“Camp Yes!” Is Out in Coalition Works

While in the throes of back-to-back orchestra concerts, I was pleased to learn from Editor Jaime Alejandro that coalitionworks had made its debut, with my last can poem–“Camp Yes!”–inside it. Check out the preview, below.

I wrote about the poem here. I am happy to see it in the whimsical, rollicking company of other lighthearted absurdities. I did not expect to like the contents of the journal as much as I did because I often feel frustrated when confronted by literary works that deliberately block me just when I am “making sense” of them. But I found myself fascinated by the ways the different works engage with and thereby transform, even co-opt, potentially dehumanizing forces. The whole issue has a liberating, carnivalesque vibe.

So if you would like to learn to laugh at some of the negative forces in your life, I urge you read the issue. I literally found it hard to put down.

Photo credit: Thomas Altfather Good. The four 50th Anniversary “Art Of Soup” Campbell’s Tomato Soup cans featuring a facsimile autograph by, portrait of, and quote from, Andy Warhol. The commemorative cans were released on 2012-09-02 at Target Stores. They contain actual tomato soup. 2 Sept. 2012. Wikimedia Commons. GFDL 1.3.

Radbod Story Is Out in 100subtexts, and the New Generation Beats 2022 Anthology Has Arrived!

d john hopper, cover of 100subtexts Magazine, issue 2. Used with permission.

I was happy to receive a pdf of 100subtexts, issue 2, with “Radbod Decides,” as well as many other pieces, in it. I have not had a chance to read more than a few pieces yet, but they are definitely eclectic, meaning most readers will probably find something they like. One poem I read was sensual, while another, a series of requests to someone to “show” the speaker their “ass,” went a little further than that. The story I read had a nice twist in the epilogue, and then there is the outspoken but sympathetic character of Radbod in my own creative retelling of a legendary historical event, which I wrote about here. Each piece has something compelling to offer, and I’m pleased that Editor Hopper thought my piece did, too.

So why are you still here? Go get your pdf copy here, already! Then come back and get a copy of this:

Picture of New Generation Beats 2022 Anthology, ed. and cover design by Debbie Tosun Kilday. Taken by me.

The arrival of the New Generation Beats 2022 Anthology, which contains my poem, “I Always Knew It Would Be This Way, I just didn’t expect it to be so soon,” was just as gratifying as the public appearance of Radbod in “Radbod Decides.” I have not had a chance to read many pieces from this anthology either yet, but besides looking forward to the contributions of my open mic friends, I believe it will be fun to see what different people take from the original Beats and how they interpret and update them.

As I suggested in my earlier discussion of my own poem, I believe I have taken the ethos of protest from the Beats. I also use a fairly informal delivery with some extreme imagery to convey my sense of conventional mores cracking and falling apart under pressure from the crises of our times. And I locate these mores in my early childhood in the mid-1960s, when many of the conventions the Beats rebelled against were still staples of middle-class life. But I see that others have used surrealism, sensual urgency, references to and linguistic reproductions of jazz, descriptions of people and places that exude Beat sensibility, and no doubt many other approaches that link their work to the Beats.

Judging by what I have heard and read from open mic friends like Dane Ince, Michael Sindler, and Generalissimo Bryan Franco, this volume has a lot of exciting poetry. If you click the title link under the picture and get yourself a copy, you won’t be disappointed.


“The Perfect Doll” Accepted for Personal Bests Journal

A couple of days ago, I was scrolling through a “calls for submissions” page on Facebook, when I saw a call for “Personal Bests.” I had seen this call before, but I had assumed it was for some distasteful uplifting stuff, and had scrolled on by. This time, I paused to read the commentary accompanying the call, and realized it was an opportunity to submit one’s best story to Personal Bests Journal for consideration and a share of the royalties if accepted.

After some thought, I selected “The Perfect Doll” (which you can read about here). I want my other stories to know that I love all of them, but I was choosing with the thought of what an editor of such a volume might want. “The Perfect Doll” is the only one of my stories that combines some slick commercialism–carefully constructed genre narrative–with interest in characters and thematic material (children, the use and abuse of religion, and Northern European paganism). It is horror, so it is upsetting, but it doesn’t really contain any material I would think of as triggering. Still, I didn’t think it had much chance of being accepted out of hundreds of submissions as one of the thirty or so pieces for the journal. Most likely, I thought, they would give preference to “literary” (non-genre) stories.

I was therefore greatly surprised when Editor David Gardiner (apparently speaking for himself and Guest Editor Philip Jennings) wrote me back the next day to say that volume V of the journal was close to being in print, so he had read my story right away and wanted to include it. He also said the story needed no editing because “the standard of writing is very high both in the literary sense and technically.” Well. Thank you! Glad I took a second look at that call.

As always, I look forward to seeing my piece in the journal and reading to the rest of them. I am curious to see what sort of “best” stories other writers have chosen.

Image credit: Becal.uso, Gold Cup exemple. 6 Feb. 2022. Wikimedia Commons. CC BY-SA 4.0.

Erbacce Poetry Journal Available for Pre-Orders

Cover of the forthcoming erbacce journal. Used by permission.

Today Editor Alan Corkish wrote to inform me that erbacce poetry-journals 70 and 71 (but it’s two volumes in one) are ready to go to press and will arrive in December. I am still grateful and agog at being recognized out of over 15,000 entries to the erbacce-prize contest, but now I am also grateful for all the work Alan has done on the journal and the work Andrew Taylor put in on his interview of me for my feature. I gave long answers to his questions, partly because I was interested in them and partly because I figured better too much material than too little. So we’ll see what they kept.

One interesting thing they do with the cover is ask the featured writers to select a weed (“erbacce” means “weed” in Italian) whose colors will be incorporated into the flowers on the cover. I see what appear to be pictures of my chosen weed (flowering kudzu) in some of the petals of my flower as well. As I told the editors, kudzu is appropriate for a Southern writer, and it brings a wealth of potential metaphors to the table. Also, its flowers are deceptively pretty.

So order your copy here. Some of my best stuff is in there, and some best stuff from others as well, I bet.

Remixes of Trump Campaign Emails Accepted by Bureau of Complaint

Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, Complaint – The Noun Project.svg icon from the Noun Project. 29 Dec. 2017. Wikimedia Commons. CC0 1.0.

I am constantly surprised by acceptances and rejections alike. Yesterday I woke up to a rejection of my haiku about Nebraska. I bear no ill will–obviously the editor received a ton of submissions. It’s just that he has previously accepted something from two other submissions I’ve sent to one of his other literary magazines. Also, I know a little about writing haiku, and this one had all the requisite ingredients, so far as I am aware: no five-seven-five syllable counting, but approximates the Japanese form; a description of details in which allusion to aspects of a scene evokes a season and at least one mood; and a turn in the last line. So in this haiku, “knee-high corn” is simply what I saw, but it connotes spring and uncertain hope (corn is demanding, and the wrong future weather could easily destroy knee-high corn down the road); likewise the rainbow I saw stretching long and low over the corn seems to promise something, furnishing a turn in the last line, but not completely allaying uncertainty. All this is not to claim the editor failed to recognize my brilliant genius, but just to explain why the rejection surprised me.

But then last night I was surprised in the opposite, nicer way when I discovered that LJ Pemberton, Editor-in-Chief of Bureau of Complaint, had accepted my eight-part remixes of Trump 2022 Campaign emails, “Solicitations From a Lone Star.” I wrote about this poem series here. I submitted it to the Bureau‘s “Hybrid” category, which, as I recall, was labeled “hybrid creative fuckery” and was characterized as anything not fitting into fiction or poetry. Since my remixes are very unconventional and not directly recognizable as a complaint, per se, I thought this category would fit best. I sent the series in with an explanation about how the poems not only contain many complaints from Trump and various associates but also represent my own complaint about his campaign’s not removing me from their email list despite repeated requests to do so. For good measure, I sent a complaint-themed bio about how I had imposed on various places to publish my complaints, and how I occasionally took a break from complaining to “grudgingly write other stuff.”

