Tag Archives: General

Strange Things Have Happened Here: Vouched Presents ( + The Rumpus + Fiction Advocate!)

3 Jan

We’re so excited to team up with The Rumpus, 826 Valencia, and Fiction Advocate TOMORROW for a night of fun readings from our favorite writers! It’s all your literary dreams come true, packed into San Francisco’s foremost Independent Pirate Supply Store.

Plus: a Vouched table full of new goodies (including freebies!) and a GUARANTEED ACCEPTANCE table. What does that mean? Come find out! It’s like the exact opposite of going home for the holidays!

Strange Things Flier image

Readings by:

Vladimir Kozlov

Maisha Z. Johnson

Siamak Vossoughi

Joshua Merchant

The Rumpus is a place where people come to be themselves through their writing, to tell their stories or speak their minds in the most artful and authentic way they know how, and to invite each of you, as readers, commenters or future contributors, to do the same. What we have in common is a passion for fantastic writing that’s brave, passionate and true (and sometimes very, very funny). http://therumpus.net/

Fiction Advocate is a litblog and micropress founded in 2009. http://fictionadvocate.com/

826 Valencia is a nonprofit organization dedicated to supporting students ages six to eighteen with their creative and expository writing skills and to helping teachers inspire their students to write. Our services are structured around the understanding that great leaps in learning can happen with one-on-one attention and that strong writing skills are fundamental to future success. http://826valencia.org/

Facebook event: https://www.facebook.com/events/682658425184925/

Best Thing I’ve Read This Week: Debacle Debacle

10 Jun

debacle2In February of this year, H_NGM_N Books released Matt Hart’s Debacle Debacle. In some sense, the book can be read as the experience of working through contradictory thoughts and feelings.

To this extent, poems near the beginning of book guide the reader by setting the conceptual and poetic framework for the rest of the collection. In “Upon Seeing Again The Thriving,” the speaker informs the audience that “Life is so messy,” and:

                                                               yes, I do feel

terrible at times, like a fuck-up descending a staircase,
woozy with nectar and too much trouble. Frustration

I get, and discouraged I get. (20)

Likewise, in the title poem, the speaker reiterates similar claims when he states: “Positivity these days // is difficult to come by” (14). But in the face of frustration and discouragement, when filtering the world through a positive lens can oftentimes be difficult, Hart’s poems seek to do just that.

Of course, the poems of Debacle Debacle don’t do this by embracing affirmation uncritically. Instead, they do so by meditating on complex emotional circumstances of our daily lives; or, as Hart writes at the conclusion of the title poem:

                                                                          Life happens;
it’s my job to say so. It’s our job to express it, expand it
to the edges. Essential it is to struggle, but struggle’s

merely tension, and tension can be a thing of balance
or irritation, confusion or song. I’m singing in tension
with the not singing. I’m living in tension with the forces

out to kill me. We’re living in tension because we’re
different human beings, and living in excitement
that we’re so much the same. (15)

Debacle Debacle, then, harnesses this tension between the joy and struggle to both sing and not-sing as an expression of a life lived poetically.

Hart’s poems succeed the most when they yoke these tensions of life so as to produce “an ambiguous noise” (30) wherein one cannot necessarily tell which feeling the poem expresses, or, to this extent, whether it’s song or not-song. The poem “Fang Face” echoes these sentiments in its closing lines:

                                    I hate the way stories
seem to love a conclusion. I love
the bird’s singing just before it gets eaten. (25)

The excerpt contains both “love” and “hate,” the song of a bird and its grizzly death, and a reproach of conclusions in its conclusion. By oscillating between these binary poles, Hart doesn’t offer didactic verse, but rather “expressive works… // …about the way the artist feels and thinks” (73). And this artist, it seems, thrives in the possibilities and tensions that a poem with open emotional and sonic registers offers us.

Best Thing I’ve Read This Week: B.J. Love

6 Jun

6_QuickB.J. Love is a poet who authored the chapbook Michigander, the editor of the online audio journal Pretty LIT, co-host of the Seersucker reading series (with Erika Jo Brown), and teaches at Savannah State University. Additionally, he used to run Further Adventures Press, which released a number of terrific, handmade chapbooks between 2008 and 2011. Yes, Love is a bit of Renaissance Man when it comes to poetry.

Earlier this week, I read a pamphlet of collaborative poems he wrote with Friedrich Kerksieck (the brains behind Small Fires Press) titled Six Quick Sand Pits. The colophon for the collection reads:

These quicksand pits were written collaboratively by BJ Love & Friedrich Kerksieck. This booklet was printed for Parenthesis 23 in the blazing Memphis summer of 2012. It was printed with a Vandercook No. 4 on Somerset Book paper. Type is Gill Sans.

If the specifications don’t mean much to you, know this: just like everything Kerksieck prints and produces, it looks gorgeous. And the six sand pits within? They are wonderfully odd prose poems. Take, for instance, the opening pit:

Sand and Water wanted a baby. What beautiful coastline we could make, they’d say to each other just before having sex in the usual positions. When quick sand bubbled up nine months later, Sand and Water sank the disappointment deep below the Earth’s crust. I don’t want to say this is why we now have volcanoes, but I can’t say it’s not.

The other five pits read in a similar tone and style. I’m not sure exactly how one would get their hands on this short collection (in fact, I’m not entirely sure how I got my hands on this collection), but you can read more of Love and Kerksieck’s collaborative poems in their chapbook Fossil, which they released via the Dusie Kollektiv a couple years ago.

Last week, I received the new issue of Cant in the mail, which contains eight poems by Love. To this extent, they act as the centerpiece for the issue. Here is one of those poems, “Grammatical Benjamin,” in its entirety:

I feel like I should be making more
telephone calls. That I could be better
at talking if I committed to a more rigid
practice schedule and insisted on using
the English to Feelings dictionary we
bought that night we couldn’t think of
the word that meant half-priced sushi.

When I put my hand in your hand, this
it tells us, is what we mean: Something
really necessary appears to be happening. (17)

The rest of the poems follow a likeminded trajectory: texts composed in a conversational idiom that, thematically, read as somewhat oblique love poems. To read more poems by B.J. Love (as well as work Aaron Belz, Matt Hart, and a terrific interview with Laura Solomon) order a copy of Cant.

2013 Springgun Press Releases

31 May

Last year, Springgun Press released its first offering of full-length collections: Lily Ladewig’s The Silhouettes, Adam Peterson’s The Flasher, and The Container Store, which is a collaborative text written by Joe Hall and Chad Hardy. For their second round of full-lengths, Springgun published three more solid collections: James Belflower’s The Posture of Contour: A Public Primier, Michael Flatt’s Absent Receiver, and Aby Kaupang’s Little “g” God Grows Tired of Me.

 photo MF1_zpsc9e4ef01.jpg  photo AK01_zps6d145db9.jpg

A conversation with Belflower discussing his Posture will appear on this site in the coming weeks; so I will focus my attention on the other two collections.

Flatt’s Absent Receiver opens, literally, with a microphone check: “check // check // check // check” (1); then proceeds to explore sound as both an object of study and as a form of study. Take, for instance, the following passage:

through the narcissism of reverb

we expect big things from small ones.

the propeller thrums the night

and electric light

brings blackground into relief.

in this space my open mouth

does not create a cavern. (32)

The excerpt begins with a meditation on the nature of reverb, and its ability transform “small” sounds into bigger ones. But there is more than meditation here; the form itself also contains a music in the hard rhyme of “night” and “light,” as well as the consonance of “create” and “cavern.” The reverb(eration) of phonemes in rhyme and alliteration, it would appear, propel the poem forward with their sonic thrums.

To this extent, then, Absent Receiver looks to travel “deep in the sound” of poetry in order to “deepen / the sound” (69) of the poems. In doing so, “the page” becomes “an amplifier” (47) through which Flatt sounds his songs; and the sounds, it would seem, are emotive:

the inside of a poem
isn’t anything
anyone needs to be shown.

the illiterate already know it
as the space between the
heartbeat and the heart. (46)

While Flatt’s preoccupations deal primarily with sound, Kaupang’s, Little “g” God Grows Tired of Me focuses mainly on the body and its various permutations. Take, for instance, the following segments from the poem “Scenic Fences”:

the body                    {that other body you
respond to—the one you reap}

refuses to wake
writes grieve

in the rainbed       the basalt       the mobile
choking over the baby’s crib (30)

return the body       {the one you
resound to}       lose it       once

and leave

be sad at the demolition of house (37)


the bodies beside
the body       {you
sometimes}       and lying
there and trying
accidentally appear too

misaddress invitations for
other men’s pockets (43)

Over the course of these three passages, one body “refuses to wake,” calling into question our agency over the very thing we think we control; and “writes grieve,” thus undermining normative conceptions of Cartesian dualism, wherein the ability to write, think, or communicate resides, first and foremost, in the mind. Likewise, the body is a space to which we can return, we can lose or leave, or, like a house, be demolished. Kaupang’s collection contains a plethora of bodies that function in many different ways. Yes, this is the multiplicity of the body.

