Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Three New Poems @ Anti-Heroin Chic

I have three poems appearing today at Anti-Heroin Chic. Many kind thanks to editor James Diaz for again giving my work a home there. It's one of the best around, folks.


"Buddha Rat"


"Filicide Muse"

Monday, October 30, 2017

An October Hello To My Ten or Twelve Readers, or An October Hello To My One Reader

Without using the share option and posting links to Facebook and Twitter, I've found that I have a nice, tidy audience of about ten to twelve people here.

Or, conversely, one person who visits ten to twelve times whenever I post.


Here's a song I think you'll like:

Sunday, October 29, 2017

A Lot of People Are Too Sensitive

Mixbag - Sunday Morning, 9:29 a.m.

I bought a watch. It makes me feel like it's the 80s again. Anything I can do to make that happen more I will.

I finished a story called "A Sensational Tale of Symbolic Patricide" a couple of days ago. Sent it to a few journals to see if they like it. Now starts the months-long wait. Seems like editors get upset when I talk about long response times. I figure that makes us even-Steven.


I have a sink full of dishes to do this morning and it's the bane of my existence right now. All I want to do is sit here on the laptop and do stuff like write blog posts. I'm lazy. And I'm starting to be really honest about that. I should be writing two book reviews for American Book Review but I can't see myself doing it. I don't like writing book reviews for money. I'd rather do what Rusty Barnes so perfectly refers to as appreciations. I want to read books I like and then if I feel like it write about how much I liked it. Also, I'm lazy. I'm probably not going to write the reviews. I'm certainly not going to read one of the two books they sent me. It's a situation but I'm working on forgetting about it.


I'm trying to watch American Horror Story Cult. I say trying because I can't figure out if it's about clowns, politics, alternate lifestyles, or cult leaders. Evan Peters is great. I grabs up all the attention whenever he's on camera. Every scene. Sarah Paulson is great but her character is kind of whiny in an irritating sort of way. But she did just go off on some people in this last episode. Maybe there's hope. It does have Twisty the Clown from the Freak Show so I guess that alone should make it a win. I'm probably being too hard on it. But the whole Trump election thing feels too soon maybe. Too soon? I don't know. Too something.

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Lantern Lit Vol. 4 Is Coming Soon

Beasley Barrenton, the mind behind Dog On A Chain Press, asked me a couple of months ago if I had any poems I'd like to send him for a collaborative poetry chapbook made up of work from myself and two other writers.

Would I? Does a hillbilly talk funny?

Of course I sent him the material - fifteen or so of the poems I've written over the past several months. He liked most of them and I sent others to supplant the titles he thought were best left out.

I heard from him today with some updates, the most exciting of which was the names of the other writers who will make up the three-part collaboration. Those will be poets William Graham and Mat Gould. According to Beasley both Graham and Gould also live in Appalachia. This makes Lantern Lit Vol. 4 particularly enticing to consider, he said. I can't wait to see how all this comes out.

Have a look at the prior installments of the Lantern Lit series.

Saturday, October 21, 2017

Brad Listi's fundraiser for Matthew and Cathreen Salesses

Brad Listi is doing a really good fundraiser for Matthew Salesses and Matthew's family. Please take part. I am. 

Matthew's wife Cathreen has been diagnosed with stomach cancer. Here's the Salesses family.

From Brad:

"Cathreen is currently in Korea receiving treatment. she has their youngest child with her. Matt is currently in the States with their eldest. Needless to say, this is very difficult for them—and is made all the more difficult due to financial stresses that it is bringing to bear on them. With this in mind, I had an idea.over the years, many podcast listeners have asked me to make Otherppl t-shirts.  a good thought, but I was never able to get my shit together to act upon it—until now. Thinking about Matt and Cathreen and their kids, and wanting to help their cause, it occurred to me that I could do a fundraiser. So here I am. For a limited time only, I'm selling Otherppl t-shirts."

The goal is admirable, the shirts are really cool. Go do it, folks. 

Friday, October 20, 2017

FROM THE ARCHIVES: "Gratch's Abstract Action" @ > kill author

I had the good fortune to see two of my short stories published at the once and always stellar online journal > kill author. Everyone who recounts > kill author has only amazing things to say about it. It had mystery (the editors remained anonymous throughout the journal's 20-issue run) and published a ton of really good writers (among them Cezarija Abartis, Lauren Becker, Roxane Gay, Matt Bell, Mel Bosworth, Jimmy Chen, Sean H. Doyle, Elizabeth Ellen, Ashley Farmer, Mickey Hess, Christopher James, Shane Jones, xTx, Lisa Lim, Ravi Mangla.....Well, you get the idea).