Because my submitted poems were not all complaints, and not explicitly my complaints, and because they did not really resemble the samples I read, I did not think they had much chance at this journal, but I sent them anyway because there aren’t a lot of publishing opportunities for strange and savage political satire, and these poems were at least related to complaining. I was therefore surprised and delighted that Editor-in-Chief Pemberton loved them and promised to “put them in the queue.” Bureau of Complaints seems to embrace the strange, the malcontent, and the witty. In short, right up my alley. I look forward to seeing “Solicitations from a Lone Star” among the Bureau‘s offerings, and I am hopeful that I will eventually place my haiku as well.

Bullshit Lit Anthology Is Out

Photo credit: Ravijung, Cow Dung Cakes, Nepal. 3 May 2017. Wikimedia Commons. CC BY-SA 4.0.

A few days ago Editor-in-Chief Veronica Bennett, of Bullshit Lit Mag + Press, emailed to inform me that Bullshit Anthology 01 is now out and available in print and pdf forms. She gave me a pdf copy, but I have now ordered a print copy and am beginning to read it. Based on the examples I have seen so far, I believe the b.s. selected by Editor Bennett, much like the energy-packed cakes above, has much more to offer than its excremental designation might suggest. Most often, the works creatively push the envelope on topics like the nature of poetry and the limits of poetic language.

I’m proud that my “Sonnet from Romeo & Rosaline,” which I wrote about here, is included in the anthology, and I look forward to my print copy.

“Radbod Decides” Accepted by 100subtexts

I can’t remember where I first learned the famous story about Radbod, a lord or king of the Frisians who ruled from 680 to his death in 719. For those of you unacquainted with it, I will try not to spoil it for you here. You can easily find it online (N. B.: “Radbod” is variously spelled), or read my piece when it comes out.

Suffice to say, I found his story compelling. I didn’t feel I had an angle from which to approach writing about it, however, until I saw the above embroidery in Utrecht a few years ago. Radbod looks so awkward and vacillating, not least because he seems to be trying to hide his nakedness. This seemed all wrong. I don’t know much about the Frisians, but I learned something about Anglo-Saxon language and culture in grad school, and the Frisian language and culture are similar. Both populations were tough because they had to be.

Sure enough, when researching Radbod before telling his legendary story in a more fitting way, I found that he was able to mount significant resistance against the stronger Franks off and on over almost 40 years. I don’t think he was a weak or awkward person–that’s just Church propaganda.

I enjoyed writing a brief retelling of the incident recorded in the embroidery above (and a fair number of other artworks), but found it was a hard sell, possibly because editors tend to want contemporary pieces told in a contemporary voice, or perhaps because the story is irreverent. It was hard even to find a market that was likely to consider it seriously.

So I am especially grateful to Editor John Hopper, who not only said he loved the piece, but also that he loved Radbod. It made me feel warm and fuzzy inside to have someone else see Radbod the way I do and appreciate him.

100subtexts is a new magazine that “is always looking for the experimental, quirky, off-key.” They are currently open for submissions to Issue 2, the one I’ll be in. I’m excited to see what else catches Editor Hopper’s fancy.

Post showing writers already accepted for Issue 2 of 100subtexts.

Poem Accepted to New Generation Beats Anthology

After seeing several of my open mic friends get accepted to the 2022 New Generation Beats Anthology, I was relieved and grateful to get the news yesterday that Editor Deborah Tosun Kilday also liked my submission, “I Always Knew It Would Be This Way; I just didn’t expect it to be so soon,” enough to put it, too, in the anthology.

