Category Archives: Book excerpt


Happy July 4th everyone!

It’s been quite a week…Hard to decide whether to watch Wimbledon or the World Cup. Oddly, the lack of Americans in the entire second week of Wimbledon, and the elimination of the USA team to the hardy Belgium team in the knockout round of the World Cup brought up an interesting point: does it make a sport that I enjoy more or less intriguing to watch if an American player is not on the court or field?

Then this brought me to the actual holiday today: the fourth of July. Independence Day. And any American knows what this, and the American flag both symbolize. But, it lead me back to holidays. The sentiments (or lack of), and like sports, the expectations, let downs; the outcomes or results.

In early 2012, I went to Boston to read in Timothy Gager’s Dire Literary Series, and Gloria Mindock, editor of Cervena Barva Press offered me publication of my first chapbook (eventually to become Microtones) it all took place over Easter holiday weekend. That Easter Sunday, I sat at the closest Starbucks to my hotel, and wrote the first draft of one of the 24 poems that comprise Microtones:

Microtones book cover


Holidays are hard:

I’m going to take

a walk, escape the

silence of this house


I was never home,

home on the range

hospital corners are still

“beats me?”


Invisible, unlike driftwood

tossed ashore, under pewter

skies, elephantine clouds

where seldom is hear

an encouraging word


no slow cookpot solutions

while you’re no longer talking

and I’m no longer hearing

there’s nothing cooking here


There’s something I forgot


I hope you all have a lovely 4th of July. Fireworks, barbecues, or silence. Whatever your choice(s) might be, revel in them!

Microtones is at Cervena Barva Press: The Lost Bookshelf-Poetry chapbooks

National Poetry Month: April 9 and 10

Hi Friends,

For every writer, there is the infrequent, yet pure joy of creativity, when expression literally comes through you and onto a page. Rare, it is, indeed, and when it happens, so exquisite. Well, there is a new joy, and it’s profound. That of one’s work being translated into another poet’s own work, alchemical, organic, and transformative. Like a trance in motion. Please read this exquisite review of Addicts & Basements by Mark Kerstetter at his blog, The Mockingbird Sings. Thanks a million, Mark:

Robert Vaughan and Breathless | The Mockingbird Sings

For National Poetry Month, on April 9th, I read “untitled” by Marilyn Hacker from this poetry collection, all sonnets:

Marilyn Hacker


And here is the poem: ▶ Robert Vaughan reads “Untitled” by Marilyn Hacker – YouTube

Also, on April 10th (today) I read “Lullaby” by W.H. Auden:

▶ Robert Vaughan reads “Lullaby” from W.H. Auden – YouTube

Tonight I will be on Bud Smith’s Unknown Show on Blog Talk Radio, and other guests include Michael Dickes, Janice Lee and Cort Bledsoe. Call in:

The Unknown Show with Bud Smith 04/10 by theliteraryunderground | Writing Podcasts

Also, check out the Wednesday Roundup recap at Entropy: Wednesday Entropy Roundup | ENTROPY

And if that’s not enough links, then I don’t know what to say. Have fun, be safe.

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!

“The Bagpipe Refrain” to be included in Literary Orphans Anthology

Hi friends,

I am really excited to get the news today that my piece, “The Bagpipe Refrain,” will be included in the very first Literary Orphans Anthology. This must have been a very onerous and difficult process to select exactly what might be included:

Best of Literary Orphans, Year One Anthology [SELECTIONS]

“The Bagpipe Refrain” originally appeared in the Marilyn issue: The Bagpipe Refrain by Robert Vaughan.

I also had a poem, “Aretha,” in the Wordsworth issue: Aretha by Robert Vaughan. And in the same issue, John Riley reviewed Microtones, my first chapbook: A Review of Robert Vaughan’s Microtones by John Riley.

Editor-in-chief of Literary Orphans, Mike Joyce, has been a friend and a writer with whom I have exchanged many great writerly ideas over the past year (or two) since Literary Orphans took shape and blossomed into the distinctive literary magazine of such high quality it currently is. I look forward to this first anthology and to many more of our wonderful, friendly exchanges. Congratulations, Mike, Scott Waldyn, Doriana Lareau and all of the other staff! So thrilled, and proud of you all.

