Tag Archives: Peter Davis

Best Things I’ve Read This Week: Proving Nothing To Anyone by Matt Cook and Tina by Peter Davis

19 Aug

Proving Nothing To Anyone by Matt Cook
Publishing Genius Press, 86 pages, $14.95

Tina by Peter Davis
Bloof Books, 92 pages, $16.00

If I asked you to make a list of things you find funny—shows and comedians, writers and songs, photographs and everyday situations—what would be on it? Where would you even start?


Let’s start with “Interesting Things,” a little back-and-forth tongue-in-cheek grumble between two pals about, hmm, ‘interesting things.’ After the non-speaker fella brings a load of unspecified such things over, Matt Cook writes,

I had no idea there were so many interesting things, I said.
When something compares favorably to something else, he said,
That makes it an interesting thing, but it’s also interesting
When something compares unfavorably to something else, he said.

And this is how Cook’s book solicits itself as a worthwhile object, a collection of things, interesting and humorous and full of life. He consistently backdrops the normal everyday with the weird everyday or the awkward everyday or the ambiguous everyday or the absurd everyday. He pines for the moment we hold up the book and see that the normal mirrors the ridiculous.


What makes something humorous? What makes something humorous to you? Startling confession. Surprising intersection. Forced realization. An unfaced gal turned scapegoat.


tinaIn Jeremy Bauer’s interview with  Peter Davis at Front Porch, Davis tells us a little about Tina, the title of his latest book of poems, the name of his not-a-muse-but-okay-a-muse in his ear, the exclamation called the addressed:

Well, this is the way I imagine it. To me Tina is, essentially, what other people might call the muse. I would never say muse though because I don’t believe in a sort of pseudo-mystical inspirational source. I would say, Tina. Having said that, Tina is not necessarily somebody you want to have on your back. She demands you spend each night in your basement (even when it’s cold) writing and thinking and drinking. And to what end? So you might be frequently, tacitly and overtly, rejected by society, by your friends and family, not to mention literary journals? She makes day to day living difficult because she forces you to constantly compare your own efforts with all of the phenomenal efforts of the past, imagined or real. “(Read the rest of their interview here.)

In this, his third book, and in my opinion his most humorous yet, Davis peers out of the ridiculous in search of some balance on normal land. These poems appear as efforts to blame Tina, to distract Tina, to entertain Tina, little methods of giving in, hoping each poem surfaces some reward, anything, in hopes of turning down the difficulty setting of the day-to-day.


Oh, and you know what, I find the poems in these two collections, more often than no way, very funny–haha funny and ah geesh funny and wow funny. They run the gammit of funny, it seems, by letting a peer’s hair burn a little too long or confronting poor ol’ Tina, by unveiling the complicated in something uncomplicated (like dog watching) or telling us the real scoop on Emily Dickinson.


Setting for “Commitment to Excellence” by Matt Cook: dinner party, speaker telling a story, woman’s hair on fire, only speaker notices, and—

So I continued, and only after the punch line was delivered,
And after the appreciative reaction of the room,
Did I finally let the woman know her hair was on fire.

The woman was not seriously harmed,
And she ended up writing me a letter of recommendation.


David Cross, yeah that David Cross, apparently thinks Matt Cook’s poems are funny too, “[n]ot ‘funny for poetry’ but straight up funny. And thoughtful. And human.” Yeah, David Cross blurbed this book.



Certainly, both of these fella’s books are funny, straight up, but I find it interesting (there’s that word!) how Cross makes that distinction, then rolls further. Straight up funny. Thoughtful. Human.

Does the presentation of these anecdotes and quips and awkward confrontations as poems make them funny in a way that would be much different otherwise? A poem being a special plug-in, like the difference between a baseball bat against a tree and a baseball bat in Ken Griffey Jr.’s hand? I think so. Poetry offers (or maybe rather lacks) the visual and auditory elements that harness other humorous forms (I know, I know there are readings—sourpuss!—but you know what I mean). Poet and words on a page. Here you go—Reader and words on a page. Words swirled in a head from another head trying to paint a picture, to swing the bat in the silence there. It’s delicate and it’s brave and it can fail at any word.


