Flickering cowboy

Quickmuse shows how thinking can happen in poems. How it gets shortcutted into a footbridge over the chasm. How editing is circuitry. It plays back the poem as written at the time. Richard Siken, already my favorite poet, does it in Unhappy Hour. Look for how he gets from pumpkins to flickering cowboy.


Stop Go Stop Go

Working on a new book has its disadvantages. It tends to take advantage of my guilt. Any moment I am standing still a thought comes into my head and if I do not add it to the accumulating pile of information that lives in the new book landfill then it is gone, gone forever.

This morning, I remembered one:

She was sure she had been an Indian in a past life. She didn't feel like explaining it, she told him. But when she was in the woods she just had that feeling.

She imagined telling that to her grandmother, who would just shake her beehive and ask if she wanted more rotisserie chicken. Those giant poultry shears looked like they could cut through a finger. She couldn't get that out of her mind. She shook her head.

What? he said. He thought she was paying attention to him paying attention.

No, she said. I was just remembering something.

From this life, or the one before? he said. Or the one before that? At some point maybe you were, like, a teletype machine. Click click click.

A what? she said. My grandmother had these poultry shears.


[Tara Jane O'Neil]

Has she made herself very clear

Remember: A handpainted Mexican chair hurling across the room. A palomino running across the ring, saddle empty, stirrups flying, seen from the dirt. A black and tan longhaired dog arrowing across the sand. The hermit crabs nipping at her toes.

Tara Jane O'Neil a sweet selfmotor.

Ida was a revelation of harmonies.

Luc read the same smoking section of the smoking piece but it smoked.

The Rosendale Cafe was packed. I had to leave, get back to my dog.

It was a great night.


Fast is Slow

Operative metaphors learned while running through the woods in the dark: fast is slow. If you run too fast, you'll snag your hat on a branch. If you walk instead of run, you can avoid the branches to begin with. But sometimes you just have to run.

Mijami book fair

At the Miami International Book Fair we ate arepas (corn cakes with mozarella). On Sunday I read and therefore fell in love with 2 writers I hadn't known, T. Cooper (Lipshitz 6 or Two Angry Blondes) and Felicia Luna Lemus (Like Son). In the author's lounge we sat around wondering why we'd been put together. They, it was clear, have long been in love with each other. They're a tight pack of alpha two. I sat on the edge of the campfire, edging closer in as we talked.

Some of my book takes place in Russia, and your book is called Russian Lover, T. Cooper speculated. Hm, we all said. But in that way that confluence happens accidentally and is recognized as closer kin than happenstance, we all read sections of our books dealing with assimilation in one way or another. We all push the edge, though differently. We all have dark hair. We all think of photographs as diving boards, as stories. In Felicia's case she's got the subject of the Edward Weston photo on her book cover tattooed on her wrist.

That must be it. The photos, the dark hair.

Whatever it was the audience thought the trio made perfect sense. Book fairs are wonderful. The writers are like the chocolate, the audiences hungry, the end of them--back to the world--can be bittersweet.


Bios of The Ulster Country Three

We are reading this Friday, 11/2 at 7 pm at the American
General Store in West Shokan, New York

Luc Sante's books include Low Life: Lures and Snares of Old New York, Evidence, and The Factory of Facts. He is a frequent contributor to the New York Review of Books and has written about books, movies, art, photography, and music for many other periodicals. Sante has received a Whiting Writer's Award, a Guggenheim Fellowship, a Literature Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, and a Grammy (for album notes). He teaches writing and the history of photography at Bard. His new book, KILL ALL YOUR DARLINGS, is just out with YetiBooks/Verse Chorus Press.

Jana Martin's new volume of her short stories, RUSSIAN LOVER AND OTHER STORIES was published by the great small press YetiBooks/Verse Chorus Press. The book has received much critical acclaim. Her fiction and nonfiction appears in The Mississippi Review, Five Points, Spork, Yeti, the Village Voice, Cosmopolitan, The New York Times, Chronogram and Willow Springs, among others. She also writes regularly about design, architecture, the decorative arts and fashion, most recently on moli.com. Her fiction column, is mink hollow, appeared regularly on sporkpress.com, an awardwinning magazine and website. Her story "Hope" won the Glimmer Train Short Story Award for New Writers. A graduate of the MFA program at the University of Arizona, she lives in Ulster County and is working on another book. What you can't see here is that she is wearing those sunglasses over her eyeglasses.

Frank Boyer tends to undercut his own brilliance. He has published poems in a number of little (changing that to small) magazines and anthologies in Wisconsin, New Mexico, and New York. He is a master of the prose poem. He also writes fiction and drama, and does performance work, directing plays and doing his own solo performance/installation works. He teaches art, literature and performance-related subjects at SUNY-New Paltz and at SUNY-Ulster, and lives in Ulster County.


Mea Culpa

Why has it been so long? Isn't that the question you never want to have to publish? Because I was hired to write a blog, and although it's not about books and it's not about Russian Lover or Luc Sante or Vanessa Veselka or what Valerie Martin said today on the Bookshow on WAMC, which I listened to while driving south from Albany after meeting with the ear doctor who performed a tympanoplasty on my ear (and said we had a good result, which from a doctor is like a war whoop of joy, isn't it), and although it's not even about bookcovers or design, or about the wonderful painter Steven Schwartz, aka SAS, whose home and family the fires in Southern Cali missed by the geographic, ember-strewn, ashen equivalent of inches, or about why sometimes I don't want to read fiction and then suddenly run into it somewhere, and sit down and have the longest most delicious conversation ever anyway and wonder why the heck I ever thought of keeping myself hermetically sealed away from all those words, all that craft, all that wild writer's brain stewing and tangling and untangling the messy data of our hearts, it still requires a certain kind of writerly discipline and impulse.

That is why.


But the wordy world keeps turning.

Darlin Neal curated the latest issue of The Mississippi Review online: The Hyperextended Family. There are great stories here, including a story by Claudia Smith, "Jennies," that has this great line: "She likes me to make the dolls alive." My story, "Painter," really a trio, a 3-part blue fugue of before and after, is in there too. Honored to be in such good company. Kind of a way of closing a long and wobbly circle that started in about 1984, when I worked with Mary Robison, who counted among her best friends "Rickle," who turned out to be Richard Barthelme, who is the editor of the Mississippi Review.


Mike McGonigal in the Green Room at Bumbershoot

I'm Making a List

On the eve of surgery I have this urge to make a list of all the outstanding things I have left to do and all the people I have left outstanding. Lately, it's the ones from years ago coming back into the fore. It's like a trip on the merry-go-round--there's that wonderful prancing horse again, there's the yellow steeds pulling the winged chariot, there's the dapple gray. Or maybe the cycles are comforting because however many changes I've undergone, there they are, my old friends, still willing to listen and still willing to talk.


I can almost hear you

Having lived with a perforated eardrum for a few years now I am finally scheduled for surgery. What they do is called a tympanoplasty. Do not hit that link if you are squeamish.

During a tympanoplasty, they make a patch. It may or may not become part of the body, but if it does—if the body accepts it—then I will suddenly be thrust into a very different kind of world. For all the time the eardrum has been absent, there have been so many sounds rushing in: air, ringing, hissing, clicks; I hear worse according to the audio tests but far better in terms of what's in the atmosphere. I hear everything and the air around everything. I say "What" a lot. I am looking forward to saying "What" a lot less. It has never been a favorite word of mine, though it is a favored concept: the what of everything matters a whole lot more than the why at times, and when you really get the what, you'll get a better why.

Portland, Seattle, NYC

Joan Wasser of Joan as Policewoman at Bumbershoot

Stacey Levine, author, at Bumbershoot in the green room.


Come and Set a Piece: NYC Reading

Sept 18th: Reading in NYC with Luc Sante at 6:30. Here's the blurb from the New Yorker:

knitting factory
Luc Sante reads from his essay collection "Kill All Your Darlings:
Pieces 1990-2005" and Jana Martin reads from her short-story
collection, "Russian Lover." The two books are newly published by
Yeti, an underground arts magazine from Portland. (74 Leonard St.,
between Broadway and Church St. No tickets necessary. Sept. 18 at


Heading to Bumbershoot

I'm writing from Holocene, the 3nd night of the Halleluwah Festival, listening to a group hum. Tomorrow it's up to Bumbershoot, where everyone from Steve Earle to Joan as Policewoman are playing, and I'm reading:

Seattle. Sept. 3rd. 12:30-1:45

Have been thinking, all this time, of the amazing Grace Paley. RIP. Something tells me even to say that with her is to start a conversation, so — I'll hold up my end when it quiets down —



No better way to return to life than listening to Califone do a soundcheck at a club in Portland, Oregon. I'm reading here today. Part of the Halleluwah Festival.

The past 2 months have been all about raising $ and hacking away. And so here the guitar wails and here the girl types and here the air swirls happily around the lively room.

Luc Sante's
book, Kill All Your Darlings, is out on YetiBooks/VerseChorus: disparate essays from recent years bound together. But disparate in a great way. A luc way, which is to say they all work together; they all make sense as one.

Brother Luc, kudos. The Yeti children are growing up.


Went to the Ulster County Fair. Ate a corn dog, walked through the 4H poultry house.

New beloved writer: Sonia Rivera-Vald├ęs. Beautiful stories.

And new question: what is acceptable risk? In any field? In any realm?


Tammy Faye as Ghandi

I Geniunely Love You

The mess and scandal of Jim and Tammy Faye had always left me wondering about her. How much can someone convince herself that what she witnesses her husband doing is right? However oblivious she might be to her own mechanications, it's hard not to notice a mate's actions--and, with the veil-lifting effect of time--judge them.

But Tammy Faye, having divorced Jim after 30 years of marriage, married another ex-con. She explained that her mother had always told her life wasn't fair. This can be interpreted in so many ways. In her world view--often obscured my clumping mascara applied liberally to that fake fringe--perhaps Jim didn't really do anything wrong. Nor Messner. Handed lemons, you make lemonade, extoll the media reports, as if that had anything to do with it. But seeing her on Larry King, 65 pounds, eyes done in the same mask, hair brittle and fritzed from chemo but still a reminder of her salonified style, she did seem to be--content. She said, directly to the camera (this is on the last day of her life) I'd like to say that I geniunely love you. And I genuinely care. And I want to see you in heaven someday. I want you to find peace, and I want you to find joy. So maybe it wasn't all an act after all.


Lantern slide of Waterfalls in Woodstock, NY, ca. 1904

Coffee and Paper

The Literary Gazette (its own glossy-covered tabloid section in the Hudson River Reporter) is not online. This is sad for 2 reasons: 1. RSOL is reviewed. Since I wrote the book I can't use adjectives like astute or sensitive or enlightening. But if you can find the LG, get it: there are adjective-deserving reviews scores of new books in it; it feels like the NYTimes Book Review around Christmastime and makes you want to buy them all.

You can find copies of the LG at The Golden Notebook in Woodstock, NY, another healthy independent bookstore that makes writers as well as readers feel welcome. (Whereas in certain stores, it's a bit like, Oh, you wrote this? Well, can you go away so we can make some money?)

This Saturday, July 21 at 5 p.m. the Golden Notebook is hosting a book party and signing for RLOS. Actually, the event itself is down Tinker Street at Joshua's Cafe upstairs. Thank goodness for all these upstairs sections or writers would never have anywhere to read.

Jessa Crispin of Bookslut

Pancakes and Sausage

A few more words about Chicago: The Book Cellar, which handled sales at the Bookslut reading, is one of those thriving, robust independent bookstores that just will not be overcome. Which makes a writer very happy.

Over dinner at the Hopleaf--a vast sandwich made with fig butter; giant paper cones of french fries--I asked Jessa if she also considered herself a writer. She shook her head, but with no rue or self-effacement. Just grace. Certainly she's a reader, a great reader, and she knows how to make one good party after another, whether in a beer-poster-clad upstairs room at the Hopleaf or Bookslut. She's a hostess for all of us, a sundress'd impressario. In that way she belongs on the same hearty category as Mike McGonigal: self-made, peripatetic, generous but with standards and boundaries. The other thing is that, like McGonigal, she gives off a slightly timeless vibe: a bit San Francisco 1950s, a bit Chianti in Greenwich Village, a bit rockabilly, a bit Christina's World. Makes me think we should all mix vintage into new, as it strikes our imaginations, is like brain candy, and certainly fits into the re-use edict of living in this heating world. She keeps it a bit cooler to be sure. Someone give her a giant grant.


