Wednesday, December 30, 2009
1. place Riceland
-I've exhausted just about every publisher I can find, except one.
2. complete the manuscript for Habit of Doubt, or whatever it ends up being called
-needs more poems about mom, Huntington’s Disease testing, Sword of Damocles, etc.
3. finish Wings & place it (Update: it's under consideration at several presses)
1. place 10 (Update: under consideration...)
2. place 1 act
3. write Kim/ghost play
1. develop Solum stories collection & place
2. place flash fiction collection
1. finish Arkansas
2. finish Zombietown & place
1. develop thesis essays
2. place them
FINANCIAL TO DO 2010:
1. pay off car
ETC. TO DO 2010
2. lose weight
Monday, December 28, 2009
Thursday, December 24, 2009
Wednesday, December 23, 2009
Thursday, December 17, 2009
On a side note, remember the Jayhawks?
Sunday, December 13, 2009
Thursday, December 10, 2009
Sent off another entry in my flash series. It's a tad over--closer to 600 words, but it grew. Of course, this won't be the "next" one, this one will go up in a month or so.
Tuesday, December 08, 2009
I wrote a poem about Memphis Wrestling. Well, sort of. I've actually tried to write about it a couple times. Always comes out as something else. People, of course, focus on Kaufman's contribution, but just consider the environment that would allow Kaufman to step in and do his thing. I was very surprised to find that wikipedia doesn't even have a stub for Reggie B. Fine.
I need a project for Christmas. Maybe a zombie book. Eh. Time to go bathe my rat.
Friday, December 04, 2009
Thursday, December 03, 2009
Also, 2 poems accepted by Pank and one accepted by Emry Journal.
Tuesday, December 01, 2009
Monday, November 30, 2009
Saturday, November 21, 2009
My flash fiction series is ready to go with the first two pieces, except I don't have a title...it's about a barren couple who teach at an all-girls boarding school. I'm thinking "The Idealists."
Friday, November 20, 2009
Wednesday, November 18, 2009
Ask the Author: CL Bledsoe
[Roxane Gay / November 17th, 2009 / Interviews ]
Writer and editor CL Bledsoe, whose poetry appears in the November issue, gets into matters of craft with J. Bradley.
1. How important are titles in setting the appropriate context in your work?
Titles are extremely important. Titles set the tone for a piece of writing. They point the reader in the right direction without giving too much away. A poor title can obfuscate meaning in unintentional ways, or give too much away. A strong title adds to the impact of a piece of writing. As an editor, if I see a piece that’s untitled, odds are, I’m going to pass–if the writer can’t be bothered to come up with a title, s/he probably hasn’t written a very strong piece. Obvious exceptions include Simon Perchik, who never titles his work, and who we’ve published several times.
2. When you write a poem, do you read it aloud as you create it to craft the rhythm or do you let it sit in silence?
I kind of read them aloud in my head. I read over most of my poems many, many times, and will go back to them several times for a couple days just to re-read them and tweak the rhythm by altering the word choice or line breaks or whatever before I put it down. This is after I’ve actually “finished” the poem, so I’m not really changing meaning, just rhythm.
3. PANK gets you drunk enough at a Karaoke bar to sing a Billy Idol song. Which one would it be and why?
I would sing “I’m Sailing” by Bad Brains instead because come on.
4. I see you write fiction and poetry. Which is easier for you to create? Does fiction and poetry ever blur since you juggle both like knives and kittens?
For me, writing poetry is briefer and more intense, like a quickie. Writing fiction takes more of a time commitment. I don’t have the time, right now, to write as much fiction as I’d like. It’s a shame. I was recently solicited by a journal for some ficton, and I just don’t have very much, right now, that hasn’t been published, and I don’t have the opportunity to write more. I’m working a job where 12-14 hour days are common. I’m lucky to write a poem or two a week.
I always know what a particular piece is, though I’ve had poems published as fiction, fiction published as poetry, and once, I was given a non-fiction award for a flash piece that was clearly fictional. All of this was due to editorial decision; I had nothing to do with it.
5. What are your five favorite poems of all times?
“A Blessing,” by James Wright, “Lovesong for J. Alfred Prufrock,” by TS Eliot, “Me and Her Outside,” by Steven Jessie Bernstein, “somewhere i have never traveled, gladly,” by e.e. cummings, “Aubade,” by Philip Larkin. This isn’t true, of course; these are just the first five that come to mind.
6. Which literary movement do you feel isn’t appreciated enough?
Whichever one I belong to. For several years, I’ve been a fan of the New York School, though I vacilate between that and New Formalism. I dabble in post-language, but I’m firmly grounded in experiential-derived poetry. But all of these are appreciated, except maybe New Formalism. You can tell I’m behind the times.
7. “Differences Between My True face and the Stolen Faces I Encounter Outside” is a great example of an effective list poem. What’s the weirdest list poem you’ve ever written?
Thank you. The weirdest list poem I’ve written would be this one.
I can’t, in good conscience, recommend the list form because it’s very difficult to not put the reader to sleep with a list poem, and yet I’ve written several. ”Types of Fish I Don’t Like” was actually the title poem of my first chapbook, until the publisher refused to publish the poem, so I cut it and changed the title to _____(WANT/NEED).
8. If you could reunite one band, which one would it be and why?
I would reunite my old band, Shizknit, because I never got to rule the world.
Tuesday, November 17, 2009
Monday, November 16, 2009
Saturday, November 14, 2009
Wednesday, November 11, 2009
Also, the wifey and I've been watching the Canadian comedy "Slings and Arrows." Good stuff.
Monday, November 09, 2009
Sunday, November 08, 2009
49. Put Your Head in My Lap, a fiction chapbook by Claudia Smith. I also reviewed this for Ghoti. Also good stuff.
50. Call Me Misfit, a chapbook by Joanne Lowery. Reviewed for Ghoti.
51. when I come here, a chapbook by ryan eckes. Reviewed for Ghoti.
52. 100 Papers, a collection of prose poems and flash fiction by Liesl Jobson. Reviewed for Ghoti.
53. At the Threshold of Alchemy, poems by John Amen. Reviewed for Ghoti.
When I was in college, I would pile books I'd read on the floor in between my bed and my dresser. My goal was to reach the top of the dresses every month with new books. I tended to make it. Looks like I'm not going to make 100 books by the end of the year, but I did make 50.
Wednesday, November 04, 2009
The same poem led another journal to solicit some fiction from me. Unfortunately, I don't have much worth mentioning to send. Lot of work to do this week. 2 exams left to write, Ghoti is late, I'm on duty this weekend, and I have to proctor an SAT exam Saturday. Not a lot of time. Maybe next week, I'll be able to write...
Saturday, October 31, 2009
We wrap her in a blanket, nurse
her with yogurt, drops of water,
anything, force antibiotics
into her mouth and hope
she swallows. She hates us
for our violation, but the worry is too great
for manners. Through the window,
with her squirming in my arms,
I count seven butterflies, fluttering,
yellow with black spots, stripes,
Hollywood to a lepidopterist, perhaps,
but moving to me. Overgrown Russian sage
envelopes the porch, the French doors, bees
float, whole flocks of birds I can't name
descend, together, like some sort of tide.
In the evenings, deer graze like
cattle, unafraid. Again and again, I wonder:
how could anything die here?
(originally appeared in Borderlands)
Thursday, October 29, 2009
Tuesday, October 27, 2009
Sunday, October 25, 2009
This was just about the last unpublished play I have. I've got a one act called "Homecoming" (terrible title, I know) and another 10-minute one I cowrote with Chris Fullerton. I haven't written much drama in the last couple years. Maybe I should.
43. Unseen Academicals, by Terry Pratchett,
44. Pulp, by Charles Bukowski
45. Can't Quit You Baby, by Ellen Douglas
46. Beowulf, by Anonymous. I think I've read selections from this, but not the complete text.
47. Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, by Anonymous. I think I read part of this in high school.
I have several things I'm reviewing that I haven't read yet.
