Tag Archives: Mike Krutel

Best Thing I’ve Read Today: Best Poems

24 Feb

MKBPWebCover3Recently, Big Lucks (in conjunction with Narrow House Editions) published its first, official release: Mike Krutel’s chapbook Best Poems.

The poems in Krutel’s chapbook (which is, incidentally, his first, official release as well) wander from line to line and image to image in strange, half-lit worlds; or, as the speaker of “Best Picture of Me in a Tub of Rotary Phones” says:

You keep me waiting,
grown man that sleepwalks his
way down a well to linger. Wandering
full of worlds. I don’t know
where to turn or if there’s any
way out of this mirror. (22)

Yes, Best Poems often reads as if it were the secret dream journal of a somnambulist “Wandering” through “worlds” filled with words; and in this world of language, both the speaker and the reader become lost in a playful labyrinth of “mirrors” so that they “don’t know / where to turn” in order to escape.

Of course, why would you want to escape? Because, indeed, getting lost within these poems ends up being a lot of fun. Take, for instance, the opening lines of the collection’s first poem, simply titled “Best”:

Tonight is night of no sleep.
Cannonballs over the playground.
The cat rubs a glass frame off the mantle.
Somewhere there is a woman, comfortably lost
inside a small idea. You are that woman
and above you are your own best guesses.
How the vehicles are doing real things.
How the sun shoots its umbilical light around,
straight into night. There is sound outside.
It could be dandelions screaming
like engines or the causeways between
us. You are a small woman. I am holding
these individually wrapped letters
between the scaffold of my ribcage. All indications
say I should know better by now. (1)

Like the somnambulist before him, the insomniac in the “night of no sleep” encounters an equally strange, half-lit world during the hour of the wolf. Haunted by both the surreal (e.g. “dandelions screaming”) and the mundane (e.g. “The cats rubs a glass frame”), the sleepwalker and the sleepless, the speaker and the reader, all become “comfortably lost / inside a small idea,” a small image, and a small world made up of the “sound outside” ourselves.

While they might concede to (or revel in) their waywardness, the speakers of these poems continually attempt to make sense of their worlds as they are led further astray by the night. And that sense comes by way of internal arrangement or some abstract, organizing principles of the poems; we’re told as much in the following passages:

I am with difficulty
rearranging patterns of static
that ferment around
our little heads. (10)

The moment became always
a reassembly of everything
different from everything, which is was. (21)

Of course, these and other “requirements for adequate reintegration” (14) are, perhaps, a bit of a dodge. For, in fact, if they serve a determinate purpose, it is not actually to access sense or plan an escape; rather, these alternate arrangements serve to ratchet up the playfulness of these poems, which, at night, glow beneath the “ambiguous moon” as it “does its dirty thing” (10).

Awful Interview: Mike Krutel

25 Oct

best poemsMike Krutel and I became friends by screaming in each other’s faces in an attic in Akron, Ohio. We were both believers, we didn’t know in what, but everything seemed important, now, possible. One night we stayed up late eating at Luigi’s, a famous pizza joint in Akron, making elaborate plans for reciting poems at an intersection, like with one person on each corner yelling over the traffic and going line by line around the intersection, being ridiculous, just doing something. One summer we rode a train back and forth across the country. One time we lived together while we got our MFAs. One time Mike wrote these poems called Best Poems and then we talked about them and everything was important, now, possible. Mike Krutel’s poems have been an integral part of my life since poems have been a part of my life. Raucous, tender, intelligent, uncontainable, I can’t wait for more of Mike’s work to be in the world, for his poems to get their hands in your beautiful beautiful hair.

NS: Your chapbook Best Poems is going to be published soon by Narrow House Books, the new corporate arm of Publishing Genius and Big Lucks, operated by the inestimable Mark Cugini. All of the poems in the chapbook are part of a series, “Best Exit,” “Best Car Fire in the Snow,” and “Best Sonnet,” etc. How did the concept of writing “best” versions of things come about? How did the series generate itself? What parts of the world, or kinds of worlds, were you gathering to make these poems?

MK: It’s completely odd to think about Narrow House as a corporate venture, but it’s true. It’s the version of Breaking Bad where Jessie (Mark) takes up Walt (Adam Robinson is out in the desert telling people he is the danger) on franchising the meth business. Side note: I have not yet seen the final season so don’t spoil it for me people. But I love that this whole corporate venture of writing is happening, especially for someone like Mark, who is going to nail it.

The project began about the time I was finishing up my MFA. The poems I had written up to that time, many of which ended up in a thesis manuscript, still didn’t sit right with me and I was trying to find a way out of the place where many of those poems came from, how they formed. Some of the poems in Best Poems were written before a Best concept even surfaced in my head. Then one night I was thinking about the impending death of my grandmother, and I felt like I could only write myself into the situation. I had not ever written a poem like that before and I was nervous to. Not to write something grand, but to just have the energy in the poem be right, even if the poem didn’t succeed in the end.

The basic principle behind the poems was that if I really didn’t feel like they had anything going for themselves, that made them work in bigger ways, if I’m just breaking into a ridiculous field of plants I couldn’t name though I could identify by some other means, then fuck it I’ll write the best poems that I can. Which is to say that poems can be the best of themselves while still exhibiting the things they have trouble with, or have failed to do despite their best efforts. Everything was game. And I think the poems do all this within themselves, but also in relation to each other by the fact that they exist in a collection based on best efforts.

NS: Who were you reading when you were writing Best Poems? How do think about how what you’re reading enters into your writing? You mentioned how a particular experience, the loss of your grandmother, catalyzed a kind of thinking-writing process. In light of that, I’m thinking about how my initial question here is really deceiving, as if other poems are the only models for poems. I’m hoping you answer that question, but I’m also hoping you can talk about how larger patterns (ontologically large) enter your work. You also live with another artist, so I’m wondering how that saturation (is it saturation?) becomes part of your thinking.

MK: I do find the question of readings to be a weird one, specifically when talking about what one is reading at the time of creating work. I always want to say that what one is reading can have nothing and everything to do with the creation of new work. I don’t even know how to make sense of that last statement, but it hangs on me. I eye the question with suspicion, but I’ll still take it out for a drink to get to know it a little better.

Honestly, there were a number of people that I think I was reading at the time, or that were circling my brain, and I find it hard to summon enough names to feel like I’m answering that question. Looking at the manuscript, I would like to think there are some hints that I was reading James Tate, Andre Breton, and Matt Hart, among many many others. In regards to Matt, it wasn’t only his poems, but his own performative reading of his poems that definitely makes some good tackle to go out with. That kind of charge definitely went into most of the poems in the chapbook, whether directly tied to his kind of energy or another. But maybe none of this shows very much to others and only to me, I don’t know. I’m curious to know.

So, yes. I do think the initial question can be deceiving. The poems do feed off of so much colliding material that is is hard to talk about pinpoints unless there is a more obvious modeling happening in a given poem, where the patterning of it in some way derives from a recognizable source (see: who I am/was reading, fragments of my life that were examinable for creative structural insights). My relationships with the poems, as I wrote/write them, are a sort of collision of elements and particles and larger structures–the larger structures not necessarily being any more or less powerful/magical than the smaller elements. I write a line and then react to get the next, or the next line more easily stems from the one before it, but I get halfway into the second line and think, “Oh shit!” and have to make some choice or find something in the break before or in the combination of the break and the two words after it that build into more words or just one that carries on.

I don’t have a completely good handle on who I was reading, or what I was talking about with other people, artists or not. Maybe an imprecise sense, but it all starts to bleed together a bit. And doesn’t that really become the matter? A poem doesn’t succeed based on one line that I can underline and say “Damn this beats it all, right?” Even a one line poem, one that is really really amazing, doesn’t do what it does on its own volition. There is so much space around it, and I am with it, and I am fucking around in the space with it and many other things.

NS: Why does catching the movement of the mind seem important to you?

MK: I don’t know if I believe in the statement contained in the question: “catching the movement of the mind.” If anything the mind might be more of a danger to movement than it is an instrument of it. I don’t mean danger to be a negative, either. Danger is directly related to movement and both are wonderful things to be caught in. Says Walter White: “I am the danger.”

