth is written all at once” — Jared White on THE LAST FOUR BOOKS OF SAMPSON STARKWEATHER


For our final textual episode of Stark Week, Jared White takes us a billion years into the future, where creaky American poetballer Sampsonian Starkweathershire has released his final four books, capping over a career of the highest highs and the lowest lows and the crunchiest chicken tenders. Later today we’ll be posting TWO CONTESTS where you’ll have a chance to win your own copy of The First Four Books of Sampson Starkweather. HTMLGIANT fav Unnameable Books in NYC reports that people have been stealing The First Four Books, which you shouldn’t do, but is also kind of cool, right? DON’T STEAL; WIN CONTESTS. STAY TUNED! For now, we turn to Mr. White and the year 2066—or was it 2666?

the photographs_Page_1Sampson Starkweather died for the fifth time in the year 2066— or was it 2666? Either way he had already nicknamed the year to a more personable, abbreviated 2-6-6, like police scanner code: 2-6-6, year of the singularity. But was it death? Or like words, would Sampson Starkweather live on as the ghost in the machine?

Famously, Starkweather’s poetry was entirely written in a blaze during a six-year period before he reached the age of 21, at which point he abandoned writing entirely. Instead he devoted himself to long travels in the southern hemisphere as an incognito adventurer, knight errant, part-time athlete, wrestler, and stone quarry foreman. Whether he died of bodily injuries or illness or returned from his self-imposed exile a much-changed man, he was never seen from again, except in photographs and emails, traveling through the ether more slowly than the news of his death.

Then, during the war, three soldiers are said to have come to the house where Sampson Starkweather was living in the woods alone. Either because of his political beliefs or perhaps in spite of them, he was arrested without charges and executed in a field in front of the Great Fountain on the road between Viznar and Alfacar. But in outer space there are no fountains and no fields; instead there are small space-crafts and plenty of space-junk that must be steered around and so there are also frequent accidents like the one that took place in the tunnel where spaceman Sampson Starkweather was struck in the middle of the night. (What is night in between stars? In outer space is there star weather?).

the photographs_Page_2His injuries at first appeared minor but in the wake of the incident his drinking became more acute. Shortly after his fortieth birthday he was found in a stupor in the stairwell of his apartment and brought to the hospital. Here, Starkweather drifted in and out of consciousness before expiring. His last words were, “My first four books did this to me.” And by some great coincidence, just down the hall on the same floor, a forty-six year old Sampson Starkweather was admitted almost simultaneously. His chief complaint was hiccups, but it was clear that what ailed him was serious and his condition worsened over the days that followed.

“Malaria?” one  intrepid doctor offered, though there was no consensus. Within days, Starkweather was dead and his publishers began the long work of preparing the unfinished text of his First Four Books to be published posthumously.

Overhead, Sampson Starkweather read these books on the screen of his transom-window, writing in steam with his fingers on the glass with its fogged vantage of Mars. No myth is written all at once. And then, of course, the singularity, much delayed, in that year of sixes, when the upload was complete and the mind inside the machine became indistinguishable from the image of the body outside. (The heart in the machine is green too.)

the photographs_Page_3Sampson Starkweather may still be in there, if there can be called an inside, now that time has stopped and the same year continues day after day, a permanent Tron grid of ‘80s video games stretching out into infinity: “Forget futurism… I want to talk to you without skin.”

Sampson Starkweather is Sampson Starkweather’s ghost, dying. But when a ghost dies, what happens then? When a ghost dies does it come back to life?

Jared White’s most recent chapbook, THIS IS WHAT IT IS LIKE TO BE LOVED BY ME, was published by Bloof Books this spring and is now available as an ebook herehere, or here. Another chap, MY FORMER POLITICS, is forthcoming from H-NGM-N. In addition to writing, he is co-owner of Berl’s Brooklyn Poetry Shop, a small press bookstore, and father of Roman Field White, a seven-month-old baby. READ MORE >

Author News / 1 Comment
July 21st, 2013 / 2:17 pm

STARK WEEK INTERLUDE: SLampson at the Beast Forest

This is what happens when a poet quotes his poetry to a weird worm-looking thing in Second Life, a 3D world that announced a ban on in-world gambling on July 28, 2007, in fear that new regulations on Internet gambling would affect the privately held American Internet company if it was permitted to continue.

