Monthly Archives: February 2011

5 great texts (that could have been greater with a tiny edit) and 9 thunks I glow.

1. The Dead By James Joyce.

Poor Gabriel. Dude’s all up in his party galoshes and doesn’t even realize he’s not the Master of Ceremonies–he’s the clown. Poor little corn syrup of a man. And holy fucking rising action! Longest rising action in the megaverse. Dude’s heart goes to the guillotine in SLOOOWWWWWW motion. It rises, rises…then chop! But there’s a missed opportunity. Here we have the mondo holiday feast:

A fat brown goose lay at one end of the table and at the other end, on a bed of creased paper strewn with sprigs of parsley, lay a great ham, stripped of its outer skin and peppered over with crust crumbs, a neat paper frill round its shin and beside this was a round of spiced beef. Between these rival ends ran parallel lines of side-dishes: two little minsters of jelly, red and yellow; a shallow dish full of blocks of blancmange and red jam, a large green leaf-shaped dish with a stalk-shaped handle, on which lay bunches of purple raisins and peeled almonds, a companion dish on which lay a solid rectangle of Smyrna figs…

Blah, blah, blah. When the piece should have read:

A fat brown goose lay at one end of the table and at the other end, on a bed of creased paper strewn with sprigs of parsley, lay a big-ass pile of nachos, striped with a Wisconsin pepper jack/sharp cheddar blend, and garnished with refried black beans, Renfroe’s Salsa, and slivers of pickled Yatsafusa pepper, a neat paper frill round its shin and beside this was a round of spiced beef. Between these rival ends ran parallel lines of side-dishes…

Waaa, waaa, but nachos were invented in 1943, as we all know. So WTF? Joyce can go from forced realist epiphany to stream-of consciousness flow to Finnegans Wake, a book that is either full of shit or multi-level madness/brilliant punnage and word lollygag. Hello. A man who can write Ulysses can easily introduce nachos 25 years before they are invented. It’s called creative writing.

[Solemnly he came forward and mounted the Formica. He faced about and blessed gravely thrice the tower, the surrounding country and the awaking mountains. Then, catching sight of Stephen Velveeta, he bent towards him and made rapid crosses in the air, gurgling in his throat and shaking his head. Stephen Velveeta, displeased and sleepy, leaned his arms on the top of the staircase and looked coldly at the shaking gurgling face that blessed him, equine in its length, and at the light untonsured hair, grained and hued like corn tortilla. Oh, fuck, it’s snowing again outside! Are you kidding? Blar me.]

2. On “Patience” by Tyler Gobble (over at decomP)

An interesting meditation, this poem. We certainly all know patience. How many of us wish our ovens would pre-heat more quickly? That our lettuce would grow up through the snow? That a statue of a yellow beam of iron (modern art?) at the university would sink into the ground and then into dust (as it must eventually)? And that young lady over there, the one with cheekbones like a crop-duster, what day will she hand me a five dollar bill or at least ask me for two beers on the roof of her basement? But this line:

The dog sits waiting with the treat on its nose while its owner stuffs himself with Ding-Dongs and Cheetos.

There is really no reason to mention Cheetos here, Tyler. A cheese-flavored cornmeal snack, here, in this poem? No, no, no. And question: why does Cheetos suddenly replace the interpunct? For decades, it was Chee-tos. Then now Cheetos? Who does that? Imagine if we all went around replacing our interpuncts? It’s chaos.

What the fuck? Sara screamed. Where is your interpunct?

I threw it away, Tom said. Mother said she could smell it in my room, so I…I threw it away.

Sara gave him a look like maybe he was chicken broth. Well, she said. Then we’re done.

Etc, etc. Fuck Cheetos, uh, Cheet-os, uh Fake-os with milk. Dog biscuits with neon below deck orange stains. Blar me. Or:

The dog sits waiting with the treat on its nose while its owner stuffs himself with Ding-Dongs and Nachos.

Same syllabic glow. Better food.

[I just saw Tyler last week at a restaurant. Did he eat nachos? He did not. Did I eat nachos. Yes, I did.]

3. Mary Jones, “One of us Wanted it More.” (elimae)

Kids going all wild, all clutch and grippy. Then:

“What can I give you that would make you be good?”

“It would have to be big.”

I didn’t have money for big.

