Thursday, April 25, 2013

Some of My Favorite Lines from Michael Gushue's poetry chapbook Pachinko Mouth

I wake at night knowing my life is turtles all the way down. A knock-knock joke, a poem, and your bankruptcy walk into a bar. I hum Neil Young songs to myself all night Saturday and wish, just wish, some drunk alderman would try and tip me over. Outside of you is nothing but objects. We moved to the beach to get away from everything that wasn't the beach. By then our father was a hollow reed. If you held him up to your ear, there was the sea's weak plea for help. What is incomprehensible about the world is that we comprehend it. If you're in a cornfield, something bad is going to happen to you. Prosperity favors the prudent and tidy farmer but make sure you use sunblock. Language is a blunt instrument.

-All text by Michael Gushue from Pachinko Mouth

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Columns, Reviews, Writing, etc.

I've been writing a column for Monkey Bicycle on life after an MFA, basically tips on the writing life outside of academia. According to the editor, it gets about as many hits as their fiction does, which is pretty awesome. I started a new project with it in which I'm trying to get published in journals in all 50 states. I came into it with publications already in over half the states. The challenge I've set is that it isn't enough to just be published in a state; I'd like to be published WELL. That means in a solid journal that I respect. Prestigious journals would be nice, too. So, for example, when it comes to Massachusetts, I can list nearly a dozen journals I've been in, but none of them is Ploughshares, so I've held off adding it to the list. But I may well change this because I have several journals under my belt that I respect more than some of the prestigious journals. (Read the forthcoming entry to get more explanation of this.) I've also focused primarily on print journals, though I've thrown in some online ones as well.

The column is going well. It ties in nicely with my literary journal review column, also in Monkey Bicycle, since I still need a few states, which means I need to research some journals, etc.

It's been really interesting researching literary journals in various states, seeing what each have to offer. What I'm finding is that there are fewer journals with actual ties to regions than I had thought. There are many, many online journals that rarely really connect with particular state (often because they have editors in multiple states). But, to be honest, I'm not targeting very many online journals because I see many of them as being simply white noise. This isn't true of all by any means, but let's be honest, there are hundreds of online journals out there, and it wouldn't be that hard to connect them to states and place something with them. What makes this challenging is selectivity.

I also have a fiction review column in Prick of the Spindle called The Lit Report which gives me an excuse to read some recent and forthcoming fiction, which is something I often neglect in favor of poetry. Of course, I also have a poetry review column in Coal Hill Review, the online wing of Autumn House Press. So I'm reading a lot of what's being published these days.

Busy busy busy.

Thursday, April 04, 2013

Thoughts on Michael Gushue's poetry collection Conrad.

Conrad, poems by Michael Gushue. Washington, DC: Souvenir Spoon Books, 2010. $10.

I'm a big fan of Michael Gushue's work. His poetry taps into the zeitgeist of educated, middle-class America struggling to live a moral life without starving to death or ending up on the business end of a castle-storming. Stylistically, I'd call him a kind of a post-New York School, mostly confessional poet with the odd narrative. And he's damned funny. Gushue's poetry is for an intelligent, savvy audience without being smug or condescending. Did I mention that he's just a damned good poet?

Conrad is a themed collection, a character study of a man living a cubicle life, a man breaking beneath the pillowed spokes of the world. In this series of mostly brief snapshots, Gushue modernizes the Kafka mystique. The collection begins with “At Work”

Conrad sits at his desk, fluoresced
by routine, the arthritis
of organization. His annual
evaluation is a pineapple bomb,

Let’s talk about language. Gushue’s collection is full of clever turns of phrase, brilliant descriptions of Conrad’s pathos. In “At Home,” he describes Conrad’s consumerism as “…the small beer/of American idolatry.” In “His Adventure,” Gushue tells us:

Conrad arrives at the Center of the Earth.
Sorry, no room.

I don’t want to give away all of Gushue’s punchlines, but there are many. What makes Gushue so enjoyable is that he isn’t simply poking fun at Conrad, the un-self-realized Loser, but rather he presents Conrad as an Everyman. We’re all idiots sometimes, let’s be honest. We all wish we were a little more self-aware, or rather, we’re all so fucking self-aware that it makes us sick, and yet we rarely live up to that awareness.

I’ve been a big fan of Gushue for a few years, now. He’s got a new collection coming out any day now, and I can’t wait to get a hold of it. I have no idea why he isn't the most famous poet in the world. Maybe he's just too good.

-CL Bledsoe