Saturday, July 26, 2014

Behind The Poem: Comedy Issue of Barrelhouse edition

I'm proud to have a poem in the new Comedy Issue of Barrelhouse.
This volume begins with Editor Mike Ingram's clarification of Humor vs. Comedy
and includes interviews with Megan Amram and Maria Bramford, and work from Christopher Citro, Patricia Lockwood, Adrienne Celt, and many others.

A few things that jumped out when I first thumbed through randomly:

from John Mortara's "game over, man"

my love for you is the 1984 movie The Terminator

you will have no knowledge of my future love for you
until it arrives in your life
naked and muscular

from Elisa Gabbert and Kathleen Rooney's collaboration "Some Notes on Foolishness"

The verb "fool" can mean both to be a fool and to make a fool of. "You fool" is
surprisingly polysemous.

and this opening by Brian Warfield:

My poem is "Breaking Dawn Within A Dawn Haibun" and I can partially blame it on Charles Jensen.
A few years ago, Hayden's Ferry Review gave me a free pass to ASU's Desert Nights Rising Stars Writers Conference. One of the first workshops was by Charles Jensen and here's a secret: I almost didn't go.
I have to confess that I saw Charles' promo author photo and it seemed so austere and like the kind of person who takes everything-including-himself way too seriously and it would be obvious that I was only there because of this free pass from HFR and really did not belong.

But his subject was The Prose Poem so I was curious and went anyway.
It only took me about 5 seconds to realize that my preconceived notions WERE COMPLETELY WRONG ON EVERY LEVEL. Charles was an energetic sweetheart with a gigantic sense of humor and enthusiasm that was as contagious as his smile. This is a more accurate depiction of Charles:
His session was entertaining and engaging and if I knew there were Professors like him, I probably would have gone to college, myself.
So the next day I made sure to take his other workshop on the Haibun. This Japanese form of a prose poem followed by a haiku dates back to Basho, but Charles was showing us contemporary examples by poets like Aimee Nezhukumatathil and pointing out that the form is so underused that it's possibilities are wide open.

I remembered something I once wrote for a big Poe Show performance and I wondered if re-working it into a haibun could help it translate from stage to page. I liked the idea of shoehorning pop culture obsessions into an ancient Japanese art form. I try to bring together high-brow and low-brow whenever I get the chance and I am grateful that Barrelhouse could appreciate my "Uni-brow Poetics."

Here is a video of that early first-draft performance from the 2010 Poe Show at MadCap Theatre:

You can buy this special Comedy Issue of Barrelhouse RIGHT OVER HERE.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

"When Asked What Kind of Cult I Grew Up In" and something like Radiohead

I've got two new poems up at Kentucky Review:

"When Asked What Kind of Cult I Grew Up In"
& "Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval"

There will be a print issue at the end of the year,
but you can click here to read them now.

Now that I'm always so busy with all these poetry projects, I don't get out to see live music as much as I used to, but the other night I did make it to a Lupus benefit show that had musicians from some of my favorite local bands like Colorstore, the Minibosses, and Treasure Mammal covering Radiohead's OK Computer album. A different group of musicians was doing a fantastic job of covering Portishead's Dummy album when I arrived, but here are some photos from the Radiohead set:

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Tagging Two More Arizona Writers for the Process Inquisition

To fulfill my chainmail obligations for the Writing Process Blog Tour, I tagged two writers
in order to avoid 7 years of form rejections.

I met Isaac Kirkman at a recent Tucson conference. He was an awesome literary ambassador and an intriguing dude, so this was a perfect opportunity to find out more about what he's up to (which includes his involvement in a Bruce Springsteen-themed crime pulp anthology:


Fortunately, Allyson Boggess lives in the vicinity, so I occasionally get to hear her read around town. I'm always impressed by these brief glimpses of her poetry and now it makes sense when I see the photo of her nifty writing-space where cross country snail mail collaborative sonnet crowns are created:

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Writing Process Interrogation

Thanks to Jessica Goodfellow for inviting me to participate in this Writing Process Blog Tour. Her first book The Insomniac's Weather Report just got re-issued and here is one of my favorite poems of hers on Verse Daily, if you want to see what she is capable of: "What You See If You Use Water As A Mirror" on Verse Daily.