Might I suggest something BIG for not very big money? Like:

[Kids, this little gnome has been all around the world! And now he’s here! Can you kids name the capital of Djibouti? It’s Djibouti! Ha, ha, don’t you know the world is diabolical and we’re all headed down the same swirling drain? So eat nachos–they are true to you.]


[Kids, your dad’s friend and I are going to take a “nap.” Here’s a silver dollar. Here is a copy of printed instructions on how to make nachos. Follow each step, carefully. Now go down to the gas station and get some chips and cheese and a can of salsa and maybe a Fosters Oil Can for mom. ]


[Oh, you’re one of those kids? Need hand-crafted toys, huh? Your dad drives a Subaru, right? Here, here’s your damn hand-crafted nachos. No owls were killed for their blubber in the making of this shampoo, etc etc. Go play. Hurry up! The earth is catching on fire!!]

4. This next text could not be better. It’s what we call an outlier.

Would you like to be a best selling author? Huh? I mean what are you doing? Would you like to be Brett Easton Ellis? Make some paper? Do some blow off the ass of a parrot? Have your books protested? Wear those wool-collar coats that sort of look cool and affected and maybe then cool again, if the air is right, like if your breath is roiling. Drive a big house? Get all meta and use your name in your own books? (Now that is clever!) Meet Charlie Sheen in a bathroom? Hunt down any poet who uses the word corn silk? Get laid, though you are neither gay or straight? The answer is yes here, the answer is yes. So how do you do it? Really? You’re asking me this, really.

Me yawning me flipping slowly though a copy of Lunar Park [or any other Easton Ellis book] me slightly annoyed…I give you a look, I say, “Here, read this, page 41:”

The three of us, out in the hallway, were suddenly approached by a very tall and sexy cat holding a tray of nachos.

or later:

“Terby’s mad,” Sarah whined again.

“Well, calm him down,” I said, glancing around. “Bring him up some nachos.”

5. For many backyards I’ve read the poetry of Trey Jordan Harris. It calms me. Often my stomach will think of fullness or richness, or both. He has a poet’s touch for image, for float, he can make the world drift and often it does drift and so I feel OK.

Example here (elimae)

Trey writes poems about marriage. I pretty much dislike literature about marriage, but his poems are often an exception.

Three here:

But this Diagram piece is too much. He’s keeps his idyll, his reflection he glows so well, that captured moment. But might I make one small edit? I feel it will charge the poem and turn this very good aspirin of yole into a mighty, mighty cop a couple of sea-born cleavage blasters!


Plant the flowers eat
them for dinner. Cut
the lawn gather the clippings

eat them all for dinner.
Buy the house own
the house. Look at the
lilacs the hand-shaped

lilacs. Ask if they are supposed
to be shaped like hands
and eat them for dinner.

Turn the ceiling fan on
low slow your breathing
or metabolism. Later we will go
to the fair and everything will
be still

until we eat nachos.


9. I glow this essay and I don’t care how old it is. So, if you comment, that is old, I’m going to say, I know. French kissing is old, as is water. The earth is old, the earth is really just bunch of dirt and dust, and it’s old, yet still we enjoy the earth at times except for those times we do not enjoy the earth.

9. I glow hats made of corn that you can actually fill with salsa.

9. I glow the words of Sarah Levine. Read this flash at Smokelong. It will take you as long to read this story as it will to smoke a cigarette–thus the term, and title of the magazine, Smokelong.

Did you read the flash? It is conceptual. An idea is presented and carried along–possibly here, it’s liberal guilt (admitting it while satirizing it) and it builds, see the structure there, and then turn. If you are going to write flash, please understand the turn. You don’t have to use it, but know it. It comes right after the climax, here:

I jumped onto the kitchen chair and said, “Have you lost your mind? Are you threatening me over a fucking cheese slicer?”

Turns can be wonderful. They can make the entire flash. Here look at this Eggers turn. Yes, yes, it is Eggers but relax. He’s not going to come slap you in the Converse. It’s just his words. Read the whole thing, please. Then check that last line:

In her kitchen, she saw many things she would like to eat. On the counter, there was a bunch of new bananas, yellow as a Van Gogh chair, and two apples, pristine. The cabinet was open and she saw a box of crackers, a new box of cereal, a tube of curved chips. She felt overwhelmed, seeing all of the food there, that it was all hers. And there was more in the refrigerator! There were juices, half a melon, a dozen bagels, salmon, a steak, yogurt in a dozen colors. It would take her a week to eat all of this food. She does not deserve this, she thought. It really isn’t fair, she thought. You’re correct, God said, and then struck dead 65,000 Malaysians.

Levine drives the turn like the sea drives a salt-plank. Glow. And wonder what they’re going to use that cheese for? Huh, huh? Don’t make me knock your ass out.

9. “The Serious Writer and Her Pussy” by Meg Pokrass.

As a serious writer, in mid-life, she must master speaking the word “pussy” with confidence and authority. She practices doing so out loud for her next book store reading. The serious writer is starting a book tour to promote her new novel which is bursting with ‘pussy’.

Indeed. And I’ve been reading Damn Sure Right. And you should, too. Meg Pokrass brings the flash. She eats away my shins, my underwear, and my taxidermy. She’ll eat yours too. Buy the book, freak-os!

I am beginning to notice my favorite flash writers are female. Elizabeth Ellen, Kim Chinquee, Amelia Gray, Nicolle Elizabeth, Kathy Fish, Lydia Davis, Diane Williams, Lindsay Hunter….I could go on. And on. Might be just me. Might be women are better at writing flash? Don’t know, but I’ll keep thinking on it.

[BTW, every time I type the words Amelia Gray I misspell some aspect of her name. I bet she has dealt with this her entire life.]

9. I like to write about Velveeta:

Velveeta Thuds on the Roof

In the dark. It shimmers in its wobble. Nothing between them but the cooling itch of shingle. It likes any angle or gravity suck. To embrace sway. It wants to push against itself—much like we. (Yesterday, sober, I dropped a wine glass of Cheetos and laughed at my own sudden blood. Under sink/in trunk of car/beneath futon—I have no hand towels.) On the back of its neck, thoughts gleam. It boasts its mind is a butterfly ashtray. As for doubt or nocturnal chills of the head, it claims to know very little. Yet it corrects me: shooting stars are not stars, you ask for shotgun slugs never bullets, to fall over is indeed a form of exercise. Oh, the type to wear an orange shirt. To perch above my Sunday sweating back and say cryptic, unhelpful words like, “If you are really going to dig that hole, dig two.” Or maybe: “Look at you, whipjack! Gargling coins again.” Packages arrive. Days of rain like fingernail taps. It sees me on my knees, vomiting in the tall, wet grass and says, “You are an empty tomato shack.” I think its mind is an ashtray full of butterflies. (Ah, so drunk now. Just to carry my head like a damn fiddler. A marble spinning round the rim of shattered glass, waxy hot pepper bits, charred People magazine—I mean to say the kitchen sink. What is a tomato shack?) A meteor claws the fleshy sky. In the dark. Velveeta thuds off the roof.

9. Funny words at PANK. Thank you, Jospeh Cassarra.You made me spill my coffee. I spilt my coffee. Spilt is not a word. You made me spill my coffee. You made me move.

9. Jason Ockert won the Dzanc Books Short Story collection contest.

Woot, woot. Here is an interview with the man.

Here is a story so you can bite his knuckles.

Good glow, Jason. Looking forward to the read.

9. Justin Bieber eating nachos.

Whoa, whoa. Hold up. OK. Did you see that? I could care less if this kid’s career is chomped by a murder of dead crows, but he does one thing correctly: HE MAKES HIS OWN SERVING of nachos.

9. My publisher and I have been working hard this week on the cover of my upcoming book, Fog Gorgeous Stag. The process has been glow. I enjoy the process. It’s a give/take/idea thing. It is indeed creative energy. I hope you will like the cover. I do. I will not give you hints about the cover. OK, I will give you one hint about the cover: yellow.



rotel plums would be boss like tapping jellyfish on my lips

I decided to help the researchers at BSU with a running study. I need to run a sorta fast 5k. This makes my stomach all flat fruit trees, all hop/hop. Why the anxiety?

1. Running at night. Weird biorhythms with night running. I once raced a four miler in the Smokey Mountains at midnight. It was one of the worst races of my life. And how does one sleep after night running? The body all starred out and engine. You crank up the motor and it runs for hours. After-burn.

2. I need to run pretty fast. The study has parameters. I have performance anxiety. What if I show up for the study and don’t run fast enough? Like all the pointy-head scientists with clipboards go, “I thought you could run. You told us you could run.”

3. I have to run around one of those indoor 200 meter tracks. Haven’t done that in a while. (BTW, last summer some dude set the indoor 200 meter marathon record on just such a track. He ran around the track 221 times.)

4. I had a Superbowl party and am still eating leftovers. Like the other day I ate a dinner of Chex mix. For lunch today I ate a vegetable tray. Is that a good meal before a fast run?

So I head to the fancy rec center. You must have a fancy rec center these days, to recruit the students. I entered a door under a climbing wall. You have to have a climbing wall, folks. What’s the point of a fancy rec center with no climbing wall? At Dick’s Sports store, I climbed to the top of a climbing wall years ago and it is remarkably difficult to do. I remember thinking, “This is remarkably difficult.”

(Hey, I was thinking if I had a giant sports store I wouldn’t name it Dick’s. I really wouldn’t. But who asked me?)

Went down a labyrinth. Passed an indoor soccer field. Some kid kicked a soccer ball into another kid’s face. That happens, man. Volleyball courts. A lounge. Students sprawled out like cats. More left/right/left.I like spaces like this, corridors with weird rooms where people are banging out weights. Locker rooms. Underground space for serious athletics. I always feel detached from myself and also still myself in these places. It actually feels good.

Hey, there’s the track.

I see a woman with a clipboard and papers.

Me: “Hi. I’m Sean.”

Researcher Woman: “Hi, Sean. Read this and sign these papers.”

Papers are boring. They ask a lot of questions about my health. I don’t lie at all. I usually lie several times on medical forms. I just lied the other day to my kid’s doctor, actually.

Dr: “She’s (Referring to my little kid) not watching much TV, right?”

Me: “TV? What’s TV? No, no, she never watches TV. I have her too busy working on calculus and basket weaving.”

I don’t give a fuck. I’ll lie right to a doctor. I’m sure you will, too.

Wait, wait, back to the running study.

Papers filled out.

Me: “Ok. What’s this study about?”

Researcher Woman: “The purpose? The purpose of this study is to measure the effects of CWX Pro compression tights on the biomechanics of gait over time during a run to exhaustion. You know, in running to exhaustion, there are kinematic and kinetic adjustments in a person’s gait. CWX Pro compression tights are thought to delay these adjustments. We’ll see.”

Me: “You want me to run to total exhaustion?”

Researcher Woman: “Yes, but not today. Today I want you to run a 5k. A fast one. Go about 95% effort, OK? You can warm up now.”

I warm up. This means I run two 200 meter laps. I don’t warm up much, as a rule. I put on my shoes.

About two minutes later I say, “Well, I’m ready.”

The Researcher Woman gives me a look over the non-warmup. The look is sort of like I wonder if he knows what the hell he is doing?

Then I run. It goes all:

This is cool, this is different, 200 meter track is mostly curves, volleyball players around hope they don’t hit me, trip me, feet falling like leaves, quiet, quiet, haven’t run in my racing flats for a while, just blew by some dude, sorry dude, not trying to be one of those runners who run really fast by others to show out I am actually doing a study, could you get out my lane, OK, runner disappears, OK, good call, a frozen horse is appearing in my chest a bit, thawing now, good flow, legs loosening, arms singing a bit sourly, I am wondering why I volunteered now I am in pain, and oh a flow now, a flow, more people watching, some big dudes setting up cones to do a dash (40 meters?) very polite staying out of my lane, lungs gold with tap-tapping, a rock pressed against my thighs, some groove I’m hurting and sweating and researcher yells out 9 more laps!! and big dudes stop and watch me a while I run a little faster when people watch sort of stupid really I’m too old to care but I am human you know and so rather flawed I feel and so counting down 7,6…lost count now curving curving curving all the time on 200 meter track I might just mention the moon now by no reason to mention the moon and legs so blurry and 3 and 2 and 1 fast finish bring it home, bring it home…

I’m done. 19:03 5k. Not fast. Not slow. And inside the parameters for the study!

Researcher Woman: “You’re done. Now you need to do it in the lab next week. We need to hook you up to some things.”

Me: “Ergh…Uuuu. Ok. (panting) Haven’t run a 5k in a long time.”

Researcher Woman: “Just wait until the exhaustion run. You have to run that same pace into complete exhaustion…”


Went home and ate rotel. Yep, couldn’t sleep.


I get to hang around Cathy Day and she always does something smart. She is massively intelligent, and always has glow ideas about writing. Last night, she was reading,  with Matt Mullins, and took photos of the audience from her perspective, as opposed to the usual photos of the reader up on stage:

It’s a cool idea and it shows people enjoying being read to. You get to see us glowing as we see these images and hear these words. Here are some more audience photos in her route book.

This reading was really way plasma. It glow.

First, one of the Chick Litz opened the reading. This one. Yet another amazing BSU creative writing student. I liked the Airplane poem the best.

Matt Mullins showed a film about a crow stealing a takeout container of Chinese food. The crow just plucks it off the road. This what people mean when they say, “Shit happens.” Then Matt read poems and stories. The man works many, many forms. Pretty impressive.

Cathy Day read from her novel in progress. She is writing about Cole Porter’s wife. I was really into this, because she read a scene taking place in Newport, R.I. Oh, I remember running the cliffs, running the walk winding along the mansions in that blustery seaside town. So I was nostalgic and submerged in Cathy Day’s fictional dream and my own memory simultaneously and it was flow and what words can do and isn’t it odd how the mind can go all airport fuel of candy.


I read my second graphic novel. (The first was in graduate school–Maus.)

The novel was The Alcoholic. It begins:

“My name is Jonathan A. I’m an alcoholic. I have a lot of problems. Not more than the average person, really, but I have a propensity for getting into trouble, especially when I’ve been drinking. This one night, I came out of a blackout and I was with this old, exceedingly tiny lady in a station wagon.”

Here are my thoughts on this book, and remember I know absolutely nothing about graphic novels.

1. Though I examined each illustration and even had several minutes of putting the book down to reflect, I read the book in one sitting, in my car, in a parking lot before I taught class. I like to sit in my car sometimes, because it is my own space and time, between being home and being at work. I put the heater on and lull myself into a reflective state. What did I feel about reading an entire book so quickly? Well, a little ripped off. I paid $15 for this book and now it’s done. Maybe I wasn’t used to this mix, more graphics and not words. By word count, this was a short book, even if it looked like a substantial book. Odd. I just think maybe this must be part of the form–you can read the things extremely quickly. Also I was captivated by the story, and that helps.

2. Does the mind work the same way when the images are provided?

I mean it can’t, right? Without the graphics above, I have to form the midget lady and the station wagon. My brain has to form my individual images, and this of course is a joy of reading. I read Cormac McCarthy’s Suttree and the great thing is my brother reads it and my colleague at work and we discuss the book in all these ways because we had to form the story, too, we were part of its making. The electrical activity in the brain must differ when we see the words, and here you go–the image.

3. Subject matter was drinking, drugs, sex–ideas I like to read about, generally. It was a bit of a romp, with enough of a break for reflection. Without the graphics, the writing was solid, a simply told story. Not a lot of fireworks, and here we get another key point of the graphic novel: Why would you spend time on close description? On physical character? On all the techniques writers use to fully form an immediate scene? Someone is going to draw the actual scene for you. Weird.

4. This is a very honest book. It reads as an honest account of true addiction. To do things over and over and over without any real reason why. The narrator digs and pries and questions why, and knows what to do and what NOT to do, but cannot find answers and cannot stop. It is very human. Since it’s a graphic novel, I didn’t know how close I could feel with the protagonist. This was foolish on my part. I felt very close. You know why?

5. The art work. Black and white was a good choice–I think color art would have made things less severe. And these illustrations are a weird mix of realism and abstraction. The expressions on the face are vivid. And drawings allow for some much weird shadowing, gritty angles, hollows, shards–a heavy impact. In a word, impressive. The drawings match the gravity of the story.

6. Humor. A dark story, but funny. Humans are funny, aren’t we? The panel above shows the narrator eating dinner with Monica Lewinsky. She’s eying a kielbasa…OK. One of the more powerful scenes for me was when the narrator was working as a taxi driver and met a drug dealer. They end up doing cocaine and other drugs (and drinks) in the dealer’s apartment and the dealer (who is gay) tries to have sex with the narrator and on and on and then the narrator wakes up with his torso and head in a metal garbage can. Oh, and he’s naked. It is a very effective drawing, and believe it or not, comical. Black humor. Sad, too, in its utter, utter dread. The bottom of the barrel is not always a metaphor.

8. Lastly, this is NOT a morality tale. Thank you. It looks at addiction with questioning. It doesn’t try to give a stupid-ass answer. Good.


Here are three Hobart flashes by Katie Jean Shinkle. Enjoy.


I am a freak and I eat nachos.