Tuesday, February 26, 2013

AM I THE MEAT????????????

She might be the babe beside me, but she's also one mighty terrific poet. I mean, Layne Ransom. Before the girlfriend was the best pal and the coworker and the classmate and the girl at the martini bar shouting about slugs. I'm here about her new (first! congrats! yes!) chapbook from H_NGM_N Books called You Are The Meat. Sure sure I could be risking an elbow (or worse!) saying anything sillybad about this book, but mainly I'd just be sillywrong. I'm being srsly(asmuchasispossible)honest here!

Here I go. Here I go. Boyfriend and poetry fan and Layne fan and superpal all chattering as one messy flung ball. First thing you gotta notice, first poem, first ending, first time you get to take a breath and scroll on: "Don’t reason/with a plane crash/clean up the fucking bodies." Layne is scared, but isn't scared to shout out of these poems, EVERYTHING SHE SEES. It's beautiful and daring and feels like late night walks we take. A little drunk and a little worried and a lot in awe of the Past, Present, and Future. "When will Jesus Christ fulfill my sexual desires?" That's life, right? Waiting for saviors, and getting stood up by saviors, and (failing at) being our own saviors, and realizing our saviors were here the whole fucking time, in a homemade hat holding a chocolate bar. "If I could slap a title on this moment/it’d be EVERYONE I LOVE IS HERE" This thing is full of good titles ("How Was Your Day?" and "Little Methods" to name TWO) and good lines (you get it yet?), but most WOW is the straight up stumbling-down-the-railroad-tracks oomph of these poems, this whole meatwad. It goes zoom: "then my eyes explode/out of my skull with blood and multi-colored/magnet letters spelling words like “faith,”/“love,” and “beauty.”/you rearrange them into phrases like/“you evil fatty” and “voila, beef hat!” But golly geesh golly, what reminders we get throughout, of being loved/possessed, "If I could take you where I’m going/I would take you," of the way it is (but keep going!), "If I ruled the world, everything/would turn out just as awful," of The Necessary Parts, "Your first something is holy. Have a sandwich. Keep moving constantly, firing and firing out."

Sunday, February 24, 2013


AWP has become an excuse for me to see a big hunk of my writer pals in one place, get super-clocked by awesome readingparties, and wander around and stare at books.

As the AWP rowdy life goes, awesome things overlap and undercut and AHHHH. Here are the off-site readings I'm most stoked for this AWP (and will go to if the world is Nice):

Table X Reading with Ashley Farmer, Tadd Adcox, Aaron Teel, and more!

12 Good Readers featuring Abraham Smith (FINALLY), Heather Christle, Ben Hersey, Scott McClanahan, and 8 more!

Their Peculiar Ambitions: A Night of  Presidential Fiction Readings with Sal Pane, J.A. Tyler, Matt Bell, and many more!

Ink Node Reading featuring Wendy Xu, Zachary Schomburg, Nick Sturm, Adam Fell, and more! 

Sixth Finch and Vinyl Poetry with Matthew Lippmann, Emily Toder, Dan Magers, and more!

I'm So Tired with Ben Kopel, Carina Finn, Matt Hart, and more!

LIT PARTY with Scott McClanahan, Mike Young playing music,  and more!

There's Still Good In You with Jordaan Mason, Gabriel Blackwell, Amber Sparks, Adam Robinson, and more!

Six Party Talk with Layne Ransom, Dean Young, Caroline Cabrera, Bob Hicok, and more!

I'll also be helping Mike with the Magic Helicopter table at the book fair during the day. Come visit, pick up the new issue of Noo Journal or the second edition of The Drunk Sonnets, and be our pal!


I'm sure I'm missing stuff. What stuff am I missing? Tell me what I'll be missing! Still figuring out what panels I'll be going to.



