Monthly Archives: July 2008

Nacho Rating. Simone de Beauvoir. Ken Griffey. Radioactive Tumbleweed.

11 minutes later the Po-po finally left (half the neighborhood now peering out their tiny boxes) and we decided to forget about the earlier gun play conversation and just make some dinner. She was exhausted; one of my eardrums was clearly ruptured–let’s call it a day. We turned on Depeche Mode and played it very, very loud. There are certain moments when Depeche Mode is perfect, like when a cat is dangling from your ceiling fan. She had miso soup and a vivid green tea. I had nachos. We danced.

Nacho Rating: 6 of 10. These don’t really visually appeal, and that’s too bad, but as my grandmother use to say: “You have to get out of bed sometime.” (She was discussing the idea of marrying only beautiful people, but it applies here, too–you can’t really taste appearance.) The visual problem here is my tertiary layer, rotel dip. Like many, I am addicted to rotel. My uncle, brother, and I once ate it for lunch and dinner (I don’t eat breakfast and never have) for three days. Anywho, these nachos tasted much better than they appear. They were Habanero blur. The cheese speaks sharply. The rotel? As usual, hipster eyeglasses on a trembling face.


Finalized my book list for my graduate students, 610, at Ball State. If you took my class in the fall, you would read:

The Writing Life by Annie Dillard

The Lover by Marguerite Duras

The Road by Cormac McCarthy

Flaming Iguanas by Erika Lopez

Practicalities by Duras

The Raw and the Cooked by Jim Harrison

Safekeeping: Some True Stories from a Life by Abagail Thompson

A Poetry handbook by Mary Oliver

The Branch Will Not Break by James Wright

And you would also ready every single thing I just read and thought was great so had someone copy and then I handed it out to you. I am the czar of handouts. I have bad tree karma. But I’m working on it. I’m getting all electronic. I even blog.


Hey I won the Tattoo Highway Flash Fiction/prose poem contest for their upcoming issue. That made me happy as a raspberry raw and green. The contest involved a photo, and then writing a prose poem/FF to the photo. I thought the photo looked like an airport, and my scribbling has one of those artsy names you find in underfunded museums: “Airport #13”. It will be out soon and I will sparkle it on this blog and also they gave me $30 in a gift card to Barnes and Noble.

I will buy a book by this woman. And so should you.


Today’s blog advice is to try Tenured Radical. Claire B. Potter is tenured, so might say anything, which is the point of being tenured, historically. I like her spleen and also the boiler room tunneling of subversive umber.

Claire B. Potter has a better name than you. Claire B. Potter has a family, a mother and a father. But then so do feral cats. She is restless, they are not; and if so, they go out to a restaurant. Her boredom is the core of an active volcano, hot, gurgling. Don’t you understand! she once screamed at them. They did not. So Claire B. Potter quit verbalizing; she turned to observation. She has a way of seeing things: life as flow, skittering; and her reaction is to sketch it all into place on large onion skin tablets: a pastel sky, a giant egg-shaped cloud, curl of car exhaust, of pipe smoke, the interlaced structure of a brick oven, the feminine curve of a spiraling flock of pigeons, a pillow edge, an unmade bed. A mosque steeple. An empty bottle. A spool of thread. The red and white awning of an almond shop, stripes fluttering, shapes and fabrics and shapes, ribs, edges, forms, swatches…the curl of a young woman’s wet lips. Claire B. Potter has urges. She has the carnival in her eyes, a tingling in her fingertips, a thrum and crack that erupts from the pelvis, into the chest, a blooming heat, a panicky desire, always. At age 17 Claire B. Potter left for Paris. They did not.

Also she fishes.


The largest single order of nachos in the world weighed 2,768 pounds.



Dundee Beer. Dogzplot. Depeche Mode. Justin Rands. Other D words.

How would a person cut mustard? For beginners, what utensil would you even use? That saying has always burred me.

Rabbit’s foot–lucky for the rabbit?

I tried a Dundee Honey Brown Lager today. I suspect it is a major brewer masking itself as a micro, a very vogue technique recently. Coors makes Blue Moon and Killian’s. Miller tried to do this with Red Dog. Anyway this beer tasted like a rag soaked in an image of a badger on a limestone wall. If you come across a raccoon at daylight, or this particular beer–avoid.


Hayden’s Ferry Review has a blog. Do they know most in the writing world consider them the slowest responding magazine in the Megaverse? (I learned Monday there is not one universe; there are several, contained in a Megaverse.) Absolutely glacial. I sent Hayden’s a story once and by the time I got their rejection I had finished Infinite Jest, and had married/divorced/remarried/divorced an Irish actress. The usual lie to spare my feelings rejection notice was yellow and crumbled in my fingers.

By the way, Mark Neely says he has actually read all of Infinite Jest, but I do not believe him.

I’ve decided I like Justin Rands’s blog. He seems angry.

Justin Rands was something he didn’t know what to make of.

Justin Rands was long pale petals.

Justin Rands was banned from the radio.

Justin Rands was a sleeping hound.

Justin Rands was clinging weeds dredged from the bottom.

Justin Rands wasn’t understood by some people. Justin Rand was clearly understood by some people.

Justin Rands was something that closed the show. His eyes went full and overfull. Then Justin Rands filled the room. That thing so large and low and a weight like deep inside. And the room blacked out and the service paused, hands frozen—ice melting, ashes growing—and this thing floating and crushing and there, a presence: sure as music, the crowd, sure as Lady Day. Frozen in the spotlight, hands clasped, frozen. Only tears.

Justin Rands was flatly refused by Columbia.

Justin Rands was lightning wrist-snap.

Justin Rands would make them shout, “Please sing Justin Rands!”

Justin Rands was half-expecting blood.

