Friday, April 4, 2014

Free Books for Big Poetry Giveaway 2014

It's time for the annual Big Poetry Giveaway that Kelli Russell Agodon started five years ago, in order to introduce and share poetry and call attention to some of the poet blogs that are still active in the face of twitter and facebook soundbytes.

All you have to do is leave a comment and email on this post to be entered
(or make sure I can get in touch if you win or check back after the drawing).

It's a good way for people to hear about some shareworthy poetry books (and maybe even win a few) and also to learn about some of the interesting writer blogs that might be worth following.

Here are my choices for this year:

Book One:  The Existentialist Cookbook

which will be my first book-length collection and it is due out this Summer from NYQBooks. This will be the first giveaway copy I promise to send out, as soon as it gets released.

Book Two: Saint X by Kirk Nesset

Nesset publishes poetry and short fiction, so both genres bleed into each other throughout his work.
His short fictions are infiltrated by poetic visions and in Saint X, his poems are flash glimpses (with elegant language and elevated diction) into the narratives of worlds and characters that hold the rest of their back-stories just beyond the edge of the page, leaving your imagination to continue inventing the myths, after the book is closed.
Here are two of my favorites:

France In Tahiti

Daily I recheck the wreckage. I lift
and inspect, probing spectacular failures,
scraping frescoes from walls to mix with water
for medicine.

Here where there's vision  and sense, where
there's breadfruit and grapes and waves
of persimmons---here in the shimmer
I pause, forecasting rain

when its raining. I keep the cup
partly empty to allow for more filling.
Van Gogh we know scared women off
with the knife-edge of fervor;

Gauguin survived with mistress and monkey,
daring all to do all, aching for Tahiti in France,
France in Tahiti. Lautrec stalked the demi-monde,
hobbling, clutching bent sticks; and

tidy dapper Mondrian, newly arrived
in New York, inhaling bebop and swing,
thought enough was enough and shot
every last self-portrait dead

with a gun. There's meaning it seems
in the way things undo us, in the way
the wheels click neatly politely

Dreaming, I take on the freeways again,
follow arrows around trunks of Magnolias.
I'll die, if need be, of poisoned meat
at the feedings. What are cures

but assaults on the false and infected? What
but this bloodless snip and sweep, this slow
redirection, this detouring back
on routes that we know?

Affair-Proof Your Marriage: 
A Manual (Installment Seven)

Beware the darker inner cosmologies. A single tumble
of touch signals the scramble of something momentous.

Don't wax the saddle at the expense of the horse.

Empty pedestals abound. So do venom-dipped shafts.
Aim your bow, if you must, at your foot.

Buy your hair shirt at Penny's, not Macy's. Buy it
large enough to accomodate two.

Remember---but do not pity---Liz Taylor.

Remain prince or princess aboard your wooden world.
Sail on. Love and mirth are not your business in Naples.

Suspect formulas, tonics, elixirs, tinctures, plasters, remed-
ies, therapies, quinines of lime and catharses, quarantines,
tourniquets, intoxicants, snake handlers, binders, analysts,
guides and knife-grinders and other glib if respectable coun-
sel. Go in fear of professionals. Manuals. Professional

Exhale. Assess. Caress the beloved. Empty the pail of con-
fetti you guard by the bed.

Let wild violets whisper their secrets. Why
pry? Why bend to insist?

Miscellaneous things about me:

Most of my influences stem from the music and films of my teenage years. In my head, the ghosts of Kurosawa, Antonioni, and Bergman are always dancing to the music of the Flaming Lips, Chris Cornell and Soundgarden, Dinosaur Jr, Mark Lanegan, etc.

Some of my favorite poets are Charles Simic, Denise Duhamel, Beth Ann Fennelly, Jeffrey McDaniel...

I host a monthly reading series at Glendale Community College.
I also co-host the Caffeine Corridor Poetry Series (with Jack Evans and Bill Campana) every 2nd Friday at {9} The Gallery in downtown Phoenix.

I have read at a wild assortment of places and events, including street parades, university theaters, hair salons, laundromats,  museums, and between punk bands in bars.

In fact, I recently did a reading in the middle of a MUTANT PINATA exhibit (

There are already more than 30 blogs participating this year and each of them has chosen different books to raffle off. You can enter as many different drawings as you'd like.

You can see what books are being given away on other blogs, by checking the list at Kelli's page

You may discover some helpful/useful blogs to follow throughout the rest of the year.
Some of the blogs I bookmark and check frequently:

Diane Lockward-
Kelli Russell Agodon -
Sandy Longhorn -
Drew Myron -
Scott Woods -
The Storialist -

Let me know if there are any poetry blogs you recommend.

So feel free to leave a comment and enter this drawing (which will be held in the first week of May).

Since my own book won't be out until later this year, I will also give away one copy of the debut issue of Four Chambers Magazine. I think they are off to a great start and they are the press that is putting together cool happenings like the aforementioned Mutant Pinata Show.

May the poetry be ever in your favor.

Monday, March 31, 2014

Literary Oddities Sideshow Reading with Mutant Pinatas

I love when offbeat readings come my way, so I was excited to participate in Four Chambers Press' Literary Oddities sideshow experiment in the midst of the annual Mutant Pinata exhibit.

There were musicians playing in one corner as poets read simultaneously, exhibited as living art around the rest of the room.

Meanwhile there were other freaks working the crowd, jugglers, and a carnival barker trying to draw attention on the street. It was a symphony of chaos and it was beautiful.

With so much going on, I knew the expectation would be to do loud poems in a loud voice. But I wanted to see how much intimacy you could bring to an atmosphere like this, so I decided to alternate between loud poems that could fight to be heard amid the insanity and quieter poems that would read privately into one person's ear.

I try to be receptive to the magic of spontaneous moments that can happen at any live event so when I saw Bill Campana and his daughter walk in front of me, I said that I would do my "Poem Yet To Be Written By Bill Campana" next. Bill said he wished he had a copy, so we could perform it together. There would never be a more appropriate moment than right there, so I pulled him up and we bellowed out a duet that was almost enough decibels to break open a few of the pinatas.

It was so much fun that Bill suggested we try it again sometime with four of us reading it simultaneously like the infamous Zaireeka album from the Flaming Lips!
So at least there's that to look forward to.

To finish my set, I collaborated with the audience on a "cut-up poem" inspired by the technique William S. Burroughs used to love (but without the scissors). I read from Jeffrey McDaniel's book The Splinter Factory and every time someone hit me I would open to a different page and start reading at another random spot until getting hit again by the next person. It was a "Pinata Cento."

Selfie with Jack Evans, Ashley Naftule, and Four Chambers Asst. Editor Jared Duran who organized this whole thing.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Belated Poetry Valentines

Last year, I gave out Haiku Valentines at the monthly reading I host,
on those little kiddie cards that children hand out for school.

Elizabeth McNeil and Jared Duran were February's featured poets.

This year, I decided to write memorable lines from other poets
on those little Valentines cards. But my handwriting is so atrocious
that they probably weren't legible, anyway.
So I will post them here.
(just imagine these lines scribbled on the back of tiny cards with kittens
and hearts and cupid's aimless arrows)

Charles Baudelaire

Even when she walks one would believe that she dances.
some women inspire the desire to conquer and possess them;
but this one rouses the desire to die slowly while she watches.

Erin Belieu

You’re the new stoplight,
the red direction from nowhere,
the unnecessary signal I want to run.

Jeffrey McDaniel

I want to rip off your logic and make passionate sense to you.
I've been ignored by prettier women than you,
but none who carried the heavy pitchers of silence
so far, without spilling a drop.
Even when I'm dead, I'll swim through the Earth,
like a mermaid of the soil, just to be next to your bones.

Nin Andrews

Even my cotton panties can hardly breathe.

Charles Simic

Love, that damn fool, who points a flashlight
with a dying battery into the past

(these were all fragments, except for the following complete poem)

Their Sex Life
                      by A.R. Ammons
One failure on
Top of another

Kelli Russell Agodon

my fingerprints smudge your history,
the beehive evenings where we once buzzed.
Maybe I'm still the mermaid.
Maybe the ocean is your hand.

Jean Cocteau

The prettiest dresses are worn to be taken off.

Beth Ann Fennelly

Intimacy linked with pain---I covered my eighth-grade hickeys
with curling iron burns.
my charmer: I’m
still wound around your arm. When the snake loves,
it’s the fiercest kind of love.

