National Poetry Month: Simon Perchik from Hands Collected

Today for National Poetry Month, I read Simon Perchik’s poem (untitled) from Hands Collected, published at Pavement Saw Press:



Over the years, I’ve had numerous conversations with other poets, and more than often, Simon’s name is mentioned. His poems are staggering in volume, unique in voice and perspective, jarring, earthly devoted, and remarkably lovely.

As a nod to his oeuvre, I constructed a poem, utilizing only the first lines of a Simon Perchik poem, including the title (also, a Perchik first line). Here is the entire poem:

They were reaching for their mother’s breath

Wherever I turn the air needs water

and in the dark my pillow, abandoned

stone, stone, stone, not a drop

again, the sky rubbing against my legs

all the pieces must be found, make

this cup half ecstasy, half adrift

With those hefty walls a bank

even this tree :a stranglehold

And the dead can’t wait, they crouch

as if its stream would slow

What a long way- they know

this bridge as if before its crash

(all words excerpted from Simon Perchik’s Hands Collected: The Books of Poems (1949-1999)

(only first lines used to construct entire poem, including title)

And today, April 8th, I read Simon Perchik for National Poetry Month:

Robert Vaughan reads Simon Perchik’s poem, * from Hands Collected – YouTube

When is the last time you took a train? Had an unexpected picnic? Read a poem that took your breath away?





National Poetry Month: April 6 & 7

Hi friends,

On April 6, I read Matthew Zapruder’s “Sun Bear” from his new collection of the same name:


I read the title poem, which I find so playful, humane, and deep simultaneously:

▶ Robert Vaughan reads “Sun Bear” by Matthew Zapruder – YouTube

On April 7 (today), I read Natasha Tretheway’s “At Dusk” by Natasha Tretheway. This poem is in her collection called Native Guard:


▶ Robert Vaughan reads “At Dusk” by Natasha Tretheway – YouTube

Do you ever wonder who you are calling home? Do you ever take the time to be called? If so, to whom? How so?


National Poetry Month video: “Woman in a Bar” by Dorianne Laux

Hi friends!

Today for National Poetry Month, I read Dorianne Laux’s “Woman in a Bar.” This is one of ten poems from her exquisite chapbook, The Book of Women by Red Dragonfly Press:

Red Dragonfly Press: THE BOOK OF WOMEN by Dorianne Laux



Dorianne, for those who don’t know her, is a wizard! She is simply one of the best poets I know, and I consider myself so fortunate, my life has transformed as a result of every interaction we’ve had. Happy Poetry Month to you, DL, and may you always feel loved.

Here, then, is “Woman in a Bar” and enjoy: Robert Vaughan reads “Woman in a Bar” by Dorianne Laux – YouTube

Have you ever been in a bar? How about Fozzie’s? Boy Bar? King Tut’s Wah-Wah Hut?

When is the last time you sat in a bar, and were completely captivated by someone else? What happened?


Kirkus Review of Addicts & Basements

Best cover shot


It feels surreal, how much this Kirkus Reviews surprises me.

In a new review, posted yesterday, Kirkus opens with:

“A fast-moving fusion of micro-fiction and free verse that peers into the places where people keep things most deeply hidden.”

And Kirkus wraps up their insightful review with this:

“A fascinating study of human attachment and loss.”

The entire review is here: ADDICTS & BASEMENTS by Robert Vaughan | Kirkus

I am blown away. Humbled. Thank you, Kirkus Reviews, for this wonderful feeling.

National Poetry Month: April 3

Hello friends! Today is a special day:

Happy Birthday, David Carter! May all your wishes come true.

Today, and in celebration of dear friends, and the joy of what true friends bring into our lives, I want to share my one and only trip to Calistoga, California. We did a road trip from my room-mate from college, Gregory and his then-wife, Kimberly’s house in Pleasant Hill. We listened to all of the best tunes of the day, like Salt-n-Pepa’s “What a Man,” as we tore up the 680, speeding north through small towns of Contra Costa County. And, as we were often prone to do, the sounds of these towns (remember, we are all New Yorkers) sounded, well, rather like characters in a play. And so, Andrea “became” Benecia Martinez (a combination of two towns), David “transformed into” Marina Vista, and I was decidedly the child, Chilpanchango. Of course, the characters morphed as we improvised our new relationships, and Benecia became Chilpanchango’s mother (?), while Marina Vista became the “bitchy aunt.”

Are you already seeing how difficult this is to follow? And you thought only I was crazy! Well, if you want, you can read a version of a story I wrote about us all called “The Frog.” Hopefully you will enjoy it! I love and miss you, Andrea and David!

Today, for National Poetry Month, I am going to read Rigoberto Gonzalez’s “The Strangers Who Find Me in the Woods.” (Perhaps this is why those latino towns in California came to mind?) Enjoy!

▶ Robert Vaughan reads “The Stranger Who Finds Me in the Woods” by Rigoberto Gonzalez – YouTube

Do you like getting lost in the woods? What did you find last time? Was Hansel or Gretl with you? Did you come across a wicked witch?



National Poetry Month: April 1-3, 2014

April has arrived in all her glory! One of the innumerable reasons I adore April is it’s National Poetry Month! This year, like 2013, I will select a poem-a-day, and read it, for your listening pleasure. Hopefully you might meet some poets (and poems) that you are not yet familiar with?

On April 1st, I kicked off National Poetry Month by reading Russell Dillon’s “Eternal Patrol.” This is the title poem from his first full collection by the same title:



Russell’s poetry is dark, smart and infused with just the right amount of humor. Here is more about the collection: Eternal Patrol: Russell Dillon: 9780988228733: Books

And here is my reading of “Eternal Patrol: Robert Vaughan reads Russell Dillon’s “Eternal Patrol” – YouTube

Yesterday, April 2nd, I also read the title poem from Laura Kasischke’s “Space, In Chains,” which is a phenomenal poetry collection and won the National Book Critics Circle Award:



“Kasischke’s intelligence is most apparent in her syntactic control and pace, the way she gauges just when to make free verse speed up, or stop short, or slow down.”—The New York Times Book Review

Here is my reading of “Space, in Chains:”

Robert Vaughan reads “Space, In Chains,” from Laura Kasischke – YouTube

What will I read today? More importantly, what will YOU read today? A subway poem? A billboard poem? Maybe it’s a conversation you have with a friend about poetry? I chatted on Facebook with Brian Alan Ellis the other day about Kenneth Patchen (among many other poets). Imagine how different our world would be if we spoke more about poetry than guns? If we read infinitely more poems than listen to stories that contain violence?



Peter Tieryas reviews Addicts & Basements at ENTROPY

Hi friends!

It is one thing to complete a full length book, get it published by a kickass independent publisher, feel like you have a great fit with the entire process from creation to seeing a project in form, come to life. Then the book enters another realm, where it is read, and comments begin trickling in. Recently, I chatted with a sibling, and she shared her observations (loved the cover, and the font, and the feeling of the cover grew on her, eventually liking it as much as the entire book). But when she mentioned how, with the longer book, she could sense the “Bobby” moments (my childhood name), I was holding back tears.

Then, there are reviews. And they are beginning to arrive, this first one, by fellow writer, Peter Tieryas-Angela Xu, whose new book, Bald New World, is also receiving its own due. The incredible process in creating any writing, or work to be examined, is often the reviewer sees or experiences your book in such a way it astounds, even baffles you. Peter starts here:

Robert Vaughan explores addictions and the dark crannies of basements in his collection,Addicts & Basements, which assembles a variety of his works from flash fiction to poetry.’ 

And he continues with his review, for which I am deeply grateful: Addicts & Basements by Robert Vaughan | ENTROPY

Needless to say, I am indebted to this man.

I have some plans for interviews that will be forthcoming at Entropy. Stay tuned!

Tagged- My Writing Process

“My Writing Process” is an ongoing series in which authors “tag” each other to answer some questions about their work. One question that arose spontaneously recalls the game Telephone… remember playing this as a child? One person comes up with a unique phrase or sentence, and passes it along, whispering it to the next person, who then does the same, and so on, and so on. Until you get to the very last person in the room, who then attempts to blurt the sentence, which of course, has morphed into some completely strange and laughable OTHER Phrase!!!

Gay Degani has asked me to participate:

Gay Degani 2

This is Gay reading at the HEAT reading, AWP/ Seattle (and a mini-me in the doorway!)

For more information about how Gay keeps herself busy, and about her NEW NOVEL, the suspenseful What Came Before, check out Words in Place.

And now, the questions:

1) What am I working on?

My first full length collection, Addicts & Basements (Civil Coping Mechanismsofficially launched at the AWP Conference in Seattle, February, 2014: Addicts & Basements: Robert Vaughan: 9781937865238

I’m currently working on a full length story collection, Departures Or Arrivals.

I also co-host a quarterly reading series called Middle Coast Poets: Middle Coast Poets Reading Series. We have our next reading on April 28 at the Riverwest Public House in Milwaukee, and the  current poets are Brittany Cavallero, Larry O. Dean, John Walser, Lee Ann Roripaugh, Paul Scot August and me.

I will be teaching a workshop, Publishing Your First (or Next) Collection « Red Oak Writing for their Saturday workshop series.

And I’m teaching a week long workshop, Mixing Genres, at The Clearing in Door County, Wisconsin: The Clearing Folk School::Classes

I’m conducting Interviews for the new site, ENTROPY!

2) How does my work differ from others of its genre?

I work as hard as I can to find the core of a poem or a prose piece. I hope that my work is the combination of heart and soul and fragments that make up a human being’s struggles to be alive, and possibly tumbling toward some other realm. I love words, and language, and for the most part, people. I’m unsure if it differs, yet I know I am the only me. So in that, somehow, there lies the answer.

3) Why do I write what I do?

I suppose I am trying to make sense of the world, and of life itself. Through other people, characters and their voices, senses, I get to experience the world around me repeatedly. I can do things I might never attempt, and take on new experiences through them. I’ve also sensed, from a young age, that if I did not write, I might not still be here. I like to attempt the genres that scare me the most. And I write for more than me, too. For my Mom and Dad, for James and Mel, for all of those no longer here on planet Earth.

4) How does my writing process work?

I’m not really sure, it morphs over time and depending upon each project. I try to stay as organized as I possibly can. Not an easy task! I used to submit a ton of writing, so that took more notebooks and jotting down submission data, keeping track of acceptances and rejections, especially those encouraging ones. I write best early in the day, just after coffee, before other items creep up, before social media is checked and instant messages and tweets are responded to. I also believe in my writing roundtable for solid feedback and work with two other writers in an online prompt writing weekly group.

I am tagging Michael Gillan Maxwell and Bud Smith:

Michael Maxwell (Michael Gillan Maxwell) is a Freelance Visual Artist, Writer, and Teacher. His work is award winning and heavily published and he is an all-around kickass fellow:

Bud Smith (Bud Smith) is the author of Tollbooth, Or Something Like That, and his just released full length poetry collection, Everything Neon. He also is the host of The Unknown Show:


AWP recap and more

Hi friends!

AWP…mind meld and time warp! What an amazing experience it was, being in Seattle for the recent AWP Conference, February 26- March 2. Transformative, and hypnotic, the conference was attended by over 15,000 writers (apparently) and the book fair was filled with authors and sellers young and old, writers seeking new roads for their writing, and presses or grad schools looking for new talent. Then there were the readings and panels and discussions in all areas of the city- from Seattle conference center, to The Westin where I stayed, to Pike’s Public Market.

The night before I travelled to Seattle, I had the great fortune of reading at local bookstore, Boswell Books, with Gina Frangello, on her book tour for A Life in Men:

Boswell Books with Gina Frangello

We had a great turn-out, and thanks for all of my writing buddies from Red Oak Writers, as well as several local friends who made the event so meaningful to me. We sold every single copy of Addicts & Basements! And thanks Daniel, and Gina for making this possible:

Welcome to Boswell Book Company’s website! | Boswell Book Company


I also read in four events at the Seattle AWP:

Festival of Language

Festival of Language, hosted by Jane Carmen. This is my third year reading in this event, always takes place the first night, Wednesday, of the conference, so it’s also a “reunion” of sorts.

Robert Vaughan Hot Pillow

On Friday, I read in two separate events: HEAT, hosted by Anna March and Laura Bogart (who was off-site with a broken ankle) and proceeds raised all went toward VIDA, a wonderful organization. That afternoon, I was interviewed by Literary Orphans editor Mike Joyce back at the Westin for an upcoming interview series in his stellar magazine. Then, this photo (above) was taken at the Hot Pillow event, hosted by Joani Reese, Jen Knox and Meg Tuite, at the Roosevelt Hotel.

Left Bank Books Left Bank Books Seattle

Saturday, I read at the venerable Left Bank Books, on Pike Street at the Public Market. This bookstore, with the legacy of hosting such luminaries as Bukowski,  Kerouac, and Grace Paley, was both a tremendous highlight of the conference, and also made me proud to represent my newest publisher, Civil Coping Mechanisms: Left Bank Books

Overall, the AWP conference leaves one with a complex, mystical feeling; like yes, I belong in this sea of misfits, but also, everyone in the entire world is a writer! Get back to the notebook, head down, and plow through those empty pages.

There is a very nice mention today at Indie Authors Network of my new book. Thanks Alan Kealey for this:

New Indie Book Release: Addicts & Basements (Robert Vaughan) | Indie Author News

And huge thanks to anyone who purchases, mentions (or intends to) Addicts & Basements!!!

A reading, An Indie Press Preview, and An AWP Conference

Hi friends,

The day has arrived. Tonight I’m launching Addicts & Basements, my new full length collection from Civil Coping Mechanisms. I’ll be opening for Gina Frangello who is touring with her new novel, A Life in Men. We’ll be at Boswell Books at 7 p.m., Monday, February 24th! Here is a link for more information: Upcoming Events | Boswell Book Company

My latest publisher, Michael Seidlinger,  worked endless hours on this massive and incredible Indie Press Preview for 2014: The Great 2014 Indie Press Preview | The Outlet: the Blog of Electric Literature. Published at Electric Literature, it has many wonderful choices from leading writers in the indie community. Thanks to Brian Allen Ellis for mentioning Addicts & Basements.

And so, AWP, the largest annual writer’s conference descends: February 26- March 2. I will be available at the Civil Coping Mechanisms booth, L15 most mornings. Please come by, chat and shop:


“Well I don’t know why I came here tonight,
I got the feeling that something ain’t right,
I’m so scared in case I fall off my chair,
And I’m wondering how I’ll get down the stairs,
Clowns to the left of me,
Jokers to the right, here I am,
Stuck in the middle with you.”   Stealers Wheel from “Reservoir Dogs”

I am also reading in these four events:

Feb 26, 5- 10 p.m. A Festival of Language, Rock Bottom in Seattle

Feb 28, 1-5 p.m. HEAT: Burning Down the House (Proceeds to benefit VIDA), Daily Grill; also Hot Pillow Reading (TBD)

Mar 1, 7-9 p.m. Left Bank Books: Civil Coping Mechanisms/ Lazy Fascist Press/ Broken River/ Two Dollar Radio reading

There are some great sites with suggestions about what to expect if this is your first AWP, including this from Roxane Gay: Association of Writers & Writing Programs

And these tips from writer Mitch Parker, nail the entire experience:

“My AWP survival tips: show up, talk to people you don’t know. Talk to people you do know. Attend a couple of events. Go to a couple of readings. Have a few drinks. Go to the book fair. Don’t worry much about much.”

See you in Seattle! Hopefully not sleepless, but you never know!