Tag Archives: The Collagist

New Love: Alicia Jo Rabins

22 Jun

What hooked me first, pun unavoidably intentional, was Alicia Jo Rabins’ poem “How to Confess an Affair” in Issue 47 of The Collagist:

Details are fishhooks that will remain in the lip of the small fish that lives inside your spouse and swims sometimes towards  you, sometimes away from you. If you love the fish, be careful.

If you love the fish, be careful.  I love this admonition, tiny and lasting like ocean ripples always traveling farther from shore.  I knew I had to see more of her work after this poem, and whew was I blown away. Rabins braids Judaism and Jewish mysticism and sensuality and pumpkin seeds and scrap metal into graceful, fiery cords again and again in her poems; for instance, this excerpt from “Malkmut,” one of four of her poems up at The Arty Semite:

The field of time stands up
and grows a face.
Arms sprout from his side,
wings from the arms, blue mouth

burning between the feathers.
The field of time changes the air
around him as a sunken pothole
changes the road, as a flaming tree

The landscapes and atmospheres of Rabins’ poems are hallucinatory, prophetic, and explosive; reading them feels like waking up in the middle of a twenty-first century creation myth.   Birthing and destroying and rebuilding and consuming the glory of the earth is always happening, and never cleanly–stones toppling in one country while little fruit trees first blossom in another.  Rabins saturates her poems with fire and meaning and weight, like little scraps of rumored apocryphal books.

As if Rabins’ poetry isn’t kickass enough, she’s also a musician with a project called Girls in Trouble that chronicles the lives of women in Torah.  It’s plucky, haunting indie rock with religion-infused storytelling, sometimes performed with a band but often just Rabins, her violin, and a looping pedal.  Here’s a great talk from Rabins about how she came to discover and love Torah, especially the stories of its women, concluded with a Girls in Trouble song about Hagar, Abraham’s concubine and his wife Sarah’s handmaiden, called “The Arrow and The Bow:”


Canarium Books Preview at The Collagist

18 Apr

The Collagist, as they do in April, have bulked up their poetry allotment for National Poetry Month. Most vouch-worthy of this month’s features are the three previews of poetry collections, all with three poems representing them here, all from Canarium Books, all set to drop this month, here this month as a replacement for the magazine’s typical Novel Excerpt features. The three books are Ethical Consciousness by Paul Killebrew, Great Guns by Farnoosh Fathi, and Pink Reef by Robert Fernandez. If these features are any indication, these books can go on your GOTTA GET THEM ASAP list.

from “Middle Name” by Paul Killebrew

I sit here sometimes and try to remember what the phone sounds like, and then the thermostat will click or there’ll be a creak or something, and I just about die.

I had worse jobs.

When I was still practicing law I remember this guy asked me if he cut a hole in his roof if he could sue the city.

I said for what?

He said I don’t know you’re the lawyer.

from “Brazil” by Farnoosh Fathi

Left a hole on fire agony or was it the sun
and love of both—
On the banks and near duets,
eagles with the white wine of the sun
clink and spill tall grass over head and heels
…Space of hell: shy, inscribed already
But alone, I think I can be that
again—a new hole in the flute
that doesn’t end.

from “[I chose…]” by Robert Fernandez

I wanted to understand
this ethos of cameras
strung through juniper leaves,

juniper lenses seeing
at the tops of the trees:

a bread
of violets
baked in

a bread
of mussels
glutting the

a cache of
roe in the

Check out the rest of these selections, as well as the whole April issue of The Collagist. I promise you’ll feel better.

Awful Interview: Matt Bell

5 Apr

It’s easy to see that everyone at Vouched is in Matt Bell’s corner. Just search his name in our search bar (up there at the top right corner of your screen) and be amazed at how many posts pop up with his name. There are all sorts of reasons to like Matt Bell: he is likeable, he is accomplished, he has important things to say, he isn’t afraid to say those important things, and he writes crazy/awesome/beautiful words that will make your spine shiver.

I couldn’t be more excited for Matt to read in Atlanta with the rest of the Over the Top gang (along with Jesse Bradley, Melysa Martinez, and Amy McDaniel!) tomorrow evening.

In your first Awful Interview with Christopher, you told him that when you were young you read a lot of Science Fiction books. Any specific titles that stand out in your memory?

There’s tons of books I could pick probably, but I still have a few of the ones I had when I was a kid on my shelf: Robots and Empire by Isaac Asimov, the first of his books I read, I can see from my desk still, and I know that was a book my brother and I read and reread, and not just for all the implied robot-on-Spacer lust. (I can still get pretty excited about the Three Laws of Robotics, if prompted in conversation.) There’s a book (now out-of-print) by a writer named H.M. Hoover (who I just realized was a woman, since I knew nothing about her) called This Time of Darkness about two teenagers who have to escape an underground city that’s sort of a combination of 1984 and Soylent Green—I loved that book, but lost my copy and then couldn’t remember its name to buy another. Thankfully, it showed up again at my parents’ house, in the basement I lived in for a year or two between colleges.