[21:11] Slampson Slarkweather: this forest is unusually horny.
[21:13] Namadisi: it is a romantic forest on the sky hahahhaha
[21:13] Namadisi: :)
[21:15] Slampson Slarkweather: They sky has no clouds here. Just a ridiculous blue.
[21:16] Namadisi: maybe is your viewer?
[21:16] Namadisi: i see clothes
[21:19] Namadisi: lol
[21:19] Namadisi: clouds
[21:20] Namadisi: hahahahhhahaa
[21:22] Namadisi: and clothes or course
[21:23] Slampson Slarkweather: Anyone who dances with their shirt on is dead to me.
[21:23] Namadisi: hahahahahahahahaa
[21:24] Namadisi: we ae near the lake who wear shirt  near a lake???
[21:26] Slampson Slarkweather: Fracking laws and loopholes taught us water is winning.
[21:27] Namadisi: hhahahahaha the water does look nice
[21:27] Namadisi: you should go take a dip
[20:28] Slampson Slarkweather: You should really come see what it’s like down here, to be me.
[20:30] Namadisi: where r you?
[20:33] Namadisi: hahahhaa now i know what you mean hahahahhaa
[21:35] Slampson Slarkweather: I want to go home, find you have been living beneath my bed, take off all our clothes, lie back and talk and talk until it’s ruined the stars.
[21:38] Namadisi: wow
[21:38] Namadisi: nice words poet?
[21:38] Slampson Slarkweather: i’m not a poet i just crush a lot.
[21:39] Namadisi: hahhaha
[21:39] Namadisi: you fo that well
[21:40] Slampson Slarkweather: My friend thinks poetry has nothing to do with words.
[21:42] Namadisi: well thats silly poetry has eferything to do with words
[21:02] Namadisi: :=))
[21:42] Slampson Slarkweather: Poetry is exactly like sexual harassment. Don’t ask.
[21:43] Namadisi: no i think i understand =P
[21:44] Slampson Slarkweather: Your exercises in empathy are encouraging, but is it really possible for two people to ever understand each other?
[21:45] Namadisi: hmmmmm good question
[21:45] Namadisi: i think so
[21:46] Namadisi: if you get 2 kno someone well enough and spend alott of time listening to each other then yea
[21:47] Namadisi: thats true love =D
[21:49] Slampson Slarkweather: I have love like a headache.
[21:49] Slampson Slarkweather: Sure you can cut a hole in a sheet but good luck trying to fuck a ghost.
[21:51] Namadisi: O-o what do u mean
[21:51] Slampson Slarkweather: Hello plasma. It’s me, fellow fake state of matter.
[21:54] Namadisi: is this a joke or somethin’
[21:55] Slampson Slarkweather: the secret to life is being tan.
[21:56] Slampson Slarkweather: Give me your wallet.
[21:56] Slampson Slarkweather: Did you think this poem was going to end by itself?

[Note: This dumb thing was inspired by this broadside from Rye House Press.]

Author Spotlight & Blind Items / 1 Comment
July 20th, 2013 / 4:00 am


STARK WEEK EPISODE #9: “Help and Hope in Sampson Starkweather’s Self Help Poems” — Amy Lawless on the last book of TFFBOSS


Sniffingly we are nearing the end of STARK WEEK, as we round the corner into the last book, Self Help Poems, with the fantastic Amy Lawless onboard to epically investigate. Don’t put your boots away yet because there is more to come, including prophecy, art talk, videos, and contests!

large_Mickey_Rourke_The_WrestlerI have asked myself many times why actor Mickey Rourke is so appealing and attractive to me. Over time he has aged, yet he still manages to allow us, the consumers, access to another human place and plane. Sampson Starkweather doesn’t use the words “appealing” or “attractive,” but he writes on how Rourke’s “therapist told him he was in a hopeless situation, but he still had hope. All humans aspire to the condition of Mickey Rourke” (255). Here on the ninth page of Self Help Poems in The First Four Books of Sampson Starkweather, hope emerges, which makes sense because man is a social animal—we are each other’s only chance of salvation.