Justin Rands was silence stretched.

Justin Rands would make them shout, “Never sing Justin Rand! Don’t you ever!”

Justin Rands left a long pause at The Apollo, then the sorrow of a thousand sighs.


THE LOUDEST SOUND I HEARD TODAY: A low flying helicopter. I could feel it inside/outside, like in my stomach, the rotors. In Muncie, IN, this means nothing. When I lived in Memphis, TN low flying helicopters were always police aircraft and, if hearing one directly above, you were most likely standing very near an ax-wielding murderer. One time a helicopter hovered over my house and just froze there in the air. We could feel its engines and rotors through the roof and walls. It was like standing in a woofer/bass speaker/belly of a satyr.

My mom said, “John, what is that?”

My dad (John) said, “Huh? I don’t hear anything.”

The next day we found out the criminal element had actually been hiding in our garage; then stole my Crazy Cat banana seat bike and tried to petal away.

I got the bike back, so it’s cool.

I’ve been writing flash fictions from the perspective of a disillusioned wife. This wife feels her marriage is like this: she turned down a wrong road (this was before in-car GPS) and tumbled/stumbled into a playground featuring greased guillotines and then around this corner and into a big, difficult neighborhood where packs of dogs limp and snarl and since time never travels backwards without great agony she doesn’t know how to leave.

Dogzplot took two of them yesterday, so look for them soon-ish, peoples.

“Someone Emailed Me Last Night and Asked if I Would Write About Nachos” is the title of a piece I wrote this morning. I would like to see it out in the world, and things look good for that to happen. I think anyone who admires nachos will likewise glee here.

Flash Fiction is a gray workday thunderhead.

Flash Fiction is John McEnroe.

Flash Fiction is RUN DMC on emeralds.

Rose Metal Press gets it. I adore them. I truly do because they are way ahead of the curve, folks. The press has released Geoffrey Forsyth’s IN THE LAND OF THE FREE. This book is the winner of the Second Annual Short Short Chapbook Contest. I will review it soon for NewPages.


Small Town Seventeen – An American Triptych

by Ann Garvin

Read it in The Del Sol Review.

Pretty sharp. A little Mellencamp, a little Susan Allen Toth. I said, READ IT!

Until then, live your life void of history and context.

Play With Writer’s Blocks. Robert Pinsky. Ativan. Nachos. Sam Pink.

Last night I was physically sickened by what I witnessed. I was at a local Mexican restaurant (El Maguey in Yorktown, IN) and the table a few feet over had a tall man with medium cheekbones and short hair ordering nachos. My ears perked to hear how he shaped his order, but he went straight menu, and that’s cool. A bit retro-just-to-be-retro but whatever. BUT when the nachos arrived he didn’t survey; he didn’t agitate (to let the flavor and aroma notes blossom) and waft; he didn’t even oscillate the plate to view the chords, arcs, tangents, and sectors of toppings/sauce distribution. He just grabbed a tortilla chip, from the inner circle, and then ate outward to the edges!

Amateurs, they spleen me. They make napkins fold in my brain. I felt like a baby anaconda was around my throat and squeezing.

This was like the time I was hunting in BFE Mississippi and this dude I’ll call J (for jackass) comes into the hunting cabin around 5 in the morning before our hunt and he sits down next to me and lights up a cigarette (ruining everyone’s masking scents) and places his gun (an obnoxious paramilitary .223) on the floor, propped onto a boot, thus aiming the barrel at my thigh area. I said, “Could you please watch your barrel?” And he said, “Huh?” This was the last time I hunted with J.

Or seeing someone not tip a roulette dealer.

Or the time I went to a party with Poet Laureate of the USA Robert Pinsky and it suddenly dawned on me: They are only serving lemonade. (As you’ve noted by now, I am going to try to drop as many literary names as possible. It feels powerful. Like dropping lint into an extinguished sea, on the moon.)

Image Aside:

People, do you want your chips crisp or soggy? Your toppings blended into Mozart, or clumped into a mushy mosh-pit of discord? Do you want to experience your meal; or simply shovel from a trough while kneeling in a mud of bat droppings and spoiled guacamole?

Listen: In the name of chef Ana Isabel Garcia Morena of La Villa Bonita, eat your nachos from the perimeter in! Use the chips with the least topping as a sampling utensil for the area with the most. I don’t even care if you go major or minor arc (that’s a personal choice, and most likely depends on whatever topping you prefer), but never, ever start eating from the centre of a nacho circle (I am assuming a circular/oval shape here–this particular blog post limits itself to western nacho prep and serving practices. I might address other countries and their nacho presentation in later scribblings).

Anyway, I’ll move on. I didn’t even have nachos due to a person at my table and their medical condition. I won’t get into details because the person might read this blog and they once hit me on the forehead with a shoe and also medical conditions are ethically/legally taboo for a public space.

Moving on….

Michael Kimball interviewed me yesterday. He’s going to write my life story for his postcard project. I think I could spend nine years reading these postcards about people. I read their lives and feel happy and sad and sorry and jealous and then just human. A keen experience, the phone interview; and Kimball is a calm, soothing, good guy. As I told him, “Thanks. Everyone likes to talk about themselves.” I’m looking forward to reading Kimball’s new novel, Dear Everybody.

One cool thing he told me was that his first novel was rejected 119 times, and then published in England. This made me glow. My manuscript (one of two) has been rejected maybe eight times and was finalist for the Spokane Prize for Short Fiction, and I still feel gloomy. What I should do is tighten it once again; and send, send, send…

I went to school with a writer named Tommy Z. This under the sweet magnolias, at the world’s second best MFA program. At Bama, you had your publishing peeples and your-no-interest-in-publishing peeples. Bama was odd that way, very competitive at times (for in-house awards and outside prestige–we even had a giant board that posted student’s achievements in your face); and I have heard some writers say they wish they had never published at that stage of their careers–or at least felt so pressured to. But Tommy was one publishing-ass dude. The man could write and get that writing out in the world. The point of this aside is that Tommy Z once sent a short story out 54 times!!

