Sunday, December 2, 2012

74. Fate overrules all } Oedipus Burgess.

When sent Anthony Burgess’ translation of Oedipus the King to consider for the “Burgess Issue” of Open Letters Monthly, I envisioned a short piece made up of unedited notes—whatever I wrote in the margins as I read the play.

For instance, alongside the text on page fifteen I wrote a description of a dream. Taiwanese twin sisters, very petite, left in my mailbox a copy of the version of Oedipus they directed for a guerilla filmmaking collective, along with an essay, its thesis being “you do it to yourself.” This was an invite to attend a 3am festival where the film would be shown. I go. The twins carry bags filled with confections for the audience. I dreamt this shortly after I read Alexander Neville’s 1563 translation of Seneca’s Oedipus Rex. I thought maybe I’d start my piece for Open Letters Monthly with that, maybe slightly expanded or psychoanalyzed.

And I thought I’d end the piece with the following coda: Why translate the word Tyrannus? Tyrannus = king. Everybody who reads Sophocles either knows this or their professor is about to tell them. Oedipus Tyrannus sounds right. “The King?” Oedipus thuh is a dull rhyme and Oedipus thee is all wrong. Rex is okay. Oedipus Rex has a quick, slangy ring to it. Okay Romans, not bad.

Neither note fit. What happened is a couple of the notes—on fate and on knowledge—blossomed into the little essay I finally did submit. Read it here.

Before I began work on Burgess’ Oedipus, I imagined an essay about the music Bono and The Edge wrote for a stage production of A Clockwork Orange. A cut from that soundtrack, “ALEX descends into HELL for a BOTTLE of MILK KOROVA 1,” appeared in 1991 as a b-side to “The Fly”—but that’s all. The Edge said, in an interview for U2’s fan magazine Propaganda, “There are no plans to release the soundtrack and I like the idea that this music only exists in the theatre context—that's what we wrote it for and I don't think it would make a great record without major reworking.” If anyone knows of a bootleg, I want to hear it.

In the same interview, The Edge talked about Burgess’ reaction to the soundtrack, “Anthony Burgess didn't seem to like the score that we wrote for Clockwork Orange, nor did he like the production itself. I don't know—he's very old, it would have worried me more if he had liked it. He's written 17 symphonies, you know—no one has heard them but he says they are brilliant.”

Monday, November 5, 2012

73. Her heart turned ruby } a reading.

[ X ], a former student of mine, was supposedly killed in a motorcycle accident. As always happens when an unremarkable young person dies, the lost potential of her life was lamented. “[ X ] had such a bright future ahead of her.” Who knows? I recall the last time I saw her. She came to my office, ostensibly to discuss an upcoming exam. She didn’t seem to care about the exam. Something else worried her—so she said. What, I don’t know. She sat in my office and stared into space. Even when she spoke, she stared. Finally, she said, “Something’s coagulating.” I said, “Do you mean, ‘coming together’?” She said, “Thanks professor,” and left. She was absent the next class and all the following week. The registrar informed me she was dead the week after finals, but everyone knew by then about the accident.

At the beginning of the next semester, I overheard two students at the college bookstore talking about [ X ]. One said, “…what was weird was some of her organs were found partially crystallized.”

How can that be true? It can’t be true. Nonetheless, I find the image of an organ from her body, her heart, say—turned crystal and lit from inside—often recurs.

A current student invited me to read with her creative writing class. She said she thought I was a poet because of the way I talk about poetry and lo, I am. Wednesday night I’ll read poems from The Rescue in the Central Connecticut State University Student Center. The reading begins at 7:30pm and will be over before you know it.

Friday, November 2, 2012

72. Specifically } the dance Nina makes.

Nina Joly’s dance “Gobbledigook” was one of nine dances selected for inclusion in the Check Us Out Dance Festival. The festival was “a celebration of female choreographers” and was staged on Summit Rock in Central Park this past July. For Nina, the invitation meant reuniting (most of) the group who debuted “Gobbledigook” at Mt. Holyoke College, making adjustments to the choreography to suit the park space, and arranging rehearsals, first at Mt. Holyoke and then—the night before the performance—in a borrowed space at Columbia University. I went to that rehearsal and to the show the following day.

I went because I love Nina’s work. I wrote about her dance “Twins” here—you can see I struggled. Writing about dance without cliché or clinical abstraction isn’t easy for me. That’s the plan, though. To write about dance. Specifically the dance Nina makes. That’s why I booked myself a room in the haunted Larchmont Hotel, drove up to NYC, sat on the charcoal-filthy floor of an art studio and took notes while the eight dancers worked for hours on Nina’s choreography, watched the festival, and finally joined the temporary troupe for a post-performance dinner.

Nothing’s written, at least nothing more than twenty-plus pages of notes and an interview with Nina (conducted at the Book Barn in Niantic). There’s lots of reasons, but the best reason is that I’ve yet to figure out what I’m writing.

My faith in the talent of a small circle of my friends is intense. Nina’s in that circle. I believe that to be here in her history is to be in at the beginning of an important body of work.

If a way for the work to be done can be found. I fight for time to write, beg and hour here and there from my responsibilities, from sleep, from pleasure—but for all these challenges, I have a big advantage over Nina: all I need is a pen and a pad and I can create a finished work. Nina needs a space, others willing to commit to her vision and trust in her direction, and she needs music and blocks of time and some kind of theater to present the result. I suppose if her dances are performed to no one there can still be the satisfaction of the dance itself, but I crave readers and so must she an audience.

For now, the Central Park performance of “Gobbledigook,” the private show of that dance’s rehearsal, the little conversations I had with each dancer, and the conversations I’ve had with Nina about that performance and dance in general continue to percolate. This, I suppose, is a foray into organizing my thoughts.

The photo above is of the Central Park performance. The haze around the dancers is the dust that they kicked up during their barefoot performance (before the show, Nina and her troupe spent an hour picking up stones). Nina is off to the left, in the brown vest. Beside her is Lyz Hazelton, who danced “Twins” with her. Here are three videos, including one of the Mt Holyoke performance of “Gobbledigook.”

Thursday, November 1, 2012

71. Scariest Books Ever } & connections.

Last night Marianne S. wrote to tell me she saw Worse Than Myself named as one of "The Scariest Books Ever," according to Abigail Ohlheiser for Slate. The list includes Lafcadio Hearn's Kwaidan, Mark Danielewski's House of Leaves, and Cormac McCarthy's The Road. My thanks to Ohlheiser, to Slate, and to Marianne.

Marianne is the first person I called co-editor. I'd had co-conspirators (Jeremy Withers was making covers for me as far back as 8th grade), but Marianne and I read a slush pile together, made selections, made changes, and published (via Sir Speedy) a couple spiral-bound issues of our high school's literary journal. I recall, with pleasure, working with her in an otherwise empty classroom as the afternoon waned to evening.

A review of Color Plates, written by Jeff Charis-Carlson, was published in the Iowa City Press-Citizen shortly after John Cotter and I read at Prairie Lights. The review now resides on his blog. I like a couple lines especially: "There are recurring characters and themes running through the 63 fictional snippets, but Golaski doesn't slow down for readers who might be slow to catch all those connections by themselves" and, "He's more focused on describing the memories and fantasies that the paintings inspire." Accurate, both. Indeed, embedded in one of the Plates is a memory of Marianne and me, editing together after school.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

70. Crystalline blood and } "Terrible Things."

My contributor’s copy of Shadows & Tall Trees #4 arrived a day before the hurricane. Tucked at the binding was a page torn from a copy of The Crystal Geyser. I assumed editor Michael Kelly was playing a joke, that he’d found another copy of the book I mentioned here in June and thought it might spook me to see a page from it turn up in my mail.

Finding the page did spook me, especially when I read it over—I’d read the weird little book through but I didn’t remember this: “…is presumably flint crystalline blood, brilliantly clear, but red-hued, found during the Regime of the Flood, caught in its scrub of ugly useless trees and in the animals sheltered by those trees…”—or any of what followed. And I discovered that the page Michael sent me was missing from my copy.

I emailed Michael—who lives in Canada, who has never visited my home—and asked how he did it, and he wrote back to tell me he had no idea what I was on about. He added, “and according to the almighty Internet, there is no book called The Crystal Geyser. There’s a bottled water called Crystal Geyser. There’s an actual geyser called Crystal in Utah—but no book. I’m sure, since you have a copy, that there is a book called The Crystal Geyser, but I don’t own a copy. You got me curious,” he continued, “so I emailed the other contributors and they didn’t get any mysterious pages with their copies, and none of the books I pulled from the boxes sitting here in my living room have extra pages. Maybe you’re playing a joke on me?”

Of Shadows &Tall Trees, I haven’t read all the issue yet—I just finished “Senbazuru” by V.H. Leslie. The most exciting story in the issue so far is “Terrible Things” by David Surface. If it doesn’t end up reprinted in a best-of anthology, or on the final ballot of one of horror’s little literary awards, it’s time to reconsider the worth of those institutions. Excellent “Senbazuru” is an echo of horrors, of hydrogen bombs and internment camps and of Gilman’s “The Yellow Wallpaper”—a story that goes round and round in my head as a favorite.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

69. word for/word } in space.

You must take a look at the current issue of word for/word. Once again, Editor Jonathan Minton and Web Designer Corey Lafferty find harmony between the needs of a literary journal and the limitations / freedoms of the Web. word for/word is the most readable online poetry journal I’ve ever seen, concerned with the way a reader experiences a poem on the webpage. For instance, poems on word for/word don’t slip beneath the “fold”—in the current issue, what can’t be read without scrolling down is in gray; tap an arrow key and the poem is turned, as if it were written on the outer edge of a wheel, illuminating the next part of the poem. In past issues, the reader slides through the poem, a little like turning a page but more like sliding tiles from right to left, revealing new text beneath.

For the sake of comparison, look at an issue of Octopus Magazine or Coconut, two well-regarded journals I find disappointing in terms of design. (That said, while visiting Coconut, take a moment to read Snezana Zabic’s “Translation Manual”—she’s a favorite poet of mine. Design aside, Coconut has published many terrific poets. And what the heck, while at Octopus read Ana Božičević’s translation of Zvonko Karanović’s “Dark Highway.”)

That the new word for/word is written on what looks like a transparent globe floating in space turns the entire issue into a metaphor. I see something isolated, small but brilliant, in a vast universe of code. Akin to the Earth as seen from the moon. I don’t mean to be so dramatic. The design just seems honest—aware. At the very least, it’s very clever and a pleasure.

Friday, October 5, 2012

68. After after } Old Albert.

My notes for an afterword to Brian Showers’ Old Albert begin, “Faded place names. Terraces built on the back of a bird’s wings”—and continue for ten pages—“Hell-fire scholar,” “Mr. Walker’s tongue,” “The last fields of Rathmines,” etc. These notes were a test. Until I wrote them, I wasn’t sure that I could write an afterword for Brian. That was February. I struggled with various ideas until May, when the first line, “Old Albert doesn’t add up,” was written. All a rush, I wrote most the rest at a table outside the Harvard University law library. It was cold but sunny, and I had at hand a cup of coffee.

Since Rosalie Parker’s The Old Knowledge, I’ve happily supported Swan River Press, always delighted by the look and interested in the contents of the little hardcovers Brian publishes. And quickly: since 2010, six titles with a seventh on the way. It’s satisfying to be in one of those books. 

Furthermore, I love the story. Loaded with strange moments that don’t all “add up,” its power lies in its dynamic range: quiet, a barrel full of human bones, quiet, a seagull pecking at a corpse. For those already familiar with Showers’ work, it’s also worth noting that Old Albert is a piece of The Bleeding Ghost, Brian’s first book. If you like, you can reinsert it, like slipping the Beatles’ “Her Majesty” back in between “Mean Mr. Mustard” and “Polythene Pam”; but like “Her Majesty” it’s a fine flourish on its own.

People who preordered the book were entered into a drawing; the ten winners were sent original pages from the (many) notes I made while working on the afterword. I signed each original using a glass pen dipped in blue ink.

The print run is small and Swan River Press titles tend to sell out quickly. Here is a review in which my afterword is briefly (and accurately) described: “Adam Golaski stretches the antique, ectoplasmic finger of ‘Old Albert’ to the present day with an equally intriguing, if less economic, ‘anecdote.’”

The image above was painted by Jason Zerrillo; it appears on the Old Albert dust jacket.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

67. Remembered } Henry Ramer.

Late autumn, deep dark—back then, in the mid-1980s, the roads weren’t so well lit. At the tail-end of a long family trip, warm and sleepy, it was easy for me (aged eleven or twelve) to slip into a fearsome place, where the line between a boy’s adventure and lost in the woods was thin indeed: from the backseat of my parents’ car, I listened for the first time to an episode of Nightfall, a radio production of the Canadian Broadcasting Company (CBC), originally aired in the late 70s/early 80s (so, unlike Inner Sanctum or The Hall of Fantasy, both originally aired in the 40s, Nightfall was modern, with synthesized music and state-of-the-art studio production to prove it). The episode was “No Admittance/No Exit,” a story about an automated emergency clinic that determines treatment based on patients’ potential to contribute to society. Certainly, the story scared me, but it needn’t have for Nightfall to have kept me up that night, because the show’s opening had already done the trick.

That opening: A crash of notes high on a piano’s keyboard, like shattered glass, the sound of wind, and the host’s introduction: “In the dream you are falling, lost in the listening distance, as dark locks in…” a scream—a man falling—and then the host’s emphatic, “Nightfall.”

Maybe it sounds hokey to you youngsters, and maybe it is, but that intro was intoned by Henry Ramer, and he made it all sound so serious. Ramer was known to listeners of Nightfall as “your host.” He set up each episode, not in the cackling, punning style of The Crypt Keeper, who you know isn’t good for you, but like a gentleman—a gentleman with an upstairs torture chamber and a basement full of wicked science. “Good evening,” he said, not like Bela Lugosi (or someone impersonating Lugosi), but with a hint of vocal fry and an even sense of humor. Then, “tonight I would advice you to make certain that all of your escape routes are clear. The play is called, ‘No Admittance/No Exit’”—extra emphasis on “exit”—the kind of emphasis one would place while pulling the mask off to reveal that he has no face!

On November 12, 2009 Neil Marsh wrote to tell me that Ramer died. (Marsh is the author of the Nightfall Project, a website dedicated to the history of Nightfall, for which Marsh contacted many of the cast and crew, including Ramer (before he died!). Marsh and his research was invaluable when I wrote about the show; the resulting article appears in the current issue of Open Letters Monthly.) Here you’ll obituaries and Marsh’s “In Memoriam.”

Ramer provided the voice for numerous cartoon characters, including an invisible villain on a Canadian animated incarnation of Spider-Man, did voiceover work, commercials, and appeared in films, including The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz and Between Friends. It’s as the host of Nightfall that I knew Ramer—his voice has long been a part of my peculiar internal landscape. I hear it often: when I re-listen to episodes of Nightfall, and in my head, when I think certain words Ramer said best.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

66. Sing, } economy.

Editing A Sing Economy, the second Flim Forum Press anthology, was a struggle for me. Matthew Klane and I began making selections when my first daughter was newly born, I was commuting from Hartford to Boston for work and working weird hours, and Matthew and I were at loggerheads over a few of the selections—a problem of my exhaustion and my pride, but also a matter of how seriously we took the project. This book would complete the foundation of the press, begun with our first anthology, Oh One Arrow.

Since Matthew and I managed not to destroy our friendship, I can say without reservation that Sing was worth the struggle.

When I look back at Sing, I’m especially proud of the poets I brought into the book: Stephanie Strickland, Kaethe Schwehn, Laura Sims, a. rawlings, Erin M. Bertram, and—though Matthew introduced me to her work—I’m gonna take credit for pestering Jessica Smith ‘till at last she sent us “Cortland.”

As Arrow led to our third title (Brandon Shimoda’s The Alps), Sing led to our fourth, Jennifer Karmin’s Aaaaaaaaaaalice. Other poets in Sing now have books out that include the selections we published first. Matthew Timmons’ The New Poetics is out from Les Figues, Laura’s “Murder Poems” will be in her next collection from Fence, and Kate Schapira’s How We Saved the City and Debora Poe’s Elements are both out from Stockport Flats.

Sing is available from us for just five bucks—a discount price that’s part of our pre-promotion for our fifth title, a selected poetry of Paul Hannigan.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

65. Caedmon’s hymn } & DeathTV 1 - 6

The Venerable Bede included his translation, from Old English into Latin, of a hymn by Caedmon, a cowherd visited by God in a dream and commanded to sing verses inspired by scripture. Bede noted a common translator’s lament: “…for it is impossible to make a literal translation, no matter how well-written, of poetry into another language without losing some of the beauty and dignity.”

With the help of a literal, interlinear translation of the Old English included in the Norton Anthology of English Literature, I took a moment to translate Caedmon’s hymn to the Creation—the hymn he wrote, according to Bede, immediately after Caedmon’s first dream. I attempted to maintain alliteration where I could, which lead to some (maybe) unusual choices. For example, “weard” means guard; God is described in the hymn as “heofonrices Weard” or “heaven-kingdom’s Guardian.” I like guardian for weard, but I prefer ward or even warrior—a word used in "The Dream of the Rood" to describe Christ’s disciples. I’m not entirely happy with the result:

Now shall we herald     heaven’s warrior
the Measurer’s might     and his mind,
Wonder-Father’s work—     everyone’s wonder—
          when He,
endless Divine,     established All.

He first shaped,     for earth-born,
heaven to roof.     Holy sculptor,
endless Divine—     after, told
for us Earth’s form—    Master almighty.

My "after, told" is a leap. The Old English reads "aefter teode" which literally means "afterwards made"; I thought of John's "In the beginning was the Word and the Word was God," thus, told = make—as God spoke the world into existence.

Saturday will see another new edition of Open Letters Monthly. My review of DeathTV (1 - 6) included. DeathTV is a chapbook by Colby Somerville from Lightful Press, their third publication. Here are two poems by Somerville; I like "#2." I mention in my review that DeathTV reminded me in places of Jessica Smith's poetry. I was also reminded of Matthew Klane's work, especially Hell [TV] 1 - 11, published in 2004.

Friday, July 27, 2012

64. “Everything Odder } Than Everything Else”

A second mysterious epistle from the Crotchthrottle. The Wyrre Jimes has me on his list, has had since that night on Wickenden Street.

After dinner with Elizabeth D., en route to my car, I was hailed by a man dressed in a suit like a costume from a Victorian period-film. Wisdom nearly kept me from stopping, but my instinct was for trust; I followed him onto a side street. He gave me a cup—I lifted the lid—coffee. “For the road,” he said. His voice was muted—typical for a bass player. “Why not have a listen,” he said. He slipped a CD into my jacket pocket, shook my hand—those fingers! strong as an ape’s—also typical for a bass player. That was two years ago, the Crotchthrottle’s first record: Slap-fight at the Coffee Shop. A joke title. The music was more complex. Ominous drones, driving drum beats, little melodies that meander and double.

Today, their latest record, Everything Odder Than Everything Else. The album art is remarkable. A group shot of famous men seated across an invisible chasm. Where the chasm warps the light, the camera revealed their true faces. Their faces like the strange faces of the Croththrottle: Heimeier Axia, Jimes, Lysander Foley, and Atom McPhee. The only face that appeared as it did in our world is Albert Einstein’s. That’s no surprise.

Their music, again, is mostly instrumental, though Axia’s voice appears on “King of the Space Elephants,” “Except Ants,” submerged on the excellent “Intersecting Lines,” and on “Cabinet.” He’s getting bolder. Everybody knows about the space elephants, but not everybody knows about the lines. The chasm. While the music on the new record resembles that of the first, it’s a lot more open. The tracks meander less. McPhee’s drums are more subtle. The bass and the effects lead and the ominous drones are given more space. This progress the result, I can only assume, of their deepening interaction with the Jellyfish.

Generally, I try not to know too much about the Jellyfish and the chasm—I know they operate hand-in-hand and push consciousness and such-and-such. The Crotchthrottle’s music is about as deep into that head-space as I’m comfortable with. For you? Everything Odder… may be just the passage you were trying to open with Robitussin and non-Euclidian geometry. I say bypass all that. Get a magnifying glass and a set of headphones. Listen to Everything Odder… and search the album art for secret compass points.

Okay. Accepting street-coffee from Jimes was a bit more than just listening to their music. I'm a hypocrite. Forgive me. But my instinct was good. The coffee was kind. That night two years ago, the dark route from Providence to Hartford shone.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

63. Reading } The Poetry Institute, New Haven.

A black bank clock read 98 degrees and a bit past 6pm. Too late to revisit the museum. I sat in a line of shade outside a bar and drank rum and ate a tomato while adding a few lines to OUTLAND. At 6:30 I climbed up a steep staircase to The Institute Library (founded 1826). The a.c. was on full. I drank red wine from a plastic cup and perused a copy of I.E.S. Edwards’ The Pyramids of Egypt.

Twenty-plus attendees formed a half-circle in the reading room. I stood by a heavy, round table, beneath a lamp that hung from the high ceiling and read from OUTLAND, an untitled story, and from Green. After, I sold out the Color Plates I brought. I owe a copy to Alice-Anne, co-host, and I owe thanks to both her and to Mark for inviting me to read.

From a book sale cart by the door of the library I bought a book called The Crystal Geyser. In it is an anecdote about living men and women who are able to crystallize the blood in their veins when they picture a certain hill and the stone long ago placed at its top.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

62. Reading } The Poetry Institute, New Haven.

My youngest and I strolled downtown New Haven on Mother’s Day. We spent a lot of time at the Yale University Art Gallery. There’s a lot of open space on the main floor, where she wandered between a Sol LeWitt and a cuneiform tablet from the palace of Assurnasirpal II.

While I stood by the glass doors leading to the museum’s barren sculpture garden, one of the staff—a young woman—asked me, “How old?” My youngest tapped the covers of all the books faced-out on a low shelf behind a green couch. “A year,” I said. “She’s so cute.” I thanked the woman. She said, “Have you seen the horn?” I wasn’t sure I’d heard correctly, but before I could ask the woman to repeat herself she added, “Sometimes it’s a very bright red.”

A big photography book fell from the low shelf. The noise startled my youngest, who cried. I swooped in to soothe her. By the time all was well, the young woman was gone. I didn’t think about her or what she’d asked till now, now because I’ll be back in New Haven this Thursday.

I’m on to give a reading at The Poetry Institute. Doors open at 6:30. There’s an open mic at about 7 and then, after “a short social break,” I’ll read. I gather after that there’s a “feature poet Q&A.” I have new work, and hope to write more between now an then.

Maybe I’ll have time before the reading to revisit the museum. I’m almost certain the woman wasn’t asking me about an exhibit, but what else would she’ve been asking about?

Friday, June 15, 2012

61. Kate makes } city.

When our paths last crossed, Kate Shapira gave me a “Tell me about a change in your city or town” postcard, a pre-stamped, screen-printed, 5 x 7 card. So far, 10 of the 50 cards were returned to Kate. I kept my answer simple. Tho I’m not sure what Kate intends to do with these texts (beyond posting them on her blog), my assumption is that it’s the beginning of a community-based poetry project. Do our texts become found text for Kate to reshape? If so I approve.

Flim Forum published a selection from How We Saved the City, Kate’s latest book (from Stockport Flats’ Meander Scar series), in A Sing Economy. A subject of those poems is the impact of city on human beings—a further expression of her interest in community. Her own, but—and the postcard series points to this—other communities as well.

The postcard asked me to do what she does, that is, to think about where I live. To engage. That’s activism, right?

If you buy any of her books, she’ll send you a copy of her newest chapbook Ground (while she has ‘em).

Saturday, May 26, 2012

60. Notes made on } Objects for a Fog Death.

Fingerless gloves. “We stop here to take / pictures of these / questions.” What motivated Julie Doxsee to write these poems? Can we reverse engineer “Kitchen Tour” to its writing exercise origin (“Those are [x]”)? How much for the phrase “teeth / fill with fog”? Good / but / the questions / are / dull.

Like Z.S., another Black Ocean poet, Doxsee has a pool of words she reaches for (eyes and eyeglasses [frequently destroyed, specifically crushed], water, the sky, lemons, the moon, etc.); their resonance is only their own, not Doxsee’s.

“Architecture”; see Inferno, Canto V: :“'Poet,' said I, 'fain would I speak to those two / That seem to ride as light as any foam, / and hand in hand on the dark wind drifting go.'” The cyclone, “the black wind” that has Francesca and Paolo swept up forever. A poem about an extra-marital affair. More ocean = Black Ocean. "If I write / my address on your wrist / the fog will wash it off....” Intrigue is the romance: “One day we read for pastime how in thrall / Lord Lancelot lay to love, who loved the Queen....” [Dante, Dorothy L. Sayers trans.]

Poems as surreal witticisms, not “cut-ups.”

My song is more important than yours. “You disguised you” and “I will send me.” All movies =. “I poured you / I wrapped you” and “I wrote a song about you.”

Doxsee’s interest in miniaturization (a forest beneath a slice of tomato on a vending machine sandwich) recalls a typesetter’s box wall-mounted and filled with nick-knacks instead of metal letters. A glass spark plug, a plastic sea shell, a walnut, etc.

The excellent title points to “it,” again, as in “sail it oarless” [the roller coaster]. Wizard of Oz. Eye patch. Already crushed by a house / prepared to stay shriveled and / tinned by the little / boy who wears a red shirt.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

59. A new anthology } of old stories.

Paul Walther’s “The Toll” is the first story I bought for New Genre. My initial response was disbelief: was it possible someone sent me a good story, or did all the bad submissions lower my standards? Nope. The story was good. Is good.

Now, “The Toll” is dusted off for a reprint anthology called Hauntings. The anthologist mentioned on her blog that she was “reading for… a reprint anthology for Tachyon…. I'm looking for stories published between around 1985 – 2011 and would prefer stories that haven't been reprinted lately. I've chosen stories by Peter Straub, Neil Gaiman, Joyce Carol Oates, Pat Cadigan, and Caitlin R. Kiernan and have several others I'm likely taking. But otherwise I'm open to suggestions.”

“The Toll”—along with another story I published in New Genre (“The Line I Walk” by M.J. Murphy) and a story of my own—was suggested. “The Toll” was selected by the anthologist for reprint.

A list of the authors included in the anthology was posted at Tachyon (along with some of the worst catalog copy I’ve seen in a while. Dig it: “This spine-tingling anthology—complied by the horror genre's most acclaimed editor—collects a chilling array of ghost stories from the past twenty-five years. Our obsession with the mysteries of the afterlife is explored in these supernatural tales….” Tachyon! Tell me how this anthology contributes something new, how it offers up horror stories from the past twenty-plus years even avid readers may have missed, and that the stories approach what it means to be haunted with intensity and intelligence. Don’t resort to William Castle-esque, movie-house gibberish).

Reprint anthologies give stories a second life. New Genre is an obscure journal with a tiny readership, and New Genre #1 is nearly thirteen years old. “The Toll,” reprinted, will be set in front of a bigger audience. I am grateful for that. Paul’s story deserves to be read (again).

[The image above is an early layout of the cover for issue #1 of New Genre; not much was changed for the final version.]

Sunday, April 22, 2012

58. Abbey Road } Abbey Road.

This day, every year since about 1989, I listen through The Beatles’ Abbey Road. The first time I heard the album was on cassette, a dub from a cassette, the Capitol cut, nonetheless (so opening humble with “Here Come the Sun”). I thought “I Want You (She’s so heavy)” was clipped by tape run-out and longed to hear the whole song. Wore every cassette copy thin. Today, the CD remaster—broke the seal an hour ago. Relish the details. Lennon’s rambling “Aw” at the end of “Come Together.” Ringo's rolling drums on “Something.” The synthesizer on “Maxwell’s Silver Hammer” (Paul’s laughed delivery of “writing”), the sighing harmonies of “Oh Darling.” All the little bits that glue the b-side medley. The happy chatter before “She Came In Through the Bathroom Window,” those most magnificent bells between “You Never Give Me Your Money” and “Sun King.” Is “You Never Give Me Your Money” my favorite Beatles recording? Who cares. Just cross my arms and listen. What’s hollered a minute before the sonic wind in “I Want You (She’s so heavy)”? Nowhere to go. Love you. Listen to Abbey Road on the day I die. I’ll listen to it on the day I die.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

57. A difficult } translation.

Nathalie Z. was a student of mine a few years ago. She took a literature course with me when I taught for a Boston-area design school. She was studying interior design but brought to it a strong desire for activism, and in fact hoped she might combine the two. She is Bolivian and Canadian, shuttled back and forth by family throughout her childhood. During the same semester Nathalie told me about her life in Bolivia, my friend Sarah Gray returned from her travels in South America. Sarah and I talked about her visit to Bolivia over beer at Matt Murphy’s in Brookline.

A result of these conversations, and an invite to contribute to Danel Olsen’s Exotic Gothic series, was “A Line Through el Salar d'Uyuni,” which ends on that salt flat in Bolivia (Nathalie had never been to the flat, but Sarah traveled across it, and my sister contributed some of her experiences on a Tunisian salt flat). I had material left over—notes that didn’t fit into “A Line” that became “The Great Blind God Passed Through Us,” published in Strange Tales III.

I decided to push to do a third “Bolivia story,” which proved to be very complex, bringing together elements of New York City, Henry Walter Bates’ In the Heart of the Amazon Forest, Beowulf, the Popol Vuh, and some very excellent field notes written for me by Jenna Lawrence. (She made an appearance in an early draft of the story, but proved to be too nice a person to deserve such a fate.) The result is “Translation,” available in the current issue of Supernatural Tales, available both in print and as an e-book from Lulu.

Pictured above are some of the first notes I made for the story, a jumble of Popol Vuh translations of and my interpolations to the Mayan myths regarding the Hanahpu brothers, the calabash tree, and the Blood Maiden.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

56. Readings } & recordings.

Iowa Digital Library, associated with The University of Iowa and Prairie Lights Bookstore, has now a public archive of “author readings, interviews, talks about writing.” Prairie Lights was one of the first stops John Cotter and I made on our book tour (a tour that ended for me in Chicago last month). The Prairie Lights reading was ideal. A large crowd, comprised of friends, their friends, and a happy number of strangers. John and I were in good spirits, we read well, and afterwards had the pleasure of talking with audience members who wanted to know more about us. We sold all our books, too.

Rob Schlegel introduced us. John read first. He uses a microphone well, so sounds terrific on record. I stray from the rostrum, so fade in and out during my self-intro. Rob sets me up as the “former poet laureate of western Montana’s Potomac Valley,” a reference to the two years I taught elementary and junior high school students at Potomac School. When I thank him for his introduction I say I was “given the laurel by a group of 5th graders.” (Rob took the crown from me when I left Montana.)

I also said, “There’s something about having your own book that’s odd. It’s like an object from an alternate reality. Every other book looks real but one with my own name on it does not.” I pause, give a short description of Color Plates, then read “Olympia,” “The Tub,” “Woman Fixing Her Stocking,” and “White Lilacs and Roses.” Here, the recording is good; either I adjusted to the microphone or a savvy sound engineer made the adjustment for me.

Is it rare for a non-celebrity to have a recording of a great night? As rare as candid photos of the first conversation you ever had with your wife. More of the story is “18. Readings } a leg. & bones.

[The photo above is of Iowa City, taken from the Iowa House Hotel. The quoted description of the public archive is from Kyle Minor's April 1st HTML Giant post.]

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

55. Flim Forum Press presents } All Steel & a can of Pringles.

A kind of balance was achieved as Lori Anderson Moseman, author of All Steel, ate the Pringles chips Matthew Klane bought (at my behest) to catch the eye of prospective The Death of Pringle (THE DEATH OF PRINGLE!) readers / buyers. Her gusto, her robust appetite for junk food, sold many books at the AWP conference in Chicago, where Matthew and I released the latest from Flim Forum.

Justin Katko's The Death of Pringle is junk food of the gods, an ALL CAPS punk show flier libretto so ridiculous I can't in good conscience describe it here, where I am only ever serious. Suffice it to say The Death of Pringle ought to be read with green and pink Hi-Lite pens and a fizzing glass of cherry Coke.

An alternative / compliment, Lori Anderson Moseman's All Steel conducts the Flim Forum aesthetic.

For more useful information, chase this link, friend. Thank you.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

54. We will be devoured. } So says the oracular dun.

Featured at the last Inescapable Rhythms, a collaboration between Joanna Solfrian and host Kristin Kostick. Kristin took a poem of Joanna’s and used it to make a poem of her own, Joanna took one of Kirstin’s, etc. They called the results translations. Apt enough.

Tho not an active collaboration, I took the form, key words, and images from Joanna’s “Yellow Afternoon” and made a poem of my own: “Yellow sun covered brown with coffee grounds. / Amber air covers over cities of cardboard / boxes, a light that ambles along the rippled Amazon.” etc, etc.—I’ll spare you the whole poem.

Julie Choffel came too, and in the spirit of the evening’s projects read the poem from her The Hello Delay that took “we” from Juliana Spahr.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

53. Mystery, ambiguity & } a brilliant execution.

At Scattershot Writing, James Everington posts weekly about strange stories, “horror fiction that [isn’t] quite horror….” He argues that it is by ambiguity that the strange story is differentiated from horror stories, and he notes several ways strange stories use ambiguity in their narratives.

Let's consider the ambiguity of the strange story outside of narrative: the strange story lives at/on the border of genre, meaning that part of what puts the strange story at odds with horror stories is its ambiguous stance toward what kind of fiction it is. The author doesn’t need for his or her story to be horror or fantasy or anything else: all he or she is concerned with is the story and what it reveals (and doesn’t). (Mr. Everington’s inclusion of a Tom Waits song and of Joyce Carol Oates’ “Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?” as strange stories illustrates my point.)

Mr. Everington’s posts were brought to my attention because the first story he wrote about is “What Water Reveals” from Worse Than Myself. He is thoughtful about the story and likes it—for what more could I ask? Specifically regarding ambiguity, he writes, “Golaski presents a realistic (and poignant) story of someone recovering from alcoholism here, and what makes the story work… is the ambiguity of how that alcoholism relates to the supernatural element.”

Instead of ambiguity, I suggest mystery. Mystery is profound, holy, and problematic, whereas ambiguity is only uncertainty. The connection is mysterious, which is larger than ambiguity. Is this hair-splitting? My characters may be unreliable, but there is nothing ambiguous about the world they describe. It is as they say it is.

I’m grateful to Mr. Everington for his posts on the strange story because they invite serious discussion about ideas hard to pin down. Also: apparently Worse Than Myself was a birthday gift? We at Nostalgia Studio find this most incredible. The twelve-year old with a typewriter on his bed and the Hardware soundtrack in his tape deck is elated.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

52. There was an old lady who lived in a shoe } New Genre 7.

Two days ago I emailed Matthew Pendleton to accept his story “Work Planet Welt Space” for New Genre 7. His story “I Am Antenna / Antennae” appeared in issue 6. Both stories depict a barely conscious humanity, surrounded by a massive system, possibly of their own making, but now utterly beyond their understanding. Yet, the worlds portrayed are not wholly dystopian, but are worlds populated with nice people who like each other, and filled with moments of childish delights. As far as I know, the only other story Pendleton has published appeared in Birkensnake #2, and can be read here. His blog is also a fine introduction to his entrancing obfuscation.

Also in New Genre 7, a little ghost story by John Cotter, who mainly operates in realism, but has delved brilliantly into weird fiction before, see “Christobel” in The Lifted Brow no. 4; science fiction from poet Greg Purcell; a post-apocalyptic sequence from Geordie Williams Flantz, whose story “The Ghost Days of Melody Brown” appeared in Shadows & Tall Trees no. 2; and a trip to an underworld by Jennifer Claus, whose story "The Room Is Fire" will be her first published work.

The image above was one of a brilliant batch of possible covers for New Genre 4, designed by the visual artist, composer, and bass guitarist Jeremy Withers.

Monday, January 16, 2012

51. Fantasia and the } here & now.

After non-fiction night at Inescapable Rhythms, I stood out in the parking lot with Meghan Dahn and Kristin Kostick, talking. We heard an animal move through the tall grasses that grow alongside the nearby railroad tracks. We stood silent for a moment, then a breeze swung down through the tress, and we decided to call it a night. As I drove down Park Road toward West Hartford, I slowed for a group of police cruisers, lights flashing, that made a circle around some crisis. I swear, lit by the red and blue lights, I saw a big animal, either asleep or felled.

The temperature dropped from forty degrees to twenty. I took my eldest daughter to see Fantasia at the Wadsworth. I loved the film as a boy but I really didn’t remember most of it. I thought, as I watched with my daughter on my lap, This is a mature movie, in the sense that it’s grown-up. Whimsical, even silly at times, it never panders. The formation of life on Earth, all the way to the end of the dinosaurs, set to the Rite of Spring? (Is this the Disney movie creationists forbid their ignorant children to watch?) The pagan, at times mildly erotic bacchanal set to Beethoven’s Symphony No. 6 in F major, Op. 68?

Watching the selections from The Nutcracker Suite, I wondered if maybe Fantasia is the reason I enjoy those pieces—"The Dance of the Sugarplum Fairies," "The Chinese Dance," "The Arabian Dance," etc.—so much.

And there, nostalgia combined with a deep pleasure in the present. My memories and the light weight of my little girl, and her delight, and knowing that after the film my wife would be there with my youngest and the four of us would enjoy the rest of the day together.