The annual Reverse Fan Mail project is one of our favorite parts of APRIL. The process is simple: one person makes a donation to the festival, then we take their name and send it to one of our favorite small press authors. That author then writes a brand new, never-published piece of writing with the donor’s name as their ‘prompt’ or inspiration. Then we send a hard copy of that piece to the donor. It’s one direct way APRIL carries out our mission to connect readers with authors.
All Reverse Fan Mails this year will be printed as broadsides and feature a new print by Justin Duffus and it looks like this:
Donate on or before October 17 (the last day of this year’s fundraiser!) and get a Reverse Fan Mail from:
Jac Jemc’s My Only Wife (Dzanc Books) was a finalist for the 2013 PEN/Robert W. Bingham Prize and winner of the Paula Anderson Book Award. Her collection of stories, A Different Bed Every Time (Dzanc Books), is released this month.
Shya Scanlon is the author of the novels Forecast andBorder Run(Artistically Declined Press, 2012), and the poetry collection In This Alone Impulse (Noemi, 2011). His novel, The Guild of St. Cooper, will be published in 2015 by Dzanc. He curates contributions for the Twin Peaks Project, a series of analyses, reflections, and reminiscences about the impact of Lynch’s seminal show. More info at www.twinpeaksproject.com.
Wendy Xu is the author of You Are Not Dead (Cleveland State University Poetry Center, 2013) and two chapbooks. She is the recipient of a 2014 Ruth Lilly fellowship and co-edits iO: A Journal of New American Poetry / iO Books.
Arna Bontemps Hemenway Arna Bontemps Hemenway is the author of Elegy on Kinderklavier(Sarabande 2014), which was named a Barnes and Noble Discover Great New Writers pick for Summer 2014. His fiction has appeared in A Public Space, Alaska Quarterly Review, Ecotone, FiveChapters, The Missouri Review, The Seattle Review, Meridian Literary Review, Bat City Review,They Magazine, and Epilogue Magazine, and has been named a Notable/Distinguished Story of the Year in both the Best American Short Stories and Best American Nonrequired Reading anthologies.
Rich Smith is the author of All Talk(Poor Claudia) and the chapbook Great Poem of Desire and Other Poems (Poor Claudia). His poems have appeared in Tin House, City Arts Magazine, Guernica, Southeast Review, Hobart, Barrow Street, The Bellingham Review, Pleiades, Verse Daily, and elsewhere.
Kate Lebo’s first cookbook, Pie School: Lessons in Fruit, Flour and Butter was just released from Sasquatch Books. She is also the author of A Commonplace Book of Pie (Chin Music Press, 2013) and The Pie Lady’s Manifesto, a zine republished by The Rumpus in 2014. Her poems, essays, commentary, and recipes have appeared in Best New Poets, New England Review, Gastronomica, Willow Springs, AGNI, The Washington Post, City Arts Magazine, 94.9 KUOW, Poetry Northwest and other places. She teaches poetry and food writing workshops across the nation, but especially at Richard Hugo House and The Pantry at Delancey. A graduate of the University of Washington’s MFA program, she’s the recipient of a Nelson Bentley Fellowship, the Joan Grayston Poetry Prize, and a grant from 4Culture.
Jane Wong holds an MFA from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop and is a former U.S. Fulbright Fellow and Kundiman Fellow. She is also the recipient of scholarships to the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference, the Squaw Valley Community of Writers, and the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown. Currently, she teaches literature and poetry at the University of Washington and the Richard Hugo House. The recipient of Meridian’s 2013 Editors’ Prize, poems have appeared in journals such as CutBank,Hayden’s Ferry Review, ZYZZYVA, Mid-American Review, The Volta, Salt Hill, The Journal, and the anthologies Best New Poets 2012 (The University of Virginia Press) and The Arcadia Project (Ahsahta Press). She has two chapbooks, including Dendrochronology (dancing girl press) and Kudzu Does Not Stop (Organic Weapon Arts). Her poetry reviews appear regularly in Warscapes, a journal providing a lens into current conflicts through literature.
APRIL is a busy organization hosting around 25 events a year and 100% volunteer-staffed. If you want to help us connect readers with independent literature, you can sign up for an internship/volunteership. There’s plenty to be done, so you can tailor your tasks to gain experience where you want it the most. School credit is not required, but we’re happy to work with your school to complete the steps to secure your internship credit if desired.
What You Will Learn / Do:
- Work with staff to select tasks that support educational goals related to grant writing, budgeting, fundraising, data collection, licensing, organizing volunteers, marketing and/or social media as your experience and learning outcomes dictate.
-Gain real life experience and practice applying classroom theory in an established, growing arts nonprofit and gain practical knowledge of event planning and costs, especially within Seattle and the literary community.
- Connect with APRIL’s fiscal sponsor, Shunpike, and liaise with Program Managers on account-related matters, such as submitting check requests, completing permit paperwork and more.
-Prepare a final report of recommendations/complete a final project based on preferred area of expertise.
-Provide minimal support to APRIL staff as appropriate and needed.
-Class credit may be available.
What We Require:
- Must have an interest in small press and independent literature, as well as an interest in development, marketing and communications, and creative nonprofit business management.
- APRIL is staffed entirely by part-time volunteers, so Interns must be organized and self-directed, with an ability to work independently and prioritize time-sensitive assignments.
- Creative and outgoing :)
- Familiar with social media
-Experience with grant writing, finance, and/or marketing are all a plus.
-Workload and hours are flexible but deadlines are firm; a minimum of 5 hours a week of work are required.
If interested, email a brief description of your prior experience, what you’d like to pursue during your time with APRIL (including the duration of internship/volunteership you’re looking for) and a bit about your favorite small/independent publishers or books to email@example.com.
My first read of Emily Kendal Frey’s Sorrow Arrow was while lying in my mother’s housemate’s room in the woods of Northern Michigan with an enormous and terrifying Santa Claus mask staring me down from the wall. Somehow this felt very appropriate.
Sorrow Arrow is a collection of short, witty and straight shooting poems that build to form a larger cohesive whole. Themes – sandwiches, strawberries, vomit, mom bangs — repeat without ever becoming repetitive, instead opening up a bit of this weird world with each lyric reference. “People are intriguing and boundaried / Tiny ships in paintings / A sandwich without several items”
I ended up reading most of the poems aloud to my mother, who laughed audibly at points like “Don’t fuck with me Christian PTA moms / my sandwich is overly mayonnaised”
But while the collection is really funny at points, the title doesn’t lie – there is sorrow here. Frey writes about the mundane and absurd, and deals beautifully with the feelings of growing older, the missed freedom of childhood, the absurdity of family, the divide between the wild and the urban: “I used to be so there under a tree / I really felt I was interested in freedom”
Right now is the perfect time to read this book, as summer is waning and that strong feeling of early fall nostalgia sets in. Frey says what we’re all thinking right now: “Don’t die summer / There are wolves among us / We promise to make more art”
It's not that bad being lonely: a review of Thomas Patrick Levy's I DON'T MIND IF YOU'RE FEELING ALONE
by APRIL Book Club member Sarah Baker
Reading I Don’t Mind If You’re Feeling Alone, you never quite feel that you are following Thomas Patrick Levy’s words; instead, you are caught in their current. The rush of imagery propels you through each scene, but it isn’t a journey without friction. There are so many textures here: carpet, hair, puddles, burning oil, sparkling lemonade.
Chronology and continuity are not strict or chartable either, like the dream you had last night but whose exact details you can’t remember. Levy restores those spaces with events both uncanny and intimate, absurd but familiar:
“The colors cutting through the silk we left in the lawn. This might be how they build their homes. Each toe like a kernel of corn. This is how we take off our clothes. The nests of silk so quiet. It hurts like sleep to build a home and most nights you are not this soft.”
The poems are most enjoyable when you allow his scattershot imagery to pile up in the back of your mind, so you feel the pull of déjà vu when an object or character arrives in a new context. Or, when images are inverted in a few lines:
“And Scarlett once I watched a man make your body in reverse and the dress he made you wear I swear was made of thin orange threads of my sweat … I see your knees bare as fields near the freeways and I see your knees crushed carrot-raw on wet hairs of carpet”
The “Scarlett” above is from the section titled “Please Don’t Leave Me Scarlett Johansson,” first published as a separate chapbook. These poems have no punctuation, but like the other poems in this complex network they are strewn with capitalized dialogue, which turns those phrases into signposts, as if to say YOU ARE HERE. When Woody Allen whispers to Scarlett “YOU ARE SEXUALLY OVERWHELMING,” even a whisper is forceful, insistent.
Levy takes you through lonely landscapes: cornfields, islands, deserts. And there is also a loneliness in his unnamed characters, identified only by generic pronouns that let the characters bleed together. Even the section with Scarlett Johansson is undoubtedly lonely. She is a solipsistic figment, triggered by loneliness. Her faraway roles of celebrity and sex icon allow her to be whomever we like, whomever the “I” in these poems wants her to be.
Levy may say he doesn’t mind if you are feeling alone, but that’s only because it’s not that bad being lonely. At least there is beauty and strangeness there.
Get I Don’t Mind If You’re Feeling Alone from YesYes Books here.
When we read If I Should Say I Have Hopeby Lynn Melnick last April, we recommended Boyishly by Tanya Olson and Man Vs Skyby Corey Zeller as other great reads from YesYes Books. Today, we were sitting at a bar waiting for some food, and do you know what’s great for just that situation? YesYes Books’s “Poetry Shots,” quick and dirty little e-books you can get on your device and throw back. More invigorating that Fernet! Less offensive than Jagermeister! Great authors like Dorothea Lasky and Ben Mirov featured.
*Could also refer to the kind of shot that comes from a gun. Poetry is into double-meanings like that.
No prerequisites needed: A review of 'Advice from 1 Disciple of Marx to 1 Heidegger Fanatic'
by APRIL’s Frances Dinger
This book is brief, but in a pleasant, breathless sort of way. And, despite what the title would suggest, it doesn’t require any background in Heideggerian philosophy but a cursory understanding of Marx does enhance the reading experience.
Regarded by some as a South American Howl, Papasquiaro’s book deftly confronts the collision of working class culture and high art.
His juxtapositions are often both comical and poignant: “& all because you need to you’re desperate to let go & cry openly / with nobody & nothing to interrupt you / not even those chicks in hot pants … / & you’re not the only 1 who claims to be the only passenger / on his schizophrenic submarine”
For Papasquiaro, the personal is political at the same time that the individual is entirely singular but also just a part of a larger social structure entirely out of their control. This is the kind of poetry you want to read in a rage against injustice, or hungover, or heartbroken.
In brief, this is the perfect summer poetry book because it lets you choose your level of engagement. Enjoy the ride of the language or engage with the political subtext. Either way will honor this book.
But that is enough from 1 person with 1 opinion. Grab a cold beer or iced coffee, sit on a stoop and read this book.
Buy Advice from 1 Disciple of Marx to 1 Heidegger Fanatic here.
Seattle-based Wave Books (publisher of June’s APRIL Book Club title) publishes beautifully designed, award-winning titles by established poets and their catalog is STUFFED with our favorite books. Here’s a few to start:
My burrito, her syntax: a review of Lynn Melnick's IF I SHOULD SAY I HAVE HOPE
by Tara Atkinson, APRIL Managing Director
I thought about the syntax of the phrase If I Should Say I Have Hope for so long, before and after reading the book. There’s plenty of word play in the collection, but the title captured me most.
It’s not the question “Should I have hope” or “Do I have hope” or “Is there hope”, but “If I should say,” maybe not even a question, but the dependent clause of an if/then statement, the first half of a syllogism — “If I should say I have hope, then what?” Or it’s a to-do list.
I have lists of shoulds like this: I wonder if I should take time to travel, if I should quit my job, if I should reheat this burrito in the oven or the microwave. A “because” (a then) is implied in every should, but why is usually self-evident. But it is not evident in Lynn Melnick’s poems why the speaker should say they have hope. The book is not a journey from hopelessness to hope; the final sentence (another “if/then” statement) is not exactly redeeming, but ambiguous: “If you had told me… // that the light hitting the sickly coral of the beach hotels / could travel further inland / and all the way east to find me, // …I might have hastened from my ambush / angling upward to the moon, / black and gravitational” (“Wallflower”). The light has reached her, but if she’d known it was coming she would have become a dark spot on the moon; dawn, but complicated, because it happens to you, in spite of you, from the natural and indifferent rotation of the earth: should I say that’s hope?
But if I wanted to make a statement about hope, what could I or anyone say without jumping to abstractions about human nature, Life, Love, etc., statements general and somewhat false-ringing? If I wanted, instead of repeating the traditional litanies I accept when I need them, to offer an honest statement about hope based in the evidence of my lived experience? Then I guess I’d acknowledge that hope is a thing we choose to say and break my life into lines detailed, specific, intimate, realistically ambiguous. I guess I’d write Lynn Melnick’s book If I Should Say I Have Hope.
I thought this thesis of hope-as-a-thing-we-say was depressing at first, but then I remembered it’s Poetry Month, and I acknowledge this holiday month and take particular pleasure in reading poetry at this time because I think words are powerful. (And now have I said that if you like to read poetry you have hope?— )
“Yes I knew better then; // yes I didn’t” (“Lagoon”) If I Should Say I Have Hope answers the question of its title in these kinds of contradictions. We’re not such good assessors of our current state anyway — “You wouldn’t know happy if it kissed you on the mouth” (“Of Being Lost Forever”); “I must have walked because I am still walking” (“These Pretty Years”). It’s this uncertainty and specificity I appreciate the most about these poems. If I Should Say I Have Hope is an action shot, not a still life, full of the drama of motion, appropriate to the season.
Get If I Should Say I Have Hope from YesYes Books here.
City Arts Magazine's Rich Smith on every single APRIL 2014 event
—with some pretty great quotes and photos!
APRIL was extremely lucky to see Rich Smith’s face at every APRIL event this year. His smart and entertaining coverage ends with the verdict that
“All the readings worked, felt different from each other, featured different sorts of literature, and challenged received notions about where literature belongs. And, ultimately, the festival set up a context that strengthened and created new connections among Seattle’s art worlds, and among the nation’s independent literature scene in general.”
Much thanks to City Arts Magazine for sharing APRIL’s authors as well as our junk foods and other party refuse with Seattle all week long. Rich Smith, surely you are endowed with a liver as strong as ten men’s and a second heart filled only with language.
Kids, what a blast it was. So much fun was had, it took me an extra couple days to get this last post up.
Saturday was a dream. I walked over to the APRIL bookfair, grabbed a mimosa and got to browsing.
I stocked up on way to many books and talked to not enough publishers.
I ate a blt latke sandwich and then Kellen kindly interviewed me, complete with a wandering pug who showed up in my lap for a good part of the interview. I went for a long walk and had a delightful, low-key dinner at Tallulah’s with Amber Nelson.
I arrived at Vermillion for the closing party and drank the tallest glass of grapefruit juice. What an awesome space! Business (a gallery) in the front, and party (a bar) in back. A. Minetta Gould, Cameron Pierce, and Mark Leidner brought it for the final night. DJ Res rounded things out and there was more dancing to be had.
I am so, so thankful to everyone who had anything to do with APRIL. I had such an incredible time and it was such an honor to be the first writer-in-residence. Thanks to Tara, Willie, Frances, and Kellen. Thanks to all the readers and performers and designers and videographers and publishers and hanger-outers. Thanks to all the pizza and the praise be to the whiskey gods. Pat yourself on the backs. You earned it.
Yesterday I needed a reboot. I stayed in getting work and writing and napping done and reading Claire Vaye Watkin’s Battleborn.This is the only picture I took yesterday, but it seemed appropriate.
I met up for a rosemary lemon soda at Oddfellows with my friend Jen Towner. Jen showed me these intricate grief drawings she’s been working on and told me of an upcoming project about road trips, where she’ll drive to Vermont and back, stopping at the Vermont Studio Center for a month, and doing slide shows and talking to people about road trips. It seems like the project could be super expansive and I can’t wait to see what comes of it.
At the pizza party at Hugo House, I drew on the paper table cloths with crayons and ate pizza and drank a delicious root beer float. Donald Dunbar flipped my mind around with some incredible poetry. I especially liked his take on a dedication page for his book Eyelid Lick which he allowed to flower and metastasize in a satisfying way.
We also got to hear some new work from Mark Leidner. I’m paraphrasing, but one line of a poem said something like, “Believing in God is like doing a really really really hard Magic Eye.” I like how he really takes his time at the mic. I get nervous and read quickly, but he seems so calm and considered up there.
Finally Eroyn Franklin took the stage, reading from her book Another Glorious Day at the Nothing Factory accompanied by lovely, grotesque paper cuts that accompany each passage in the book. I hope there might be copies of this at the bookfair today because I would love to read it, but I ran away pretty much immediately after the reading ended.
Walking home I thought about how I’d spend the rest of the evening, and a movie seemed like the right speed for me. I’d passed the Harvard Exit movie theater on a walk some day this week and seen a poster for the new Lars von Trier, Nymphomaniac Vol.1. What a beautiful little building. I felt like I was in an old, swanky campus building from Good Will Hunting or something. Wikipedia tells me that it used to be the Women’s Century Club and it’s haunted by a woman in 1920s garb.
Usually I like von Trier’s work, but this one felt like a bit of a miss to me. It felt silly (a running metaphor of fly fishing and a wide-eyed Stellan Skarsgard flipping all of Charlotte Gainsbourg’s shame on itself like a “Gee whiz, that’s not so bad” machine). The dialogue felt flabby. Uma Thurman shows up in a scene that is entirely strange and incongruous with the rest of the film. The screen is taken over by equations and visual metaphors at times that feel both easy and reaching. Anyway, I’ll see the second one in the hopes that all of this will resolve itself. And I will have Rammstein’s “Fuhre Mich” in my head for the rest of the week. That is a gift Lars has given me.
First, make someone else throw the party. Then, have a great time.
Yesterday, after working all day and attempting to revise some fiction, I took a stroll down from my apartment in Capitol Hill to the International District. Someone made a yarn sculpture on this broken fence.
I wandered through Uwajimaya on the recommendation of no less than three friends, and considered finally trying durian, but thought that might be poor roommate behavior. Not everyone wants to smell rot while they’re on vacation.
Also considered purchasing this pig head and wearing it as a necklace to the readings.
I walked through Kinokuniya, too, and bought a pen and notebook. Then I found this sleeping (dead) pigeon and felt like a jerk for taking a picture.
I grabbed a slice of cherry pepper wasabi pineapple pizza at World Pizza, and was off to the happy hour reading at Bush Garden.
Darren Davis read a couple pieces, but mostly one that was about video games that I really loved. I’m not really into video games, but I feel like he might have just kickstarted a new obsession for me thinking about story and how it’s transformed when someone’s talking about an experience, but it’s not real life experience, and how we process that differently, and goals and objectives in life and in games. So good.
I was thrilled to get to see Lauren Ireland read, too. I picked up her book “Dear Lil Wayne” at AWP, and her reading was as hilarious as I hoped it would be. Lauren’s mom was in the audience, a dynamic I always love, and there were several boisterous tables of ladies having dinner that the readers had to holler over, but everyone was a trooper and persevered.
At the All Made Up Fiction Showcase, it was hit after hit. A charming photo booth was set up with a couch and wall paper and “I am a liar” scrawled on the wall in lipstick and framed photos of famed liars. People walking in got bombarded with powder and lipstick. Signature cocktails were being mixed at the bar. People were invited to write down stories of something they’d stolen and take a piece of wisdom from Mum’s Advice Jar. It was a real party!
Tara took the stage in a sequin dress and long red wig to introduce the first set of performances. The Satori Group translated the tone of an excerpt of Richard Chiem’s work in progress, King of Joy, with electronically futzed up Gillian Welch and lipstick on mirrors and a face rinsed with milk. I’m so impressed by how well the performance pieces matched each of the readings, and added to hearing them read.
We took a little break and then Tara was back onstage in a platinum wig and belly shirt. She’s a transformer, I think. What a champ.
The Satori Group performed their interpretation of Matt Briggs’ work with a manic exploration of innocence and lust that paired well with the left turns of Matt’s work.
We took another break and I checked in with Sparkle Leigh, who was applying makeup to the lucky winner of the raffle. So pretty!
Finally, Willie took the stage in drag, identifying himself as Tara. I am kicking myself that I didn’t get my camera out fast enough to capture this. Drat.
I am so, so thankful to the Satori group for the amazing performance they developed in response to my story, “Filch and Rot.” The ladies started out sharing the stories people had contributed about stealing, pulling teeth out of their mouths and spitting. They performed a slick rendition of Lil Mama’s “Lip Gloss” (more rap at all the readings, please) and smeared themselves with lipstick and clutched dirt. It was all so visceral; I just couldn’t be more thrilled with having gotten to work with them.
Then: a dance party! I had such fun. The APRIL crew definitely knows how to throw a party. All. Week. Long.
Tonight, join us at the Pizza Party at Hugo House to hear Mark Leidner, Donald Dunbar, and Eroyn Franklin. Also: root beer floats. I think that might be precisely what my liver needs.
