Tuesday, October 30, 2012

City on a Hill (A Sun Rising)

          And then it was morning. With the amber sun shirking the rooftops low over Westham and the young families out walking in the cool air, the fathers in wrap around sunglasses and baseball caps, young mothers nervous and laughing too loud. An overabundance of polar-fleece. Babies. Too many babies.

piece in a zine

I have a piece in NADA.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Review of "Cityscapes" an anthology

        Jacob Steinberg is putting out this anthology called "Cityscapes" and I was given the chance to review it ahead of release. The collection ostensibly centers around the writer's cities and the experiences the environments form. It has a November 9th release date and will be available for free. Info can be found hereabouts. In a community that seems to has major international centers in New York, New York and New York the chance to get a sense of what people are doing in Chicago, Miami, Wellington, Dubai and the rest of the world is absolutely refreshing. Steinberg has done a nice job gathering pieces from the well known (Noah Cicero, Frank Hinton, Sam Pink) and the currently less well known (at least to me), as well as writers with a range of experience. As with any themed anthology the adherence to the theme varies considerably between pieces and ultimately has little correlation to the quality of the piece. The quality of the pieces does vary, though the majority are at the very least engaging, and a decent number are of high quality. I'll focus the review on the latter.  I will admit that my attention to the poetry was sparse, certainly not because I found the verse lacking quality but simply because I do not feel as adequately equipped to judge poetry.
        One of my few complaints with the anthology (and this isn't with the anthology so much as with the writers themselves) is that some of the pieces are woefully short. Some of these writers are the sort where a short piece can be a bad thing. Some of these are teases, leaving the reader (me) wanting more, wanting the thought to go on, develop, become something great when they don't. My other complaint is Steinberg found no one to rep Seattle.
       As for the writers...
       Frank Hinton's writing is in excellent shape here, hands down the best I've read from her and in a different style from her pieces I've seen in the past. This short story is down right terrifying: she depicts a descent into hell, a movement from the sterile comfort of the city to a hedonistic confused rural scene from which the narrator does not emerge unscathed. No punches are pulled and she avoids over-dramatizing the events that occur.
       Mira Gonzalez has a nice poem in which she whips the reader through the extremes of scale, replicating the enormity and isolation of city life. Breif and disorienting.
      Morgan Lent's piece is a series of vignettes of Los Angeles from different views narrated with an excellent voice and merciless wit. Within LA she encompasss the world from pole to equator and works the city theme for all it's worth.
      Mike Bushnell drops a breathless metaportrait of New York, switching voices on you without warning and replicating the driving ghost of the city.
     Janey Smith, a writer I had as of yet not heard of,  has a really nice piece of strange realism in which the narrator prepares to attend thier father's funeral. This is the sort of piece that has a quality that can't be adequately put into words, suffice it to say that it definitely stands out from the rest in it's degree of cohesion, development and heart. Certainly a writer I'll be looking into.
     Irene Gayraud's piece, translated by Caitlin Adams, is written with an ease and grace that hints at considerable talent. The fact that the setting is a pretty run of the mill relationship scene (one which could be portrayed a hundred different ways, 90 of them uninteresting) makes her piece that much more impressive.
      Noah Cicero predictably blows it out of the water with a trifecta of tiny funny poems. Just read them.
      Vivek Nemana's piece is one of the longer of the bunch and is socially and personally aware. This might be unsettling for those used to the often pathologically self-centered bent of internet writing, and Namana's piece certainly stands out for better or worse. I loved it.
      Viktor Iberra Calavera has these eye sharpening, fucked up word salads reminiscent of, though separate from, Sean Kilpatrick's style. I'm often lost in this style but Calaverra (with the help of Steinberg's translation) drew me in and shook me. It's all about the sounds.
      The pieces in "Cityscapes" are framed by a peroxide clean layout and Steinberg's terse and thought provoking introduction this is a well done anthology, definitely worth the money (it's free, duh) and your attention. Bask in your favorites, expand your horizons authorially and geographically.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

New Art

Received two new pieces from Seattle artist Brandon Vosika:

George Washington

and Celly

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Strange things I believed as a child

I was a weird kid, I guess maybe no weirder than any other kid but I had some strange beliefs which I've recently began to recall.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

To feel uplifted press here

We stayed up late that night

watching the fireworks

with are basically flowers made of shit that they tack up in the sky

with raw horse meat

and it took for god damn fucking ever

just these explosions everywhere mussing up my religious adherence

and then

and then I was asked to eat food

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Short story: "Besame"

We had gone to an all you can eat sushi restaurant. We had eaten a lot and watched the Asian families, the Russian families. The ones with their kids, happy. The ones with their kids, unhappy, or at least not showing it…or quiet. We at all we could, tuna and green beans and California rolls and I ate sole and you ate tofu and it was good.

Short Story: "The Only Sensible Course of Action"

It’s one of these hip restaurants downtown that, around 7 or 8, dims the lights, sets out candles and serves appetizers and wine by the glass attracting the late 20’s early 30’s courting crowd.  They flock in, always couples, have a few drinks, look at the “funky” art on the walls, speak in hushed tones, form and break relationships. Every now and then the café will bring a jazz singer in though tonight it is just Norah coming through the small computer speakers in the back.