You really should take a look at their list of contributors and spend some time reading the work they had published there. And please do also have a look at this one from me called "Gratch's Abstract Action" if you'd like. The story was included in their very first issue, I'm proud to say.

Here's the thing about > kill author: I spend a lot of time thinking about when the next > kill author will show up. I know it will.

Even small miracles are prone to repeat. 

Thursday, October 19, 2017

I Prayed for Something Small and Selfish

I prayed for something today. I pray to the best idea I have for what or who created us or from which we came. I do it with all the faith I have because I do have faith in the concept I just detailed, if vaguely.

I prayed today for the first time about something other than the health, safety, and happiness of my family and myself. The thing I prayed about is almost too minimal and selfish to mention. I hesitate. My instincts are to keep it to myself or risk humiliation. To be clear, if I hadn't already prayed, I would now back out of it. If I could take it back, I would.

It was writing related, you see.

You heard me. I really can't believe I did it. I've always been very particular about what I pray for. Somehow I always felt that it had to be a fairly epic thing to merit mentioning in prayer, for whoever or whatever is God, that is. Epic on that scale. Family, health, safety, etc. Not writing. Not literature. I'm still kind of stunned at myself.

But it's already happened, already been done, and I can't take it back now.

There is, though, a subtle sense of comfort or, more specifically, a reinforced hope that couldn't have materialized without praying. It's a strange feeling. A good one. But here's the rub: I don't have faith that it will actually help in any way. All that can help has already been done - writing the work; it's for others to decide how well I've done.

Monday, October 16, 2017

Fail Better: Learning To Let Go as a Reader and a Writer

Tonight I begin again on a book I'm writing that may have no ending at all. And no hope for one.

It's doesn't even have a title. Or a narrative thread. It has characters and lovely sentences and insight and fun and things I find interesting or peculiar. It has death and love and immortality and no discernible purpose. It was started a year and one month ago and have swelled at one time to more than 200 pages and now rests at a much more slim 78. If it gains no more or loses or deepens again to beyond 3,000 pages is something a care not one bit about. Length means nothing, not in literature.

You certainly wouldn't know this to be the case, though. Books like Infinite Jest, In Search of Lost Time, The Instructions, 2666, and on forever are held in the very highest esteem. They are called Opus and genius and all manner of flirtatious nonsense. They are fundamentally good books. That is all. And that is enough. Page number has nothing to do with it. Just as The Great Gatsby or To the Lighthouse or Of Mice and Men or Invisible Cities or The Catcher in the Rye or Coming Through Slaughter. I could go on.

All that matters is the fun and the interesting and the peculiar. At least in my world. And I mean all of these points as they pertain to the writer, not the reader. That's right. Entertain yourself, of course. For instance, I'm writing a short story at the moment that is about a homunculus. I'm having a blast. I think that because of that when other people read it they'll have a good time, too. And that's all I want.

But what of this insane anti-narrative book without a title and with no clear purpose? Oh yes, that's fun, too. No worries. And it will translate to a reader. If (and this is important) they give in to it. That's vital. It's the only way to enjoy a book like 2666, for instance. Or something by Gaddis or Perec. Give in, let go, enjoy. Stop taking everything so seriously. 

It's fun to open your mind as a writer and let the thoughts go where they might without planning, allowing one second of prose to build into the next second of prose and then see what happens. I do this with nearly all my work. The stories in which I have not done this are stories that were never completed. You'll never read them. They went bust a quarter through or half through. That's the risk of writing without a safety net. The project ain't always going to pan out. Big deal. Start another. Fail better, as the old boy said.

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Reading is Writing and Writing is Reading

Some reading jots.

I'm reading Madness, Rack, and Honey by Mary Ruefle (checked out from the library because it was too damn expensive to buy everywhere I looked) Unruly Creatures by Jennifer Caloyeras (this one for American Book Review with my review draft due by Nov. 15) and Unpacking the Boxes by Donald Hall (a cool memoir about his life as a poet. Kinda short and it started off a little slow but it's getting better).

Those are the hard copy books I've got working right now in the world of reading. On audio I'm knocking out Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace, while on my Kindle phone app I'm reading Get in Trouble by Kelly Link. Which reminds me: I just bought her first collection Stranger Things Happen on Kindle for a mere $1.95. Here's the link to get that, if you're interested:


Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Tackett Named New Editor-in-Chief at The Airgonaut

Jereny Tackett, Editor-in-Chief
My goodness am I happy to be making this announcement.

The Airgonaut will be continuing and, in fact, growing in wonderful directions with my great friend Jereny Tackett taking up the mantle as Editor-in-Chief. Jereny is a creative mind like no other I've known, and I've known him for more than 30 years, so that's saying a lot.