Friday, October 23, 2009
Sunday, October 18, 2009
Friday, October 16, 2009
Sunday, October 11, 2009
Thursday, October 08, 2009
Wednesday, September 30, 2009
My publisher and I have been working on the cover. My sister took the photo, my wife will probably design it, and I'll...watch, I guess.
Not to sound redundant, but the poem that was accepted by 13 Myna Birds just went up here.
This will include...me, Shane Jones, Brandi Wells, Michael Kimball, Jac Jemc, Kim Chinquee, Norman Lock, Randall Brown, Aaron Burch, PH Madore, Charles Lennox, Kevin Wilson, and many more.
title: MLP [ FIRST YEAR ]
cost: $15 (includes shipping)
Tuesday, September 29, 2009
Here's the text:
a review of C. L. Bledsoe’s Anthem by J. A. Tyler
A long-awaited release from Červená Barva Press, C. L. Bledsoe’s Anthem feels much more like a full-length collection than a perfect-bound chapbook sized tour of poetry. Bledsoe nails another selection of poems, creating some meaty rhythms and a nice evolution from his previous works.
Whip-snap of the sun on skin. We’d go swimming, but all the
water’s green, and I don’t know how. The trees are whispering
how human it is, today. Their needles drip boredom. The clouds
speak of shopping that needs doing, things to clean, laundry.
One point to highlight is how different and alter-ego Anthem is in comparison to the previously released _____ want / need. _____ want / need was a structurally playful, linguistically challenging chapbook of poetry arranged in definitive and precise waves of poetic art. It showcased C. L. Bledsoe’s daring with language and his longing to rearrange the structure of the sentences, much like his homage in the same vein with fish / ghoti literary journal.
Use your eyes like shovels; dig through the smog, the muck
in your head and see the mountains beyond the skyscrapers.
Something is rising like bread within you, but the slightest noise...
In this new collection, the arrangement seems far more free-wheeling, much akin to simply collecting Bledsoe’s words rather than presenting them in any sort of poetic narrative or super-connected thematic umbrella. And though there seems little of that kind of organization here, the overall feel of Anthem is interesting, a clear and sharp portrayal of a poet who can move from side to side, who can give us the driven poetry in _____ want / need as well as the wonderful and direct poems captured in the plentiful and fantastic pages of Anthem.
And here's an older one from Doug Holder's blog: http://dougholder.blogspot.com/2009/06/anthem-by-cl-bledsoe.html
Tuesday, June 02, 2009
"Anthem" by C.L. Bledsoe
C. L. Bledsoe
Cervena Barva Press
Review by Renee Schwiesow
Beneath the madcap stitch Bledsoe takes us on from hopeful to sardonic there is a thread that unravels to offer us more as each month poem within “Anthem” reveals its season. I was drawn into his unique observations with “Awakening,” an appropriately titled opening work that leads us toward “January.”
This is the month of lying
Life is waiting
for the bone toes to clip-clip through the door
find us sprawled about the business
Just before “February” he pulls me into the life of a school janitor who makes me ask myself if Schneider could, just possibly, have had an internal depth that we were unaware of during our viewings of One Day at a Time.
And as March, “the Wednesday of months” rolls by, television makes its appearance on the page in the work, “Growing Pains in Syndication.” I was grinning by the time I read “Dr. Seaver, you never came for me,” and tearing up with laughter when reading the line, “Mike, you bastard, I trusted you,” which led to
Sat through Left Behind, for your
special message at the end, and it was all about the marketing.
I have to admit that by the time I reached,
And Maggie, what is there to say
between the two of us? Is your hair even blond?
I was still rollicking, holding onto “Mike, you bastard, I trusted you,” when I was slammed with, “Your eyes, empty and waiting.” And I recollected myself to absorb the impact of the entirety of the work.
While Bledsoe has been published in over 200 journals and anthologies, “Anthem,” published by Cervena Barva Press, is his first full-length collection. He is a three-time Pushcart nominee and his poetic resume is well expanded upon with works such as the title work
slough it off like skin. . .
find a place or make it in yourself
they’ll never touch
wrap it in lead fire make it hot
to touch hate can motivate
but it burns out like a bad light bulb
and must be replaced. . .
Behind the frogs and death and absinthe squirrels, beneath a how-to on what to do with locked doors, Bledsoe’s words jar us from January’s couch, beg us to read between his lines before we become the aging starlet of December’s grey light. They beg us to sing from his Anthem
. . .if it helps
hot showers loosen muscles
cold showers loosen hate
Sunday, September 27, 2009
Saturday, September 26, 2009
Possible titles (thanks to Chris for most of these):
Habit of Doubt
Driving Around, Looking in Other People’s Windows
Being Half-God Means Being Half-Man
The Weight of Days
Love Is Not a Flower
Everything You Know Is Dead
Only Now Is Important
Dog’s Commit Suicide Too
Ennui Is Not a Color Scheme
Trust the Water
Friday, September 25, 2009
Sunday, September 20, 2009
To do the dishes after dinner instead of diverting a river through the kitchen.
To stop referring to problems as being of "his” proportions.
To pay attention to lesser beings regardless of electronic diversions.
To remember to water the plants instead of waiting for them to learn language and pray to him for rain.
To shake his fist or curse at bad drivers, instead of flinging them up into the heavens to become constellations.
To remember that foreplay doesn't mean penetration.
To sort laundry by color and treat hydra blood stains immediately.
To learn that veggie dinners are an acceptable substitute for lion steaks.
To stop using the excuse that he's favored by the gods to justify his obvious cheating at Yatzee.
To never refer to his sister-in-law as a lusty wench.
To smile and make conversation with his in-laws instead of cutting their heads off and burning the stumps so they won't grow back.
To remember that being half god means being half man.
(A similar version originally appeared at Cautionary Tales)
Sunday, September 13, 2009
Well, you see, that's a tricky question. I mean, if you WANT cereal puked into your ass, that leads us in one direction, and if you DON'T want it, that leads us elsewhere. If you don't want cereal puked in your ass, well, the really mushy stuff would be bad, I would think, because it would feel really unpleasing to have mushy corn flakes in your anus.
If you DO want it puked in your ass, I'd say grape nuts is the best, followed closely by granola, because it's going to maintain its consistency even in milk. Or vomit.
Of course, you could even switch these. I mean, grape nuts could be the worst BECAUSE they don't get soggy--they could be more prone to causing irritation. Likewise, you might want the soggy stuff because it's more soothing.
Also, moving beyond pure textural aesthetics into the realm of "style" could open things up a bit in there. The type of cereal you prefer to have vomited into your anus could say a lot about who you are as a consumer. The younger, hipper crowd would go for Boo Berry, or other cereals they remember from their youth. The ultra hipsters are going to go for kitsch value--Mr. T cereal, for example, or other promotional cereals. Of course, personal taste (or lack-thereof) can also factor in. These could be expressed through regional tastes (Boo Berry is only available in certain parts of the country, for example) and even nostalgia could play a part--one could prefer to have the Safeway generic brand corn flakes vomited into ones anus, for example, because this cereal reminds one of the innocence of childhood. Conversely, the picky anus might prefer the most expensive and exclusive cereals to offset the poverty one might've experienced in one's youth (when I was a kid, says this anus, all we had for breakfast is oatmeal, and I'll be damned if oatmeal will ever cross my anus again, whether it be entering or exiting!).
There are as many reasons to vomit cereal into ones anus as there are cereals to vomit, or anuses to vomit into. The important thing to remember is that if YOU aren't happy with the cereal currently being vomited into your anus, you aren't limited to just that cereal. There are a plethora of options available to today's savvy anus.
Oatmeal appeals more to the crunchy granola types. Again, though, the main concern is consistency. Is it steel-cut oats? Rolled oats? Instant? Each of this has a different consistency, and the connoisseur would see benefits and drawbacks for each. Also, preparation of the oatmeal is a concern. Is it runny or firm oatmeal? Was milk or water used? Does it contain flavoring spices or additives such as dried fruits or nuts which can irritate or even inflame the anus? Of course, the question, here, is does one WANT the anus irritated and/or inflamed, and to what degree?