It was eventually published in Carolina Quarterly. I can’t find it. Here’s another by Tommy over at storySouth.


Writer’s Block is BS, and dangerously close to the most useless/insidious emotion in the world: self pity. Maybe I don’t suffer because I mostly write drivel? Maybe better writers have an argument? Well, either way, your problems are over, as I give you:


1.) Write about the Writer’s Block. Here’s one from the grand old man of drunken post office whoredom, of Hollywood horse track, of scars, of Hemingway hangover, of sexism, alcoholism, other -isms, of not-so-much-into big words, of passing out behind couches and urinating in planters and also he once got lost in the woods and stumbled upon a river and then a dam and actually turned on a giant dam release valve by accident thus releasing metric tons of water and that was actually funny:

8 Count

from my bed
I watch
3 birds
on a telephone
one flies
one is left,
it too
is gone.
my typewriter is
and I am
reduced to bird
just thought I’d
let you

When my students read Buk, at least one will say, “I could write that.” And I always reply, “Go right ahead.”

2.) Go to a quality lit mag online (like Cella’s Round Trip). Read everything. Now drink one beer, preferably something Germanic. Now try to write one true word. If this doesn’t work, repeat the process until you pass out write at least one true word. Maybe the word nacho.

3.) Freud often complained of writer’s block (“I’m tied up inside”), so you might be seriously screwed. If the father of psychoanalysis can’t figure out what is blocking his own creative flow, I doubt anyone else will solve your own malaise. You might want to consider an easier hobby, like sand wrestling.

4.) You could always blog. This is writing. Then again, it could take from your actual serious work, acting as an enabler. So you blog, feel good about it, and trick yourself into thinking: “Well, I did write today.” This entire line of thought is making me uncomfortable.

5.) The Muse lives in the mouth of a dog. It is the type of cur you see walking highway shoulders in Mississippi. If you track down this dog, and find a way to safely place your hand into its mouth, your writing block days are over.

6.) Steal this from me and say you wrote it (I stole it from someone so don’t get all uptight): A silverish moon and a car pulling up. A description of the gravel. And then out steps a young woman with perfumed hair, holding a hatchet, or a cherry blossom. Depends on the poem. The man sits on a sagging green couch, head in his hands, and says, “You never had this kind of conviction when we were together.” Fade out to clouds, their snow banks piling. An owl limps o into o the sky.


There is a No Colony literary journal coming soon! The cover is scary and somehow reminds me of The Sound of Music. In this issue!!

Nick Antosca (once billowed; does again)
Daniel Bailey (knows David Letterman)
Jesse Ball (is a better poet than you)
Ken Baumann (wrestles the Soviets)
Matt Bell (sends me free books)
Ryan Call (grips a small cleanness about him)
Jimmy Chen (Oscar Wilde on Whipped Cheese)
Kim Chinquee (you can not have a lit mag without her, dude)
Giancarlo DiTrapano (rummage)
Brian Evenson (ogle, gape–controversial dude!)
Brandon Scott Gorrell (see him shellfish, see him glee)
Jac Jemc (bolts of oak)
Shane Jones (does things with video games u wish u could)
Sean Kilpatrick (try to drive in an arctic glare, my friends)
Michael Kimball (is undergoing knee surgery right now)
Tao Lin (early in the morning)
Robert Lopez (…)
Josh Maday (will one day understand nachos)
Miranda Mellis (rhymes with blur)
Sam Pink (coffins are mentioned)
Matthew Simmons (on TV)
Justin Taylor (lightning bolts down the chimney)
J.A. Tyler (mud mud mud)
Brandi Wells (soulful)
Derek White (fried octopi. Please publish me book.)
John Dermot Woods (once worked with me at a Memphis produce store)
Mike Young (guides readers)


Why Won’t You Dance??


Today I prepped for my Fiction Workshop class 307 at BSU, home of Letterman and flowers and also a great education that will benefit your lifestyle.

Here is the reading list:

The Road by Cormac McCarthy

Flaming Iguanas by Erika Lopez

Wild Sheep Chase by by Haruki Murakami

Deliverance by James Dickey

Then also a Flash Fiction anthology because my students will bleed Flash Fiction once I am done.


I decided to add Sam Pink to my blogroll today. Sam Pink has a better name than us. Sam Pink is a Glamazon. Sam Pink once played poker with a tattooed lady. Sam Pink is calm. Sam’s way with cats. Cats curl up against Sam; purr as Sam strokes their ears—that tells you something about a person. Animals know things. Another thing I like are Sam’s boots, python skin. Other things: Sam knows how to make homemade pizza. Knows how to select a tuxedo. How to tie a bowtie. On location together, during months of filming, Sam never asked if I missed my family. The veins in Sam’s forearms. The scar below Sam’s left nipple. The way Sam can name birds by their song. The way Sam doesn’t mind, or even comment, when I throw plates or silverware into the fireplace, into the fire. The way Sam curses, rarely, so with meaning. The way Sam teaches me stud poker, without belittling, and with no apologies when Sam wins. Sam eats potato chips and caviar in the same meal. Sam’s belly button is basically perfect. Sam can ride a horse. Sam can be angry. Sam can be silly. One day Sam entered my dressing room with a rope, an actual braided rope, lassoed me around the waist, pulled me close, gave me a bear hug, and whispered in my ear, “Now don’t tell anyone, but Sam Pink really is just a simple cowboy.”

But I like the poetry and blog. So TRY.