More than just sci-fi, it was sort of broad genre fiction: I almost certainly read more fantasy than sci-fi, although there was enough of both. I read a lot of the D&D novels, like the Dragonlance Chronicles, and I was a huge fan of David Edding’s different series, especially the Elenium and the Tamuli trilogies. I actually got into Stephen King in the fifth grade or so through his The Eyes of the Dragon. When I was slightly younger, I got introduced to the Choose Your Own Adventure books, which quickly led me other series that combined the CYOA style with D&D-style role-playing, including character sheets and combat and so on. The best of those was a series called Lone Wolf, by a writer named Joe Dever, that I played over and over. I recently found my cache of those books as well, and then set about buying all the ones I was missing: The last few were never released in the U.S., and so count as one of the few things I’ve imported to collect.

That’s dedication. How long did it take you to track down the final few books? Did your love of D&D and role-playing ever branch out to text-adventure games, or are you strictly a twenty-sided die man?

It wasn’t terribly hard, honestly: the internet makes it pretty easy. The hard part was deciding to part with the cash, since the rarer ones were priced well above their early nineties cover prices. I actually think there’s still one I don’t have, because the copy I found was eighty bucks or something and I just couldn’t do it. Some day!

I played a lot of text-adventures when I was young. My younger brother and I would play them together, and try to solve the puzzles together. I’m not sure we understood them very often. The best ones were made by Infocom, and I think we probably played dozens of them. One of our favorites was based on The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams (you can play an illustrated version at the BBC), which at the time we hadn’t read. Of course, the book works by a sort of absurdist logic that makes it hard to reason your way through the puzzles, and we were just completely stumped. There was no internet to look up clues, no one else to figure things out with. Somehow we beat the game, and it seems to be there’s something telling about my brother and I there, in that experience: that the two of us spent countless hours trying to understand and interact with an illogical world—and then succeeded—seems like a good example of how we became who we’d end up being.

You know what’s odd is my sister and I had the exact same system, except we played the King’s Quest series from Sierra Entertainment (and then later on Myst, Riven, etc., not to mention a bit of Wolfenstein 3D)
Do you feel that you are able to apply your RPG/text-adventure experience to real life? Can you give any examples?

We absolutely did the same thing with those Sierra games as well: We loved those, deeply. (A couple of years ago, I wrote an essay for Hobart about Leisure Suit Larry. It’s not online to link to, but a teaser I wrote for it is.) I’m not sure I ever applied the knowledge I gained in those games directly to real life, but it is funny how playing a lot of a game can seep into your daily awareness: A year or two ago I played a game called The Saboteur, where you’re a resistance fighter against the Nazis in WWII Paris, and in the game there are these communication towers you’re constantly knocking down—and they look just enough like cell phone towers that every time I saw one in real life I would have this urge to run over and knock it down. Not a real urge, that I was going to act on, but just that tinge of muscle memory, of learned behavior burning a track in my brain. I think there are a lot of those little reactions that build up, as we spend time interacting with video games. In the same way that one of the functions of the novel (especially of social realism) is to give us a way to think and feel through social interactions (something we’re never given second chances to do in real life, where every decision gets made on the fly and is irrevocable), so do video games give us opportunities to act out certain kinds of exploration, problem-solving, and behaviors. We’ll probably never be called upon to do the exact kinds of activities you and your sister did in Wolfenstein 3D, but that kind of exploration of spaces, avoidance of danger, and exploitation of limited resources is probably a handy kind of practice for many other experiences in real life.

 For certain! I couldn’t agree more. I imagine some of those lessons may come in handy when you’re on the road with Oliu, Newgent, and Gobble this week. I mean maybe not necessarily anything directly from Wolfenstein 3D or Leisure Suit Larry, but every road-trip usually involves those kind of limited resources/avoidance of danger scenarios you mention.
What’s your biggest hope for this book tour? What are you totally pumped for?

I think a lot of people go on book tours with the idea that they’re going to sell books, or get some kind of local fame, or some other kind of promotional goal. Nothing wrong with any of that, I guess, but if I had to choose I think I’d pick adventure over sales, memories over fame. With these three brothers in the car and three cities full of great people hosting our visits, I can pretty much guarantee that both the adventures and the memories are forthcoming—for us, surely, but also for anyone who comes out to join us. Tuesday morning I’m hopping on the Greyhound to Indianapolis, and from there I’m setting the GPS to QUEST for the rest of the trip. Can’t wait.

That Time of the Month Again

17 Oct

No, not that time of the month (though maybe it is, and if so, I’m terribly sorry; my empathy for the fairer gender runs deep). The time I’m referring to is when I open my Google Reader and see new feeds from The Collagist, PANK, DOGZPLOT, and Word Riot.

The Collagist is out of the gate with excerpts from Blake Butler’s new memoir, Nothing: a Portrait of Insomnia, and Nick Antosca’s Fires. Work by Lincoln Michel, Kate Lorenz, Luke Geddes, Gregory Sherl, and Joseph Scapellato caught my breath.

PANK is pounding it out with some great words from Lauren Schmidt, Sarah Faulkner, Mather Schneider, Tessa Fontaine, and many others.

DOGZPLOT delivered with a lack of animal evidence by Peter Schwartz and a stinging serpent by Nicola Belte.

And Word Riot you’ll just have to check back for later, because their feed posts before their page updates, so I’m probably a jerk for telling you how good it is now. If you’re really curious, just subscribe to their feed. You won’t be disappointed, month after month, you won’t be.

Stop and Listen, Selah by Eugenia Leigh

30 Aug

I don’t have much to say about this poem “Selah” by Eugenia Leigh at this month’s The Collagist other than I love it, and I want it to speak for itself, which is fine and good really, because “Selah” is Hebrew for “stop and listen” and so please, stop and listen.

When the sky unhinges, how will we survive?

Who will extract the cancers
from our lips, the bombs from our arteries?

When we make delirious love
in the closets of our small, lovestarved God,
may he honor

our passion.

Read the rest at The Collagist.

“The CEO of Happiness Speaks” at The Collagist

21 Jun

I’ve always contended that it’s much harder to write a poem that is happy and glad than it is to write a sad bastard poem. A sad bastard poem is held up generally by the weight of its own pathos. But, a glad and happy poem is hard to pull off and not ring cheesey. I just read this poem by Marcus Wicker over at this month’s issue of The Collagist, and smiled smiled smiled. I recognize something of myself here, making a business of sorts based on shouting out what in the world makes me move and giggle and sigh and pause. But, sadly, after awhile, even that can become tedious, like the line in the poem:

Every single road I walk is lined with the signage
of joy. And I’m not exactly complaining

but imagine being this way full time.
Compare it to staring at the sun too long—

What happens after. Goldenrod grid
viewpoint. World as scatter plot.

My punch clock ticks from the second
I wake and it’s hard to tell the difference

between shifts. Think pleasure as computer
generated dots. Palm trees like pinstripes.

Think I’m crazy if you want
but the world actually moves me maybe

once every year.

That seems sad, but it gets happier, it gets joyous about a small and tiny wonder, the best kind. Read the rest of the poem at The Collagist!

SSM: “Men Glass” by Sarah Rose Etter

7 May

I remember reading this short story by Sarah Rose Etter in the March issue of The Collagist, the strangeness of it, its uncomforting. Etter strings words together in a way that makes you forget yourself, the same way she strings the names of the captive men together until they’ve forgotten themselves, until they and you have stopped pawing at the Plexiglass, a way in or a way out.

The unraveling of the men went something like this each time slight variations:

Nice to meet you. My name is Tim Brad Tom Sean Mike.

And what do you do?

I’m a professor butcher lawyer guitar player construction worker.

Would you care to buy me a drink?

That’s all it took, eye contact for that long. She hated this part hated the Jessica bits but thought about the end – their eyes behind the glass their movements hushed. She thought about love.

How many drinks does it take? By the fourth she can lean over like a lady put a hand on a male thigh whisper Come home with me say it very pronounced like there was a period behind each word making each word matter very much.

Then it was grins thousand-watters billboard faces cheekbone fireworks.

Read the whole story at The Collagist.

Everyone everywhere at every moment as tired as they could be.

15 Mar

I can’t say anything cool or new about how rad The Collagist is, or how awesome Blake Butler is, or how sweet There is No Year by Blake is going to be.

The new issue of The Collagist has an excerpt from There is No Year
and WOAH.

Look at how I love them.

15 Dec

“The Monkeyhouse” by Rachel Yoder in the latest Collagist is filled with light and sorrow and John says the word “devastating” and yes, that is the correct and perfect word for it.

I sat with the others in a dark booth and tipped pints of amber away inside of me. People talked around us. They made underwater noises. I moved my head from side to side, slowly. It was murky and deep. We were echoes of other people, fading from ourselves. I kept pouring amber light inside myself. I wanted only to purr and glow.

Devastate yourself.

Another Pregnancy Poem

4 Nov

This time from The Collagist, a really beautiful poem by Hilary Varner. I don’t want kids, but I’m wholly and unabashedly fascinated by women’s ability to build bones inside themselves, the contents of a body.

I can only picture it fluttering
translucent, webbed hands

like a miniscule conductor
in a snowflaked sea,

orchestrating its bald parts
and my nausea

in time with the world
I cannot even get dressed in: