Tonissa Saul and I had a great time handling the rinky dink press table at the AWP Philadelphia bookfair.
We launched a brand new series featuring (clockwise in photo) Ann Pedone, Kurt Mikhael, Eric Dovigi, Michael Buckius, Jamie King, Halsey Hyer, Veronica Jarboe, S.G. Maldonado-Vélez, Emily Hoover, and Jessica Rich.
We made some special "bite size" AWP packs that were pretty popular and sold out on day two.
And we had a stellar offsite reading Upstairs at The 700 that was organized by our friend Lindsay A. Chudzik for Feels Blind Literary
We were proud to have four rinky dink press authors (Halsey Hyer, Michael Buckius, Susan Nguyen, and Jesse Sensibar) and they were terrific.
Thanks to everyone who stopped by our table and came to our offsite 💙
Very cool to see that our book was a finalist for the New Mexico-Arizona Book Awards
Thanks to Tolsun Books for figuring out how to combine Jia Oak Baker's photographs and my poems in convenient paperback form exactly how we envisioned but better.
Since all of my celebrations are virtual, here are a few more of those "Poetic Distancing Reading Series" video sessions that I did instead of whatever book tour I was planning before the pandemic.
I almost had to give up on this one in the canal because every take kept getting ruined by screeching jets from the nearby airbase. Another example of the Military Industrial Complex budget squashing local arts. I will edit together a bunch of these outtakes that feature me cursing at the sky as if those pilots might be able to hear me.
My poems in this next video address Portlandian hipster-ness, 90s album covers, fleeting punk fashion statements, and my longtime appreciation of Chris Cornell. The shadows reminded me of a classic Soundgarden video, so I wore one of those shirts that former Phoenix skater (and longtime friend of Chris Cornell) Kevin Staab put out for his 90 skate company, since Chris often wore those, as seen in their video for Fell On Black Days:
Wolf mentions that a few of the poems reference legendary skateboarder Rodney Mullen, so here is some of that backstory: The central art piece in all of Jia's photographs was made by artist JJ Horner. Since JJ co-founded the skate company Pyramid Country. We wanted to make sure to pay some homage to those roots, through our photos and poems. So we made a few trips to the skatepark next to Cowtown Skateboards
Since Rodney Mullen is brilliant on a skateboard and in conversation, I tried to cut-up some fragments of language and phrasesfrom his interviews and biography "The Mutt: How to Skateboard and Not Kill Yourself" and shape them into new out-of-context found poems... the same way skateboarders use his techniques as building blocks for new tricks.
Here's one of my favorite interviews, so you can see that Mullen is poetic both on and off his board and also how his descriptions of the skate community can also be easily applied to the writing community.
Excited to say that our book is now available at Stinkweeds Record Store if you're ever in Downtown Phoenix. This is especially cool because back
in high school, I used to drive out to Kimber Lanning's original shops in Mesa and Tempe to
buy import bootleg CDs. I've also seen in-store performances by folks like
Jello Biafra and Lou Barlow's Folk Implosion over the years. Since
Jia's photos and my poems were heavily influenced by some of our beloved
Phoenix bands, we're proud to have this book available in that same iconic
record store for less than it would cost from Amaz*n (in keeping with Kimber's local indie-first ethos localfirstaz.com).
In more literary news, Gravity & Spectacle got a great shout out from the Academy Of American Poets (what!?!) in an issue American Poets Magazine! It was almost surreal for Jia and I to see ourselves listed on the back cover with writers like Joy Harjo, Forrest Gander, Natalie Diaz, Adrian Matejka, and other heroes.
Inside the magazine, there was a wonderful write-up by Phoenix Poet Laureate Rosemarie Dombrowski along with one of my sample poems from the book:
Having our book out during the pandemic was strange, since we couldn't encounter people at readings or lit festivals. It made you wonder if it was really "out there" in the world. So we truly appreciated seeing a few book reviews pop up every once in awhile. The first one came from Up The Staircase Quarterly by the brilliant Alina Stefanescu:
"There is the newness,
the cultural backdrops, the poem that critiques the clickbaited brain, ... and all the ways in which being
hip is plotted against being the credible fuck-up, the heartbreak of
Chris Cornell's death, the muffled critique of the new place that
appears, namely, the chic Portland."
Since the new book Gravity & Spectacle came out right at the beginning of the pandemic in 2020, I wasn't able to do any readings and that was disappointing. I tried a few Zoom readings and subjected people to my cluttered backroom, confusing timezone, and spotty wi-fi connection. It wasn't the best way to introduce anyone to our brand new book, but we did what we could.
Then I noticed a call for submissions of video readings for a virtual literary conference. I liked the idea of recording a session without the limitations of wi-fi, so I went out into the desert and read a few poems to an audience of Saguaros. Unfortunately, I said the wrong conference name in my intro, so it was rightfully rejected for the virtual event.
So I decided to just do my own "Poetic Distancing Reading Series" in various five minute sessions on youtube like these:
The above video was the desert session that I filmed at the White Tank Mountain Regional Park.
This next one took place in front of The Rebel Lounge which has a long history as an important Phoenix music venue for up and coming local bands and national touring bands who haven't yet moved up to theaters (including bands like Nirvana, The Ramones, Soundgarden, Guns N Roses, Pearl Jam, etc back when it was know as The Mason Jar). Needless to say, Jia and I were stoked to have our book announced on their infamous billboard.
I will post more background notes on the other session in upcoming entries, but if you want to skip ahead and see all 8 of these youtube readings, here is the link to that playlist like the laziest book tour: