Monthly Archives: November 2008

Post-Tgiving Lish Parade of Tortilla.

Some email from Calamari Press sprung up in my Inbox. It sprung there, it slouched. Calamari is about to release Blake’s novella. Very cool. So, I read this email kind of, a bunch of confused browsing/reading by me (I was playing my brother in trivia and Madden [same time] while a skunk in Kentucky tried to eat the stack of tortillas on our back patio.)

Oh, Kentucky does allow Internet I found out, but you have to register your name at the hotel, give them your ID, and sign a document to swear to not swear.

I won in trivia, as always. I am nothing if not trivial. I lost some in Madden. The skunk did not eat the mounds of tortillas. We did.

Anyway, came across this sentence: “I’ve only met Blake Butler in person once. He ordered nachos as an entree for dinner at some Irish Pub in Midtown Manhattan. Then we played poker.”

Dude ordered NACHOS. (Not to mention poker, which was once cool. Now it’s kind of diluted like having a tattoo. Then again, I have a tattoo.)

Well, I was already going to buy his books, blog him, review him, give him blee to his East TN goat, slay the nearest dragon, all that. But now he eats nachos??????????

The finest food known to man.

The coffee arriving, oily and now.

The legally binding X.


(blake, at ballgame. he must shield nachos from spittle/entropy/foul balls)


Yesterday I watched a squirrel leap for a limb, miss, and tumble to the ground: thump. It shook it off and then scrambled up the nearest tree. Do animals make mistakes? So I suppose that would be a link to us (then again, we are kingdom Animalia). But it just seems animals live so much better than us, with less anxiety, alienation, self-analysis.

I started thinking of all my tumbles. I did leap from a train trestle to avoid an oncoming train. I did leap from the back of a moving pickup (concussion). I did leap from a rooftop (fractured calcaneous). But these were not officially tumbles. They were done purposely, with possibly self-hate. Oh, I did slip on my deck a few weeks ago in the ice and broke my toe. Ok, that one counts.

Oddly, this does not affect my training. You can run fine with broken toe.

Later I saw a coyote crossing a field. I made a screech/squeak noise with my mouth, mimicking a wounded rabbit. This worked. He came right to me. Then I noticed he was limping, his front leg a bit twisted. A felt for that coyote. I imagine he’s the type that would eat your family dog or raid the garbage can–a wounded animal has it tough.

I let it pass on by, ratcheting along down a trail. Did it feel sorry for itself? I think not.

These are the things you think of while sitting in a deer stand in the snow…

I am now reading:


we’ll see.


Here’s a Christmas poem from Agni.

The Long Road

by David Shumate

It’s one of those highways you come across late at night. No signs. No
arrows. Just a road running north and south. You pause. You look one
way. Then the other. Nothing. Only the hum of the engine, the chirping
of crickets confirm you are here. You can’t remember where you’ve been.
Where you are going. If it weren’t for the lines drawn through the middle,
you’d think you were drifting down a river. Or stumbling upon a path
through the sky. Remember, it is a moonless night. You are tired.
Hungry. No one to talk to. Afraid that what you were thinking might have
come true. You look to your left again. Perhaps you see a mountain. An
ocean. A lover you wish you hadn’t lost. Spirits that seem so familiar,
drifting in from the dark. You wait in that silence. It may be years before
it is safe to proceed.


Give Thanks 4 Small Knives, Sharp Blades, James Joyce, Thunk.

Ok, I’m heading to Kentucky for Giving of Thanks. They do not have internet in Kentucky, state law. You cannot buy beer either in the county I visit, so am bringing in “two bags of grass, seventy-five pellets of mescaline, five sheets of high-powered blotter acid, a salt shaker half-full of cocaine and a whole galaxy of multicoloured uppers, downers, screamers, laughers … A quart of tequila, a quart of rum, a case of Budweiser [and] a pint of raw ether…”

Thanks Hunter S.

Also Dogfish IPA, keg of Heiny, 34 Budweiser Selects, running shoes, A Tao Lin book, several New Yorker, a River Styx, and a bag of disc golf disc.