Mickey Rourke is not tricky; he is wise—body-wise. In the film The Wrestler, viewers followed him into an oblivion, a place we all go (some of us more quickly than others). Some of us are tiptoeing as slowly as possible toward death with our many fish oil supplements, mountain poses, punitive juice cleanses, hand sanitizers, Deepak Chopra books, or prayers. Some of us are in a speeding car wearing no sunscreen, driving as far away from prostate checks as possible, pumping the speedometer far right with a recklessness our mothers should never know exists. We are each Mickey Rourke jumping off the rope toward our own single finality. READ MORE >

July 19th, 2013 / 4:06 pm



For Episode Great Eight of STAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHK WEEK, we welcome artist and witty flowchartist extraordinaire Jonathan Marhsall to map the process of developing the cover of The Waters, book 3 of The First Four Books of Sampson Starkweather.  More multimedia and interaction coming soon! Including contests to win a copy of this bad boy for yourself!


Flowchart for Sam


Jonathan Marshall is a visual artist living in New York City, originally from Austin, TX.
He is currently holed up in his studio, preparing for a solo exhibition at Grimm Gallery in Amsterdam, NL, which will open in October of 2013. 

Behind the Scenes & Craft Notes / Comments Off on STARK WEEK EPISODE #8: “SAM FLIES TO MIDDLE EARTH AND MATES WITH A SPHNIX” — Jonathan Marshall on the cover of THE WATERS
July 19th, 2013 / 12:31 pm

STARK WEEK EPISODE #7: “Reveling in the evocative power … of personalized Jabberwocky” — Elisa Gabbert on THE WATERS


For Episode Lucky Seven of STARVING WEEK IT’S STARK STARVED OUT THERE WEAKLINGS, we feature poet mover and shaker Elisa Gabbert on The Waters, book three of The First Four Books of Sampson Starkweather. Read on as EG takes a delightful comb to Starkweather’s transcontemporatory faithfulness.

robocopsamIf you don’t speak Spanish, here’s what you need to know about Cesar Vallejo’s Trilce: Clayton Eshleman does the best translations, and Sampson Starkweather does the best transcomtemporations. That’s what he calls them in “The Waters,” Book III of The First 4 Books of Sampson Starkweather – English-to-English translations that update the vocab and bric-a-brac of Vallejo’s originals for the life of an American man straddling the 20th and 21st centuries. In other words, “A transcontemporation is to a poem what RoboCop is to a normal police officer.”

You don’t have to read “The Waters” side by side with Trilce to enjoy it, but doing so makes Starkweather’s tricky, allusive, funny-sad poems extra-magical. Let’s take a look at “XIII” from Trilce, first in Vallejo’s original Spanish:


Pienso en tu sexo.
Simplificado el Corazon, pienso en tu sexo,
ante el hijar maduro del dia.
Palpo el boton de dicha, esta en sazon.
Y muere un sentimiento antiguo
degenerado en seso.

Pienso en tu sexo, surco mas prolific
y armonioso que el vientre de la Sombra,
aunque la Muerte concibe y pare
de Dios mismo.
Oh Conciencia,
pienso, si, en el broto libre
que goza donde quierre, donde puede.

Oh, escandalo de miel de los crepusculos.
Oh estruendo mudo.


Now here’s Eshleman’s translation:


 I think about your sex.
My heart simplified, I think about your sex,
before the ripe daughterloin of day.
I touch the bud of joy, it is in season.
And an ancient sentiment dies
degenerated into brains.

I think about your sex, furrow more prolific
and harmonious than the belly of the Shadow,
though Death conceives and bears
from God himself.
Oh Conscience,
I am thinking, yes, about the free beast
who takes pleasure where he wants, where he can.

Oh, scandal of the honey of twilights.
Oh mute thunder.


starkweather immortalEvery translation makes choices, but you can probably see, if you know even a little Spanish, that this is a faithful translation. The final line is the weirdest part of the poem—at first it looks like a nonsense word, then you realize “Odumodneurtse” contains the last two words of the penultimate line, backwards and jammed together to form a new word. Unfortunately, something is lost in Eshleman’s translation—his own nonsense word, “Rednuhtetum,” is “mute thunder” backwards, so the move comes across on a literal level. But in Spanish, the final “o” at the end of “mudo,” for “mute,” echoes the vocative/exclamatory “Oh” at the beginning of the previous two lines. Eshleman’s translated nonsense doesn’t have quite the same effect.

Starkweather’s version isn’t so faithful, especially when it comes to the last line:


I think of your sex.
With dumbed-down heart I think of your sex
as ants hijack the day’s blonde daughter.
Even the Pope gets the hiccups.
The cardinal fluttering against the glass:
phoenix, arrested.

I think of your sex, wave which knocks
out the breath, holds a body under, no way to say
which way is up. Death keeps feeding coins
into the meter of your mouth.
O, Consequence,
I am thinking too, about you, free animal
who takes pleasure where she wants, because she can.

O, honey of daughterless dusk.
O, hoarse voice of lightning.


You’ll notice that the “transcontemporation” is derived from both the sound of the original lines as well as the meaning, so line three (“ante el hijar maduro del dia”) is a combination of straight translation (“before the ripe daughterloin of day”) and soundplay: ante becomes ants and  hijar becomes hijack, but the day’s daughter comes from the “underpoem,” such as that exists, not the surface sounds. And yet, also, some of the poem is entirely new—“phoenix, arrested” seems to come from nowhere, or rather from Sampson’s degenerate brain entirely.

The last line is where you really see the exuberant beauty of Starkweather’s riffs. “Rudderowstarkweathersampson” isn’t anything spelled backwards – it’s his name rearranged. Rudderow (the poet’s middle name) seems to have been triggered by alliterative association with “Rednuhtetum,” Eshleman’s rendition of “mute thunder.” Though the literal meaning of “Odumodneurtse,” such as there is one, is lost in the Starkweather version, it retains that feeling of reveling in the evocative power of nonsense, of personalized Jabberwocky. (Later, in LXV, we learn that Rudderow is “a nonsense word made up by [his] mom.”) And – the really lovely part – Rudderow contains a syllabic “O.”

Then, of course, there are the metaphors both more subtle (I love “wave which knocks / out the breath, holds a body under, no way to say / which way is up” – though a wave of love is less strange than a prolific furrow) and more absurd (“Death keeps feeding coins / into the meter of your mouth”) than the original. Every poem in “The Waters” is like this, not a puzzle to figure out, but a little game full of meanings, as many as you want: “at the edge / of beauty, it quivers, it sings, it holds / no water.”

Elisa Gabbert is the author of The Self Unstable (forthcoming from Black Ocean in Fall 2013) and The French Exit (Birds LLC, 2010). Her poetry, prose, and collaborations have appeared widely in publications such as Boston Review, Colorado Review, Conduit, Denver Quarterly, Pleaides, and elsewhere. She is a founding member of the Denver Poets’ Theatre and blogs at

Craft Notes / 1 Comment
July 18th, 2013 / 3:50 pm

STARK WEEK EPISODE #6: “A few days later Sam called to wake me in the middle of the night to tell me about his Galaga high score at a bar and that the game reminded him of the poems in the book.” — Eric Amling on the cover of LA LA LA


For Episode Six of STARKING IT’S STARKING EVERYBODY SPARKING week, poet and collagist and GQ cucumber Eric Amling answers some questions about working on the LA LA LA cover. Eric Amling is one of our favorite cover artists here at HTMLGIANT (or at least one of Mike’s favorites), so we are very pleased to get a peek into his mustachioed brain!

1.) What was your experience working on the cover of LA LA LA?

Witnessing a sandwich of friendship and professionalism produce a satiating item.

2.) What was your process (how did you come up with the idea)?

When Sam and I first started talking about the LA LA LA poems we gravitated towards descriptions with a sensation of falling. So I went home and started some different approaches to the cover. A few days later Sam called to wake me in the middle of the night to tell me about his Galaga high score at a bar and that the game reminded him of the poems in the book. I recalled an image I recently cut from the cover of a Limousine and Chauffeur magazine circa early 80s. I thought it brought the digital aspect and feeling of motion with simplicity. Luckily, Sam agreed.

