Sunday, August 9, 2015

The Existentialist Cookbook turns one year old

Hard to believe that my book has now been out for a whole year.
I couldn't be more grateful for the kind of reception it's received,
even when I ventured out of state for a few readings.

Infinite gratitude for Raymond Hammond and NYQBooks 
for publishing The Existentialist Cookbook and making it turn out
better than I could have ever hoped:

I was fortunate to have it reviewed by Donna Vorreyer in Stirring:

on McKenzie Lynn Tozan's blog:

It got a cool write-up in the Downtown Devil:

It also got me interviewed for the Phoenix NewTimes' list of 100 Phoenix Creatives:

and on Drew Myron's Fast Five blog:

Another enormous heaping of thanks for everyone who supported and encouraged me along the way (since this book was more than a decade in the making) and to everyone who bought a copy!

Can't wait to see what happens in the next year...

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

I am not your autumn moon, I am the night (some posts start off happy but end on a sad note)

I was excited to get great tickets for an upcoming Chris Cornell solo acoustic show at The Orpheum. It even looks like this Phoenix show will be the kick-off date for his new tour. I saw one of his acoustic shows a few years ago and it was amazing. One of my favorite songwriters and vocalists of all time.

But let me go back to an older show. It was back when his first solo CD came out. 1999's Euphoria Morning. I remember talking to my friend on the phone and we were commiserating about us both being such huge Soundgarden fans, but being too broke to go see the Cornell show that was happening the following week (partly, because my son was born a few months earlier which meant that I would likely be poor for the rest of my life). Just then, someone called on the other line and I put my friend on hold. It was Cornell's tour manager saying that I won two tickets to the concert and he couldn't make any promises, but he might even be able to introduce us after the show. Righteous! I clicked back over to inform my friend that I was no longer a loser who was about to miss out on that show and he could go ahead and have fun without me in Loserville: population him.

I expected one of those hurried meet and greet table lineups if anything, but after the show my wife and I were taken to the backstage dressing room. It appeared that we were the only people who didn't belong there with the musicians and crew but Natasha Shneider came over to talk to us. She and her husband Alain Johannes had a band called Eleven, but they helped Chris record his solo record so they were playing with him for the tour. She was immeasurably kind and even made us feel welcome, while Chris changed shirts before wardrobe got packed up for the bus.

I wanted to bring some sort of thank-you for the free tickets and backstage passes, so I did something embarrassing and gave him a folder of poems I was working on, in case he got especially bored on the tour bus. I was young and dumb and hadn't even had anything published yet, so I'm sure they were horrible, but it's funny to look back and realize that this was technically the first manuscript I ever put together. I doubt any of those poems ended up in the book that I finally got published 15 years later, but things had to start somewhere.

It's also funny that the first time we ever left our son with a babysitter was to go see this concert, but soon we'll probably be taking our son with us to see Chris' show at The Orpheum.

Now for the sad part of this post:
when I went to read at the Long Beach Poetry Festival that I mentioned in my last blog, we visited the Hollywood Forever Cemetery. We made sure to see Johnny and Dee Dee from The Ramones and I have to admit that I was happy to visit the gravesites of Mel Blanc, Cecille B. DeMille and others...

But I got really choked up when I got here:

Friday, June 12, 2015

Southern California readings from Long Beach to Beyond Baroque

I'm excited to have an upcoming reading at Beyond Baroque in Venice (Thursday July 30th). I'll go into more of the details soon. The only other time I had a reading in Southern California was for last year's Long Beach Poetry Festival. That was my first reading outside of Arizona and it was a great time. I met lots of wonderful people and poets, so they set the bar pretty high.

Fortunately, my book came out on the same press (NYQBooks) as Clint Margrave who was one of the LB PoFest organizers, so I ended up on his radar. I love Margrave's first book The Early Death Of Men but I also remember sharing his essay PANIC ON THE STREETS OF POETRY: IN SEARCH OF VERSE THAT SAYS SOMETHING TO ME ABOUT MY LIFE with all of my friends. 

The Long Beach community was more receptive and supportive than I could have hoped.
I was thrilled to have a spot at their table with so many excellent books.

The headliner for this festival was East Coast poet Joe Weil.
I already had his recent selected poems collection The Great Grandmother Light so I was familiar with his writing, but hearing these poems in his own voice made everything even better. He's a fiery passionate speaker with all the intensity of Godfellas-era Joe Pesci which seemed perfectly in sync with the tone of his words on the page.

A few of the other poets who left a lasting impression:

I didn't speak to John Tottenham, but his poems stuck in my head on the drive home and I shared his work with many of my Arizona friends. Here's one of my favorites with bonus animation:

I did get to talk with Danielle Mitchell who runs The Poetry Lab and learned that we had some mutual friends and we both had work in the debut issue of Four Chambers Magazine. She also blogged a recap of the fest on her site ( ) and it made my day/year/eon to see that she liked my book.
She read a bunch of prose poems and I especially loved the one for her brother that I tracked down at Connotation Press:

Kevin Ridgeway is another poet I've kept in touch with. His chapbook from Arroyo Seco Press sold out before I could get one at that Long Beach Fest, but I finally got one a few months later. Here's a review of another recent chapbook by Kevin, Riding Off Into That Strange Technicolor Sunset

I also remember asking Elder Zamora if the "suit poem" he read was published anywhere. It wasn't at that time, but I was happy to see it eventually turn up online:

So, like Cool J, I'm looking forward to "Going back to Cali, stylin, profilin
Growlin, and smilin, while in the sun."

Oh, and keep your eyes out for this year's Long Beach Poetry Festival on October 10th. I'm sure they'll have another amazing lineup.

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Giveaway Winners and Video/Pics from the Phx Art Museum tour

(above photo stolen/borrowed from Jia Oak Baker)

First- thanks to everyone who entered this year's Big Poetry Giveaway drawing.
My cat Snoki supervised the drawing to ensure transparency and the winners were:

My own collection The Existentialist Cookbook goes to Robin A. Sams
& Patricia Lockwood's MotherlandFatherland Homelandsexual goes to Brian Wong

In other poetry month news, Four Chambers Press collaborated with the Phoenix Art Museum on a chapbook of writing inspired by the artwork on exhibit (or any other experience with the museum). To launch this project, we had two separate "tours" where we walked through the museum to have writers read in front of the artwork, gathering a crowd along the way. Here is a glimpse of those tours:

Jared Duran
Rosemarie Dombrowski
Jake Friedman
Jia Oak Baker was away at a Hedgebrook residency, so Rosemarie had to read Jia's poem inside the infamous Yayoi Kusama installation called You Who Are Getting Obliterated in the Dancing Swarm of Fireflies
Jack Evans

My poem in the chapbook was written after overhearing a partial conversation as I was exiting the museum a few years ago: "There's something so Antonioni about Phoenix."
Here's a video of me reading the poem in the museum lobby:

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Reasons Not to Recall Arizona Governor Doug Ducey

Reasons Not to Recall Arizona Governor Doug Ducey

Because taxpayer funding
shouldn’t be squandered on chalkboards
desks or science textbooks

Because the new economy is built by prisons
& incarceration is a renewable commodity

Because the fate of public education
should be decided by politicians
who can afford to send
their children to private schools

Because nobody has concerns
about next decade’s community
churning out more ex-cons than grad students

Because parents who want their children
to become budget priorities
should raise prisoners
instead of students

Because professors now teach
beneath a bureaucratic guillotine
& the cold stone reality that if voters
don’t have enough bread
then let them eat ice cream

 "For public education, the one-two punch of less state funding and failed budget overrides, in the face of increasing student populations, means districts are barely hanging on. Combine that with the legislature's giveaways to charter schools, and the GOP's goal is all too clear: privatized education. Also, the constant and very deep cuts to higher ed, including Arizona State, the largest university in the nation, have resulted in higher tuitions and increased corporate funding—making college less affordable to all but the wealthy and giving private industry more leverage in curriculum design."

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Time for the Annual Big Poetry Giveaway (first year with my own book)

It's time for the annual Big Poetry Giveaway that Kelli Russell Agodon started six 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 the two books I will be giving away this year:

The Existentialist Cookbook is my first book-length collection and it was published by NYQBooks.

This collection "sifts through the absurdity of modern living for scraps of philosophy, religion, and mathematics to blend into recipes for elegies and celebrations through the prism of chronology and humor."

These poems took a decade of road-testing in front of audiences at coffeehouses, bars, haiku death match slams, university theaters, and laundromats, before finally coalescing into this manuscript.
Here is a review by Donna Vorreyer in a recent issue of Stirring:

The other book I'll be giving away this year is 
Patricia Lockwood's Motherland Fatherland Homelandsexuals.
People had a great time with this one when I introduced it at my annual Christmas poetry exchange, so I'll give away one more copy in case you've never read poems like
"Is Your Country a He or a She in Your Mouth?"
Last of the Late Great Gorilla-Suit Actors
"The Fake Tears of Shirley Temple"
The Father and Mother of American Tit-Pics” (Walt Whitman nude, in the forest, staring deep into a still pool — the only means of taking tit-pics available at that time)
or if you just love this badass book cover:

Miscellaneous things about me:

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

Yesterday I did a workshop called "Objectifying Your Poems: So Much Depends Upon Things"

As insinuated in that flyer, I explored the power of imagery through the neorealist cinematic synecdoche of Michaelangelo Antonioni & Harry Potter's muggle-proof modes of transportation.

That's probably a pretty accurate depiction of my influences and style. I always love the opportunity to bridge the divide between highbrow and lowbrow into a movement I would call Uni-brow Poetics.

I was included in the Phoenix New Times' list of 100 Phoenix Creatives:

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 enjoyed reading at a wild assortment of places and events, including street parades, art museums, hair salons, light rail trains, and between punk bands in bars.
I have ventured out of Arizona with my new book, to read at the Long Beach Poetry Festival in California and the Innisfree Bookstore in Boulder Colorado. Next week, I will be reading in Las Vegas at the First Friday Pop-Up Poetry event.
Hopefully, I will get to visit your city someday.

There will be many other 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 -
Jessica Goodfellow -
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).

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Behind The Poem: Kurt Vonnegut, Las Vegas, and Pearl Jam

Several people have asked me about this poem from The Existentialist Cookbook:

It was from back when I bought some overpriced scalper tickets and skipped a few days of high school to drive up to Las Vegas with a friends to see a Pearl Jam show during their VS. tour.

On the way to the show, we were talking about a Kurt Vonnegut book that was blowing my little eleventh grade mind and how Eddie Vedder name-dropped Vonnegut in some recent interviews. I joked that we should have brought him a book, since 5th row seats were probably close enough to toss one to him. My friend liked the idea more than just a joke and swerved into a bookstore so we could pick up a copy.

When we got to the show, we realized that 5th row seats were farther than we expected, once you factor in the orchestra pit at the front of the stage. So I threw it as far as I could, but it didn't quite make it. However, it did eventually get where it was supposed to go and all these years later, I even found this footage on youtube:

Vedder still had the book, when they came back out for the encore in this video:

Highlights from the rest of this show include the first time Tremor Christ was played live, a My Way duet with an Elvis impersonator, and (since Mudhoney opened this show) Mark Arm and Steve Turner joining Stone Gossard and Jeff Ament for a Green River reunion encore to play Swallow My Pride and a cover of the Dead Boys' Ain't Nothin To Do.

But I didn't write about any of that stuff.
Here's the full video, anyway (paired with a great soundboard recording):