This is How We Roll Elizabeth Bishop Style

I caught a tremendous fish
and held him beside the boat
half out of water, with my hook
fast in a corner of his mouth.
He didn't fight.
He hadn't fought at all.
He hung a grunting weight,
battered and venerable
and homely.  Here and there
his brown skin hung in strips
like ancient wallpaper,
and its pattern of darker brown
was like wallpaper:
shapes like full-blown roses
stained and lost through age.
He was speckled with barnacles,
fine rosettes of lime,
and infested
with tiny white sea-lice,
and underneath two or three
rags of green weed hung down.
While his gills were breathing in
the terrible oxygen
--the frightening gills,
fresh and crisp with blood,
that can cut so badly--
I thought of the coarse white flesh
packed in like feathers,
the big bones and the little bones,
the dramatic reds and blacks
of his shiny entrails,
and the pink swim-bladder
like a big peony.
I looked into his eyes
which were far larger than mine
but shallower, and yellowed,
the irises backed and packed
with tarnished tinfoil
seen through the lenses
of old scratched isinglass.
They shifted a little, but not
to return my stare.
--It was more like the tipping
of an object toward the light.
I admired his sullen face,
the mechanism of his jaw,
and then I saw
that from his lower lip
--if you could call it a lip
grim, wet, and weaponlike,
hung five old pieces of fish-line,
or four and a wire leader
with the swivel still attached,
with all their five big hooks
grown firmly in his mouth.
A green line, frayed at the end
where he broke it, two heavier lines,
and a fine black thread
still crimped from the strain and snap
when it broke and he got away.
Like medals with their ribbons
frayed and wavering,
a five-haired beard of wisdom
trailing from his aching jaw.
I stared and stared
and victory filled up
the little rented boat,
from the pool of bilge
where oil had spread a rainbow
around the rusted engine
to the bailer rusted orange,
the sun-cracked thwarts,
the oarlocks on their strings,
the gunnels--until everything
was rainbow, rainbow, rainbow!
And I let the fish go.

Dan Rather Not. Hot Sauce. And the Greatest Love Poem Ever

Like many of you, I sometimes quaff a few of the greatest beers created by man in the late evening and find myself Drinking and Ebaying. This leads to fascinating discoveries in the mail a few days after: a decorative pillow the size of my thumbnail; a Sherlock Holmes action figure; a brass bottle opener in the shape of a llama.

Yesterday a UPS truck rumbled and screeched up to the adobe. A wood nymph in brown shorts bounded out, and handed me a long rectangular package. As my 4 year old watched on (I love the way kids view the mail, like poets–anything could happen!), I ripped open the box, peered in, and pulled out…yep.

It’s a machete.

The cool thing was when my kid (his eyes gleaming. A dad holding a giant sword had him so overwhelmed he was lost-4-words babbling) said, “Dad. When you die, can I have that?”

I said sure. Then we worked on a still life, placing the machete with various objects. We are artists (pronounced R-teest), as you know. This was our favorite. Father and son call this MACHETE WITH DARK HORIZON AND VINTAGE TOY.

machete still life

machete still life

Gary Snyder

almost fell into Beat-dom, but one day woke with a felt beret dangling from his ceiling fan and Kerouac handing him a freshly toasted Pop Tart, so immediately came to his senses. Forsaking it all in the good ol’ USA, especially the rising consumerism following WW II, the entire country rapidly growing a middle class (not yet obese, but trying!); and this demographic defining its Time and Purpose and God: to buy shit, use it up, and throw it away to buy more shit. What a religion, Gary thought. So he left it all for camping in the wilds of Japan. And I mean everything–all he owned or knew, even his Tupperware. Oh, and his soul-mate, Robin. This should be no surprise. One point of enlightenment is to let earthly things fall away, even your cool hippie girlfriend.

Buddha says: “No one saves us but ourselves. No one can and no one may. We ourselves must walk the path.”

Later in his life, Snyder had regrets. We all have regrets (Those who proudly proclaim they have none make me want to kick a sycamore in the forehead); but Snyder records his, in verse. Thus we get the exquisite Robin Poems.

Which leads to this: The Greatest Love Poem Ever

After Work
The shack and a few trees
float in the blowing fog

I pull out your blouse,
warm my cold hands
     on your breasts.
you laugh and shudder
peeling garlic by the
     hot iron stove.
bring in the axe, the rake,
the wood

we'll lean on the wall
against each other
stew simmering on the fire
as it grows dark
            drinking wine.

                   Gary Snyder

Where is the word love? The words how-incredible-and-immediate-is-the-intimacy-of-cooking-our-meal (a close, creative act you will later ingest to provide energy you will later Newtonian First Law engage into loss)? Where is the way one glass of wine crackles the synapses and blood? Where is the perfect poetic idyll, the Time-Out from the Dark Flailing World outside these walls, the gratitude for leaning against another in a woodfire-warmed, still moment of true?

(note: The font and such may appear odd from here on. I’m not sure why. I wish I knew how to blog. I really, really do…)

NO WHERE!! But in verse and meter, in concrete image. In the fragile freeze-frame authenticity of poetry. Mr.Snyder, I thank thee (and a Hallmark card is on the way [I jest, I jest]).


I had nachos for breakfast. If you think nachos are inappropriate for breakfast, you need to recalibrate your boredom meter.

NACHO RATING: 5 of 10. For some reason, my tortilla chips were 8% too crunchy. I am looking into this. But the hot sauce is a special Habanero Bat’s Brew blend and made my tongue hysteric, loud, and happy like a bag of tomatoes. Like a microphone.