3.) Any stories/anecdotes?

I’m an adult male that occasionally moonlights in the act of collage.

4.) How did your cover relate to your reading the book (or the books content/poetry)?

I approached the LA LA LA book as a separate entity. I imagined finding an original limited edition in an upstate library of a dead city ex-patriot. An old looking book about the future. Assuming I read the book I think this is accurate.

5.) How did your work for this cover relate to your other work as an artist?

As an artist I’d have to say this cover was a departure for me, or rather, an exercise in restraint. I have a tendency to overthink my collages and my cover designs. And I enjoyed using one element of what later became part of a collage as the sole description of the book. I tend to admire most the artist that can show that restraint. To put it another way; it was different because it didn’t have a bunch of colors and asses in it like my other work.

5.) What is your relationship with Sampson, what was it like to work with him? Tell us one story about him?

Sam and I are friends and neighbors. Our relationship began with our mutual interest in poetry and has been maintained through drinking and sports. His work and email ethics are sound but he can be unreliable with the phone at times.

I may have my time and events wrong but I remember bringing a dear friend of mine to a reading Sam was doing in Brooklyn. Someplace nicer. The Montauk Club, maybe. She is a person who had issues with poetry. Mainly, poets and poetry readings, understandably. I remember Sam particularly nailed it that night. She was moved, entertained and charmed by Sam’s work. I was proud of Sam for that and it shows the reach his poetry can have. His passion for poetry is obvious but it takes more than that to affect people and he accomplishes that.

6.) Do you have any rough drafts, or covers you didn’t use?  

I have three, maybe four, other drafts. If any diehard fans are really interested I can send them a file. [Editor’s note: Eric Amling disappeared shortly after this interview was conducted, but we found him later at unrelated blimp party, where he was patiently explaining to the gentleman “piloting” the blimp that the cigar he was smoking was not, in fact, endangering the flight but was rather supplementing its propulsion. We approached him and enthused that STARK WEEK was only, in fact, for diehard fans, and could he please produce those files? Amling, a real matador’s matador, happily obliged. The results are after the jump.]


Behind the Scenes / 3 Comments
July 18th, 2013 / 1:02 pm

Excerpts & Reviews

STARK WEEK EPISODE #5: “the world can’t / hold / what is / the world / built for / exactly” — Melissa Broder on Starkweather’s LA LA LA


For Episode Five of STARK ATTACK A WEEK OF STARK ATTACKS, we move onto the second book of T4B with the firm and jubilant columns and poemreview joy of our own Melissa Broder talking about Sam’s LA LA LA. As an added bonus, we also get the last LA LA LA itself to accompany Melissa’s text!


snuka_top_rope-765661Joyce Carol Oates
or someone
said don’t
put yourself
in the review
fuck that
even if
I wanted to
there is no
omniscient god
of reviewership
only the white goddess
and the poet
and a pair of eyes
trying to jump
‘if you love me
unlock your phone
see those two lights
on the sea
that’s me
that’s me
that’s me’
some people
you just know
will be ok
the poet
is one
he says
his desire map
is running
out of room
mine is more
an ash mouth
either way
the world can’t
what is
the world
built for
‘the more animal
the less pain…
stagger to the edge
of the woods
suck the poison out’
I have had
to rescue
from the earth
and rescue
from the ways
I rescued
1000000 times
nobody gets
what they want
why not?
green paper
or something
‘blood on the keyboard
spiritual pop ups
dizzy by
bright lipstick’
I want to
but really
I want to stay
‘past black fields
that feel more
like memory
than memory can…
this life is super
fucking hard’
when you get
to the sky
there’s a sky
let me float
once so
that I know
once so
I remember

Melissa Broder is the author of two collections of poems, most recently MEAT HEART (Publishing Genius, 2012). Poems appear or are forthcoming in The Iowa Review, FENCE, Guernica, The Missouri Review, et al.




July 17th, 2013 / 3:02 pm