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).


Today Let’s Discuss Tension and Marlon Brando and Naked Running.

He was in the bedroom pushing clothes into a suitcase when she came to the door.

I’m glad you’re leaving! I’m glad you’re leaving! she said. Do you hear?

He kept on putting his things into the suitcase.

Son of a bitch! I’m so glad you’re leaving! She began to cry. You can’t even look me in the face, can you?

Then she noticed the baby’s picture on the bed and picked it up.

He looked at her and she wiped her eyes and stared at him before turning and going back to the living room.

Bring that back, he said.

Just get your things and get out, she said.

He did not answer. He fastened the suitcase, put on his coat, looked around the bedroom before turning off the light. Then he went out to the living room.

She stood in the doorway of the little kitchen, holding the baby.

I want the baby, he said.

Little Things, Raymond Carver excerpt.

Listen. I am about to put your story down. I am about to go watch something blue on something square. I am about to huddle, to semi-circle, to get drunk on antihistamines and Stella. Listen:

Danger + Desire


Oh boy, Brando’s in his psycho Lee Strasburg “method” stage. I can feel the air crackling. People on the set are wondering: “Will he show up today? And, if he does, will he grab someone’s left breast and scream out, ‘Are you a player or a prop, man! A player or a prop?!!'”

(He’ll rip his shirt off in a minute. Many believe this will be the first time in U.S. history that a human will appear in a Hollywood film with their shirt off. This is incorrect, but Brando LOVED ripping his shirt off.)

Once during the sad, sad years of morbid obesity, Brando pulled out a mojito glass, waved it menacingly near my spleen, and said to me, “Sean, I only know four things in this world.”

I said, “What are they?”

He gave me this look. It was like a mix of butane and shortcake. He said, “When to rip a shirt, and math.”


Stud alert:

(Anyone else getting a Calvin Klein, 1980’s, maybe Depeche Mode vibe here?)

Vivid Action Please

His voice seemed about to crack and the grandmother’s head cleared for an instant. She saw the man’s face twisted close to her own as if he were going to cry and she murmured, “Why you’re one of my babies. You’re one of my own children !” She reached out and touched him on the shoulder. The Misfit sprang back as if a snake had bitten him and shot her three times through the chest. Then he put his gun down on the ground and took off his glasses and began to clean them.

Flannery O’Connor, the hermit novelist…

Often I will hand back a story and I’ll look the student in forehead and I will say, “Can you do me one thing in revision? Can you have somebody punch somebody in the face? Like immediately.”


Sam Pink has this play in the latest No Colony. In the opening:

The one: It’s nice to see you. [smiles]

The other one: [Matching the smile] Yeah, you two.

They both reach for their pockets. Eyes together. With slow precision they put black handled steak knives against each other’s throats.

Here’s how I open my Elvis story published in Crazyhorse a while back…

Eleven minutes later I’m sitting on the diving board waiting for somebody to come out and try to calm me down and Priscilla comes out of the house, walks a full circle around the pool and slaps me in the face.


Blow something up

Crunch a finger


Do something (inside, outside)



Maybe it’s because I am a runner, or maybe just one of the pigeons in this park we call earth, but the Steve Guttenberg running naked video is amusing. (BEWARE KIDS, this C level star will be NAKED.)

A few years ago, I ran the Grand Rapids Marathon (14th overall, thank you very little). And I was talking to a guy after the race who claimed to have run the entire course naked, in darkness, early morning a few days before. He had very authentic eyes so I do believe him. He had a hat crumpled like an apology. His name was either Stan or Dan.

Or Flan.


Cella’s Round Trip is having a big ol’ raffle reading thingy. If you are near Muncie, drop on by. Check out this wacked-out poster, too.


November 21

8-11 pm

At The Heorot, a snazzy dank cave of a bar.

Raffle, reading, ramblings, oh my.

Saucy. What is the Value of Poetry? Blake, and Komunyakaa. I like Rotel.


Still Life: Dinner Decisions.

(If anyone ever wants to talk hot sauce, let’s do. I rank hot sauce up there with iced beer, reading a river eddy/swirl, making out at 3 am [probably in a car, parked illegally on a blue-lit acetylene street], the pleading shape of a perfectly thrown disc golf disc. Etc.)

(Does anyone know the best hot sauce festivals? Aren’t they usually in Texas? I am a-feared of Texas, but could visit briefly, skip in like a dragonfly, nibble and pause to warm the wings, then lift away.

I’d like to visit a hot festival festival. Before I die, preferably.


I am teaching a multi-genre graduate class. So now we’re nearing the dark side, the cold moon of shivers and empty beaches, the electrochemical switches, the fever, the bleeding wings–poetry.

So, immediately: what is its worth?

(Is this actual question a symptom of something? Maybe. And I hold a bit of it myself, in my ventricles, so a very fair inquiry. But is it a sign, something involving consuming, throwing away [repeat until death] everything, skating above anything actual, anything real, this bright, bright layer, a way to just push aside every/any thing of substance?

A code, a mantra, dare I say? A code. A programmation?)

I just made up a word. So what, jabberwocky?

We do things without any questioning, but poetry won’t allow that. No sir.

Poetry makes us sit a moment. Watch. Chill. Observe.

Makes me wonder what the worth of a sunrise is, or the gurgle of river over quicksilver stone? The moss on the backside, slippery, shimmering like an voice, quivering, opening shadow.

Worth of nacho.

Worth of playful and musical language.

Of its place as flourishing WAY before prose, before creative nonfiction, as the basis of every allusion: Shakespeare, bible, Greek mythology, Homer–poetry.

How does cave painting deal with preserved shark? Shark sold for 12 million dollars, so there….

Of the day you first wrecked a car, that slow-motion, teenage blur. Remember who was in the passenger seat? I bet you do.

Of T.S. Eliot: Poetry is not the assertion that something is true, but the making of that truth more fully real to us.

Of day I threw egg. Or my shoelaces caught in bike pedals, the tumble.


Almost everyone I encounter is amused that I write or read poetry, and I am frequently challenged to defend the purpose and function of poetry and literature in a disposable society so dedicated to consumerism and earning potential. Even my best friend since I was six years old frequently asks me what good is learning Shakespeare or Keats. “After all,” so he says, “look at me, I’m doing just fine and I’ve never read either.” This issue features a poem by Star Trek’s Leonard Nimoy. While I selected the poem because of its quality, I wonder how many readers will be surprised that Spock writes poetry? And if they are surprised, why? What should a poet look like? It amazes me too how every other person I meet is either part Cherokee Indian or a closet poet. Hell, even my banker told me just yesterday, in a hushed and secretive voice, that she has a folder full of poems she’s written. And yet mainstream America seems to ridicule poets in movies and television. This just doesn’t make sense. If people would come out of the closet about their love for poetry, we’d likely learn that it’s one of the most common activities in America right up there beside owning a dog or cat.

(John Smelcer)

Worth of shelling beans while talking to my grandmother about tornadoes (I’ve yet to get paid for this true pleasure–weird.)

Of watching a mocking bird pluck a grasshopper from the air.

Of angles, light on skin, panties, triangles, white cotton…

Poetry is physical. It enlists the participation of the senses, beginning with the sense of hearing, of vibration, and its pace derives from and attends the body’s motions. I believe that poetry, which in the end may come to include the other uses I have named, begins as language does with the urge to give voice to the unsayable in our lives and in life itself.

(Robert Hass)

Of cross-eyed hipster.

Of suitcases leaping the tornado (and bedpost)

Of who do you text back, call back, ignore?