What makes a poem humorous? What makes a poem humorous to you?


It is impossible to ignore the top-notch reading styles of these two funny poet men. So, let’s sample that:

“In the Bodega” by Matt Cook on soundcloud


People like to talk about themselves, their experiences. Poet people, sure, but also teacher people and truck driver people and pizza delivery people and old people who don’t have jobs anymore. And it’s often so funny! Wow. Funny stories about their spouses. Funny stories about their youth. Somehow funny stories about tragedy and stress. It’s inevitable, unavoidable, ridiculously human.


First stanza from Cook’s “You’re A Minor Poet Standing Near The Frozen Spinach”:

You stop by the store to pick up your wife’s favorite brand of beer.
Inside, an old woman goes out of her way to start a conversation with you.
You’re wearing an overcoat that reminds her of an overcoat she once knew.
An old woman is allowed to talk to you for as long as she likes.
You cannot tell an old woman to stop talking to you.
You’re a minor poet standing near the frozen spinach.

Like with Davis’s struggles with Tina’s latching on, Cook grapples with his place in the world as “a minor poet” following him wherever he might go. And the funny reality here is the bruteness in the innocent reminder (the old lady yapping here) you can’t escape reality, and like the memory of the old coat, you’ll carry this shit with you a long time.


From Peter’s “Old Problems”

My wife calls on the phone and I answer it. Have you
Received phone calls before, TINA? Do you know what
This is like? Well, then why don’t you keep your
Mouth shut for a change.

Yet, Davis continues and explains to Tina phones and phone calls and the little idioms that go along with it. The explanation a distraction to the story of the call.

My wife calls and she’s lonely so she’s
Calling me to say so. I respond to her with some sort of
Reassuring statement, like, glad you called. This kind
Of banter continues for a few minutes and then it’s
Over with. I’m back to being off the phone and back to
Helping you with all your dumbfuck ideas.

The phone call a distraction to the distraction, this inescapable/inexplicable shadow of being a poet in a non-poetry world (a.k.a the real world), the inescapable/inexplicable necessity of explaining, of dealing with all the talking. newspaper-mockup


Another thing many people find funny is teens, youthfulness as fuel for ridiculousness, lack of self-awareness as springboard for creative recklessness.

Cook’s “Jesus In My Hair” is the story of a once-imagined sitcom of the same name, one of those goofy high school ideas, over-the-top and somehow poignant (this one involves Desi Arnez Jr. playing a barber who helps Jesus, Jesus who has come back and forgotten his purpose), made up by the speaker and his friend in high school. In the end, the speaker writes the friend, years later, to say they should rewrite the sitcom, only to be bummed with the friend seems “like he was way beyond the whole thing now.”

Which reminds me of Davis’s “My Education,” a poem lamenting on the weird joy of being in high school. Here’s a part of it:

I appreciate the veil, Tina. I like
high school where you know
everyone and have kissed
a higher percentage of your
graduating class. I got even
more play in middle school.
That’s when French kissing
Was like finding a cool place
To skate.

These silly, “useless” moments in youth, conjuring silly ideas and trying to kiss lots of girls, only to graduate, in several meanings, to the real world, adult life, supposedly more grownup things, like buying beer for your wife or writing poems in the basement. There’s the pogo of being relieved to “make more sense,” but also the bummer of having to. And of course, there’s that never ending reminder that you’ll never be under that umbrella again, and though one has the poem as an escape mechanism, it’s temporary. The comedy in the tragedy.


Cook and Davis compare favorably here, for me, launch together as interesting things, because they refuse to just be funny, they refuse to just be storytellers, they refuse to just bite into the sticky everyday apples.

These poems, in both the collections, made me reengaged with life, paying attention to how the ongoings of life leap out in startling, humorous ways—the advertisement for a strip club declaring “The Only Thing Our Girls Wear Is A Smile” or how a man brushes my shoulder while jogging past in the dark, only to return five minutes later and apologize (still jogging).


