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):

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.