It seems wild to think we’re at the halfway point of APRIL already, but here we are!
Yesterday I took a stroll in the rain to Ada’s Technical Books. It’s a beautifully designed store and the selection is fascinating. Most of the books there have a tie to science - programming, psychology, engineering, science fiction, physics, architecture - the list goes on. Also: cookbooks! I love when people view cooking as a science. Also: an art! Science and art: two sides of the same coin, right?
In addition to books, they also have tons of gadget kits and science-y materials. You can buy sets to make your own very basic Simon Game and build models. Bins mounted on the walls hold resistors and optical fibers and tons of other little doohickies I didn’t know what to do with. I grabbed lunch for myself there as well - warm lentil salad with arugula and toasted coconut and yogurt, and a bowl of sunchoke bisque: all delicious.
In Seattle, even on the gloomy days, there is such a wild variety of green all over the place. What are these little gems?
I also like that every apartment building has a prominently displayed name - Abonita, The Swansonia, The Constantine. Chicago really doesn’t go to the trouble.
The big experiment of the afternoon was calling Winterlife Cooperative to set up a delivery, which turned out not to seem that adventurous at all. My pot-smoking days are far behind me, but I have a slight obsession with learning how alternative forms of transaction like this work.
You are probably thinking, “What are you talking about?” I will give you an example! When in New York last fall, I spent an afternoon trying to figure out how to purchase a counterfeit Louis Vuitton handbag. I had no actual desire to own a LV purse, but I wanted to figure out all the hoops you needed to jump through. I wandered around asking if store owners had back rooms, was asked to leave for offending some of those store owners, was let into back rooms by others, haggled on price and left without purchasing said handbag, started a conversation with a nice lady on the street, ogled her laminated visual guide to fake bags, pointed to one, followed her down the street, was transferred to another lady’s care, waited on a street corner with several other women who already had counterfeit bags they’d previously purchased, talked to them about their desire for fake, fancy bags, was passed the purse I’d requested in a black trash bag, threatened to walk away until the price was next to nothing, and then sat in my hotel room staring at the bag wondering who I could give it to who would enjoy owning it. All of it was absolutely worth the $30 I paid for the bag.
In my mind, arranging a pot delivery would be similarly fascinating, but, all told, it was pretty straightforward, and everything felt like it was on the up-and-up. I called the company, and a very nice gentleman identified himself as “The Wolverine.” The Wolverine asked if I wanted to set up a delivery. I confirmed. The Wolverine said he’d have a driver call me, which she did, letting me know she’d arrive within an hour. When she got to the apartment about two hours later, I had to go sit in her car with her and tell her what I’d like to purchase. She handed me the chocolate bar and truffles and I handed her my cash, and then, like I did with the purse, I sat in my room staring at what I’d bought and wondering who I could pass it to. There are many people to thank this week so it should not be difficult to find worthy recipients.
I spent the free time in my afternoon revising the novel I’m working on and then met an old friend, Caroline Clough, from grad school at Montana for Moscow Mules. I feel hyper-aware of how popular Moscow Mules are in Seattle. Back home, they’ll appear on the cocktail list occasionally, but it seems like it’s the drink of choice here, especially when it’s on tap.
Caroline writes a terrific blog called Meals I Have Eaten. Don’t be fooled, it’s about so much more than that. Most recently she moved to Whidbey Island to work at the Glendale Shepherd farm, making sheep’s milk cheese and generally doing what she wants with her life. I’m so impressed by huge life changes like this. I don’t think I have the guts for something like this.
The Happy Hour reading at Blindfold Gallery was surrounded by Justin Duffus’ show, “Sleeping Arrangements.” The paintings are gorgeous depictions of the night, often with the glare of a spotlight or headlights pulling figures out of the darkness.
Shin Yu Pai read first, and the relation of her work to visual art was really spot-on in the space. She read poems considering Stieglitz, Felix Gonzalez-Torres, the new Renzo Piano modern wing at the Art Institute of Chicago.
I wasn’t familiar with the work of the second reader, Zubair Ahmed, but I’m a convert. There’s a placid longing pulled through all the poems, with bright spots of humor and joy. I’m excited to read more of this work!
I grabbed a drink at Grim’s and then dinner at Bimbo’s with a friend from high school. Yana Kesala is a force of a performer, and it was great to hear what she’s been working on lately and meet her partner.
Vignettes was packed for the main event of the evening. The space was a bit crushed, but what better to bring us together, literally, right? Mark Leidner smashed us all to pieces with his reading. So funny, such gorgeous language, so much gossip. His poem “Romantic Comedies” is just a masterpiece, and how lovely that it’s approachable enough that a crowded room of overheated people could immediately recognize it as such.
Vignettes’ walls were covered with art inspired by Mark’s book, Beauty Was the Case that They GaveMe. I loved the variety of form and scale and tone the works took. The collection felt like a true match for Mark’s work.
I rounded out the evening with beer at The Pine Box and turned in on the early side. Self preservation, ya know?
Tonight we’ve got Happy Hour at Bush Garden with readings by Darren Davis and Lauren Ireland, and then the All Made Up Fiction Showcase with readings by Richard Chiem, Matt Briggs and myself, and performances by the Satori Group, and the opportunity to win a drag makeover! How could you not? See you there!
Is APRIL the best week in Seattle? Yes. Is APRIL the best week in the United States of America: I THINK SO. Am I dead meat if I keep this up? You bet.
I’m having a really good time, guys. Everyone is so nice and amazing, creative things seem to happen like they’re no big deal, and I might just never leave.
Yesterday I ventured out for a walk, and was confused to find it was raining. That’s not the Seattle I’ve come to know and love, but I put up my umbrella and pushed forward. I wandered into a store called Sugarpill, which, I guess is an apothecary? They had a lot of salt and bitters and chocolate. They also had “drinking vinegar” which I would have purchased if I wasn’t afraid it would break in my luggage and make all of my clothing smell like…drinking vinegar?
Then I stopped in Molly Moon’s on the recommendation of a friend to get the salted caramel ice cream with hot fudge. She was correct. it was the most perfect.
And then finally I spent some quality time with Elliott Bay Book Company. Here’s my haul. I’ve been meaning to read Helen Oyeyemi for forever, but the final straw is that my book group has chosen her newest to read next. I’m putting a concerted effort into trying to figure out how to write nonfiction so I’m trying to read more of it, and Rebecca Solnit is really the best model a girl could ask for. Then I also found that poetry book, which I obviously picked because of the amazing cover and title, and I grabbed that little photo zine at the last minute. It’s filled up photos of people in public.
At the Quarter Lounge, I got to meet and chat with Jane Wong and Kate Lebo, the two Happy Hour readers . Such different poets from each other, but that’s really my favorite kind of reading, where I get to find the gorgeous little overlaps. At the reading, I was introduced to a young man and we fell in love and got married.
No, no, I’m kidding. But wouldn’t that be a better post than this one? No, so this guy introduced himself and said that he saw a bunch of people walking around with my name badge at AWP. Now, I will admit that I let a friend copy my badge at the Kinko’s in the convention center so that she wouldn’t have to pay admission, and then those lanyards were just all over the place for the taking, but I didn’t realize that she’d allowed other people to copy the badge then, too. I’m really in love with the idea of lots of people wandering around with my name tag and the confusion that created, but also the fact that most people didn’t notice. Color me charmed.
Then it was on to the Sorrento for A Poet, A Playwright, a Novelist and a Drag Queen, and gee whiz, if this event wasn’t spectacular! First of all, holding cultural events in a hotel is such a great idea. Why don’t all hotels do this? I got set up at the judges table with Sarah Rudinoff, who was just a delight to spend the evening with, and poet Jay Yencich who was hand-plucked from the audience. A dead mic battery prompted this charming young man to transform from being a server to a story teller, regaling us all with a tale of the ghost of Alice B. Toklas haunting the room where we were sitting.
Once a battery had been procured, the event began! Drag queen, Mark “Mom” Finley was up first and she riffed on the theme of “Checking In/Checking Out,” mostly keeping things silly and light, but occasionally touching on more serious interpretations of the phrase, and ending with a knockout musical number as the statue of liberty.
Then we had Sarah Galvin, wheeled onto stage in a suitcase. Stop, and read that sentence again. SHE WAS ZIPPED INTO A SUITCASE AND WHEELED ONSTAGE. Sarah was the poet of the evening and congratulations, poetry. Sarah has very possibly come to save you. I joke, I love poetry, and don’t think it needs saving, but you know, there’s the rest of the world, too. I can’t imagine someone not being totally engaged by and cracked up by and begging for more of this woman’s work. Awesome. And then she was zipped back into her suitcase and carted away.
Next was Spike Friedman, the playwright, and he killed it. He performed a monologue about BUSINESS, claiming he was born with a dollar in his hand. Boyfriend knew how to work a mic, and he used all the tricks. The audience was ROTFL. Not to blow the surprise, but he was the unanimous winner, hands down.
Finally, Ryan Boudinot, the novelist, read. I’m a big fan of Ryan’s work and had never seen him read, so I was particularly excited for this one. His story was vapid and funny and his delivery was perfectly wry.
We judges tallied our scores and the winners were declared, with Boudinot in fourth (winning a lit four-wick candle), Finley in third, Galvin in second, winning a huge brass plate on a chain (which you can see here), and Spike reigning supreme with a tiara.
We ventured over to Vito’s for a celebratory drink and someone told me there was a lion in a party room in back. Tell me more!
We ventured to what was actually The Cougar Room, and sure enough, there she was. Check out Tara’s imitation of the cougar’s classy posture.
And then I fell asleep on the couch watching Jimmy Fallon and Shakira. Success! APRIL, you’ve not beaten me yet!
We’re on the official second day of APRIL, and I’m already beat. Pray for me.
Yesterday was a real whirlwind. I tried to get work done until about 3, taking a little break around lunch time to gather sunshine and pick-up the most delicious chicken biscuit sandwich from The Wandering Goose. I should have taken a picture before I bit into it and starting smearing crumbs and honey around the apartment, but I didn’t know how delicious it would be and that it would merit a photo. Isn’t it beautiful though?
Being that I come from the land of eternal winter, I decided to take advantage of the sunny Seattle day, and dragged my yoga mat onto my little back porch. It was pretty perfect. A magnolia tree is blooming out there and there was such a great variety of bird noises I’m not accustomed to hearing in Chicago.
I had plans to meet a friend at 5:30 for a drink, so I had some time to kill, and decided to wander. When looking up the bar on Yelp, I discovered a label on the map that said, “Seattle Museum of Mysteries” and veered off course. I circled the block a few times, but couldn’t find it, and wondered if the location of the museum was part of the mystery. Upon further internet research, it appears the museum has closed. But it seems like it was amazing: UFOs and ghosts and hoaxes? Yes, please.
I wandered into Totokaelo, the most beautiful store on earth. They sell the impeccably designed clothing and home wares and it’s all absolutely out of my price range, but I pretended I was in a gallery where I was allowed to fondle all the works of art, and had a great time.
Then, I was off to meet my friend for a drink. Her name is Emma Levitt and she is a spectacular artist. I met her at the Vermont Studio Center a couple years ago where she was doing printmaking. Her current project is more in the realm of fiber arts, and it’s just incredible. We met at Ba Bar and the drink she ordered had basil seeds in it. I did not know these existed but they are beautiful. They look like cells or pussy willows or fish eggs or something.
After Ba Bar, we met another friend from VSC, Michelle Penaloza, whose working on an amazing project where she takes a walk with people from the Hugo House to somewhere they had their heart broken and they tell their story to her. We ordered Rue McClanahans and steak at Cafe Presse and caught up on life and work.
Then, on to Chop Suey for the launch party! What a knockout event! As people entered they were asked to fill out a survey to be used in the Vis-a-Vis Society’s perfomance later in the evening. We were asked what we were “all in,” what was rioting within us, ideas for a parade and what we do in spring, among others. Maged Zaher and Ed Skoog were both such funny, dynamic readers. I wish I had gotten a chance to talk to them, but the evening slipped through my fingers, it seems. I took pictures, but they’re all blurry and grainy and the readers are just splotches because of all the lights. Oh well!
Sierra Nelson (who also happens to be an old friend from VSC) and Rachel Kessler, aka Dr. Ink and Dr. Owning, definitely know how to engage an audience. They put up our survey results on an overhead projector, represented answers to one question as toppings for a hot dog of experience, and used the audience to create a soundscape over which they read the suggestions for parade ideas. It was riotous and lively and I wish I lived in Seattle just so I could see them again and again.
Finally, and this was the most sharable picture of the bunch, Pony Time took the stage. What an effing good time they are - so much sound from just these two dudes. It was impossible not to move my body. (Also, please note the hotdog of experience in the background).
After the party wrapped up, because I never know when to quit, Michelle and I went over to Lost Lake and ate a plate of fried things and I ordered some drink that mostly cream, and it is this drink that I blame for it being difficult to wake up this morning.
More to come tonight! Join us for Happy Hour at Quarter Lounge and then on to the sold out show at the Sorrento, where I’ll be judging, A Poet, A Playwright, a Novelist and a Drag Queen. I’ve heard so many great things about this event that I am EXTREMELY eager to see the hijinks tonight! Poet Sarah Galvin, playwright Spike Friedman, novelist Ryan Boudinot, and drag performer Mark “Mom” Finley. Don’t mind if I do.
APRIL is starting! Jump on the train! It is I, your bleary-eyed writer-in-residence, Jac Jemc, reporting at 7 am from the swanky apartment I’ll be inhabiting for the coming week. So much has happened already! I can’t wait to see what else might befall me in the week ahead.
Yesterday I flew in from Chicago at the crack of dawn, and finished reading an incredible book of essays on the plane: The Empathy Exams by Leslie Jamison. I can’t quite express how much I loved this book. I’ve been a little obsessed with the concepts of compassion and empathy lately and this book was EXACTLY what I was looking for. She talks about being a standardized patient for med students, going to a conference on the inexplicable disease Morgellons, and running an ultra-marathon made to mimic the disoriented escape path of James Earl Ray from the Brushy Mountain State penitentiary in 1977. In all of the essays, Jamison is looking for access to what drives people and their behavior. She’s fallible in that way that simultaneously makes me feel better and also want to be better. But enough about that. That was just the plane ride: literature!
Next, this guy welcomed me to the airport in Seattle. It’s a mural by Michael Fajans of a magician and his assistant performing a trick where a woman is either appearing or disappearing from a box. I saw this when I was in town last month for AWP, too, and was confused. This time I decided to look it up and I discovered that apparently the idea is about how planes can also make you appear or disappear. I like it more now that I know that about it, but I think the bit that really trips me up, is the weird uncanny valley happening with the way the performers are rendered. I’m weirded out by CGI, and this feels like that to me. Anyway, get out of the airport, Jac. There’s literature to be had!
After gathering my bags, Frances Dinger and Richard Chiem were kind enough to pick me up and hustle me over to the Hugo House. They are lovely people and they were playing Valerie June. It brought me joy.
I checked in at Hugo House and ran over to Elliott Bay Books to grab an iced coffee and a biscuit before class. It took everything in me not to just skip class and browse books for the next few hours, but I will return!
The topic of the course I was leading was “Fooling Ourselves (Into Writing)” and we explored the creative methods/habits of Twyla Tharp, Mary Robison, Diane Williams, Gary Lutz, Harry Mathews, Lynda Barry, and Rebecca Solnit. Then we tried out their methods. The class members were really awesome; even the students that seemed to be more on the traditional side of things were very receptive to trying out the exercises and forthcoming with what they pulled together. There were some incredible stories started there. I hope to see them become fully formed.
After class I walked up to the apartment and got settled. Look at this lovely courtyard I have right outside my bedroom!
I regrouped, and then hopped over to 15th to grab a quick dinner at Smith. I had some mac and cheese and kale and a No-Li Spin Cycle Red. (I’m really lying to myself that the kale counterbalances all that cheese and alcohol, but every little bit, you know?) And then, because I had 10 minutes to spare, I had the good sense to purchase some bananas at the QFC and coffee from Victrola. I figured I’d be happy about this decision in the morning. (I was right).
Then, rehearsal with the Satori Group! APRIL head honchos Willie Fitzgerald and Tara Atkinson picked me up and took me over to the rehearsal where we met up with Kellen Braddock. The Satori Group has been working on performance pieces based on stories from Richard Chiem, Matt Briggs, and myself for Thursday’s All Made Up fiction showcase. I won’t reveal too much more about this, but it’s going to be AWESOME. I am floored by what Satori has made in relation to my story, “Filch and Rot.” Also, I should note that the performance is taking place in the Inscape Arts Building, formerly the United States Immigrant Station and Assay Office. I’m a real sucker for buildings like this that have been transformed to be used for another purpose, especially when there’s a bit of dark history attached to the former life, and the new life is about creation and moving forward.
Then, I promptly fell down on my bed and slept until 6:30 this morning. I am still hoping I can at least fake being a productive person in the midst of this busy week.
Complete list of all the presses and book-makers that will be at the APRIL Independent Publishing Expo (Saturday 3/29)
Each year, APRIL caps off its week-long festival with a big book fair at Seattle’s writing and literary arts center, Richard Hugo House. This year 39 presses will be in attendance. Scope ‘em out below!
1. The APRIL table will have a few goodies and books from the 2014 festival authors.
2. Willow Springs Editions is a small literary press housed in Eastern Washington University’s Inland Northwest Center for Writers. Each year they offer the Spokane Prize for fiction and publish one surrealist poetry chapbook.
3. Poor Claudia is a poetry chapbook imprint of Octopus Books, a small poetry press based in Portland Ore, Lincoln NE & Denver CO.
5. alice blue books is the creator of small run handmade books and art books, as well as the chapbook series SHOTGUN WEDDING, focusing on poetry, fiction, nonfiction and graphic novel work in the Pacific Northwest.
6. Raven Chronicles publishes work which reflects the cultural diversity of the Pacific Northwest, Canada, and other areas of America. They promote art, literature and the spoken word for an audience that is hip, literate, funny, informed, and lives in a society that has a multicultural sensibility.
7. StringTown has published a magazine and book-length writing by Northwest authors for the last twelve years.
8. Les Sardines is a writing collective founded in 2008 and based in Seattle.
9. Lazy Fascist is an imprint of bizarro fiction publisher Eraserhead Press. Lazy Fascist publishes authors who, through careful exploration of unique linguistic landscapes, create monstrous, unclassifiable fictions.
10. Chin Music publishes risky books as “literary objects”—books that are a pleasure to touch as well as read.
11. The Monarch Review is an online and print journal based in Seattle that aims to sustain vibrant, vagabond culture by creating a forum for emerging and established artists and thinkers.
15. featherproof is an indie publisher dedicated to doing whatever they want: publishing an idiosyncratic novel, design book, or something in between. They love paper, but aren’t afraid of computers. Their website offers free fold-yourself downloadable mini-books and Storigami.
16. YesYes Books is based out of Portland and publishes poetry, prose, and visual art that make them excited for the day.
17. Wave is an independent poetry press based in Seattle dedicated to publishing the best in contemporary poetry, poetry in translation, and writing by poets.
18. Publication Studio (founded in 2009 in Portland, Oregon) prints and binds books one at a time on-demand, creating original work with artists and writers they admire.
19. The Furnace is a quarterly reading series showcasing one new prose writer (fiction, nonfiction, playwriting) at a time with the mission to encourage innovative storytelling and a vibrant literary community. Listen live at the Hollow Earth Performance space and online at Hollowearthradio.org. They publish a quarterly zine to correspond with their reading series & podcast.
20. Tavern Books is a not-for-profit publisher of poetry founded in Portland, Oregon publishing translations from the world’s finest poets, new works by innovative writers and revivals of out-of-print classics. All Tavern Books titles are permanently in print, honoring the cultural contract between publisher and author, as well as between publisher and public.
23. Big Fiction celebrates the soul of the long story: generous, transportive, and a little wild. They’re an independent journal publishing ambitious and delicious fiction twice a year, in hand-designed letterpress issues.
24. Dock Street Press is a boutique-publishing house specializing in compelling narrative non-fiction and clean, intelligent fiction.
25. Babel/Salvage is a non-profit engine for artistic and literary ingenuity and community involvement located geographically in Seattle, Washington.
26. Minor Arcana specializes in geek authors, spiritual minority authors and romantic/gender/sexual minorities such as LGBTQ authors and the fetish community and pairs them with provocative cover artists to create beautiful books and empower overlooked and outsider authors and artists.
27. Seattle-based Dark Coast Press publishes literary fiction, poetry, and experimental writing from emerging and established authors.
29. Fence is Fence Magazine, Fence Books, the poetry review website The Constant Critic, and La Press, publishing translations from French— all committed to very contemporary literature.
30. Nouvella publishes novellas by emerging authors.
31. Factory Hollow Press publishes books, chapbooks and broadsides in both limited and trade editions. The press is the publishing division of Flying Object Center for Independent Publishing, Art, & the Book, Inc.. Established in 2005, the press has published and produced over 60 books, chapbooks, broadsides, vinyl LPs, and other special projects.
