Saturday, October 19 (7 pm)
Brooklyn Fire Proof – 119 Ingraham St. (at Porter Ave.), Brooklyn, NY
free and open to the public
Join Drunken Boat, one of the world’s oldest international online journals of the arts, as we preview our forthcoming issue #18 with a fabulous roster of writers and artists. We will have screenings from the latest video_dumbo festival curated by Caspar Stracke and Gabriela Monroy, poetry about Debt curated by Poetry Editor Michelle Chan Brown, work from a multigenre folio on Librotraficante and the New Latino Renaissance curated by Erin Wilcox and Lupe Mendez, and performers from a folio on the ocean put together by Marie-Elizabeth Mali.
Come out and celebrate a dynamic and interdisciplinary multimedia event with our editors and contributors. Performers include:
Victoria L. McCoy
Erin Wilcox reading Martín Espada
& Ravi Shankar introducing Drunken Boat #18
It turns out that the pilot who invented skywriting, Art Smith, was from my hometown. I have been working to complete a book of very short stories called The Complete Writing of Art Smith, The Bird Boy of Fort Wayne, edited by Michael Martone. To that end, I have found I have been reading the history of early aviation including a charming biography, Art Smith, Pioneer Aviator by Rachel Sherwood Roberts, and about flight itself. I remember reading William Langewiesche’s individual essays first published in The Atlantic but now have discovered them again in his book Aloft: Thoughts on the Experience of Flight. “The Turn” is quite something.
From airplanes to trains. I love tracking Thomas Sayers Ellis’s posted photos of the Northeast Corridor rail traffic on the facebook’s feed. So when I am traveling myself, I carry with me his mixed consist book of rolling stock, Skin, Inc.: Identity Repair Poems. The book collects some of the fine photos with stunningly sudden graphic word switching. My companion book while moving is Maurice Manning’s new one of poems, The Gone and the Going Away. For me, the significant American drama is the one that pits stability and rootedness against mobility and velocity. While I am moving I like to hold still.
I first worked with Chinelo Okparanta, writing together on the Greek island of Kerkyra. Wait. What? Too long a story to explain here, but it was there, drifting in the Ionian Sea, that I discovered the short stories of Okparanta. The stories are now collected in Happiness, Like Water, and I am very happy indeed. I see again I am drawn to the conflict between the stable and the fluid, place and the displaced. I couple Happiness, Like Water with Katherine Boo’s exquisite reporting of contemporary India, Behind the Beautiful Forever: Life, Death, and Hope in a Mumbai Undercity. There is no frigate like a book.
Finally, I just want to mention two books I received on my birthday. The Man in the Bowler Hat: His History and Iconography by Fred Miller Robinson that promises to be a fusion of social and cultural history and connects to my other gift book—I asked for it—Tim Gunn’s Fashion Bible. Though I am very taken with Tim Gunn’s encyclopedic fashion knowledge, I am more interested in his pedagogy practiced on Project Runway. I like to explore the differences between the workshop’s admonishment that “This doesn’t work” and Mr. Gunn’s suggestion to “Make it work.”
“Make it work,” there is a poem right there.
Praise for Uprising –
“Michele Battiste’s vivid account of the Soviet occupation of Hungary and the revolt of 1956 follows three sharply drawn characters, Jóska, Jutka and Erika, as their lives are changed by events much larger than themselves.” —David Mason
“This is an extraordinary collection, and its strain of defiant, blood-shirring gypsy music is the tonic you’ve been looking for.” —Albert Goldbarth
Well, on the top of the pile is a book called Bird Brains by Candace Savage, a picture book with text on the intelligence of crows, ravens, magpies, and jays. I’ve asked my workshop students this semester to focus on the making of images. We’ve agreed to think together about birds. In Bird Brains, I’ve just read where Savage cites the story of someone’s a pet crow named Gagee “who took on the task of feeding and caring for an injured fledgling. When the fledgling young bird died, the usually garrulous Gagee was stone silent for four days.” I can think of a couple of things wrong with those sentences, but what’s made (or unsaid) undoes me.
The marvelous poet Saskia Hamilton sent me Thomas Hardy’s ‘Poetical Matter’ Notebook (edited by Pamela Dalziel and Michael Millgate). I knitted (badly) a welcome sweater for her recently born son, Lucien, and she sent me this fine book. Opened randomly, I find this entry: “|| A mental refrain = refrain of idea, not a verbal repetition”, “Subjects known to the writer; unknown to the rest of the world.”, and “Xmas party at Lesnewth — Farm house: the clink of the locket. Wd this combine with “Burning the Holly?””
As for poems, I keep reaching between other things for Alfred Starr Hamilton’s A Dark Dreambox of Another Kind. Such a fresh, wide voice and mind. He makes me happy with all that repetition, makes me uncomfortable in the best ways, and then there’s his tenderness, his joy. Wallace Stevens’ Collected Poems is always open facedown somewhere in my house. Sustenance ongoing, decades now.
I’ve left off at the beginning of the 14th chapter of César Aira’s crooked, clean The Mistress and the Wind, after reading this sentence: “Let’s suppose a man who, as a result of a mental disturbance (I can imagine this because yesterday I saw it), cannot walk, advance, or move at all, without the accompaniment or propulsion of very sonorous music, which he is obliged to provide for himself at the top of his lungs.” It was a good place to wind the reading into thinking. How about that crow?
I recently read, for my own edification and pleasure, Sarah Vap’s End of the Sentimental Journey: a Mystery Poem, which blew my mind and made me gasp and laugh and cry and put the book down over and over again in awe. If you are interested, as I am, in extremely non-traditional scholarship, in non-normative sexuality, in graphically explicit literature, in feminism, in Confessionalism, in honesty, and in love, I cannot more highly recommend this incredible, potent lyric essay.
And speaking of non-normative sexuality, the other stuff I’m reading right now are mostly nonfiction guides to or studies of about what gets called “alternative lifestyles.” Tristan Taormino’s The Ultimate Guide to Kink, a collection of short, energetic essays by experts and educators in various practices and predilections, is a pretty rad and varied anthology with everything from rather basic stuff to very advanced techniques and play…if you’re, you know, into that kind of thing.
In something of the same vein, I’m making my way, slowly and for the first time, through Lady Chatterley’s Lover by D.H. Lawrence. It’s unbelievably provocative and so far ahead of its time: I imagined it would be “raunchy for its day” but no, its ideas about sex and sexuality and the way they intersect with class and gender politics, among other things, are still completely in front of the curve. It’s so complicated and rich that I can only take it in small doses, as much as I adore it and feel astonished by it, so I’m reading it in between very practical books like those above, which detail, say, how to safely engage in impact play or negotiate the polyamorous parameters with one’s partner’s new other partner. I think—I hope!—Lawrence would approve.
Poetry-wise, I’m mostly reading books that I’m thinking about or writing about for my column on contemporary poetics for the American Poetry Review and for a new project around the theory of the Gurlesque. These “jobs” have led me, happily, to things like LaTasha N. Nevada Diggs’ wild and ambitious, polyglot collection TwERK and TC Tolbert and Tim Trace Peterson’s hefty and important Troubling the Line: Trans and Genderqueer Poetry and Poetics…both of which also feed my insatiable appetite for writing “about” sexuality and gender.