Monday, December 31, 2012

2013 Goals

Every year I do a list of goals, usually writing goals, and then pretty much ignore it all year. This past year was much better -- I accomplished most of them, actually. This coming year, I have quite a few, not all writing, for once. The thing is, these are all goals for the next 6 months or so, because after that, my life will change. So here we go:

Lifestyle Changes
1. I need a new job. I've been working on this for a couple months already. It will happen, oh yes. I haven't really gone into much detail about this, but the bottom line is I'm underpaid, overworked, and come January, essentially won't have insurance because of our $5000 deductible and no copays (which means we pay full price for everything up front).

2. Health. It's not so much that I need to lose weight, which I do, but I need to find some sort of physical activity that will bring me out of my mind a bit. I've lived most of my life kind of like Robin Williams' character in Gilliam's film  Baron Munchausen -- as a head floating separate from its body. I've been doing a lot of work ever since Jillian first became pregnant with Ellie to remedy some of my hangups, baggage, what have you. This is the big obstacle remaining. This is actually huge and pretty much involves just about everything else on this list.

3. Be Here Now. See #2.

4. We need to pay off our car. This will happen this year.

5. Move into the city (hopefully Baltimore)/Enroll Ellie in a Montessori school (she's already on the waiting list, and it looks like it will happen). See #1 above.

1. Finish Jubal's Daughter. This is the novel I'm currently working on. It's the oldest idea I have but haven't written.

2. Write a zombie town sequel. Update: Finished in mid-February.

3. Write History of the Standard Oil Company on the Moon. This is a working title for a YA/sci fi/dystopian novel. Update: in progress. Started in mid-February.

4. Write a Necro-Files sequel.

5. Place a short story collection.

6. Place a poetry collection.

7. Try to do at least 2 readings a month... Update: I've scaled this back to 1 reading a month, which I've managed to mostly do.

That's it. It's a lot. I plan to do it all, though.
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I've had a crazy productive year, I have to say.

It started in January/February when I wrote a novel I've been dabbling with for years -- it's actually quite an old idea, dating back to a first draft attempt as a college sophomore. It has changed drastically over the years, so much so that I could probably write a whole new novel out of a couple of the earlier, abandoned, plotlines. Tentatively titled The Vanilla Life until I think of something good to call it. I'd had a few false starts over the years and just started from scratch with it. It's a supernatural roadtrip story. No takers for it, yet.

Then, in February, I finished up a book I started in the summer of 2011. It's a sort of sequel to my forthcoming novel The Saviors (about my days in a punk band). This one is called Odysseus Among the Swine. I had to abandon it for some reason and was thinking it needed a total do-over but realized it just needed a good revision and an ending, so that's what I did. Haven't even considered sending this out yet.

In March, I finished my zombie novel Last Stand in Zombie Town. This one was quite difficult because it was so far outside of my comfort zone. Good stuff, though. Just came out.

In April, I wrote a bunch of poems. Most have been picked up by journals. Haven't put together a collection, yet.

In May, I pushed forward with this novel in stories (about a race war) I started in late 2011. Tentatively titled Wish I Was in Heaven Sitting Down. I switched back and forth between that one and another story series called Nobody's Darlings, about drugs and poverty in Arkansas. I finished both in June or July. Some of the Darlings stories have appeared at Rusty Barnes' Fried Chicken and Coffee.

Also in June, I took another stab at Man of Clay, a novel I'd attempted a couple times before. I had about 50 pages, give or take, of useable material and pushed through to the end. It was picked up by Main Street Rag Press. Pretty happy about that one. Best thing I've had accepted for publication.

In July, I wrote a horror/comedy book called Sorting the Dead, about a witch, an alternate dimension, a curse, etc. Fun stuff. Hasn't been picked up yet.

In August I wrote a middle-grade long story called Honus Wagner and the Wittsburg Treasure. This is a story I'd wanted to do for a long time. I was asked to contribute to an anthology, which gave me the excuse to write this. It was a very fun experience. There's a kickstarter for this anthology, here, if you're so inclined to help out...

In September/October I wrote a post-apocalyptic story about a cruise ship, sentient amoeba, super-intelligent birds, etc. etc. Not sure about a title yet. One of my stranger ones. Probably needs a revision.

In November/December, I wrote another middle-grade story -- novella length this time. An anthropomorphic cautionary tale about birds that wear vests. Another one I've wanted to do for a long time but hadn't gotten to. Also probably needs a revision.

In early December I went back and wrote a couple weird horror/comedy stories I'd been sitting on for a while and wrote a ton of reviews I'd been meaning to get to. I've averaged about 2 reviews a week this year. Crazy, huh? I needed a break from novels for a little while. I tried writing a poem a day -- I've got two sort of techniques I've been using. One is taking a line from a poem (usually in a book I'm reviewing) and using that as a title or at least inspiration. The other is a series of odes. Anyway, I failed miserably at the poem-a-day thing, gave up about halfway through the month, and started another novel. This one is a mashup of several earlier ideas -- one of them dating back to high school, another back to my undergrad years. It's actually the most straight-forward novel I've written in a long time. I started it without much of a plan. I usually have an outline, but all I had was maybe a quarter of a page of notes. As I write this, I'm thirty+ pages in and starting to figure out what this thing is about. I find that each novel chooses its own approach and structure. This one I might actually try sending out to agents.

One of the reasons I keep going back to these old ideas is that I had them before I knew how to write a novel. And they're good ideas. I interviewed a writer a while back who said he ignores ideas that come to him while he's working on a project so he doesn't lose focus. I don't. Most of the novels I've written have been from older ideas (maybe just a few months old, maybe 20 years old). I write them down, outline them, write a scene or two, whatever comes to me.

Along with all that, I had 5 books picked up this year (I didn't mention a poetry collection and another supernatural/comedy book I've got coming out) was nominated for a bunch of awards I didn't win (3 Pushcarts in 1 week, 1 Best of the Web, and 1 story selected as a Notable Story of the year for Story South's Million Readers award), started a couple columns for Monkey Bicycle, started a column for Prick of the Spindle, did some readings, etc.

Busy year. Already planning on making next year even busier.

* * *

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Interview with HobGob Press' Stroud

Following up on my reviews of Stroud's chapbooks, I was so intrigued with his work I interviewed him about it, and the press:

Me: What inspired you to start HobGob Press?

Stroud: HobGob Press was inspired by other small, local, independent presses as well as the research I had done on the origins of the chap-book, the pocket sized booklets from the 19th century. How interesting this disposable booklet included so many kinds of printed material such as pamphlets, political and religious tracts, nursery rhymes, poetry, folk tales, children's literature and almanacs. What range! Chapbooks can be anything – and that’s indicative of me and my artistic philosophy. The mission for my press specifically is to publish modern and experimental works of art, including Poetry, Music, Scores, Visual, Essays, Blogs, Photography, etc.

Me: Tell me about Soundpaths: what was the impetus for it? How long did it take to develop it?

Stroud: Soundpaths are an artistic form bridging between language arts and musical composition used as a tool for performance and education. Think of a Soundpath as a maze for your finger to follow – from a beginning point to an end point. Each Soundpath has several different designed lines and symbols – each one representing a different sound for you to make – a key is included.

The creation of Soundpaths were very forced and unnatural in their development, at first, in that they are a product of relentless thinking, squeezing for ideas, and experimentation of form. I came up with the concept while working on the assembly-line floor at a factory about a year ago. Everything was so grey there, so monotonous; each hour, each day, I gasped for stimulation. My boredom gave rise to me escaping the confines of my physical situation and freeing my mind to fly high above those factory walls.

I flew so high and scratched the clouds above so hard that eventually the concept of sound poetry landed down into my lap, right there where I was working. Tickled by the chance procedures and sound-work of poet Jackson Mac Low that same year, diagrams and charts of over one-hundred machine parts around me, my subconscious mind had, within enough time, pieced together the first Soundpath – Wab Notka – a maze that prompted you to speak words at specific times.

Eventually, the words inside a Soundpath became gibberish words (in order to free sounds from meaning), the paths became more elaborate, symbols were added, and the concept of sound itself becoming the focus of this poetic form took place. Later on, and through more research, I realized I was working in much the same ways as the Dadaists before me, specifically like Tristan Tzara. I was discouraged at first, thinking I was merely copying the principles of artists before my time, but quickly realized how Soundpaths were different, and that it was important to carry on this type of work, like a torch being passed down to me, I vouched to dig deeper into the idea of sound (enter John Cage).

Me: Have you performed/used Soundpaths for/with children? If so, what were their reactions?

Stroud: Indeed. I first introduced Soundpaths at the Hessler Street Fair in Cleveland, Ohio in the summer of 2012. A poet named Chandra and her daughter Ursula approached me, telling me of their love for my work. Chandra told me that my sound poems, Featherweight and Wab Notka, opened her daughters eyes to the wonder of poetry, of what it could be, and that I was single handedly responsible for, in only a matter of minutes, getting Ursula to “fall in love with poetry.” Well, this opened MY eyes to what Soundpaths could be, and who they could be for.

Since then, I have introduced Soundpaths to numerous children, including some at a latchkey program I had worked at – the responses have all been positive. All of the children (grades third through fifth) found them intriguing (they enjoyed being detectives decoding the paths and their keys), wildly fun (they enjoyed making loud noises), and above all humorous (they enjoyed making funny faces to produce sounds and making their friends laugh at their interpretation).

After a year of experimenting with Soundpaths and their many applications I found something deep within them. A friend of mine, a brilliant poet and educator, Michael Salinger, suggested I search for the educational aspects of these sound poems, to find what educational standards the phonetic aspects of my work meets. Low and behold, I found that Soundpaths meet over twenty legitimate English Language Arts Standards for Reading / Foundational Skills for Kindergarten and First Grade.

Me: Have you considered including a DVD or links to videos of you demonstrating Soundpaths? Or would that distract from your intent?

Stroud: Yes, I’ve considered, but I feel my directions are clear enough to not have videos included. However, there are a few ways you can view me performing Soundpaths:

The Official Soundpath Facebook page -

Me Headlining at Literary Café in Tremont, Ohio:

Me Performing my 1ST prize winning Soundpath, Featherweight, at the Hessler Street Fair in Cleveland, Ohio -

Me: Who are your models, as poets; who do you read?

Stroud: I read less actual poetry than I do biographies, manifestos, theories, and blogs about art of all mediums, as well as heavy, modern scientific texts. I’m moved by concepts. I’m a receptor of information and stimuli. I take all of the inspiration, impulses and knowledge I receive and allow them to incubate in my mind until the right moment. Then, slowly, all of these ingredients tend to swirl around in a stew revealing themselves to me at a later point in time as original thoughts.

My main influences are: Jackson Mac Low, John Cage, Walt Disney, Antonin Artaud, Peter Brooks, e. e. Cummings, Anne Bogart and Tina Landau, Keri Smith, Carl Sagan, and Stephen Hawking.

Me: Why is experimental art important?

Stroud: I experiment because its fun to do; there needn’t be anything deeper to it than that. I derive great pleasure from exercising my skills as a creative entity, a creator, a conscious observer of the world. Other factors fueling my work include my ADD and how bored I become with “old toys,” mixed with my wide range of interests in things other than art. I’m a cross-pollinator, for sure. However, as an artist, I recognize the implications of my experiments’ results; soon, I develop real concepts behind my inventions and innovations.

I begin my experiments with an impulse, something as small as a sensation of a color, sound, or smell, etc. Again, I do this because its fun – I try staying playful like a child as long as possible. The process makes me feel alive. Very few times do I begin with a concept, a seed – I start pre-seed – I collect data like a scientist would. I research things that interest me; I gather music, paintings and articles that relate to feelings that stick with me that I cannot shake. I don’t need to know why, I trust my intuition.

Experimental art isn’t all novelty, it’s the actual process used to invent and innovate anything! That should make its importance clear enough. Art, when pushed hard enough, can “add to the stock of available reality.” (R. P. Blackburn).

It’s important to search of new modes of expression. In nature, as well as in our culture, we experience change – rapidly. I make art at a speed and manner in which feels natural with this change. I find insanity in recycling the old text-based plays we’ve seen one-hundred times, being stuck listening to the same music from my childhood on the radio, and carrying out holiday traditions that have no meaning to me. Though I enjoy the occasional nostalgia, I know the importance of being awake to the now, hearing what modern artists, who are in tune with what is truly happening around us, who have the words and the ways to express themselves in a manner we can resonate with, have to say.

Experimental art is mysterious, intriguing, fresh, original, growing, achieving more, and it makes us think and ask questions like: what is art? Work should be curious. I don’t want to shut my brain off, hear what I’ve heard before and be entertained. Do not entertain me. Bring me back to life, give me the type of wonder I once had discovering a flower for the first time, or hearing my first thunderstorm, swimming in my first lake, capturing my first bug, throwing my first snowball, blowing my first dandelion.

Experimental Art is happening NOW, it’s living, as live experiments are.

Me: Do you find that Northern Ohio is receptive to your work?

Stroud: Yes, overall. Though, I find most people find humor in my work opposed to the deeper aspects, because of its peculiarity, and because I don’t have the stage time to explain it properly. Ironically, I’m trying to make accessible art that a general, unassuming crowd doesn’t need an artistic background to appreciate. However, I find it is the artists themselves who most appreciate and respect what I’m trying to do – but that will change.

One of my missions as an artist is to change the parochial view of art today. A child believes a poem must rhyme, and on a more complex level an artist believes a play must have words or a painting must use paint.

I’ve been told my work has youthfulness to it – that makes me smile. Art should be fun to make, fun to look at, and fun to be a part of. I never want to isolate someone from experiencing my work; in fact, all of my work is intended to allow you, the audience, make half of the piece. I often provide the vehicle for you to become an artist – I think that’s a message pretty easy to receive.

Me: Can you tell me a little about some of your performance art? What are your objectives with performances?

Stroud: My performances are typically interdisciplinary, interactive, and visceral. My performances are loosely scripted and orchestrated, though I allow for a lot of ‘chance’ to occur. I perform anywhere, in any venue or setting and for any length of time.

The focus of my work lately is to conduct primitive, highly visual spectacles that unleash unconscious responses in audiences that are normally inaccessible.

I try to provoke conditions that will force the release of primitive instincts hidden beneath the civilized social layer masking all human behaviour. There is a certain energy and impact of this shocking way of performing that should be employed in order to increase a sense of danger, violence and disorientation in the audience. The key word is VISCERAL in all that I do.

Two examples of my performance art include:

Mysterious Stranger, an on-site performance inspired by Mark Twain’s depiction of the devil. I staged it under the stage in a crawlspace. It played to several sold out shows, though only eight to ten people were allowed in at a time. The gallery of pictures can be found here:

White Shadow, an on-site performance inspired by breath and death. I performed at the Akron Civic Theatre. One key part was when I was tied half-nude in a plastic body bag, suffocating for two minutes, then finally emerging the womb through a hole punctured near my mouth. The gallery of pictures can be found here:

Me: Who are you reading now?

Stroud: Right now I’m reading a lot of material on ‘Absurdism.’ I’m also reading Austin Kleon’s best-selling book of art and poetry, ‘Newspaper Blackout,’ where the reader creates a poem by redacting newspaper articles with a permanent marker.

Me: What’s next for Stroud?

Stroud: I’m working on a book currently called Haptic Poetry, a subjective poetic art form that creates objects to be touched and manipulated. In Haptic Poetry, the sense of touch is more important than the sense of sight. The goal is to create aesthetic effect (the psychological responses to artistic experiences) in the minds of the intended audience. Think of it as telling a story, conveying a concept, or expressing an emotion through texture instead of through the written word.

In addition, I am gearing up to perform in Israël Horovitz’s surrealist play, RATS, some various performance pieces at Lake Erie College in Painesville, Ohio, a devised children’s theatre piece I’m developing called ‘x-ray,’ and most importantly a huge fundraising event called ‘Art for Autism and Other Complex Disabilities’ at the high school I work at.

As for what’s truly next in my life, my far-reaching future, I hope to one day own my own art gallery / studio / black box theatre where I will run classes, host local artists and their work (as well as mine).

* * *

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Review of Stroud's Alphabet Soup & Soundpaths

Stroud is a poet, director, actor, teacher, and performance artist in Northern Ohio. He’s also the publisher of HobGob Press, a micro-press devoted to experimental writing. Lots of presses claim to be experimental, but Stroud truly lives up to this claim. The two collections I’ve read of his are very disparate, but very unique. I read a lot of poetry, but Stroud’s work truly stands out as something different.

* * *
Alphabet Soup, by Stroud. Ohio, HobGob Press, 2012.

I can’t exactly call this a poetry collection, but rather perhaps it’s one long poem. What Stroud has done, here, is collect words and phrases in seemingly random order, broken with spaces, line breaks, and tabs. But amongst the chaos, patterns and meaning appear. Stroud urges the reader to use these words and phrases “when you need them. May you find meaning in chaos.” Stroud’s placement does imply order, at times, though. “Time tells/a/binary/such a passion behind it/it is a job/everyday/Pull me//This is permanent/you know?” he says near the beginning. It’s easy to connect these ideas as a commentary on difficulties in life.

Stroud’s “disharmony of words” offers vivid images that not only could be read to imply all sorts of meaning, but the fact of his arrangement is a commentary on poetry, and reading poetry, itself. How often do two different people discover totally disparate readings of a poem? More often than we care to admit, trained as we are to seek out and settle on the “one” meaning of a poem. Stroud has cut out the middle man so that the reader can simply apply his or her own meaning, without narrative getting in the way. This works, of course, because our minds impose narrative. Stroud has created a Rorschach of words. And so many of them stand out as meaningful that, even though I know it’s purely my own self I’m projecting onto the page, I connect these images and lines because there are some lovely turns of phrase: “Trees scraping at the sky.” “88 percent of all giraffes.” “Hunting for thing.” “watermelon Sunday.” “ever been a won’t?” He includes literary references, the odd quote, and words, words.

* * *
Soundpaths, by Stroud. Ohio, HobGob Press, 2012.

Stroud explains that “Soundpaths are an artistic form bridging between language arts and musical composition, in which the phonetic aspects of human speech are foregrounded instead of more conventional semantic and syntactic values. Soundpaths are educational tools intended primarily for performance and creating memorable aesthetic experiences.” Basically, the idea is to focus on sound to arrive at meaning, rather than words. Stroud uses pitch, volume, etc. represented by “shapes and designed lines that represent sounds.” The concept reminds me of the idea of the “charge” of a word, used when teaching vocabulary (does it “sound” positive or negative, etc.?). “Think of a Soundpath as a maze for your finger to follow” he explains. Check out some of thess Soundpaths at the HobGob Press site.

Stroud goes on to demonstrate various educational uses of this technique, which, frankly, look really fun. He includes lessons for teaching vowel and consonant sounds and various words. It’s a little challenging to fully grasp Stroud’s intent on the page; I imagine that seeing him perform these Soundpaths live must be very entertaining and informative. I would love to see him include a DVD or video links with the book. But what really stands out, here, is the power of an innovative use of language and sound for real, hands-on purposes. Stroud has taken an approach to abstract or experimental (or whatever you’d like to call it) poetry and turned it into a fun educational tool. It’s an impressive feat.

-CL Bledsoe

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Review of J. Boyett's Brothel

Brothel, a novel by J. Boyett. Fiction Advocate, 2012.

What do you do when you’re stuck in a dead-end central Arkansas town smack in the Bible Belt, see yourself as surrounded by hypocrites and holier-than-thou’s and folks whose biggest ambitions are beer and TV? A place where a large portion of people choose willful ignorance over reason because it’s familiar and easier than grappling with the uncertainties of anything other than born and bred faith? Say, you’ve got money, so you don’t have to struggle, but that just means you have even less direction. Say, you’re going to college but not really seeing much of interest after that’s done because this place has such a depressed economy that the best future you can have is to leave.

In Boyett’s debut novel, the answer is you start a brothel, nothing special, just change the sheets (regularly) on the guest bed in your already pretty crappy apartment and you go to town. Especially if, like damaged Joyce, your best friend is Ken, who doesn’t mind going after a room full of frat boys with a broken chair leg just to let them know that no matter how much they beat him, he’ll still laugh at them. And let us not forget that the whole thing starts as a lark intended to piss off Joyce’s parents.

The characters in Boyett’s novel all have their own reasons for the brothel: Ken is bored. Joyce is bored and wants to lash out. The other girls consider it easy money and an interesting experience. Of course, rich-kid Ken is too much of a trouble-maker to rest easy being a pimp for his best friend and her two friends (even though it means he gets to recite his Pimp Speech and maybe even use his bat with nails sticking out of it to sort out any trouble). He likes to stir shit up too much. And Joyce can’t resist a dare, even to become a prostitute. But where will it lead her? And exactly how will Ken explode this situation?

Boyett’s novel follows the not-so-innocent Joyce as her desire to live up to Ken’s expectations leads her down a darker and darker path. Boyett’s writing style is easy and readable. His characters flow naturally, though they’re quite complicated at times. These are damaged people, obviously, in a damaged culture. The storyline is pretty straight-forward: Ken and the girls open a brothel, johns appear (thanks to Ken), and it’s a question of when things will blow up. There are twists and turns as a few johns try to take things too far (both physically and emotionally).

Boyett has crafted a solid Arkansas novel, rollicking and funny in the vein of a young John Fergus Ryan. He’s tapped into the zeitgeist of the state with his outcast characters seeking their bliss. Boyett is an accomplished playwright, and his dialogue shows it. Honestly, the novel could easily be staged. It’s a quick, fun read, and I look forward to seeing more of Boyett’s work.

-CL Bledsoe

Thursday, December 06, 2012

Review of Caryl Pagel's poetry collection: Experiments I Should Like Tried at My Own Death

Experiments I Should Like Tried At My Own Death, poems by Caryl Pagel. Hadley, MA: Factory Hollow Press. 2012. $15.

Pagel explores death and what comes afterwards, or doesn’t. Her poems mimic thought-patterns in composition, moving from idea to idea, linked by similar themes. In “Table Talking, Pagel describes the metaphysical scene of the late 1800s, beginning with formative details of William James, one of the earliest proponents of psychological study in America:

It is the influence of the loss of father’s leg
that biographers credit William James’
early & lasting interest
in finding a form
for spiritual inquisition beyond

religion beyond his field of study—science—beyond
psychology      The red hopping-hot hot-air
balloon bobbed over the barren
field before it dropped
to the floor of a barn      It was probably

not the leg directly although his father did believe
his own childhood tragedy represented
the constant undeniable
force of evil in
this world…

In the first stanza break, Pagel implies multiple meanings, but it is her use of caesura throughout that is truly interesting. She avoids classic punctuation in favor of a more controlled, meaningful spacing in order to set off ideas. The italicized image breaks from her biographical sketch, much in the way the supposed appearance of a spirit would surprise the participants at one of the séances Pagel describes later in the poem.

“Those That Require Warning” is a prose poem selection ostensibly from The Botched Bestiary. There are several selections from this throughout the collection. This ‘Bestiary’ seems to be some sort of field guide to unusual beings. This one seems to be a warning against consorting with bodies: “Recall the bloated gray bodies pulled off [of] the bodies.” it begins (the brackets are Pagel’s). “Bodies can have a wide variety of effects, with varying levels of inconvenience.” she continues, later in the poem. In another section, “Those That Operate From Deep Space,” Pagel continues this focus on the body, this time focusing on the bodies’ movements through water and the effects one has on the other. “Most bodies that live in water make light,” she tells us. Here, Pagel seems to be getting at the old battle between head and body, spirituality and sensuality. There are pros and cons to each; the bodies are dangerous and unsavory, but after more consideration there is also something positive to them: they make light when they live in water. Water is often seen as a purifying element, and the creation of light could be interpreted as a divine action, so perhaps there’s something worthwhile in the body which shouldn’t be ignored.

The book is very attractive, in terms of layout and organization. It’s broken into three sections, Visions, Crisis Apparitions, and Other Exceptional Experiences. Each section begins with a quote that clarifies the theme of that section. Pagel’s poems are interesting, thematically, and well-written. They are graceful upon the page and a pleasure to read. I’ve been excited about a couple recent publications from Factory Hollow Press. I’m interested to see what they do next.

-CL Bledsoe

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Interview with poet Marcela Sulak

Marcela Sulak was born and raised on a rice farm in South Texas. I was born and raised on a rice farm in Eastern Arkansas. So, right away, I was drawn to her work. I got ahold of a copy of her first full-length collection Immigrant and was really impressed with it. I found her poetry to be very sensual and evocative, in a way that many poets attempt but few achieve. She was gracious enough to answer a few questions for me:

Me: How did you come to writing?

Marcela Sulak: Before I could read, my mother read to me. My mother also gave me a great appreciation for language because she always used the most fascinating verbs when setting us to chores. We were never to “give” the chickens our table scraps. We were always told to “fling” them or to “toss” them, for example. We looked forward to hearing how we were to dust the house and vacuum. My siblings and I tried to come up with better verbs for chores, and to anticipate her choices.

I grew up on a rice farm five miles outside of a town of about 250, so characters in books were often as real to me as the people around me. So it was natural to turn to theater, in which boundaries are blurred. On our farm, we had a two-story barn that my father and uncles no longer used, that we children commandeered. I wrote plays and we—my three siblings and three cousins who lived down the road—acted in them, using the barn’s trap door to great effect. I was not the oldest cousin, so I had to make the plays enticing to my older cousins, which meant they’d get the lead roles. Which meant I paid careful attention to subsidiary roles. This is great training for writing poetry.

Me: In Immigrant, you trace the histories of several civilizations through certain foods, like radishes. What is it about these foods or these cultures that interests you?

Sulak: My grandfather began rice farming in the first years it was introduced into Texas, in the 1920s, I believe. Much of the land was virgin land, meaning that no one had ever farmed it before. Nearby was cotton and sugar cane. I was fascinated by the way crops changed the landscape and the culture of a place. When I lived in Venezuela, I got to observe how class struggles played out in terms of who was given propriety over the land. I spent time on the llanos with a friend who was a biologist. I spent time with indigenous peoples on the Brazilian and Venezuelan borders, and listened to them explain their social structures in terms of the gendering of agricultural tasks (women grew yams and yucca. It was not men’s work). In the Czech Republic, I was fascinated by how you could take a walk and come home laden with all the food you needed for a meal (fruit on the roadsides, planted during the soviet years, chamomile, mushrooms). How the herbs had their own stories and healing properties. I suppose plants have always seemed alive to me. They have stories, and I loved hearing them.

Me: I have to say I’m drawn to the fact that you grew up on a rice farm in Texas. I grew up on one in Arkansas. Do you write about rice farming (or just farming) much? What sort of reactions have you gotten to it?

Sulak: All my life I have heard about Arkansas rice, but until now, I’d never met an Arkansas rice farmer, so I hope we can talk in greater detail about your farm.

In each of my books (chapbook, Immigrant, and now, the new one) I seem to have a Texas farm section. Finally, a friend and colleague told me, “you need to write your next book about rice farming in Texas.” So I’ve started research. But I’m a little nervous about it. My family has very strong opinions about such things as accuracy when it comes to depicting family stories. I generally tend to use stories as I use cookbooks—as suggestions for raw material.

Until recently, though, literature did not reflect the world if you lived in Texas. Standard fare in books published in American literary centers—Boston or New York in the North East, Chicago in the Mid-west—depicted things like snow! The first time I saw snow I was 22 years old and living in South Bend Indiana for grad school. They depict the changing of the leaves, four seasons, apple trees, subways or the elevated rail, commuter trains, maple syrup. When I read books set in Texas (I came late to Katherine Anne Porter), I feel a shock of recognition, as if some part of my life has been validated. That’s the reaction I’ve had from people who live in communities depicted in Immigrant. It’s a relief.

Me: Why “Immigrant”?

Sulak: Who isn’t an immigrant, or a descendent of immigrants? Almost no one in the world. And if we ate only foods that were indigenous to the lands on which we live, you’d be eating only corn, squash, beans, tomatoes, chocolate, and that’s only if you were lucky enough to have been born in Mexico. I wanted to show how connected all are to one another by virtue of the fact we are all immigrants—even the most seemingly permanent features of our cultural landscapes have been carried from somewhere else, too.

Me: Your writing is very evocative and appeals to the senses, while also engaging the mind with complex ideas. Which is more important for a poet, do you think?

Sulak: Thank you!

What is an object without an idea? We don’t even notice objects if they do not embody ideas or feelings. I think of a poem as an object that has been reconciled with its idea. The most potent poetry of ideas is often full of things: Wallace Stevens or Marianne Moore, whose poetry is really about the mind at work. There are very few poets--Rosemary Waldrop (Driven to Abstraction) or Ellen Hinsey (Update on the Descent) that can write convincingly about abstract ideas without resorting to the senses.

I think through my senses. Sometimes I only know that I have an idea because of the way I feel, physically. I feel it in my body. So when I write, I hope that objects—sights, sounds, taste, smells--serve as portals to invite the reader into the world. They have to allow the reader to enter, and they must allow the reader to construct a reality for herself in that world. Generous poems share their bounty with the reader, and don’t ask readers to account for how they used this bounty.

Once I gave my students an exercise based on Jon Cotner and Andy Fitch’s Ten Walks and Two Talks. They were to walk for 60 minutes a day, and write down 60 sentences in the course of each walk. Just observations. Not reflections. One of the students read her observations to the class, and everyone responded with a version of “Wow, you really do not get along with your mother, do you?” She was shocked. She was, in fact, going through a tough spot, but she had no idea how we got that from her observations of a walk through a rose garden in Jerusalem.

Me: Would you mind telling me a little about your writing process: do you write every day, do you have a specific routine, etc.?

Sulak: I try to journal every day when I get back from biking my 5-year-old daughter to school. Before my daughter was born, I would journal for about half an hour in bed before my mind became engaged in other things. I try to journal in a way that would be interesting to read. But the content can be anything—the etymology of a word, a new strategy for dealing with motorcycles in the bike lanes in Tel Aviv, a draft of a poem, a recipe.

I try to set aside at least an hour for some kind of creative writing, either translation or poetry. When I say I spend days writing, I mean revising. It is rare I spend days simply creating something completely new.

But semesters in which I teach academic subjects, I usually reserve my writing days for critical articles. Then I will save Friday mornings, when my daughter is in school only half a day, for poetry. Sometimes, when I am working on academic articles, my mind goes off in tangents. I used to use a lot of footnotes, but now I collect the footnotes and put them in a file called “scraps,” and they are often where my poems come from.

But I always carry my notebook with me, everywhere and always. You never know when you’ll see or hear something that you must write down, in case you can use it later. I use about 5% of what I write down, probably. But the discipline of attentiveness, of being in the moment, is why I do it.

Me: What has the process of publishing a book been like? Have you enjoyed working with Black Lawrence Press?

Sulak: I love Black Lawrence Press. They are young, energetic, bursting with new ideas, and enthusiastic. Before I found them, I sent my little book to the requisite competitions for about three years, and was always a finalist in 3 or 4 each year. I discovered BLP’s open reading period and sent to them because I liked their catalog and have read almost every book of poetry they publish. Sometimes I’ve taught their books. The press feels like home.

Me: What’s your favorite poem from the book and why?

Sulak: Each of the poems serves a different function in the book, so it is difficult for me to answer that question, but I can say what I like most about the book’s reception is that people have noted that the poems never “exoticize,” and one reviewer said the book was light years ahead of current U.S. policies on immigration. That makes me happy because, though I wasn’t aware of the political implications of what I was writing at the time, I do believe that in so many countries, immigrants are the ones who do the hardest work and are often most loyal to their adopted countries, and though they are as much a part of the culture and social fabric as anyone else, they are so often feared and treated as scapegoats. I wanted to show how we are all, in a very real sense, immigrants, and I tried to do this by depicting the migration of fruits and vegetables through the world, and the importance of said fruits and vegetables to national or communal identities.

Me: Who are you reading? Who are your inspirations?

Sulak: At this very moment, I am reading the Israeli poet, Orit Gidali, whose work I am translating into English. Her work shows how “words carry with them the traces they have been,” by virtue of the fact it is in Hebrew. So her words carry on their backs Babylon, Egypt, Talmud, and they track biblical and diaspora sand all over her twenty-first century kitchen, bedroom, and through airport transit lounges. I also find the Arab-Israeli Taha Muhammad Ali’s So What? New and Selected Poems, translated by Peter Cole, emotionally intelligent and incredibly moving. Sadly, the Nazareth-based poet just passed away last year. Recently I’ve loved Heather Christle’s What is Amazing. Other poets whose recent work stays with me: Sabrina Orah Mark, Rachel Zucker, Steve Gehrke, Terrance Hayes, A. Van Jordan, Takashi Hiriade.

Me: What else are you working on now?

Sulak: I usually have several kinds of projects going at once, and I rotate focus on them, depending on deadlines or moods or schedules. I have just finished a poetry manuscript called (for now) The Ladies’ Guide to Hebrew, based loosely on 18th century manuals of etiquette, and also on etymologies of Hebrew words. Having moved to Israel 2 ½ years ago, I am still grappling with learning the language, but I love that Hebrew words are so thingy.

I am translating two volumes of the Israeli poet Orit Gidali, and through the process of translating, I have also responded with many of the poems that are in The Ladies’ Guide.

Finally, there’s an academic study of foreign and immigrant poets living in New York in the 1920s, writing what they considered “American” poetry, but often in languages other than English. I am interested in their depictions of time-space, and in their use of scientific discoveries, especially relativity, as well as their responses to technology.

* * *

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Hard Times

I've taken a day to work on a project sans family since I haven't had a chance to write in four days. In general, it's been tough finding time. But now, I'm sitting in an empty house, missing my wife and my little girl, and instead of writing, I'm thinking about how we don't actually make enough money at our teacher day jobs to pay our bills, and how our crappy insurance just got even crappier so that now, essentially, we don't have insurance ($5000 deductible, have to pay full price for meds, etc.), and the whole thing seems really difficult. Impossible. The kind of thing you just throw down and walk away from. I've taken steps -- I can't really be explicit because, you know, the thing about the internet is anybody can read it -- so I'll just say I'm doing what I can to rectify the situation, but it will take time. And it's not going to be easy. It's a challenge to focus on writing when the difficulties in life seem so momentous. Worse than that, it's difficult to enjoy my time with my family when I can't stop thinking about these things. It sours me on life. So I end up wasting the time I should be spending on important things worrying.

My father grew up in the Depression as a share cropper. Struggle is nothing new. The Depression was caused by rampant greed. The current economic situation was caused by just the same thing, but we never learn. People are still out there clamoring about the poor corporations and billionaires being so mistreated. They throw out words like Socialism and don't even know what that means. It's all about greed and pettiness and it's disgusting and sad. It holds us back. As someone else said, there will always be some indentured servants eager to praise their masters. I wish I could get clear of the pig-headedness that allows this to keep happening, but I can't. It's hard to set it aside for even a moment because, sadly, it has such an effect on my life.

So what do you do? It's tempting to consider writing as an escape, and it can be that, but good writing is not that, not at all. Good writing has an agenda, but a more subtle one than propaganda. Good writing tries to change the world. Good writing teaches. It focuses on the real, capital T Truth. It fights the good fight.

Let me be clear: teaching is the most important thing we can do (aside from actually saving a life, as a doctor or fireman, perhaps, or a police officer, though even that is a form of teaching). Teaching is at the core of who we are as humans. We are social animals; we learn from each other. We are born with few, if any instincts. Everything we know we've learned, we've been taught. This is how we communicate. This is how we interact. Some of us teach by writing.

I'm going to keep working. Then I'm going to go see my family. There are all these assholes in my way, but they're not going to win. They say that history is written by the victors. That may be, but it's taught by teachers.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

10 Questions with Me

I've read a couple of these self-interviews lately...okay, I've scanned the titles of a couple of these lately, and no one's really been interested in interviewing me in a while, so I thought I'd give it a shot. Here goes 10 questions with me:

Q: Why are you from a place that's not here?

A: Because no one is from here. And people who are are liars or weird.

Q: Have you ever worn suspenders?

A: Once. I don't like to talk about it. It was at a party and someone dared me. I've never worn a bowtie, though, so there's that.

Q: What's the best frog?

A: Those Canadian tree frogs. I forget what they're called...unless...could it be Canadian tree frogs? Anyway, they have a kind of natural anti-freeze in their blood and they freeze solid, except for I guess their vital organs, in winter. Clearly, they are the best frogs. Those ones that people lick to get high are probably second just as a sympathy vote.

Q: What's wrong with spaghetti?

A: So many things are right with spaghetti that it seems self-indulgent to point out the one thing that isn't right, but I just can't remain silent about this anymore. I don't care for tomato sauce. Partly, it's because I'm getting older and it bothers my stomach a bit, and partly, it's gross. I like the white sauce better, even though it reminds me of a cross between semen and glue. Which is pretty much what's wrong with spaghetti.

Q: What are you reading instead of what you're supposed to be reading?

A: I'm reading Why I'm Not a Christian, by Bertrand Russell, because it's in my bathroom. I won't say it's terribly interesting -- most of his arguments, so far, are pretty obvious, though perfectly valid. For example, he points out that Christ wasn't much of a moral leader because he publicly denounced unbelievers to hell. I have a stack of books I'd like to read -- I just bought the two Charles Portis novels I've yet to read (Masters of Atlantis and Norwood) and hope to knock those out soon.

I'm supposed to be reading crap I'm teaching, which I've already read, but like to reread as I teach it so it's fresh. It's hard to find time, though. Also, I've got a stack of review books.

Q: Have you considered interstate trucking?

A: I have! The biggest problem with that, I think, would be the fact that I fall asleep pretty much immediately after getting into the car. It's a problem, since I usually drive when we go anywhere. Often, chewing gum helps. I'm not much of a cap person, either, and I feel like truck drivers usually wear caps.

A big plus, I'd have to say, is gas station chicken. Gas station chicken is probably my favorite food group. I imagine that if I were to become an interstate trucker, I'd eat a lot of it. I also like Pringles and key lime pie. I'm pretty sure I could get Pringles at gas stations, not so sure about the pie. That's pretty much why I haven't put a downpayment on a rig, yet.

Also, Kurt Russel's character in Big Trouble in Little China was a trucker, and he's definately one of my heroes.

Q: What's your favorite memory about pudding?

A: I don't actually have any standout memories about pudding. My dad used to make banana pudding when I was a kid, which was cool, I guess, but he'd make a LOT of it and it would take a long time to eat, and by the end, it was all soggy and kind of gross. Pudding isn't really my thing I guess. I'd rate it slightly above jello, though that jello with fruit and shit suspended in it does have a kind of aesthetic appeal.

Q: Tell me more about spaghetti.

A: I'm intrigued by the tradition of eating some sort of bread with pasta. Who came up with that? It's like having a burger with your steak. I prefer pickles with pasta. They're green. You need some green with all that red. Aesthetics are important.

Q: How come I've never heard of you?

A: You haven't been spending enough time at the post office.

Q: Say something pithy about stalactites.

A: Stalactites are what's left when the earth's tears dry.

Friday, November 09, 2012

J. Bradley's Jesus Christ, Boy Detective stories

Jesus Christ, Boy Detective, stories by J. Bradley.

Every so often something comes along through the internet pipeline that genuinely makes me glad to be a reader. It isn’t too surprising that J. Bradley would be responsible for one of these rare, rare instances with his Jesus Christ, Boy Detective series. I’ve gathered a handful of these stories, published all over the internet (and one in a chapbook). I cannot believe that a publisher hasn’t picked these up as a collection. I’ve also heard that he’s working on a novella, so I can only imagine someone will pick that up and make him famous. I mean, you know, as famous as an actual talented writer can be. Which isn’t really that famous. But I digress.

The idea is that Jesus Christ is in the body of Timmy Hightower, a boy detective. This is a great idea, which I’ll give you a moment to savor, but Bradley doesn’t just run with it a la the Hardy Boys, he delves into the character of Jesus, as presented in certain texts you may be familiar with. Think of the boy Jesus, murdering birds, an alien wandering the middle-eastern landscape with unimaginable power, one foot on Earth, one in heaven. Now make him a boy detective. 

The structure of these stories varies, but is mostly episodic, beginning en medias res with the scene of the crime, moving through the investigation and solving of the crime, and then ending with a nod to the larger plot.

Bradley’s stories are micro-fiction, usually. “From Jesus Christ, Boy Detective: The Royal Flush of Fate,” appeared in Unshod Quills introduces us to Timmy becoming the vessel for Jesus. “From Jesus Christ, Boy Detective: Everything Will Be Slashed,” appeared in in Red Lightbulbs and features Jesus Christ, Boy Detective dancing around the conventions of the boy-dective genre (and roundhouse kicking a bad guy). “Jesus Christ, Boy Detective and The Freshly Squeezed Slugger” appeared in Paragraph Line and fleshes out the character, introducing more violent crimes (it should be noted, Timmy Hightower/Jesus tend to investigate some pretty grisly stuff). This was the most complete of the stories thus far.

Here’s one in Whole Beast Rag (?) which is a little bit of a pain to get to (you might have to sign up): “Jesus Christ, Boy Detective: the Early Bird Gets the Shaft.” Here, Timmy Hightower/Jesus investigates a case of murder by arrows. There are also tantalizing hints concerning the larger plot. Cityscapes contains “Jesus Christ, Boy Detective: It’s a Small World After All.” Bradley progressively develops minor characters, such as Leopold, the knife-wielding associate. Bradley plays with the idea of faith – God must remain as uninvolved as possible because, “while the belief is off the charts, it’s a violent maddening one” and any sort of confirmation could spark violence that “would make Sodom and Gomorrah look like a backyard barbeque.”

There is a chapbook: We’re Not in Kansas Anymore, a Jesus Christ Boy Detective Mystery, available here: It’s phenomenal. Here’s one on Nothing To Say, xTx’ blog:

I’m hoping Bradley is able to put out a collection, a novella, SOMETHING very soon. These stories are like choice B-Movies (of the “creative and really good despite the low budget” kind, not the “so bad they’re a little less bad” kind.). Until that happens, read the stories. Show Bradley some love. You won’t regret it.

Thursday, November 08, 2012

Writing Update, November

I haven't really announced this because I haven't received the actual contract, but I had a novella picked up by a press I'm pretty damned excited about. If you've read many of my reviews lately, I've referenced a couple presses I'm really keen on, and this is one I've referred to several times. Sorry to be vague, but I don't want to put anything out there until I have the contract. I'm really happy about this. It's a small press, but it's a damned good one. No idea when the book will actually come out. The book's tentatively titled Man of Clay. It's a kind of slave narrative set in Arkansas during the Civil War which follows a gollum owned by a mad genius-type. Very dark and brutal with some steam-punk stuff and also probably the best thing I've ever written.

Along with that, Riceland, a poetry collection about my childhood on a rice/catfish/etc. farm in Arkansas, is forthcoming next year. I'm excited about this because it's also probably the best poetry collection I've written.

I also had a print version of my formerly ebook-only YA novel Sunlight recently released.

I've got a zombie novel coming out very soon, a supernatural/comedy novel coming out...well it's been pushed back a couple times so who knows, and a novel about my days in a punk band (called The Saviors) coming out probably next year. Lots going on. I've got a handful of other novel manuscripts making the rounds. I'm currently wrapping up another one -- a very strange post-apocalyptic joint. I think

Sooooo next I think I'll either do some poetry or maybe start on a parable-type story I've been kicking around.

Thursday, November 01, 2012

Interview with Donna Lewis Cowan

Donna Lewis Cowan’s debut collection, Between Gods, is out from Cherry Grove Press. The poems weave elements of spirituality was it figures in everyday life with characterizations of mythical figures, among other things. Cowan was kind enough to answer a few questions about the collection, about her writing process, and about the life of the writer.

CB: How did you come to writing?

DLC: According to my mom, my first poem, about snow, was published in Highlights magazine when I was in first grade. But I really began seriously writing poetry after my brother, a year older, started writing it in high school. I think I just thought it was what you were supposed to do at that age. We also had to do a senior project for English class - one play, three short stories, or twenty poems - and after trying unsuccessfully to write stories, I opted to write the poems. I then didn't write poetry much until my senior year of college, when I took three poetry electives at the same time, and it really got me going again.

CB: Would you mind telling me a little about your writing process: do you write every day, do you have a specific routine, etc.?

DLC: I definitely don't write every day, though I probably jot down ideas or lines every day. I don't write poems in a linear way; many times I'm cobbling together lines from different pieces of paper, like making a collage. It takes me a long time to write a poem; I'll let lines sit for a while until the meaning becomes clearer. It's rare for me to write a poem in one sitting.

CB: One of my favorite poems in the book is “Thaw” because of its liminal feeling – you manage to capture a tight scene that is rife with pathos and meaning. What was the impetus for this poem?

DLC: I wrote a number of "cold weather” poems in the summer of 2007: "Thaw," "Snow," and "Thingvellir, Iceland" are kind of a trilogy. I was very affected by the shootings at Virginia Tech that April; that's where I went to college, and as an English major I'd taken classes with some of the professors most affected. I realized later that those poems - which just started out as my dreaming about winter during a humid D.C. summer - were trying to make sense of that event; they were all in some way about the earth shifting beneath your feet, about those seismic changes we can’t control.

"Thaw" (the full text is here) describes the feeling of ice skating, with a partner, on a lake. Skating for me is very sensory - the wind in your face, the speed, the constant need to rebalance your body, the drag of the ice on the blade and how you can feel yourself cutting into the ice. With a partner you're experiencing all those feelings, with the added complexity of trying to stay in sync, trying not to fall and take him down with you. I never realize what a poem is doing when I'm writing it, but now I can see how much it is about risk, faith, the "accidental healing" that happens all the time in relationships.

CB: Many of these poems (like “Thaw”) seem autobiographical; what are your thoughts on telling the truth as a poet?

DLC: A number of the poems are derived from direct experiences - places I've visited, relationships I have or had - and interestingly, I think those poems are more opaque than many others in the book, particularly when compared to the mythology-based and persona poems. I think when I assume a role, as in the dramatic monologue in "Penelope" or the reframing of the myth in "The Siren," I can act out aspects of myself that I wouldn't want to admit to in other formats. It's me, but not-me. It seems like many female poets write persona poems early in their careers, and I wonder if is because in finding your voice, you're still not sure if you're really allowed to say exactly what you feel. (What will your mother say?)

CB: What’s your favorite poem from the book and why?

DLC: Probably "Transplant." A few years ago I read an article in the Washington Post, about how many people who have organ transplants experience personality changes. It made me think of how technology is becoming so integrated into our lives, and the poem tries to get at the ramifications of that. As in "Thaw," it has that struggle between science and faith.

CB: What’s the significance of the title “Between Gods?”

DLC: I took a photo years ago in Croatia, that always moved me and I wasn’t sure why. It was an image of a simple white house on a tiny island – literally, the house wasn’t much bigger than the island – and I liked the balance of the blue sky above it and the Adriatic sea below it, they were in perfect symmetry. It made me think of water gods, versus the gods in the sky, and how the little house was between them - vulnerable to them but at the same time protected by them – and it seemed a good metaphor for many of the issues in the book. I thought about using that photo for the cover, but then found one I liked better.

CB: What’s your experience with Cherry Grove (and publishing a book in general) been like?

DLC: I’ve enjoyed it. I started a Facebook group for authors from my publisher, which has allowed us to find each other for readings and networking.

I also started a website,, which started out as a means of blogging about the publishing process, and evolved into every-Monday posts about finding poetry in everyday life. Whatever is happening that week, I find a poem that fits, or expands on, that experience.

CB: You make many references to gods in the book. Which god/goddess do you relate to most? (Or find the most interesting?)

DLC: I realized that the mythological characters in the book are all trapped by their circumstances -there’s Daphne, Calypso, the Sirens. So that’s something that interests me, what you do in that situation when you’re paralyzed, how do you reframe your world? Probably because I have a hard time keeping still.

CB: Who are you reading? Who are your inspirations?

DLC: Right now I’m reading Nabokov’s collected short stories – I try to read one every night, as I’m trying to figure out how to write fiction, trying to understand that different rhythm. “Lolita” is one of my favorite books, and it is interesting seeing how his fiction writing evolved.

Writers I always return to for inspiration are T.S. Eliot, Elizabeth Bishop, Margaret Atwood, H.D. Rilke, David Brendan Hopes, Mary Karr, Annie Proulx.

CB: What are you working on now?

DLC: I’m working on some war-related poems, which I think will end up being a chapbook-length group. I want to start writing fiction; I started a novel earlier this year that I scrapped after thirty pages, thinking that I need to start smaller since it’s such a different process. And I’d love to write children’s books as well.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Review of Prime Directive Press's Anthology: Make It So, a collection of poetry inspired by Star Trek: The Next Generation

Make It So, a collection of poetry inspired by Star Trek: The Next Generation, edited by Margaret Bashaar. Prime Directive Press, an imprint of Hyacinth Girl Press, 2011.

*Note: I'm not going to bother giving detailed backgrounds of each character. My apologies, but it would take up the bulk of this review.

In Bashaar's introduction, she stresses that she wanted to compile a collection of poems by serious poets, "that was not just poems with Star Trek as a topic, but rather poetry that I felt had artistic merit beyond simple fan writing. Too often, I think, it is presumed that while fan art can be beautiful and, well, art, fan writing must all be poorly written smutty slashfic." And I believe she's succeeded. The anthology opens with an untitled poem by Jessica Dyer that places certain key characters from the show within the context of the Tarot: Tasha Yar* as The Star, Data as The Hanged Man. Many of the poems act as character studies in which the authors compare themselves to one of the popular characters from the show. "The Uncanny Valley or Data Explains," is a monologue by Data, probably the most popular character represented in the anthology. "Ready Room," by J. Bradley stands out, not only as one of the shorter poems, but I happen to be a fan of Bradley. It begins: If I was as suave as Commander Riker,
I could convince you to slow dance
to anything.

It I was as suave as Commander Riker,
we would also be at the clinic
praying for curable results.

Many of the poems focus on key incidents from the series, "Holodeck Piscopo" lampoons the appearance of Joe Piscopo on the show as a representative of "comedy."  There's even a poem about the sole cat on the ship, Spot.

Even though the focus of this anthology is very specific, there is a feeling, in these poems, not of the exclusivity of a 'club' but of a group of people celebrating something they love. There are references one wouldn't get without a decent familiarity with the show, for example, "Tea. Earl Grey. Hot," by Sarah Reck, which touches on a well-known line from Captain Picard:
When ordering tea, I like to say
"Tea. Earl Grey. Hot."
to see if the barista cracks a smile
or not.

As for myself, I admit that I've probably seen every episode of Next Generation. I watched them when they aired, and probably haven't seen them since. I was a fan back then, but probably wouldn't watch the show now. Having said that, I very much enjoyed this collection. The poems are funny, smart, accessible, and well-written. Clearly, they were written by talented poets writing about something they love. The anthology, itself, was a great idea, and I recommend reading it. On a side note, I'd just like to point out how difficult it has been not making Star Trek puns while writing this. Of course, I've narrated the entire thing in Captain Picard's voice in my head.

-CL Bledsoe

Thursday, October 18, 2012

I Have Surely Lived a Life of Joy Somewhere with You

I wasn't always rich and famous. Once upon a time, I was just damned good looking. This was in the days when all the ladies would line up for blocks to throw rose petals at me as I walked by. I never had the heart to tell them I was allergic. Producers would option my naps. Time apologized for all the noise it made as it passed, and I'd politely suggest it wear only cotton. For this, the cotton farmers of America put my likeness on all their hats. I've got a closet full. I'll show you some time. For breakfast, people drank my thoughts. I became the only word that rhymed with orange. They said my eyes were the color of something they'd forgotten until just that moment. And they'd thank me, for hours, they'd thank me.

But that was before we forgot to eat in all the rush, and our stomachs devoured themselves through to our hearts. Back when we had time to drop dead. Now, we're nothing but smell. Now, there's too much work to do to ever do any work. We're so busy yelling we can't hear everyone else yelling. Now, we're all pushing each other in every which a way, none of us making the slightest progress, all of us hating our own inertia.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Review of David James Keaton's Zee Bee & Bee (a.k.a. Propeller Hats for the Dead)

Zee Bee and Bee (a.k.a Propeller Hats for the Dead) by David James Keaton. Open Casket press, 2011.

The premise of this novella is that certain Honeymooners might want a different kind of experience than going to Maui or Paris, namely (hopefully) surviving a zombie apocalypse. The narrator explains that this came about because of the owners' desire for their B and B to be last in the phone book, which led to them naming the place Zee Bee & Bee. And once they had the name, the rest followed. Two couples (called Camels--"strangers" a la Camut, which became Camels) are booked to share one cabin, complete with Plants (people who work for the B and B) hidden in various places (a closet, the basement, etc.). Unfortunately for the couples, there's only one real bed, which they have to squabble over, and before they can work that out, the zombies attack. But this particular session, something is wrong. Things aren't following the usual timeline. There's heightened tension among the ranks, leading to more and fiercer fights than usual, and there's something off about one of the guests. As the story progresses, Keaten manages to recreate this world we thought we were reading about and turn everything on its severed head.

Keaton has populated the story with dead-head zombie buffs who not only play the parts of zombies but know every bit of zombie lore one could imagine. The story is FULL of inside jokes and references to zombie movies (and a few books) actors, directors, etc. Think Kevin Smith but talking about zombies instead of dicks. It's a clever take on the "working stiff" story, also; these folks are so obsessed with zombies, it's easy to see how their jobs (and each other) become their lifelines. Much of their time is focused on their own squabbles and issues; some of them seem to take the job more seriously than others. Some seek a kind of stardom through their performance. Some seek connections (call it Zombie Love).

There are rules to consider, of course. Don't go in the basement is a good one; the basement always equals death, usually after being trapped, in zombie movies. The roof, of course, is the opposite. Never trust authority figures because they always get you killed. There are many more -- so many that Keaton actually includes a zombie movie drinking game after the story.

In certain ways, this book has the feel more of a love-letter to the genre than a scary story, though it takes many deserved shots at the genre as well. Many of the squabbles and fights that break out among the characters are triggered by one or the other's lack of respect for a certain movie or actor. But there's definately gore, especially in the last half of the story. Keaton manages to make some pretty disturbing, even iconic, images (which I won't spoil). Keaton's writing is sharp and clear and clever. His characters are totally believable -- he hasn't cut-and-pasted 'types' to move his plot forward, instead, he lets things happen as they should. There's love and loss and baked chicken, what more could you ask? Oh yeah, zombies, which ithas.

-CL Bledsoe

Thursday, October 04, 2012

Review of Matthew Revert's The Tumours Made Me Interesting

The Tumours Made Me Interesting, by Matthew Revert. Australia: Legumeman Books, 2011.

I’ve been a big fan of Revert since his scrotum-filled short story collection A Million Versions of Right came out in 2009. Labeled a “Bizarro” writer alongside such luminaries as Carlton Mellick III and D. Harlan Wilson, among others, Revert’s work is strange, grotesque, deeply symbolic, and hilarious. But I’m not doing it justice. There’s a saying that ‘one has to know the rules to break the rule,’ and Revert knows them well and breaks them beautifully.

The Tumours Made Me Interesting is at once parody but also strangely sincere. If life is a joke, Revert is laughing the loudest, and why not? The story follows Bruce Miles, a milquetoast who works for Nipple Blamers, a company that “makes its profit by abusing a legal loophole that allows the blame for certain criminal charges to be transferred to nipples” (26). When he was 12, a falcon carried away his father. His mother is slowly turning into a giant hand. And he is nothing. But Bruce achieves a kind of fame when he contracts cancer and begins to be pursued by a group of disease-fetishists who promise to take care of his mother if only he will let them do as they will with him.

There are many layers of humor in this onion of a novel, from the doctor who first examines Bruce exclaiming, “Yuck!” and “This is some sick shit!” as he performs a colonoscopy, to Bruce’s coworkers chipping in and getting him some bark as a condolence, to start off with. But isn’t there a kind of truth to these moments? Mustn’t a doctor actually think, at some point, that it is ‘some sick shit’ to stick his hand up somebody’s rectum and feel around? And wouldn’t any gifts sent by coworkers in this situation be about as useful as a bouquet of bark? Revert is getting at something in the absurdity of life, here. But he doesn’t take himself seriously enough to do more than poke fun at the whole idea of “meaning.”

And yet, Revert manages to be oddly touching at certain moments. Bruce’s relationship with his mother, for example, which is really the biggest part of his life, is touching, at times, and manages to feel real despite (or maybe because of) its absurdity. Later, as Bruce begins to understand his cancer and communicate with it, the cancer tumors become some of the more likeable characters in the book, saving him from jams at several points. Bruce’s motivations are clearly spelled out; he’s a believable and understandable character who exists in a crazy world, as are we all.

Revert comments on pop culture ruthlessly. After he’s diagnosed with cancer, Bruce goes out to a bar with a coworker whose waitresses are forced to wear tents in order to be trendy. The drinks served, also, include fermented bacon. Of course, the cancer admirers who ‘make Bruce interesting’ are really not so far removed from some of today’s reality TV fans.

But these are all just elements of the story, and it’s obvious that Revert’s true intention here is to simply tell an entertaining story, weird as it may be. He’s a talented writer who crafts pleasing lines just as easily as he crafts surreal imagery. He balances gross-out images with humor to make a very pleasing story. Revert’s debut rivals the masters of the genre, and I’m looking forward to reading more of his work.

-CL Bledsoe

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Review of Greg Brownderville's Deep Down in the Delta

Deep Down in the Delta: Folktales and Poems, by Greg Alan Brownderville with paintings by Billy Moore. Little Rock: Butler Center Books, 2011. $19.95.

I had heard of a book by the Arkansas poet Greg Brownderville – a collection of folk tales from his hometown of Pumpkin Bend and the surrounding Woodruff County (right next door to my own, native Cross County) Arkansas, published by the now defunt Doodlum Brother Press, but it eluded me like the Fouke Monster (the Arkansan version of Bigfoot popularized in the Legend of Boggy Creek movies you may have seen on MST3K). Now, the Butler Center in Little Rock has put out a beautiful revised edition including artwork from folk artist Billy Moore. Brownderville credits not only the residents who shared these stories with him but also folklorists such as the legendary Vance Randolph (author of many collections of folk tales and songs, as well as being a central character in Donald Harington’s Butterfly Weed) and Richard Mercer Dorson for inspiration.

Most of the folk tales are brief. Many are humorous. Several fit in the genre of “rural legend” (as opposed to urban legend) though a handful also come from much older traditions that could be traced back to slavery, for example the “Big John” stories, which are essentially re-imaginings of “trickster” tales like the Anansi the Spider stories with the spider morphed into Big John, a slave who battles wits against Master. Another version of these stories would be the Br’er Rabbit stories from the Uncle Remus collection by Joel Chandler Harris and others. One example of this would be “Why Old Master’s Favorite Slave Was Killed,” which is a dark story about Old Master’s greed. “I don’t want nobody to fool with my treasure. I’m on bury it right here. And you got to be the one to see nobody bothers it,” Master says to John (pg. 75). The way he accomplishes this is by murdering the slave and burying him with the money in order to ‘curse it.” This is a telling commentary on the fruits of slavery and their karmic ramifications.

Many of the rural legend stories involve hauntings or encounters with magical creatures. “A Slip of Paper” tells the story of two girls who go to a fortune teller named Miss Mamie. Mamie tells one girl her future and writes the other’s down on a piece of paper with instructions “not to open it till she got to her destination.” On the way home, they have a wreck and the one girl dies. On the slip of paper was written “No Future” (pg. 20). “Shamefaced” gives hints on how to deal with a “midnight-colored panther: all you got to do is look him dead in his green eyes. He’ll put his paw up over them like they was stolen emeralds.” (pg. 7).

There’s a kind of poetry to many of these stories, and Brownderville has included a few examples of his own poetry inspired by folk tales as well. Brownderville has done a real service, here, chronicling these stories. Not only do they make for simply interesting reading, but they give us a real insight into the culture of rural, Southeast Arkansas. These storytellers are clever and funny, creative and unwilling to let themselves be restrained into a boring, 3-dimensional world. Perhaps there’s no such thing as ghosts. Okay. But isn’t it so much more interesting to, for even a moment, entertain the possibility? These stories entertain the possibility of not only ghosts, but all sorts of other supernatural and even commonplace things that our current overly-advertised world lacks. Also, living in the information age means that we all are inundated by the same information. Brownderville has given us a glimpse into a community that has managed to hold on to some of their own stories. He’s given us hope that things like folktales can survive without being internet memes. For that, we owe him a debt of thanks.

-CL Bledsoe

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Because the Stakes Are So Low

I had to block someone on Facebook the other day, not because of political stupid-headedness, or too many pictures of kittens, but because of good, old-fashioned crazy. I won’t go into too many details, because a lot of us have been there (and it wasn’t really that interesting) but he started by attacking a story of mine (actually 3 stories that he wasn’t able to discern were, in fact, separate, even though the separate titles should’ve given that away, and the fact that they were on separate pages, and about totally separate things) and quickly progressed to cursing, namely calling me a “pussy.” Now I love pussies – a pussy gave birth to me – so that isn’t really much of an insult, but the whole thing got me thinking about what was probably my worst encounter with crazy in the form of a failed academic who accused me of being part of a communist conspiracy to keep him out of print. Compared to that, Pussy-Boy just don’t cut it.

My failed academic sent me a “review” of one of the Best New Poetry Anthologies. This was back when I was editing Ghoti Magazine (anyone remember that?). The “review” was structured pretty much like this: “Look at this poem: (quoted lines) Doesn’t that suck? Now look at this poem: (quoted lines) Doesn’t that suck too?” It wasn’t so much a review as a rant, which would be fine, but it wasn’t a very good rant. Now, I’ll be very specific: when I rejected it, I stated that I agreed completely that the anthology probably isn’t very good, because they don’t tend to be. (This is something everyone knows but few will admit.) But the review wasn’t very good either. Why would I publish a poorly written review whose thesis was that the poetry in an anthology was poorly written? Let’s try a little harder. WHY do these poems suck, asked I? I also pointed out that if he were willing to revise it, I’d be happy to run it. (To be honest, I would’ve been THRILLED to run it if it were an actual review with evidence to support his thesis…) He responded by saying I was afraid of offending the editor because he might not publish me some day (completely ignoring everything I’d said. See the beginnings of Crazy?) This is laughable because, as I told the guy, the editor of this BNP Anthology wouldn’t give a rat’s ass what I say or think about his book. He has NO IDEA WHO I AM, and he sure as hell didn’t read Ghoti, I was pretty confident. The odds of me being in one of these anthologies is right up there with me winning the lottery (which I don’t play). Perhaps I’m being jaded, but it’s how I felt. Again, I pointed out that I agreed with his thesis in the essay and clarified the changes I was asking for. He wrote back accusing me of being an academic (I teach high school, whereas he taught at a college). Furthermore, he labeled me as part of a communist conspiracy to keep him out of print, which, I have to say, was a new one. He claimed to have sent this essay to over a hundred journals and all had rejected it. Well, says I, that should tell you something about the quality of the writing, eh?

The totality of our correspondence consisted of three emails and responses. After he jumped the shark with the whole communist thing, I backed out, because I began to suspect that he might possibly be batshit insane. Later, I discovered a new “essay” on his website (one that was very well known-to and hated-by editors of other journals, I found out) that credited me with actually taking him somewhat seriously and communicating with him from within the web of my communist academic regime. He also wrote a poem decrying me along the same lines. I was actually pretty darned flattered. It was the second poem someone had written to trash me – the first being from another person whose work I’d rejected repeatedly (one of those guys who sent work in every week until I finally told him not to send anything else until he’d read a bunch of contemporary poetry and written a bunch more). He referenced e.e. cummings for some reason I’ve yet to fathom. That’s all I really remember about it.

I’d been trashed before, of course. One of the first reviews I got for my first collection trashed it (because of the reviewer’s bias, cries little old me!). (When I say “trashed” I mean “shit all over.” Plenty of really strong reviews of my work have pointed out some flaw or shortcoming or whatever. That’s totally fair. It actually shows a well-rounded review. I’m not talking about those. I’m talking about the “This sucks because I don’t like it!” guys who have no idea what a review even is, much less how to write one.) I’ve had hecklers at poetry readings, or just really bad audiences. Someone once trashed a review I wrote of another book by claiming I was part of a feminist conspiracy, neglecting, of course, the fact that I’m male. (What is it with these conspiracies? Am I the only person not actively involved in some secret movement to achieve some sort of nefarious agenda? I’m feeling a little left out, here.)

I’m sure the guy on Facebook thinks it’s unfair that I’ve gotten the success I’ve had (such that it is) while he’s toiling in only slightly less obscurity. Maybe the work I posted was from a journal that had rejected him. Something like that is, I’m sure, why he sought me out to shit on my work. I’ve encountered people like that since my earliest college workshops, who tried to claim that I somehow cheated my way to talent. I remember in my first college workshop, a guy came in saying he’d Dogpiled (remember that, in the days before Google?) a line of mine because he didn’t believe I could’ve written it because it was too good. His own work was full of clichés (for some reason, I remember his best poem as being about his dog and ending with the phrase “…don’t darken our doorway”). But I didn’t cry about it. I just quietly wrote poems whose achievement he’d never be able to approach. Sorry if that sounds cocky, but it’s the simple truth. I’ve worked my ass off for over a decade to achieve the level of slightly better obscurity I’ve managed. I didn’t take potshots at other writers; I got busy and wrote and researched and sent work out and built up momentum and took advantage of every opportunity I could scrape up. If I wanted to “take on” a writer, I found out what journals published him or her, and I worked until I was published by the same journals. It might take years, and I might not ever get in, but I tried. I still do. That’s how you pay your dues, as a writer; not by whining about the big, evil world that doesn’t understand your genius, but by writing. Because the reality is no one gives a shit. I’ve got a solid decade-plus of publishing under my belt, and still no one has heard of me. Oh well. Actually, I take that back. Pussy-Boy has heard of me. And the crazy academic. And the e.e. cummings guy. That’s three, and it’s only taken me a decade. Hell, I’m moving up.

-CL Bledsoe

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Review of Dave K.'s Stone a Pig

Stone a Pig, stories by Dave K. Baltimore: Banners of Death Press, 2012.

The danger with themed story collections, especially ones with an unusual theme or approach, is that the strangeness might be a gimmick that hides a lack of talent, readability, what-have-you. This is not the case with Dave K.’s collection. These stories have a steampunk/neo-Victorian feel, but what truly stands out is how well-written they are. Dave K.’s prose is a pleasure to read. I was thrilled to settle down with this book by a natural storyteller who simply knows how to write. I savored each story like dessert. Dave K.’s characters are well-drawn, his settings are compelling and vivid; I could continue to praise all the things he does well, but the bottom line is that Dave K. knows what he’s doing. I wish, when I edited a literary journal, he’d sent me any of these stories. I’d have snatched them up right away.

The collection opens with “How To Adopt a Cat,” which introduces the reader to the world of the book. The neo-Victorian elements abound; the main character has recently been released from a sanitarium into a gray, polluted world. He’s afraid of the faceless crowd; he’s afraid of the comfortless world, but he finds comfort in the titular cat. In each story, K. fleshes out the world subtly, revealing a wasted, industrialized city in which the rich live in high-rise buildings far above the smog which envelopes the poor below. “To the Moon” fleshes out the steampunk elements by focusing on some of the technological aspects of this society. As the stories progress, K. gives us mutated, barren people trying to survive in a harsh – both physically and psychically – environment. In general, K. focuses on the poor, the laborers, and it’s apparent that these are the characters with which his loyalties lie. Even though the world of the stories is somewhat strange, it’s very, very familiar in that K. seems to be commenting on certain current problems, namely class disparity, pollution, and questions of business ethics. Honestly, at times I found myself wondering if K. was revising the past or predicting the future.

The title story follows “Officer Pickett,” a beat cop. Pickett is a moral character surrounded by cops who steal from citizens and citizens at odds with a world-shift. His beat includes an old university, whose students have long since left and been replaced with factory workers of various ethnicities. The most reviled seem to be the Chinese who work in a ‘ro-bot’ factory because they represent the greatest disparity between the less and less educated other citizens. This is a community that once thrived and has fallen into decline, in terms of opportunity but also in terms of morality. Though this story could easily become some sort of noir redundancy, K. never even dangles his toes into the waters of cliché.

What makes K.’s stories so readable, aside from his outstanding writing, is his attention to his characters. He cares about them; this shines through. There’s a vulnerability to them that makes them instantly accessible. K. is invested in these characters, and it shows. I’ve heard K. read a couple times at open mics, so I knew that he could write, but I was honestly blown away by how good his writing is. I can’t wait to read more.

  Here's an interview with K. regarding the book, which he self-published as part of his MFA program.  

-CL Bledsoe

Thursday, September 06, 2012

Interview with Artist Endia Bumgarner

Endia Bumgarner is an Arkansan artist currently living in Little Rock but originally from my home town. I grew up friends with two of her brothers but lost touch until a couple years ago, when her work started drawing attention at exhibitions in Little Rock.  

Me: How long have you been painting?        

Endia: I have been painting and working on art as a mode of visual communication since my high school freshman year….so about 14 years.

Me: What inspired you to start?

Endia: The pleasure that I get from the process of creating art and the sensation of being whole that I get when I am working.

Me: Tell me a little about the process…..How do you get started with a work of art?

Endia: I think about ‘a work of art’ in terms of an exhibition-a thematically connected body of work. An idea will slowly start to grow in my head. I will contemplate what the body of work can say as a whole as well as individually, and then begin working on individual pieces. I begin by stretching and preparing my paint surface. Then I draw my image. Next I will mix up batches of paint and finally I start to paint.

Me: How do you know if it is finished?

Endia: I never have a sense of completion with any work I do. I arrive at a point where the overall visual aesthetic of the piece doesn’t demand that something needs to be done. I also get second opinions from my art colleague’s, friends, and family.

Me: Do you ever come back to a seemingly completed piece and change it?

Endia: Sure. Pushing the limits is one way you grow. I have had great success with pieces that I kept working on and arrived at beautiful results. I have also had epic fails and wished I had stopped….days ago. Lol. As a general rule, I walk away if it is working. I can always start another canvas and revisit the same idea in a different way if I feel drawn to particular idea or image.

Me: What draws you to art?

Endia: Color, shape, texture, conceptual implications, technical application, tenacity, creativity, cultural history that it records

Me: What do you get from it?

Endia: I never feel more alive than when I am immersed in art. My soul vibrates, my blood rushes, my mind races, my breathing is easy, and my understanding of the world around me is obtainable. I feel like a puzzle that is all put together when I am around art. Without art, I feel like somebody stole the corner pieces to the puzzle that is me…..and lost a few of the inside pieces. I am me with art.

Endia: What is your favorite piece you’ve done?

Me: As I said earlier, I don’t consider ‘pieces’….. I consider exhibitions. I am a beginning artist and have only created two thematically connected exhibitions at this point in my art career. One exhibition was “I wanna be a big dog, too…..” hosted in my home town of Wynne, Arkansas. It was a collection of 14 large scale colorful dog paintings and 1 large scale colorful kitten. My second exhibition is “Celebrating Color” my master thesis exhibition due to be shown at UALR in Little Rock, Arkansas within the year. It is a collection of large scale colorful expressive faces. My favorite would be the dog show.

Me: Why is it your favorite?

Endia: I learned a lot from this exhibition. It was my first attempt at large scale painting. It was the first time that I focused and controlled my skills in an attempt to have an extended visual conversation with my audience. I was pleased with the paintings and the exhibition. I was able to observe areas that I needed to work on and prepare myself for my next show. I love opportunities that educate me on how to improve my performance.

Me: Why dogs?

Endia: First, I love dogs. When you love your subject, it translates into your work.

Second, it made me laugh. I was practicing for my graduate show and found several layers of humor tied to my subjective choice. In our culture we refer to some people as ‘big dogs’ which is a way of stating that they are an important figure. As a graduate student, I desired to create a body of work that set me in the ranks of professional artists (a.k.a big dogs). Then there is the fact that my paintings are indeed ‘big’ and of ‘dogs’. Then there was the fact that as a master candidate, I was seriously proposing that colorful dog and cat paintings were the basis for a fine art showing. My studies actually gave validity to the subjective choice. In the course of art history, dogs have often been included in paintings as objects of loyalty, strength, and masculinity. Cats, on the other hand, have occasionally been used to illustrate feminity, weakness, and promiscuous inclinations. I simply couldn’t resist playing with the gender implications of my subject in this painted exhibition of 14 dogs and 1 kitten. The the little pussycat will never be a big dog……it’s going to be a cat when it grows up. I like to think that the lesson of having realistic expectations in somewhere in this exhibit as well as the lesson of never quit dreaming. Not sure that it translated in the exhibition for the viewer, but it was in my thoughts at the time of creation.

Lastly, dogs serve as a defense. I have often used art as a defensive element in my life and found myself defending my paintings in graduate school. Big guard dogs seemed like a logical subject choice at the time with all things considered.

Me: Do you find teaching inspires your work or hurts it……?

Endia: I intentionally separate the two. As an artist, I prefer to be as free from outside influence as possible….including patrons, studies, teachings, etc. I find the more input I have, the more overwhelmed I become. I am aware of the power of influence that you have as an instructor and try to only influence technical skills.

Me: Do you consider yourself an “Arkansas Artist” or a Southern Artist” or….?

Endia: I consider myself an artist. However, I inevitably carry various labels such as white, female, southern, Arkansas, American, middle age, colorist, two-dimensional, modern, non-traditional, introvert, Libra, etc. I wish labels didn’t apply, but they do. A little bit of everything you are can be gleaned from your work. Labels are descriptive adjectives of who we are.

Me: Whose work do you admire?

Endia: So many…..

Wayne Thiebaud for his color and singular subject studies

Claes Oldenburg for his humor and scale

Alexander Calder for his humor, tenacity, and proficiency

John Singer Sargent for his amazing brushstroke

Modern Contemporary: Sandi Sells-conceptual ideas and skills, Catherine Rodgers-color use, Jim Johnson- proficiency of nice work, Greg Lahti- a brushstroke that dances, my students- too many to name but all of them dedicated to the perpetuation of art, kids artwork-no creative boundaries or rules to follow, zoo animals that paint- if critters can be taught to make art so can you

Me: Where can I find your work?

Endia: I have a web page and also a Facebook fan page where I keep updates of any upcoming events. I will be showing at the Arkansas Arts Center’s annual Museum school sale in November and the Arkansas State Fair in October.

Me: What are you working on now?

Endia: Contributing to the course of art history……..