Tag Archives: Mathias Svalina

Indie Lit Classics: Svalina, Xu, Killebrew

12 Sep

MathiasI Am A Very Productive Entrepreneur

Mathias Svalina

Mud Luscious Press, 2011

Add this book to the list of reasons it’s a shame good ol’ Mud Luscious Press shut the doors, blinds, chimney. I’ve read a major portionhunk of their fine books–go ahead and checkmark them all reasons it’s a shame–and this was the last of the bunch that I scurried inside of (so far; got that newish Kimball collection on my to-read list). That’s a shame, too, that I waited so long. Svalina here talks as this fella who has created many lifetimes worth of businesses—intrusive and surreal, heart-wrenching and ingenious. Fancy stereos installed in people’s heads. Wardrobe swap company where you get the rags and robes of someone who recently kicked the bucket. A tour company that shows Americans around their own neighborhoods. But beyond a list of clever constructions what makes this book a small press classic is how it develops each business, not as a professional entity alone, but as a pulsing, dynamic piece of this fella’s life —a block of the self that can fail and can grow and can loop and can puncture. There’s a flurry of these list/series type books in the small press world, many of them super cool!, but here Svalina has captured the fascinating world of creation, of meaning-making, of not letting failure keep one from failing again. “Productive” has many connotations, and Svalina’s telling of the story over and over captures the momentum as it shifts from creating a useful business to creating a large quantity of businesses, the heap as its own kind of product. And beyond, what is most impressive (and sure to be long-lasting) about this work and the world(s) he’s captured is the book’s ability to elude monotony and crippling disappointment; each one subtly shake us further into the throes of this book’s capitalism and unquenchable entrepreneurial spirit. And I hope the people who want to read this book in the future are successful entrepreneurs because apparently a print copy on Amazon is gonna cost them a hundred (or more!) bucks, though of course, it’s still available in fancy ebook form for us less successful folks.

I started this one business that applied to the eyes of our clients the opposite of blinders, what we called Seeingers.

See everything! Every detail before you in intense exactitude! This was our pitch. Our scientists stumbled upon these Seeingers during an experiment on the bone structures of kaleidoscopes. It was a failed venture, until two of the scientists, depressed at their impending unemployment, got gin-drunk in the lab & ended up half-naked with the bones of kaleidoscopes strapped around their faces. What they saw in that moment they could not describe. Later, during his debriefing, the senior scientist said it was the visual equivalent of when you bite through your tongue & suddenly feel how your teeth are both weapons & exposed bones.

The Seeingers made every detail as important as if you were looking into the face of your child for the first time. No patch of spackle or inflamed pore was ignorable. Each dent in the hood of the car after the hailstorm was unique & therefore astounding. The creases on the pants of the person on the other end of the subway were as vivid as the exclamatory breasts of the woman in the window, removing her shirt in a Greek statuary flourish at the exact moment you happened to look up toward the sky.

Read the rest at Everyday Genius.

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You Are Not DeadWendy

Wendy Xu

Cleveland State University Poetry Center, 2013

Before someone shrieks against this being a indie press classic, let me explain: Though released on a university press just this year (though hey hey right right a university poetry press is often a smidge of a thing, too), Wendy Xu’s first book deserves to be in this here list because of its origins in the small press magazine scene. Let’s mosey into the acknowledgements list where we find tops small press journals like Dark Sky Magazine, Forklift, Ohio, ILK, Phantom Limb, and many more. This book is a triumph in putting together the pieces—the poems lifted from the indie press world to win a university prize, the wacky and startling pieces of life smushed together, voice melding with passion to create a whole new hum. It’s impossible to fall asleep inside a Wendy Xu poem. What you once think you saw (“Here there is an altar made of sand. It dismantles/no less than itself to please the sea.”) gets quietly disassembled and brought back to new life five poems later (“I put some sand in a jar and wait/for it to mean. Some horses wade into/the dangerous ocean because what else/is more important to see?”). It’s impossible to fall over dead from boredom in a Wendy Xu poem, though of course, she reminds us one day we will die, in her ending sequence, each called “We Are Both Sure to Die” (See below). But ultimately these poems, slapped with that sticker You Are Not Dead, remind us that time is not now, there’s still joyous life and tragic sorrow and paranoid delusion and impossible connections waiting for us, blowing into our faces—“In my past life I was just a math/equation and then I got promoted. Now I have/way more variables.”

Without coffee and only very minor explosions
to spell our names. One will actually just be
a bird meeting a clear pane of glass. Fanfare
and various stems of wine. People circulating
in a slow, meaningful fashion around
other people exchanging gifts. One time you
gave me a gift. One time everything
was rare and dispensed in intricate
packaging. One time it was a real accomplishment
to find someone a coat they could wear
into a mountain and its forgiving silence.

Read the rest (and another from this sequence) at Diagram.

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KillebrewFlowers

Paul Killebrew

Canarium Books, 2010

Mr. Ware brought forth Killebrew’s new book, Ethical Consciousness, in his great style not that long ago. But here I wanna poke back further, into Killebrew’s debut collection, Flowers. Flowers is one of those rare books that gives off a mist of rowdy and loud, yet still bends its knees to talk insightfully into your face, an effusive mix of the emotional and the intellect. Meaning: Killebrew is a pure delight, a fuse lit before the fireworks even begin; each poem in Flowers demands to be read—read aloud, read to someone, read with your heartrate a bunch of notches higher. Killebrew relentlessly searches, asks questions, demands from us and the world (answers okay I guess, but also cooperation, curiosity and enthusiasm). In “For Beth Ward,” Killebrew begins, “One of my basic human dilemmas/goes something like, Does metaphor/contain us, or do we extend ourselves/out into it?” and as he moves from himself, the “my,” to include the “us,” we relearn what contains us, what shapes us, what room we have to wiggle.

…Dark blue clouds approach
from the west like a future from California
full of the natural tragedies of living there:
mudslides, earthquakes, house sinking into the ocean,
B-movie actors in positions of public authority.
I hope it’s not all happening on my account.

The coasts shape our boundaries
and in this way define us, though sometimes
you forget all about them, forget that you’ve got ears
on either side of your head, that a lake
in Carlisle, Illinois isn’t, in fact, the ocean,
but just a place out in the corn
where people in shorts circle arbitrary triangles
under the fact of dark blue clouds arriving without thunder.
The clouds just sit there, a quiet, heavy metaphor
we share like a giant backyard.

Wow, no, don’t be thinking Killebrew is searching for meaning, is trying to convey meaning, but rather, he exports ideas to bend this world backwards into a new light. It’s impossible to know where our next step will land us, where Killebrew’s next breath will guide us, but two books into this dude’s career, I’m invested and committed and will hop in the buggy for the wild ride every time, all along the way asking the question I ask all my pals who haven’t read this fella, “Why aren’t we throwing parades for Paul Killebrew?”

Indie Lit Classics: Greying Ghost Press

5 Jul

In 2009, Ryan Call called Greying Ghost Press “a press to be excited about” and he was right and is right and seems like will be right for a good while to come. Check out Ryan’s spotlight from four years ago over. Then check out the rest of this post for 2013 Greying Ghost chatter from myself and others.

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The first Greying Ghost chapbook I ever encountered was I Am In The Air Right Now by Kathryn Regina. It might’ve been the first chapbook I ever bought myself, like looking back to remember the self-titled Savage Garden CD as the first I ever bought with my own money. I had never seen such a skinny, beautiful book–mirrored title, diagram stuck in the middle, maroon page spooning the cover. And the poems! The poems are not shy, though they might want you to think they are. In the air, they are, with their whimsy and their spirit, their new touch on the old heartbreak.

from “i thought there would be no one in the air”

the air is empty but

there are several families living in my chest.

I am going to open my own store and sell only

things that i especially like. puppets, diet coke,

spell books, beautiful rocks. i am going to sell

these things to the families in my arteries.

some of the people in the families die. there is a funeral

in my kneecap. the grandmother throws herself

into the grave. the children play at empty plots.

And 99 numbered copies later, poof, they are gone, have been gone, tucked away on select important shelves, just like so many of GG’s finest releases.

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Matt DeBenedictis, publisher of Safety Third Enterprises, on the radness of Greying Ghost Press:

Every chapbook I’ve ever ordered from Greying Ghost Press felt like they had me in mind when they made it, or they had a faithful hope in a cumulative reaction of cornerstone thoughts on first glance: the little details etch themselves like romantic gestures that can’t fade into the past.A circular die cut on a thick cover stock reveals a map and a nestled ampersand (J.A. Tyler’s Our Us & We), books folded like pamphlets are given wraps and buttons like they are gifts. I feel like a thieving’ little shit when I open some of them. I’ve been tempted before to just immediately frame their chapbooks on the wall (without opening a page) and just let the reviews on Goodreads be enough of a satisfaction.

The care that Greying Ghost Press puts to each chapbook is a knowledge that printed words are far from over; we still have so much imagination on how to rest ink onto paper.

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Cassandra Gillig, keeper of that dumb poetry blog, on GG’s hosting the Corduroy Mountain archives:

Probably the part of Greying Ghost I enjoy the most (since it is very easily sharable & free to access & this is something of great value to anyone looking to get into a press & find out what they are doing) is their online archiving of Corduroy Mountain.  Corduroy Mountain was, unarguably, something too special for human consumption–a literary magazine worth all of the awe & envy most can & should muster.

You can see everything that was published in Corduroy Mountain on Greying Ghost’s Issuu Site, which is an incredible thing.  CM also does a great job of showcasing the perfect brilliance GG publishes on a regular basis.  In addition to making things that are frustratingly gorgeous, GG has published some of my favorite writers.  Becca Klaver’s Inside A Red Corvette is kinda funny, way good, & so honest.  Dan Boehl’s sometimes perfectly sparse and always overwhelmingly perspicacious Les Miseres et les Mal-Heurs de la Guerre is nearly too wonderful for words.  Paige Taggert, Kathleen Rooney, Jac Jemc, & Sasha Fletcher all released stupidly good things with the press.  Not to mention the JA Tyler & Schomburg chapbooks which I feel are adored universally by those who have read them.

The appeal of Greying Ghost is, of course, their willingness to take risks and to publish writers who are experimenting with form, and, while this is not necessarily the first press to do it, the work GG has championed is perfect and enriching and, wholly, presses like GG are the reason small press publishing is so exciting right now.

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Matthew Mahaney, author of Your Attraction to Sharp Machines (Bat Cat Press), on his favorite GG chapbook, Sugar Means Yes, by Julia Cohen and Mathias Svalina:

The silver-blue wallpaper cover pages define the room of this chapbook, the physical borders of a world in which brothers and sisters use foxes, masks, razors, and salt to teach us the true, dark meaning of every object and action, and where a new lesson will find you each time you visit.

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And when you order one of these fine fine cared-for chapbooks, the envelope also comes stuffed with bonus goodies, a.k.a. pamphlets, these little brushstrokes, printed and folded goodness, from folks like Danniel Schoonebeek, Wendy Xu, Jennifer H. Fortin, Brian Foley, and more.

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Carrie Lorig, author of NODS. (Magic Helicopter Press), on her two favorite pamphlets (one of which happens to be mine, awww shucks, WOW):

In South Korea (a town called Imjingak / 임진각), there is a Pamphlet/Leaflet Launch Site. It is about getting information across a young, sore border. Now that there is a ban, and they use large balloons.

According to the OED, the word ‘pamphlet’ is named for a popular love poem, Pamphilus, seu de Amore, with a Greek name (It has not been tested in French. -OED) that means “friend to everyone.”

At my catering job, during a lull in service, the sweating girl next to me mumbles, “If your wedding is going to be this big, you need to just do the food family style.” Big bowls for whole tables. Passing and touching moves it fast, spreads it fast.

Pamphlets, flyers, leaflets. Like ants or my friend Bridget’s bees, I hardly imagine them alone. I see them as the sudden waterfall swim they cause in the air. I see them devouring a part of the ground.

My two Greying Ghost pamphlets were pressed to me. Right before M.G. Martin left a dance party in Boston, he put “Sister, Thank You,” (#47) in my hand. It was fucksnowing, I’m sure, when I opened the manila envelope with “Don’t Reason” (#40) by Tyler Gobble inside.

“Don’t Reason” – The symmetry, the railing against the title, in Gobble’s “Don’t Reason” is as beautiful and smallbig as HALLELUJAH. “I can’t believe / that was you “, “You can’t believe / the words,” “The fact we need / God,” “The fact we need / Meth Sun,” “How can they talk / about so many overturned cars,” “I heard a man / singing a song / on a bus” A prayer is a thing you assemble and aim with don’t reason. You assemble it in the face of no galaxy you can reach into. You put your head in the fridge to cool off. You don’t do it to get an understanding of why we send these floating, desperate chunks of flower and human ash and plane crash and hum drifting out.