NS: All of the poems in Best Poems are discrete poems that fit on one page, but as a series they make a larger constellation that resists the closure of any single poem. In fact, many of these poems seem to resist closure in themselves, or to present an “end” to the poem as a kind of illusion. I’m trying to describe how these poems continue after they’re “over,” how their ambiguity and syntax generate an unknowing that never fully closes, and how this happens despite the poem looking, in some ways, like a traditional “poem,” i.e., like I said, it fits on a page, is aligned on the left margin, employs normal spacing and enjambment, etc. You’ve written other series and also long poems, one of which is in this issue of NOO Weekly. The need for and experience of series vs. long poems is always something I’m interested in, like how one or the other arises or needs to happen. Are there differences for you? What are the conditions for a long poem or for a series? What does one do that the other can’t? Is that even right?

MK: I think that idea of closure, or seeming closure, is true of the poems that I am most interested in. I really value a poem when its ending is at a point during which the poem is being as open as it possibly can. I don’t mean open as in sentimental honesty or truthfulness, but more in the physical sense. Wander room and wonder room.

When I’m writing, even when I’m creating something that isn’t coming together in any way, let’s call it a poem regardless of what it is being written, I never want it to end. I keep pushing on the poem’s structure until it says “Alright, it’s ok, you’ve done enough for now,” or perhaps the poem gives me the finger. I’m pushing my self, but also the parameters of what one poem will allow me to do to it. I think this is the same for the concept of a series or long poem.

The long poem you just mentioned started on a plane ride to Boston. The title came to me for obvious reasons of air travel. I liked how I could push against the paring of the words to create different situations of language, parts of speech: whatever(pronoun) it is that clouds(verb); whatever(exclamation), you damned clouds(noun); whatever-clouds (adjective-noun). I repeated it over and over during the course of a few days at AWP. It moved around me while I was not entirely conscious of it, while I was having these amazing experiences with people. Then I wrote the whole thing in a day, as you know already. I used the buddy system with this combination I had been thinking about for days and said to it that we were going to wander into a thinkness/thickness/thinkless space.

If anything, I might say that the series and the long poem can accomplish similar goals. I think one can see where a long poem goes thin, doesn’t make a right connection, or something like that. In this way, the long poem’s immediacy, how it is forced to account for it’s wholeness, is really important because that means that a series has to do the same thing though we might be inclined to shrug off that notion because it seems like the series is made of separate parts that don’t have to answer quite as much to each other. Of course, I can also say the reverse: that the ability of a series to circle around a very similar concern and yet at times be a somewhat disparate, this can happen in a long poem as well, or in any poem.

I’m curious about your use of “vs.”

Like, right now, I am reading Ashbery’s “A Wave” for the first time of really reading it, as opposed to mere (very important) absorptions.

No, wait, let’s do this. I’m going to keep reading “A Wave” and you are going to ask your next question and we are all going to inhabit a space because of course.

NS: I’m curious about your use of “of course.” If you could fill a china cabinet with anything, what would you fill it with? Would you rather bake or boil an artichoke? Is it any use talking about poems like this?

MK: Because of course and courses. I’m in this long Ashbery poem, this one and its many assemblings of a course. The long poem and the short(er) poem are the same things just showing their magic and tensions in more and less ways (I don’t think I can say that one or the other can lay claim to more or less definitively and that is wonderful and hard and part of the course).

I have a complicated relationship with china cabinets. I’m sorry that this avoids the fun of the question, but I wouldn’t want to put anything in a china cabinet. They are heavy and restrictive of whatever is put in them. Too much. I prefer an open bar or credenza. Bookshelves are wonderfully open.

I have baked and steamed artichokes but never before have I boiled one. Really, all that matters is the eating of it with at least one other person and how ridiculous we are scraping our teeth on a plant and fumbling every time in trying to remember how to deal with the heart. So yes, it is of use, and I don’t know that I can explain it anymore than that right now.

Best Thing I’ve Seen: Big Big Mess Reading Series Posters (and contest!)

23 Jun

The Big Big Mess Reading Series, now in the hands of Mike Krutel and Kati Mertz, has been a major wow spot in Akron, OH for awhile now. I’ve been stoked both times I’ve been up there for events; they’re a little rowdy, a lot good, and with plenty of spunk (see: giveaways of books and weird stuff the hosts find at thrift shops). They’ve hosted such rad folks as Zachary Schomburg, Heather Christle, Matt Bell, Amelia Gray, and many more.