Both of these pieces, “The Bagpipe Refrain” and “Aretha” are included in my upcoming book, Addicts & Basements from Civil Coping Mechanisms, coming February 1, 2014: Addicts & Basements by Robert Vaughan | Civil Coping Mechanisms.

Pieces from Addicts & Basements at Atticus Review

Hi friends!

My editor and publisher, and the talented writer, Michael Seidlinger of Civil Coping Mechanisms, is the featured guest editor at Atticus Review. He decided to feature some of the upcoming work from the press, and its authors, including his own The Fun We Had, Messes of Men and Laughter of Strangers; also Left Hand by Paul Curran; Winterswim by Ryan Bradley; Black Cloud by Juliet Escoria; Walls- an excerpt by Andrew Duncan Worthington; excerpts from Addicts & Basements by yours truly; excerpts from Green Light by Kyle Muntz; and an excerpt from We Will Listen For You by Nick Ripatrazone: Short Fiction | Atticus Review

The pieces Michael selected of mine are here: Addicts: An Excerpt

All are forthcoming in Addicts & Basements, on February 1, listed here, each with a footnote:

Gauze, A Medical Dressing, A Scrim (won 2nd place in the Flash Fiction Chronicles Contest, 2013)

Flip of a Coin (the original was drafted within days of learning I was traveling to India in 2006)

Most Popular Baby Names of 2013 (prompted by the great list pieces published at McSweeny’s)

The Femur (workshopped at Esalen Institute, Writing & Knowing workshop, summer 2013)

Six Glimpses of the Uncouth (an ekphrastic piece, prompted by six paintings by Andre Schmucki)

I hope you enjoy these! And thanks, Michael, and Atticus Review, for this great opportunity!


Microtones review at Necessary Fiction

Hi friends!

Sometimes, we get so busy that it feels like the world passes by at warp speed. And so, it makes sense that some of the most exciting news slips by without any warning signs! Without the slightest whimper.

But in this case, I am so thrilled to notice that my dear friend and wonderful writer, Nancy Freund, reviewed Microtones for Necessary Fiction.

Nancy and I crossed paths at The University of Iowa in 2010-  we were there to attend two different workshops. We walked up to the coffee table that first morning like we had an agenda. And our conversation, easy and intriguing, lead us to side-by-side seats for the main presentation that morning. And that was it! She vanished into her workshop, as did I. But through social media, and the advance of technology, we have maintained contact. I am so grateful for her friendship and support.

One of the poems that she mentions in the review, a quieter one that didn’t warrant much attention is “Summer of ’66,” first published in RiverBabble: Robert Vaughan: Summer of ’66.

Thanks Leila Rae, editor of River Babble Journal; and Nancy Freund, for your unwavering support and illuminating words.


“Reckless/ Abandon” at Fictionaut & The Unknown Radio Show

Hi friends!

On of my pieces in the new chapbook, Diptychs + Triptychs + Lipsticks + Dipshits, is now available to preview at Fictionaut:

“Reckless/ Abandon” by Robert Vaughan — Fictionaut

This piece was originally published at Heavy Feather Review, in 2011, in quite a different form.

Also, my pal and talented writer, Bud Smith hosted me on his innovative Unknown Show, a radio program in which he talks with writers, editors, and publishers: The Unknown Show w/ Bud Smith 12/17 by theliteraryunderground

In this program, Bud chats with Chuck Howe, Mik Everitt, me and Sam Snoek- Brown. If you are in a time crunch, my portion begins around 48:00 minutes into Bud’s show. Spoiler alert: we drop the F- bomb quite a bit! So, enjoy!

Happy Holidays everyone! Any special plans for this season?

Book Club

Book Club

On the posting board at the Darien Library there was a flyer. It said:

‘Local Women’s Book Club forming. Educate yourself, read one book per month, discuss it with other Fairfield County homemakers just like you. Call Miranda at 747-0312 for details.’

Helen wasn’t certain that she qualified. Was there a qualification? She waited until the day before to decide, then had a pleasant conversation with Miranda Newton who, it turned out, was almost a neighbor. The final motivating factor, other than her five-year-old, Seth, driving her crazy, was that Helen could walk. She read The Scarlet Letter in a day.

She found the house, steadied herself as she walked up the driveway. It won’t be so bad, she thought, just an evening about literature. I could use that. Sheldon doesn’t have time to read, and I’m sick of children’s books. She threw her chewing gum into the hedges lining the sidewalk, rang the door chimes, then panicked when she could hear the laughter inside. A tall gracious- looking woman answered the door. She wore a fashionably striped pantsuit and was smoking a Benson and Hedges cigarette. A cloud of smoke swirled around her as she spoke, as if she’d inhaled on her way to the door.

“You must be Helen,” she said. Welcome! I’m Miranda Newton. Come in, come in.”

She gestured grandly. Helen stepped into the house, which was impressive in scale, open and modern looking. As she entered the fully occupied living room, she guessed most people had arrived. There was a vacant spot at one end of a couch, so she plopped down quickly, smoothing her pants. As Helen was introduced around, she noticed that four of the eight ladies were expecting, well, perhaps five. The smell of smoke was disgusting.

“Well, when I want to get back at Frank,” Miranda was saying, “I just mis-match his socks. I roll a white one inside a brown one so that he’ll have to wear socks that don’t match with his Brooks Brothers suits. So far he hasn’t noticed. He dresses in the dark!”

“Oh, Miranda,” said the ample-bodied woman at the other end of the sofa. She wore a red and white polka dot dress. “I only wish I was that nice. I just throw George’s dirty clothes into his side of the closet. Especially those sweaty gym clothes. Ugh.” She shuddered. “They’re disgusting.” Her haircut was an a-line bob, shorter in the back and sloping toward her chin. In fact, Helen noticed that most of her face did.

“I know what you mean, Yvette,” said Penny, an overdressed lady across the room. “I can’t stand sweaty, filthy, smelly clothes. Men can be such pigs.” She spoke with dramatic gestures, and Helen thought she resembled a hooker in her excessive Chanel. “Well, Nigel certainly is. I put gloves on while I do laundry, and I can tell you, I’m this close,” she measured with her thumb and forefinger, “to getting one of those Mexican people, a personal helper just for the laundry.”

Uh oh, Helen thought, this isn’t a meeting to discuss books at all. It’s one of those ‘pick apart your marriage’ meetings. She was still pondering this when the woman next to her spoke.

“Helen, is it?”

She nodded.

“Is this your first Book Club meeting?”

“Yes,” Helen said, observing her. She was small, with an adorable haircut which seemed to spin her hair in a multitude of directions. Was her name Daphne? Her steely blue eyes seemed warm, made Helen uncomfortable.

Penny continued, “I swear with Women’s Lib and all, I still cannot comprehend why we get stuck with all these tasks: laundry, cleaning, pretty much raising the kids, cooking.”

“My god, you’d think you were on welfare or something! Hire somebody, hire a staff,” said Miranda, stubbing out her cigarette and lighting another. “You have the resources, for chrissakes. Don’t just sit there and bitch about it.”

“What about you, dear?” asked Yvette, who looked about ready to have her baby any second. She made breathing look uncomfortable. Helen stared at the protruding stomach and felt her own baby turn its position for the umpteenth time that day.

Involuntarily Helen’s hand rested on her stomach. She struggled to find her voice. “I actually enjoy doing laundry,” she squeaked.

“What?” nearly everyone in the room said.

“Please excuse me, I’ve remembered something in the kitchen,” Miranda said.

“I like it, too,” Daphne said, nudging her.

Helen nodded, feeling a familiar knot in her stomach. But at the same time she felt good about being on her own, away from Seth’s neediness and Sheldon. He was probably snoring on the couch by now. It was the first evening she had been on her own since… well, she couldn’t remember when.

“It’s the warm feeling I get when I’m folding the clothes,” Daphne added.

“Okay, that part, I agree,” Penny said.

Helen glanced around the room. It was vast with two-story ceilings and a huge fieldstone fireplace that took up an entire wall. The furniture was straight from an Ethan Allen showroom, the decorations a little cluttered, with too many knick-knacks collecting dust. Helen wiped her nose, self-consciously.

Miranda arrived with a plate full of brownies, took one, then passed them around. She sat in the oversized chair by the fireplace; Helen wondered if it was usually Frank’s chair.

Miranda took a long drag on her cigarette, then said to no one in particular, “So, what did you think of the book?”

Helen noticed that the smoke mostly came out of her nose, like a fire- breathing dragon.

“Which one was it?” Penny asked.

The Scarlet Letter,” replied Miranda, fetching her copy from the mantel and showing it to the group.

“I found it entirely too maudlin, the whole focus on death. Dreary!” said Francie, taking a bite of her brownie and continuing while she chewed. “But, I adored the protagonist. I just love the name, Hester. And the town reminded me a lot of Darien.”

“Interesting Francie, because I had the opposite reaction,” said Yvette. “I thought it was too predictable, especially with that whole pregnancy and adultery business. And I felt like the death obsession was redeeming, fascinating almost. We’re such a death- phobic culture. Brownie?” She took two, then held the plate out to Helen, who drew back, self-conscious. No-one else had been offered the plate aloud as it passed, but she felt all eyes on her now, especially Yvette’s. “How about you, Helene?”

“It’s Helen,” she said, a bit abruptly. She passed the plate, noticing the red and green holiday snowflake pattern as more brownies were taken. “I think Hester seemed very real. And her decision to have the child seemed to be because she had no other recourse.” As she spoke, she felt suddenly close to tears, and blinked her eyes two or three times rapidly.

Daphne, sitting closest on the sofa, whispered, “Helen, are you all right?”

Helen nodded and smiled, pallid. “It’s just that,” her voice cracked and she got up from the couch. She thought she was going to be sick. “I’m sorry, Miranda, but I need to use your facilities.”

“Oh,” said Penny.

“Everything okay?” asked Francie as Helen passed quickly by. Miranda jumped up and escorted Helen down the hall, saying, “There, there,” and “It’s all right, it’s just down here.”

Helen shut the door and turned the fan on and burst into tears, silent wracking sobs that went on for what felt like an hour. I can’t do this, I can’t handle this, she kept whispering to herself. This is supposed to be fun, a book club, isn’t it? Oh god, oh god. I have nothing in common with these people. Or any, for that matter. How the hell do I get out of here? Then she remembered the vial in her purse. She reached in for two Valiums and swallowed them hastily. As she reapplied her Lancôme makeup, her curiosity got the better of her and she opened the medicine chest. There were over a dozen vials containing a cornucopia of pills. She took two Nembutal (the vial said Frank Newton) and four Valium (Miranda’s, nearly full) and slipped them into her purse. She wiped the two vials with a hand towel like a fugitive, wiping away any traces of fingerprints.

She almost giggled, but then heard Miranda ask, “Helen, are you okay in there?”

She moved further away from the door. “I’ll be right out!”

When she arrived back in the living room, Yvette said, “We thought you fell in!”

All Helen had to do, as she knew, was pat her stomach and say, “Baby stuff.” And everyone ah’d and oh’d, then baby talk occupied the entire rest of the two hours. Hester Prynne would have been about as thrilled as Helen was. Once the Valium kicked in, everything was less sharp. Penny was less vile. Yvette slightly less repulsive. Daphne less daunting. Miranda’s smoking even became a game in which Helen saw figures in the hovering smoke as it accumulated in the room.

When she arrived home, Helen woke Sheldon, who’d dozed on the sofa. Yet despite her tales of how the night evolved, and Sheldon commenting that she seemed happier than he’d seen her in a long time, she would never attend a Book Club meeting again. Besides, next month Yvette was hosting, and she lived in Rowayton, too far away for Helen to walk.