“Sister, Thank You” – I don’t always think repetition is as conscious as we insist it is. What if every time you say a word, you are not as aware that it is the same word as the previous word you just uttered as you are that you are saying the word however you are in that moment, on that part of the page, in that blank space of the conversation. It doesn’t matter what comes after it or before it. This might be how the constant onslaught of thank you interrupted by “roses, sister, language, mouth, tongue, deep, without, bones, skin” is thinking about repetition. I can echo through them all together, taking in the longitude and population and spelling out carefully as it gets big enough to be a Thank You nation-state. Or, I can encounter each of them alone, failing alone, struggling alone, to get to a sister. There are 11 rocks in this one, two in that one. A beluga that won’t be touched unless you are naked.

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Jamie Iredell, author of lots of good stuff like The Book of Freaks (Future Tense Books), on the lasting goodness of Greying Ghost Press:

I’ve pretty much always loved GG. This goes back to the early days of the “online lit” thing, or “alt lit,” whatever you wanna call it. And maybe they weren’t even really the “early days” either, but whatever. I bought Peter Berghoef’s “News of the Haircut,” “Help” by Adam Fieled, “At The Pulse,” by Laura Carter (a very close friend of many years), “I Will Unfold You With My Hairy Hands” by Shane Jones, “The Tornado Is Not A Surrealist” by Brian Foley, “Walden Book” by Allen Bramhall (this was a huge book for me; it was amazing and amazingly designed), and “Naturalistless” by Christopher Rizzo. I was blown away by these books, and at the time I was writing my own stuff and was publishing it in literary magazines. Carl was, at the time, putting together stuff for the first Corduroy Mountain issue, and I submitted. He liked what I’d written, and asked if I had enough to make a chapbook. That was the middle section (“When I Moved to Nevada”) of what became my first book, Prose. Poems. a Novel. Since all of that went down, I’ve still been a GG fan, as Carl has continued to produce amazing work: “Inside A Red Corvette” by Becca Klaver, “I Am In The Air Right Now” by Kathryn Regina, “Our Us & We” by J.A. Tyler, “Pretend You’ll Do It Again” by Josh Russell, “Sky Poems” by Nate Pritts, “The Poughkeepsiad” by Joshua Harmon. And they just keep coming. Amazing books, Careful attention to language and design. Carl Annarummo is a diamond in coal field of contemporary lit.

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Two of my favorite GG releases, for both their perfect design and dropping-of-the-jaw poems, are Imaginary Portraits by Joshua Ware (full disclosure tag: Vouched contributor) and Plus or Minus by Weston Cutter. Two very different books, but paired together in my heart. Ware’s is a pocket-sized thing, sturdy dark dark cover with die-cut window for the title to peek out from its yellow home. Cutter’s book is sheathed in a map. Ware’s poems are vignettes masquerading as visions. Cutter’s poems are uncompromising meditations. Moving poems and unique cases, these are two of the newer and most fitting representations of the stellar work Greying Ghost produces.

from Cutter’s “Yours, Alaska”:

in cragginess and distance, in separation

and bearing; in your imagination Alaska

I want to know if you see my Minnesota

as the dumb cousin pestering for a pass

during the post-Thanksgiving football game

and what about Montana, Alaska? Okay,

no one can ever be as cold, Alaska, but

let’s start a band, call ourselves the Chills:

you’ll wear a trucker’s hat, play the bass,

lay a beat for the rest of us to throb

longingly along to but Alaska you know

you can’t stay frozen forever, yes?

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“The quality of their productions alone make them one of the most sought after small presses to work with — if you ever get the chance, jump at it!” – Hosho McCreesh, author of several awesome books

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Grab yourself a subscription for Greying Ghost’s 2013/2014 catalog or pick up one of the few past releases still available. This stuff is hot.

Heavy Feather Review 1.2

4 Sep

$ At $2.99, Heavy Feather Review is a solid chunk of a literary deal to pump your fist at. Seriously, try it. It feels nice, huh? To get such a variety of voices and slick word combos and happy bundles of story. This second issue of Heavy Feather Review has its own fist pumping, fireworks bursting out, bright lights in the shape of work from F. Daniel Rzciznek, Mathias Svalina, David Tomaloff, Robert Lopez, and a collaboration by Nathan Moore and W.F. Roby, among a long list of other rad writers. The editors of HFR have plopped down nearly two hundred PDF pages of wild work ranging from slice-your-throat lyrical poems to tense short stories to self-clensing essays.

^ The two prose poems by Mathias Svalina are presents, have presence, present strange lessons for weird kids, wake up! stories instead of bedtime ones, where the speaker lets You have it, the way it is, self as a plane with a waterfall inside, a poor soul facing “The Coming Wagon,” the second beast piece, which begins:

The light that rises on you, gray like the rocks your brother stood on while he tied his noose below the wooden bridge, showing you the coming wagon pulled by a mule, changes you into something flat.