Wednesday, February 20, 2013


Custom Star Destroyer from Layne for Valentine's Day

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Notes To A Young Poet

I'm so stoked to have my Notes To A Young Poet included over at H_NGM_N, wonderful press and friends to me. It's hanging out with awesome stuff by Matt Hart, Alexis Orgera, Adam Fell and more! Thanks to Sarah Certa, Nate Pritts, and everyone else under that umbrella that asked me to be a part of this.

Here's a little blip of what I said:

Ninth part, young poet, write what you know is only part of the story. The other part is about the hot air balloon crash, and oh boy, is that sad. Still, you shouldn’t be afraid to cry on Dave’s shoulder, or wiggle (hooray!) on Maggie’s couch when she returns to the door, or fall asleep next to Laura and her dog because life is exhausting.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Next Big Thing

My dear former professor and friend in poetry (and disc golf!) Mark Neely (his newest book, Beast of the Hill, is sooooo awesome) was tagged for “The Next Big Thing,” a self-interview for writers with recent or forthcoming books. Then Mark tagged me to answer some questions about my next chapbook.

What is the working title of the book?

48 Pornos

Where did the idea come from for the book?

I was writing this whole series of short prose poems/monologues that all started "Get this:..." and a bunch of them ended up being porno-esque, so I jogged around with that. I wrote nearly 400 of the "Get this:" pieces, 150(ish) of which ended up being "pornos." 48 of them seem to "twinkle" enough to fit into this mss.

What genre does your book fall under?


What actors would you choose to play the part of your characters in a movie rendition?

Depending on the "porno," of course, but some good fits would be: James Deen, a Garth Brooks look-a-like, Lisa Ann, some guy that owns a lighning bolt costume, and Lethal Lipps. Oh and the Statue of Liberty would play herself.

What is the one sentence synopsis of your book?

It's me pitching a bunch of porno ideas to an experimental, up-and-coming director.

How long did it take you to write the first draft of the manuscript?

I wrote the whole "Get this:" series in the course of a couple months, then I cut it down to about 200 over the course of a couple weeks, then I pulled out the "pornos," and worked on/added more of those for another couple of weeks. All in all, let's say 3-4 months?

Who or what inspired you to write this book?
First stage: The "Get this" series started as a Twitter series. People seemed to like them.
Second stage: I saw a contest advertised on The Rumpus for writing pornos. I started texting ideas to my girlfriend, Layne.
Third stage: I sent a few to my movie-making (not of the porno variety...YET) friend Dave, and he was super stoked about them.
Fourth stage: As I started getting more and more of them, I kept thinking of Safety Third Enterprises. Leader of that pack Matt is a fearless dude, totally into whatever literature gets him psyched, no rules. I knew of only one place I wanted to send it.
Fifth stage: Matt got psyched on the book!

What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?

STE will turn this thing in a totally beautiful object. The cover will be silk-screened. The pages will be mighty crisp. The whole thing will be wrapped up like a present. Oh and there will be a postcard of me naked (censored a bit, of course, sorry) taped to the front. 

Here's an example porno:

Get this: A milf rubs two dildos together and nothing happens. The video lasts for over an hour.

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?

Safety Third Enterprises is gonna textually broadcast this thing out in August.

My tagged writers for next Wednesday are:
Layne Ransom
Jayne O'Connor 
Dave Mcdermand

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

This Is Probably A Few Years Late--A Response to Letters to a Christian Nation by Sam Harris

I feel like I finally earned my atheist badge after reading Letters to a Christian Nation by Sam Harris recently.  As I had no doubt, Harris proves himself to be the most reasoned person writing nowadays, emotions stabled by reason, rather than reason getting pushed aside for carried away emotions. Thinking mistakes poofed away, Harris isn’t crying for help or being dogmatic in his response to the dogmatism of Christianity. He’s laying down facts. His just happen to come in the form of a letter to an entire people, a powerful and “normal” group of people. 

He’s brilliant in his organization, his reason, and his morality. Via organization, he perfectly addresses the issue, proves that it’s an issue, puts forward a powerful response, a response that’s reasoned, making it hard to refute most of these claims with actual facts (i.e. the Bible condones violence and murder, i.e. it’s all very contradictory). And his view of morality, with human suffering at the forefront, is plain and clear and totally right: "Questions of morality are questions about happiness and suffering” (p. 8).

My (only) (large) (saddening) concern with this book, as an atheist, as someone with similar fears and frustrations as Harris, is his approach. The letter. Moreover, his general rhetorical strategy, one that at times is borderline attacking, and at others is heavily hidden beneath his reason, is that of blame and scare tactics, at least at first glance. One of my favorite quotes is from p.51: "Atheism is nothing more than the noises reasonable people make in the presence of unjustified religious beliefs." But what kind of noise are we making? What kind of noise are people hearing?

At times, his goal is muddled for me, or maybe it’s just two parts very loudly coming out at once: to prove to the Christian people their errors and to arm nontheists with the arguments and insight to help in their everyday struggles as nontheists. While I get that he doesn’t expect to change the mind of every Christian nor does he think every nontheist is as reasoned and adamant as he is, I still fear the way he approaches the book from both of these goals is problemsome. There are several parts where Harris blatantly points the finger of blame at Christians for the suffering of others thanks to their decisions. And while he’s undoubtedly right, the aforementioned stellar three things proving such, I fear he’s shouting when he really could turn the argument to an impactful Q&A on the page. 

In the same way Christianity believes you will be punished for ignorance, of not knowing one’s Savior and such, Harris might seem to some to be doing the same to Christians, ones who have been brainwashed essentially by family and society, ones who haven’t been exposed to the level of reason Harris offers. Sure, as he says, "[i]t is a scientific face that moral emotions--like a sense of fair play or an abhorrence of cruelty--precede any exposure to scripture” (p. 21). However, these have to be the most animalistic and comprisable of instincts, ones easily succumbed to social norms, societal pressure, and history. No one besides someone with the discussion capabilities and sincere knowledge of Harris could dig deeper into that layer of indoctrination than the man himself. 

However, with this mechanism of blame Harris uses, I worry he’s giving Christians, who are already often rather defensive, often for no reason (see: War on Christmas; see: Prayer in Schools), another reason to hate and distrust atheists. Furthermore, he’s providing nontheists, ones who are possibly less rational and more militant than myself and Harris, strong rhetorical statements that could easily be strapped to hateful means. While I see beyond this finger-pointing, I fear those we (society, America, nontheists, etc.) crucially need to read and understand this book—Christians, agnostics, youth—might get hung up on/confused by such strategies.

That being said, inside Harris’s wonderful facts and logic could likely be a great discourse for getting people to rethink their faith, or at least the application of that faith, and to put true human suffering first. The pieces Harris links, like the absurdity of concerns of abortion and birth control and homosexuality, seem very obvious, but to some, it might not. This helps in the effort, no matter their religious beliefs, to get more people to realize that human suffering is the key thing to worry about in this life and ways to reduce that are the concerns to spend the most time on. 

So yes, I enjoyed this book, but I can’t help but wonder: what if Harris had written a more inviting book, for all, one that exposes faith’s contradictions and irrationality, but instead of blame, it was focused on reinstituting human compassion and decreasing human suffering, no matter what one believes.  As he says on p. 25, "[i]ndeed, religion allows people to imagine that their concerns are moral when they are highly immoral--that is, when pressing these concerns inflict unnecessary and appalling suffering in innocent human beings." This is the thing to change! As “[p]eople make religion out of the full fabric of their lives, not out of mere beliefs,” we have to get that fabric to blanket the ‘this life’ suffering and issues, as much as it worries about what’ll happen to our poor souls when we die. And that’s the greatest thing Harris’s book does, as I certainly see it, and I hope others, not just atheists, do as well.

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