They’ve also got this pattern of having some sweeeet posters for the events. Here are a few:




See the whole collection here.

And now, what you’ve all been waiting for! THE CONTEST. The Big Big Mess Reading Series is gettin’ fresher! They want you (yeah, you!) to submit some poster design for their next round of readings. All the details are here. But like most submission type things, it goes 1) come up with something rad and 2) send it to them. You have until July 15th. Okay, GO, okay.

RCNC Reading (04/23/13): Pope, Krutel, Shaheen, & Adcox

30 Apr

On Tuesday, April 23 in Akron, OH, Glenn Shaheen and James Tadd Adcox rolled through town for their recent Great Lakes region book tour. The writers teamed up with the local poets and co-hosts of The Big Big Mess Reading Series, Alexis Pope and Mike Krutel. Hosted by the artists that run Rubber City Noise Cave, all four readers put on lively performances, excerpts of which can be found below.

Here is Alexis Pope reading her poem “I Think I Would Die”:

Here is Mike Krutel reading his poem “Physical Cliff”:

Here is Glenn Shaheen reading his poem “Predatory”:

And, finally, here is James Tadd Adcox reading from his “Scientic Method” series:

Vouched On The Road: Akron with Nick Sturm and Mike Krutel

21 Jun

In the first of my road trip posts, I visit with Nick Sturm and Mike Krutel of Akron for some rad hangage.  

Here they are, our first hosts, our radiating poets, Nick Sturm and Mike Krutel, recent NEOMFA graduates, lifelong Akronites, rad dudes.

Sturm, you might remember, of his TREMENDOUS TIME (and will see him chapbooking again with his BASIC GUIDE that just won the Bateau Press Boom Chapbook contest). Krutel, you need to remember, from poems like these and this.

These dudes can write! But can they live?!

I asked them both a bunch of questions beforehand about their connection to Akron.


1. How long have you lived in Akron?

I have lived around Akron pretty much my entire life. It’s one of those cities that have dozens of other communities surrounding it in every direction (small suburban towns/”cities” and also areas that are more farmland). But I spent most of my teenage years hanging around Akron, running around the city with friends, and participating in the local music scene to lesser and greater extents. I have been an actual resident for nearly three years now.

2. What are your favorite pieces of Akron?

The part of town that I live in (North Hill) has a lot of nostalgia buried in corners of it, most related to being in high school and playing music with a good friend who lived in that area. Other than that, I enjoy going to Highland Square. It’s the only real neighborhood in Akron, that is, one that has a distinct culture about it. I have grown a bit tired of the Square over the years, but there are a few parts I’ll never get tired of, such as the local punk bar. There is also an amazing record store named Square Records that is a definite place to stop even if you are just passing through town. One last area worth all its weight is the Cuyahoga Valley National Park system on the edge of the city. There are good hiking trails, as well as the old towpath that is now a hike and bike trail.

3. What keeps you in Akron?

For one, Akron is an extremely affordable place to live. But other than that, I have yet to live anywhere else than in Akron or in areas around it. Though there is a college crowd around, Akron still holds onto it’s own identity without being wrapped up in college life, which can get old after awhile.

4. How has Akron influenced your writing?

I am really unsure how to answer this question. Perhaps the only thing I can think of is that having been settled in here for so long, and the affordability factor, I have been able to invest in traveling and experiences outside of Akron, which I then come home and digest. There is enough space in and around Akron that it doesn’t feel claustrophobic ever, as it might in other major cities at times.

5. If you could live in any city, what would it be and why?

I have the dream to live in some major city, at some time in the next few years (I hope), such as Chicago, New York, or some place like that. I’m not to picky, I just really want to experience that kind of life for at least a bit. Chicago is always nice because it is familiar, being a Midwest city. Basically, I would love to not need a car and just use public transit. Akron has pretty bad public transit in my experience.

6. How’s the literary scene in Akron?

While maybe not that great/thriving, it always feels like it is because of my friends and I and how stoked we are to be involved with the greater Lit community as well as each other. The Big Big Mess Readings Series has been really bolstered Akron’s connection to the larger community by bringing in awesome writers to read and hangout here.