Other LOVE THINGS you should read…

1.) Kristen Sund in Dark Sky Magazine 7.4. Oh, so sad, this poem. This is the moment I call Before the Day After. The first itching that you must leave the person you are with because you are treadmill more often than not and life is way too short for sustained, recognized errors; and you have reached the percentage of time you will allow your true self to do things you actually do not want do (everyone had a percentage they keep inside). All of this in the prism glow of image.

2.) In Rachel Hartley-Smith’s blog, a farmer woman says, “Make your omelettes. Make your omelettes for your family. I didn’t mean to bother you. Just wanted to hear your voice, sweetie.”

This made my heart purchase gloves and lug a bucket. Sometimes simple words are like dirt. Rather enriching.

3.) Dora Malech kinda Laundromats my sunset with this one over at La Petite Zine. It makes me want to meet this narrator for fourteen minutes. Then run.

THE LOUDEST SOUND I HEARD TODAY: My child scream with glee. It sounded like a seagull in a big house. I told him no daycare. We are going to a larger, lower, more vivid education–canoing the White River in our bad-ass Mad River canoe.

Gary Snyder approves, my friends.

Blake Butler vs Philip Larkin in a Death Match

Well, although a finalist, I did not win the Tarrt Fiction Award for my short story collection. This seems extremely fair. The book needs seagull-swathed-in-oil spill kind of toweling off. I wish a reality show would appear at my door and the thin beautiful hostess with the ironic T shirt and the power saw would grab my manuscript and rip out the wirings and install a handicap ramp and match the drapes to the toilet and then give me $3000 to spend on heroin a MAN ROOM.

Here is my Man Room. You can’t see the hunting and disc golf gear because they live on the other side, with the camera. Kind of like Buzz Aldrin who was the official photographer for the Appolo Program so all the moon photos are of Armstrong. And then the few of Aldrin are even reflected in Armstrong’s shiny spaceman visor. Talk about a metaphor for being the second (though Aldrin was told he would be first, and then baited and switched while 40,000 km out in space) man on the moon.

The word sonnet means Little Room.

House is a Christian horror novel.

My mom burned our kitchen up (or is it down?) while cooking fried chicken.

I should have sent Joe Taylor, the head of Livingston Press a box of cigars and I might have won. The man knows cigars, and the future. He once introduced me at a reading by saying, “This is Sean Lovelace. He was a nurse. I have no idea why he changed jobs.”


I am often shocked by my own mediocrity. Though not sure why. I mean I have to wake up to this situation every single day. For example, yesterday I sat at my computer and attempted to write. Nothing happened. It was like trying to squeeze Miller Lite from an orange flyswatter. Finally, I wrote:

Wanted to bolt. To heavy soil. To be alone. Sat in my Subaru and drank an oil can of Fosters. The beer tasted metallic. Like as a child with my pellet gun and never any pockets in my 1970s striped shorts for the pellets so I held them in my mouth. My cheek pouches. Basically treating lead like chewing tobacco. Ingesting poison.


Today for lunch I decided to bake tortilla chips. Then melted cheese. And toppings.

Nacho Rating: Made these at home, as is my Glim-Glam way. 6 of 10. The chips were divine. The black beans all Phillip Lopate. I added chipotle sauce and a heavy dose of Grapefruit Pulp Hot Sauce. Overall, a lunch that made me open my lungs and refold them.


1.) Kendra Grant Malone’s FF in 3:AM Magazine. This text is very The Day Lady Died, and I like Frank O’Hara. That dude would have loved blogging.

Also I enjoyed Kendra’s poem TONIGHT PEOPLE SUCK (BUT SOME ARE GREAT) AND THIS IS NOT A POEM BUT AN HONEST RECOLLECTION from her DRUNK blog. Kendra often writes in ALL CAPS. I think she enjoys screaming, or maybe her Caps Lock got stuck then broken off in a scuffle. The poem begins:



2.) Daniel Bailey’s FF in Smokelong Quarterly. Yes, yes, I gave him this writing prompt in my Fiction Workshop class. So slap me louvered window.

3.) Any check you sign.

4.) A self help book on how to change your oil. Followed by one on how to survive matrimony.

5.) Ana Marcela Fuentes’s FF in Vestal Review. Great title. Though Vestal Review makes anger unfurl in my forehead. Because the Byzantine submission requirements make it damn near impossible to send anything in.

6.) There is no number 6.


Frank O’Hara was run over and killed by a dune buggy. Richard Kidd fell into a waterfall and was swept away. Sylvia Plath stuck her curly, curly head into an oven…

A few months ago this Catholic Priest died when he tied 1,000 helium balloons to a lawn chair and then rocketed into the air!

By the way, right now, as you read this, you have a one in 193 chance of dying by a fall. But the important thing is to avoid cars (one in 87) or yourself (odds of committing suicide–one in 121).

What’s my point???

Blake Butler vs Philip Larkin in a Death Match!!!!!!!!!!

The rules are simple: Which author writes better about death in the two texts I have chosen? The categories are:

Best Opening Line

Best Image

Best Thing That Made Think

Best Reference to Nachos

Best Ending Line

The official judge of this and future contests is God me.


“Eternal nothingness is fine if you happen to be dressed for it.”

Woody Allen


Blake Butler stretches shadows with his cross-genre musing from diode, List of 50 (16 of 50): Death Toll

Philip Larkin delivers with his morning song poem, Aubade


Best Opening Line

Larkin: ” I work all day, and get half drunk at night.”

Butler: “1. In 2003, one out of every 113 people died, according to”

Butler comes out swinging, as he establishes an intrigant, a term coined by Jerome Stern, from from the best book out there on How-To-Write-Fiction. And he sets up one prong of his argument, the same thematic area hinted at by Larkin (and many others who dare inspect personal extinction): the role of religion in this whole mortality thang.

But Larkin prevails here, as he establishes his narrator as someone we can all get behind: a drunken, angry, selfish bachelor. And it is the half-drunk voice that will lead to his reflections on death. Half drunk is a time when the mind goes off its jangling leash, as opposed to the denial of sobriety and the oblivion of being hammered.

Best Image

Butler just nips Larkin here, with “9. In the mirror finding a small bruise on my forehead that I don’t remember getting.” Being placed on this earth to eventually die is exactly like finding a bruise of unknown origin. A big-ass cosmic joke, but not so funny. This line also reminds me of Norman Mailer’s excellent noir/marijuana/visceral blur novel, where a man wakes from a night of drinking to find a fresh tattoo and copious amounts of blood splashed all over the interior of his Porsche. He has no idea how or why. Begin story.

Best Thing That Made Think

Larkin is strong here, as he writes, ” Most things may never happen: this one will.” A devastating line. Death. It’s waiting on us. Just waiting there, sipping a glass of hemlock. Yawning and smiling. Or as a doctor in the Denver city ER (talk about death, we actually had coffee mugs and T shirts with our slogan on them: THE GUN AND KNIFE CLUB) told me one night over an oily cup of coffee, “Death, it’s going around.”

Honorable Mention: Butler has actual recorded words from pilots as they realize (or do not?) they are about to crash their airplane into EternalVille.

A few years back, Michael Martone did some kind of black box fiction thingy, but I’m too lazy to find it on the Internets.

Also, a friend of mine just learned his uncle died while piloting a plane. He crashed into a field of corn. The odd thing is the accident was video recorded, and then someone sent the video to my friend. Is that a nice thing to do?

Best Reference to Nachos

Neither author made reference to nachos. The bastards.

Best Ending Line

Butler: “50. I don’t want to look at the internet anymore.”

Larkin: “Postmen like doctors go from house to house.”

Both lines have this reflection on death end where we all go: into retreat. Butler’s narrator doesn’t want to even look anymore. Larkin has his characters return to one of our many escapes, work. But Larkin’s ending spirals into a bit more. The postmen might be bringing a personal letter, or a card of condolence, or the tax forms. And what is the doctor doing? And so on. Every job, like every life, is tainted by death. It’s all connected in a giant forever spider web. With no escape.

Conclusion: Well, both works are fascinating. Both made me slightly depressed. Then thoughtful as I sought the catalyst for my depression. What is it exactly I can’t handle about my approaching and certain demise? Folks, I had to do some thinking. Some soul-thrumming. Some closed fist, and moths in my beer bottle. And therefore, after reading both texts, I felt more alive. I thank these fine authors. And, in a smidgen of a Chinese Elm, Larkin takes the title today!

He is the Iron Poet! (lame allusion)

And so, to avoid clinical sadness, and in his honor, we will end with another of Larkin’s uplifting peaches:

Philip Larkin – This Be The Verse

They fuck you up, your mum and dad.
  They may not mean to, but they do.
They fill you with the faults they had
  And add some extra, just for you.

But they were fucked up in their turn
  By fools in old-style hats and coats,
Who half the time were soppy-stern
  And half at one another's throats.

Man hands on misery to man.
  It deepens like a coastal shelf.
Get out as early as you can,
  And don't have any kids yourself.

18 Blog Hits Are Like Onions, Henry Miller, and Flying Cars

Got a new dog, Mia. Named after Mia Farrow. I would include her complete picture but my father says if you take a photo of a dog, it will die. This is a hard fact to prove/disprove or otherwise. I spent years asking people I met at hardwood floor/bookshelves made of 2X4/sweating PBR in giant metal bins/this poet I know makes excellent pizza/house-with-a-cat parties if they owned a dog. If they said yes I followed with, “Have you ever taken a photo of it?” Every single person had. I am still looking for a dog that has never been photographed. A Martian dog maybe. Once that happens, I will monitor the dog for my remaining life, and then pass the project on to my son. Like a Buddhist trying to move a mountain. And so on.

I don’t want my dog to live forever because that would be horrible. So above is a picture of 1/3 of my new dog. This should lead to an annoyingly long life, but not eternal.


I just read a person say that most of Don DeLillo’s novels are about men alone in a room. I am now grinding my spleen into my left foot. As the cool kids mumble, whatever.

In other news:

Whenever want-to-be-writer folks sashay into my office and ask the good ol’ “How do I become a writer?” query, I always answer with, “Why in Lohan’s name are you asking me?” Followed by, “Get a job.”

Here’s one reason:

Matt Bell won the 2008 Million Writer’s Award. No surprise in my country. I read, re-read and passed to others Matt’s chicken-religion-eyeglasses-grief support-touch of Camus story. It’s also a good text for the classroom (at least mine), as it displays one of my “Lovelace Rules” (important rules these–right up there with slime mold) of creative writing. As I blah and re-blah and blah once again to my Intro CW students: write about work. But no. They often want to write diluted versions of the movie they saw that Thursday evening. This can be OK, but I would rather they wrote about the day they felt that throat-heat of arriving at a job, of screwing up the task at hand, of learning the back-side, the Sara, the how-sausages-are-made reality of a job, the crookedness and bolt throwing and making out in the trash compacter of a j j j job. Carl Sandburg to Jim Harrison to Barbara Ehrenreich, etc. To my great fortune, I stumbled through many jobs (poodle groomer to lifeguard to landscaper to Pizza Hut driver to shipping and delivery at an incredibly toxic chemical company owned by Quaker Oats to Mercedes plant robot scrubber to RN to on and on…) and they all taught me: humans, all humans, are weird. (Robots are weird, too.) And mean. And nice. And layered like certain tall people, or rocks, or finger sandwiches. I think this knowledge is critical to writing. Matt Bell’s characters are odd, in a night-swim honesty way readers recognize and then say, “Thank gods. It’s not only me sleeping with a Christian heavy metal band singer.”

THE LOUDEST SOUND I HEARD TODAY: 30,000 cubic meters of water caterwomping out a spillway below Kentucky Dam. Sounded like infatuation on Dexedrine, screaming.

Saw a mink scurry by my feet. I didn’t realize mink ever acclimated to humans. But they do. And this woman in really tight jeans yelled out, “Don’t you touch it! It’ll bite your ass!”

I did not touch the mink.

Saw an incredibly bell-thomp fisherman get his john-boat too near to the intake of the dam, thus pinning himself to the hulking scary rusting intake grate. Suction, you know, sucks. Very dramatic action for those of us on the bouldered shore. Some cheering for him to live, others jeering for him to die. Angler guy finally revved his motor in reverse and throttled up max, with a rooster-tail of exhaust and spray. Sounded like a chainsaw hung up on a cow. Hung, hung, treading water and froth and howl; then popped free from the grate and eddy-spun out of there. He most likely won’t visit that fishing spot again.

I also saw a fisherman GIVE UP while at the spillway. He hooked a whale/NSA submarine/bloated backup singer/minor god (???) and the fish won the battle, clearly, for about half an hour. My uncle James and I settled in to watch the battle. This fisher-guy had braided line and it wasn’t going to snap, no matter how his rod looked like this: C. The line did sing with vibration, a strum, a sweet sound that had my blood coursing. But that fish had him soul deep. Memphis blues deep. At one point, he actually placed the rod over his shoulder in a kind of Iwo Jima holding-a-flag pose, turned his back to the fish, and trudged up the hillside trying to physically tug the fish in. After this, and other attempts, he purposely wedged his gaff into the line, spun and twisted, and snapped the line. Huh? First time I’ve seen a fisherman surrender. The crowded bank of fisher-folk seemed displeased. Grumbles and head shakes. I handed out copies of Moby Dick.

Who writes better about death, Blake Butler or Philip Larkin? This (scroll down) by Butler or that by Larkin? I’ll answer the question later in this blog. Why do I keep writing about death today? Maybe it’s because I am going to die. Relax, relax, we all are…it’s as inevitable as Joyce Carol Oates.

MY BROTHER HAS A NEW CD OUT!! I have many interests, a smidgen of knowledge base, but am lowly deficient in music, so will hardly review here. But I will tell you SIX FACTS ABOUT MY BROTHER’S ALBUM.

1.) Adderall is an orange pill.

2.) There’s either a sitar or a tapir on track 3.

3.) You can write to it. Though I prefer to write to the type of music played in Mexican restaurants in Alabama. I dare you to find a southern town that does not have three Mexican restaurants, one good, one Cracker Barrel bad, one in some woman’s living room.

4.) Does my brother know the band rips off a book By Mark Vonnegut, the mentally ill physician, and son of the author-you-should-read-while-between-ages 17 to 24? If my brother does know, kick ass! If not, still kick ass!

5.) There is no number 5.

6.) To me, the music on this album sounds like going back and forth, back and forth, with your friendly guide, Roop Verma, over thread count while bartering for a rug in India while at the same time thinking, “Shelia pushed past Dalton and hurried out the door.” I liked the feeling.

In other news, the pirates of the world are in deep trouble:


Cella keeps being smart.


Maurice Manning said to me, “Sean, Kentucky is very sweet in the spring.” This was a few months ago in a library. He is an Alabama MFA grad, like me, and I put my shoulder to the wheel for all Alabama MFA folks, except for the very few I can not tolerate.

Also, Manning writes better poetry than we do.

A Psalm To Bring Remembrance
I had a friend when I was little;
he went to a different school because

he was a little slow. He lived
with a giant man and woman who weren’t

his parents, and six or seven more
he called his sisters and brothers. He had

a dog named Sister. We played in the woods
and tinkered on our bicycles.

One day, an older girl took off
her shirt and told us we could touch.

He did. He waved his hands around
as if he were trying to catch a bird.

The older girl was a Catholic,
I believe; her name was Mary; I

was a Presbyterian, and he
was nothing. Another day, we broke

a woman’s window with a rock.
He got the tar whipped out of him.

I mowed the banjo player’s yard
all summer to pay my share. You God

up there who saw it all, I hope
his life got better, but I doubt

it did. If he is dead by now,
I hope he’s resting in your bosom.

Do not be slow. Remember he
was poor and needy, more than me.

China’s Terrible Blunder

Finally. Now I can quit sleeping and go back to wake.

China has released its list of restricted items for this summer’s Olympic venues: guns, ammunition, crossbows, daggers, fireworks, flammable materials, corrosive chemicals and radioactive materials, musical instruments, oversized carry-on bags, suitcases, handbags, flags of countries and regions not participating either in the Olympics or Paralympics, flags more than two meters in length or one meter in height, banners, leaflets, posters and unauthorized professional videotaping equipment, knives, bats, long-handled umbrellas, long poles, animals (except for guide dogs), vehicles (except for strollers and wheelchairs), loudspeakers, radios, laser devices or wireless devices.

The list is a bit of a poem, with vague items (handbags?) ricocheting off the specific (flags more than two meters in length or one meter in height); and then a dose of full, identical, other rhyme (bags/flags, devices and devices). I adore the banning of radios. Calling all people who lug around radios! What’s next, a ban on telephone booth stuffing?

Well, literary aspirations of the list aside, I was on the barbed wire about attending. But no crossbows? No and way. I’ll spend the cash on a Kate Christensen novel. Jesting, jesting…I spleen her two books I’ve actually read. I’ll spend the cash on a beige comforter for the bedroom, a bowstring, or a wicked Star Stingray.


I thought this was teakettle good (only an excerpt here):

Salinka Mura and the Typewriter

by Charles Talkoff

Arthur was a typewriter and at first life was difficult and on account of all the media attention it was more difficult still and people came to stare and others to make fun but eventually that all faded and Arthur lived a normal life for a typewriter and his parents loved him up to a point beyond which they were tormented by guilt and conflicting feelings of remorse and fear and blame and endless recriminations and Arthur’s father built a mechanism for feeding paper into Arthur so he didn’t go without except once when they forgot and he was miserable and started typing but only beat against his platen and bruised himself


I tried to eat the most pretentious dinner possible tonight, just for this blog. First, I thought: sea turtle eggs. Then cacti spears with some regional relish. Then maybe some animal I raise today then kill then butcher then eat. But the logistics were hellish. I settled on a literary meal, served to James Bond in Ian Fleming’s (the Svengali of the adverb) Goldfinger–an entire fish flash-fried, sliced open with a stilleto, and still flopping on the plate as you eat its eyeballs.

I thought this photo would be more dramatic. And I took only one. Even borrowed my mom’s camera. Oh whales.

Off to Kentucky.


Every Earring Has a Twin (nachos)

Nacho Rating: “Mexican Nachos” (their menu title) at hipster market on Bill Clinton Street in downtown Little Rock, AR: 4 of 10. At least the salsa was epic. Beans on a detour, soupy. Chips a bit clunk. Salsa slayed the dragon though. Fiery, green, stung my soles as I lurched tongue-ward down lunchtime way. All Timex. Etc.

That Murakami Fellow Wrote Another Book

Six Indicators You are Reading Haruki Murakami.

1.) A first person narrator meets a 100% beautiful woman reading a book at a jazz bar. She is a runaway.

2.) A cat talks.

3.) A first person narrator drinks two fingers of whiskey, stares at a shadow on the ceiling, and thinks, “Odd how ceilings are like portals to the floor of that lonely girl living above me.”

4.) A first person narrator makes miso soup to Charles Mingus on the radio, which, as you know, is the perfect miso soup making music.

5.) ifyouseeasentencerunningtogetherlikethisthesheepmanistalking

6.) A first person narrator has his soul split into two animals: a cat, and a Chinese Army Captain with a mysterious spleen tattoo in the shape of a telephone. All of this happens in a tunnel below Tokyo.

But now he has a memoir! About…running!! And apparently no one turns into a cat! It even has a Raymond Carver allusion in the title. Now that is cool as ___________________

Holy fartlek VO2 tempo workout up a hill! Am I excited? Do I unfurl the glee? It feels like Christmas when I believed. It feels like God left me a mint on my pillow. It feels like wearing the yellow jersey. It feels like synapse shudder.

I ordered my copy 14 minutes ago.

What I Talk About When I Talk About Running by Haruki Murakami

Taking place, as it does, in the real world, Haruki Murakami’s slim memoir is less strange and beautiful than his fiction. Instead, the author presents the story of his life as a runner in straightforward language, charming in its simplicity and honesty. Murakami frames his development as a novelist, as well as his early adventures as a night club entrepreneur, within the physical experience of his daily run. The book will be an enjoyable sprint for fans of Murakami, and should also appeal to runners, even those not familiar with the author’s other books.

The first two-thirds or so of What I Talk About‘s 192 pages are adapted from journal entries written as Murakami prepared for the New York Marathon in 2005. Beginning with his holiday in Kauai, Hawai’i, three months before the race, Murakami explains his habitual routine. Running at least one hour every day, six days a week, and listening to the Lovin’ Spoonful on his minidisc player, he examines the adjustments and fluctuations this regimen has gone through since he began running more than twenty years ago. Murakami’s intent is not to proselytize (“no matter how strong a will a person has… if [running] is an activity he doesn’t really care for, he won’t keep it up for long”) but merely to reflect. He notes with surprise that “I’m never able to keep a regular diary for very long, but I’ve faithfully kept up my runner’s journal,” so perhaps any documentary examination of the author’s life would have to take place in the context of his running.

There are, however, several interesting revelations about Murakami’s writing process here. From his statement that he owes the form his novels have taken to his career as a runner, to the reasons he prefers giving speeches in English rather than Japanese, What I Talk About When I Talk About Running contains some fascinating and unexpected insights into the author’s writing life. There is also some discussion of English-language works he’s translated into Japanese, including the novels of F. Scott Fitzgerald and Raymond Carver, from whose work this book’s title is adapted.

Murakami enjoys anthropomorphizing his own muscles in this memoir, frequently ordering them about and likening them to reluctant laborers. “As long as you explain your expectations to them by actually showing them examples of the amount of work they have to endure, your muscles will comply and gradually get stronger,” he says. “If, however, the load halts for a few days, the muscles automatically assume they don’t have to work that hard anymore.”

The author notes that different muscles are required for various athletic feats. Murakami describes his grueling experience running a sixty-two mile supermarathon, and spends the final third of the memoir on triathlon training. This transition comes at a point where the reader expects to see a diary about the New York Marathon the author has been training for, and the shift is not altogether smooth. He does get to this point about ten pages later — which, in a book of this size, is a not-insignificant delay. Murakami’s response to this marathon, and to the triathlons that follow, are handled with extreme humility but nevertheless display an uncommon strength of character.

The pared-down diary style of writing in What I Talk About When I Talk About Running is sometimes distracting in its simplicity, and there is a degree of repetition, especially in his assertions about faded youth. But Murakami’s story is frequently fascinating, invariably amusing, and told in a voice that immediately puts readers on his side. We want to allow this charming gentleman in his late 50s the chance to tell his story, and we’re better for hearing it.

What I Talk About When I Talk About Running, by Haruki Murakami
Alfred A. Knopf
ISBN: 978-0-307-26919-5
192 pages