I've talked with him over the past month about possibility stepping into this role with the journal and it's now a reality. During those conversations I can tell you that he has shared some exciting ideas he plans to put into place. Videos, music, artwork, photography. With his creative vision at play, there are truly no limits.

And Jereny plans to make the transition very smooth. Nothing will change as to how you can send your work in for consideration, and he intends to keep innovation at center stage, hoping to encourage artists from all walks of life and style a place for the unique view of the world.

I can tell you without reservation that I could not have hoped for a better, more suited person to see take over things at The Airgonaut. Jereny has been and will continue to be a selfless patron of the arts in the truest sense of the word.

Stand by for exciting times and please drop by and say hello to Jereny when you get the chance. He's for sure one of the good ones. But you'll learn that for yourself, and very soon.

CLICK HERE to read Jereny's Letter from the Editor at The Airgonaut.

Monday, October 9, 2017

FROM THE ARCHIVES: Bakadewin (Hunger) @ Live Nude Poems

This one continued my preoccupation with the Wendigo. I'm still preoccupied, but this was when I was, too.

Read the poem, and thanks to my friend Rusty Barnes for publishing it.

Saturday, October 7, 2017

Oui, mademoiselle Hamilton, je suis ici aujourd'hui.

Learning French. I'm trying. I feel like I've not learned a thing (been studying about a week with an app called Duolingo. I know I've absorbed some of it, but words like are, have, etc. are getting me sideways right now. Sometimes are is somme and sometimes it's etes, or something like that. I need words to be consistent. One word can mean fifty different things and still be spelled the same, but I need the word itself to be static. I need that in my life.

What it is, is I'd like to Baudelaire in the original. In particular Paris Blues. Really that's the only thing I'm interested in with Baudelaire right now. Prose poems. I've had a look at his lyric poems and, as you'd expect, things lose focus real fast.

Charles Baudelaire is not playing around with you. This is effing serious.

But I took some French during my freshman year of high school and somehow a bit of it stayed around. Not more than a few sentences, but it was some at least. I think I'll have a better chance to learn another language now that I've been studying English for many more years now. At the time, I'd only been writing seriously for about two years, so my understanding of the relationship between words (no matter the language) was really limited.


I'm tired of writing about learning French, but I want to keep writing this post so I'm switching subjects in a jarring sort of way.

I'm back to reading southern literature again for the time being. William Gay, in particular. He has these moments when he's describing nature where he gets really poetic and you can just tell he realizes that he's already described the chalky purple of twilight spilling into a copse of firs about four hundred times and doesn't care. I like that part. The part where he didn't care. He liked writing those scenes about that stuff in that way and so he did it. I want to see writers be a little more selfish. Break a wall and step right in as Ondaatje did at the end of Coming Through Slaughter. Describe the sky fifty times in the first half of a novel. I'm not always expecting writers to be perfect, but I do want them to be writing for themselves more than they're writing for me.

An example that has to do with titles:

After the success of Fight Club, Chuck Palahnuik's editors and publishing house, for some reason (I guess because his novels Choke and Survivor did well) wanted him to do only one-word titles. They wanted it contracted. Publishers do that kind of horribleness, press a writer to make all of his or her titles sort of similar so that the way average reader can spot them on the shelf in Rite-Aide or whatever. That's at least one reason. Who knows the rest of it. But he did, Chuck. Lullaby. Rant. Haunted. Snuff. It made me sick to see. It made my writer heart hurt a lot.

So Palanhuik and writers who are doing this thing with titles are not writing for themselves. A title is one of the most important things about a book. No one can deny this. And writers are allowing publishing houses to impose on them these limitations that make it theirs and not the writer's. It's seriously hard to watch.

Okay so I'm off to write my new books The Same Terrible Rain, Brown Glass, and Where Chimpanzees Sleep. You guys have a good one.

Thursday, October 5, 2017

I Grew My Mustache Out and Now I'm Thinking About Westerns

Javier Bardem in the best role of his career as Anton Chirguh in No Country for Old Men.

I've got this really good mustache. I mean, I'm going to have to trim it at this point, but it's pretty fantastic. Think Wyatt Earp. Think Wild Bill. Think Sam Elliott. Well, maybe not Sam. But it's trim time, I think.

I'm a mere inch or so from being the dad on American Chopper. It's become a thing. When something steps out of the general realm and becomes a thing - something others would take note of, say, in Food City - it's time to fade back into the obscure. I'm not on the run from the FBI, but it's okay to keep in practice.

But all the Old West thoughts that my mustache has been stirring up in me had me eager to share my list of favorite contemporary westerns. Yes, contemporary. It's time we retire High Noon, The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly, and begin embracing more recent westerns to place within the canon. Here's some of mine.

Unforgiven - Morgan Freeman, Clint Eastwood. This is one most people are familiar with. It's brilliant.

Wild Bill - One of my all-time favorites. Jeff Bridges plays Wild Bill Hickock and does it in his own special fashion. Historical inaccuracies, but who cares.

Open Range - Kevin Costner and Robert Duvall. It has all the classic tropes and invents some more along the way. And the show down, it has maybe the absolute best initiation ever, cutting away the usual drama connected with that moment.

Deadwood - An HBO series that ran only three seasons and never let me down, not a single episode. Packed full of amazing character actors and written as well as anything on television, Aaron Sorkin included.

No Country for Old Men - Very familiar, most likely. And, yes, it is a western. A damn good one. Bardem owns the world in this one.

There Will Be Blood - Not a western in the shoot 'em up sense of the genre, but set during a time close to the Old West and certainly full of white hats and black hats, both which often blur into gray often enough to be perfect. Daniel Day-Lewis's best performance, and that's saying a ton.

The Proposition - I probably have a bias I should acknowledge in including this one. The screenplay was written by one of my favorite musicians, Nick Cave. But here's the thing...Nick can write. No one should have doubted it to start with. Listen to one song and you'll see that. All the good stuff is in this one, and Guy Pierce is a power house.

Tombstone - A lot of people won't agree with me on this one, but Val Kilmer as Doc Holliday takes this one into the stratosphere. And it's just crazy fun.

The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford - I'd put this one on the list even if it didn't have the most artfully shot and scripted opening of any movie in the past ten years. If you watch that and stop, you're probably not breathing.

Django Unchained - I love a good guy winning big in the end, and Django wins big big in this one. The bounty hunting scenes takes it over the top, though.

Bone Tomahawk - Simultaneously my favorite western and horror movie of 2015. Scenes that will burn themselves onto the surface of your eyeballs. And one of two excellent westerns Kurt Russell starred in that year, the other being The Hateful Eight, which almost took The Proposition's place on this list. Bias, like I said.

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

The Gaze of Genius

Roberto BolaƱo, circa 1970

Mental Health Day (Stress Day)

I'm taking a mental health day from work today. I spend my days through the week working as a substance abuse counselor about an hour from where I live. It's a long drive to work and a long drive home. And all the hours there are stressful. Take all of these and then include the fact that I have to get up for work at 4 a.m. and you can see how it starts to add up.

The majority of my stress day so far I've spent sleeping. That's due to the 4 a.m. thing all the way. But I also made some really cool finds at my local library. I hadn't visited there since beginning to read and study poetry, so I hadn't been in that section. There's a lot of nice stuff going on in that section. I checked out Madness, Rack, and Honey today and almost had another heart attack when I came across it in the stacks. There she was, in Pikeville, Kentucky. Sadly, some other folks were not I thought would really be there. But still, a good day at the library. Especially a good day (and I'm adding this on an edit because I forgot earlier) because the librarian invited me to do a book signing there. I took in a copy of my book Brown Bottle to donate, something I've done with all my books so far, and she invited me when she realized after asking my last name to check my account that I had written it. So that was cool.

The only other thing I've did today is write and drink coffee. Brewing a new pot right now. After that, my mental health day ends. I've got to cut the grass (hopefully for the last time until spring) burn some garbage (got to wait until after 6 p.m. to do that because of a burn ban going on right now) and haul some old wood down into the barn. I'll be tired, but I'll be able to go back to sleep in enough time to get back up at 4 a.m. Everything is planned around having to get up at that time when you have to get up at that time.

Coffee is done and I'm going to have a cup. You probably were not at all interested in my day, but I just went right ahead and shared it there.

FROM THE ARCHIVES: "Some Place Like Destin" @ Cooper Street

This story is one that will be included in my new Appalachian short story collection. It was originally published at Cooper Street but had been submitted under a different title. It was originally titled (and will be titled this in the new collection) "How to Get to Destin." I understood the reasoning of the editor at the time but must concede that one is better than the other. Read about a lawyer called Bone and let me know if you enjoyed it.

Sunday, October 1, 2017

New Work at Ghost Parachute

Thanks to editor Brett Pribble, I have some new work up at the literary journal Ghost Parachute this month. The issue went live this evening and includes my piece "Stress Cardiomyopathy".

Yes, I googled myself. But look what I found!

I googled myself yesterday. It wasn't the first time and it won't be the last. I have a busy online life and so I like to see what...