Short story: "Lovely Day for a Drink"

I thought about the end. I thought about the end too much so I became the end. Or at least part of the end, maybe. To say it best: a bit of the end became a part of me. Reclining under a tree one day the poisonous blackness of it all made itself readily apparent. Too readily apparent if you ask me. It waltzed up, a pale man in a black bowler hat who said jauntily:
            “My what a crushingly dreary day we’re having” adding with raised eyebrows above a crooked smile: “Eh?” I stood up. Seeing his bald, round, mottled head fuming under the canopy made me sick
            “I know…I know what you’re up to and it won’t fly one bit. Not here, not now, not with grass like…” I pointed feebly to the ground in an attempt to strike a pose “heroic” or otherwise forceful “…like this under my feet.”
            “Now now, no need for histrionics, deserved or otherwise. I’ve just stopped for a chat. For…a drink?” he reached into one of the pockets of his knee length overcoat, fingers plunging, up to the wrist, clawing deeper and deeper as if into a blind crate. Deeper still until his arm up to the shoulder had sunk into a pocket which appeared, by all external signs, to be no larger than any other. He rifled around for a moment, his face stuck writhing in a fit concentration until he broke into a smile and pulled out a weathered bottle and two jiggers. He poured out a shot into each, or rather a mess of fetid insects and arachnids fell and crawled into each, mumbling in the glasses. I stood staring awkwardly as he handed me one. I felt compelled to accept out of politeness. He held his glass up, curled centipedes and hornets roiling but obedient in their role as a swig, then looked me in the eyes. “Here’s to you, or rather: to me. Well…one in the same, really.” I brought the glass toward my face, tracking it all the while as it approached. Paused. Advanced the glass to my lips, the slithering gleaming, midnight conflagration it held pulsing hot fear through my scalp in lines radiant and ovals concentric, causing each ligament in my knuckles and spleen to pull against their tethers in atavistic fury. Tilting back  I expected an acid, stinging, pungent mouthful but the bugs tumbled out and mostly flew away, a few bouncing off my chin for a brief second before landing on the soil and sand and burrowing away to start lovely insect families within the loam. I looked up, my heart pounding, and found him leering out at me in glee, the jigger tossed over his shoulder. “Well I never drink before noon these days. And to be honest this really is swill. I hope it hit the spot for you, but don’t make it a habit! This stuff will kill you if you don’t keep an eye out for it.”

Short Story: "Archie"

When I was in college I lived in a house next to Archie. Archie was Swazi, and if you look on a map for Swaziland you will find what appears to be a small hole punched out of the north east of South Africa. This is Swaziland. It is a genuine monarchy where something like 90 percent of the people live on a dollar a day while the king lives an incredibly lavish lifestyle. The king practices polygamy and has dozens of children. I was never able to determine Archie’s connection to the king but they share the same last name so I assume they are related somehow. One in three Swazi’s have HIV putting Swaziland somewhere in the top three countries in prevalence of the disease. Somehow Archie got out of there and travelled to the US. He was a musician, a marimba player, and played all around the US.  He eventually settled in our small college city, surely out of complex reason and while I was curious why he lived here I never pressed the matter.
When we first moved in and he would come over on week nights, unannounced, just to hang out, or jam for a bit he would suddenly fall against the wall in the middle of an otherwise normal sentence. Looking back it seems obvious but for a few months we had to wonder why he did this. He was one hell of a cook though, loved making us vegetarian dishes. He wore red green and gold and talked about rastafi but I think this was just because the kids in our drunk small college city lumped him in with their go to musical/African archetype and just assumed he was Jamaican. Archie would busk with his marimba most weekend nights outside a bar downtown. The drunk bros loved him, would come up and sing with him and throw dollars in his case. Always respectful. At least he had that. He would spend the money on beer and stay up all night. He would stay up all night drunk on IPA or rum, too drunk to fall asleep, far past the point of vomiting. He got drunk like you wouldn’t believe. Archie would get full on dedicated to the core wasted and yet would usually stay on his feet. A few mornings I would wake up to Archie poundings on his marimbas at 5 am. I would look out my window and see him there banging on those marimbas and screaming the sky. I never saw him angry but I know that he was an unusually sad individual. His English was broken and so I a lot of people thought he was stupid. But he wasn’t stupid, he was just a drunk. Rumors suggested that at some point he had dated the heiress to the U-Haul fortune. They had broken up but she still held pity for him, or something. So even though Archie didn’t work, probably hadn’t for years, he lived in a 30 foot late model RV trailer and had money to buy food with every month. Archie was a hard drunk, one of those that drank all day but wouldn’t seem it. He loved children, really loved children more than anything in the world. He would busk at the weekend farmers market and the families would bring their kids over and he would beeline to them, hand them interments and have them sing along. His jaundiced eyes frightened them. He showed us a picture of his own son one time. A chubby kid who didn’t look much like Archie and lived in Hawaii.
After I moved away I only saw Archie infrequently, though he was still around. More often I would hear things about him. Heard one time that at a festival he smoked DMT. A week later his liver failed. Years of drinking rum all day and he blamed it on the DMT. Drunk logic. We confronted him one time, my friend Ana and I. Said Archie we love you and you hurt yourself and we don’t want to see you hurt yourself. He told us that if he didn’t drink he would have never spoken to us. It was hard to tell him that that would have been okay, the not drinking, not knowing him.
Every time I hear a story that starts “Did you hear what happened to Archie…?” I always think the story is going to be about his funeral. But somehow it never is. I saw him a few weeks ago, there on the street playing his marimbas. He says Hi, shakes my hand, says a few things but is shy. Probably sober. Gives me his CD. He knows everyone but doesn’t know their names.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Review: "State of Grace" by Joy WIlliams

          Too often the review is dominated by strong opinion. "I loved it", "I hated it" hyperbole is standard in the review and thus becomes the new standard. It's the way to get your opinion across but at a certain point you have to wonder about the sincerity of it all. Do these reviewers actually believe every other book is the "best one they have read all year", "absolutely captivating" or "absolute trash, not worthy of being burned"? I think not.