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Summer is a time to leave NYC and reconnect with the rest of the world, to remember porches and yards and gardens without rat snouts gumming up the raised beds. Here I’ll be creating a context to some extent for specific small press publishing (inclusive of journals and reading series) practices and obstacles.

Manifesto on permission, clarification, etiquette, empathy, institutional critique, mothering and what it needs, accusation of conservatism, defining risk, problems of disability, how my mental health is an obstacle to social climbing, public speech, separatism, not activism necessarily, against public marriage.


One day a big art website publishes a poem about having sex with me. Another day a lit blog publishes a critique of something I wrote about a poetry reading. The blog says men are nice and my report from the field is a freak incident. Another lit blog defends a known blowhard’s right to remix misogyny. Later, somewhere around the fifth email to a university librarian who claims not to have received the invoice attached each time, I pause to ask myself why I bother. Why do I spend my free time volunteering (mostly) as an editor, publisher and press manager and why do so many others likewise work for small presses, journals, or websites in addition to writing poetry, reviews, essays, interviews? Particularly if I sometimes feel attacked by members of this so-called community. Why am I in this conversation and why do I want to be?


In a class I was teaching yesterday, I trotted out Bryan Garner’s Dictionary of Modern American Usage, a book I find to be a useful tool for writers, and read a few lines from the entry for class-based language, which provides charts of high-class and low-class phrases from several sources. For example, Emily Post (as cited by Garner) defines “lovely food” as a phrase that is low-class while “good food” is upper-class. My five students are from five different countries, grew up speaking five different mother tongues. They thought this whole idea was weird, though they said British English is more formal than American. I tend to identify closely, genetically, with low-class language. Garner writes, “Most usage guides are silent on the subject of class. If they serve as useful guides, they typically reflect upper-middle-class preferences, as this book generally does. For that is the class into which most even modestly intellectual achievers fall, and the class to which the ambitious members of the middle class most aspire.” So you’ll have to excuse me—as a class-jumper who speaks of lovely food and adult beverages, I struggle to fit in with poetry’s didacticism since, according to Garner’s definition, I am unlikely to be even a modestly intellectual achiever. My English is euphemistic, idiomatic, low.


Manifesto on rhetorical proofs, fatigue (outrage and surprise), passive-aggressive micro-economies, branding, irony, discretion, generosity, power, need, luxury, community, curatorship, diversity, radicalism, reading series with roofies and/or one woman and/or one person of color, the disappearance of key grande dames.


As David Graeber argued in The Guardian this March, the labor of caring generally falls to the working class. We (of) the workers are trained (by dint of our socioeconomic position in U.S. society) to perform in the service industry or, if we are lucky, in air-conditioned office complexes assisting professionals, and to anticipate the needs of others. Graeber writes, “Working-class people may be, as we’re ceaselessly reminded, less meticulous about matters of law and propriety than their ‘betters’, but they’re also much less self-obsessed. They care more about their friends, families and communities. In aggregate, at least, they’re just fundamentally nicer.” In the poetry community, too, those who have less power perform unglamorous labor and do so with aplomb. The interns, volunteers, and long-term editors and curators who package and mail review copies, write endless emails and social media posts, and lug boxes to post offices to get the books and journals into readers’ hands do so in the spirit of caring and generosity. It is, in some ways, a calling.



So, oh no, groan, here comes another blog post and here come more people to find me annoying to my face and behind my back. So be it. Adding another cached page to the internet adds notability, according to Wikipedia’s standards (increasingly acceptable, to the chagrin of mainstream academics). If here I cite small press labors that usually go undescribed, it makes them more real.


But it is important to be careful not to find ourselves too saintly. Publishing others feels selfless, but it isn’t. For those of us who do this work, who are obsessed enough with poetry to take a rung in the pyramid scheme and work it, seeing a great book published and greeted joyfully by readers can be a pleasure. Yet it is a self-interested act because as editor I choose work to publish based at least in part on my own aesthetics and politics. When a book I’ve edited succeeds, I am proud of myself, for having my labor and my sense of what deserves success confirmed. But we ought none of us be using the word deserve. Here’s why.


