Category Archives: Essay

Omega Institute: Nick Flynn

Hi friends!

I recently attended a week long writer’s retreat at Omega Institute called Memoir as Bewilderment. I think what attracted me, aside from stellar writer and teacher Nick Flynn, was the bewilderment factor. I feel as if life presents itself in this manner often, and my writing most certainly contains an element of the unknown, or the mysterious.

I arrived after car, plane, cab, train, and shuttle. I met my first writer taking the same course at the Rhinecliff train station, Anne. We immediately bonded over books, family similarities, New York and there was an immediacy that writers tend to have.

Prior to the workshop we were asked to bring with us: 10-20 pages of our own writing (and to choose one page to make copies for everyone), one page from a published book),  a science article (copies for everyone). All of these were to hopefully contain elements of what we define as bewilderment. I’d just completed Sherman Alexie’s You Don’t Have to Say You Love Me, his new memoir about his mother. Plenty of bewilderment!

The workshop was held in the Creekside cottage, which was a tight space for 25 writers! After selecting a word from the white board (I chose “to Lose”) we were given a postcard image. We meditated for seven minutes (a welcome recurring theme before our writing prompts) and then wrote “descriptive writing”- trying to stick with details. We repeated this exercise with slight suggested revisions, so that eventually we had written four or five different prompts. We also read Larry Levis’s lyric poem, “Sensationalism.” My small group was Laura, Kathryn and Carrie. I also partnered with Sean on a couple of exercises.

Teacher Nick Flynn, author of several books, including his memoir, Another Bullshit Night in Suck City, which I read during our Omega workshop. (http://www.nickflynn.org)

One evening, we saw Aja Monet read from her stellar poetry collection, My Mother Was A Freedom Fighter at the Omega Library. She was amazing.

In class we also drew maps of a specific location, and a map of our body (placing both trauma and joys on the body). These were used for prompts. We did a movement exercise with Omega staff and writer JoJo that helped us to identify a place in which we might go deeper into a writing piece. Then we wrote a piece toward a direction on our maps. We also visualized our ‘home direction,’ and figured out a gift to give to our “person,” (used from our original postcards) and wrote a fairy tale prompted piece to a younger self in a deep woods.

Stanley Kunitz, a mentor of Nick’s said: “You have to become the person that can write the poem.” (of compassion, of anger, of solace, etc.)

On Wednesday, Nick’s friend and music collaborator, Guy Barash visited the Omega campus. We did an afternoon workshop with Guy, directing us with non-musical instruments, graphed and designed on paper. We did a silent meditation just listening to local ambient sounds (heater, planes, crickets, etc.) and “recorded” them, then attempted to translate them to the class (from our papers). Then, in groups, we performed our pieces. Then Guy directed the entire class as an aural orchestra. We dubbed ourselves the Unstable Atomic Pigs! Nick was so kind, he invited us to open for Nick and Guy’s performance in the Lake Theater that evening. Also Jared Handelsman, another collaborator, provided video footage. Their show was beyond inspiring!

On Thursday our class occupied the Lake Theater at Omega. This was an entire day devoted to our “working project.” We went through our various collected pages, new writing and brought pieces, and various favorites from the group. We marked the “resonant parts,” and Nick coached us to be generous- not one or two words, mark “whole passages.” From there, we literally cut out those parts, and placed them onto 30 blank sheets of white paper. I sort of figured out that I had three or four threads for my project. And I had organized them all in these groupings. Then Nick came over, listened as I described my chaos, and said, “okay, now you can switch them all up- move them around, etc.” I literally felt nauseous! But so did everyone else. Chaos… opposite of organized.

The last morning, Nick fielded a quick question and answer. Because I had to leave early on Friday, I was the first in order for the final reading. I read “Tributaries,” and “When He Left it all to Me.” I was only able to stay for the first four or five other readers. I felt so badly when I slipped out, but I had to catch the train, to the cab, to the plane, to the car ride home. My dear friend David Carter (who incidentally was the first friend I workshopped with at Omega in 1994), came and spent an overnight on Thursday, and transported me to the Rhinecliff train station. Bless his heart.

What a week. So grateful to Nick Flynn, teacher extra-ordinaire, my co-writers and creators, to Omega for hosting this amazing workshop. To friends, new and old. And always to my honey, who makes life seem more technicolor than ever.