This humorous approach to dealing with the difficult strangeness of the everyday becomes an interesting thing because it’s so useful, so addictive. You start putting Tina everywhere, naming your own pseudo-muse. You wonder how Matt Cook would deliver the story, what parts he’d include. And that’s what makes this style so brilliant, so enjoyable, so lasting, so difficult. Both for the writer and the reader, it’s a stickler that one must carry around, but that only a few, like these two fellas, have mastered creating on the page.


The last stanza of “Interesting Things” by Matt Cook:

I wanted to understand more about interesting things.
I wanted to ask him if it were possible to define interesting things.
But I knew well that he distrusted precise definitions.

Special End Reminder: Don’t forget to check out Publishing Genius’s Kickstarter page for their 2014 lineup. It’s gonna be sickkkkkkkkkk.

SSR #1 of 15: TINA

3 Jul

We’re entering the final countdown to the Second Vouched Birthday Party here in Atlanta. You know what that means? A single-sentence review round-up of some of the new titles our Atlanta table has gathered over the year. For the next 15 days I’ll be releasing one single-sentence review a day.

You may recognize this first one from your summer reading list. Behold, Peter Davis’ Tina. 


by Peter Davis
Bloof Books

Peter Davis has a lot to say to Tina. Who is Tina? Tina is hard to track down. Follow Davis down the rabbit hole of his life-long pursuit of Tina, see what you come up with.


“What I Say Sometimes And Then Stop Myself” by Peter Davis (Poem-Video at Moving Poems)

2 Apr

Peter’s work is this shaken bottle of haha and near-creepy heart-aching honesty. The videos he creates for his poems and songs, such as this one, plunge this sort of animation into those depths. Check out his new book TINA, now out from Bloof Books, for more goodness like this.

Moving Poems truly is one of the web’s raddest places for Poem Videos. Check out their whole directory for videos featuring work ranging from Martin Espada to Diana Salier, Gertrude Stein to Zachary Schomburg.

Laura Straub’s END O’ THE YEAR list

21 Dec

My futon’s favorite people:
Matt Bell & Brian Oliu, Amber Sparks, and Tyler Gobble.

Cool Presses that started working with Vouched the past six months: Lazy Fascist, Sarabande Books, Queen’s Ferry Press, Curbside Splendor, Spooky Girlfriend, and Black Ocean.

COVER ART: May We Shed These Human Bodies and The Collected Works of Scott McClanahan, Vol. 1

People I’m still confused to have not met IRL yet: Mel Bosworth and Christy Crutchfield

My Husband’s Budding Bromances: Ben Kopel, Tyler Gobble, and Kory Calico

Top 5 Stage Presences in no specific order: xTx, Devan Goldstein (when reading and also when he sings the shit out of some Bon Jovi), Amy McDaniel, Zach Schomburg, Peter Davis.

Favorite Dance Party: Lit Party @ AWP- duh! 

Thing that makes me feel like !!! every time I read it: Ravi Mangla’s Visiting Writers from Uncanny Valley Press

Favorite special thing: Electric lit’s recommendations in my inbox. SO RAD. Also Matthew Salesses’ Writer in Residence series at Necessary Fiction.

These book tours came and BLEW ME AWAY: Bloof books tour, The Southern Comfort Reading Tour, & the Over the Top tour.

Awful Interviews that still make me laugh big and large:  Joshua Ware, Michael Nye, Matt Bell, & Nicholas Tecosky (who still owes me an arm wrestle…)

SSR #1 of 15: Poetry, Poetry Poetry! by Peter Davis

3 Jul

Poetry, Poetry, Poetry!
by Peter Davis
Bloof Books
116 pgs, $16

It is really wonderful that you have come across this book review of this really great book that contains these poems, what great fortune!

Vouched Title Involved in Israeli Poetry Controversy

16 Nov

No joke.