In May I saw a comment on a friend’s Facebook page: “hope you enjoy a well-deserved Mother’s Day!” Must a Mother earn her Day? I’m sure the person meant to be positive and supportive, but “well-deserved” is so sticky and yucky it sounds sarcastic. First, even “you deserve it!” is a value judgment. The speaker has judged the news to be good, and announces that. Then, tacking on “well-” means ‘you earned it in style’ or ‘you earned it in a way that gives me extra pleasure’. Or like a bank, evaluating you in ways you didn’t ask for: you’re pre-approved for a special offer. You have been well-behaved. It reorients the news or the achievement to be about its buzz, and people throw “well-deserved” around casually.


Manifesto on the neighborhood, the alumni network, bubbles, duties, citizenship, collaboration, consent, coercion, awards, crowdfunding, feminism, intersectionality, reading fees, finalist lists, denunciation, recusal, divestment, friendship, vulnerability, tenure, energy siphoning, epidemics, choice, streaming video.


Poets could all stand to back off from evaluating each other’s accomplishments.


Could we simply remember, please, that as Clint Eastwood’s character in Unforgiven says, “Deserve’s got nothin’ to do with it.” The internet echo chamber of congratulatory chatter leads to staking claims IRL that we haven’t thought through. Once, someone I was dating told me a story about an older male professor speaking harshly and condescendingly to a female student and I said, “god how paternalistic.” He said, “I don’t think he was speaking to her like he was her father.” Like the social media deployment of “well-deserved,” this person’s mistake is evidence of a basic vocabulary problem, whereby language is considered without context, evaluated at a glance because the ego trusts its past literacy experiences as primary and essential. The term misogyny often gets the same treatment—a Manichean yay/nay, i.e., “I don’t think he hates gynecology!” It’s a careless mistake.


Editing and publishing poetry for a small press and a literary magazine has provided me with mentorship relationships and a kind of intimacy with texts I would not have been likely to encounter otherwise. I joined Belladonna* Collaborative in 2010 and one of the first projects I agreed to was working with Rachel Levitsky to see Theory, A Sunday through to publication. Originally published in Quebec in 1988 as La theorie, un dimanche, the book collects theoretical and experimental texts by six Québécoise writers[1]. From 2009-13, five translators[2] were involved in the project, each taking on a portion. The book came together in 2013; Lisa Robertson wrote an introduction; Rachel and Gail Scott co-wrote an afterword; our designer[3] completed the book object while becoming a parent and moving from NYC to Chicago; and then we were done! The book debuted in October 2013, after five years in progress with Belladonna* and 25 years after its original publication in French.



Aside from corralling and coordinating via one million emails, my specific task for this book project was the transcription of France Théoret’s prose piece “This Is Not A Lake.” I sat in the sauna that is Outpost Café on Fulton Ave in summer 2012, in the oonts-oonts of the house music their daytime staff favors, and typed from a photocopy sent to me by the author, a translation by Luise von Flotow.


This brief text mirrored my suppressed feelings on teenage girlhood in suburbia. Growing up, for me and most girls I knew, the path to being taken seriously was through having a boyfriend. Relationships were like a cigarette break—a universally accepted excuse for getting away from home or work. Though I tried, I did not flourish on this path. The common goal was to get engaged as quickly as possible (or get a promise ring! which was pre-engagement!). To lock it down and become currency. Théoret writes about her mother’s advice to keep out of small town gossip regardless. “If a girl in the neighborhood gets married at sixteen, it is my business,” she writes. “To my great shame, I secretly disagree with my mother.” I am a girl, and the world is my business. Retyping these words, I felt I had discovered proof of a right to my anger over the pressure on us as teenagers. The homecoming queen and the prom queen followed their boyfriends to college; the latter married hers. The valedictorian married her algebra teacher.


We had to create our own worlds, my friends and I, or we wouldn’t have survived. Now, for me, volunteering or working for a small press or a journal provides a chance to begin again with each new project. To be clean even as I categorically fail to mind my own business. To have a pure purpose without being a child bride. When I was 17, I thought I would grow up to be a secretary until I died. What a relief, then, this circuitous route.



Krystal Languell was born in South Bend, Indiana. Two chapbooks and a full-length collection of poetry are forthcoming: LAST SONG (dancing girl press, 2014), BE A DEAD GIRL (Argos Books, 2014) and GRAY MARKET (Coconut, 2015). FASHION BLAST QUARTER was published as a poetry pamphlet by Flying Object in 2014. A core member of the Belladonna* Collaborative, she also edits the journal Bone Bouquet.


[1] Gail Scott, Nicole Brossard, Louky Bersianik, Louise Dupré, Louise Cotnoir, France Théoret

[2] Erica Weitzman, Popahna Brandes, Luise von Flotow, Gail Scott, Nicole Peyrafitte

[3] Jack Henrie Fisher

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Published Jun 24, 2014 - Comments Off



Départ dans l’affection et le bruit neufs.

- Rimbaud, “Départ,” from Illuminations


I’m the wondering son with the nervous feet,

That never were meant for a steady beat;

I’ve had many a job for a little while,

I’ve been on the bum and I’ve lived in style;

And there was the road, stretchin’ mile after mile,

And nothing to do but go.

- Unknown, “Nothing to Do But Go,” from The Hobo in Song and Poetry (1923).


The travel narrative is a familiar one, a sort of pillar of the story-telling tradition that stretches up and across thousands of years and most every human culture. But in our contemporary Western matrix wherein most travel narratives have fallen into the curio-bins of the recent past due to air travel’s ubiquity as well as complex highway systems, how can transience and travel continue to inform a poetics? In a series of posts regarding travel by freight train and hitchhiking, I intend to investigate the ways a poetics can be formed and transformed by these now-marginalized modes of transport. It is worth mentioning before beginning, however, that hopping trains and hitching carry significant risk to life and limb, and should only be undertaken by experienced individuals or with an experienced individual as a sort of ‘mentor.’ More about the roughness of such transport later. For now, live free and ride hard!

How to say that I don’t think most poets, myself included, go after “new noise” in our lives or in our work, or at least don’t do so enough. Or how to say that I wish more poets would allow all illusions of comfortability to evaporate. How to say that I live near a train yard, and that whenever I hear two blows of a front unit’s horn, I wish I was getting ready to run out of shadows and jump up into a grainer hole or a 48-well or a pig with wings. And how to say that the only reason for permanence is the ability to become more transient.



That transience can aid in forming a poetics is not a new idea, as any diary-scribbling teenager who’s read On the Road could show us. It seems, though, that prevailing attitudes towards transience and the traveler and the unitinerated journey are dismissive, even scornful, with dismayed heads shaking and muttering about naivete and romantic folly. The problem is that the regimentation of settlement is so ingrained in the collective psyche that travels must always be purposive above all, and despite the myriad aphoristic inspirational slogans regarding destination’s secondary nature, the sentiment has been cheapened enough that it amounts to so many broken ceramic mugs and crumpled posters. What is missing— from our thinking and from our being— is that transitory states of being lead us out of ourselves, and that this is often where poetry comes from. In that quintessential book of US nomadism, Kerouac writes,


I woke up as the sun was reddening; and that was the one distinct time in my life, the strangest moment of all, when I didn’t know who I was – I was far away from home, haunted and tired with travel, in a cheap hotel room I’d never seen, hearing the hiss of steam outside, and the creak of the old wood of the hotel, and footsteps upstairs, and all the sad sounds, and I looked at the cracked high ceiling and really didn’t know who I was for about fifteen strange seconds.


The passage remains striking, even to a hardened cynic, because it details a temporary unravelling of self that is arrived at when the journey is subsumed into the self. For all of its romanticism, it gestures towards a reality that comes from weariness and unfamiliarity, but also from searching for the ineffable.


It is well worth noting, though, that the absorption of transience into the self occurs even when travels are driven by purpose, as is evidenced by those featured in Michael Uys and Lexy Lovell’s astounding documentary, Riding the Rails:



What is ineffable thus thickens, as the comforts arrived at from illusory work, the comraderie and partnership that supposedly form the backbone of these United States, even the sometimes-gorgeous land we live with and struggle on— all of these things become impossible to descry, to gauge, to qualify or quantify. Their meaning and significance is ingested by the journey. So while many still ride the rails looking for seasonal work or with work already lined up in some far-flung cowtown, their identities are marked less by their temporary residence in farm communities, and rather by their status as travelers (though a multitude of other names, some pejorative and some not, are often applied). Thus, while ephemeral gainful employment remains a purposive factor for many in transitory states of being, the transitory state itself has become a primary identifying marker.


But how is a poetics formed by the transient state’s way of leading us out of ourselves? I believe that Philip Lamantia‘s “Redwood Highway” is illustrative, especially this stanza towards the poem’s beginning:


Through crystals of lava circuiting thought

Whose harpoon burst battle

Are the wandering ciphers

Revealed solely in their own mystery

As if the air could blind us and yet the word assault

From three pillars a landscape blown away


Here is movement, the hypnotism of thought and word being molded by a “circuiting,” a “wandering” which does not necessarily yield anything intelligible: the “landscape blown away” is a mere fact of geologic time and space, the magnitude of which could be a definition of the ineffable. The transient’s meanders within the landscape allow for an openness to “ciphers/ Revealed solely in their own mystery,” and thus a receptiveness to whatever harshness and rawness and beauty the mystery affords.


In a sense, the transient’s locomotion enables an enhanced reception to the material of poetry, as the sheer overwhelm of images and interpretations fills a boggling arsenal that can be utilized in any number of ways. These materials seep through the transient’s pores into his or her being, leaving a dirt- and grease-covered creature with a hunger for more sunrises like this one:



Or more views like this one:




Their indescribability yields a desire to find words that might approach them, becoming a fuel for further travels and further poems.


The most telling thing about my own notebooks from my times in a transient state is that they are often somewhat mundane catalogs of such sights. Here are my entries from August 14th and 15th of 2013:




Q-PDRV in a snake-eye grainer (miniature moving Louis Kahn)




Well, once again it worked. Put down the book [I was reading Will Alexander's Compression & Purity throughout the trip] & our train to Roseville came. Ha! After a while stuck in PDX, we started motoring— evergreens, county fairs, the scent of rain in small towns, dirt roads to dilapidated farms, stubby Xmas trees in August, plains of hops and mountains & bluffs beyond. Also some suburban detritus but not too bad— kinda bummed we’ll have to go thru the mts. [which help form the Umpqua National Forest in Oregon] @ nite again, but we should have a nice Dunsmuir view (etc.) tomorrow, hopefully.




Awoke and we were next to Klamath Lake and the sun was rising— blues melting into blue smoky mountains beyond, pink ringing them. Slept relatively well. Amazing views of the valley & Shasta & Black Butte, volcanic boulder fields, etc. Got out at the huge curvy siding in the mts., but the DPU had been taken off in K. Falls. Familiar scenery forward, tho tiny baby squirrels & a climb on the suicide porch in the Mts. were notable…



I would like to think that these entries betray an awe, but they fail, not only because it is difficult to write a proper journal entry on a freight train going rather fast, but also because the sights’ immensity and immediacy cannot be properly approached by words in a commensurate fashion. The particulars are lost: the jutting angular obsidian pell-mell of boulder fields, chill sweet pine mountain wind whipping across the skin as one climbs a ladder moving at 60 miles per hour facing the southern expanse of the Cascades, a gaggle of children floppily meandering down slick sidewalks raising cotton candy puffs as sceptres… Only in an afterward do the words flow in proper effulgence, though there are few words that can actually move towards a union with a mountain like Mount Shasta, or rightly depict the palette of the sunrise over Klamath Lake. What remains is the slinking of the ineffable into one’s skin, into one’s retinal reserves, and how accessing these stores is always an asking for more transience, for more journeys that lead towards the self’s dispersion, for more words.



Ted Rees is a poet and essayist who spends most of his time in West Oakland, California, but travels around the western US on a regular basis. His current work focuses on environmental degradation and the struggles of wage labor. Previous writings can be found in the Double Burst featurette with Jared Stanley (Supersuperette 2014), Michael Cross’ Disinhibitor blog, Small Press Traffic’s website, Eleven Eleven, Ragtag, and a number of other publications both online and off. His two chapbooks include Outlaws Drift in Every Vehicle of Thought (Trafficker Press 2013) and Like Air (BentBoyBooks 2012). Forthcoming are chapbooks from Mondo Bummer and BentBoyBooks.

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Published Jun 17, 2014 - Comments Off

Lately I’ve been reading for fifteen minutes each day from Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary. I have forgotten too many words.


I’m rereading The Pale King, by David Foster Wallace.


Yesterday I picked up from the Fed-Ex and read cover to cover a packet of six Dirty Plotte comics that Julie Doucet wrote and drew in the late 80’s, early 90’s.


I recently finished reading Claudia Rankine’s Don’t Let Me Be Lonely and Franz Kafka’s Letter to His Father.


I recently listened to Ben Marcus’s Leaving the Sea on Audible while taking my dog for long spring walks. I also have the hardcover version, and I read my favorites after hearing them.