32. Sarabande Books is a non-profit publishing house based in Louisville, KY committed to publishing quality literary fiction, nonfiction, and poetry.
33. Caketrain is a Pennsylvania-based journal and press.
34. Dorothy is a publishing project dedicated to works of fiction or near fiction or about fiction, mostly by women.
35. Publishing Genius believes in literature’s ability to create sympathy and a better world, and therefore seeks to publish genre-defying books in the most interesting and progressive ways.
36. Magic Helicopter Press, based in Western Massachusetts, is focused on publishing across platforms, mediums and “the universe.” Their paper books are collectible art items, not unlike Dale Earnhardt commemorative plates. They also publish experimental multimedia projects: poetry videos and poetry video games.
37. Black Ocean, based out of Chicago, New York, and Boston, brings together a spectrum of influences and combines them with a radical social perspective on the nature of art and humanity.
38. Short Flight/Long Drive is an independent, non-profit small press specializing in the publication of fiction and the book arm of Hobart, a literary magazine founded in 2001.
39. Future Tense Books is one of the longest-running small-presses around. Run tirelessly by Kevin Sampsell in Portland.
post-paneling AWP off-site readings-- for everyone!
Team APRIL is excited to go into the conference center for AWP for the endless buffet of panels and discussions from thousands of writers and publishers arriving in Seattle this week (you’ll see us especially Thursday at this panel Frances is moderating about expanding small press readership and this panel Friday where Tara will talk about readings off campus)—but if you aren’t going to register for the conference, there’s still a million readings and parties for you each night. Here’s some of our picks:
Readings from James Yeh, Mike Young, Adam Wilson, Melissa Broder, Tyler Gobble, Carrie Lorig, James Gendron, and Tyler Brewington
FSG Originals presents LITERATURE PARTY 2014
a night of literature and party benefiting APRIL
FRED Wildlife Refuge, 9pm, $7 adv/ $10 door
Readings from Amelia Gray, Melissa Broder, Sommer Browning
Dance party by DJs Jon Francois and Christian Science
Giant video wall by HTML Giant
Bookstore by Vouched Books
—Get a sneak peak of APRIL Festival 2014’s readers—
ED SKOOG reads at “Burnside Review, Four Way Books, Canarium Books, and Lana Turner Reading”
Fremont Abbey, 7pm, free
With Ed Skoog, Ralph Angel, Jeff Alessandrelli, Paula Cisewski, David J. Daniels, Brian Komei Dempster, Karen Brennan, Joy Katz, Ish Klein, Tod Marshall, Christopher Mattison, Sawako Nakayasu, Richard Greenfield, Sara Deniz Akant, and Jessica Laser.
DONALD DUNBAR reads at “Similar:Peaks::Poetry & Press Reading:Release::Party vol. 1”
Vermillion, 9pm, free
With Amy Silbergeld, Rauan Klassnik, Johannes Goransson, Monica McClure, Paula Cisewski, Marcus McDonald, Brian Oliu, Donald Dunbar, Lara Glenum, Brian W Hedgepeth, Jade Benoit, Kevin Sampsell and more.
JANE WONG reads at “I’M SO TIRED 2: Makeout Creek, OH NO Books, & Smoking Glue Gun Reading “
6pm, Vermillion, free
With Colleen Barry, Stephanie Berger, Nick Demske, Tarfia Faizullah, Noah Falck, Joe Hall, Sally Wen Mao, Joshua Poteat, Nate Waggoner, & Jane Wong
KATE LEBO reads at “VIDA: Women in Literary Arts Leave it to VIDA!”
Richard Hugo House, 8pm, $10 min donation
Readings by VIDA supporters Cheryl Strayed, Nick Flynn, Pam Houston, Natalie Diaz, Melissa Febos, Kate Lebo and Alexander Chee lampooning the bad ol’ days of the post war domestic.
LAUREN IRELAND reads at “The Destroyer, Flying Guillotine Press, Coconut, & Barrelhouse Author Reading “
LoFi Performance Gallery, 6pm, free
Stephanie Balzer, Brian Blanchfield, Dan Brady, Serena Chopra, Lauren Ireland, Krystal Languell, Justin Marks, John Twice Myers, Amber Nelson, Michael Rerick, & Shelly Taylor and $4 wells.
DONALD DUNBAR and LAUREN IRELAND read at “Seattle Six-Press Release Reading:
Rendezvouz Jewelbox Theater, 5pm, free
Sunnyoutside Press, Calamari, Hyacinth Girl Press, Magic Helicopter Press, Mammoth Editions, and Future Tense for a reading to celebrate the release of 7 new titles. Readers include Rusty Barnes, James Brubaker, Brandon Hobson, Lauren Ireland, Dan Nowak, May-Lan Tan, and Donald Dunbar.
SHIN YU PAI and MAGED ZAHER read at “From the Convergence Zone: UWB MFA”
Sole Repair, 6pm, free
With 1913 Press, Belladonna* Collaborative, Chax Press, Coach House, Essay Press, Les Figues Press, Slope Editions & Split Level Texts and 26+ readers.
ZUBAIR AHMED reads at “McSweeney’s Poetry Series Reading”
Richard Hugo House, 8pm, free
With Victoria Chang, Dan Chelotti, Zubair Ahmed, and Carl Adamshick.
MAGED ZAHER reads at “The Great Unwind: Music and Poetry”
Gallery 1412, 10pm, free
Caroline Crumpacker, Ben Doller, Robert Fernandez, Samantha Giles, Cole Swensen, Maged Zaher, music and refreshments.
—And in case you need more:—
(say goodbye to a beloved Seattle reading series at) the Breadline finale
7pm, Vermillion, free
roberto carlos ascalon, arlene biala, sarah heady, michelle penaloza & musical guest oh! pears
unlimited open mic & dance party with dj windows95
Wave Books off-site at ACT Theater
5:30pm, ACT Theater, free
with Mary Ruefle, Joshua Beckman, Cedar Sigo, Garrett Caples, and Eileen Myles
AWP IRL hosted by Tin House, Wave Books, and Tumblr
8pm, Chop Suey, free
Readings by Dorothea Lasky, Peter Mountford, Bianca Stone, and Matthew Zapruder
Tunes provided by DJ Mas y Menos (Colombia) & New Dadz (Portland)
Free admission and drinks (while they last).
Third Man Records, Black Ocean, & Mission Creek Present: Language Lessons Volume 1 AWP RELEASE PARTY
8pm, Barboza, $10/$5 with AWP badge
Readings from CD Wright, Kiki Petrosino, Brian Foley, DJ Dolack, Brian Barker, Adrian Matejka, Dale Ray Phillips
Music by Stickers
And a DJ set by Third Man Records co-founder Ben Swank
8pm, Vermillion, $5-$20 suggested donation
Poetry Serving Youth City by City (PSYCCity) partners with YouthCare in Seattle to raise the poetry community’s awareness of youth homelessness. Featured readers: Matthew Dickman, Matt Hart, Tanya Olson, Roger Reeves and Phillip B. Williams.