(dork alert–wall in my house)


The best holiday short story ever is by James Joyce. Gabriel gets Punked, poor guy. He gets his talking buzz and wine buzz and man-of-the-party buzz and is thinking he is ALL THAT. The whole time his wife is thinking of another man…

Dubliners is a great collection. Get it now and read it like fresh plums.

One of my students asked me why you can’t iron tires with a tire iron.


So happy holidays. Have fun but not too much fun.


HTML Giant. Flash Fiction Contests. Signs of Stroke, or Beck.

HTML Giant is rather good. Good like completing the questionnaire, in time, while treading an enormous blue sky, backwards. Much better, IMO, than this current manifestation of Fictionaut. Though I am a member of Fictionaut I still don’t really “get it.” I keep logging on, seeing people posting stories, and then other people “reading” them and posting things like, “I love it” or “Another great read, Lily” or “Good job, Antonio! Wow!”

For the life of me I can’t figure out how this process is useful to writers.

Shouldn’t someone post something like, “Tony, Simone de Beauvoir burned her first two novels. You might want to consider her point”?

Or maybe, “Tony. Dude, stick to writing bad checks, yo.”

(Simone published the 3rd.)

I think they (naut) are still developing, as I see they are expanding, diversifying into other raspberries. So maybe my view will change like a leaf and tumble into a pool of songs with sad words.

Like Fictionaut, HTML doesn’t quite know what it wants to me, but what it is now, to me, is useful.

* It shouts out new things to read. Like this.

* Thus giving us head-cheese and something to hold in the oil-change room with the Fox TV and markets for our scribblings. Why do fitness clubs usually also run Fox?

* They supply quality blogs on surrealism (meaning today as you wake, fool. That sun is smiling).

* HTML is funny. One writer made this actual statement about Tao Lin: “He’s a self-interested writer type of guy.”

Wow. I find understatement to be a lost art in humor, a little dry, a little European. When I see it, I like it. I also continue to warm to Tao Lin. I still think he’s often full of shit, but I like people who are full of shit, with style.



Got my new River Styx today.

I don’t have much to say because I have not read it yet. It’s gotta go in the looming-bedside-table-next-to-the-heroin-pile. I am reading Outliers and some Icelandic book (can’t remember it now, and don’t want to run to my bedroom) and then a new issue of Rolling Stone Magazine. I hate this magazine and the last issue I read was in 1997. I have no idea why I bought it at the gas station. Often I don’t know my own mind. My actions are a riddle I wake to.

The current issue sucks like zucchini. (I hate zucchini. Don’t even understand it, as a food.)



(actually do not enter. i seek no rival to my mediocrity)

River Styx Beer Contest

Hello! They give you cash and two cases of beer! (Writers get to use three exclamation marks their whole life, and I just dropped 14 in this post.)

Well, it’s worth it. Total bad-ass beer article here. If you think the beer’s too loud, you’re too old.

Most men pursue beer with such haste they rush right past it.

The noblest thing a man can do is to receive good beer, and then go spread it among others.

Why was I born with such weak beers? But things, they change.

Gulf Coast Barthelme Contest

No, no, you don’t have to write like Barthelme. You could list various tools, giant balloons, or not. The best thing for you is to research the judge’s writing.

Or that seems a bit much. Just send in your best short thang. Make it flute song, church wall, etc.

Crazy-ass Meridian Postcard Fiction Contest

In the old days, Flash Fiction was actually called “postcard fiction.” Like Jesus would preach about The Rich Fool (by the way “Christians,” [I’m using a lot of Tao Lin quotation marks this post] if you’re trying to “store up” your possessions on earth, you will fry. I’d lay off the SUV with the Jesus fish emblem, my friends.) and some sandal-adorned young man would shout out, “That’s a good Postcard Fiction, my savior!”

(In the gnostic texts, Jesus would moments later strike him blind on the spot)

This contest rocks!

Your Flash Fiction wins and they:

1.) Give you a thousand bucks (you could buy 80 shirts)


2.) ?