Of Yusef Komunyakaa, total badass:

Lately, I feel like I have been cornered by Robert Hayden’s infamous Devil’s Advocate, the Inquisitor, a shadow figure in the poet’s psyche who keeps one edgy and true to each word in his or her personal canon. Maybe this is the same force that prompts us to pick up the pen in the first place: A discourse which leads to discovery. Here, at this moment in our history, as we prepare for millennium parties around the world-big on commerce and short on celebration-perhaps what Plato feared has happened in modern America: The poet has become the philosopher, the composer and caretaker of the most fundamental and urgent questions voiced to the agency of human existence. And, in this sense, it seems that the poet is responsible for questioning and gauging every facet of our system.

Of Baileys and coffee with mom, who never drank. Before cancer. Now she drinks. I drink with her. And we talk, real things.

Of this:

Now Blake thought that this creative power should be kept alive in all people. And so do I. Why? Because it is life itself. It is the spirit. In fact it is the only important thing about us. The rest of us is legs and stomach, materialistic cravings and fears.

How could we keep it alive? By using it, by letting it out. By giving some time to it. But if we are women we think it more important to wipe noses and carry doilies than to write or to play the piano. And men spend their lives adding and subtracting and dictating letters when they secretly long to write sonnets and play the violin and burst into tears at the sunset. They do not know as Blake did, that this is a fearful sin against themselves. They would be much greater now, more full of light and power, if they had really written the sonnets and played the fiddle and wept over the sunset, as they wanted to”

Whatever…Whatever all of it. This question. This question.

Here’s a story: Saint Francis enjoying the night air one evening in the village of Assisi. When the moon came up, it was huge and luminous, bathing the entire earth in its radiance. Noticing that no one else was outside to enjoy this miracle, Francis ran to the bell tower and began ringing it enthusiastically. When the people rushed from their houses in alarm and saw Francis at the top of the tower, they called up to ask of him an explanation. Francis simply replied, “Lift up your eyes, my friends, look at the moon.”

Done, as for poetry (for now, me).


The new Keyhole Magazine is HAND WRITTEN. I believe this qualifies as bad-ass.

Blake Butler is there. I was wondering when Blake was going to publish something.


I feel like this today:


Venison Chili. Diagram. Characters in Fiction. Amy Winehouse is Falling Snow.

I just put on an enormous pot of venison chili.


There’s celery in there. Onions, beans, green peppers, red vinegar, cumin, and garlic. I just walked by and impulsively dumped in a cup of black coffee I was holding. It was a Tennessee Titans mug, baby blue. It’s amazing, how it smells, the whole house, this chili. The odor of life, of beginnings, laughing and staggering home drunk, family-style crinkly menus of hope, like all the old ingredients of my pantry have been swept away, aside, and replaced by a new meal, fortification, sustenance and a sense of potential health. A glow of blooming nasturtiums in winter. A mix of somethings. Whiskey drinkers with bullhorns.

Cooking is better than writing. You consume the art you created.

But I digress.


Diagram has a new issue out, with ARLENE ANG! I keep trying to tell you people…

I saw Arlene once in Vancouver and she saved a seal from an old lady!



We discussed characters in my Fiction One class today. I always begin this lecture by showing two photos:

This one:


And this one:


After that, the conversation is self-explanatory.

We talked about Direct Characterization:

I am a nervous neat freak. I am possibly OCD and overcritical.

Versus Indirect Characterization:

(From Ray Midge’s, The Dog of the South.)”I ordered a glass of beer and arranged my coins before me on the bar in columns according to value. When the beer came, I dipped a finger in it and wet down each corner of the paper napkin to anchor it, so it would not come up with the mug each time and make me appear ridiculous. I drank from the side of the mug that a left-handed person would use, in the belief that fewer mouths had been on that side.

The rest of the lesson I led my students through the fundamentals of characterization in fiction:

1.) Dress your characters in all purple. All purple, everything, head to toe.

2.) Have them hold a pipe, a blanket. A baby food jar. Or dress them in all purple.

3.) Flannery O’Connor made little outfits for her chickens. Little vests and top hats. Then one day someone said, “Why don’t you just get peacocks?” She got hundreds of peacocks. She was famous for these peacocks.

After her death, the birds were moved to a monastery and a cancer ward and some lady’s farm in Ohio.