Was Chicago

This week, Thursday is the new Monday like global warming is the new pollution. Which is like realizing that Tyranosaurus Rex has a far larger appetite than its lizard cousin, or a hurricane is the devil-cousin of a rainstorm. Listing is my new OS:

1. In no way should anyone, particularly he, think I was complaining in the preceding entry.

2. If I had anything to complain about it would be the fact that there were no bedside lamps in the B&B in Chicago.

3. Is a B&B a B&B just because you say it is? Is a healing garden a healing garden just because you say it is? What if it's really a courtyard with lawn furniture from Costco and a bin full of Home Depot flowers stuck into dirt? After a run down West Division street I went there to, um, heal; wound up staring at the plywood leaning against one wall, noticing the artificial coloring look of the courtyard tiles, felt anything but healed. Felt slightly heeled.

3a. My exacting mother, who could not stand sloppy service, who would rant for hours if served flavored coffee, has decided to possess me. Otherwise there is no reason to even mention any of this. She was always so astonished that someone would want to make coffee, the sacred drink, taste like raspberries.



3b. After all, the reading at the Hopleaf was amazing. The place was packed. The audience was marvelous. They listened to all of us. They drank lots of interesting kinds of beers and listened intently and laughed and got all the jokes.

4. And surely a steam shower is a B&B. Linens as frothy as a wedding cake are a B&B. But no dresser, no coffee for the coffeemaker, disfunctional keys to an obvious front door in a possibly sketchy neighborhood? Not a B&B.

4a. Mom?

5. And: All of this is completely irrelevant given that fact that in 100 years there may be no more apples and some very cranky, overheated cows in NY state. And 100-year floods every ten years or so. I was in one last June, when the creek on one side and the stream on the other (I lived in a house between them) decided to join up and have a party on the road (so it was, what road? it was, knee-deep in roiling muddy water on the road). The FEMA guy said, Yup, that was a 100-year event. Exactly how is something classified as a 100-year event, I asked. He said, By drastic-ness.


Mark Rothko, 1969

Is absolutely Chicago

The long walk from O'Hare to the Blue Line ended in a strange, subterranean, humid hall, kind of a mass transit cavern. It was clogged with tourists waving dollars at a woman designated to help by her municipal green CTA vest. I asked her: can you use coins? She said sure. She meant, to get a ticket to ride. I'd meant, can you use coins to ride. There are a dozen ways to miscommunicate at any given moment, which is certainyl something I writer about. Or try to.

Tonight's reading at the Hopleaf with Peter Ho Davies and Aaron Belz should be fun. Why? I admit that it will be fun for me partially because there is an entire page in TimeOutChicago about the book, and its writer. I knew Jonathan Messinger was going to make something of it when I objected to his calling the characters in RL&OS damaged. And he did, but in a journalist's never-miss-an-in way, half astute and half along for the happy ride. I cannot blame him--at all-- for not missing a beat. It's true that the connection he stitches (between my writing about women who've gone to extreme lengths with their bodies and women going to extreme lengths in their lives, but he writes it far more elegantly) is one I'd never make myself. But Jonathan, gracias. Merci. I see it. Even if the chronology isn't exact, I see it. I'd been writing some of these stories, in different forms, years before I was assigned to write My Body and What it's Been Through for some years back. But that's okay. I could have, at that point, begun to write about un-marred, unaffected women. But that has never interested me.

Adrenaline is a kind of caffeine, really. I drink it daily. Need it, really. The adrenaline of a narrator's voice speeding up in my head.

Who knows why a sensibility forms? I'd never thought of my characters as damaged, but I guess they are. They do drugs, they have boyfriends who use them and spend their money, they have incurable diseases, they do not always practice safe sex. But they make no excuses. And some have tremendous vocabularies. So I suppose they are redeemed by their brains and their spirits and their nerve. Or I hope they are. But it doesn't mean they don't do bad things. Rothko, having painted all these astounding wonders, killed himself after all. I would call that a form of damage. An enduring damage.


In Retrograde

The headlines have been dark. The supreme court may have just effectively reinstated segregation. A car was found filled with gas and nails in London. An 11-year-old girl was impregnated by a 19-year-old man. Um, can we say rape? The headline (cnn) doesn't, though the dek does. What exactly was the thinking on that one?

Don't eat Chinese shrimp, catfish, eel, basa, or dace. Dace. Don't eat Chinese dace. When a word is unfamiliar, it takes on such an abstract ring. But there's nothing abstract about malachite green.


Thunderstorm, 9:30 pm, and the aftermath, the next day.

Mary Greene of the Hudson River Reporter said this in an email: Just wanted you to know how much I enjoyed your book-- your writing knocked my socks off and I was amazed at how far you travel sometimes in a paragraph inside landscape and the psyche of your characters.

That's so what a writer wants to read. And that it comes from a magazine named after the mighty Hudson, which figures not so much in stories as in my mind, all the time. In stories, it would have to be the East River--Dad and I out there in 1974, leaning over the oddly curved railing, which curved toward) the churning gray water. He was in the merchant marine. And he was on something called a liberty ship. A term which can be taken in all sorts of ways.

But the Hudson. That's the river of Pete Seeger's Clearwater, of Cole and Cropsey and those painters who set their easels up along the cliffs and snacked on bacon and rusks and apples, of sloops carrying bluestone and oxen and fat in barrels and honey and maple syrup and tanned hides. Maybe not all at once, not all in the same ratty ship, but on the same long-winded, eloquent, muscular river.

Thank you Mary Greene. A marvelous thing to say. Marvelous.

In other news:
Time Out Chicago is doing a piece on the book for the Bookslut Reading on July 10. Also reading: Peter Ho Davies and Aaron Belz.

And more real news:
The thunderstorms that here, are just a lot of thunder and hot air--though my old dog, Sophie, would be quaking right now--are causing immense flash floods south of here, in Roscoe and Colchester N.Y. . My new dog, Lee, is unphased by such a broad challenge as thunder. But the dogs in Roscoe, not so unphased.


Everything That Rises Must Converge

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Overwhelmed by the number of soldiers returning from war with mental problems, the Army is planning to hire at least 25 percent more psychiatrists, psychologists and social workers.

A contract finalized this week but not yet announced calls for spending $33 million to add about 200 mental health professionals to help soldiers with post-traumatic stress disorder and other mental health needs, officials told The Associated Press on Thursday.


Another note to Harley

Harley is the pseudonym for a friend of mine who's a literary scholar of new fiction, last name Davidson he often jokes. He pointed out that the title story of Russian Lover seems to end in what he calls "very late-20th-century ambiguity." That is, it ends without the reader knowing if the girl writing all those letters to her ex-mother-in-law (now that's a whole lot of hyphens for someone who no longer wants anything to do with you, that girl might very well say) actually sends any of them. Does he every really pay her back for all the damage he caused her?

I'm supposed to tell him, but this is what happens with characters: if they don't say it, you want to somehow protect their privacy. So an invented girl has now decided to invent her own concealment, and there's nothing I can do about it.
Context is everything.
The word of the night was willowy. As in: Well, I'm not his type. He goes for those willowy, ethereal types.
Women aren't willowy, said my friend. Maybe they don't have a lot of meat on them, but they're not tangling their roots all in the sewer lines or breaking up the foundation as they grow. 
Don't be so sure, I said.


Carla Aurich, Tableland, 2005


can't wait

The marshmallow experiment (1960s) tested the ability of four-year-olds to defer gratification. After being given a marshmallow, the labcoats promised the kids a second marshmallow--but only if they could wait 20 minutes before they ate the first one. The experimenters then tracked the same kids as adolescents. And found that those children who were able to wait 20 minutes for the promise of a 2nd marshmallow at the age of 4 turned out to score higher on aptitude tests.

So where would you be on the marshmallow standard? and what is your marshmallow?


great day

Reading Perforation: A Lexicon, at the Woodstock Poetry Society, I was worried, because I worry, that it would take too long, with all of its categories: it's written as a series of definitions, in alphabetical order, topically related to the main character's ear injury. I'd never read it out loud before.

I read it fast, emphatically, and it went quickly, like a mercy, but sits in the air--hangs there--really, which was gratifying. After all that's happened this year the last entry has a real grip on me, a weight I didn't count on. And that's all you can ask for: recognizing gravity when you weren't sure it was there. That's gravy, really, after you've taken so many hours to turn so many words. Sometimes I think a good piece has a rubik's cube quality in the process of trying to get it right.

The poet I read with, Iris Litt, is a wise, wise commentator. Her poems have the airy gesture of something written on an occasion, but then they slap you in the face with some hard truth. She's quite direct, her words spoken plainly; she doesn't try to stitch any fancy trim onto anything with high-handed introductories; doesn't refer to some other poet as the source of inspiration (Written after a po-wem by Catullus, intoned the scholar). She instead will say, conversationally, "And this is a mother poem." Or, "This is a mother poem. You know those poems." Her manner conveys the slight impatience of someone used to walking wherever she needs to and trusting that her sure steps will allow her to avoid the maddening and mediocre, and the slightly wistful hope of someone with good politics, and a facile ease with undertone and context. Then, as she reads the line or image that is meant to throw you out of your seat and into the bewildering ether of a Big Leap, she leans on one slim leg a bit and just puts a little more air into what she's about to say. Her poem AOL and Cho does that in the 7th line, then again in the last one--read the whole thing in New Verse News and see what you think.

Earlier, at the Stone Ridge Library Fair, I sat at the local authors booth (and first noticed how Nina Shengold. very smartly avoided that editorial conundrum of where to put the apostrophe by avoiding it altogether, so both authors and booth are nouns of equal weight--and that makes me, I know, a complete four-eyed geek). But the thrill of being there was being in the company of Kim Wozencraft, Shengold and Laura Shaine Cunningham (also Marshall Karp and the adorable Dakota Lane). We have all landed here, for various reasons, some, I think, more domestic than artistic. Yes it is beautiful in the Hudson Valley, and yes it helps to look out on trees and that soft mountain sky and all the birds, birds birds birds. And maybe the fact that there are so many spiders and snakes helps as well. But I think the "local" frame is external to us all: our stories take place everywhere from the Pacific Northwest to Texas to Florida to here. We talked about the risk, actually, of writing within your current setting: without the bridge of years' distance, can you really write about a place from inside your imagination?

We decided, optimistically, that you can try. That is all you can ever do.

And today Rags to Riches, a great filly, tried. And though she stumbled in a way that looked like instant tragedy there was no tragedy: she duked it out with big, burly Curlin in the homestretch and won the Belmont by a nose because she just refused to give up. A European trainer dismissed all the fuss over it being such a rare occurence, stating that in Europe, they really don't make such a big difference between the fillies and the colts. She's a strapping, fierce, winning horse that happens to be a filly, he said. Now let's just hope she doesn't get injured.


the solitary thing.

the dog thing.

the pete thing.

fuck forever

(the song, not the sentiment, as in not with pete, but even as a mess p.d. is a majestic mess.)


Possibly Visiting the City of Nostalgia

I've been invited to read at the Bookslut Reading Series in Chicago, in July. And this amazing honor (I did a Sally Fields), made me think more about the early-to-mid 20th century, of which Chicago has always towered as a kind of windy noir city, where nighttime is coffee shops, an apple pie picked at by a distracted woman in a brown pinstripe jacket and trousers, men walking with one hand holding onto their fedoras against the lake gusts. And scotch in a sweaty glass, amber lqiuid kissing down the ice cubes. And a pitcher in knickers, kicking up his leg as he hurls a fastball. Jazz juke joints, the quick swish of bopping skirts. The optimism of the early skyscrapers. 35 East Wacker. Louis Sullivan making every row of windows another lyric. Chicago is a city of survivors. Long history of that. The Great Chicago Fire of 1871.

The riots. Capone. A mass of nerves and glass and concrete rising up like a fist in the middle of the heartland. Or maybe that's not Chicago at all. Maybe that's all that's left in the synapses after watching a bunch of movies which either take place or refer to Chicago. Your Chicago is anything but my Chicago.

Maybe that's what M. Doughty (I mean Mike Doughty) meant
singing--more like intoning-- Is Chicago! Is not Chicago! in that self-same Soul Coughing song, back when everyone was friends and we all lived within about 5 blocks of each other and noone was upset and everyone hung happily on the big record deals they seemed to be handing out and didn't we all turn out to be survivors too. And I loved that song because the hook was repeated and repeated and contradicted itself every other line and we loved it as if it was the key to happiness, at least for a moment in the mid-90s at a pajama party at a loft in the East Village before the rents rose and the rehearsal space place turned into a fancy grocery store.


Might as well come clean about it. Here's the formula:

Here is a photo of Mike McGonigal
who stayed in my apartment in that selfsame east village and at the time sported a nervous tic and a tiny brown leather jacket. Here he is in Portland I think, photographed by M. Doughty at a Yeti event, the selfsame M.Doughty who is also publishing a book with Yeti Books/Verse Chorus Press and the same Yeti who, with Steve Connell from Verse Chorus press, branched into a publishing house that is also publishing me and Luc Sante, who now lives 15 minutes away from me, apparently and who I have as of yet never met.

But due to some circumstances regarding other entanglements which drew all of us closer into the net, at least until the bands broke up and the rents rose and the artisanal bread rack was right about where they used to keep the sticky cables, this 6 degrees of separation diatribe is temporarily suspended for the purposes of walking with one foot in front of the other.
And yes, Bookslut Reading Series in Chicago in July, I would be honored to read.

I know we're not saints or virgins or lunatics; we know all the lust and lavatory jokes, and most of the dirty people; we can catch buses and count our change and cross the roads and talk real sentences. But our innocence goes awfully deep, and our discreditable secret is that we don't know anything at all, and our horrid inner secret is that we don't care that we don't.
—Dylan Thomas

Department of Instastories, continued

Picture Number 30
For a while she drove long distances, stopping roadside to take a photograph of her own shadow. It was a way of making sure she was still there. She’d twist herself a little to the right, or crouch, or stand up on her toes, and make sure the shadow was doing the same thing. That was during the season of her escape. There was hardly any snow that winter, except for the night she drove off. Then, the snow had been falling softly over the hollow for hours before she took off, and the tires skid over the pale velvet of 10 pm. That night was the first night she’d drive aimlessly, for hours. Somewhere, about 50 miles north, she’d gotten out and stopped to take a picture. That was picture number 1.


Marcus Leatherdale, Sultana - Khumba


Department of Instastories

Picture # 32
She drove herself 45 miles south, 5 miles west, for no particular reason. Then she moved over into the passenger seat. She sat there for a while. What was she doing here? She watched a green pickup roar by, watched a crow pick at a little mass of feathers of dust at the edge of a field. She turned on the radio and landed on a throaty country singer, a woman with a hoist the beermug kind of voice, a wise cracking voice, sing I'm a git on the road gal. That's what she was doing here. The sun streamed in. Godrays fell into her lap. She moved back into the driver's seat, and drove them back, 5 miles to the east, 45 miles to the north.


On reading with a poet

I'm reading with the poet Iris Litt at the Woodstock Poetry Society (6/9, at 2). Aside from the question on regional writing (still avoiding that one), I get asked whether or not I identify at all with poets. The question is levied, sometimes, after I've read a shorter piece, and the reader/listener is forced to make the same leaps as she might in certain poems. The answer is kind of yes. The truth is that I love poets. For one thing, some are very good at adding that reverent "w" sound into the word poet or poetry: so it sounds like poe-wet, or poe-wet-tree. JJ Wilson does that as smoothly as she mentions another remarkable moment, her darlng, literary repartee that makes her guests all feel part of our own marvelous moment. The "w" gives the words a shamanistic, native-esque kind of resonance. Maybe it's from living in Tucson, where poetry filled the air, and listening to a poet like Joy Harjo, or Leslie Marmon Silko (and thar goes regionalism on its strawhatted way), and feeling, Now here is someone who really does know the importance of the dust, the bush, the laugh lines in the sky.

For another thing poets are sometimes experts at economy, and allowing their imagination only certain roads: like an exclusive gps system, and for another thing they often seem to be able to merge work life and poetry life very well. Even the grand edgy conundrums take 10 words, not 140, and that is a model for living in any ilk, at least to me. But I use the use "seem" because these kind of generalizations, of course, are really, really wrong. Poets seem better at sipping, not gulping whiskey (with a nod to Dylan Thomas,

who gulped so that others could sip). Poets seem better at small talk. Maybe poets are just more fun. Everything does not seem like a terribly ironic, disturbing, enervating situation; an occasion where a bad mood might trigger that golden first line of that remarkable story about chucking it all and going to work in a cannery and falling in love with the foreman.

Or maybe that slightly distracted manner some of us have is just the awareness that time is clutching at our sleeves to sit back down and get back to work. Because writing fiction takes a long time.

The way poets treat language may have to do with it: bending rules to make language swing, refuting morays of copy style for the urgencies of line music, rhythm, that mental beat, the mindset or the narrative or narrator. But many fiction writers do this anyway. Many--the ones I love.

We're not as far away from each other as you might think, I'll say next time.