Most Anticipated Small Press Books of 2016!

Few exceptions aside, the most compelling, challenging, absorbing literary art is being produced by small presses and their respective writers. I asked a number of writers, editors, and publishers to send me a list of small press books to look out for in 2016. Below you’ll find my own list, which is informed by Kate Angus, John Cayley, Lauren Cerand, Samuel R. Delany, Rikki Ducornet, Andrew Ervin, Lily Hoang, Sean Lovelace, Scott McClanahan, Hubert O’Hearn, Jane Unrue, and Curtis White.

Below you’ll also find lists from Jeff Bursey, Tobias Carroll, Gabino Iglesias, Janice Lee, Dawn Raffel, Nick Francis Potter, John Reed, Adam Robinson, Michael Seidlinger, Terese Svoboda, Jason Teal, Angela Woodward, and Jacob Wren. All the abovementioned people are small press heroes and great writers in their own right. My thanks to all of them.

Continue reading

On Names

I go down the 58,022 names,
half-expecting to find
my own in letters like smoke.
--from "Facing It," Yusef Komunyakaa

Last month when the Best American Poetry 2015/Michael Derrick Hudson scandal broke (Hudson, who had been included in the anthology, admitted that he employed the pen name Yi-Fen Chou “as a strategy for ‘placing’ poems”), the Asian American Writers’ Workshop launched, in a parodic move, a White Pen Name generator. I just used the generator and got the name “Richard Anderson.”

But I was recently reminded that we don’t always need to deliberately generate a white-sounding name; sometimes it gets generated for us:

Capture

Seeing the above typo from the New Directions website made me mentally chuckle as I considered how having a white pen name could be a great strategy for “placing blurbs.” I also remembered that when I was in grade school, my last name would routinely be confused for “Delong,” which, from what I can gather, is a surname of French derivation.

The Best Am Po 2015 controversy makes me think of another public controversy–the one surrounding the creation of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C. The now iconic Memorial Wall was designed by Maya Lin, who won, through anonymous entry, the 1981 design competition as an undergraduate. According to Lin,

The memorial’s starkness, its being below grade, being black, and how much my age, gender, and race played a part in the controversy, we’ll never quite know. I think it is actually a miracle that the piece ever got built. From the very beginning I often wondered, if it had not been an anonymous entry 1026 but rather an entry by Maya Lin, would I have been selected?

I remember at the very first press conference a reporter asking me if I did not find it ironic that the memorial was for the Vietnam War and that I was of Asian descent. I was righteous in my response that my race was completely irrelevant. It took me almost nine months to ask the VVMF, in charge of building the memorial, if my race was at all an issue. It had never occurred to me that it would be, and I think they had taken all the measures they could to shield me from such comments about a ‘gook’ designing the memorial.

Had Michael Derrick Hudson been an architect, would he have submitted to such a competition (that was non-anonymous) with the name “Yi-Fen Chou”?

Of course not.

#AuthorFail 13: Debra Di Blasi

Welcome back, my friends, to lucky #13. My good friend and publisher, Debra Di Blasi, speaks best for herself.

Go failure!

****

Seems everybody has a memoir these days.  Seems I’ve been trying to have one for years.  Like an egg that won’t drop.  A stuck turd.  The opposite of purgation.  Ah, yes, shit. Indeed, allow me to remain scatological for a few words longer.

I’m not constipated about my past, my many lives lived large. No remorse, no regrets.  Neither the drugs nor the booze, neither sex nor abortions, neither mobsters nor terrorist(s), neither poverty nor wealth, disease nor health, Jesus nor Buddha nor nothing that cannot be and everything than might…  Failure to complete a memoir – four memoirs, to be exact – is for me a failure to apologize.  Failure to apologize is a failure to demand revision. Continue reading

A Review of Sir Thomas Browne’s Urne Buriall, or a Discourse of the Sepulchral Urns Lately Found in Norfolk

Ostensibly a history of the ways humanity has, across history, housed the mortal remains of its dearly, or otherwise, departed, Sir Thomas Browne’s Urne Buriall is a lyrical, voluptuous, and evocative meditation on mortality, fate, and fleeting fame.

Continue reading