The Hardest Thing to Express

Recently, a dear writer pal passed away. It was sad, perhaps even sadder then it might have been had I kept in closer contact since I knew her health was challenged. But that’s how life is. We get busy, one thing more adds to the pile. We break an ankle at the largest annual writer’s conference, AWP in D.C., then when our entire world slows down, this happens.

When I first began to publish more actively in online and print journals, around 2009 and 2010, there was a community called 52/250. I just ran into one of the three editors of 52/250 in D.C. at the AWP conference, John Wentworth Chapin! It brought back so many memories of that entire year, workshopping and showcasing our work as a supportive online community, and even more, using the venue as a vehicle for experimentation, pushing writing conventions, or “rules,” or boundaries. Being willing to fail on the page (as Beckett made famous- ‘fail better!’)

Simultaneously, I was taking notice of the online journals that seemed to have pizazz, and moxie, the journals that published more edgy, experimental, or a range of writing that interested me. Among many was a site called The Nervous Breakdown, started by Brad Listi in the mid- 2000s. On a whim, after seeing the Joan Rivers documentary movie, I wrote a whimsical “review,” but not really a review, more a commentary piece about Joan. I decided to send it to The Nervous Breakdown, and although Brad was confused about what category of writing it was, he sent it to Cynthia (pictured above). She was the Arts & Entertainment Editor. She loved it, and published the piece:

http://www.thenervousbreakdown.com/rvaughan/2010/07/a-piece-of-work-joan-rivers/

Then, a few months later after I’d seen a rather bizarre movie called “Inception,” directed by Christopher Nolan, I wrote another strange piece called “I Had a Dream” (Thanks Mr. King), and Cynthia again loved it, despite it being a sort-of fiction/ prose poemy/ creative non-fiction piece. She published it at Nervous Breakdown:

http://www.thenervousbreakdown.com/rvaughan/2010/07/i-had-a-dream/

Years later, when RIFT (my last book, co-written with Kathy Fish) was selected as the Nervous Breakdown‘s Book of the Month Club (December, 2015), Cynthia sent me the most flattering congratulations “fan letter.” I was buoyed by her sweet, wonderful words and enthusiasm, and her referencing those earlier pieces she’d published in the journal.

Her work, and her words are still online here: http://cynthiahawkins.net/blog1/

Dearest Cynthia, we miss you. I MISS YOU. The world seems slightly less lovely without you here.  I will miss discussing all things cultural: movies, actors, plays, etc.

If you knew Cynthia, or are reading this and feel moved to help her family (husband, and two girls), you can do so here: https://www.gofundme.com/CynthiaHawkins

In short, I’m so grateful for everything you ever gave to me, and my writing, Cynthia. I hope that in our support of one another, I gave you as much encouragement and gratitude as you have towards me. Thanks for your bright light, your laugh, and your writing and wit.

Last Tuesday

Writer Gay Degani asked me to write a “Why I Write” essay for her column, JOURNEY TO PLANET WRITE. And it’s the type of writing that lends itself to vomit. But this time, and in terms of what is going on in our American climate backdrop, I only hid in the hamper for an day or two. It’s called “The Sound of Rushing Waters”:

http://wordsinplace.blogspot.com/2017/01/journey-to-planet-write-sound-of.html#.WI-h1LGZNBx

And on the same day, my poem called “On the Wings of a Dove” which originally appears in my third book, Addicts & Basements, was published at Voicemail Poems. Thanks, editors!!!:

http://voicemailpoems.org/post/156359866536/on-the-wings-of-a-dove-by-robert-vaughan-when

I wrote this poem to honor the life of Matthew Shepard. R.I.P.

Enjoy the snow!!!

 

(B)OINK zine

I’m over the moon excited to announce the all-new January issue of (b)OINK. Flash Fiction! Poetry! Creative Non-Fiction! Art! And “Voices,” from the literary world-at-large. Thanks fellow editors Rob Parrish and Chelsea Laine Wells. Thanks Al Fuelling for your web skillz! Thanks to Meg Tuite for “Voices,” and David Carter and Rob Kibble for “Art.” And every single person who sent us over 150 submissions for this issue: we loved your work, we did our best, we had a blast. Please read this issue, and share it. Then send us a (b)OINK submission for February. We’ll be eating.

