Friday, June 6, 2014

107. Reading } Brookline Booksmith

A former student of mine told me she works with nerves insensate. She took my hands and said, “You know about the mineralized heart, don’t you?” I nodded. “You’d think,” she said, “it would be ruby or garnet. Maybe a red diamond?” She looked past me, straightened up, released my hands and said, “Professor. So good to see you. I didn’t mean to take up so much of your time.” I said, “No, really—” but she was gone before I could say anything to reassure her.

I didn’t chase after, but watched her go—hoped maybe she’d come back. She knew something about [X], whose organs were found partially crystallized after she was killed in a motorcycle accident, and maybe something about the Crystal Geyser? The more I thought about it—how could she? That was another campus, another state.

Perhaps a practical joke? Could she be one of the handful who reads Little Stories? If she is, I include her in this open invite: A week from today, that is Friday, June 13th, at 7pm, I read with poets Matthew Klane and Alexandria Peary at Brookline Booksmith.

Not such a while ago, Matthew directed me to Delete Press, where his book from of the day was published as the first in their Delete-E series. from of the day is more lighthearted, I think, than his previous books Che and B. He writes, “Consult / yr skeleton’s / raucous hollows.” Though my sense of what’s lighthearted may be sickened from years of laughter. Alexandria Peary is not a poet I’m very familiar with, but I’m reading her book Control Alt Bird Delete and finding much to like. The first stanza of “Lilacs as Chart”:

The purple & white bars
rising and falling
are on mute
around the cellar hole

There’s a lot of this mixture, bar codes and nature.

Bash is hosted by Janaka Stucky. He hosted the reading for Elisa Gabbert’s The Self Unstable that I took my eldest to see / hear. When he read his poetry, my eldest asked, “what does ‘Thus I perish in amazement’ mean?” To which I replied, “I have no idea.” After perusing Janaka’s Wikipedia page, what amazes me most is we’re the same age yet I’ve accomplished so little.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

106. Re } Introductions (pt. 1)

For our introductions to the first issue of New Genre, I and co-founder Jeff Paris decided we wouldn’t write about the issue itself. Our readers would be astute enough to suss out New Genre’s aesthetic without being told, we believed, and our readers wouldn't be satisfied with the default “behind-the-scenes” editorial. Instead, we tried to articulate our ideas about the genre New Genre publishes. Reading the essays now, I hear a significant difference in our approach, even though our essays shared like goals.

My essay is reactive and defensive. I try, for instance, to answer the question, Why read horror? or, rather, What kind of person reads horror? My answer is reasonable,

Why read horror fiction when there is so much real horror in this world? The question answers itself: it is practical to read about what exists  around—and in—us. To know your world is to better prepare yourself to live in it. To understand your fear increases  your ability to deal with it. Why not then read horror fiction—which addresses real concerns—even if only in metaphor?
but it’s not my answer.

Jeff’s essay makes a similar argument, that it is practical to read science fiction, but his answer is personal.

…I couldn’t turn off my imagination or my craving for the amazement and wonder fantasy depicted. I focused these urges on a world devoid of the supernatural and found what always surrounds us—an abundance of mysteries and strangeness and… a surplus of beauty. Far from putting wonder aside as a convention of childhood, it graduated to something stronger and healthier. It has never left me. And science fiction is its champion.
 Science fiction presented wonder I could believe in. Everything here was possible, if only wildly so. The maps these authors lay before me were of the future and the cosmos, both places I could someday actually explore.

Though our arguments often overlapped—no doubt a by-product of the ever-ongoing conversation Jeff and I had about what New Genre would be—he explains his love for science fiction. I do not write about my love for horror fiction, or if I even do love horror fiction. Yet, what better defense? Not simply, I love it, but I love it and this is why. Reading his essay, It's apparent that Jeff was a person nurtured by what he read.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

105. “That you may see } the meaning of within.”

Today, listened to Abbey Road, the 1987 and the 2009 digital re-masters, and to the second disk of Anthology 3. Considered “Oh! Darling” and “I Want You (She’s so heavy)” as a pair. Both lyrically simple, both desperate. A man begs his “darling” not to walk out, though all he can offer is neediness—without her, he’ll “never make it alone”—and the ominous promise he’ll “never do you no harm.” That double negative sub-conscious honesty. “I Want You (She’s so heavy)” a demand that gradually becomes a plea. And she? Not hard to imagine it’s Yoko, with whom Lennon was in the midst of an affair (he announced her divorce at the end of the Anthology 3 “Oh! Darling”), but maybe “she” is heroin. Maybe Yoko and heroin?

Almost all the narrative of both songs is conveyed by the way they are performed.

McCartney and Lennon sing “Oh! Darling” together on Anthology 3. For Abbey Road, McCartney worked his voice till it got a little grimy, which he used to good affect, especially toward the end of the recording. Supposedly, Lennon wished he’d sang the vocal—“‘Oh! Darling’ was a great one of Paul’s that he didn’t sing too well. I always thought I could have done it better….” I take all such claims with a grain of salt. Maybe Lennon felt that way when they recorded Abbey Road, maybe not—Lennon was one to temper compliments, especially compliments of McCartney’s work.

Lennon’s vocal for “I Want You (She’s so heavy)” gives a sense of how he might have approached a vocal for “Oh! Darling.” To take it a step further, perhaps “I Want You (She’s so heavy)” is how Lennon might have approached “Oh! Darling” in general; that is to say, “I Want You (She’s so heavy)” is Lennon’s “Oh! Darling.” Blunt, with none of the musical homage to 50s rock. None of the fun that tricks us away from the dark character of “Oh! Darling”—a game McCartney also played with “Maxwell’s Silver Hammer.”

“I Want You (She’s so heavy)” is the come-down to “Tomorrow Never Knows.”

Friday, April 11, 2014

104. Horror wore a shirt } of violent green.

From the Frequency spring course & event listings:

Without plagiarism in our hearts, we read seeking ideas for our own fictions. A flawed story? Oh joy! Certainly writers of horror stories are ever-reading through the gothic corpus (corpse?) looking for great ideas in flawed fictions. We give Karl Edward Wagner’s short story “Sticks” (an oft-reprinted favorite) a close read and see what we can see that Wagner didn’t. Most likely, you’ll walk away with an idea for your own horror classic.

Required preparation: read Karl Edward Wagner’s “Sticks” (this story can be found in several anthologies, including Tales of the Cthulu Mythos: Golden Anniversary, edited by James Turner; The Dark Descent, edited by David Hartwell; and A Century of Horror (1970 – 1979), edited by David Drake. All three anthologies are easy to pick up online, and all three are available in Providence-area libraries). Please bring a copy of “Sticks” to our meeting.

Also: watch Book of Shadows: The Blair Witch Project 2.

# # #

I teach the course Sunday, April 13, from 10:30am – 2:30pm at 186 Carpenter Street, in Providence. Price for the class is on a sliding scale, from $25 – 60. You can either pre-register or pay at the door. Find out why I think Wagner’s story is flawed and why I’d ask anyone to watch the sequel to The Blair Witch Project.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

103. Knott }

I'll refrain from any Bill Knott anecdotes, an obvious way to respond to his death. Instead, I'll direct you to John Cotter's review of Knott's Collected Poems 1960 - 2013, finally published by the Poetry Foundation a little more than a month ago. Knott was part of the same scene as Paul Hannigan, as much as either were part of a scene: Boston, Emerson College, Ploughshares, etc. A scene I knew, but a decade (and more) after Hannigan was (mostly) out of it, and Knott was an associate professor. He was my advisor when I was an undergraduate. Later, we were neighbors in Somerville. Mostly I knew him through stories. Open Letters Monthly published an obit if you're looking for more.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

102. Proteus reads } savagely gnashed teeth.

Tomorrow, I’ll travel with my eldest to Hartford, where I am a featured reader at WordForge, alongside Dominic Failla. I don’t know him, but his verse seems addressed to me: “Dear Adam / how did you become / a bird of prey / devouring the delicious / edges of joy?” I don’t know, how did Compsognathus become a chicken? I’ll read from Another Nemesis, a poem-in-progress. “What is not / the utterance / ‘am’?” it begins. Huh.

The reading is part of a series hosted by The Studio at Billings Forge. The reading begins at 7pm. I hear that instead of box wine and crackers, it’s Dalmore 62 Hiland Malt Scotch in Tiffany crystal tumblers. Alas, no crackers. Still, get there early, right?  

The next day I’ll suggest to my students that there is nothing strange about book four of The Georgics. Some bad bee science, for sure—but there’s nothing strange about bad science. The last pages are dedicated to selfish Aristaeus and his quest to get his bee hives back in order, a retelling not out of the blue, but set up by the many myths alluded to and retold throughout the poem. Furthermore, it’s the final book of the poem, a position that gives it special weight and license.

The most unusual moment in The Georgics is Virgil’s portrait of a farmer and his wife, working side-by-side in the house during a cold snap. He sharpens the blades of his tools, while she “with shrill shuttle zips across the warp” and sings. Is there another moment like it in the poem?

[Image: “Italian stone pin”" from “The Plants of Virgil's Georgics” by Rachael Wilson.]

Thursday, February 13, 2014

101. More video lies } from the Unfinished House.

The following is an excerpt from the column Video Lies, a regular feature in the 1990s ‘zine Kraken Farmer, edited by Lucy Kurtz, available at Tower Records and Flyrabbit.

Witchboard II: The Devil’s Doorway. Dir. Kevin Tenney. Perf. Ami Dolenz, Christopher Michael Moore, Laraine Newman. Republic Pictures, 1993. Videocassette.


Knock knock.
Who’s there?
Witch who?
Why are you so interested?

Paige Benedict finds a loft in an old factory. “It’s beautiful,” she says. Jonas, the building manager leers and says, “Yes it is.” Paige asks, “Is this the only closet?” Jonas says, “I’m afraid so.” Inside the closet Susan Sidney is light as a feather, stiff as a board. “I’ll take it,” says Paige.

Paige, so blasé. She thinks, no more!, “I wanted to go to art school, and become a painter, but my father wanted me to study business. He said a career in art was too risky. So we compromised. I went to college and studied business,” no more!, “Then I met Mitch and fell into the same doormat relationship I had with my father.”

The board reads itself to Paige and she repeats what she read and thus invokes Susan’s ghost.

Meanwhile, Jonas stokes the furnace. The smell of cut lumber. Susan Sidney’s magic sets a nickel saw blade to flight—it spins through light bulbs and alights upon Jonas’ cheek. When the furnace speaks for Susan, Jonas burns.

The photographer, Russell, doesn’t “come on” to her. Though he wants her sexually, he needs Paige to initiate intercourse. She never will, but she will feed on his desire for her and on the kindness he offers as bait. He takes her picture, says, “Now be sexy.” She says, “This is as sexy as I get.” Russell doesn’t believe her. He circles her. He suggests she “lick her lips.” She does so, but grotesquely. “I said lick them, not swallow them.” She says, “I’m sorry, I just feel silly.” He releases the knot of her hair. He unbuttons the top button of her blouse. She drapes herself across the table.

Possession is the best thing for her. Alas, Paige defeats the witch Sudan Sidney, sends her screaming into the city. Russell is dead. She gives up her artistic pretensions—“I’m definitely going to go to art school this time and nothing is going to stop me”—really. She returns to Mitch and finances. A garbage truck comes to clean up “yes.”