Charles Jensen

You are like a hotel that has a vacancy:
I want to fill you with me.
brunettes have less fun
but keep better secrets.
unwrapping yourself
as if you were
the one thing I’ve ever lacked.

Kim Addonizio

I like to touch your tattoos in complete
darkness, when I can’t see them.

Julio Cortazar

May you look beyond me,
may you love me with violent disregard
for tomorrow

Drew Myron

Know what grows in tangled vines that trellis the heart.

Pablo Neruda

I love you as certain dark things are to be loved,
in secret, between the shadow and the soul.

Love is so short, forgetting is so long.
I have forgotten your love, yet I seem to
Glimpse you in every window.

Emily Dickinson

Morning without you is a dwindled dawn.

Matt Mason (with his mistranslations of Neruda)

I bought her some cheese, sometimes she also brought me some cheese
In nights like these, I just hold her groceries in my arms.
In you, rivers sing, and my virginity hugs sailors
I have macramé car seat covers from your discount supermarket of hope,
and alone in delirium, the back of my neck is itchy.
you are there with your invisible kisses
where my arms are bound and my humiliations broadcast.
Ah, your mysterious voice that loves tinfoil and pop songs
in the resonant and dying candlelight!

ee cummings

here is the deepest secret nobody knows

Denise Duhamel

I said, “I dream only of you,”
which was romantic and silly and untrue.

T.S. Eliot

Love is most nearly itself
When here and now cease to matter.

Joshua Beckman

we are now
part of a garden, that is part of a  
landscape, that is part of a world
that no one believes in.

Gregory Sherl

attaching strings to clouds. Alone with wind. I came here
to tell you I have loved everything once.

Frank O’Hara

I admire you, beloved, for the trap you've set.
It's like a final chapter no one reads
because the plot is over.
and my heart--you can't plan on the heart, but
the better part of it, my poetry, is open.

Sylvia Plath

Kiss me, and you will see how important I am.
I’d say go to hell, but I never want to see you again.
we all like to think we are important enough to need psychiatrists

Hope Cupid didn't have to use one of his arrows to commit seppuku.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Poetry and Mosh Pits and Paleontologist Rock

Last week at the iconic Arizona bookstore Changing Hands, I was one of the readers who helped introduce the debut issue of Four Chambers Literary Magazine.

A few days later, I was reading between punk bands at the Trunk Space, opening for San Francisco's Sweat Lodge (former Phoenix resident Rocky Yazzie's new band).

The opening act called himself "Dinosaur Love"
Songs like "Godzilla Is Not A Dinosaur" and "Jurassic Park Was Bullshit"
(They should've listened to Jeff Goldblum!!!) got stuck in my head.


This was the first time I got to read a real poetry set at Trunk Space.
I did get on that stage once before to perform one of my poems
with Rocky's old band The Skinwalkers during one of their shows,
but it was cool to be able to read for about 25 minutes, this time around.

Banner! Hahaha.

Rocky feeds the masses before every gig. 

This teepee means Sweat Lodge is taking the stage.

I should have put these photos up between the pics of me,
so it looks like the crowd was moshing to my poems.

My camera died before Father's Day closed out the night.

Monday, January 13, 2014

KGB Bar anthology and Kirk Nesset visits our local reading series

Years ago, I stumbled onto an anthology called The KGB Bar Book Of Poems in a used bookstore. Being on the other side of the country from New York, I did not know that David Lehman and Star Black ran a weekly poetry series at the KGB Bar in the East Village. This book collects poems from some of the poets who read there during its first three years, including Charles Simic, Thomas Lux, Yusef Komunyakaa, Denise Duhamel, Marie Howe, Hal Sirowitz, John Ashbery, Robert Bly and plenty of other favorites so it's an impressive anthology of poetry on its own.

But along with a poem, it also includes anecdotes from those poets on the most memorable thing ever to happen to them at a poetry reading. This is what I love the best about this book. These tales and footnotes are hilarious, sad, sometimes even frightening and they echo in the back of my mind whenever I prepare for one of my own readings.

Erin Belieu was half way through her reading at an all-boys prep-school, when her wraparound skirt announced that it wasn't tied well enough, by dropping to the floor.

Denise Duhamel was threatened in the alley after judging a poetry slam at the Nuyorican Cafe.