Home

2016 Reading List

As a writer, it’s a given that one reads. Some of my favorite childhood memories are discovering new books. That excitement has never gone away. And, so although it’s not quite the year end, I wanted to post my annual 2016 reads here:

My 2016 reading list:

I’m Not Supposed To Be Here and Neither Are You- Len Kuntz

Kinda Sorta American Dream- Steve Karas

The New York Stories- Ben Tanzer

A Fractured Mind- Robert B. Oxnam

Bone Black- Bell Hooks

Robert Altman- Mitchell Zuckhoff

Haints Stay- Colin Winette

Mira Corpora- Jeff Jackson

Lithium for Medea- Kate Braverman

In Paran- Larissa Shmailo

lined up like scars- Meg Tuite

The Sound of Gravel- Ruth Wariner

Hotels of North America- Rick Moody

The Astonished Universe- Helene Cardona

Literary Outlaw: William S. Burroughs- Ted Morgan

Keith Haring Journals

Agnes Martin: Her Life and Art- Nancy Princenthal

The Gods Are Dead- Joanna Valente

Sex and Death- Ben Tanzer

Dear Mr. You- Mary-Louise Parker

Your Sick- Elizabeth Colen

The Mysteries of Pittsburgh- Michael Chabon

Did you Ever Have a Family- Bill Clegg

Portrait of An Addict- Bill Clegg

Atlas of Remote Islands- Judith Shalansky

Short Cuts- Raymond Carver (re-read)

Ordinary People- Judith Guest (re-read)

The Art of Memoir- Mary Karr

Updike- Adam Begley

This Must Be The Place- Sean Doyle

Rimbaud- Edmund White

Secret Historian- Justin Spring

Space, in Chains- Laura Kasischke

No Stopping Train- Les Plesko

What Belongs to You- Garth Greenwell

The Narrow Door- Paul Liscky

I’m From Electric Peak- Bud Smith

The Queen of the Night- Alexander Chee

It Starts With Trouble: William Goyen and the Art of Writing- Clark Davis

Lynch on Lynch, edited by Chris Rodley

Purity- Jonathan Franzen

Life on the Loose- Cari Taylor-Carlson

Not Nothing- Ray Johnson

Mortal Lessons: Notes on the Art of Surgery- Richard Selzer

A Manual for Cleaning Women- Lucia Berlin

Ninety-Nine Stories of God- Joy Williams

Potted Meat- Stephen Dunn

The Argonauts- Maggie Nelson

Communion & Other Stories- Curtis Smith

The Girls- Emma Cline

Cowboys and East Indians- Nina McConigly

Grief is the Thing with Feathers- Max Porter

Night Sky With Exit Wounds- Ocean Vuong

The Professor’s Quarters- Albert Degenova

Porcelain- Moby

Be Cool- Ben Tanzer

Rain Check- Levi Andrew Noe

Notes on my Dunce Cap- Jesse Ball

Cronenberg on Cronenberg- David Cronenberg

Life in Suspension- Helene Cardona

The Vig of Love- Bill Yarrow

Trier on Von Trier- ed. by Stig Bjorkman

Intersex- Aaron Apps

What we Know So Far- Robert Scotellaro

Ozone Journal- Peter Balakian

The Vegetarian- Han Kang

Measuring the Distance- Robert Scotellaro

Compression Scars- Kellie Wells

Joe Gould’s Secret- Joseph Mitchell

Bukowski in a Sundress- Kim Addonazio

The Reactive- Masande Ntshanga

Floating- Anne Pierson Wiese

The Loved Ones- Sonya Chung

New Jersey Me- Rich Ferguson

Bad Motel- Robert Scotellaro

Salute the Wreckage- Clint Margrave

Find Me- Laura Vandenberg

The Consumation of Dirk- Jonathan Callahan

Rhapsody of Fallen Objects- Robert Scotellaro

Sing the Song- Meredith Alling

Deer Michigan- Jack C. Buck

Here Comes The Sun- Nicole Dennis- Benn

Happy Holidays everyone! I hope you have a chance to “hole up” with a good book during these last weeks of 2016.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Smokelong Quarterly

Hi friends,

At the end of 2015, Megan Giddings, Executive Editor at Smokelong Quarterly, asked both Kathy Fish and me if we’d like to guest edit for this venerable online magazine. Of course, we both eagerly agreed. My week to read the submissions arrived in mid-February 2016, and they began to roll in. Fortunately, I am familiar with Submittable, where SQ makes it easy- sets the guest editor up with their personal account on their site, so every submission is queued and waiting to be read.

All ONE HUNDRED AND TWENTY-SEVEN of them. Yeah, that’s a lot of stories, at one thousand words or less!

And still, as one might imagine, I quickly narrowed the field down to ten. Then five. Then three.

And then this very one.

When I first read “Prismatic” by Eileen Merriman, it felt like it was written for me. I can’t explain coherently why; perhaps the numerical form, with missing numbers. Maybe the sisterly competitiveness over love interests. Even the title was familiar, in a former life, the name of a haircutting system I used to teach for a manufacturing company.

More than anything, it was the haunting essence of this startling story that I loved, first read, and continue to admire, several reads later. The story stays with you, it is lasting. And I sincerely apologize to Eileen, who turns out, lives in New Zealand- because “Prismatic” was originally published on April 11. Still, here it is:

Prismatic

(Art by Katelin Kinney). Thanks Megan Giddings, and staff at Smokelong Quarterly for this opportunity to guest edit your magazine.

Readings Etc.

Hi Friends,

I do a lot of readings. They’re fun, and typically, if in a group, by listening closely, I learn a thing or two from others. I always bring a notebook, and fill a page or more with notes.

Recently, I realized that I have photos from each of my four book launches. Here they are:

Microtones

This was a reading for Red Oak Writers, hosted by our fearless director, Kim Suhr, soon after Microtones was published by Cervena Barva Press in 2012.

Diptychs

This was a reading in Chicago in early 2014 with Meg Tuite and David Tomaloff, hosted by Bill Yarrow. I’m reading from the newly published Diptychs + Triptychs + Lipsticks + Dipshits (Deadly Chaps). My pal Meg’s entire family came (or nearly). It was a blast!

A & B

I think this was shot at the Seattle AWP#14. Addicts & Basements (Civil Coping Mechanisms) had just been released. Jane Carmen’s “Festival of Language” typically kicks off the AWP Conference with an ambitious line-up on Wednesday (opening day), 5-10 p.m.

RIFT

And last, but certainly not least, a RIFT (Unknown Press) photo! This was taken by uber-talented Nancy Stohlman at her F-BOMB Flash Fiction Showcase last July in Denver. I was able to read with Kathy Fish, co-author and celebrated writer.

I recently returned from this year’s AWP Conference in Los Angeles. I had the opportunity to read in two different readings. The first, States of Terror’s “Creature Features” included many writers whose work I admire. One of them, Gabino Iglesias, wrote a stunning review of RIFT, and upon his return, published this great article about readings at Dead End Follies:

http://www.deadendfollies.com/2016/04/essay-why-most-readings-suck-and-how-to.html

I sure hope that Gabino was not referring to me! In any case, I took note, Gabino, and thanks for the succinct list.

We have a few spots left for our August fiction workshop in Taos at the Mabel Dodge Luhan House, August 20-26. Please contact Kathy Fish or me. More info at www.kathy-fish.com.

Also, please join us at the Marion Center tomorrow (Thursday, April 14th) night for our Red Oak reading, a mix of writers from several of our roundtables, to honor our years spent at this venerable institution. I will be reading, too! Pot luck starts at 5:30- 5:45 and reading begins at 6:30 p.m.

Happy Birthday “Boys From Pele!”

Twenty years ago, Tori Amos released her masterful CD, Boys From Pele. I was already a fan, and David Carter, Andrea Falkenstein and I would listen to her endlessly while watching the Doonies pass us by at Jones Beach, area #6. That August 25, we had the rare chance to see Tori perform at the outdoor Jones Beach amphitheater. It was hypnotic, emotional, and we were transported by her words, songs carried on the ocean winds.

Today, at Entropy, a literary website, Patsy Petunia put together an assembly, 18 artists and writers interpret the 18 tracks included on Boys From Pele. We could create anything in relation to the specific song we chose. I came late to the project and there was only one song left: Twinkle, track #18. It’s one of my least favorites. Or- I should say, it was. But this is the thing about Tori that makes her so great- her music is infectious. The more I listened to that song, “Twinkle,” the more I began to see why I LOVE it. And I do. You can read all of the pieces here:

YOU MAKE ME FEEL #12: BOYS FOR PELE 20th ANNIVERSARY

Then go get (or listen to) your own Boys For Pele. And marvel at the rest of these monumental songs. Tori Amos is a treasure, and her music lives through us all.

2014 Reading list (and more)

2014 sets sail, and a New Year fast approaches, it’s always fun to do a book recap. But before I get into that…here are ten other outstanding things about 2014:

* CCM published Addicts & Basements, my first full length collection, and my third book.

* I received my first Kirkus Review, among many fine, insightful, and supportive reviews.

* I’m a Gertrude Stein Award finalist (second year in a row!!!)

* There were over 20 different events in which I read, cities like Seattle, New York (twice), Madison, and Milwaukee. (The list continues with bookings in Santa Fe, Denver, and New York for 2015!)

* I attended a weekend poetry workshop at Omega Institute with Richard Blanco (and my good friends Michael Gillan Maxwell and David Carter!)

* I edited Bud Smith’s Everything Neon, his first stellar full-length poetry collection, from Marginalia Press.

* Grateful for several journals, new to me, that published my work: Everyday Genius, theNewer York, and The Miscreant, among others.

* Two nominations for the Pushcart Prize (added to two former): “Ten Notes to the Guy Studying Jujitsu” (Deadly Press): and “What He Left to Me” (The Miscreant). Thanks editors, Joseph Quintela, and Amanda Harris.

* I’ve started new columns on my writer’s blog to add to HUMP DAY: “Two for Tuesday” and the new monthly book give-away! Both will continue in 2015.

* Recently it was announced that I am one of four new deputy editors for Civil Coping Mechanisms: About CCM-Entropy | ENTROPY. I am truly excited about this opportunity, and look forward to working with new authors. Thanks, CCM Editor-in-chief, Michael Seidlinger.

My Reading List from 2014– (starred books I recommend (*)

You Sang it Back to Me– Amanda Deo (poetry)

Calendar of Regrets– Lance Olsen *

My Ghost in the Bush of Lies- Paul Wessels

Frantic Transmissions to and from Los Angeles– Kate Braverman (memoir) *

White Girls– Hilton Als *

Cunt Norton– Dodie Bellamy

Dreaming My Animal Selves– Helene Cardona (poetry)

The Physics of Imaginary Objects– Tina May Hall (flash fiction)

Watering Heaven by Peter Tieryas- Liu (short stories)

Beautiful Ruins– Jess Walter

Murmuration– Ryan Warner (chapbook)

I Am Not a Pioneer– Adam Fell (poetry)

Call Me Burroughs, A Life– Barry Miles (biography)

Antidotes for an Alibi– Amy King (poetry)

A Life in Men– Gina Frangello

Vow– Kristina Marie Darling (kindle- poetry)

Masters of Sex– Thomas Maier (biography)

Twilight of the Superheroes– Deborah Eisenberg (kindle- poetry)

Zoom- Zoom Room– Penny Goring (poetry)

The Isle of Youth– Laura Vandenberg (stories) *

The Dark Sunshine– Len Kuntz (stories) *

Tollbooth– Bud Smith *

The Motion of Light in Water– Samuel R. Delany (memoir) *

Girls Standing on Lawns– Daniel Handler and Maira Kalman

Misadventure– Nicholas Grider (short stories)

Family Trouble– Joy Castro (memoir anthology) *

Everything Neon– Bud Smith (poetry) *

I Want to Make You Safe– Amy King (poetry)

Kill Marguerite.- Megan Milks (short stories) *

Stories I Only Tell My Friends– Rob Lowe (auto-biography)

Holding on Upside Down: Marianne Moore– Linda Leavell (biography)

Shotgun Lovesongs– Nicholas Butler (fiction)

e.e.cummings: a life– Susan Cheever (biography)

Stone Bride Madrigals– Nicolette Wong (poetry chap)

Hello, The Roses– Mei- mei Berssenbruegger (poetry)

The Poetics of Space– Gaston Bachelard *

The Mourning Diary– Roland Barthes

Blood a Cold Blue– James Claffey (short stories) *

Balefire– Shann Ray (poetry)

Black Cloud– Juliet Escoria *

Steal Me For Your Stories– Robb Todd (flash/ short stories) *

I’m Not Saying, I’m Just Saying– Matthew Salesses (flash novel) *

The Great Floodgates of the Wonderworld– Justin Hocking (memoir) *

The Mere Weight of Words– Carissa Halston (novella)

flatscreen– Adam Wilson

Tap- Root– Indigo Moor (poetry)

Babel– Patti Smith (poetry) *

Looking For the Gulf Motel– Richard Blanco (poetry)

Deep Ellum- Brandon Hobson *

Spent– Antonia Crane (memoir)

Let Me See It– James Magruder

Burnings– Ocean Vuong (poetry) *

Rose Metal Press Field Guide to Prose Poetry (re-read)

Letters To A Young Poet– Rainer Maria Rilke (re-read)

A Season in Hell and The Drunken Boat– Arthur Rimaud (poetry)

An Untamed State- Roxane Gay

flatscreen– Adam Wilson

F- 250– Bud Smith

David and Goliath– Malcolm Gladwell (essays)

The Sky Conducting– Michael Seidlinger (kindle) *

ghostbread– Sonja Livingston (memoir) *

The Mustache He’s Always Wanted But Could Never Grow– Brian Alan Ellis (stories) *

Bad Feminist– Roxane Gay (essays) *

Rose Metal Press Field Guide to Prose Poetry (essay/ poetry)

Ariel: The Restored Edition- Sylvia Plath (poetry) *

Excavation– Wendy C. Ortiz (memoir) *

The Fun We’ve Had– Michael Seidlinger *

Lost in Space– Ben Tanzer (essay) *

Forest of Fortune– Jim Ruland *

What the Light Reveals– Rachel Heimowitz (poetry) *

You Don’t Know What You Don’t Know– John Bradley (poetry)

American Prometheus– Kai Bird and Martin J. Sherwin (biography)

Sentence #10– ed. by Brian Clements (prose poetry anthology)

Like a Beggar– Ellen Bass (poetry) *

Tender Buttons– Gertrude Stein

Preparation for the Next Life– Atticus Lish *

The Doll Palace– Sara Lippmann (stories) *

BOMB: The Interviews– ed. Betsy Sussler *

nagging wives, foolish husbands– Nate Tower (short stories) *

Calenday– Lauren Haldeman (poetry) *

Our Secret Life in the Movies– Michael McGriff and J.M. Tyree

Clotheslines– Mathieu Cailler (poetry chapbook) *

The Inevitable June– Bob Schofield *

Paul Chan Selected Writings 2000- 2014, ed. by George Baker and Eric Banks

UnAmerica- Momus (a/k/a Nick Currie)

Fourteen Stories: None of Them Are Yours by Luke Goebel *

As you can see, indicated by how many stars, this was an incredible year for books. Here are my favorites by category:

Fiction: three way tie-

Forest of Fortune– Jim Ruland; Preparation for the Next Life– Attticus Lish; Fourteen Stories, None of Them are Yours– Luke B. Goebel

Short Story: two way tie-

Doll Palace Stories– Sara Lippmann; Dark Sunshine– Len Kuntz

Poetry: Like a Beggar– Ellen Bass

Memoir: two-way tie-

ghostbread– Sonja Livingston; Excavation– Wendy C. Ortiz

Essay: Bad Feminist– Roxane Gay

Hybrid: two way tie-

I’m Not Saying, I’m Just Saying– Matthew Salesses; Black Cloud– Juliet Escoria

And that’s it! Not sure I can choose a best book, but so many great reads. How about you? Did you read any amazing books this year? Please do share them in comments! I’m always looking to buy. Thanks for another amazing year.

 

 

 

Three for Tuesday: Bill Yarrow, Darryl Price and Alex Pruteanu

I hope your Thanksgiving holiday was super, and that you have some peace among the upcoming hectic holiday season. Because I travelled last week, we have three fantastic writers who selected two books each this week. Enjoy!

TWO FOR TUESDAY- BILL YARROW

Seven Dada Manifestos- Tristan Tzara

Picasso said his art was “a sum of destructions.” I love that phrase for the way it cracks opens up a world we think we know. Some of my favorite reading is S.O.D. literature—think Tristram Shandy, Jacques the Fatalist and his Master, The Marriage and Heaven and Hell, Crotchet Castle, Max Havelaar, The Posthumous Memoirs of Bras Cubas, Ulysses, Tropic of Cancer, How It Is, The Innerworld of the Outerworld of the Innerworld, Flaubert’s Parrot….

So my first choice for Robert’s blog this week is Tristram Tzara’s “Seven Dada Manifestos,” a fabulous work difficult to find. I first came across it in Robert Motherwell’s outstanding anthology The Dada Painters and Poets and I still remember how shaken with excitement I was after I read it. It is to poetry what stock is to soup. Fun, experimental, shocking, unsettling, unreasonable, innovative, suggestive, and cleansing . Or, as Tzara explains, “A manifesto is a communication made to the whole world, whose only pretensions is to the discovery of an instant cure for political, astronomical, artistic, parliamentary, agronomical and literary syphilis.”

I love explication, exegesis—the art of making things clear. Brown’s Life Against Death, Herrnstein Smith’s Poetic Closure, Frye’s Anatomy of Criticism, Booth’s The Rhetoric of Fiction, Hirsch’s Validity in Interpretation, Gladwell’s The Tipping Point, Sacks’ Musicophilia, Grandin’s Animals in Translation, among others, have opened my eyes. For me, education is about making connections, so works that help me make connections are the works I most revere.

http://www.amazon.com/Seven-Dada-Manifestos-Tristan-Tzara/dp/B0037VIAP6/ref=sr_1_4?ie=UTF8&qid=1416673075&sr=8-4&keywords=Tristan+Tzara+Seven+Dada+Manifestos

Paperback: Riverrun (1981)

Tristan Tsara

Understanding Comics- Scott McCloud

My second choice is Scott McCloud’s Understanding Comics (with his Making Comics a close second). This is a book about comic books in the form of a comic book, but it is so much more. You want to read the best book on comic art? This is it. You want to read the best book on art in general? This is it. You want to read the best book on the nature and potential of film? This is it. You want to read the best book on how to write fiction? How to write poetry? This is it. A book in which manifold connections abound and explode. ESSENTIAL reading.

http://www.amazon.com/Understanding-Comics-Invisible-Scott-McCloud/dp/006097625X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1416673203&sr=8-1&keywords=scott+mccloud+understanding+comics

Paperback: 224 pages (William Morrow Paperbacks; Reprint edition April 27, 1994)

Scott McCloud

Bill’s Bio: Bill Yarrow is the author of The Lice of Christ (MadHat Press, 2014), Incompetent Translations and Inept Haiku (Červená Barva Press, 2013) and Pointed Sentences (BlazeVOX, 2012). His poems have appeared in many print and online magazines including Poetry International, RHINO, Contrary, DIAGRAM, Gargoyle, and PANK.

********************************************************************************

TWO FOR TUESDAY: DARRYL PRICE

Colorless Tsuruku and His Years of Pilgrimage- Haruki Murakami

The best book I have had the immense pleasure of reading recently, and one of the best books I have ever read in my entire life, is the new Haruki Murakami novel called, Colorless Tsukuru and His Years of Pilgrimage. Murakami elevates this profound work of literature into the rarefied realm of true and beautiful works of art. It is brilliant. It is at once a fascinating, interesting and moving story, but beyond that it is an experience that reverberates deeply into both your heart and mind always. A masterful work of word genius on every level.

http://www.amazon.com/Colorless-Tsukuru-Tazaki-Years-Pilgrimage/dp/0385352107/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1416352390&sr=8-1&keywords=colorless+tsukuru+tazaki+and+his+years+of+pilgrimage

Paperback (Kindle, Hardcover): 400 pages (Knopf, August 12, 2014)

Murakami

 

Tune In: The Beatles: All These Years- Volume 1- Mark Lewinsohn

The other book I’d like to make your readers aware of is Mark Lewisohn’s terrific new book on the Beatles, simply called Tune In–All these Years-Volume 1. It is simply the best book out there about the Beatles written to date, and by that I mean it has the most accurate information available in it. It is beautifully told and written and deeply researched. There are so many boxes of books about this band that a book should be written on all the glut of books, the good, the bad and the ugly. But to get back to the point, this particular book does what so many other books and authors have failed to do, that is to talk about the music, and to make that the centerpiece of any conversation first. So many of the other books leave out the fact of the music or just gloss over it in an offhand kind of way. This of course is highly insulting to the band, its fans and to readers of every stripe. We would not be having a conversation about the Beatles still if the music didn’t warrant it. In so many of the older books they are so very quick to point out how humanly fallible the four Beatles were, but then fail to mention, oh yeah, and while this or that thing was happening to them in their lives they just happened to write a few masterpieces to go along with it all–which the whole world seemed to embrace to such a degree that it (their songs, their music) became a part of everyone’s daily approach to life. Beatle music sound-tracked us (those who were there) as we all grew and changed- for decades at a time. So I was happy to discover that Mark’s approach was all about getting the facts right, and inserting the musical main reasons that these facts are even worth being told again now. Can’t wait for Volume Two!

http://www.amazon.com/Tune-Beatles-All-These-Years/dp/1400083052/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1416424214&sr=8-1&keywords=Mark+Lewinson

Paperback: 944 pages (Crown Archetype: First U.S. Edition- Oct. 29, 2013)

The Beatles

Darryl’s Bio: Darryl Price has published dozens of chapbooks, and his poems have appeared in many journals.

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TWO FOR TUESDAY: ALEX PRUTEANU

Gravity’s Rainbow- Thomas Pinchon

This is the most difficult book I’ve read in my life. Pynchon’s heavy work here is also the most polarizing I’ve ever known a book to be. People either give him up within the first 30 pages, labeling him a hack/lunatic/incomprehensible scheister, or work through the novel (like me) and are rewarded along the 800-page life-changing saga with the most remarkable and complex set of ideas, digressions, characters, and narrative ever they’ve come upon. I hesitate to even call this a novel. It is…at times an advanced course in engineering, propulsion, guidance, and physics. It is a slapstick silent comedy film along the lines of Buster Keaton’s or Harold Lloyd’s work. It is a philosophical meditation on humanity and war, a rhyming, naughty limerick, a drug-fueled hallucination marked by outrageous acts such as coprophagia and an unforgettable trip via a filthy toilet into the sewage pipes long before Trainspotting stole the idea outright and brought it to a new generation of readers. Listen, Pynchon was “edgy” a good 27 years before Irvine Welsh and Danny Boyle impressed you. Gravity’s Rainbow is a profound, brilliant, immense journey transgressing boundaries between high and low culture, literary propriety and profanity, and between hard science and metaphysics. This book was so important to me and affected me in such a heavy, great fashion that during the two months I read this work, I rearranged my daily life in order that I could come home and engage myself in Pynchon’s world. There were many times when ordinary details and daily chores were neglected in favour of reading this brilliant work. When I finished, I came away not only an inspired writer but a more complete (if astounded) human being.

Amazon.com: Gravity’s Rainbow (Penguin Classics Deluxe Edition) (9780143039945): Thomas Pynchon, Frank Miller: Books

Paperback, 776 pages; Penguin Classics, Deluxe Edition (Oct. 31, 2006)

Pynchon

2666- Roberto Bolano

Bolano’s imagination has always reminded me of our quickly ever-expanding universe. There are no limits to what this great writer can conjure, no boundaries—physical or metaphorical. This massive, posthumously released work redefines the idea of The Novel and its form. In his usual, self-interrogating way, Bolano’s 2666 is an ambitious, landmark master statement to, for, and on humanity. The novel consists of five sections, each with an autonomous life and form. These five long sequences—each a book’s length in itself—interlock to form an astonishing whole, in the same manner that fruits, vegetables, meats, flowers, and books connect in the amazing paintings of Giuseppe Arcimboldo to form a human face. “The Part About the Crimes” (pt. 4) is a massive display of genial, blunt power of documentary compilation. It’s grinding. It’s crushing. It’s harrowing. And it’s pure and beautiful. After nearly 300 pages of brutal, lyrical, poetic gravity in this section, the reader is rewarded with the oasis-like final part. I felt a sort of physical lift reading part 5…something I’ve only felt once in my life, in a state of trance almost, while listening for the first time to John Coltrane’s “A Love Supreme.” With this novel, Bolano has proven what literature can do, how much it can discover, and how purely it can indict our often disastrous, violent footprint left on this world. In fact, Bolano has proven it can do anything, including giving a name to the un-nameable, un-speakable, transgressive acts committed by human beings.

2666: A Novel: Roberto Bolaño, Natasha Wimmer: 9780312429218: Amazon.com: Books

Paperback, 912 pages, Picador; reprint edition (Sept. 1, 2009)

Bolano

Alex’s Bio:  Alex is author of novella Short Lean Cuts: Alex M. Pruteanuavailable at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Powell’s Books, and So & So Books (Raleigh, NC). He is also author of Gears, a collection of stories from Independent Talent Group, Inc. (Gears: A Collection: Alex M. Pruteanu). He has published fiction in NY Arts Magazine, Guernica Magazine, [PANK], Specter Literary Magazine, and others. He recently finished his first novel, The Sun Eaters.

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There are two books I read during Thanksgiving week, and really enjoyed both. One is Lauren Haldeman’s Calenday (poetry). I had the great fortune of reading with Lauren in the recent MONSTERS of Poetry event in Madison. The other book is Our Secret Life in the Movies by Michael McGriff and J.M. Tyree (stories). What did you read Thanksgiving week? What are you reading now? Both of these books, and being with so much family made me feel extremely grateful for everyone who is in my life. So, thanks!

HaldemanOur Secret Life in the Movies