Alice Blue + Bloof + Coconut at AWP 2014
6pm, The Pine Box, free
Readings from Tyler Brewington, Jackie Clark, Shanna Compton, Mel Coyle, Bruce Covey, Ben Fama, Hailey Higdon, Megan Kaminski, Jiyoon Lee, Joseph Mains, Pattie McCarthy, Amanda Montei, Amber Nelson, Jenn Marie Nunes, Alexis Pope, Dawn Sueoka, Jennifer Tamayo, Ellen Welcker, Joseph P Wood, Wendy Xu and Nick Sturm
Authors, Publishers and Readers of Independent Literature (APRIL) is excited to announce the lineup for the 2014 festival.
This is our third annual festival, and it includes some old favorites (the competitive storytelling event, “A Poet, a Playwright, a Novelist, and a Drag Queen”) and new twists (the “APRIL Pizza Party”).
This year, the festival will also unveil two new programs:
More books from Nouvella and Short Flight/Long Drive
We’re looking forward to more from Derek Palacio, the author of our January Book Club pick, How to Shake the Other Man (review here). In the meantime, we’ll be sure to check out some other especially well-designed books from Nouvella. Here’s our picks:
The Sensualist, by Daniel Torday
The Last Repatriate, by Matthew Salesses
Your Rightful Home, by Alyssa Knickerbocker
The author of our December Book Club pick, Mary Miller, has a first novel due from Liveright in just a few days (1/20) called The Last Days of California that we’re definitely picking up. We have a few faves from Big World's publisher, Short Flight/Long Drive, too:
That’s the undercurrent of Derek Palacio’s tightly-wound novella HOW TO SHAKE THE OTHER MAN (Nouvella, 2013). The book traces the stories of Javi and Oscar, two men with two very different loves for Marcel, a gregarious Cuban entrepreneur who is murdered outside one of his coffee stands. To Oscar, Marcel was an older brother. To Javi, Marcel was a lover. At Marcel’s request, Oscar teaches Javi how to box. The entire book is set in the wake of Marcel’s death, and in the days leading up to Javi’s first fight.
And so the two men do battle, in their own ways, with Marcel’s absence. He’s the titular ‘other man’ each character tries, and fails, to shake. Most of the book looks backward: Marcel’s exile from his Catholic family in Miami and Javi’s time as a male prostitute are both laid bare in vivid prose. Palacio shines when capturing the small details that make the heartbreak real: the spilled post-coital coffee or the shirt button fingered absently while speaking with the police.
There’s always been a symbiotic relationship between writing and boxing, perhaps because the latter lays bare some of the crucial stuff that makes the former so compelling. The sport is man vs. man, the most basic grist for the fiction mill. Upon a simple foundation, though, you can build some pretty expansive stuff (cf. the essays of A.J. Leibling). That’s what Palacio does here. He’s an expert technician—a counter-puncher, to extend the metaphor—and this book is a vivid glimpse, a single round of a longer, more devastating fight.
Disclaimer (since these seem to be very important these days): Chelsea Martin’s book was published by Short Flight/Long Drive, the press that also published my short story collection, Big World. Comment about disclaimer: I don’t know Chelsea Martin. I met her once, that I can recall, and we…
How to talk about things like cheese: A review of BIG WORLD
by Tara Atkinson, APRIL managing director
When Big World was published in 2009, my favorite story was “Not All Who Wander Are Lost,” about a bad waitress who doesn’t get along with the other waitresses — “The waitresses don’t talk to me for reasons having to do with I fuck everybody and get paid twelve dollars an hour to slice lemons.” I was a delivery driver/prep cook who wanted to be a real cook but was too slow and always being sent to the back kitchen, which I knew was the right call. While I was alone in the back kitchen I’d grate some cheese, run out of cheese to grate, wait for someone to call for a delivery, and either sneak back into the kitchen to warm my hands over the soup or into the storeroom to read a book. I read Big World sitting on a steel prep table and also at the bar, where I’d sit after my shift and use my employee discount on beer. Inside the cover I made a dated list under the title ‘plan’ that involved a juice fast and increased exercise regimen. (In another list dated two days later I listed “cravings for general food: wings, cheese fries with ranch, cheese.”) It was a similar life to the story’s narrator’s and I had similar romantic problems, too, but I wasn’t even a waitress — just a delivery driver. It was the accident of the right book at the right time.
Literature is full of beautiful descriptions of mountains, ocean waves, fogs, smiles, the effects of light hitting a woman’s hair. Such descriptions can be transporting and inspiring, but when I was the delivery driver/prep cook grating cheese in a Midwestern bar, I had my problems to think about. I didn’t want to be transported to an ocean of rollicking waves unless the transportation was literal (“Dear John, Sorry. Bye. Maybe love… who knows.”). The pile of mozzarella in front of me was ridiculous to imagine as a mountain of snow. Literature is not full of piles of mozzarella. That was the thing that got me about Big World. Not just that it “got me” or that the scenery was familiar, but the well-crafted and perfectly suited way Miller describes things like mozzarella cheese.
Like the detail in “He had salad dressing on his shirt, a wet spot where he’d tried to rub it off. I could see his chest hairs. It was like looking through a porthole” in “Leak.”
Or how the order in “I have a job that doesn’t pay very well and friends I never see. I still sleep in my ex-boyfriend’s t-shirt. There are magnets on my refrigerator and a clutter of pizza coupons in my drawer. Is this a life?” creates such emotional juxtaposition and resonance (the story is “Even the Interstate is Pretty”).
Or how the off-hand tone of the narrator’s thoughts in “Aunt Jemima’s Old-Fashioned Pancakes” add up to so much more than the words on the page when the friend says she wants a Mexican pizza from Taco Bell: “I know she knows exactly how many calories are in a Mexican Pizza, and that she’d work out until she’d burned the whole thing off, even if it took all night. Sometimes she loses it and eats an entire box of donuts and we can’t hang out because she has to run sprints the rest of the day.”
Or the quiet metaphor with all the perfectly-placed commas at the end of “Full,”: “I remember how, when I first started carrying a purse, it was empty so I filled it with things I didn’t need, to take up space.”
I wondered if such things were worth talking about. One former not-even shitty waitress still remembers this book, still thinks yes.
The Drunk Sonnets reviewed by Chelsea Werner-Jatzke
I have friend who’s been talking about her hypomania lately. I don’t know what hypomania is but everything I need to know to be a good friend is in the compound of this compound word. So we have another glass of wine and compare notes on heartache until she starts to slur. This is what it’s like reading THE DRUNK SONNETS by Daniel Bailey.
First, you will be confronted by the capital letters. All of them. And they will be unexpected because Magic Helicopter Press released the second edition of the book in January, now with introduction by Sean Lovelace, poet and professor of Bailey’s from BSU. This introduction uses the kind of capitalization we’ve all come to expect of the world.
Next you will be confronted by expectations; your own when you think of a sonnet. You might speed through these poems, rollicking in Bailey’s humor, enjambment, and profanity. And then you’ll have hit upon it—these sonnets are profane. They don’t care for much beyond the fourteen lines of the form. Sonnet #30 says it best:
LOVE IS HARDER THAN NOISE MUSIC
4/4 TIME OR 3/4 TIME OR WHATEVER IT TAKES
I COULD USE A LITTLE OF THAT STRUCTURE SO I COULD TEAR IT APART OR SOMETHING