Of course, the main concern with oatmeal is what we in the community call "plastering," or "aggressive clumping," which is when the substance vomited into the anus congeals and hardens, forming a barrier and effectively sealing off the anus. Many consider this a kind of transformative event, though it is much easier to affect with oatmeal than, say, honey bunches of oats cereal. It is for this reason that many eschew oatmeal which selecting breakfast errata to be vomited into the anus.
Saturday, September 12, 2009
Friday, September 11, 2009
Wednesday, September 09, 2009
Sunday, September 06, 2009
Had a great reading yesterday. Another coming up in a couple weeks.
Tuesday, September 01, 2009
Sunday, August 30, 2009
Thursday, August 27, 2009
Also, I just learned that my poem, "The Wanting Soil," has been accepted by Eat a Peach.
Wednesday, August 26, 2009
Also, "Dear Cow," a poem from RICELAND, came out in the Tipton Poetry Journal.
Sunday, August 23, 2009
by CL Bledsoe
R: Okay, so there's this bird.
MLB: What kind of bird?
R: I don't know. A bird. A raven.
MLB: What's a raven?
R: Sort of like a blackbird but bigger.
MLB: Blackbirds are bad. They eat crops. In school, Mrs. Thermon told us blackbirds are pests. They eat crops and they sit on power lines and go number 2 on your car.
R: All birds do that.
MLB: But blackbirds--
R: All birds do that. Besides, it's not a blackbird. It's just like a blackbird. Only bigger. Okay?
MLB: . . .
R: So anyway, the bird, the raven flies to this mountain every century.
MLB: You don't have to yell at me.
MLB: Mommy says it's not polite to yell. Every time she yells, I get ice cream.
R: What? I didn't yell.
MLB: Yes you did.
R: No I didn't.
MLB: You're yelling now.
R: . . .
MLB: . . .
R: Okay. I'm sorry. I didn't mean to yell.
MLB: That's okay.
R: Good. So, anyway it takes the bird a century to get there, to the mountain—
MLB: Is it flying Northwest Air?
MLB: They're really slow. When we went to see Grampa last July, we had to stand in line for like three hours to get through security--
R: No, see--
MLB: And when we got to the front of the line, they said we'd missed the flight, and they had to reschedule us for later so we had to wait another couple hours. And Mommy yelled at the security guy and they almost escorted her out of the building.
R: Well travel can go like that nowadays.
MLB: I got ice cream.
R: Good for you.
MLB: Ever since Daddy moved back to Detroit, I get ice cream.
R: . . .
MLB: When somebody yells at me, or when I have to hear somebody yell.
R: Well, different people have different parenting techniques.
MLB: Like you just yelled at me. That would be an example of when I might get ice cream.
R: I apologized for that already. Look, are you going to listen to this or not?
MLB: It's just that you're a little loud.
R: . . .
MLB: At Brewsters, if you go when it's raining they give you a free scoop.
R: . . .
MLB: It's really good.
R: It's not raining.
MLB: They have ice cream all the time, but when it's raining, it's free. One scoop. But that's all Mommy let's me have anyway. We always go when it's raining.
R: I'll keep that in mind. So this bird—
MLB: The raven.
R: Yes. That's very good. The raven flies to the mountain and it takes it a century—
MLB: It only took us five hours. But that's still a long time. Mommy cried in the bathroom. She didn't think I knew, but I could tell. Her makeup around her eyes ran.
R: Yeah, well a century is even longer than five hours. So when it gets to the mountain, it sharpens it's beak.
R: Oh, so it can eat things. Nuts and things. Easier. More easily. A beak is sort of like a pair of scissors. And it has to keep them sharp—
MLB: Mrs. Thermon says the only thing sharp scissors cut is you, so we—
R: You use safety scissors. I know, but the raven, it's like Mrs. Thermon. It can use big people scissors. It has to cut through roots and stuff. So it can eat.
MLB: . . .
R: So anyway, the raven sharpens its beak, and then it turns around and flies home. Which takes another century.
MLB: It should use a cup.
MLB: A cup. To sharpen its beak. Daddy always used to sharpen the knives on cups, back when he still loved Mommy.
R: . . .
MLB: On the bottom. Or a saucer.
R: Well, it doesn't have any cups. Some people are less fortunate than you. They don't have cups. Or saucers. They're poor.
MLB: Like the people that shop at Kmart?
R: Yes. The raven shops at Kmart. Okay, so the raven goes to the mountain. Takes it a century. It sharpens it's beak, then it flies home. Another century. Okay? So when it has done this so many times that it has worn the mountain down flat, that's eternity.
MLB: How big is the mountain?
R: Really big. Like the Himalayas.
MLB: Grampa lives in the mountains. In Denver.
R: Yeah, okay, like those mountains.
MLB: Grampa smells. One night, he came into my bedroom and was calling me Margaret. That was Gramma's name before she died.
R: Okay . . .
MLB: He kept saying it over and over. Margaret. Margaret. Then he got into bed with me and went to sleep. He was really loud. He snored. I couldn't sleep so I went in Mommy's room and slept in her bed with her.
MLB: Then, when we got up in the morning, we found him in my bed and he'd wet the bed.
R: . . .
MLB: So if I had been in the bed, still, he'd have gotten it all over me.
R: You're very lucky.
MLB: I know.
R: So, do you understand what I'm saying? About the raven and the mountain, how it wears down the mountain, and when it's all gone, that's eternity?
R: Okay. You understand the bird? That there's this bird?'
R: And it flies to this mountain and it takes the bird a century to get there. That's one hundred years. That's like your grampa's entire life and your mommy's entire life added together. It's a long time. So it takes the bird a really long time to get to the mountain. Understand?
MLB: Yeah, I guess.
R: Good. So it sharpens it's beak, which only wears a little bitty bit of the mountain away. Then it flies home. Which takes another century. And when it has done this so many times that the mountain has been worn away, that's eternity. Understand?
MLB: . . .
R: Well? Do you understand?
MLB: You're going to yell at me again.
R: No, I'm not. I just want you to understand.
MLB: You're going to yell and I won't even get ice cream. You already yelled and I didn't get any.
R: No, I won't--
MLB: I'm supposed to get ice cream. Mommy always gets me ice cream when she slips.
R: I won't yell at you.
R: Yes. I promise.
MLB: Well, the thing is . . .
MLB: Blackbirds don't live that long.
R: . . .
MLB: Mrs. Thermon said they only live fifteen to twenty years. So how could it take a hundred years to get there and a hundred to get back?
R: It was a raven.
MLB: Still. That's like a blackbird, you said.
R: . . .
MLB: You're going to yell at me aren't you?
R: . . .
MLB: I mean, maybe it's this family of ravens that fly to the mountain?
R: Maybe. Yes, that's it. It's a family.
MLB: Except they'd have to stop to nest.
R: . . .
MLB: One time Mommy found a nest of wrens in her hibiscus. She had this hibiscus hanging over the front door, outside, on the porch. And some wrens nested in it. So she had to stop watering the hibiscus because it was scaring the momma bird away.
R: . . .
MLB: Grampa said that's good luck. When a bird nests at your house.
R: . . .
MLB: The eggs had little speckles in them. There were four of them and all four hatched and flew away.
R: That's nice.
MLB: Then Mommy got really sad and said that some day I'll fly away, and she had to go to the bathroom again and when she came out her makeup was messed up around her eyes.
MLB: Cause she was crying.
R: . . .
MLB: . . .
R: . . .
R: Hey, it's raining. You want some ice cream?
R: Get your coat.
Friday, August 21, 2009
Cricket Online Review picked up a couple poems for an upcoming issue.
Sunday, August 16, 2009
I've had several recent acceptances. decomP. Pank. elsewhere.
I've been working on another poetry collection, YOU HATED US FOR OUR WINGS SO WE NEVER FLEW. It's around 70 pages. The chapbook GOODBYE TO NOISE, which appeared at www.righthandpointing.com/bledsoe and the mini-chap TEXAS, forthcoming from Mud Luscious Press http://www.aboutjatyler.com/index_files/Page326.html, are both included in this manuscript. It's pretty tight. I've started shopping it around a bit. I'm looking for presses. I had a nice rejection from Silenced Press a while back.
I put together a collection of ten ten-minute plays as well. I'm calling it TEN. It's just shy of 100 pages. Some of the plays have appeared in Arkansas Literary Forum, Oregon Literary Review, Bent Pin, Opium, and elsewhere. I haven't shopped ot around yet. I have one place lined up to send it.
Thursday, August 13, 2009
Let Us Now Praise Famous Men,
Tuesday, August 11, 2009
My father woke before dawn to feed the fish
fed me if I rose early enough and caught him
runny eggs, coffee, under-done bacon
while he sat reading westerns at the kitchen table
so quiet Death would’ve tiptoed
The morning washed over the dirty white curtains
watched me stand just behind his back
working towards the courage
to ask for more toast
Then into his truck the sun so bright through the dust
of the morning I closed my eyes to all things
sat in the cab while he stacked 50 pound bags of fish feed
strong like the arc
of a sledgehammer
Later I climbed
scared / tired / cold into the aluminum boat
watched his hard arms move
all around us till it looked best
everything blue / warming / his slit bag
dribbling food over the side like sand pouring
through his rusted hands
Fish trailed us like children
when they lay fat from our food
and we dragged our nets
(Originally published in Blue Collar Review, 2004, I think)
Notes: This poem was heavily influenced by Besmilr Brigham, though more narrative than she tends to be. Of course, you can't really see the form, here. This is one of my favorites from Riceland. I keep coming back to it. I love the images from my childhood--Dad loading bags of fish feed, dawn rising over the Lake (our name for the overgrown stock pond) the smell and taste of water in the air.
I found them in the shade
of an old oak. The cow moaned
on its belly, tried to lift
its weight on one leg, but slipped
in the mud, the leaves,
and its own blood which stained
the valley floor. My father, alone, red
skinned as that blood, too focused to even
cuss anymore, murmured
soothing words as he struggled
to secure a harness impossibly
around the shoulders of the calf still
halfway inside its mother. An old
rust-colored tractor idled on the other end
of the harness. He pulled, one foot
on the cow's rump, the calf
struggling, my father frantic
until he saw me. "Tractor!"
he yelled. I moved, never mind the fear,
the blood, never mind that I couldn't drive it.
He barked orders, steered me as though I were
an engine, my arms, the gear-shift,
my feet, the peddles. I eased
forward, watched him hang,
both feet on the cow, his whole body pulling
as I kept the wheel straight. The calf
moved; the cow lowered its head
as though concentrating on a difficult thought. The calf
squeezed out and, suddenly free, landed
on my father, who fell to the ground, laughing,
dragged by the harness which jerked forward
as the tractor lurched
into the oak and stalled out.
(Originally appeared in Barnwood, 2008 I believe)
Notes: I wrote this probably in 2007 or 2008. It is one of the newest poems in the collection. I felt I needed more portraits of farm life for the collection.
James Earl Ray
We didn't mind the day off
from school, but we refused solemnity, refused
to let them think they'd been proven right
by martyrdom we were ashamed
We joked in the halls—
It's James Earl Ray Day, no school Monday!
And smiled when we saw the black kids
I'm thinking about this years
later, in an ATM drive through—a sign says Closed
For Lee King Day. Who's he? I wonder
before I realize they've buried
Dr. King's name behind Southern
I'm older, now, but that dumb and mean
kid I used to be still has his friends
to hide behind. I consider moving
my account, but the bank is closed until tomorrow.
I have to wait
and sit with this.
(Originally appeared in The Arkansas Review, 2007 or 2008)
Notes: All true. The language in this poem is somewhat awkward, but I think the message is important.
When I was 15
Summer was hanging around our necks like a noose
when Karen and I decided to run away.
We sat on her bed, watching
her little brother watch us. She'd mouth,
"Save me," and I'd nod.
“Dad paid me ten bucks so you
don’t fuck,” her brother said every few seconds.
“Call him Dan, Dad lives across
town,” she would say.
“If you want to make out,
I won’t tell,” he’d say and we'd kiss like fugitives.
Thirty seconds would pass, and he'd settle
his brown eyes on us like a vulture.
“Take me to the store to get some candy,
or I’ll tell Dad you were fucking in here.”
All we needed was a ride somewhere
they’d be too lazy to follow.
When her brother got off work, we went
over to his place and sat on his couch
while he talked about his tats. He had a chain
from his ears to his nose, his nose to his nipples,
and down to his dick. I stood
while she went to use the bathroom,
like I’d seen them do in old movies.
“You must really love her,” her brother said
and I sat back down to the quiet of her absence.
After a couple hours we realized he
was a dead end. Her Dad lived next door, though.
He sat on the sofa, drank Jack Daniels and told me
about how his new wife
was like fucking a jar of mayo.
"Don’t get married, boy,” he said. “Biggest
mistake you’ll ever make,“ then a drink.
When the bottle was empty, he left.
“There’s a room back here,” Karen said.
“The lights don’t work but it’s private.” Then inside,
holding hands and no one could see. “You’re
so sweet, I’ll do anything to keep you,” she said.
She told me about the scar on her arm where she’d stabbed
herself with an ice pick, about her step father’s ex-cop
hands, about how her mother had never seen him
naked because he weighed over five hundred
pounds, but she had, and I strained her blond hair
through fingers I knew couldn’t save her and listened.
(Originally appeared in Thunder Sandwich, 2004 I think)
Notes: Pretty much says it all.
You wrapped the night around you like a shawl
and said that I never remember.
I watched your lips dance through the words
and didn’t hear a thing.
The wind brushed thin strands of hay colored hair
across your shoulders. You turned away
saying something about the way the lake
captured the light of the moon and held it.
I watched your nipples poke at the cloth of your shirt
as you said, "Love is like the moon and the lake,
two things forever separate
that sink into each other at night."
I nodded slowly.
You said, “love is the greatest teacher in life,
we learn not to share, that's economics,
we learn that the lesser of two evils is still evil, that's politics.”
You said, “all the evils of the world
have been caused by unrealized expectation.”
And I tried to think of something clever,
but all that came to mind
was the time in the back of Stephen’s car
when you asked me to spank you.
I put my arm around your shoulder
and considered my chances of getting oral.
Then you said, “She isn’t even pretty, really.”
"What do you mean," I started to say, but you cut me off.
“I could have you to myself, if I wanted.
You’re like a cat playing with a mouse,
and not letting it die.”
"It's not like that," I said. "Let me explain."
But you leaned in close
and slipped something in my pocket with a,
“Happy anniversary.” I stood dumb
as you drew the moonlight into your eyes like a breath
and said that I never remember.
(Originally appeared in A Little Poetry, 2005)
Notes: This is a very old poem that I've reworked several times. I submitted a version of this to the first workshop I ever took--at the U of Arkansas in 1999 or 2000, but even then, the poem was several years old. I remember one of the other students, a maybe 40 year old guy, said he didn't believe I wrote the first/last lines, but he googled it and couldn't find it so either I got it from something really obscure, or maybe I actually wrote it. This blew my mind. Later, I spent about five minutes talking about a line "darken my doorway" in his poem--how original, however did you come up with that phrase? It was a poem about his dog, by the way. This is something I noticed many times in workshops--seemingly out of nowhere, classmates (and professors) would dump truckloads of vitriol on me. It took several years before I realized why. I'm not saying I was always caring and considerate towards others' work, but I always applauded honest effort.
My Sister's Hair in 3 Decades
I have a picture– me, baby brother; inverted as a little blond girl,
my sister who could swing a bat, climb a tree, punch
like any boy, holding me safe in her lap.
Her missing front tooth, hair
brown, down to her shoulders
because Mom wouldn't let her cut it shorter.
She spent years trying to pet dad's cows,
gave up and planted flowers in the yard
until the cows found them and nipped off their heads.
The name "Menudo" written on the carport
in shoe polish. The smell
of ozone dying in big sticky curls that will not move.
My sister, Little Mini-ha-ha (Dad's nickname), her hair
no longer tangled with brambles, turned black
as a raven's coat. Room full of noise
and friends I don't like. Boys
who haven't done as much as they'd like to think,
making jokes everyone understands, but no one wants
to. One of them went to prison for beating another boy
to death with a baseball bat. Another died
of a drug overdose. Me, interloper, curious,
lingering outside her door.
"Go away," she says. "I'm busy."
The day I get my first apartment, my sister
comes over with bags of cleaning supplies, soap,
"Stuff you'll forget you need," she says, all
generic brands costing more
than she can afford, working poor with three kids.
Her hair straight, smart, deep black
with grey lines appearing like moonlight
reflected on water.
She hands me the bag, and I'm
little again, playing the baker's man in her lap–
she dangles but doesn't drop me
on that old couch at Dad's house–
the one they threw out years ago.
(Originally appeared in Paper Street, 2008)
Notes: I wanted to write a poem for my sister. I wrote a couple that made it into Riceland, but this is her favorite.
Walking Through My Father’s Fields, Home
The windows creaked from the heat
the day they bundled my mother up
and hauled her off like an old Christmas tree,
taking only a couple of suitcases
and her sickness with her; this dying stranger
who hadn't left the house
since before I could remember, and whom I'd sat watch over
for more than my 15 years – watched her whither
like a lake bed, until I was sure there was nothing left of her but dust.
“We’re taking her to the hospital.”
I pulled on pants good enough for town, and shoes,
as my father and brother led her out the door,
half the time carrying her and her confused moans
to the old International truck. I climbed in the back.
My father drove faster than usual,
which still wasn't very fast,
past the barn, the sheds and tractors, the fields.
I heard my brother say that the silage looked sparse,
and my father, that it'd gotten scorched by the drought
and we'd be lucky if it lasted the cows through winter.
I scanned the yellow blighted field and nodded as we rattled
down the long gravel road
peopled by cows that'd jumped the fence
which we didn’t stop for. I watched them
grow small and quiet behind us
until the trees gave out, and the gravel
turned into asphalt with a bump.
The fields became houses.
The edge of our land bordered the county hospital.
We pulled into the cracked and ugly asphalt parking lot and waited
while Dad went to get an orderly.
Behind us stretched corn – I could barely make out the cows
grazing in the field – and beyond that the road, then the pasture,
and hills. Somewhere back there was the house,
just a mile or so away.
I turned back to the truck as they came for her.
My brother walked over to me
and pointed off to the south to the nursing home
they'd just built on a corner of layout ground
that used to be ours. That’s where they'd take her
when she was all checked in, he meant.
We'd brought her into town so she could die proper.
If she made it through the year, she'd be able to see
our winter wheat outside her window and maybe think of home.
“Dad’s finishing it all up,” my brother said, “we can go.”
I nodded and glanced at the truck.
Instead, we walked to the barbed wire fence,
which was overgrown with a wall of trees and weeds.
We scaled it and plodded through the still young corn,
not speaking, growing slowly separate
as we spread out to drive the cows
back to pasture.
(Originally appeared in Lifelines, 2004, I think)
Notes: Another one from Miller Williams' class. I was told, by my classmates, that this isn't a poem because it's too long. I was also told that narrative is dead in poetry. Maybe this is true. But artists can't be zebras--blending in is safe, but it dooms you to obscurity. I actually cut a page or so from it. My classmates asked me not to submit anything else in the class after this one. It was approaching finals time, and I'd made my required submissions for the class. I believe the next week I turned in two poems. Like I've said, I applauded honest effort in the work of others, but I've always abhored laziness.
Chris Fullerton, who was in the class, and I looked the other day to see if we could find any publications from anyone else from that class. We found a technical writer and one guy who wrote a fictional biography of an obscure musician. Kind of sad. I wonder if they even read anymore.
I learned a lot from Miller Williams and in spite of many of my classmates. By the following year I was getting work published in nationally recognized journals. I will never forget when I had poems picked up by Nimrod, my first real publication, and Skip Hays (the Creative Writing guru of U of A) shook my hand and started introducing me to the grad. students and faculty. I was on staff of the school's literary journal that year as well. This caused a couple of my old classmates to no longer speak to me. It was around this time I began to realize why they had such animosity towards me. My buddy Jake Swearingen summed it up best: "I try to avoid other writers," I believe was the line.
So I've been working on Riceland for around a decade, but only seriously for about half that time. Since I started writing these poems (and I pretty much always envisioned them as a collection) I've written and published two other collections, completed a third, and the bulk of a fourth, aside from all the fiction, nonfiction, etc. But I kept plugging away on Riceland. I'm nervous about it. I want it to be perfect. It's not and never will be. But I've sat on it long enough. It's scheduled to come out this fall.
When I was a boy, I heard roaches sing.
It happened after Mom got sick.
Dad worked long hours and stayed drunk. Everyday,
I came in from the rice fields,
too sweaty to sleep but too tired not to,
pressed my cheek to the wall beside the bed
where it was cool,
and they were in there, singing.
This was different from in the fields; I’d heard mosquitoes,
but never roaches, sing. I’d felt water moccasins
stroke my leg like fingers as they swam past,
felt the shovel dribble mud down my back
like a heavy breeze seen the dull gray levies
that stretched out before me that day
and would the next,
felt the weight of my father’s tired muscles
as we dragged him from his truck to bed;
but I forgot it all and listened to them sing.
In the mornings, I woke staggered
into the dusty light of my father’s truck,
and tucked the memory of my nights away,
under the hard slap of the sun on my back,
and the drunken jokes of farmers that didn’t make any sense.
I sank into the mud of those fields
and into myself, waiting
until night came;
when I could crawl into bed,
press my face against the wall
(Originally appeared in Nimrod and Story South (2003) due to the fact that Nimrod rejected it and then, a year later, inexplicably published it after it had already appeared in Story South)
Notes: I wrote this in an undergrad. Poetry Workshop taught by Miller Williams at the U. of Arkansas. This is when I became a poet. I felt that a lot of my classmates were more talented than me, but at the same time, they were writing about really inconsequential topics ('One time I went to Paris...', 'I'm independant, now, even though my parents pay my rent,' etc.) But so was I. I was writing about myself as a 20-something, that most boring of ages to someone who isn't 20-something. Even I was bored by my writing. So I decided to write about the farm on which I was raised and certain things from my childhood, which, frankly, I'd avoided writing about before for various reasons. This poem was really my first FUCK YOU (politely as possible) to everyone in that class, including myself. I had never been to Paris, but I had been to the rice fields. It's still self-absorbed, but at least it's not about patchouli. It's true, by the way.
The Pig Farmer
The old black man who came for fish guts
wouldn’t step in the door of my father‘s fish shop.
He parked his tattered truck, faded
to that gray color Death’s old clothes must be,
stood outside and waited while my father hefted
the gut tubs on his shoulder one at a time,
and handed them out.
Then the old man dumped them in the back of his truck
with a look on his face like we were living wrong.
It shamed me.
When my father passed the second tub out to him,
I followed and took a good look at the truck and the mass
of fish bones, heads, and fins. There was no tailgate;
he had to pile the guts up right behind the cab or they’d fall out.
Even then, I bet he had to drive real slow.
Inside the fish shop, there was blood. The floor was worn
a dirty lavender, broken up by yellow dots of fly poison,
except for two perfect circles of clean concrete
where the gut tubs had been.
The old man set the empty tub down. My father
handed him the third one. After he’d emptied it,
the old man threw a nod at my father
and had to crank his truck four times
before it started. I stood outside while my father
washed blood off the floor with a hose,
letting the water drain outside in a dirty stream.
He scrubbed until the concrete shone like river mud,
and brought the tubs in, the first two at once, then the third.
Pig-smell hung in the air from the old man
like Absalom in a tree. Soon, it would be supplanted by the stink
of fish. I imagined it stuck to my clothes and would linger
no matter how often they were washed.
Inside, my father sat down to read the paper.
(Originally appeared in Nimrod, 2003)
I think this poem also came from a workshop. I was trying to capture a scene, but also something about race relations that I'm not totally sure survived the subsequent drafts. The joke, here, as that to an outsider, the Pig Man and my father & I would've all appeared poor, dirty, etc., which we were. There's no real difference. Originally, the poem ended with the lines:
I wonder if my father knew the Pig-Man looked down on us.
I wonder if it mattered in the slightest.
I cut them because they seemed to labor the point.
We sat in line,
a dozen trucks
in front, a dozen behind,
all grey or faded
red, the colors
of dust, rust, time.
Rice chaff filled our lungs,
covered our clothes, our faces;
we could hardly tell brown
from pink. All of us swarthy,
My brother's arm, thick
as oak, thrown
over the window
sill of the truck door, his
cap pushed back.
I reached up, lifted
my new Riceland cap
my father had given me the day
before and smoothed
my hair, as I'd seen him do,
trying to look
beyond us, the sky
stretched blue, the land
stretched green, all rice
fields, all flooded with color.
My brother fiddled
with the radio, found only
country, switched it off, tapped
his fingers twice and turned it back on.
"Old piece of shit," he said.
"Piece of crap," I said.
We pulled up,
got out. My brother went in. I stood
aside, seeing for the first time
the dryers towering,
concrete colored, the tallest
things in the world.
My brother came out, ash faced,
a wad in his hand he hid
quickly like he was ashamed.
"Wait all fucking day for four and a half,"
he said and pulled
up to dump the load
while I practiced
On the ride back
to the field, we topped out
at a rumbling forty, listened to more
watched the land slide
by like clouds. I was learning
to complain, learning
impatience with the enthusiasm
of a dog chasing a stick.
My uncle in the combine
met us and we waited
while the radio twanged.
"Come on, now," I said, pleased
to be the first to complain.
My brother scowled
and said nothing.
(Originally appeared in The Arkansas Review, 2008, I think)
Notes: Much like the Beatles' song, "A Hard Days Night," I wrote this poem after naming the project. Jillian named the collection, actually. It worked perfectly. The poem is mugh lighter than pretty much anything in Riceland.
The Old Ways
When I got home from school,
the calf was already hanging
by its tendons from an old single-tree hitch.
My father held a Budweiser in one hand,
a butcher knife in the other.
He tossed my backpack to the side,
like things were about to happen.
I tried to nod on cue as he explained
the hanging job, the right way to cut the meat.
He talked about the good old days when he was a boy,
how they made shoes out of the hide
and wasted nothing
And I watched, brother; I drank in every drop
of blood, sweat, and BS he threw out.
I painted my father‘s sure hands
somewhere permanent inside me,
the way his knife slid through the calf’s flesh
like it was smoke.
And when he passed the blade to me,
I did my best not to chew the meat up too badly.
He nodded, acting satisfied
as I worried the hide off the thing,
glancing at him to call me off
before I made a mess of it.
After a while, he stepped up and slid its coat off.
I stepped back, sweaty.
Then I ran to get the water hose
and cleared the guts off the grass
after he’d finished. I tried to stand
in the same top-heavy lean as my father
and admire an afternoon’s work,
like a man would.
He walked over to the cooler,
got out a Budweiser and handed it to me,
like I was finally his son.
I pulled the tab and metal tongue out
and drank it down.
When we went inside–
my father shining like a knife blade–
I went into the bathroom, locked the door
and puked it all out.
(Originally appeared in Apalachee Review and later in the Bottom Dog Press Anthology Family Matters: Poems of Our Families)
Notes: Another workshop poem from Miller William's class. I wasn't actually coming from school when this happened, but I thought it was a nice juxtaposition. Also, beer was never a hard thing to acquire around my father.
Monday, August 10, 2009
This is what teenage angst is all about: delayed gratification. Having to look around and find someone who is really hot and a good lay and is capable of inteligent conversation. Unfortuantely, if you're one of the self-absorbed types, you might have to put a little work into yourself first. Good luck with that.
So, Country Music, take all that, break it into stanzas, add an annoying twang, and get over yourselves. And seriously, quit it with the black leather.
Saturday, August 01, 2009
Thursday, July 30, 2009
Wednesday, July 29, 2009
According to Wikipedia (yeah, I know), these people believe in the animus in things, and that's what they're...focusing on, I guess. Personally, I think the idea of nature or objects having a spirit something like our "soul" is interesting, but also smacks of a kind of homo-jingoism. It is implying that the true value in these things is that part of ourselves we can see in it. It is ignoring the thing itself, and instead trying to foist our own (imagined) qualities onto it. Kind of like eating at McDonalds in Paris--why travel all that way to be at home? It lacks imagination and perspective.
I'm talking about ideas of animus in general, but with these objectophiles, what I'm saying, and of course, I'm no expert, but these people seem to be projecting their own feelings onto these objects, and then responding to that mirror image.
I don't mean to sound like I'm judging or anything like that. I'm just trying to understand. Lots of "normal" people seem to be in "lust" with things--cars, clothes, etc. These things feed their self-image. And yet many times these people have no respect for their things--they cast off the new car every year or two, buy new clothes whenever a button drops off. It is a never-ending quest for fulfillment. Much of this is a response to marketing and learned bahavior. Objectophiles just seem more pronounced. They actually love things, or claim to. Is this better or worse? Is the woman who marries the Eiffel Tower any worse off than the workoholic who devotes all of his life energies to acquiring toys?
Who can say. I suppose, to answer this, one must have a working theory towards the purpose of living other than just living, which I do not. All I can say is that I think either way of living must be stressful in certain ways. But I definately find Mrs. Eiffel more interesting than the Joneses.
Saturday, July 25, 2009
AVQ is no more, so I thought I'd dredge this old thing up and repost it. I always come off sounding self-indulgent and pretentious when I try to sound thoughtful, but cest la vie. (That's French for "fuck if I know.")
Interview with Featured Poet CL Bledsoe
*reprinted from Adagio Verse Quarterly
(conducted by Patricia Gomes)
PG: I'm loathe to discuss only poetry with you; poetry is Life … let's talk life, yours to be specific. Tell us about your first recollection growing up on a catfish farm. And please, for us city dwellers, what is a catfish farm?
CB: My family operated a farm in the Arkansas delta that produced rice, soybeans, and milo, and also cattle. During the winter, when the crops were laid by, we had a fish shop that sold catfish and buffalo fish which we raised during the summer. We kept cattle in a wide, fenced in valley, our house sat on top of a ridge overlooking the cattle on one side and a stock pond on the other. The fence around the house itself had long ago fallen down, though, and growing up, I often woke to hear cattle chewing outside my window, or scratching themselves against the bricks of the house. It was very comforting to hear the sounds of them living nearby.
In the fall, we rounded up the cattle for vaccinations. They were usually scared and skittish, likely to bolt if given the chance. The men used electric cattle prods to keep the cattle under control. When I was very young, I remember asking if the shock hurt them, and a friend of the family who died recently, a man we called Bob "Hollowhead" (a pun on his name) tried to convince me that it didn't hurt at all, come here and I'll show you... He proceeded to chase me around, shocking the air inches behind me while I ran, giggling and terrified, afraid to come near him for hours.
This is a pretty idyllic view of things. Much of the time, things were much darker, but as I move away from them, it is these livelier moments that stand out.
PG: One of my favorite Bledsoe poems is Night Variations. The opening line reads:"Stand on the corner of the night and don't allow it / to unravel itself into something less velvet. …" what inspired that particular poem?
CB: This poem was heavily influenced by the writings of Italo Calvino. If you haven't read Calvino, check him out. For example, his stories narrated by Qfwfq, a being older than...everything. Qfwfq might tell a story, in a grandfatherly sort of way, "In my day, we didn't have matter; we were free-floating accumulations of energy." I like the fable-like quality of his work.
This poem is a sort of ars poetica, or maybe arse poetica, because it is very tongue-in-cheek. It is full of little lessons on writing and life, presented in a fabulist style. "This reiterates the necessity of always keeping a journal. But remember/ that which tastes sweet to the termite may leave others' tongues bored." In my writing, I am often (perhaps always) struggling with the idea of "how to live," though not always so blatantly. I don't think this is something one can ever consider an answered question. All of my life, I hope, I will be forever revising my answers to this question. I consider it an accomplishment just to realize this much. It has taken some work.
PG: Speaking of inspiration, which of the following is most likely to inspire your poetry: nature, family, or personal insight?
CB: When I was in high school, I had a teacher who always tried to get me to write about nature. "Everything you write is so dark," she would say. "My favorite thing to do in the world is work in my garden. You should write about that." I didn't have a garden, but I had worked in rice fields, and this is not a fun thing to do. Though the first poem I ever published (in a little student journal at the University of Arkansas, which I later joined the staff of) was inspired by my grandmother's garden, it was really about racism, and my experiences with a black nanny. So in that poem, nature inspired a personal insight about my family. I think that my personal insights are heavily linked with my family, whether I agree with them or not, so these two things are often very close. My family is my model for the world.
My father instilled a deep appreciation in me for nature. I remember coming home over a break from college once with a friend. We had been walking around the pasture and as we approached the house, my father pulled up. I made the comment that there were so few trees left, compared to when I was a child. To which my father replied, "I'm doing the best I can." It was important to him to preserve the trees, but many of them had to be cut down because they were sick or dying. Nature can be very abstract. Man's relationship with nature and each other, and the insights one can draw from this, interest me more. So I'd have to say personal insight inspires me most, but they are all closely entwined.
PG: Name the first poet who made you gasp for air.
CB: I wish I could say something really hip, like James Tate or Charles Simic, both of whose work I love now, or even Ginsberg, but I grew up in a small town in Arkansas, which was, at the time, 49th in education, so I didn't hear about any of these people till I was out of high school. Suffice it to say, I wasn't exposed to as much poetry as I would've liked to have been. What we did read, and there was a lot of it, was older writing. Aside from Maya Angelou (a fellow Arkansan) I don't remember reading a single living writer in school. I loved Dickenson in grade school; this was probably the first book of poetry I bought. Frost was probably the second. At some point in high school, I read Plath. This would be the third. I remember being incredibly frustrated with William Carlos William. When I graduated, I went through a period of self-education before entering college. I read everything I could find. Anthony Hecht was an early discovery. When I discovered a writer or poet, I would drive to a city with a decent book store, and buy every book I could find by that author. This is something I still do, though now I use the internet. I came out of school so ignorant and confused. I just wanted to dump everything they'd told me and start over, so I read. I remember reading Camus and Thomas Mann, while the people I knew or worked with were reading Goosebumps books. It was very alienating.
PG: First woman you wrote a poem for? (First name is sufficient.) How old were you, and how do you feel about that poem today?
CB: I wrote a terrible poem for a girl named Karen when I was fifteen or so. It was called something like, "This is How I Feel," and consisted of a list of images and situations meant to convey certain emotions, like a child waiting to be picked up from little league, only his mother has been killed in a car wreck two streets over, and he has to wait all night. Really awful melodramatic teenager stuff. I turned it in as a creative writing assignment at school, and had to stay after class and convince the teacher (also my Aunt) that I wasn't suicidal, on drugs, etc.
PG: Does the poetry come easier than the fiction?
CB: I don't really think any of it comes easily, but poetry comes more often. Lately, I've been writing more nonfiction. Who knows where that will go?
PG: Title of the poem you're most proud of. Title of the poem that embarrasses you to no end. (Don't worry; I won't ask to read it!)
CB: I've seen the answer to a similar question often being, "The one I've written most recently is my favorite," and I wish I could repeat this answer, but it wouldn't be true. Perhaps I am a negligent father, but I play favorites. I wrote a poem a few years ago for a workshop taught by the inaugural poet Miller Williams. The poem was later printed online in Story South, and won the Blue Collar Review's Working People's Poetry Contest. The poem, entitled, "Roaches," isn't the best poem I've ever written, but it was a breakthrough. I was in a class with some good writers, and I wasn't very good. Some of these people were writing about things I didn't care about, relationships that'd gone sour, travel, angsty stuff, and I realized that I was also writing about things that I didn't care about. The good ones, though, were transcending themselves, using themselves and their experiences to represent larger issues. So I wrote a poem about working in a rice field, the way the sun just sort of perched on your shoulder and sat there all day. This was my father's life. It was miserable work, for me, and at night, I couldn't sleep. I lay in bed and listened to the roaches scritching in the walls. There is misery, but there is also beauty in this. The noises the roaches made were like music. The poem turned on the lines: "I sank into the mud of those fields/and into myself, waiting/until night came/when I would crawl into bed/press my face against the wall/and listen." This was also a very stripped down poem for me. This is something Miller Williams taught me. Economy.
The poem I mentioned earlier, "Garden," is pretty embarrassing. It is very fumbling and unclear at times. And so, so long.
PG: Finish this sentence: "I write poetry because ___________________ ."
CB: If I didn't I wouldn't understand the world. Poetry is how I make sense of life.
PG: Share with us your initial reaction upon winning the Working People's Poetry Contest.
CB: I was surprised. I'd never won anything before. The Blue Collar Review is a good journal. They'd published my work before and actually I have work forthcoming with them. I respect what they are doing and I am honored to have been chosen by them.
PG: What do you envision for yourself five years from now?
CB: Hopefully a job. I couldn't say. I hope to improve in my writing and life. I don't think I could have predicted where I am today, five years ago. I would like to think that Ghoti Magazine will still be going strong, and this is the plan. I am shopping around a chapbook, working on a novel. Maybe in five years, these things will be published and I will be working on more.
Notes, 5 or 6 years later:
1. No, nature isn't abstract. Society is abstract because it's a construct imposed over Nature. There's nothing abstract about the lion's teeth, but, as Terry Pratchett said, put the universe through a sieve and show me one molecule of "Justice." What I meant is that man views nature abstractly because we are so distant from it we no longer understand it. Just look at how we describe it--"All Natural" means something is clean and pure, when it should mean dirty as hell (what's more natural than dirt?). We describe murder and rape as a "unnatural acts" and yet they are commonplace in nature.
2. Maya Angelou is not, exactly, an Arkansan. She lived there for awhile.
3. Is Charles Simic hip? I mean I enjoy and admire his work... These were both poets I was really into at the time.
4. The first "poet" who made me gasp for air was Susan ______. She did things with her tongue...
5. "Hopefully a job." I was in college, maybe grad. school, but I think I was still an undergrad. at this point. I wanted to teach on a college level.
Friday, July 24, 2009
The official link: http://www.storysouth.com/millionwriters/millionwritersnotable2008.html (You have to scroll waaay down--Wheelhouse Mag...)
I've been trying to catch up on freelance work. I finally wrote the article that was due a week (okay ten days) ago for the Encyclopedia of Arkansas. "Wayne Raney. Harmonica playin' sum-bitch." I don't think they'll like the title. I had to contact the subject of another article because of lack of available info. One more I need to edit and a review for American Book Review is due in about a week. I also have about 10 other reviews I need to do ASAP. I find with reviews that it's best to write them while reclining in aquatic circumstances, such as sitting in a river or pool. Of course, one has to take periodic dips to appease the water gods. But appeasement is essential for the good of next year's crops.
Time to light a fire under the ass of class prep. I've got about a month left before classes start. Nothing of any interest to say about that.
I've asked five people to blurb Riceland, and all five have agreed. The brilliant Jo McDougall already sent hers in. I think that this will be "my book," he says, jinxingly.
Wednesday, July 22, 2009
Tuesday, July 21, 2009
33. The Redneck Bride, by John Fergus Ryan. I really enjoyed Ryan's The Little Brothers of St. Mortimer's. This is still true. What I will say about Bride is that it is very short.
34. True Grit, by Charles Portis. Enjoyable. Humorous. Not laugh out loud funny, but nicely done. I'd recommend it.
35. Gringos, by Charles Portis. The thing about "funny" books is they often lack any sort of forward movement. I'll use A Confederacy of Dunces as an example--clever enough but there's no real tension. So, after awhile, it becomes tedious. Portis is more or less the same, though I enjoy his writing.
