Tag Archives: Vouched On The Road

Vouched on the Road: Atlanta with Jamie Iredell

27 Jul

Photo by Koneko Photography

Jamie Iredell is everyone’s favorite ATL uncle-type. He is the kind of guy who balances the grown-up living (watch him beam about his daughter; dude is Mr. Poetry at SCAD; serious working writer with a handful of books in the works/contracted) and the rad go-go-going (the man loves to hike; he co-hosts ATL’s reading series Solar Anus; one of the coolest talk-over-a-beer guys ever).

I came across Jamie’s work a few years ago when I won a copy of his book The Book of Freaks over at HTML Giant. I dove into that thing. I dive back into that thing when I need a reminder of how wacky life can be cool. Here is a freak for you.

Also the trailer:

Pre-Visit Interview with Jamie Iredell

1. How long have you lived in Atlanta?
10 yrs.
2. What are your favorite pieces of Atlanta?
The thighs, drumsticks, and wings.
3. What brought you to Atlanta? What keeps you in Atlanta?
PhD. in creative writing. That my wife has a good job and that she pays the bills.
4. How has Atlanta influenced your writing?
I frequently write the word “y’all”
5. If you could live in any city, what would it be and why?
Chicago, and I think you know why.
6. How’s the literary scene in Atlanta?
It actually sucks, compared to comparable cities of the same size. Much smaller cities (San Francisco, Portland, OR, Austin, TX, etc.) have far more lively literary scenes. Atlanta’s not much of a reading city, and I don’t know why that is, but my guess is the city’s youth, lack of a tradition in the publishing industry, and such.
7. Describe Atlanta in three words.
Hey, tee, hell.
8. What are you most stoked to show me in Atlanta?
I don’t know. My baby? She’s cute. You probably don’t like babies. I’ll show you a strip bar where most of the strippers also have babies, the evidence of which is sometimes way too apparent.

All of my previous interactions with Jamie were like my first two this visit–chattering, drinking beers, being at a reading. This guy is a busy dude with family, with teaching, with writing, but he makes it, he makes it happen, he makes it out to readings and organizes readings and supports supports supports.

Southern Comfort Tour Ladies

This visit, I saw my first Solar Anus reading, a series Jamie runs with Blake Butler and Amy McDaniel, usually at the Beep Beep Art Gallery in Atlanta. Packed to the gill-slits, this month’s reading hosted the Southern Comfort tour with Elizabeth Ellen, Mary Miller, Donora Hillard, Brandi Wells, and Chloe Caldwell, with special guest Scott McClahan. And from this one and the chatter I hear about the others, this series is how I dig them: a little rowdy, beer-provided, cooool space, and post-reading hangage.

Photo by Michael Straub

The next night was the big Vouched ATL birthday party, a special event that featured twenty of Atlanta’s brightest writer-people reading selections of work written by students in Wink and the Wren’s Nest , creative writing tutoring programs in the city. The event was a fundraiser for these two groups, and seeing so many kickass writers, like Jamie, using their reading spirits to celebrate these rad kiddos and organizations was a really special moment.
My last day in town was reserved for our big adventure, hiking to the top of Kennesaw Mountain. Jamie, a West Coast guy who grew up wandering the forests and nature out there, is a fun fun dude to follow on a trail. He knows the history, like about the battles that took place there in the Civil War. He knows the nature (hope this is allowed to be mentioned: he’s writing a series of prose poems right now about the trees of Atlanta). Even better, I have this love of nature that gets amped up in the rain and it started raining in the middle of our trek. A perfect BIG way to chop my way out of the city.
After a long week of readings and drinking and this mega-rad hike, before leaving ATL, I had to have me a final big hefty meal. Jamie delivered, taking me to DBA BBQ, one of those stick-it-to-your-ribs places.
My longest, busiest stay of the road trip (and sadly last of these Vouched posts), Atlanta was a kind, exciting place, a full scorecard of the literary and the wacky and the rowdy and the relaxing. And that is exactly the kind of time Jamie showed me, a lot of major goodness packed into one awesome writer-guy.

Vouched on the Road: Tuscaloosa With Katy Gunn

16 Jul

Katy Gunn does her thing. That is the best way I can put it. Her words, they flicker and flow straight up. Like this Madness that builds and goes BIG. Like this SHUT UP great piece, where the voice gets sync’d in and wow. Like her hoolahooping and juggling. Like her group art-making hangouts.

Point is, I learned big time on this visit that Katy Gunn, MFA student at the University of Alabama, is a doer, of neat stuff and unusual things and good art and most importantly fun living.

Pre-Visit Mini-Interview with Katy Gunn

1. How long have you lived in Tuscaloosa?

Two years. All the years before that I lived in Georgia, which is just like Tuscaloosa except without as much football and frozen yogurt, and the grasshoppers are smaller.

2. What are your favorite pieces of Tuscaloosa?

I like to go walking and look at the houses, sometimes inside them. People here don’t shut their blinds and often their doors. I also like my neighborhood, a gathering spot for wine and circus activities.

3. What brought you to Tuscaloosa? What keeps you in Tuscaloosa?

The MFA program, the juggling lessons.

4. How has Tuscaloosa influenced your writing?

People are always inviting everyone over to sit on their porches or with their cats so we can write in big groups. I get more done this way. If I stop writing, even to read National Geographic, Brandi glares at me and stomps her hooves. So I have to be really terribly motivated.

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

Someplace with a big lake and sailboats, lots of parks and gardens, cobblestone paths with shade trees, no cars, no televisions in any of the restaurants or houses, and maybe some orchards.

6. How’s the literary scene in Tuscaloosa?

Steamy.

7. Describe Tuscaloosa in three words.

Mostly always steamy.

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

Mostly the people. We could go around and knock on doors and make them show you all the cool things they do. This is Jake, he is a tightrope-walker. This is Emma, she cooks things that require machinery. This is Mahaney, he juggles glowing clubs.

Also I’ll probably make you hula-hoop.

Katy and myself, along with the mega-nice Joshua Helms (check out some of his goodness here), did a house reading early into my visit (thxxxxx to Matthew Mahaney and Betsy Seymour for hosting us!). A cast of MFA pals and others chilled on couches as we rattled our words in a big open room. Due to the chattering with all these cool folks, I got lost in the evening and didn’t catch a good recording of Katy’s set, but she was kind enough to record her piece for us, a big hunk of The Madness.

Katy was really rad in inviting me into her world. Inviting me over for the daily writing/craft time she has with fellow Roll Tide MFA-ers like Mahaney and Brandi Wells (check this lady’s new book poisonhorse out soon from MLP’s Nephew imprint). Hosting an evening of lawn fun.

I learned quickly, even before I saw her do her hollahoopin’ thing, that Katy was serious (in the total joy way) about hoolahooping. When I went to visit for writing/art time, I saw this big hoop collection chilling in the corner. At the lawn party I discovered that Katy actually makes all of her own hoolahoops, and even shares them with her pals!

The bug, that itch, to hoop, too, she shares with her pals, like Brandi Wells below, Katy’s ultimate hoopin’ pal. And really it is astounding, the tricks and the control (enough joy came from me when I could keep it on my waist), how Katy and pals can move the hoop around their bodies, how they “get” the movements, how the hoopin’ illuminates some unique joy (one I’ve only personally felt playing disc golf).

Fellow MFA student Jake Kinstler brought out his slack line, a new circus-y task Katy is learning. And boy is that a sweaty challenge (the BAMA heat didn’t help either), beyond balance, requiring a spry hop-to-it self I can’t conjure up (though I tried, I swear, I tried!).

Below is a rowdy painting Katy has done. Yeah, yeah, she dips into other arts, like painting and crocheting, fun outlets exercising an alternate artistic spirit from writing. She is also crafty with stuff like food and drink, my favorite being the fruit vodka she’s been making, jarring various fruits with vodka and letting them mingle in the fridge for a bit.

Writing-wise, she also knows how to get the business done. She gets together almost daily for group writing, a cool thing I got to be a part of: several of the MFA students, like Mahaney and Wells, in someone’s living room, writing, focused, sans Facebook and such. That’s what I’ve always loved about that program, how the community is a constant chatter around Tuscaloosa, constant talk about current projects and readings, future classes and publications. And Katy seems right at the center of it (and rah-rah-rightfully so).

Point is, I’m nominating Katy Gunn as someone to watch out for, to learn something from, as a writer, as a human being, as a friend.

Vouched on the Road: Louisville with Ashley Farmer

9 Jul

Ashley Farmer is for real one of the kindest people I have ever met. She is also a tight writer, crafting these little fictions that burn really bright. Check this piece in Nano Fiction. Or grab that whole Farm Town packet from Rust Belt Bindery. Add in her love of her Louisville, and BOOM we have the next Vouched on the Road host/writer.

Here Ashley reads one of the Farm Town pieces–

One problem–Ashley is now hanging cool out in California and couldn’t make it back to L-ville for the 4th as we had originally hoped. HEY HEY THAT IS STOPPING NOTHING. She sent me a list of memories/places to visit, and we arranged to chatter via text/phone calls while I was in town. With her spirit hovering and a pocket of good spots, Ashley led me through her beloved city with her pure goodness.

Pre-Visit Mini-Interview with Ashley

1. How long did you live in Louisville?

I lived in the country/suburbs outside Louisville through middle school and high school, in Oldham County, across from a dairy farm. I moved to the city proper for college and, after moving away, came back home to Louisville again. Total? Thirteen or fourteen years.

2. What are your favorite pieces of Louisville? 

The Highlands and Cherokee Park.

Says Louisville Native Hunter S. Thompson: “If I could think of a way to do it right now, I’d head back to Louisville, sit on the porch drinking beer, drive around Cherokee Park for a few nights, and try to sink back as far as I could into the world that did its best to make me. It’s not hard to get tired of interminable palms and poinciana, and I could do at the moment with a single elm tree on a midnight street in the Highlands.”

3. What made you leave Louisville? 

The last time I left Louisville it was for graduate school [at Syracuse].  I’d been back in town for a little over a year.  A swift, sweet hello and farewell.

4. How has Louisville (living there or leaving it) influenced your writing? 

Kentucky shows up in almost everything I write—I love the state in a sizable, unchanging way.  I wasn’t born there but I love that spot in which I grew up, the cornfields across the road from us, the zagging country roads, the lightning bugs in our yard.  I love the city as I knew it in my twenties, with its bright spots and dark ones, too.

When I started writing pieces about farms (for my chapbook Farm Town, and for the larger project from which the chapbook springs), I was considering especially that sprawl of fields and green hills and yards without fences.  It was a process of juxtaposing it against Southern California’s frenetic pace and tremendous freeways (in both the spirit of amazement and homesickness).

In past pieces and in the novel I’m working on right now, I’ve tethered my ideas to the particular yard and woods of my old Kentucky home. I like the constraints in reimagining it (process-wise), and those constraints mirror my experience of living there (i.e. being so close to my family and finding mysteries in familiar rooms/relationships/landscapes).

Some of this affection is rooted in nostalgia, but I don’t think that’s all of it.  I think Louisville is just a solid, fascinating, big-hearted place.

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

That’s tough to say. I’m in Long Beach, CA right now and it’s this diverse, electric town and I’m very fond of it (and, unlike HST, I’m not yet tired of palm trees).  But I’ve lived in snowy upstate New York, in a city so friendly to writers, and I’ve lived in the high desert with my family.  I’m adaptable, I guess. I could throw my arms around any place.  And I’m good at packing.

6. How’s the literary scene in Louisville? 

Rich. I’m likely leaving out establishments/projects/formidable upstarts, but here are some specifics that come to mind after being away and at a distance:

Publishing-wise, there’s the powerhouse Sarabande Books, who consistently publish interesting, important work.  There’s also Typecast (home of Lumberyard Magazine and publisher of Matt Hart’s Sermons and Lectures Both Blank and Relentless).  There are various reading series like InKY and the Kentucky Author Forum.

When I lived there, I had the fortune of studying with writers like Jeffrey Skinner and Paul Griner at the University of Louisville, and there are so many other Louisville and not-far-from-Louisville writers making interesting and diverse work: (to name only a few) Brett Eugene Ralph; Maurice Manning; Wendell Berry; Affrilacian poets Nikky Finney (who won the 2011 National Book Award for poetry) and Frank X. Walker; Ron Whitehead, who organized events like Insomniacathons for bands and writers to perform/read across the city for days. (He once corralled some of us student writers to help hand Hunter S. Thompson the keys to the city for the 25th anniversary of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. Thompson’s mother was there, and Johnny Depp—studying for the role and also from Kentucky—and Warren Zevon and David Amram and others. Here is everybody singing.)

Speaking of Thompson: you can find his old house in Louisville.  You can also see where “Daisy” of The Great Gatsby lived (F. Scott Fitzgerald spent time there), but I only know that particular home by walking past it…

7. Describe Louisville in three words.

Proud bourbon kindness.

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

Well, if I were to host you properly and not from across the country, I’d see what you were up for:

Do you want to play disc golf in a park to rival all others?  (That would be Cherokee, the one that HST endorses above).

Do you like pizza, ice cream, local beer on a bright street, coffee that gives you muscles, and a perfect little steak so good that you’ll no longer be a vegetarian? (There are so many excellent places to eat and sip in this city, and Kentucky is just southern enough to do this well and in grand celebratory fashion.) (Oh, you should come back for the Derby someday!)

Do you like very good books? (Trick question.)

Do you like ponies and feel lucky about them?

Do you like ghost-y gorgeous architecture and history and interesting piano bars?Stellar bourbons and a view of the Ohio?

Do you use wooden bats in disc golf? (You’re an innovator, so I’m thinking maybe!) If so, do you want to see how they get made?

Do you want to get to know Muhammad Ali?

Any music for you?.

Want to hit the Bourbon Trail before you hit the road for good?

This is what I’m stoked to show you from these 2,102 miles away.  Tell Kentucky that I said hello.  I hope the place is good to you.

Churchill Downs of course! Ashley often mentions this massive horse racing beauty, both the grounds and that BIG thing they host. I tried to beat the 90 degree mark (climbed a bit past 100 both days I was in Louisville) and mosey around the groonds. It is like a castle, man, like those lovely religious collossals. It is evident, without visiting the Derby, without seeing this place in action, I will never grasp the hum this place vibrates.

Cherokee Park! Man, oh, man! I see why this is one of Ashley’s favorite places, along with the hot spot for apparently every other person who likes to put their feet to good use in the area. From the 2.4-mile Scenic Loop, I spotted many rad sights like this, the park looming massive and gorgeous within itself. Also, this place sprawls and offers, for a public park, what seems endless, boundless, paths and fields and yes. Seriously, with less digits in the temperature and more time on my calendar, I would bask in this nature glory for days at a time. (Also, gonna throw this out there–DISC GOLF could totally fit on the sign, map, and heart of this park, plenty of area to toss a disc, only deserves a great course).

After sweating pails at the park, I headed to the Highlands, Ashley’s other top spot. Spotted that purple place, Wick’s Pizza. I bet I had that wuzz is up look on my face. Right away, the bartender and a patron offered there assistance, saying no no you cant eat a medium pizza (snagged a small bacon/pineapple pie), get a local beer (went with the BBC nut brown), and leave those leftovers here in the fridge while you wander around (how lovely an offer!). This place definitely did my belly right, big crust, savory cheese, several hunks of toppings. And that beer, oooooweeeee, that was smooth for a mid-day heat beater.

My most excited moment in the Highlands was my stop at Carmichael’s Bookstore. Cozy, I think yeah, that is a good way to describe it. A lot of books in a small space, yet with levels and a crisp loop (those kinda of lovely bookshelves I crave for my shack whenever I get to have something I can call MY SHACK). And selection, right, that is the key thing. From small press things to big-timers to local writers, this place brought it. Always makes me giddy to see books by folks like Heather Christle, these people who have been carried by the VB tables, have been featured on this site, and read at Vouched Presents readings. My snag here was Hobart 13-Luck , which features five shorts by Ashley (YAY).

Well, I couldn’t leave Kentucky without hitting at least one spot on the Bourbon Trail. So, I hit three. I was heading towards Nashville, so I plinko-ed to the Beam, Heaven Hill, and Maker’s Mark factories. The Beam facility was a little underwhelming in the sense that we didn’t see much and it felt more like going to a museum than being on a guided tour. However, real cool, we got to try a 130 proof Booker’s. Heaven Hill seemed to really balance the museum feeling with some in-depth chatter about the distilling and aging process (thx leader). Oh and their tasting room is sexxxxxxyyyy. Maker’s Mark, my least favorite of the bourbons here, really has it going on tour-wise–startling beautiful property, the only of these three tours to show the factory beyond the aging buildings and gift shop (like vats and bottling area), and the best tour guide of the three (he also had about 45 people as opposed to 12-ish for the other places). The Bourbon Trail is a YES!

Big thxxxxx to Ashley for being a part of this trip, even from afar, doing a totally rad job of showing me around, despite the thousands of miles.

I will leave off with this, another stellar story from Ashley–

Vouched on the Road: Chicago with James Tadd Adcox

28 Jun

In the second of my road trip posts, I visit with James Tadd Adcox of Chicago for some a few days of city living and great times.

My road trip took me next to Chicago to hang with James Tadd Adcox (though who calls him James? I call him Tadd. I like how it thumps!). Tadd is a PhD candidate at the University of Illinois at Chicago and head honcho of Artifice. He is the author of the recently released The Map of the System of Human Knowledge, out now from Tiny Hardcore Press. Most importantly, he is a fun dude who loves Chicago.

I read his book, this ambitious and (obviously) incomplete and great map-in-stories, a week before visiting Tadd. Stemming from a project where Tadd wrote a flash fiction piece a day for a year (he never missed a day!), these are stories that let you bite into them and bite back, with some touching mix of morality and humor and deep emotion. Here is Tadd reading my favorite story from the book:

Pre-Visit Mini-Interview with Tadd

1. How long have you lived in Chicago?

I’ve lived here around 5 years. Different neighborhood every year or two: Ukrainian Village, Humbolt Park, Pilsen, Logan Square.

2. What are your favorite pieces of Chicago?

I really love Pilson. I lived there for about eight months. It’s kind of an island, it feels like it’s connected to the rest of the city through warp zones or a series of underground tunnels.

3. What brought you to Chicago? What keeps you in Chicago?

I originally came to Chicago because I realized that a friend of mine was paying less in rent here than I was, in Lafayette, Indiana. At the time I was finishing up an MFA at Purdue, and didn’t have any definite plans for my future: I just wanted to move somewhere interesting and find some mindless work and write.

The first year I was in town I worked a lot of really terrible jobs: I was a “data entry specialist,” a canvasser, at one point I got paid to sit in the audience for a daytime talk show (that was a pretty good one, actually, though it wasn’t steady or well-paid enough to live on). Eventually I decided to apply for the PhD program at UIC, and that’s what I’m doing now–working on a PhD and teaching.

4. How has Chicago influenced your writing?

Hm. I’m not totally sure. Certainly there’re a ton of writers in Chicago, and I feel like knowing and talking to all of these people influences what I do.

Chicago’s maybe a little more open to formalist or non-realist work. Or maybe that’s just the small-press scene in general. But there’s a pretty huge, supportive small-press scene in Chicago. If nothing else, it’s nice to have other people around you writing, so that you don’t feel like it’s a totally crazy thing to be spending your time doing.

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

Oh man, I’ve got a list. In the US: Boston, Milwaukee, St. Paul/Minneapolis, Kansas City, Anchorage, Savannah–Savannah’s a big one. Savannah’s gorgeous. Somewhere in Virginia–Charlottesville, maybe? Charleston, both of them.

Outside the US: Buenos Aires, Monterrey, Vienna, Heidelberg, Berlin, Santiago de Compostela, Barcelona, Helsinki, Glasgow, Toronto, Lyons, probably I’m forgetting some.

I’d really like to be able to city-hop, live in a place for a couple of years, head somewhere else. I don’t like feeling like a tourist, like I’m somewhere without having any reason to be. But I do really like the feeling of living someplace new, figuring out how life works there, etc.

6. How’s the literary scene in Chicago?

Pretty friendly, I’d say. It seems like the number of readings has fallen off a little over the past year, but it’s possible that I’m just being a little more asocial recently. Hard to say.

7. Describe Chicago in three words.

I’m terrible at these. I always want to be super-witty, but everything I come up with just seems “clever” (in the sense of clever that means “actually kind of annoying”). Here, let’s try just being descriptive: flat, navigable, (nevertheless fairly often) surprising.

“Flat” is something that I’ve come to really like, particularly since my main form of transit in the city is biking.

I realize that the parenthesis is a bit of a cheat.

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

I’m pretty excited about taking you to Feed, which is this awesome chicken place on Chicago Ave. It’d be great if we got the chance to go to Maria’s, which is one of my favorite bars, down in Bridgeport. Do you have a car? Or a bike, a bike would work too. Some form of non-CTA transportation will make this a lot easier. There are a couple of great bookstores: Quimby’s and Myopic, the Seminary Co-op down in Hyde Park. The Garfield Park Conservatory, which is one of my favorite places in the city, and also one of the primary ways that I survive winter. The Harold Washington Library, which is the big one, downtown. The Museum of Contemporary Art and the Art Institute, duh.

I am particularly stoked to introduce you to Malort at some point. Do not Google “Malort.”

(Ed. Note: Oh, I got some Malort. Gracious, I didn’t know people actually drank laundry detergent.)

One of my favorite experiences was visiting the Chicago Cultural Center’s exhibit Morbid Curiosity with Tadd, fellow Indiana-man Chad Redden, and that Akron knucklehead Joshua Kleinberg. From the collection of Chicago-dude Richard Harris, this is a massive, two-room collection of death artifacts. Ranging from pieces for The Day of the Dead to a collection of skulls (one even covered in diamonds!) to modern-day war protest pieces, this collection is shocking and a beautiful reminder of the (sometimes) uglier part of existence. As it is a free exhibit running until July 8th, I definitely suggest this for any Chicago visitors.

As one enters the collection, this monster of a painting (only a third-sh of it captured here), “Death March,” rattles expectations right. (Pardon the stoked-shaky-hands picture!)


A few nights before I headed to Chicago, the band Cloud Cult played a show in Indianapolis. Several pals, including Vouched top dog Christopher, went to it and said WOW. As I was getting together some plans for Chicago, I found out that Cloud Cult were playing a free show at Chicago’s Millennium Park on my second night in town. A host of several free concerts every summer, this amphitheater is perfect for such things, big and booming and beautiful. Though not a huge fan of Cloud Cult’s jams, I had a fabulous time at this show with Tadd, Kleinberg, and other Chicago friends, rolling around in the grass.


I like this picture of Tadd at the Cloud Cult show.


Tadd showed me several rad eating places, including a Logan Square diner that cured two hangovers during my visit. My favorite place though was the catalyst for the first of those hangovers, The Boiler Room. The atmosphere is borderline kitschy at times (like the “L” theme in the restroom), but it certainly makes up for it with great booze specials and awesome pizza. Like the PB&J special (a slice of Pizza, a tall boy of PBR, and a shot of Jameson for seven bucks). Like how they only take cash, but if you use the ATM, they reimburse your transaction fee with a shot of Jameson. Like Jameson soft serve ice cream. A visit here on my first night in town was the right move, oh yes.


Tadd also took me to two of Chicago’s raddest book stores, the ultra-independent Quimby’s and the packed-with-goodness used shop Myopic (below is Tadd at Quimby’s). Appropriately (I guess I can play that here), I snagged Chicago Stories by Michael Czyzniejewski from Chicago’s Curbside Splendor Press at Quimby’s (selections of these available in places like Tadd’s Artifice Magazine and The Collagist, among others).


Always exciting to see a friend’s work at the cool book shop. Even cooler to see it in the window, as The Map of the System of Human Knowledge chills in the window at Quimby’s. Apparently, Quimby’s is stellar when it comes to consignment, so THUMBS UP TO THEM OKAY.


Another exciting city, another cool writer pal, another hunk of rad experiences. Big thxxxxx to Tadd and everyone else in Chicago for their hospitality and fun spirits and Malort.

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.

KRUTEL SPEAKS

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.

STURM SPEAKS

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?

HOW WE’RE NEVER ACTUALLY APART.

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.

THX FOR BEING SO NEAT