Where foxes ate every damn one of them.

4.) I told my class that this life is not dress rehearsal, and that creating a character who keeps using psychedelics is OK, as long as you have a purpose in the story. Like Raymond Carver had all his characters drunk. Why? So their impulse control would drop, thus allowing awkward truth and hitting on wives and I like that story where the black horses appear in the fog, the living room, I think.

I’m scared of horses. Their heads are shaped like caskets.

(I have a memory like a bamboo grove.)

5.) I told them to go downhill skiing. In Colorado, right above the Boar’s Back. Start at Copper Mountain and work your way west. Stop at the casinos and get thrown out of all of them. Then downhill ski for two months. The definition of “fun” is when you are finally not watching yourself, analyzing yourself. If you stop to ask if you are having fun while hurtling down a black diamond at Breckenridge, you will die.

Fun is when you CAN NOT examine your activity while doing the activity. This explains the popularity of extreme sports, and sleep.

6.) I’ve yet to see a squirrel display self pity.

7.) I told my student to read a story. They did, mostly, I think. Story was about a grandmother who was a narcissistic, self righteous, selfish, oblivious, lying crone. So then a man shot her family (she led her family to the man). And then the grandmother three times in the forehead. The end.

The truth will out.

In the Old Testament, if you screw up, you die.

Ever heard of the “Hard Teachings”? No one really wants to turn the other cheek, and give away their possessions, and act all meek. Show me a meek man. Someone striving to be meek.

One time this dude walked up to Jesus and said, “Hey man. What do I need to do to get to heaven?” (A good question–I mean if you have a few moments with a deity)

Jesus pauses, places a hand on the man’s shoulder, smiles, and says, “Sell all your belongings.”

(Matthew 19:21: “Jesus said unto him, If thou wilt be perfect, go and sell that thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come and follow me”)

Boy, you know that guy thought: FUCK THAT!

Jesus called the Pharisees proudly praying on the corner “urns.” That was wicked. Jesus could drop a metaphor on your ass. An urn is shiny and glowing on the outside. Inside, it’s dead, cold ashes.

I prefer the Gnostic Texts, where Jesus kicks people’s asses, and not just with words. He strikes one dude blind. Wowzers. That’s not just throwing over some card tables in the church.

Lots of people talking. But walking it?

All the above is about this.

8.) I told one student he wrote an excellent line about losers. A character was trying to convince another he was king of losers, a real peach at losing. He compared the person to the Cubs. Then to Buzz Aldrin. Then this…The line was, roughly, “You’re like Amy Winehouse.”

Poor Amy Winehouse. Her nose is now apparently falling off. I can’t imagine why.

9.) Lastly, I told the class to go stalk someone and write down everything they do and say. Then take this character and put them in a story with a dead cat and a slammed door.

I think that pretty much does it for characterization. That’s the basics, I feel.


My house smells like a manifesto right now.


I am using a chart I found on Diagram to write about Regis Philbin. I pretended Regis died. Then I thought: How would my narrator react? Here is the chart:


So I wrote a section for each pyramid. I would include an excerpt here but I don’t feel like including an excerpt and this is my damn blog.

Every single section above has a corresponding text in the story.

Ok, I will include an excerpt:


All the busy signals of my life forming a wound. A laceration in my heart, alongside rib bone, possibly leaking blue. Possibly arterial, thrusting. One less sparkling studio of gloom and doom. One less coruscating necktie. One less opportunity to become, with relatively little effort, a millionaire.

( life)


I like this J.A. Tyler work over at Sub-Lit.

It made me remember how I was invented, touched. I worked in a warehouse once. I pushed buttons once. I could show you repaired drywall and a martini the size of purgation.

Also I like Molly Jones’s Heart Mechanics at Thieves Jargon.

Very wicked, Molly.

It reminded me of a patient at the hospital. He had an artificial heart. You want to know the most profoundly weird thing about waking up from surgery with an artificial heart?

You no longer pulse. No beats in your chest, your hollow.

you whir