Now for the interrogation...

1) What are you working on?

My first book of poetry The Existentialist Cookbook will be out this summer from NYQBooks, so I'm finishing up some of the final prep work (layout edits, blurbs, cover art, etc).  I'm about halfway into my next book-length collection, so I am trying to turn a portion of that into its own chapbook in the meantime.

2) How does your work differ from others of its genre?

Way back in my early days, I was one of those poets who avoided live readings. When I finally went to a few and saw/heard poets who were able to present impressive writing in a compelling fashion, it opened up new possibilities for me. Since then, I've become a somewhat popular "performer" and I have read for a wide variety of audiences. So my focus is on trying to find ways to synthesize elements that originally drew me to the page, with dynamics that work well in front of crowds.   

3) Why do you write what you do?

I try to write the kind of poetry that I would be excited to find. So in a way, I am writing for someone else, but I am that other person.

4) How does your writing process work?

It's very slow. Even short poems feel like gargantuan architectural feats to me and I construct them brick by brick over weeks (or months). I also love those occasions when I'm able to make some sort of connection between a couple of the poems I'm simultaneously working on and I get to Frankenstein them together in a way that I never expected.

Next week I will put up links to two other writers who will answer these same questions about their work, so check back then to learn about who they are and why I am curious about what they have to say.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Author Photo Sesh Makes Things Almost Official

Now that my book is getting closer to print, I have been trying to finish up the items on my to-do list. There is good reason why these items have remained on my to-do list: they are scary.

Chasing down blurbs and cover art, writing a book statement, getting an official looking author photo, etc. It's no coincidence that they have been put off for this long.

So at least I got to cross one of these off the list recently. My friend Rob Fix offered to take an authoresque photo. I assumed I would just stop by on my way home from work and stand in front of a wall or something. I had no idea that I was in for an adventure. But that's how Rob approaches photography, so I should have guessed.

I had to pick him up from a downtown coffeehouse (along with our mutual friend Doug Bale, whom Rob needed for "creative guidance") before driving to Rob's preferred location and he mentions that the only catch is that we have to sneak in.

It's a private condominium and the lobby security guard is vigilante in a way that could be described as Glorified Mall Cop. He was immediately on to our shenanigans, so we waited in the parking lot for a resident to return from work and pleaded with him to pretend that we were friends so we can sneak onto the elevator with him. Surprisingly, it worked and we were able to haunt the stairwell from floor to floor and take pics with whatever bizarre furniture, artwork, wallpaper was around each corner.

Of course, the security guard was waiting for us at the bottom and he knew we were liars, by then. He asked us who we were there to visit and Doug blurted out "Rousseau" which fooled NOBODY, because we do not live in the South of France so that was a wasted guess. The Security Guard threatened to call the cops and have our flashdrive confiscated, but luckily Rob talked us out of there with all photos in tact. So at least I have a few to choose from...

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Jackalopes, Ekphrasis, and Giveaway Winners (Now with More Cats)

I am happy to be involved in an Ekphrasis exhibit at a local art gallery with writers and poets from all over the country. The poems are framed and displayed next to the artwork all month at Obliq Art, but we read our poems at last night's opening reception.

Fortunately, I was paired up with the marvelous Southwest artist El Moises and he gave me this image ("Jackalope Vato") to write about:

I started doing research and wanted to go in a bunch of different directions. Part of me was tempted to go crazy and have the Jackalope skinny dipping with the Loch Ness Monster and kicking the Easter Bunny's ass; another part of me wanted to explore the possible scientific origins of this infamous creature, etc.

So I ended up borrowing Wallace Stevens' title for his Blackbird poem and calling it "Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Jackalope." That enabled me to touch on all the different aspects of this folklore that fascinated me.

I had a great time and the poem was well received. I think I might play around with the title a bit and see if I can find a journal to adopt it.

Here's a pic of my friend and co-host Jack Evans reading at last night's event. He's one of those Midas poets. Any event he touches, turns to gold.


And thank you to everyone who entered this year's Big Poetry Giveaway!