7. Describe Akron in three words.

Salad, half cheese.

8. What are you most stoked to show me in Akron?

My porch. And maybe some hills.

The Big Big Mess Readings Series, ah yes. Held at the mega-cool Annabell’s, that glorious thing Sturm started last year, having brought in readers such as Matt Bell, Heather Christle, Jason Bredle, and many others. Krutel and Alexis Pope hope to keep those good times rolling next year. I had the pleasure of reading at a Big Big Mess in January and boy, they sure are fun fun fun, hootin’ and hollerin’ and clappin’ great time.

Vouched contributor, Ashley Ford, made this journey with me (and big thxxxxx to her for these pictures and videos). First big adventure was hiking in Cuyahoga Valley National Park. Above Ashley and Sturm dance on a wobbly rock. These guys like to wander around, like to wonder about their surroundings. Sturm full of stories about finding horse teeth in a river, about the history of the land. Krutel the constant kind guy, the warning signal of slippery rocks, the teller of the whats-up.

If you’re paying any attention, you’ll be astounded by these two dudes’ sense of self, how they absorb and exist, experience and share.


1. How long have you lived in Akron?

I’ve been in and around Akron most of life with short stints in Michigan and Oregon that always made me appreciate Ohio more. I’m actually about to move out of Ohio for a PhD program in Florida, so I’m finding myself looking back on my time here, getting nostalgic and way too fluffy, but really realizing how amazing it’s been. I was in Massachusetts a couple weeks ago and Christopher Deweese and I were talking about my upcoming move and he said something like, “How do you feel about leaving? Akron is your jam, right?” I said something about how it’ll be okay because the trees in Tallahassee are rad. But he’s right, Akron will always be my jam.

2. What are your favorite pieces of Akron?

52 Corson front porch. Kendall Hills secret creek valley in Cuyahoga Valley National Park. Abandoned downtown roof spot. Skating down Mill Street. The Aqueduct garden.

3. What keeps you in Akron?

For the last seven years school has kept me in Akron, my undergrad in History and my just-finished MFA. But it wasn’t really that simple. I left Akron post-undergrad not really planning to come back soon. Went to Oregon. Got my certificate to teach English as a second language. Planned to go overseas to use that certificate. But then this girl happened. The best girl. So I came back for her, jumped into the MFA on a whim, and here I am. No more girl, but that’s how things happen. Realistically, there are only so many dance parties you can have in one city before moving on. It’s been a really good seven year dance party…

4. How has Akron influenced your writing?

I spent my undergrad reading Ginsberg, Whitman, and Blake and seeing Akron through their prophetic voices as a place that kind of embodied the line between the human and nonhuman, natural and artificial, hope and decay, pastoral and urban. So a lot of my terrible early poems were these ecstatic, pseudo-transcendental attempts to show how awesome it was to be alive while wandering through a continual mixture of sunlight and desolation a la James Wright if James Wright had spent a weekend camping with Kenneth Koch while they wrote all the songs for Q: Are We Not Men? A: We Are Devo! I still feel the current poems connected to all that in ways, but I don’t think anyone would say my work is connected to Akron or any place really, though I know my environment does influence the poems. I wouldn’t have started writing the poems from my first chap, WHAT A TREMENDOUS TIME WE’RE HAVING!, if it hadn’t been May and spring was just starting to set in and everything was turning over golden again. So Akron is there somehow. I guess you could say there’s an Akron glow over it, but you wouldn’t know unless you knew me in this place. I think a lot of people’s poems are like that.

5. If you could live in any city, what would it be and why?

Give me every city. I’m too curious to decide.

6. How’s the literary scene in Akron?

I think the literacy scene in Akron has, over the last few years, really started to become something, or at least it’s become possible that a poet in Northampton, Massachusetts knows what Akron, Ohio is. Is that even significant? I don’t know. A couple years ago when I was starting to become aware of the wider contemporary poetry scene I felt like Akron wasn’t really on the map. But not for any reason, you know. Somebody just needed to stand up and start saying, “Hey, have you been to Akron? What do you know about poetry in Akron? Pretty dope, huh?” Hart Crane wrote a poem that is dear to my heart’s heart called “Porphyro in Akron” where he talks about rubber workers on Main Street and our “smoke-ridden hills” and the etymology of Akron, which comes from the Greek acros, “high place” (Akron is in Summit County) and really shows how much of a working class town Akron was in the early 1920s, which is right when my family moved to Akron from West Virginia to work in the rubber factories, and then at the end of the poem says: “The stars are drowned in a slow rain, / And a hash of noises is slung up from the street. / You ought, really, to try to sleep, / Even though, in this town, poetry’s a / Bedroom occupation.” Throughout the poem Crane is both celebrating and lamenting the working class and industrial landscape he sees – these people are alive and joyful but they’re also doomed to the inhuman forces of a newly forming modern America – and I’ve always loved how Crane modulates between despair and a tired joy, like when they overpay the Sunday fiddlers “because we felt like it,” but I can’t deal with how he ultimately gives in at the end of the poem when “poetry’s a / Bedroom occupation.” I put my shoulder to the wheel with THE BIG BIG MESS READING SERIES trying to get amazing writers into Akron to read and to get people out of their bedrooms to see what new poetry is all about and I’m so happy that the BBM is now continuing under the control of Alexis Pope and Mike Krutel. Other reasons Akron isn’t a town where poetry is a bedroom occupation: Barn Owl Review, edited by Mary Biddinger (for real, if you ever want to know why Akron is awesome, ask Mary), and the NEOMFA: Northeast Ohio Master of Fine Arts. Become psyched.

7. Describe Akron in three words.

Pretty rad, regardless.

8. What are you most stoked to show me in Akron?


Oh hey, Akron has some killer food, I’m telling you, like this awesome grilled cheese (with grilled apples! C’MON) and goldfish crackers from Lockview (rad Great Lakes beer not shown), like MR ZUBS where you can get a Mac and Cheese sandwich and tator tots!

How does one bring up Joshua Kleinberg? After the entire state of Florida had had enough, Kleinberg has been bouncing around Ohio and recently got stuck in Akron. He’s a cool poet too and a nice guy, putting together a reading for myself, himself, Sturm, Krutel, and Akron writer Alexis Pope (along with sets by local metal bands Rhomer and Gasmask).

Hey look, it’s Sturm ollieing over Ashley, getting psyched for his reading.

Basically, Akron felt like a big Fourth of July party, and that’s a good thing. I ended up getting a tattoo, my first!, at the Sturm/Krutel/Kleinberg-vouched Good Life shop in Akron. You can see a little more chatter about that here.

While this weekend was jam-packed with readings (the Akron reading on Friday, a Heather Feather Review reading in Cleveland that Kleinberg and I did with folks like Mary Biddinger and Aubrey Hirsch on Saturday, and Sturm’s reading in Dayton with Noah Falck and Matt Hart), the refreshing and rad thing about living some days with Sturm and Krutel is there sense of go-go hosting outside of writing stuff, the aforementioned hiking, a pre-Cleveland reading Lake Eerie visit (pics too sexy for here!), general goodtime hang. ABSOLUTELY A BLAST.

UP NEXT: Chicago with James Tadd Adcox

Tyler Gobble On The Road

11 May

This summer, I’m taking a two-month road trip, doing a few readings, playing lots of disc golf, hanging out with cool people. You can read more about that here.

I can’t bear to leave this beautiful blog behind, so to keep me in the loop, I’m gonna meet up with a writer at each of my major stops. I wanna experience this strange city, learn more about the writer, and get a sense of how they live in this place.

And then, I’ll report back here with audio/video, a mini-interview, and a recap by me, plus anything else the writer might wanna feature.

So far, here’s the lineup:

Akron, Ohio: Nick Sturm, Mike Krutel, Sammy Snodgrass

Chicago, Illinois: James Tadd Adcox

Tuscaloosa, Alabama: Katy Gunn

Atlanta, Georgia: Jamie Iredell

I’m also looking to add a few more writers, if any of you have suggestions/requests for the series (MI, KY, TN, NC, and WV are other possible locations).

Also, to help raise money for the series (like buying the writers’ dinner, etc.), I’m doing a poem-postcard fundraiser for the trip. Here is more info on that if you’re interested.