* “THE BROTHER PACT,” by David Tomaloff, gives a shape, this one page hunk, to a commonality, the fighting of brothers, how they behave, how they hold each other foremost when a father comes knocking, Tomaloff’s story giving what we all need, reminders!, of what everyday together living looks like, how blood love behaves, as it ends:

His angry father voice, a voice booming in through the window, it says to us, I’LL COME UP THERE & I’LL GIVE YOU SOMETHING COLD ALL RIGHT. &these brothers, they are certain that he will. Brother eyes meet through a thick &knowing silence. Brother mouths never speak it, but between brothers there is a brother pact, even in times of war. &brothers, best of all, they know of this.

! F. Daniel Rzicznek coughs out pieces that shook this dude up the most, several sections from a piece called “Leafmold,” these full sprints that sweep by and snatch up the Svalina pieces’ wild world making and the Tomaloff story’s ever-beating Heart, skirting around nothing, slapping every part of the drum, a joy to read, to speak aloud, to bring in my skull and see what I can make of it, like this from the middle of the third piece:

A part of home: goodbye we say to our friends who are moving seven hours away—water hits the floor, assassinates a minor conglomerate of dust; a light over the front porch, an absence at the periphery of illumination—a source distanced, like having to swim to the library.

& Robert Lopez goes the other direction, beating at a hypothetical door, this idea of a movie where the lead character, dirtied in a world of heartbreak, gives her bathroom “That Kind of Cleaning,” Lopez giving the connection between movies and real life its own deep cleaning, representation and responsibility called out, as if to say, despite the fact it “will not be a good movie,” it must be done, this movie, this cleaning, this kind of change:

This will not be a good movie, either, but that shouldn’t stop someone from making it. They should have the movie star drink a quart of gin and smoke four packs of cigarettes and keep all of her hair up under that bandana and listen to every album in her collection loud.

# Towards the end of this stellar issue, Nathan Moore and W.F. Roby shout out, pound through the mess of “[p]iles of liquor licenses, expired jury notice, brittle mail on brittle paper. Bags of rice thrown at our wedding,” through “[t]he butt can tipped—a real mess dents the corner where a mop rests, flames up the stalk, pops the decorative corn display, no shit. And my brother’s gay or so he shared over café con leche,” two poems of bouncing off the difficult walls, a thrill to read, true movement seeking the answers they pose of “What do you want?” and “What excellence is this?”

– Do not be fooled by the fact that most of my favorite pieces are the one page type, that’s my style, my magnet of love, but seriously, this issue stretches, moves, big stories, wild poems, lists, etc. etc. etc., what a good magazine does, good pieces! good pieces!

= Yes, you gotta buy this issue, man, support this new venture, already two issues spilling out so much goodness, not to mention these folks’ great reading series, all coming out at you Heavy Feather Review style, which is to say Bold and Big and Varied, okay.

Mathias Svalina Sees Wondrous Things

19 Aug

I saw Svalina read at the PANK/Annalemma Divination reading at last year’s AWP, and he owned the microphone. He read longer than anyone else, I think, but I don’t think anyone cared. I know no one at my table did, and my table was full up with 6 other fellow writers as jaded as I am with bad readings. There was clapping, hollering, laughter. At one point, I laughed so hard I lurched backwards, I bumped into a passing waitress and there was a clattering and shattering of glass. Mathias didn’t break steam, kept right on, his words pounding and pounding.

It’s awesome to see this piece of Svalina’s recently in Everyday Genius, and to see how he can own the page just as easily as he owns the air. This is an excerpt of his book, I am a Very Productive Entrepreneur recently out from Mud Luscious Press. I highly recommend.

I started this one business that applied to the eyes of our clients the opposite of blinders, what we called Seeingers.

See everything! Every detail before you in intense exactitude! This was our pitch. Our scientists stumbled upon these Seeingers during an experiment on the bone structures of kaleidoscopes. It was a failed venture, until two of the scientists, depressed at their impending unemployment, got gin-drunk in the lab & ended up half-naked with the bones of kaleidoscopes strapped around their faces. What they saw in that moment they could not describe. Later, during his debriefing, the senior scientist said it was the visual equivalent of when you bite through your tongue & suddenly feel how your teeth are both weapons & exposed bones.

Read the rest at Everyday Genius.

*Video of the Divination reading is at PANK blog. I highly suggest watching it–one of the best readings I’ve ever been to ever.