But a common theme is showing up for a readings that are not well attended. Thomas Lux remembers entering an amphitheater (with several hundred seats) to find exactly ONE person in the audience. Additionally, that lone audience member was unconscious from a drug overdose. They called and waited for an ambulance to come get him and then went back home.

I also have a lot of empathy for these stories, since I have been hosting a monthly reading series for the past five years. We've had some rough and/or tragic situations here and there, but we are incredibly fortunate to have a wonderful audience that is talented and dependable.

For example, we had Kirk Nesset reading for us in January (paired with one of our local favorites Rosemarie Dombrowski) and it was such a relief to have him show up a long way from Pennsylvania, where he is Professor of English and Creative Writing at Allegheny College and be able to read to a room full of new faces.

We always begin with an open mic round. That's David Chorlton at the podium that co-host Bill Campana has dubbed "The Writer's Block."

Here are both of my distinguished co-hosts, Jack Evans and Bill Campana.

Rosemarie and her water.

Kirk shared poems from his new book Saint X, a few translations and some short fictions.

Here he is signing the last of the books that he brought with him. Hopefully, that will lower his chances of getting harassed by the airport TSA.

But the biggest draw was Kirk's adorable dog Ryan, who is probably the most well-behaved audience member to ever grace our venue.

After the reading we went to a local cafe/bar and talked shop with Kirk for a few hours. I am happy to report that he is one of the kindest writers and humans around.

Fortunately, we had Jake Friedman (from Four Chambers Press) and Frank Jackson (from Weave Magazine) with us. Frank has apparently read every book ever, so he knew what Kirk was talking about at all times. This made our group appear much more knowledgeable than we really are.

Our readings take place on 2nd Fridays (except this February, due to a Valentine's conflict)
at {9} The Gallery in downtown Phoenix, if you're ever in the neighborhood.
1229 Grand Ave
Phoenix, AZ 85007

open mic starts at 7pm

Bring Your Own Pomeranian

Friday, December 6, 2013

Bad Laundry Days, Cerealism and Four Chambers debut issue

I almost didn't go to the Four Chambers launch party last night at the FilmBar, because "free form socializing" is almost like Kryptonite to me. Seriously, that's one of the reasons I became I writer in the first place -because I wasn't hanging out in bars with friends. It's ironic that poems I've written, now drag me into many of the awkward situations that I was always too anti-social to endure.
But I actually had a lot of fun with some great people, so I'm glad I forced myself to go.

Besides, I was very happy to see the new local literary magazine get off to such a great start and grateful to have two of my poems included with some of my local friends and some talented out-of-state writers. It was an excellent mix.

One of my poems is "Dear Wife's Panties" and the other one is "Breakfast Shaped Smacks of First Light" which began with the inspiration of a photography exhibit that I saw 5 years ago at the West Valley Art Museum. Phoenix photographer Ernie Button was showing a collection called Cerealism.

Button said: "I noticed that the 'adult cereals' like Fiber-One or All Bran, had the color and feel of the desert Southwest. I would blow up pictures of Arizona skies as a wallpaper, and create these settings to photograph," he said. "I've taken about 45 pictures in the series."

Grape Nuts Dune #9

 French Toast Canyon
An excerpt from his Artist Statement:

    "Art is shaped by a person’s life experiences and I am no different. I was raised by a single mother during my single-digit years that struggled to keep her family and young children together. We didn’t have a lot of money so it was the small things that made a lasting impression on me as a child. Those times were difficult on both her and us: powdered milk instead of real milk, free lunch program instead of lunch money, two jobs instead of one to make ends meet. Something like cereal was a luxury item. A brand name cereal was more of a rarity as they were consistently more expensive. Something like King Vitamin (a popular 70’s cereal) or Cap’n Crunch made for pure breakfast heaven."

So after seeing that exhibit, I wandered around the grocery store cereal aisle with a notebook and jotted down every word/phrase/impression that caught my eye. Eventually, I was able to turn those fragments into a poem.

Check out all of the other writers in the debut issue over on the Four Chambers website.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

3rd Annual White Elephant Contemporary Poetry Gift Exchange happening has happened

Big-time thanks to everyone who helped make this year's event the best one yet.
I love how much support I get from the English faculty at Glendale Community College (esp. Johnnie Clemens May, David Nelson, and Kimberly Mathes). They are fantastic and are always willing to go out of their way to do cool things for the community. I hope their collective karma is getting aggregated somewhere.

I wanted to post a record of the books we gave away, because people were trying to write down and remember some of the books that caught their attention. Especially the people who were so happy to get certain collections, only to have them stolen a few minutes later.

That's the main thing I am hoping to accomplish. I try to introduce some fantastic poetry books that can make great gifts for the friend who is hard to shop for (or even yourself. Go ahead, you deserve it).

I was sad that two books I ordered didn't arrive in time, so I began with one from last year that didn't arrive in time to be included. I wanted to include a Dorianne Laux book and I wasn't sure which one to pick (I was leaning toward Facts About The Moon), so I asked Johnnie which one was her favorite because I know she is a big fan and occasionally goes to Laux's workshop retreats.  Johnnie's favorite is "What We Carry," so that was how we started. I read The Job and Finding What's Lost (click here to read that one).

Then I brought out a book that I also gave away last year. I wouldn't normally do that, but its original press went out of business and Gregory Sherl's "The Oregon Trail Is The Oregon Trail" just got reissued in a wonderful new edition from Write Bloody.

This is a crowd favorite and rightfully so. I think this was the only book that got stolen TWICE last night. There was loud joyous christmas music and carols coming from the next room, so it only emphasized the loneliness and desperation of the sample poems I read, which were The Oregon Trail Is A Lonely Place To Die Of Syphilis (click here to read) and

The Oregon Trail Is Undergoing Photosynthesis

I want to write a sad poem but I’m not sad.
I am less than sad. Negative sad. I am looped
television laughter. I move through the trail
cloaked in bath water & the water never gets cold.
I shouldn’t be sad or sleep all day, I should lie
under the floorboards of our wagon, tell the spiders
to mind their distance, just swallow the poison.
i want to wrestle the bear that haunts your dreams
& eats our children. They are beautiful children,
in their hiking boots, climbing hills like they’ve
done this before, like they know why we sleep
on top of each other, so precious all of us humming
last spring. I want to lust for lust & your tongue
over my shoulder blades, but all I can think about
is building a snowman with your face on its white
frame. Your teeth look the best when you’re naked.
I close my eyes, count to ten thousand. I close my
eyes & forget why I closed my eyes. On the trail
everything smells green. You tell me I always want
to smell naked. A thief comes in the middle of the night,
leaves wild fruit, a note that says he found God
in a Wal-Mart parking lot. When we’re older I’ll lock
the front door of our house so tight the calcium
in our bones won’t be able to get out.

I also included Kelli Russell Agodon's "Letters From The Emily Dickinson Room" and read
Helping My Parents Shop For His And Her Coffins to the crowd, as well as this one:

What the Universe Makes of Lingerie

It’s impossible to see a black bra
directly as no light can escape from it;
still there are supernovas, dark matter,

meteorites in its path. The black bra
understands its usefulness is overrated.
It’s problematic under a white

shirt of a white woman, unprofessional
peeking out of a blazer. To see
observational evidence of black bras

you do not need to borrow
the Hubble telescope to view the Hourglass
Nebula, their existence is well-supported,

a gravitational field so strong
nothing can escape. Black bras
can be found in the back of a Vega

between the vinyl seats. It is the star
the boy wishes on—he is never the master
of the unhook, Orion unfastening

his constellation belt. Let it remain
a mystery, something almost seen,
almost touched in a Galaxy. I’d call it

rocketworthy, but there is cosmic
censorship, naked singularities
to consider. The black bra has electric

charge, too close to the event horizon,
a man disappears in its loophole, escape
velocity equal to the speed of light.

Then I did something a little different for this year. Since I was involved earlier in the year with both a workshop and a panel about the performance aspect of writing, I decided to burn some CDs of my first and most influential "spoken word artist." So I put together some of my favorite William S. Burroughs recordings. Some from live recitals, others from studio sessions where he was backed by symphony musicians or bands like Sonic Youth. I read The Mummy Piece because it's one of my favorites to perform, but I also love this collaboration with Kurt Cobain for The Priest They Called Him:

Of course, his Thanksgiving Prayer is also a classic.