In a recent post at the Ball State English Dept. blog, Peter Davis regales us with tales of how his collection Poetry! Poetry! Poetry! (carried on the Vouched Indy table) is at the center of an “Is it really poetry?” debate that’s currently shaking the Israeli literary world to its very core. Or something.

My second book of poems, Poetry! Poetry! Poetry!, was translated into Hebrew and, this past summer, published in Israel. Of course, I thought this was very cool. At the release party, I read some poems, via Skype, to an Israeli audience. I was on a computer screen held up by a guy onstage who was wearing a costume that made him look like a giant puppet. It was funny.

Soon after the release party, a number of Israeli reviews started coming in. And this is where it gets interesting: some were very critical of the book because they didn’t think that the book was actually poetry! They thought it might be something else entirely, but certainly not Poetry.

My father-in-law is a dentist and knows nothing about poetry. He read Poetry! Poetry! Poetry! and said he liked it. He told me, “I think I get it, but I’m not sure.” I said, “Then you get it. That’s good enough.” I told him about the Hebrew translation and the charge that I wasn’t writing poetry. He said, “Well, they can’t prove that.”

Read the rest of the controversy over at the BSU blog.

If you want to form your own opinion about it, I encourage you to check out Peter’s book yourself. Oh hey, look. Here’s a link to get it from Bloof Books.

Recap: Vouched Presents Winkler, Schaivo, Christman & Davis

19 May

If you weren’t one of the 48 people at Vouched Presents last Sunday, I want you to go to the corner and think about what you’ve done. But, feel free to take along a laptop/iPad/portable-thing-that-allows-you-to-surf-the-web and check out these videos that Nathan Monk shot of the shindig.

After some “uh, um, uh,” from me, Kyle Winkler opened the show with some solid goodness from a longer work about Florida–good words, dialogue of chuckles, “cloisonné”. People who say “behoove” seriously are assholes.

Michael Schaivo stepped up next, read some good work from his chapbooks, sonnets that don’t honor the form, sonnets that explode the ends of Shakespeare’s open &c.

We took an intermission and the buying of books, the drinking of beer, my lips get looser looser, then Jill Christman read an essay published at Barrelhouse about her ass, knew how to work a mic, kept making cute references to her husband Mark, people went aw and guffaw.

The last of the night was Peter Davis, watching these mustache makes me realize I need to “less talk, more rock,” myself, but Davis weighed anchor, calm mustache, even keel, the audience glad they stuck around to the mustache, lafflafflaff, Tina. Skate or mustache.

Thanks again to everyone who came out, to Nathan for helping set up and tear down and sell beer, to Brittany for making and donating cookies, Big Car of course for the gallery, and I’m sure I leave people out, I’m sorry, but I hope you know my gratitude, I hope you know, I hope I see you again in July.

Awful Interview: Peter Davis

12 May

Peter Davis will kick your ass. Peter Davis has a moustache, just look. Peter Davis will Rock ‘Em Sock ‘Em Robots. Peter Davis will move your hips. Peter Davis will move your hips in a non-sexual, non-threatening, non-awkward way. But maybe Peter Davis will move your hips in those ways. Peter Davis doesn’t know what Peter Davis will do until Peter Davis is doing it. Peter Davis is reading at Vouched Presents this Sunday, which is a paradox, but don’t think about it too much, or Peter Davis will explode your brain like in that movie Scanners.

So, you’re Peter Davis. I was expecting someone, taller. Which brings me to my first question: have you ever written a poem about Star Wars? Do you like Star Wars?

I was always luke-warmish about Stars Wars, but I’ve got a son who’s been into it hard for over 3 years. I know a shitload about Stars Wars now. I know the names of those Jedi who aren’t human and aren’t Yoda. I know about all sorts of Star Wars stuff that i don’t know how to spell. I’ve even read some of the books! Do I like it? Sorta. I like my son a lot. And, yes, also, I’m not taller. I’m shorter. I’m like Patrick Swayze.

Dirty Dancing Swayzee or Roadhouse Swayzee?

I’d say Roadhouse Swayzee. I’m a fighter, not a lover.

That’s pretty un-poet of you isn’t it? Aren’t poets supposed to be all “How do I love thee” and shit?

“and shit” may the key phrase here. I’m part of the ‘and shit.’ Like Dalton, I say, Pain don’t hurt, and I mean it, but I’m kidding.

I feel like there are so many nuggets of wisdom and truth throughout that movie. I mean, the depth of a line like, “A polar bear fell on me,” is really hard to come by in Hollywood these days. Are there any other major influences to your writing other than Roadhouse?

The two other big influences are the magazines BMX Plus and Thrasher. Without these magazines I would have never known of Radical Rick and Black Flag. Also, RUN DMC. The more I think about it, the more I realize how much these two magazines and RUN DMC have meant to me. To me, the mall has essentially been a place where there are lots of magazines. Same with the mail. In that way, I love the mall and the mail. Also, breakdancing has been a moment to listen to RUN DMC. Indeed, I want to breakdance when I hear old school rap.

Oh man. Thrasher had a profound impact on my development as a human and writer. I’m glad to see we share that commonality. Are you planning to bust out some RUN DMC and breakdance at Vouched Presents this week?

I cannot promise to breakdance anymore than I can promise that I won’t breakdance, the breakin’ comes when the breakin’ comes, or doesn’t when it doesn’t. It’s not exactly complicated, but I can’t really put it into words. I know it makes me sound like a grumpy old man and all, but I really can’t appreciate Thrasher ever since it became a glossy magazine. It was all newspaper-y when I was young and when I see it now it just doesn’t seem like the same magazine. Newsprint is better than glossy.

There was a certain punk rock element that was lost when it got a slick gloss, but for my youth, it was either Thrasher or Transworld, which was to skateboard mags what skating a Wal-mart deck was to actual skating. So, I get that.

What can you promise to the people planning to come out to the reading? And perhaps to those who aren’t planning to?

I promise to close Gitmo, get out of the Middle East, term limits, money for all, a bean in every pot, legalization of pot, and to make gay marriage not only legal, but mandatory. It’s a somewhat radical agenda, on the other hand, it doesn’t seem to go far enough. I’ll outlaw the flag and high school football! I’ll ban motorcycles and mopeds! I’ll raise taxes on the rich so high they won’t be rich anymore! I’ll do it all by the end of the reading! I mean i’m going to read poetry and that’s not exactly whistling Dixie.

Vouched Presents: May 15th!

15 Apr

RSVP to the facebook event!

Vouched Presents is a free fundraiser for Second Story Indy, an organization that connects local youth with literature and encourages expression and learning through creative writing.


Jill Christman is author of the memoir Darkroom: A Family Exposure. She once resuscitated a dolphin by performing mouth-to-mouth through its blowhole.

Kyle Winkler’s fiction has been featured in various journals. He has never seen firemen rescue a kitten from a tree and doesn’t believe that’s ever happened.

Peter Davis is author of Hitler’s Moustache and Poetry! Poetry! Poetry! He never toured with Bob Dylan in the 1970s, but if you ask him about it, he might tell you a story.

Michael Schiavo, no not that Michael Schiavo, is author of The Mad Song. In 1994, Schiavo appeared as an extra in Saved by the Bell: The College Years, playing the valet who opened the door for Kelly Kapowski in episode 7.


Big Car Gallery can be kind of tricky to find, so here’s the run down:

Go around to the back of the Murphy Arts Building and you’ll see a set of glass double doors. Enter through them and hang a right, go up the stairs, hang a left at the top of the stairs, and follow the signs to Big Car through a series of ante-chamber style rooms until you get to suite 215. I’ll also post Vouched Presents This Way signs with arrows to help you along your way.


15 Jan

Hey hey. My monthly column went up yesterday at Smalldoggies Magazine for the Vouched Satellite project. A bunch of cool people including the Vouched contributors, Peter Davis, Matt Bell, Ryan Ridge, and Matty Byloos contributed lists of their favorite online lit journals. Thanks to all them for helping out. Thanks to you for supporting indie lit. GET TO READIN’.