36. A Year at the Movies: One Man's Filmgoing Odyssey, but Kevin Murphy. MST3K's Kevin Murphy (or Tom Servo/Bobo) went to a film a day for a year, at various theaters including the world's smallest theater, a theater in the artic circle made entirely out of ice, he lived for a week entirely on theater food, he snuck Thanksgiving Dinner into a theater, etc. Interesting enough for a "bathroom book," as I like to call it. Murphy is funny, though I was expecting him to do more. As he says himself, he travelled all over the world but neglected to go to Bollywood or Hong Kong. Really, some of his destinations seemed pretty random.
37. A Field of Colors, by Charles Lennox. A Mud Luscious Press chapbook I'm reviewing for Ghoti Magazine.
38. Family Secret, poems by Rich Murphy. A Finishing Line Press chapbook I'm reviewing for Ghoti Magazine.
39. The Narcoleptic Yard, poems by Charity Ketz. I'm reviewing this for Ghoti Magazine.
40. Light Boxes, by Shane Jones. I'm reviewing this for Ghoti.
41. book alter(ed), by David Wolach. A chapbook I'm reviewing for Ghoti.
42. Revealing Moments, by Wayne Scheer. A chapbook of flash fiction I'm reviewing for Ghoti.
I write because, in the words of the great Josh Chapman, I'm damaged in such a way that this is how I communicate best. Well, some of those were Josh's words. The better ones. But to what end am I communicating? It would be nice if, after, what, eight, nine years of publishing, and another, who knows, ten before that of writing, a naked, nubile young blonde would show up at my door with a bag of cash and a keylime pie. Is that too much to ask? Okay, she doesn't have to be blonde. Forgive me--I don't mean to be sexist. We all know the most important thing to me in that image is the pie. Sad sad sad. But the cash really wouldn't hurt. It would all go to student loans, but still. A nice thought.
A prof. in a writing class once asked me what my goals were for being a writer. I said I really wanted, some day, to be a mid-list writer--you know, the guy with a couple university press publications who's respected and enjoyed, but hasn't become a slave to New York? Slow and steady for me, baby. As with most of my long range plans, when shared, this was met with a glazed look. Mostly because, as an MFA student, I was supposed to be convincing myself that I was going to be the NBT (next big thing). I was going to go blow Rupert Murdoch and become the next you know, that one guy with the golf book? Or that chick who writes about vampires? And everyone would love me and respect me and realize that I am better than them. Well, that's how it seemed, anyway.
This is all my way of saying it's nice to know, from time to time, that someone is actually reading something I've written. Because that's all I'm really after. It's nice to get a little bit of cash here and there from writing too. It helps. But it's much nicer to read an editor's response when she identifies herself as a fan of mine. Or to see Glenn over at Feel Free To Read http://bibliosity.blogspot.com/ posting some of my stuff (and lots of other great writers) with visual accompaniment. He's found over 100 pieces of mine online. Thanks for that. Now, do you have any pie?
Saturday, July 18, 2009
Tuesday, July 14, 2009
Wednesday, July 08, 2009
So no, I'm not coming to your reading, and neither is anyone else. Maybe you should try a little harder next time.
Speaking of New York, Jillian and I have tickets to see Eddie Izzard at Madison Square Garden in January. You're jealous, I know. We fully expect to be eaten by bears. Bears with incredibly annoying accents. But with no bees in their mouths since bees are going extinct. Which is sad, because wouldn't you rather have bees than the accents? I must be jealous.
This is part of our new "we teach/babysit kids for 11/15 hours a day (depending on if we're on duty), five days a week plus weekend duties so wouldn't it be nice to cultivate a life during our scant free time" project (or AAAAAARHGHBWAAABWAAABWAAA!!!!! for short). We also have tickets to see Ian Anderson of Jethro Tull in October. What can I say, I was raised by a child of the 60s. The tentative plan is to have one "thing" per month. You know, like real people. A couple of those months might devolve into dinner and a movie. But even that is more than we did this past year. We hope to see a couple plays as well. We've seen a couple of the Baltimore Shakespeare Festival's performances this year. Great stuff, really funny. They're an up and coming troop (not actually a festival. Tricky, I know.) We're putting together a nice road trip for next summer with Chris and Elise, also. This summer, we've done some short trips to the beach, but haven't been able to really afford any long trips, which is okay, really. I'm applying for a residency for next summer as well. Wish me luck.
Sunday, June 14, 2009
Friday, May 01, 2009
30. The Time Machine Did It, by John Swartzwelder. A surreal mystery by one of the most prolific of the writers for the Simpsons. Not so hot.
31. Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, by Jane Austin and Seth Grahame-Smith. A reimagining of the classic novel with zombies, ninjas, etc. Entertaining.
Tuesday, April 28, 2009
28. JTHM (Johnny the Homicidal Maniac): Director's Cut, a graphic novel by Jhonen Vasquez. This is a collection of the 7 issues and a couple odds and ends in the JTHM series. Vasquez culled the best work from the series into this collection, hence the subtitle. This is something I heard about years ago and was unable to find. Recently, I found it and succumbed to nostalgia and read the thing. Brief description: Johnny (Nny, to his friends) has a problem: something is trying to break through his wall from...somewhere else, another dimension, perhaps. Unfortunately, the only way to keep it from breaking through is to keep the wall coated with blood. Luckily, Nny is surrounded by assholes he is more than happy to relieve of their blood. Part social commentary, part bloodbath, JTHM is a strange little comic I would've loved maybe a decade ago (when it came out...). Vasquez went on to do "Invader Zim," a cartoon I really tried to like for more than a few minutes at a time. JTHM had a similar affect for me--parts of it I enjoyed, but it felt dated. But I haven't described it well enough to do it justice. Imagine Hostel as a comic strip drawn by Bill Waterson. That's coming closer. Mostly, the issues were compilations, so there's a bit of an overarching storyline, but mostly, the book consists of 1-2 page shorts. Some of these feature torture or murder scenes, almost always with ironic twists. Some shorts are basically monologues in which Johnny pontificates about...whatever. Vasquez has an interesting style and includes lots of little jokes (hidden text, that sort of thing). Whatever flaws it might have, though, I admire Vasquez's effort. I haven't read anything like this.
Friday, April 17, 2009
26. The Yiddish Policeman's Union, a novel by Michael Chabon. Wonderboys was a great book. That's all I really have to say about Chabon. Okay, I'll add that this one wasn't quite as tedious as Cavelier and Clay, but it lacked the depth of C & K also.
I'm reading a Bill Bryson Australian travel book, In a Sunburned Country. I just picked up the graphic novel Johnny the Homicidal Maniac, the Director's Cut, also, and I'm really looking forward to that one. I'll probably read it this weekend. I tried to find it for a couple years back in college, and never could. Thank you half.com.
Friday, April 10, 2009
Saturday, April 04, 2009
23. Where We Come From, a poetry chapbook by Doug Ramspeck. I'm reviewing this for Ghoti Magazine.
24. The House in the Heart, a poetry collection by Willie James King. I'm reviewing this for the Pedestal Magazine.
Wednesday, March 25, 2009
21. City of Names, a young adult novel by Kevin Brockmeier. Brockmeier has his moments, but this isn't one of them. The idea behind this book is solid, but the execution felt incomplete.
Sunday, March 22, 2009
So I didn't write the poem attributed to me. Neither did anyone else write the poems attributed to them. It's some sort of algorthymic thing. I'm curious about it, though--where do the words actually come from. I mean, as far as I understand it, a computer program lifted words from somewhere and put them in this particular order and attributed them to particular people, but where were the words lifted from and why attributed to those names? Did they go through several of my poems and randomly arrange my words to make this? Cause I've only ever mentioned the word "butterfly" in one poem, and it isn't available online. So yeah. Kind of funny, though. Ron Silliman, who takes himself fairly seriously for having a name like that, got all litigious on his blog about it. Poetry Magazine mentioned it on their blog. Notice that I haven't linked to these blogs. The "authors" claimed to take the site down, but obviously they haven't.
Still, nice to be noticed, even if it's by a computer.