The proliferation of bodies, then, disassociates corporeal selves from the concept of identity and, more specifically, the pronoun “I.” As such, “I is useless in the dung / of words that name” (57), because “a name means nothing,” whether it be “I,” another pronoun, or a proper noun. But Little “g” God Grows Tired of Me is not a lament for a lost sense of self. Instead, the collection offers us an “exchange”: in place of a determinate “I” residing in a particular corporeal body, “I inhabit[s] innumerable houses // your “body / in jeopardy” (73). By placing the body and the self in jeopardy, though, we attain a fluidity heretofore unattained.

An End to All Things by Jared Yates Sexton

24 May

An End to All Things—Atticus Books, 223 pages, $14.95


The characters in Jared Yates Sexton’s debut collection, An End to All Things, are rubbed raw. They are at wits end with themselves and each other, but with the help of alcohol and cigarettes they get through it all. Most of the stories follow agitated couples dealing with economic and relationship struggles. Reminiscent of Raymond Carver’ Short Cuts and Larry Brown’s Facing the Music, many of Sexton’s characters are constantly drinking, smoking, fighting and trying to find a way to change things.

In “The Right Men for the Job” a family deals with the decline of their quality of life:

The paper folded and Mary couldn’t get anymore teaching gigs . . . Then our things started breaking down all at once. Everyday it was something new.

In the same story the couple is talking in bed. Their conversation is telling of their situation:

Did we do something to deserve it? Something to deserve our lives going all to hell?

I didn’t know what to say. I guess at that point I didn’t think we were that bad off. ‘Course I was drinking a lot and was out of it most of the time. I probably wasn’t the best judge.

These are, after all, stories that examine the “hardscrabble lives of Working-Class America,” as stated on the book’s back cover. “Hardscrabble” is a good word to describe the bouts of violence, infidelity, depression, loneliness and drunkenness through which many of the characters are living.

Sexton shows a range of story telling prowess through these well crafted, genuine stories about people dealing with the recent economic downturn. In “Just Listen” a man is telling his wife about something extraordinary that he saw that shook him so strongly he had an epiphany:

I don’t get it. I really don’t. The only thing I know is we’ve got to talk about this—you and me and how we can’t seem to get along. All this fighting and screaming and throwing shit. We’ve got to get down to the meat of it. All the lying and finger-pointing and the hate. We’ve got to get down and really talk about these things. I mean it. Some things around her are gonna have to change.

Change is what these characters need most, but they don’t seem to know how to achieve it. They make bad decisions, fall back on destructive habits and share the blame around. There’s no room to judge, however, because, just like the rest of us, they’re just trying to get through the day in one piece.

New Factory Hollow Press Releases

13 May

In March of this year, Factory Hollow Press, which is the publishing imprint of Flying Object, released Rachel B. Glaser’s Moods and Seth Landman’s Sign You Were Mistaken. Both books are the debut collections for each poet (although Publishing Genius released the short story collection Pee on Water by Glaser a few years ago).

Glaser’s Moods thrives on humor and pop culture references that remind one of the early writing by New York School poets, such as Kenneth Koch and John Ashbery. Take, for instance, the following excerpt from the poem “Thanksgiving didn’t happen”:

we can say Jesus existed
he was he good looking, charismatic
and once did a magic trick

if we still hate the cat tomorrow
let’s tie him to the tracks

when we all smoked catnip together, I lied
I did feel different

something else I didn’t tell you was
when I was in the WNBA
I had a very poor shooting streak and couldn’t admit it
I’d miss a three-point attempt
and pretend it was an ally-oop
“Where were you Swoops?! The ball was there,” I’d say,
“But where the hell were you?” (14)

A bit later in the same poem, after a digression concerning Julia Roberts and a series of humorous observations about but seemingly inane subject matter, Glaser invokes the poem’s title and completes its fragmented syntax:

                    Thanksgiving didn’t happen how they said
all it was, was two Indian boys
who shared some deer meat with two Pilgrim girls
and (big surprise)
their families freaked out
the girls got sent to boarding school
the boys were sent into the woods to “think” (15)

The references and humor, which spares no one, continues throughout the remainder of the collection at a furious pace, making for a quick and enjoyable read.

Landman’s Sign You Were Mistaken works as a counterpoint to Moods, at least to the extent that is a more meditative collection that forces a reader to slow down as they maneuver through the oftentimes irregular (or at least circuitous) syntax. For example, the poem “Story” begins with the following lines:

A very small train in silhouette is
a terrible way to travel is
to go back. (30)

Not only does this brief excerpt ruminate upon the nature of travel, but it does so in a manner that collapses two syntactic units into one another. In other words, the lines concatenate the sentences “A very small train in silhouette is a terrible way to travel” and “A terrible way to travel is to go back,” linking the two through their common phrase.

In other instances, such as in the “Hunt,” the poems produce a sinuous syntax through a series of qualifying phrases offset by excessive comma use:

with this gaze I fix no word
in orbit is given, is gone,
like shape, melting into
twilight. (41)

The poem “Merry Christmas” follows a similar pattern:

                    Say you took it,
a lantern, twinkling once, more,
so long in the night
of spite and thunder.
But there was now, alive
for good, no sign of
spring, and yet there was
a pleasant chance
to think, and I sprang to do it. (48)

These syntactical techniques require readers to examine the relationships between words more closely, thus forcing us to consider more thoroughly the meditations within each poem.

While you wait for your copies of Factory Hollow Press’s new books to arrive in the mail, check out Glaser’s portrait paintings of NBA players and Landman’s musing on Fantasy Basketball.

Missing Elimae + Transitive Verbs

9 May

Found myself reminiscing and digging through Elimae’s archives this morning. Came across this gem from Stephanie Lane Sutton, Transitive Verb (coincidentally, the verbs I’ve been thinking about most often lately.) 

This is how we will unbutton: to cause an earthquake, which is to say
it was a disc, slipped, like a bone undone. What I look like from behind

walking away.


A transitive verb : is to open the folds of : to spread or straighten : expand, as with an open map


If you are the universe, it would explain the primal scum in your kitchen sink,
your ability to stack conversations, cheat at card games, how it is difficult
to explain without using you as a word in the definition…



Read the rest here



Dossiers: Poetry & Ohio, Sarah Gridley

7 May

For the final installment of the Poets of Ohio reading series on 18 April, Cleveland-native Sarah Gridley read from her new collection Loom (Omnidawn Publishing, 2013). Below is a video clip the event wherein Gridley reads her poem “Charcoal”:

After spending several years away from Ohio (in states such as Massachusetts, Montana, and Maine), Gridley returned to Cleveland a few years ago. In an interview with Joshua Marie Wilkinson (which originally appeared in the Denver Quarterly in 2010 and re-published last year in The Volta), Gridley had the following to say about her birth city:

How does one develop what Eliot calls “tender kinship for the face of the earth” when one’s childhood takes place in a part of the earth like Cleveland? This is what’s striking to me about being back here: despite the many ugly things about Cleveland, the severity of its physical and socio-economic decay, I find there is in me a habit of the blood, a sweet habit of the blood, that responds positively and lovingly to being here.

Through the sensory channels of memory, my lived experience at present finds weird communion with my lived experience from childhood. The native things, the snow, the rain, the winds, the thunder boomers and magnolias, the grime, winter’s flat gray light, the boarded up buildings, the ethereal, silver-leaf interior of Severance Hall, towering horse-chestnuts with blooms like candles, gloomy Lake Erie, the gentle Cuyahoga valley, downtown’s meager skyline—the good, the bad, and the ugly all flow through my blood creating a sense of loyalty and obligation that’s difficult to explain.

It is not that Cleveland doesn’t offer places of natural and manmade beauty; it is that you cannot possibly take them for granted. The scars of industry are livid here: they are, you might say, part of the city’s shame and its hope, its catalyst for re-direction and renovation. On a positive note: the Cuyahoga catching on fire did lead to the passage of the Clean Water Act in 1972, and the creation of the EPA (today, as cautionary reminder and/or badge of shame penance, Great Lakes Brewing Company makes a pale ale called “Burning River”). Today, there are a number of organizations and institutions working collaboratively to improve both economic and environmental sustainability, most notably, Green City Blue Lake, The Cleveland Foundation, and Cleveland Botanical Gardens.

Profile: Russell Atkins

6 May

Here In TheA few months ago, I spoke with the conceptual poet, poetry scholar, and experimental musician Tom Orange about poets who currently live and write in the state of Ohio. Through the course of our discussion, Orange mentioned the little known poet, dramatist, and musician Russell Atkins. Born in Cleveland in 1926, Atkins still resides in the city today.

Orange also mentioned that he recently wrote an essay for a forthcoming anthology showcasing the poetry of Atkins. The collection, titled Russell Atkins: On the Life and Work of a 20th Century American Master and edited by Michael Dumanis and Kevin Prufer, will be released later this year on Pleiades Press as part of their Unsung Masters Series. The series puts out one new collection a year that contains work by, and five-to-six essays about, a neglected American poet or fiction writer. In addition to Atkins’ own writing, the book will feature essays by Aldon Nielsen, Tom Orange, Evie Shockley, Sean Singer, and Tyrone Williams.

In an anticipation of the collection, I found a relatively inexpensive version of Atkins’ 1976 full-length Here In The (Cleveland State University Poetry Center) at an online book retailer. The author’s bio in the back of the book states that he was “one of the first concrete poets in the country and an innovator in poetic drama”; moreover, established poets such as Langston Hughes and Marianne Moore read his poems and championed his work. But more than the literary mythos surrounding the author, I found the book compelling because of the strange and beautiful voice within. Take, for instance, the second stanza of the poem “School Demolition”:

so silently
about the rooms
the autopsy
the moon coroner
          late (29)

This brief and enigmatic image offers us a vision of moonlight slicing through an abandon school that’s being readied for demolition. The moon transforms into a coroner, the building a body, and the city a morgue. To this extent, Atkins addresses the decay of a once great city and foretells the Rust Belt’s continual decline as a result of the difficult economic effects of moving our country’s manufacturing and industrial jobs overseas.

Everywhere through Here In The, the poet surveys the city, its residents, and surroundings, noting how even traditionally beatific images, such as a sunset, can transform into something less gorgeous in the crumbling urban cityscapes. For example, section six of “Irritable Songs” reads in its entirety:

horror of sunset stealths
through the boughs of birch:
sunk in a sigh the whole nauseous red:
the sun’s hideous liquid
fills gutters        frantic
the twigs at the window—
away goes through the air,
old cans abject        by-ways whimper
          —the night sky’s
at its death-fall (27)

Of course, in these “hideous” and “abject” images, Atkins creates a singular, Cleveland-based beauty in his language and the sounds it produces. Yes, while his content focuses on the death of a city, he enlivens that very same material through his poetic technique. Through an aestheticized vision of Cleveland, then, perhaps writers and artists living here (and other cities along the Great Lakes) can find an answer to the manner in which we engage our troubled city: acknowledging its decline, but doing so in a way that honors its inherent beauty.

For more information on Russell Atkins, visit his page at Deep Cleveland or read his work at the Eclipse archive.

continual decline

National Poetry Month Recap

2 May

Thanks so much to everyone who followed along during April for Vouched’s celebration of National Poetry Month. Here’s a round-up of all the  posts (even some non-poetry goodness thrown in for extra oomph, right!?) throughout the month.

S.E. Smith Spotlight at Coldfront

Dossiers: Poetry & Ohio, Mary Biddinger

Peter Davis Poem-Video

Awful Interview with Winston Ward

M.G. Martin Greying Ghost Pamphlet

Peter Schwartz at Robot Melon

Vomit Express by Allen Ginsberg

Single-Sentence Saturday: Alexis Orgera

Heather Christle at Better Magazine

Dossiers: Poetry & Ohio, Frank Giampietro

Awful Interview with Gina Myers (redux)

Wendy Burk Poem-Video

Laurel Hunt at Forklift, Ohio

NOÖ Journal and Vouched Books Collaboration

Awful Interview with Cristen Conger

Interview with Alexis Pope

Vince Carter Poem-Video

Single-Sentence Saturday: Randall Jarrell

Natalie Lyalin at notnostrums

Hold It Down by Gina Myers

Awful Interview with John Carroll

Kirsty Singer Poem-Video

I FEEL YES by Nick Sturm

Awful Interview with Jayne O’Connor

Brandon Amico at Sixth Finch

Canarium Books preview at The Collagist

Jenny Zhang video

Single-Sentence Saturday: Dean Young

Note Pinned To The Back Of A Dress by Aubrey Lenahan

The Chapbooks of Jeff Alessandrelli

Melissa Broder Poem-Video

Ashley Farmer at EG

Interview with Abraham Smith

Single-Sentence Saturday: Heather Christle

Diana Salier Poem-Video

Dzanc Poetry Prize Announcement

Dossier: Poetry & Ohio, Cathy Wagner

Interview with Hosho McCreesh

RCNC Reading in Akron videos

Crapalachia by Scott McClanahan

30 x Lace revisited

Matt Hart Debacle Debacle recordings