I have never exactly considered myself a new generation Beat poet. I like Allen Ginsberg‘s Howl but could never make my way through Kerouac‘s On the Road. Also, my dad took a dim view of countercultural aesthetics, and I was brought up feeling that they ushered in the decline of his career. Still, my poem about being a poll watcher, which helped garner my recognition as a featured poet in the erbacce-prize contest, harked back to the spontaneous anger and despair of “Howl,” and I had a feeling there might be more where that came from.

At the time my open mic friend, Generalissimo Bryan Franco, shared the call for submissions to the anthology with me, I was upset by the Supreme Kangaroo Court’s decisions in Dobbs and West Virginia v. EPA, as well as by gun violence, the bullying of teachers and students by school boards and other fascist busybodies, the prospect of climate apocalypse, and Democrats’ chances in the midterms. I still am upset by these things, but the Kansas referendum gave me hope. Also, we finally found someone to start fixing up our house–thereby launching operations MOHGA (Make Our House Great Again) and EFA (Escape From Alabama)–which has cheered me a bit. Anyway, I was upset back then, with no such happy prospects in sight, when, shortly after I glanced at the call, a poem came to me.

I had often thought of what might happen in climate apocalypse. Diseases, of course, but also many tried and true resorts of desperate people–especially the consolations of fundamentalisms and violence (often combined). As I contemplated our post-1/6 reality, I thought how odd it was that a version of my apocalyptic vision was unfolding right now, within my living memory of an early- to mid-sixties nuclear family lifestyle (complete with mental instability, but that didn’t count as long as no one talked about it). I had always pictured brutish attacks proliferating at a later stage in the downfall of civilization. Neither had I realized that people in power would be so oblivious to their own welfare that they would calmly take steps certain to hasten and worsen the apocalypse. Those people remind me of (and probably in some cases descended from) the businessmen on the train from Manhattan to Westchester who used to try to pick me up when I was a teenager on my way home from my violin lessons.

So a poem that harked back to the culture the Beats rebelled against while also trying to shake up contemporary culture from a feminist standpoint was born. I felt it was in the Beat spirit, but perhaps it was not on the nose enough to be suitable for the anthology. Luckily, Editor Kilday thought it was. I can’t wait for the anthology to come out so I can read the other poems, especially my friends’, and share mine.

Last Can Poem Accepted

Photo credit: Bruce Bisping, Old Style Cash Register and Canned Goods in a Butcher Shop in New Ulm, Minnesota. October, 1974. Wikimedia Commons. PD.

It’s the end of an era. Editor Jaime Alejandro has accepted my last can poem of the set for Coalition Works Journal, a production of the Coalition for Digital Narratives. The journal is looking for “the everyday weird, the strange in the mundane, work that pursues hope in the absurd.” They also want poems responding to their prompts, which are available on their site here and also on Twitter via #coalitionprompts. My poem, “Camp Yes!,” does not really respond to any of the prompts, and it is not exactly hopeful. Like many of the can poems it takes an oppositional point of view to the corporate-speak on which it draws. But in doing so, the poem becomes an amusing absurdist satire of the combination of forced positivity and oppression that seem to characterize system-sponsored self-help and organizational retreats. There is joy in this, and I’m grateful to the editor for his appreciation of it.

“Reflection” Up in t’ART Summer Showcase

Mark Solms’ The Hidden Spring, A Journey to the Source of Consciousness. Taken by me.

Many thanks to Editor Amelia Brown and the rest of the t’ART team, for posting my poem, “Reflection,” inspired by Mark Solms‘ The Hidden Spring, A Journey to the Source of Consciousness, in t’ART‘s online Summer Showcase (scroll down to read “Reflection”). I wrote about the poem and its relation to Solms’ work here.

I’m pleased to be in the Showcase, especially because it is mostly poetry. It was also interesting to see that one of the other poets was Lorna Smart. Not because I am acquainted with her work, because I’m not, but because “Lorna” is not that common a name, especially in the US, so being in proximity to another Lorna always seems exciting. In this case, however, it is also faintly insulting. Perhaps I should change my last name to “Smarter.”

Seriously, I am looking forward to checking out the showcase, and I hope you will do so as well. Cheers.