Tag Archives: Future Tense Books

Review: Everything Was Fine Until Whatever by Chelsea Martin

15 Jan

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Everything Was Fine Until Whatever is a whacky and bizarre collection of poetry/flash fiction, artwork, and footnotes by Chelsea Martin. Martin writes about: a baby’s first words, which were “Obviously imported from China,” acronyms, a to-do list, and the reasons Martin writes poetry. I am amazed by the amount of content that Martin is able to fit in only 111 pages. On top of that, she starts her collection off with a letter to the reader where she states that she wants the reader’s life to become consumed with the idea of her. She ends it with a bold, and I mean bold, statement:

“I want this love for me to be our only talent, and I want you to eventually realize that it isn’t even adequate, and that I really deserve better.”

That line got me fired up for this collection. Martin isn’t afraid to push the reader around, and that’s absolutely wonderful. If her writing is any indication of the direction where new literature is headed, I am beyond excited. With just that one line Martin gives the reader the lens to the rest of the pieces. It heightened the stakes of everything. There were times where I felt like I shouldn’t be reading this collection because of that letter. I felt guilty for reading and enjoying it. I felt guilty because with that letter Martin creates a very delicate relationship between herself and the reader. I felt bad for loving the poems that I did because I felt like it would never be enough for her. It reminded me of a dysfunctional relationship between a disappointed parent and their child. No matter what the child did, no matter how much love the child professes it would never be enough for the parent. Martin plays with this relationship throughout her collection.

Throughout the collection Martin sprinkles in these microscopic footnotes that are treats for the reader. They can range from extreme emotional vulnerability to something like this: “I accidentally shat on a person once. There I said it.” Not only did the absurd footnotes balance what was happening on the page, but they feel like secrets being whispered to the reader. It creates a stronger connection to the pieces because the reader feels as if they knew something that wasn’t completely out in the open for everyone to see. Sort of like a sneak peek for a movie you’re really excited for. That strange battle over the emotions of the reader sealed my love for this collection.

The titles of her pieces just get stuck in your head and refuse to leave. Not only are they a bit wacky and funny, but they provide an additional lens for the reader. Some of my favorite titles include: “I’m writing about love because no one else ever has and because I’m wearing jeans that made my butt look good,” “I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking I shouldn’t work in customer service,” and “Manipulation, Energy Drinks, and Time Travel.” Martin uses these titles to spark interest, but she also uses them as a way to mask a deeper takeaway through absurdity. In “Manipulation, Energy Drinks, and Time Travel,” the narrator talks about all of the things she is willing to do for someone:

“I’ll buy chocolate covered cherries and drop them into your mouth from skyscrapers as you unknowingly walk by. I’ll put my name on them somehow, so you know they’re from me. I’ll teach you Braille. Tongue Braille.”

That is a strong commitment to teach some person Tongue Braille. This piece talks about the hoops someone would go through for the person they loved. It was touching. The story goes on to talk about how the narrator would destroy other guys for the entertainment of the guy she’s talking about. She even makes the final leap and says:

“I’ll cancel Netflix, I don’t know why, but I swear to god I’ll do it.”

Martin does a fantastic job of masking these strong emotions of love behind absurd acts like canceling Netflix and dropping cherries from skyscrapers. That is one of the biggest strengths in her writing. She just takes these towering subjects like love, and breaks them down into these bite-sized chunks that she stitches into her own Frankenstein creature. Her voice is strong and sounds like someone in their early twenties going through life. To me her voice is becoming the brand for twenty something’s making their way through life. She is sporadic, heartfelt, sincere, and not afraid to spill herself for any and all to see. Something anyone struggling through their twenties would understand and connect with.

Everything Was Fine Until Whatever is Chelsea Martin’s debut collection. Through this collection she has asserted herself at the forefront of indie literature. She shows no sign of slowing down anytime soon. Her most recent collection Even Though I Don’t Miss You published through Short Flight/Long Drive can be purchased through Hobart.

Everything Was Fine Until Whatever can be purchased on Chelsea Martin’s website or the publishers’ Future Tense Books.

SSR: I Was A Fat Drunk Catholic School Insomniac

5 Nov

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I Was A Fat, Drunk, Catholic School Insomniac by Jamie Iredell
Future Tense Books
200 pg // $12

When we strip our adolescence of its hangovers, drunk stupors, the existential crises, angst, and adolescent missteps – what we’re left with is the sobering toxicity of youth.

 

Vouched on the Road: Atlanta with Jamie Iredell

27 Jul

Photo by Koneko Photography

Jamie Iredell is everyone’s favorite ATL uncle-type. He is the kind of guy who balances the grown-up living (watch him beam about his daughter; dude is Mr. Poetry at SCAD; serious working writer with a handful of books in the works/contracted) and the rad go-go-going (the man loves to hike; he co-hosts ATL’s reading series Solar Anus; one of the coolest talk-over-a-beer guys ever).

I came across Jamie’s work a few years ago when I won a copy of his book The Book of Freaks over at HTML Giant. I dove into that thing. I dive back into that thing when I need a reminder of how wacky life can be cool. Here is a freak for you.

Also the trailer:

Pre-Visit Interview with Jamie Iredell

1. How long have you lived in Atlanta?
10 yrs.
2. What are your favorite pieces of Atlanta?
The thighs, drumsticks, and wings.
3. What brought you to Atlanta? What keeps you in Atlanta?
PhD. in creative writing. That my wife has a good job and that she pays the bills.
4. How has Atlanta influenced your writing?
I frequently write the word “y’all”
5. If you could live in any city, what would it be and why?
Chicago, and I think you know why.
6. How’s the literary scene in Atlanta?
It actually sucks, compared to comparable cities of the same size. Much smaller cities (San Francisco, Portland, OR, Austin, TX, etc.) have far more lively literary scenes. Atlanta’s not much of a reading city, and I don’t know why that is, but my guess is the city’s youth, lack of a tradition in the publishing industry, and such.
7. Describe Atlanta in three words.
Hey, tee, hell.
8. What are you most stoked to show me in Atlanta?
I don’t know. My baby? She’s cute. You probably don’t like babies. I’ll show you a strip bar where most of the strippers also have babies, the evidence of which is sometimes way too apparent.

All of my previous interactions with Jamie were like my first two this visit–chattering, drinking beers, being at a reading. This guy is a busy dude with family, with teaching, with writing, but he makes it, he makes it happen, he makes it out to readings and organizes readings and supports supports supports.

Southern Comfort Tour Ladies

This visit, I saw my first Solar Anus reading, a series Jamie runs with Blake Butler and Amy McDaniel, usually at the Beep Beep Art Gallery in Atlanta. Packed to the gill-slits, this month’s reading hosted the Southern Comfort tour with Elizabeth Ellen, Mary Miller, Donora Hillard, Brandi Wells, and Chloe Caldwell, with special guest Scott McClahan. And from this one and the chatter I hear about the others, this series is how I dig them: a little rowdy, beer-provided, cooool space, and post-reading hangage.

Photo by Michael Straub

The next night was the big Vouched ATL birthday party, a special event that featured twenty of Atlanta’s brightest writer-people reading selections of work written by students in Wink and the Wren’s Nest , creative writing tutoring programs in the city. The event was a fundraiser for these two groups, and seeing so many kickass writers, like Jamie, using their reading spirits to celebrate these rad kiddos and organizations was a really special moment.
My last day in town was reserved for our big adventure, hiking to the top of Kennesaw Mountain. Jamie, a West Coast guy who grew up wandering the forests and nature out there, is a fun fun dude to follow on a trail. He knows the history, like about the battles that took place there in the Civil War. He knows the nature (hope this is allowed to be mentioned: he’s writing a series of prose poems right now about the trees of Atlanta). Even better, I have this love of nature that gets amped up in the rain and it started raining in the middle of our trek. A perfect BIG way to chop my way out of the city.
After a long week of readings and drinking and this mega-rad hike, before leaving ATL, I had to have me a final big hefty meal. Jamie delivered, taking me to DBA BBQ, one of those stick-it-to-your-ribs places.
My longest, busiest stay of the road trip (and sadly last of these Vouched posts), Atlanta was a kind, exciting place, a full scorecard of the literary and the wacky and the rowdy and the relaxing. And that is exactly the kind of time Jamie showed me, a lot of major goodness packed into one awesome writer-guy.

SSR #13 of 15: The Book of Freaks

15 Jul

The Book of Freaks
by Jamie Iredell
Future Tense Books
136p, $11

This is my type of encyclopedia- the kind that doesn’t heavily costume the humorless or strip the wacky into something mundane- equal parts dark comedy and a field-guide.

Single-Sentence Review: The Book of Freaks by Jamie Iredell

27 Jun

The Book of Freaks
by Jamie Iredell

Future Tense Books
$11, 136 pages

Jamie Iredell takes us for an awesome journey into the freaky dressed up as wacky weirdos folded then unfolded in these entries, a place where these freaks easily escape their cages, in their slithery way–I’m warning you–huddling too close for comfort in this constant beam of cleverness and associative imagination.