3.) Your prose poem will be distributed by Meridian at the Chicago AWP. Free marketing of self!

14.) Who gets laid like an flash fiction author?


I feel like this today (that is a camera flying off in the upper right):


Kendra Grant Malone vs. Richard Brautigan in an Imagist Drunken Throwdown.

I think imagism means you don’t use many words and you write clearly. Crisp and brief. Sometimes there are leaves, but always water droplets, plums, garbage cans, and/or grass.

Here is an example:


A friend of mine sent me an email with this Richard Brautigan attached: “I Feel Horrible, She Doesn’t.” Apparently my friend’s girlfriend dumped him and he was all treading self-pity. I told him, “Relax. You know the best thing for when someone dumps you?”

He said, “Cough syrup?”

“No, not cough syrup.”

He said, “Forehead massage?”

“No, not that. Travel. World travel, preferably by ship. Works every time.”

Anyway, he’s in Spain now.

If you don’t know Brautigan, I’ll give you a quick bio. Born on earth. Liked the hippie vibe. Wore really cool mackinaws. Liked to be photographed with long-haired women. Liked to fish. Drank port wine. Shot self in the head with a revolver. Wrote Flash Fiction before there was Flash Fiction, so everyone called them “Brautigans.”

This book will please thee.

I think it’s bad-ass to have a genre labeled after your own name. (Kafkaesque anyone? Bond movie?)

Here is a prose poem I wrote about Brautigan, but don’t read it because this post isn’t about me:

Meaning of Life # 36


“Mr. Brautigan submitted a book to us in 1962 called Trout Fishing in America. I gather from the reports that it was not about trout fishing.”

Viking Press

Cloud of mechanical flower, sunny California. Of knobby nose, of cinder. Of clank. Because we have to deal with all of this—to metaphor or not to. Must sleep (cannabis) and wake (coffee) and live each day (with Baudelaire or newspaper or moth-eaten laundry mat love note) and sleep again (alcohol). Among the cast-less and the prayer-less, who don’t even grasp sun-clatter, the shaped voice of clouds. Hoop cheese and port wine. Blackberry zephyr. Hymnal of floppy hat, of bullfrog. A woman’s words as spring, summer, fall. Within the looped cast, the meander of raccoon tracks. October 25, 1984—a Thursday morning. See it mayfly, its curling hatch? Like fog or fog-horn or fogged-over steel. Waterlog heft. Underwood on a picnic table. Empty bottle. Full revolver. He will lift them, every one, soon as another young man stops him on a streetcar and asks, “If you don’t keep them, why go fishing at all?”

Kendra Grant Malone will enter this competition with one of her latest online publications, “It’s Better This Way.”

I will not give a bio of KGM because it’s somewhat rude to bio someone living, and she has her own blog. I do know she will drink wine with the town clerks on Sunday mornings. Etc.

Folks, let’s begin: Kendra Grant Malone vs. Richard Brautigan in an Imagist Drunken Throwdown

The categories are:

Best Opening Line

Best Image

Best Thing That Made Think

Best Reference to Nachos

Best Ending Line

Grab your bottle opener, secret drawer, and a brass llama; and let’s begin!!


(me, with ladies)

Best Opening Line

KGM: “when I fell in the shower”

Wham! Tension, my friends, the step-mother of literature. We all know the dangers of entering and exiting the bathtub, even if we do have bathtub safety devices installed (naturally, I do). Two hundred thousand people a year hurt themselves in bathrooms, and I’m not even including campers who are eaten by wolves as they stumble into the night to pee.

I’m being serious: BEWARE THE BATHROOM!

Elvis died in the bathroom. (OK, he did have Codeine, Morphine, Quaaludes, Valium, Diazepam, Placidyl, Amytal – Nembutal, Carbrital, Demerol, Sinutab, Elavil, Avental and Valmid in his body, but which of us doesn’t start the day with a cup of coffee? Don’t be a hypocrite.)

Lenny Bruce, too (there was a smidgen of heroin involved).

Hell, the hero of Greek Mythology, Agamemnon, died right there in the bathroom! (His wife stabbed him [note, she was really pissed. He killed their daughter])

My point is this: blueberries.

RB: “I feel horrible. She doesn’t”

Oh, Brautigan, Brautigan, my finely-coated friend. Trying to drop a little anti-dialectical materialism on us. Things in their fixity: the opposites contained in the sentence, the “I” and the “She” together (in the line), yet apart and striking out into their own new sentences within the line. Very, very smart. But it feels a bit forced. Remember, it is never cool to appear cool. Once you find yourself hating the taste of the very drink you hold to your lips, it’s time to understand why bars have mirrors.

KGM wins this round. Her line grants (poor pun) me conflict, and the potential of an image of a naked narrator. Naked narrators sell.

Best Image

KGM: I just sat there on the/shower floor/brushing my teeth”

Anytime a person can do two things at once, I’m in. Reading on the toilet. Cooking while scratching your earlobe while negotiating a divorce settlement. Driving while grading student exams on the steering wheel. Slippery while wet. All of these are noble acts.

The narrator cleanses the self twice, the exterior skin, the internal mouth (source of everything, the very words we speak).

RB: “I wander around/the house like a sewing machine”

I love an image that clicks. You get the visual zig-zagging of pacing, unknown searching for a place to settle, and then the metaphor of “sewing”: repairing some laceration, welding some heart to the floor with black threads.

Hmmm..a close one here. I’m calling a David bowtie.

Best Thing That Made Think

KGM: “she tried to help me up”

The existential moment for the narrator. We learn she (the narrator is actually sans gender here–I am just using the she pronoun for ease of writing) is not alone. Yet she is. Who thinks her thoughts before she falls asleep at night? Who will join her on the deathbed? Only her. She walks alone. And we get that here: the friend’s hand is rejected. What would be the point? To touch is not to feel.

RB: “that’s just finished sewing”

Ah, but is it finished? And if it were, does this poem exist? Weak.

KGM crushes this one like a beer can.

Best Reference to Nachos

Both of these artists are contemporary. Both know damn well that since that wondrous day in 1943 the planet earth has been populated with nachos. But nothing. Not even an jalapeno seed. Vagabonds! I spleen thee.


(r.p. tracks will blow your tofu nacho mind)

Best Ending Line

KGM: “no, it’s better this way.”

The title as conclusion. Cyclical life: day, night, day…And here’s where it has all ended up, all the hopes of this act: cleansing, soaping, shampooing, washing the dregs away, reappearing anew (and with scent of mangoes), preparing yourself, buffing yourself, scrubbing yourself, embracing yourself, for cleanliness. Finally. A lie transitory as mist. What’s that mottling below the brilliant white of the porcelain? The truth. One slip, and you’re on your ass, where you were always headed, gravity, Time, naked with the poem, cradled within yourself on the cooling, cooling, cold tub floor.

RB: “a turd to a garbage can lid.”

Any writer who ends their poem with the term turd immediately wins the category.

Ok, now for the final tabulations! Let me just grab my abacus. Carry the one, move this bead here, feed this little calculation into my Atari. One moment…


Wow, no one saw this coming, especially on the west coast. It happens, Brautigan, it happens. Congrats, KGM. This is a new generation, and they got skillz like the earth has a nervous eye.

Now everyone go have a beer on me. Relax. Travel the word. Find your throne.


Poets Write About Watching Birds. Thin Air. Flutter gayly.



Hungover like green-clipped grass, weeping, hemorrhagic dew. Like a hatchet, buried in pink dirt, for years. Most writers I hang with think writer’s block is a steaming pile of horse shit. This follows the well established at least write something rule.

Every semester, after reading Buk, students proclaim: “I could write that poem.”

I answer, “Go right ahead.”


I like how he announces he will capture the birds forever, and does.


Cranky dude usually. Lightens up here. I prefer neutral tones, and other poems.

James Wright…


A truly GREAT poem. And the title of this excellent collection embedded. Hmmm….The jay bouncing, playful, seems apt for this bird. Two takes on one hangover. Simply the crystallization of a moment, twice. One purpose of poetry.

Other “watching a bird” poems”? Anybody want to wade in? Is this like the moon, moon, moon for poets? They must include certain elements in every fucking poem?




Shut up like a snake in a shoe. Wait.

Astronaut loses tool bag. That’s cool. Except said tool bag is now traveling at maybe 22,000 miles per hour. So I guess getting hit by this tool bag in years later, while hanging out in space, might, well, suck. NASA tracks all of this, maybe 12,000 items now, orbital debris the nice name. Why I am blogging about this? Not sure. Fuck off.


This morning at 7 a.m. I was in the dark and cold woods. Flurries of snow spiraled about me. The trees yawned. I saw a fox squirrel the size of a Nerf football. I sat shivering and reading Into Thin Air (the book, not the article). The pages were hard to turn due to my bulky gloves.

I thought “Does reading about something very cold (Mt Everest) make me colder now?” If I was reading The Florida Keys by Joy Williams would I be warmer? What if I read a book about watermelons? Would I then feel the urge to spit a seed into the grass alongside my baby-baby Subaru?

I wonder.


I was nominated for a Pushcart. This made me feel less sad.

Corey has Famous Glasses. Academic Satire. How to Write Poetry.

This is really, really great stuff:


I worked with a LPN in a hospital once. His name was Sonny. He had switched from law enforcement to nursing. Why? Because he wrecked six police cars and killed three people in his short time as a Birmingham, Alabama police officer. This is how the world works.


Writers write about writing. Maybe because this is what they know. They also write about teaching. God knows universities are the Peggy Guggenheims of today. Funding writers. Letting them scribble indoors. Letting them read away from the gray rain.

Academia lit:

* Straight Man by Russo.

* Wonder Boys by Chabon.

* Lucky Jim by Amis


Most are satire. If you’ve worked in academia, you understand why.

Over at the Cipher, Herbatt Batt adds to the English Dept Lit genre. This one is rather good. The whole piece is filled with sad, comical scenes, as an American teaches literature at a Polish institute. Here our narrator meets one of his students outside:

· Feet slogged through the sleety puddle inside the Institute entrance.  Wisps of fog clung in the darkness to the corners of the building.

· Miss Woncior stood by the road in the milky-white fog. She wore a green ski jacket.  She had sat placidly amidst the maelstrom of her classmates’ rage.  “Hello,” I ventured.

· A calm smile lit her pale face, her cheeks pink from the cold.  “Oh, Dr. Lawrence!”

· We stood, wordless, a moment.  “What’s your literature paper about?”

· “Alice in Wonderland.”

· “Oh!”  I hadn’t expected that topic. “How did you pick that?”

· “I am interested in nonsense.”

· Well, this ought to be the right school for her. “How did you decide to come to this institute?” I asked.

· A pensive scowl flitted across her face. “I was registered to write the university entrance exams, but I got sick. The school year started. My father arranged for me to come here.”

· “Now that you’re here, how you like this institute?”

· “If you live with cripples you learn to limp.”


Take a foreign poem. And re-write it. But don’t translate, just rewrite it. Weirdly, this works.

April och Tystnad (Tomas Tranströmer)

Våren ligger öde.
Det sammetsmörka diket
krälar vid min sida
utan spegelbilder.

Det enda som lyser
är gula blommor.

Jag bärs i min skugga
som en fiol
i sin svarta låda.

Det enda jag vill säga
glimmar utom räckhåll
som silvret
hos pantlånaren.

April and Tenseness (Lucas Klein)

    Varnish beleaguers all.
    The summit-smoke dictates
    kraals with more disease
    than spiels and spell-builders

    The end sounds, lissome,
    are gurgling in bloom.

    I bare my scrubs:
    same as thievery
    without severed ardor.

    The end: I will sagas
    to glimmer about rack-halls
    with silver
    housed in leaden paint.



Big-Ass Nachos. Tao Lin uses too many Quotation Marks. Mary Oliver Poet. Methadone, Lay off Friend (my advice).

Anyhow, before my ex-wife (the fourth one, a rangy woman, ugly as homemade soap) introduced me to nachos, I would eat a kind of normal breakfast: free-range turkey eggs (boiled or scrambled—runny eggs make my stomach flop like a runover snake), country venison ham, venison bacon, venison sausages, Bit-O-Honeys, Cheerios, cinnamon buns, toast, saltines, biscuits, hash browns, Pepsis, flapjacks, cheese grits with butter, Doritos, crepes, muffins, beans and franks, jellies and jams and marmalades, omelets, and sometimes a small tin of candied oysters (Ebay).

Now I eat nachos.


Best Opening Line in Short Fiction. Lorrie Moore, “Amahl and the Night Visitors.”

Understand that your cat is a whore and can’t help you.



This kicks ass, over at Barrelhouse, Brock Adams tells us: Things You Can do With a Can of Campbell’s Soup

I also like these from Liz Scheid at Diagram.

I have this idea only those diagnosed with mental illness are responding to our world correctly. Only 100 years ago ADHD would be a handy tool for saving your life. But it does tend to suffer when sitting in orderly rows, quietly. Why are so many people’s biochemistry off kilter now? Environs? Genetics? This world (pick up a newspaper). Too much information overwhelms the filter. The brain, sponge-like, but any sponge can only hold a certain amount. Then it leaks.

Liz seems to reflect some of this idea here.


The new Poets and Writers (because poets are not writers, right?) profiles Paul Guest.

Paul went to Alabama MFA while I was there. The article doesn’t even mention Alabama for some odd reason. Thanks.

For those who think poets don’t make cash, you might want to gander at Paul’s book deal. A poet being solicited by an agent! A lucrative book deal for poetry and a memoir. (I basically know the amount but seems unseemly for me to say. It is much more money than you are thinking right now.) Not to mention they will publish all his future poetry forever. Uh, sweet.

Paul writes by using a plastic stick he holds in his mouth. I often think about the difference between hand-written, typing, speaking into a microphone, the different ways the synapses crackle, but Paul’s method takes it to a whole new level. Think how meticulous the act to create the word, the very letter. I think it probably benefits the creation process, but that’s only conjecture.

We know several older writers–Cormac McCarthy, Jim Harrison–prefer to write by hand, on a legal pad.

Young people go for computers.

The difference?

Tactile. The word from the pencil/pen tip, the clutched hand, the brain chemistry of arm-nerves-cells, IN CONTACT with the word. Versus tapping away, intermittent contact. Let’s take this into an analogy. Treadmill running in a room versus trail running up a mountain? Painting with oils versus Photoshop? Microwave versus cutting board…

The physical experience of art can not be mimicked. Or can it? Boxing is an art. Or a sweet science.

Any sport where killing the opponent is a positive (or even goal?) should be wiped away. Erased. If you kill the opponent in boxing (many have, and do), you win.

I’m not sure why I just said that.

I don’t know.

The text on the page looks “done.” Looks printed, published, in crisp, crisp MS Word. Cut and Paste versus erasing? Revision now a series of cuts, pastes, moving text here, there…

I went to Mark Neely’s class and in five minutes learned more about page layout than I knew in 38 years. That’s a smart class, but I am also dumb.

But so many word processors make a text look “done.”

Ok, I’ll stop with the “quotes.” It’s getting all Tao Lin.

Does MS Word trick the new writer into seeing a finished product?

Mary Oliver revises her poems fifty times, people.

Due to his disability, Paul Guest says he can never write down an idea, a scrap he might have thought up while in bed. Any other writer can just jot something down in a notebook. He can not. This makes him frustrated, angry, so he has trained his mind to never think of ideas while in bed. That’s pretty wild. Pretty impressive.



Kyle Minor is coming to Muncie in the spring! Looking forward to meeting the man, and introducing his work to my students.


I feel like this today (the bird).