Then I gave away Scott Woods' new book "We Over Here Now" because his poem Whuppins was also a big hit at that performance workshop. This book was also brought in by someone else last night, so there were two copies circulating and getting stolen. First time that's ever happened. If you want to know how many good poems are included in this book, just consider that this one (my favorite) didn't even make it into the table of contents:

I was also gave away a copy of Diane Lockward's portable workshop "The Crafty Poet" which includes insight and writing exercises from 56 top poets and two sample poems for each prompt so you can see what other poets come up with. I didn't read my poem that was one of the sample poems based on the Richard Jones prompt. But  did read Cecilia Woloch's Fireflies (click here to read) and Jeffrey McDaniel'

Compulsively Allergic to the Truth

I'm sorry I was late.
I was pulled over by a cop
for driving blindfolded
with a raspberry-scented candle
flickering in my mouth.
I'm sorry I was late.
I was on my way
when I felt a plot
thickening in my arm.
I have a fear of heights.
Luckily the Earth
is on the second floor
of the universe.
I am not the egg man.
I am the owl
who just witnessed
another tree fall over
in the forest of your life.
I am your father
shaking his head
at the thought of you.
I am his words dissolving
in your mind like footprints
in a rainstorm.
I am a long-legged martini.
I am feeding olives
to the bull inside you.
I am decorating
your labyrinth,
tacking up snapshots
of all the people
who've gotten lost
in your corridors. 

The final book I gave away was Denise Duhamel's latest book Blowout (click here for a good interview at The Rumpus) and I think the crowd loved it almost as much as I do, after I read the poems "Madonna and Me" (click here to read) and especially this one:

How It Will End

We're walking on the boardwalk
but stop when we see a lifeguard and his girlfriend
fighting. We can't hear what they're saying,
but it is as good as a movie. We sit on a bench to find out
how it will end. I can tell by her body language
he's done something really bad. She stands at the bottom
of the ramp that leads to his hut. He tries to walk halfway down
to meet her, but she keeps signaling Don't come closer.
My husband says, "Boy, he's sure in for it,"
and I say, "He deserves whatever's coming to him."
My husband thinks the lifeguard's cheated, but I think
she's sick of him only working part-time
or maybe he forgot to put the rent in the mail.
The lifeguard tries to reach out
and she holds her hand like Diana Ross
when she performed "Stop in the Name of Love."
The red flag that slaps against his station means strong currents.
"She has to just get it out of her system,"
my husband laughs, but I'm not laughing.
I start to coach the girl to leave the no-good lifeguard,
but my husband predicts she'll never leave.
I'm angry at him for seeing glee in their situation
and say, "That's your problem—you think every fight
is funny. You never take her seriously," and he says,
"You never even give the guy a chance and you're always nagging,
so how can he tell the real issues from the nitpicking?"
and I say, "She doesn't nitpick!" and he says, "Oh really?
Maybe he should start recording her tirades," and I say
"Maybe he should help out more," and he says
"Maybe she should be more supportive," and I say
"Do you mean supportive or do you mean support him?"
and my husband says that he's doing the best he can,
that he's a lifeguard for Christ's sake, and I say
that her job is much harder, that she's a waitress
who works nights carrying heavy trays and is hit on all the time
by creepy tourists and he just sits there most days napping
and listening to "Power 96" and then ooh
he gets to be the big hero blowing his whistle
and running into the water to save beach bunnies who flatter him
and my husband says it's not as though she's Miss Innocence
and what about the way she flirts, giving free refills
when her boss isn't looking or cutting extra large pieces of pie
to get bigger tips, oh no she wouldn't do that because she's a saint
and he's the devil, and I say, "I don't know why you can't admit
he's a jerk," and my husband says, "I don't know why you can't admit
she's a killjoy," and then out of the blue the couple is making up.
The red flag flutters, then hangs limp.
She has her arms around his neck and is crying into his shoulder.
He whisks her up into his hut. We look around, but no one is watching us. 

Not only was our audience much more eager and brave enough to do more stealing, but they also brought some really cool books. I wanted to write down what people brought to give away and exchange, but it was happening to fast for me to keep up while hosting.

I am already looking forward to next year. I like keeping an eye out during the year, for books that might make good end-of-the-year gifts. At least I have a headstart with two already in the mail.