As you can see, my drawing was officiated by the honorable Snoki to ensure integrity. Congratulations go to:

Joshua Harker wins a copy of my upcoming collection The Existentialist Cookbook (as soon as I get copies)!

newzoopoet gets a copy of Kirk Nesset's collection Saint X!

and Lynn Pederson gets a copy of the debut issue of Four Chambers Magazine!

If you didn't win one of my drawings, I hope you won something on another blog. Maybe you even found new poets and blogs to keep an eye on. That would be bi-winning.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Two Poems and a Balcony Review of ALL MOVIES LOVE THE MOON

We were lucky to have Gregory Robinson come to Phoenix with his brand new book All Movies Love The Moon. I remember seeing Rose Metal Press mentioned on some writer's list of presses that put together beautiful books and now I can see why:

I always intend to lavish a little Goodreads attention on some of the poetry books that make me happy, but I rarely follow through. So here is my latest attempt:

This book is as beautiful from the inside as it is from the cover. Conveniently condensing the entire Era of silent film into a wonderful collection of prose poems that accompany sample images of title cards. Robinson knows when to stick close enough to the subject to share his expertise, like with the infamous 1902 classic A Trip To The Moon:

"poof! Obliterated. A ball of smoke. The same cloud hovered over Star Film Studios when Melies, watching his fortunes fall, set every reel, every mask, every prop ablaze."

and when to depart and splice in tangential memories from his own private reels or pop culture references to Jennifer Love Hewitt TV shows or iPhone apps in order to help illuminate the flickering ideas, like in Hell ' Angels (1916):

"Satan is not all evil, just more of a jerk, always posting pictures with ironic captions on Hell ' Facebook."

In the end, this book is Robinson's eulogy for the Silents and he mourns them with the same selective reverence of any passed loved one:

"no use dying if you cannot be remembered as someone else, someone better." 
There aren't a whole lot of these poems available online, so I asked Rose Metal Press if I could post a couple that might make everyone order this book immediately. Here are two of my favorites:


There is an esthetics to trespassing, a beauty in being where you should not.

Not old enough to know any better, I waded through a pool of boards and rusty nails to sneak into an abandoned hospital with narrow halls and holes in the floors. There were signs of recent life in the rooms--bedrolls and old magazines. Glass broke on the floor below and my flashlight flickered and died. Fumbling for a dim light of a window, the sound of glass settling turned to voices. 

Outside, a great city in the dead of night: streets lonely, moon-flooded. The bar was called Sneakers. After four a.m., it is a perfect void, filled with empty booths and denizens that turn the world into a film noir. Drink and smoke deliberately--the end of hope greeted with alacrity.

Easy, here, to get used to staring forward. There is a cemetery outside of town, unofficial and unmarked. People bury their pets there, fencing off tiny plots, visiting and bringing bones to set on their graves. If you are worthy, a white cat will follow you around. Her way of saying You shouldn't be here, but I am glad nevertheless.


Day One
Gave up baby fathered by creepy German guy with huge hands and serial-killer smile. He is not what you call the marrying type.

Day Two
Dad has knocked up the housekeeper again. Her name is Meta, as if she is a housekeeper that comments on housekeepers. Made many friends after arrest and internment at all-girl reform school. Hello mother hello father greetings from camp getmethehelloutofhere.

Day Three
Escaped male porn fantasy of all-girl reform school. Another creepy guy: Yes Thymian, you're a lost girl now. Moved in with prostitutes, but fairly convinced I am not a prostitute and unsure of what prostitute position entails. May involve dancing or exercise.

Day Four
Adopted into high society, bonnets and furs. Reasons for adoption are unclear, but involve another man with questionable intentions. Unfortunately, baby dead and dirtbag father continues to live happy, unrepentant life.

Not to self: Rethink policy on male friends, and men in general.

I also love how title card images are included throughout the book. It's an intriguing aspect that ties everything together. I never fully appreciated this literary aspect of silent films and the best writers brought a haiku-like element to these cards.

Gregory Robinson is also an engaging reader and a delightful person, so we enjoyed having him stick around to chat and sign books for a little while at our Caffeine Corridor Poetry Series.

I hope some of you get your hands on a copy and let me know what you think.

This blog will fade out to his book trailer: