Archive by Author

La Petite Zine

27 Apr

The new issue of La Petite Zine is up, and it’s chock full of good stuff.

Like this gem from Brooklyn Copeland, for instance:

To find the dagger a blessing

daggers find us tripping
onto praise—
           please

stop singing mine—
           April’ s
                god’s a gun

I get the irony here, of course, praising Brooklyn’s poem “Straddling the Ides,” a poem that asks, “please // stop singing mine.” (Sorry, Brooklyn.)

Or this one from Anne Marie Rooney, titled “Film Mind“:

This is an idea,
Let it holler open in your skin, let it let
My mastery in, let it out.

I’m off the ‘net for now, making a short trip to Jacksonville, but I hope you make our way over to LPZ to read these poems in full and to check out the rest of this issue–you won’t be disappointed.

Nate Pritts at Dark Sky

12 Apr

I was reading a bit of Dark Sky Magazine earlier today and ran across Nate Pritts’s poem “No Memorial”:

I will not ever need to answer to anyone
     about why something isn’t where it should be in my heart.

It’s a poem that moves in interesting ways. Join me over there and give it a read, won’t you?

Rob MacDonald at La Petite Zine

6 Apr

Take a moment on this fine Friday afternoon (windy here in central Florida, but fine nonetheless) to travel over to check out Rob MacDonald’s poem “The First Girl” over at La Petite Zine.

(That’s right, as in Rob MacDonald from Sixth Finch.)

Here’s just a taste to whet your appetite:

When I say that she was the greatest,
I mean that she resembled a circus.

Oxford, Michael Bible, and the “Real” World of Writing

27 Mar

Last week, we were on spring break, so Melissa and I made our way up to the University of Mississippi for this year’s Oxford Conference for the Book. We had a great time–walking around the square one night on our way to or from dinner, I overheard someone say that she liked living in Oxford because “the weather is mild; the food is good; the people are nice.” And I have to say that, based on our time there last week, that’s a pretty fair assessment.

We met lots of great people during our time there and bought lots and lots of books and heard lots of brilliant people say lots of brilliant things, but I want to spend a minute here to mention a session on Saturday morning titled “Virtually Published: Blogs, Internet Journals, and Online Writing.” The session was moderated by Anya Groner and featured Jack Pendarvis, Maud Newton, and Michael Bible, whose name I recognized but couldn’t immediately place–it turns out his chapbook Gorilla Math was published by Greying Ghost about the same time as mine, and some of his work has been discussed here on Vouched.

There were lots of great moments in the session, a session which was something of an anomaly at a conference that puts a great deal of emphasis on the printed word. Asked how the internet had changed his writing, Jack confessed to a growing inclusion of exclamation points and unicorns (no kidding!) in his online writing. When one of the old guard challenged the reality of all things online, Jack mused about what happens to things when they disappear from the internet (not a system of tubes, perhaps, but maybe a giant hole we were collectively filling? One day, would the hole be completely filled?), and when this audience member complained that his grandson “only has friends on the internet,” Michael was quick to quip, “At least he has friends.”

Things might have turned very ugly there but didn’t (thanks, Jack, for keeping things a little light in that moment). Instead, they mostly turned philosophical, as audience discussion turned to the question of what it means to call something real.

And we might talk for a while about whether or not things on the internet are real–that is, if we could first reach some agreement about what it means to say that something is real. But I think what’s at stake for most people in that sort of a discussion isn’t metaphysics (which, unfortunately, was where more than one member of Saturday’s audience wanted to steer things); rather, I think what’s at stake for most people here is the issue of authenticity. Does an internet publication have authenticity? Is it authentic? Can it speak with authority? Or, we might say, does a writer published on the internet have any claim to the title author, with its implications of authority?

Yes, I’ll say. Or at least, sometimes.

I think that people who challenge the authenticity of internet publishing base that challenge, mostly, on the fact that there’s so much junk online. Tons and tons and tons of it. There’s more drivel published online than you could ever read, not if you started now and spent the rest of your life doing nothing else. If we were to think of the internet as a giant system of tubes, those tubes are largely clogged with writing you’re probably better off not reading. Or if the internet is a giant hole, it’s a hole filled mostly with junk, to be sure (Lolcats, anyone?).

But if there’s lots of junk online, we have to admit that there’s junk in print, too. I mean, I’ve read Dan Brown’s work, and I know for a fact that there are plenty of books published by major publishing houses that have shit for prose.

Now, it may be the case that the legions of editors in the print industry (not to mention the economics of print publishing) have kept a great deal of drivel out of print. But if we agree that in spite of editors’ best efforts, there’s still a fair amount of drivel in print, then we also have to agree that the discussion of online versus print, at least as it relates to claims of authenticity, is a discussion of degree, not of difference. Both print and online publishing have made public some great work along with loads and loads of terrible work. Perhaps there’s more terrible work online than in print, but perhaps not, and in any case, it isn’t the terrible work that really matters, in my opinion.

The issue of how we define great work and terrible work is really outside the scope of what I’m writing here, but what matters, I think, are the words that people have written that mean something, words crafted so that they get at something about this thing we might call the human condition, or (more broadly speaking) life–words that give us a way of seeing the world in a way we might not have seen it before, that show us something we know in a way we didn’t know it. And we can find those words, we can have those experiences, both online and in print.

Which brings me back to something that Michael Bible said at the beginning of this session in Oxford, something that much of the old guard seemed to have forgotten by the time they were complaining about the “unreality” of the internet.

I’m paraphrasing here, of course, but Michael began with the comment that he didn’t think that any of us–us meaning people who were publishing online–were using ebooks or web journals or the like as a way of bringing about the death of the printed book. On the contrary, he said, we’re doing it because we’re so firmly committed to the continued life of the book. The end goal of all of this, he said, is the book.

It also brings me back to a status update on the Vouched Facebook page the other day:

The other day at Ball State, someone asked me what I thought of eReaders, and I think they expected me to say how much I hated them and rant about the end of literature or something, because they looked really confused when I said I loved them and had one myself.

It’s fascinating to me, as well as more than a little sad, that so many people seem to think (or to assume, perhaps) that the worlds of electronic publishing and print publishing are opposed, or even at war with each other. Maybe that’s what it feels like to some people, but from where I’m sitting, it feels like we’re on the same team.

A Penny for your Thoughts? –Pt. One

30 Oct

When individuals use money, they know very well that there is nothing magical about it–that money, in its materiality, is simply an expression of social relations. . . . The problem is that in their social activity itself, in what they are doing, they are acting as if money, in its material reality, is the immediate embodiment of wealth as such.
     –Slavoj Žižek, The Sublime Object of Ideology

One of the things I enjoy about running is the time spent outdoors, away from websites and televisions and cell phones and nearly every distraction, save the occasional armadillo or coyote or neighborhood dog. It affords time for reflection and, when I’m not running alone and when we’re not running especially hard, for conversation.

A few days ago, I was out for an easy run with the cross country team that I coach, and one of my runners asked me about my writing. “Why do you do it?” Scott wanted to know. “Is there any money in it?”

Of course, if you’re reading this on Vouched, then you probably have good answers to both of these questions already. But it did provoke a long conversation about the ways in which writing can become a commodity.

At the beginning, I told him, I wrote a lot of things that weren’t very good. Some of these, I sent to editors who sent back pre-made postcards in the mail or who stuffed photocopied rejection slips into my self-addressed, stamped envelopes. But eventually, I wrote things that were, I hope, better, and a few editors said yes. And then a few more. And then an especially kind editor offered to publish a chapbook.

And then, I told Scott, if you do this long enough and diligently enough, maybe one day you start to get the occasional editor who seeks you out, who asks you to send your work to her journal.

“What about then?” he wanted to know. “Then, do you get paid?”

Not hardly.

But then I told him how enough of these sorts of publications could lead to a book deal, which probably wouldn’t amount to much money, either. But that a book deal (or two, or three) could help a writer secure a teaching or editing position that was paid–so that, if you were lucky, eventually, you’d have a job that paid you to do something else but that supported your writing.

Which brought me back to the question: Why do writers write? I know Stephen King’s answer, of course, but in the world of small presses and independent journals, is it ever about the money?

And of course, my answer is no. The writing is not about the money. And, for that matter, I told him, neither is the running. Now, I’ve met a few elite runners who have sponsorship deals, who are paid to run, but for most people, running isn’t about the money any more than writing is–running a great time in your local 5k race isn’t about the money any more than having a poem published by PANK.

A couple of months ago, Jeff Edmonds–a philosopher and a much better runner than I am–had this to say:

I’ve said this before, and I will say it again: one of the best reasons to run is its utter uselessness as an activity. . . . The fact that a run has no exchange value on the open market is a mark that it, as an experience, cannot be exchanged. Its value, like that of life itself, is inherent and singular.
     –Jeff Edmonds, The Logic of Long Distance

Like a good run, a good poem really has no exchange value on the market. Now, we might pay for it–we might pay the runner who wins a race, or we might pay the poet who excels at the craft–but even in the act of paying, we disassociate the payment from the act. It is not payment for the act, as it might be when we take a car in for repair. When I ordered Matt Bell’s How They Were Found, for instance, or Molly Gaudry’s We Take Me Apart, I didn’t really consider–in a monetary sense–the value of the book, or of the time, or of Matt’s or Molly’s craft; but when I had a new battery installed in my truck last weekend, I certainly considered the value of the battery, of the time, and–to some degree, at least–of the mechanic’s craft.

I know for a fact that I have never written a poem and then said, “This poem is worth ten dollars.” Or a hundred. Or a thousand. Or one.

So why do we buy and sell these things? Why do we, here, right here on this website, ask you to buy books? How do I tell you that a particular book is “worth it”?

When I (finally) made the decision a few months ago to offer a print edition of Willows Wept Review, I agonized. How could I ask people to pay for something to which I could not assign a value?

If Žižek is right in his reading of Marx, if money “is simply an expression of social relations,” then we might begin by asking what the social relations are in independent literature, by asking not only what values we assign those relations but also how we assign them.

What are, we might ask, the economics of expression?

TAIGA: Issue A

6 Jun

Last week, I got the second issue of TAIGA in the mail. Edited by Mike Seall and Brooklyn Copeland, TAIGA is back after a longish (but “necessary,” we’re assured) hiatus.

The entire issue rocks, but what has me writing today is the longish poem by Erica Lewis and Dan Thomas-Glass titled “cell and refract: responses to camera obscura by erica lewis.” Check out this excerpt:
 
      the limits of sentimental expression
      shifting from one position to another
 
      sometimes we wake up
 
                  invited but distant
                                   just a person centered by circles
 
      the real space smells like ashes
                                   ceremony        or        circumstance
 
      and
      all the colors
                                           are too bright to be real
 
Limited print run of 100, and right now, you can get the entire issue for only five bucks.

J.P. Dancing Bear at DIAGRAM

7 May

For the love of God, stop what you’re doing right now and go read these two poems.

Seriously:

someone holds a toothbrush like a rifle

You won’t regret it.

John Domini on St. Augustine

3 May

John Domini has a great piece in the spring issue of BLIP. It’s titled “Old Town St. Augustine, Millennial New Year,” and here’s an excerpt to whet your appetite:

The worship grows more feverish when
it’s not your money, when the 20s come
from Mom. Burn holy in your pocket.
Then, other bars, other bones. Painted nails
along the rails. Flip-flops’ crusted straps,
the shell and coral fixed as if in amber.
Oh high-sung Margaritaville, bring out
your dead!

This one hits close to home because, well, it hits close to home. St. Augustine isn’t so far from here.

I’m Supposed To Be Grading Papers

2 Feb

But seriously, I just snuck a look at the new elimae when I saw Tyler’s last post. And Erika Moya’s poem “Judgement” rocked me back in my chair a little.

So whatever you’re doing, take a break. Read a poem. Trust me: that stack of papers will wait.

Kirsty Logan: Kinderwhoring

2 Jan

Over at the PANK blog, Kirsty Logan writes beautifully about her younger days in a post that says a great deal, I think, about the importance of the relationship that writers have with their readers.

I haven’t been in Kirsty’s shoes exactly, never had anyone ask me to take down something I’ve posted online, but I’ve met plenty of writers and musicians and what not, and her post got me thinking about the the ways that different people interact with the people who love their work.

Online and in person, many of them are gracious, extravagantly kind, generous with their work and their time. But some of them are not, and reading Kirsty’s account, I fear the effect they have on people, especially younger readers-that-would-be-writers. As Kirsty says, “Perhaps I could have been a different sort of writer if that poet had loved me back.”

Kirsty says that this older writer was right, at least in a legal sense. I say, copyright be damned: she couldn’t have been more wrong.