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):

Saturday, February 7, 2015

One Night-Only Art Mirage Pop-Up Performance and 3 poems up at Drunk In A Midnight Choir

The good folks over at Drunk In A Midnight Choir were kind enough to put up three of my poems up on their page. One is an ammosexual PSA, another deals with a downtown Superman, and the last one was about seeing Peter Jackson's documentary on Damien Echols and the West Memphis 3.

During First Friday, I had a great time reading some poems in a cool pop-up art performance event with some of my friends from Four Chambers Press.

Perry Allen took over a dirt lot in Downtown Phoenix and constructed "a small seating area and intimate stage" with tall wood panels to create a "pop-up performance and community creative space" dubbed The Lyceum. He invited a variety of artists, writers, musicians, dancers, storytellers to take turns on stage and try to attract and engage an audience.

Then they quickly dismantled the space as soon as the show was over, like nothing ever happened. A one-night only art mirage.
But I did snap a few photos to prove that we were there.

I walked by earlier in the evening to see everything getting set up, just before showtime.
Gotta love the welcome mat in the middle of the dirt.

Leah Marché (Black Poet Ventures)
Mujeres del Sol
Liliana Gomez
Four Chambers Press
Yarnball Storytellers
the Heaviest Cat
Grace Rolland (Rising Sun Daughter)


Then I met up with Jake Friedman and Jared Duran, so we could decide what to read, etc.
while waiting for Rosemarie Dombrowski to join us.

People were encouraged to create images while the show was happening.

and now it disappears without leaving a trace...

Monday, January 5, 2015

My book reviewed in Stirring and a Cary Elwes sighting: inconceivable!

Closing out a terrific 2014, I was excited to see this thoughtful review of The Existentialist Cookbook in the December issue of Stirring (by poet Donna Vorreyer).

"The syntax of many of these poems is clipped, fragmented, and end-stopped, giving the reader a sense of authority and reality. The speaker in these poems does not ramble. The speaker in these poems has conviction. This serves Orion particularly well in the most tender and relatable poems in the book, those that ponder small moments or big emotions in a straightforward way."
The rest of the review can be found at:

I also had a November reading at the iconic Changing Hands Bookstore with one of my favorite poets David Chorlton, since we both had new books out (his was a new volume of Selected Poems). Changing Hands has been Arizona's most legendary bookstore for over 40 years and many big-time authors hold their booksignings there (like Neil Gaiman and Chuck Palahniuk, recently).

This was the first time I got to read there with a shiny new book of my own to promote, but I decided to read my entire set without including one single poem from the book, just to switch things up.

Speaking of Changing Hands events, I went to Cary Elwes' booksigning a few weeks ago. He has a new book of behind the scenes stories from the making of the almost classic 1987 film The Princess Bride.

I don't like those booksignings that are nothing more than an autograph line. I like to hear something. Like when Jenny Lawson ( read us a chapter from her memoir.
Or when Damien Echols sat down for a Q & A with the crowd.
But I have to say that Cary Elwes was probably the most generous and engaging author I've seen. He told a few hilarious tales from the Princess Bride set with all of the British charm you could expect, while interjecting dead on impersonations of the other actors involved (his Andre The Giant impression made the stories exponentially better).

Then he invited questions from the audience and took a cordless mic out to wander through the rows and talk to people. He kept that up for much longer than any of us expected. He seemed amazed and humbled by how much that movie meant to some of these people even after all these decades.

There were kids who were named after his character, couples who met and hit it off by quoting lines before going on to mahwage, and even a woman who comforted her husband before a major surgery by telling him to "sleep well and dream of large women."

It's easy to underestimate the importance of art in everyone's private world.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Recapping the 4th Annual Contemporary Poetry White Elephant Gift Exchange

Twas the season for my annual Contemporary Poetry White Elephant Gift Exchange at Glendale Community College. This was our 4th year of spotlighting and sharing some of the worthwhile poetry that probably doesn't get stocked on the bookshelves of the national Barnes and Nobles (unlike copious copies of James Franco's newest book).

Sponsored by the supportive and generous GCC Writing Department, I get to select a handful of books to introduce and giveaway each December. We also invite people to bring any book they would like to share or exchange and there are opportunities to "steal" ones that catch your attention.

Ideally, people might walk away with a few new poets and/or books to watch out for and hopefully even order. Here are the books I selected this year:

Patricia Lockwood's Motherland Fatherland HomelandSexuals

Fantastic cover image, but Lockwood also has a knack for equally vivid titles:
"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)

But it was her poem Rape Joke that stopped me in my tracks to re-read as soon as I got to the end.

Gregory Robinson’s All Movies Love the Moon
I was lucky to have Robinson come to town earlier this year for one of the monthly readings I host. He's undeniably likeable in person, but his book is even better. From the backjacket description:

"Anyone who watches silent movies will notice how often crashes occur—trains, cars, and people constantly collide and drama or comedy ensues. Gregory Robinson’s All Movies Love the Moon is also a collision, a theater where prose, poetry, images, and history meet in an orchestrated accident. The result is a film textbook gone awry, a collection of linked prose poems and images tracing silent cinema’s relationship with words—the bygone age of title cards."

Here's a video trailer with one of these poems:

Claudia Rankine's Citizen: An American Lyric

Unfortunately, this book becomes more and more relevant, with every passing news cycle.
A collection of vignettes exploring varying degrees of racism embedded into daily experience.

I knew whatever was in front of me was happening and then the police vehicle came to a screeching halt in front of me like they were setting up a blockade. Everywhere were flashes, a siren sounding and a stretched-out roar. Get on the ground. Get on the ground now. Then I just knew.

And you are not the guy and still you fit the description because there is only one guy who is always the guy fitting the description.

The Poetry Foundation has a few more excerpts here:

Simone Meunch's The Air Lost In Breathing

I immediately hunted down this book after hearing her read the poem "Tom Waits I Hate You."
This book wasn't easy to find, because it appears to be out-of-print,
but I thought it was worth the search:

It was a little easier for me to find a copy of my own book that came out in August, so I also gave away a copy of The Existentialist Cookbook.

John Tottenham's Inertia Variations

Tottenham was one of the poets I read with at the recent Long Beach Poetry Festival and his commitment to bleak resignation struck a self-loathing chord in my soul. These poems are like the antidote to all of those uplifting self-help yoga-panted memes that your friends keep posting on Facebook.

A Richer Victory

Broke, bitter and alone.
What more could I possibly ask for?
I have failed, at last,
beyond my wildest expectations.
I don’t understand
why I’m still not satisfied.

Life Without Work

To do nothing
In this day and age,
When so much pointless work
Is being produced,
Could almost be considered an achievement.
It all compares most unfavorably
With my own imaginary
Body of work.

The Measure of a Man

A long time ago I made a decision
To become a failure. It wasn’t
As easy as I thought: browsing through life
From one distraction to the next, while waiting
For the last lost moment to become unseizable.
As if there were some fundamental honesty
To not striving: There wasn’t. –
I suspected it all along.

I'm already looking forward to selecting some books for next year.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

New poem in Threepenny Review and Fast Five Interview at Off The Page

An early Christmas present arrived in my mailbox in the form of my contributor copy of The Threepenny Review. I was already excited and proud to have my poem "Comfort Food on Two Tongues" included in such a fine journal, but I was delighted to discover that it also happened to be the 35th Anniversary Issue and my poem ended up sharing page 5 with Robert Pinsky. 
Good luck following that up, 2015.

PLUS poems by Jill McDonough, David Ferry, an essay on the film Finding Vivian Maier, beautiful photographs by Lee Friedlander and more:

I also had the honor of doing a Fast Five mini-interview for Drew Myron's Off The Page blog.

The Existentialist Cookbook, your first full-length book, offers a great blend of sharp and smart poems mixed with wonderfully tender and touching pieces. Was this range intentional?

Your poems are quick-witted, full of clever word play and pop culture references, and peppered with such engaging titles as, "Love in the Time of Hand-Sanitizer" and "Unable to Surface for Air During Shark Week." Who (or what) has influenced your writing?

So the answers to questions like these, can all be found at the following link:

Sunday, November 9, 2014

The illustrated Walt Whitman and way behind on the catching up

It's been a few months since I have posted any updates on here,
but it's because I was so busy
doing lots of things that were worthy of updates!

So even if nobody reads these anymore, I am committed to bringing this blog back up to date over the next few weeks. I have lots of posts I want to make and I refuse to cave in and admit that short little soundbytes on Twitter and Facebook are all that matters, nowadays.

My only excuse is that my book was released 3 moths ago and I have been caught up in the whirlwind that I was happy to be carried away by. I've been lucky that it has received a modest amount of attention and incredibly grateful for examples like these:

Devil's Advocate: Orion's 'The Existentialist Cookbook' merges humor and beauty

Then one of ASU's Cronkite School journalist students came along to one of my readings and wrote this article for The Downtown Devil

But here's one of the things I've been meaning to post about:

I recently tagged along with one of my poet friends Jia Oak Baker, to a presentation at the Phoenix Art Museum (in partnership with the University of Arizona Poetry Center) by Allen Crawford who discussed his new book Whitman Illuminated: Song of Myself.

From the Tin House Books description "Crawford has turned the original sixty-page poem from Whitman’s 1855 edition into a sprawling 234-page work of art. The handwritten text and illustrations intermingle in a way that’s both surprising and wholly in tune with the spirit of the poem—they’re exuberant, rough, and wild."

 Jia and I were both lucky and excited to win cool limited edition tote bags printed with the above image.

Allen Crawford was engaging and informative and his work is beautiful. 

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Crashing the NewTimes' list of 100 Phoenix Creatives (and Goodreads, too)

"I make art because I want to document the ideas and experiences that I am too
socially inept to tell you about in person."

--from my recent Q & A with the Phoenix New Times after being included in their annual list of 100 Phoenix Creatives. Read the rest at the Jackalope Ranch blog:

I'm currently putting together an official local book launch event with live painting and music for Saturday September 6th. I'll post more about it as details and special guests become clear.

In the meantime, I'm excited to have The Existentialist Cookbook finally show up on Goodreads.
I will probably do a book giveaway over there, sooner or later. Here is that link, in case you'd like to add it to your virtual shelves:

If you're looking for a bargain, Small Press Distribution has an offer for 40% off my book (or any of their other titles), through this August "shelfie" promo. Here are the specifics:

If you're camera-shy, you can even stay out of the pic. Here is the photo I am going to use: