Tag Archives: How We Light

Still Friends: 4,113 Miles of Impossible Pleasure

17 Oct

book suitcase

For three weeks in August I drove 4,113 miles in my blue Toyota Yaris for the Finally Be Friends tour in support of my book, How We Light, from H_NGM_N BKS. More importantly though, the trip was an elaborate excuse to overlap wounds with so many incredible poets, friends, and new friends. “Travel” and “poem” are bound in my mental lexicon. Long poems, long trips, they’re the same for me. It’s fun to go a long way just to be a person somewhere else. So, avoiding the cliche, it’s not that poems “take me somewhere,” that they transport me. The poems themselves are somewhere. And not only that, they create the conditions to grasp the coordinates of an elsewhere (internal and external) that we often describe as mystery or the unknown, a space of bewilderment (proper to Fanny Howe’s description of the word). An impossible pleasure.

Couches are what make this all possible. Any poet who has traveled to read will tell you this. And I think it’s important to acknowledge how necessary and incredible an act that is. Many of us know each other through and in poetry and our poems, and the truth is that a lot of us don’t really know each other (or not yet), that we’re not friends in the most traditional sense, but that poetry is the community we share and build our friendships around. We came for the poems but found out pretty quick there was a lot more there. So many of my poems are directly for friends, but “for” isn’t quite right. Rather, the poems model and extend and accentuate every kind of relationship. The poems are all we have. Also, each other. So when a poet is in your city, when they bring their body’s voice into your lush corner of being, to offer them that couch, that air mattress, that cup of coffee in the morning is nothing less than a spiritual pact.

With these photos from my trip I’m vouching for every couch and every friend and every conversation I had along the way, for the affirmation of our impossible pleasure. May there be love and mercy in your green mornings: B.J. Love, Erika Jo Brown, Zach Powers, Mark Cugini, Laura Spencer, Danniel Schoonebeek, Paige Taggart, Amy Lawless, Nat Otting, Sasha Fletcher, Hafizah Geter, Jason Koo, Tiffany Gibert, Sarah Green, Alexis Pope, Justin Crutchley, Joshua Kleinberg, Chris Smith, Jared White, Jon Pan, Tom Forkin, Russell Dillon, Adam Fell, Nate Pritts, Matt Hart, Jen Fortin, Ben Kopel, Curtis Purdue, Roberto Montes, Josh Fomon, Sandra Beasley, Tyler Christensen, the guy who yelled “IS JOSE HERE?” during the DC reading, Joel Coggins, Dave Carulli, Michelle Becker, Jamie Suvak, Mike Krutel, Curt Brown, Sarah Marcus, Karl Vorndran, Todd Winter (my Dad’s friend who bought a book for his Mom, whose name is Marge, so that I got to write “Dear Marge, Hello!” in her book), Jimmy Bigley, Maria Varonis, Aby Sullivan, Heather Christle, Chris DeWeese, Eric Appleby, Tricia Suit, Cathy Wagner, Dana Ward, Austin Hayden, Patricia Murphy, Adam Clay, Ada Limon, Aubrey Lenahan, Travis Wayne Denton, Chad Prevost, Ashley Hamilton, Daniel Lindley (the chef whose heated pool we debauched in Chattanooga), Mike Young, Gale Thompson, Laura Solomon, Wendy Xu, Jess Grover, Holly Amos, Dolly Lemke, Dan Rosenberg, Daniel Beauregard, Laura Relyea, Amy McDaniel, Bruce Covey, Gina Myers, Kory Calico, Alexis Orgera, Caroline Cabrera, Phil Muller, Miley Cyrus, Steven Karl, Hitomi Yoshio, Scott Cunningham, and Carrie Lorig. From the depths of the light, THANK YOU.

south carolina

Day One in Chapin, South Carolina: re-writing The Prelude

savannah bridge

Day Two in Savannah, Georgia: Talmadge Memorial Bridge

savannah roar

Day Two in Savannah, Georgia: have fun

flannery tub

Day Two in Savannah, Georgia: in Flannery O’Connor’s tub

mark and laura

Day Three in Washington, DC: Mark and Laura at Madam’s Organ in Adam’s Morgan

josh mark alexis nick

Day Four in Brooklyn: with Mark, Josh, and Alexis

brooklyn team

Day Four in Brooklyn: after Unnameable

kleinberg fire escape

Day Four in Brooklyn: fire escape / Akron Low Life

willa morning

Day Five in Brooklyn: Willa morning

russell's place

Day Five in the West Village: Russell’s H_NGM_N H_NG__T

lincoln memorial

Day Six in Washington, DC: pre-shutdown whiskey memorial

pittsburgh friendship

Day Seven in Pittsburgh, PA: somebody had been gluing protractors to public property

furnance run

Day Eight in Akron, OH: with Jamie in Furnace Run, Cuyahoga Valley National Park

krutel cave tree

Day Eight in Akron, OH: Krutel in tree cave

aby boob

Day Eight in Akron, OH: the only time this will ever happen

carrie yellow springs

Day Nine in Yellow Springs, OH: Carrie climbs and smells water. Says it works.

austin cincinnati

Day Nine in Cincinnati, OH: Austin Hayden is full of little brothers

cincinnati eric's dog

Day Nine in Cincinnati, OH: Carrie and Olive

notley horse lecture

Day Ten in Lexington, KY: 2-hour horse butt Alice Notley lecture

adam and penny

Day Ten in Lexington, KY: Adam and Penny and IPA

boone homestead

Day Ten in Lexington, KY: an American tradition

carrie lexington

Day Ten in Lexington, KY: black sheep light

woodford reserve

Day Eleven in Lexington, KY: woodford reserve morning

chattanooga pool

Day Eleven in Chattanooga, TN: lesson in how your one-night episode of the Real World is waiting for you in the most unlikely place

chattanooga underwear

Day Twelve in Chattanooga, TN: a rich person’s wet underwear was in my car so I put it in this plant instead

athens with wendy

Day Twelve in Athens, GA: with Wendy with Jess beard looking xoxo

athens team

Day Twelve in Athens, GA: softball team

atlanta reading

Day Thirteen in Atlanta, GA: Amy’s living room starring vegan chili

fort lauderdale

Day Fifteen in Ft. Lauderdale, FL: is any of this chartreuse?


Day Fifteen in Ft. Lauderdale, FL: Caro at Green Bar

del ray reading

Day Sixteen in Boca Rotan, FL: the best reading that no one came to

caro and phil backyard

Day Seventeen in Ft. Lauderdale, FL: where is your tiny airplane today?

steven miami

Day Seventeen in Miami, FL: dork swagger / leaves of lol

miami pool

Day Eighteen in Miami, FL: Steven’s pool ok

phil cupcake

Day Eighteen in Ft. Lauderdale, FL: there was shit in Phil’s yacht yard and a candle in this vegan devil food cupcake

sarasota pike

Day Nineteen in Sarasota, FL: Pike and Heron

door poor

Day Twenty in Tallahassee, FL: cleaned out my car



Awful Interview: Nick Sturm

30 Sep

Sturm3H_NGM_N Books recently released Nick Sturm’s debut collection of poems How We LightLike most of Sturm’s work, the book exhibits a certain exuberance wherein the speaker makes claims such as:

                                                        There’s nothing
I’d rather be doing than having
elaborate hedonistic parties     Than using
my mouth to love you (28)

To some extent, the book’s enthusiasm for life, for friends, for love, for poetry acts as a “fuck you” to the “Darkness” (41) that sometimes can envelop of our emotional and psychic states. But more than functioning as an antidote or counterbalance to negative aspects of thought and life, these  poems also work as affirmation, in and of themselves. Take, for instance, the conclusion of the collection’s final poem “I Feel Yes.” The speaker champions experiences that are “both meaningful / and valuable”:

                       because meaning and value
are unbearably soldered to the meat
of living, so that we have nothing but happiness (88)

Yes, these poems are just as much (if not more) about creating “happiness” than dismantling the “Darkness.”

Over the past couple of week, Sturm answered some questions for me over email, so as to provide a bit more insight into the creation of his manuscript and offered some ideas about the writing found within his book.

Much of your first full-length collection of poems, How We Light (H_NGM_N BOOKS, 2013), contains material from four chapbooks that were released over the course of the past couple years. I was hoping you could talk about the process of re-imagining these poems in service of a broader context. By that, I mean, how did your relationship to these particular chapbooks (and the poems therein) alter or shift during the sequencing process? Did you learn anything new or different about them when considering their placement in the book? What types of resonances did you discover between them? To that end, were there any points of friction or dissonance that were problematic for you or need to be resolved? How did the publication of these chapbooks help you along, ultimately, in the development of How We Light?

Chapbooks deserve their own lives as chapbooks. They’re a vital publishing form – intimate, textural, concentrated, audacious. They put pressure on how we think about and about making books. Which is to say I don’t think chapbooks exist only to serve what we call, simply because of quantity, full-length books. Four chapbooks that come to mind as resolutely full-length, however you want that to mean: Matthew Rohrer’s A Ship Loaded With Sequins Has Gone Down, Bernadette Mayer’s The Helens of Troy, NY, Carrie Lorig’s nods., Dana Ward’s The Squeakquel. Thinking about this answer, it’s important for me to say that when the process of talking about the book began I did not have a “complete” book, not at all. Nate Pritts, the editor-hero of H_NGM_N, and I had a long conversation about this exact question: how do chapbooks come together into a book? At first I resisted dismantling the chapbooks to make a book, but the problem was exactly that I was thinking about the process as “dismantling” – the chapbooks have their own autonomy and time – it’s not possible to take them apart. But I couldn’t really account for the parallax between the chapbooks and the time of the book until I had newer poems to stand in. Once those poems existed, the shape of How We Light became intuitive. I realized I didn’t have to “make” an organic emotional structure – I had to grow it, get wet in it, be hurt by it, and that’s mostly a matter of failing, flailing, and having fun.

How We Light contains two long poems: the title poem, located midway through the book, and “I Feel Yes,” which concludes the collection. Could you talk a bit about long poems, generally speaking: What do you they offer you as a writer? What long poems by other poets have influenced your writing? Why and how? How does your process differ when composing a long poem? What are the difficulties inherent to that process? More specific to How We Light, how do you think the two poems in your book affect the reader’s experience, as well as alter or shift the manner in which we read the shorter poems?

For a while I was only writing poems that fit on a page, and that was necessary – I needed to write a lot of poems. As you’ve talked about, most of the poems in my first chapbook, What a Tremendous Time We’re Having!, play around the shape of a sonnet – they’re all quite dense. When it came out, my reaction to its material presence in the world was to write something sprawling and digressive. I had been reading Anselm Berrigan’s book-length poem Notes from Irrelevance and Padgett Powell’s novel of questions, The Interrogative Mood, and I sat down and in one weekend wrote “I Feel Yes.” At the time, it was a way of unbalancing myself. Going past the edge of the page over and over was exhilarating, if only because I was curious to know what would happen if I kept not stopping. Over the last year I’ve been mostly only writing long poems, which means I haven’t been writing many poems. But that’s not true. I have been writing a lot of poems, they’re just absorbed into larger patterns after the fact. The idea of writing a discrete poem on a single page is kind of impossible to me right now. And that’s not a choice I made. The radical shifts in the textures of the circumstances of my life made long form poems a necessity. As far as process, it means my thinking is more accumulative, disparate, open-ended. I never feel like I’m finishing anything anymore. That makes me anxious and unbounded at the same time. Sometimes it feels more like translating than writing, as if there’s an original poem somewhere, I don’t know where, and I’m slowly distorting it into this new thing. Nevertheless, I spend the time there because long form poems allow for collaboration with the indeterminate, self-reflexive mystery and magic of the forces that I feel most (non)human inhabiting. In How We Light, I imagine the long poems making the other poems forget they are poems. I mean that they might create the possibility of poetic potential that is greater than any distinct poem. No one wants to just read poems.

What types of projects or poems are you currently working on/writing? How do you see your newer poems working with (or against) the poems in How We Light? Is there a development or progression in your writing that engages or moves away from your previous concerns? How so and why?

I can’t seem to write if I’m not writing with someone else, so a few collaborative projects with the usual suspects have been underway. More than anything right now I’m just soaking in things. I’m taking three amazing classes, a theory survey, Postmodern Tragedy, and Žižek’s Politics, that are stretching and overlapping all the patterns, and teaching two classes, one on Postmodern Joy and another on short story and short film. Jeff Hipsher and I started a new reading series in Tallahassee called Dear Marge, Hello. I’m watching a lot of Ingmar Bergman and Woody Allen movies. I read and loved Lisa Jarnot’s biography of Robert Duncan. I’m helping edit an essay-anthology of experimental female poets for The Akron Series in Contemporary Poetics. I’m eating more obscure fruit. I was lucky to be able to spend most of August doing a tour of readings from How We Light and after spending over 4,000 miles with those poems and friends I was able to see the shape of a new manuscript called Outside in the Aporia Days. It has an epigraph from a Prince song. I don’t know, but I want that to be a sure sign of progress. One of the new poems is here in PEN. Whatever this book turns out to be, it’s coming out of my obsession with long poems, which doesn’t necessarily mean my concerns are changing, just transferring. I recently edited an issue of NÖÖ Weekly focusing on long poems and sequences – I am letting those poems and poets permeate me. I’ve been working to be more permeable in general lately, more weather-like, amalgamated. I have a reading list for the winter that includes Alice Notley, Jules Verne, and Peter Sloterdijk. Other than that, I’m happy to watch so many other poets’ successes lately, like forthcoming books from Tyler Gobble and Alexis Pope, both from Coconut, and Mike Krutel’s chapbook Best Poems from Big Lucks. I’m just going to keep writing poems with these people until everything is a skylight.

Best Thing I’ve Seen This Month: Book Trailer for How We Light by Nick Sturm

17 Jul

This video, shot and edited by Dave Carulli for Nick Sturm’s debut full-length How We Light, is probably the best book trailer I’ve ever seen. I know I know, I’m getting hard to listen to here. (Check out all the Sturm love here so far.)

I love Nick Sturm and lemonade and skateboarding and these poems already A LOT. Though my opinion is still up in the air on balloons. GOSH. Anyhow, this is an incredible thing to watch. Watch it. Feel incredible. We all deserve it.

You can glow in the title poem in the new issue of Coconut.

And now that you feel incredible, go check out the book page and consider picking up a copy.