Um, well, this is embarrassing: if you checked this post this morning between 9 am – 9:26, you would have found an incomplete entry: devoid of this snappy opening, and truncated, it the main text, from its full form.
Could it be that #AuthorFail has had its first fail? Would this then equal success.
I feel miserable, I mean happy…I mean, well, something else.
As Jean Francois Lyotard notes in The Inhuman, the sun will burn out one day. Thus, all human activity is under the sign of this eventual catastrophe (no, I don’t think he considers widespread space colonization). I wonder if the sun will fail in its great and final task, to burn into nothing.
When you look into the sky today, enjoy the steaming ball of ambivalence–before that, enjoy this serious failure of a column from Laura Goldstein.
Joseph Millar is one of my favorite poets, and a faculty member in the MFA program I attended. Today my son, Lincoln turns three and it reminded me of hearing Millar read his poem, “American Wedding” during one of our MFA residencies. It’s a poem about his daughter’s wedding. My son wasn’t born yet at this point, it was January and he was due in June. I’d only recently started to come to grips with the idea of parenthood, I was slowly emerging from the fear of it all. I listened to Millar read this poem and a few minutes later I was taking a piss and it hit me that one day I would be watching my little boy get married, have kids, and a million things between his birth and adulthood and beyond. Today, as I’m watching my son transform from infant to toddler, from diaper-wearing to fully potty-trained, and a million other minor milestones only parents keep track of, I once again found myself thinking of Millar, and “American Wedding” and wanting to share. So, watch this video of Millar reading this fantastic poem:
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Formerly based out of New York City, now at home in Asheville, North Carolina, and with our Managing Editor currently situated in Reykjavik, Iceland, MadHat Press is open to authors of all creeds and distinctions, from the emerging to the emergent, from the multicultural to the insolent. For a list of some of our contributors over the years, click on the Mad Hatters’ Review tab.
To inaugurate the official birth of MadHat Press, CAConrad, Philly poet extraordinaire and author of the gripping collection, The Book of Frank (Wave 2010), will be judging the first poetry chapbook competition. Future MadHat Press chapbook competitions will include flash-fiction, short story, and novella categories. Continue reading
“Now that my ears are connected to a random answer machine, the wrong brain keeps talking through my hat. Now that I’ve been licked all over by the English tongue, my common law spout is suing for divorce. Now that the Vatican has confessed and the White House has issued an apology, I can forgive everything and forget nothing. Now the overdrawn credits roll as the bankrupt star drives a patchwork cab to the finished line, where a broke robot waves a mended tablecloth, which is the stale flag of a checkmate career. Now that the history of civilization has been encrypted on a medium grain of rice, it’s taken the starch out of the stuffed shorts. Now as the Voice of America crackles and fades, the market reports that today the Euro hit a new low. Now as the reel unravels, our story unwinds with the curious dynamic of an action flick without a white protagonist.”
This book undoes a lot of the anxiety I have as someone who has to read a lot of poetry and has yet to discover more than two or three books of poems that I actually like and would want to read again.
Does that sounds shitty and ignorant?
I mean it, though. And this is one of the reasons I’m so drawn to book-length poems. I like narrative. I like characters. And plot and setting and drama. And while some may argue that these exist in poetry collections, I’ll say they’re easier to settle into and enjoy in book-length poems (or contemporary verse novels, which I have written about a lot here).
I mean, I have a lot of anxiety. Am I alone when I say that poetry is hard. It’s not like you can just pick up a book of poems and dive in and just read, and when I say read I mean, you know, read, like the way you did when you were a kid, or the way you do when you pick up a magazine or your favorite guilty pleasure novels (mine are those romance novels that feature neurotic career women who find love in the most unlikely suitors). These books fly by, you know? They’re easy, they offer a better world to escape to, and they don’t take forever to read.
Poetry, though. Sooo different.
What is a beginning? What is an ending? What makes a particular grouping of words become a poem or a story or a fiction or a non-fiction? And do these labels, these distinctions, even matter?
For anyone who does not know, I’ve been reading and thinking about books that may or may not fit into the category of Contemporary Verse Novels. In attempting to define “contemporary verse novel,” I turned to several presses, books, and authors that I wanted to study and better understand.
Contemporary Verse Novel
Novel in Verse (vs. Novel vs. Poetry)
I first looked at Anne Carson’s Autobiography of Red, Selah Saterstrom’s The Pink Institution, and C. A. Conrad’s The Book of Frank. In grouping together these three books, I examined the role of family as both familiar and unfamiliar to readers. I spent some time discussing the mother/son relationship in Autobiography, the abusive father in Pink, and the strange mother who keeps jars of fetuses in Frank. In better understanding the families, readers also gain further entrance into the lives and minds of the protagonists. Whether fiction or non-fiction, poetry or short story collection, family is a solid theme that many authors write about.
At the Consumer Electronics Show a few weeks ago, at least 100 new tablets were revealed. A minority of these were e-readers, including a “Multimedia Novel” by Pandigital that comes preloaded with Barnes and Noble’s Nookbook store. Exciting name, but not such an exciting device other than its under-$300 price tag. With very few exceptions, the texts one can read on these devices are digital versions of existing books and magazines. I’d like to share with you one of these exceptions, the iPad/iPhone/iPod Touch app What They Speak When They Speak to Me by Jason Lewis.
Screenshot of iPhone version
The digital page opens on a jumble of translucent white letters on a black background, slowly jostling one another. I shook my iPad, wondering if the letters might bunch together and form words. Nada. I dragged a finger across the screen, leaving a thin white line on which letters started to gather like pigeons on a telephone wire. So one reads by creating a surface for the phrases, line by line. It’s a simple and satisfying interaction, just a finger swipe. Reminds me of the act of turning a page, which of course also makes text “magically appear” on the next sheet of paper. But there is something more playful and exciting about watching the letters come together before your eyes, I caught myself starting to predict what the words were about to speak to me. I was also reminded of a beautiful talk by Virginia Woolf where she asks us to “Look once more at the dictionary. There beyond a doubt lie plays more splendid than Antony and Cleopatra; poems lovelier than the Ode to a Nightingale; novels beside which Pride and Prejudice or David Copperfield are the crude bunglings of amateurs. It is only a question of finding the right words and putting them in the right order.”
But why is it important to make the reader work for the words, tease them out of a chaos of letters? Why not just write the darn poem out flat? Is it a desire to expand reading to embrace seeing and touching? Interestingly, this work is listed under the Entertainment category rather than Books on the iTunes App Store.
What they Speak is only 99 cents at the iTunes App Store. Support your local digital media writer! As tablets become more and more visible, I’m hopeful that bit by bit (har har) we’ll see more fine writing produced specifically for this new reading surface. Fellow readers, have any of you published for this platform yet? What do you think of the experience of reading on a tablet?