A couple memorable magazine pieces I read in the past couple of weeks:


William T. Vollman’s “Life as a Terrorist,” in Harper’s. It was in the September 2013 issue but I only just got to it.


Also old news, but I just read it: Dana Goodyear’s “Long Story Short,” a profile of Lydia Davis in the New Yorker. According to an old friend of Davis’s, in college “men and boys followed her around panting.” Who knew?


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Published Jun 10, 2014 - Comments Off


As our first round of guest bloggers concludes cheers are in order – many thanks to Brandon Brown, Joseph Bradshaw, David James Miller, and Marissa Perel! Next week we will be starting a brand new round of featured guest writing to take us through the summer months. Please join me in welcoming Lindsey Boldt, Ted Rees, Krystal Languell, and Nicholas DeBoer to Drunken Boat. Thoughts on trainhopping, the poetic monster, competition, the occult, society of the spectacle, and innumerable other things along the way. Here’s to the return of the sun!

-Jamie Townsend, DB Social Media Assistant Editor



Lindsey Boldt is a poet, performer, editor and educator living in Oakland. She is the author of the full-length book, “Overboard“, and the chapbooks, “Oh My, Hell Yes” and “Titties for Lindsey”. With her partner Steve Orth, she co-edits Summer BF Press and writes, directs and performs plays in the style of “Oakland Poetic Realism“. Recent productions include “Dating by Consensus” and “The Reading”. She is also an editor with The Post-Apollo Press.


Ted Rees is a poet and essayist who spends most of his time in West Oakland, California, but travels around the western US on a regular basis. His current work focuses on environmental degradation and the struggles of wage labor. Previous writings can be found in the Double Burst featurette with Jared Stanley (Supersuperette 2014), Michael Cross’ Disinhibitor blog, Small Press Traffic’s website, Eleven Eleven, Ragtag, and a number of other publications both online and off. His two chapbooks include Outlaws Drift in Every Vehicle of Thought (Trafficker Press 2013) and Like Air (BentBoyBooks 2012). Forthcoming are chapbooks from Mondo Bummer and BentBoyBooks.


Krystal Languell was born in South Bend, Indiana. Two chapbooks and a full-length collection of poetry are forthcoming: LAST SONG (dancing girl press, 2014), BE A DEAD GIRL (Argos Books, 2014) and GRAY MARKET (Coconut, 2015). FASHION BLAST QUARTER was published as a poetry pamphlet by Flying Object in 2014. A core member of the Belladonna* Collaborative, she also edits the journal Bone Bouquet.


Nicholas DeBoer is a poet, collagist, activist, and chaos magician living in NYC.  He is the author of many chapbooks and broadsides, as well as a co-editor for Elderly with Jamie Townsend and Cheer + Hope Press with Geoffrey Olsen.  He also is a member of the Potlatch Discordian Network, a magickal organization operating out of Ridgely, MD. Currently he is prepping The Singes, the first in his epic arc The Slip, for publication.  He is also also most certainly alive.


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Published Jun 10, 2014 - Comments Off


Poetry Book Contest

$25.00 USD, $28.00 USD

Drunken Boat Book Contest: Poetry (Hybrid & Translation Welcome)

Judge: Forrest Gander

Deadline: June 25, 2014

Drunken Boat seeks entries for our inaugural book contest in poetry, open to any work of poetry in English (hybrid, multi-authored, and translations into English are welcome). Winner receives publication, $500, 20 author copies, a debut reading at AWP and ads in print and online sources. Though we welcome multi-author and translation projects, we can only afford to pay one honorarium (which may be split as authors / translators prefer). Drunken Boat books are distributed by SPD. Excerpts from all finalists judged in house by the Drunken Boat staff will be featured in a special folio in an issue of Drunken Boat, international online journal of the arts.


Open book competition for all writers with no limitations on the amount of work a writer has published. Manuscripts must be between 30 and 120 pages. Manuscripts are judged anonymously. Manuscripts must be previously unpublished as a whole (including self-publishing), but individual works may have been published.

Colleagues, current and recent students, and close friends of the judge, Forrest Gander, are not eligible. Current Drunken Boat staff and interns are not eligible. Entries must be received by June 25, 2014. Reading fee is $25.

For $3 extra to cover shipping cost, entrants who provide a U.S. mailing address may choose to receive this contest’s winning book or any Drunken Boat book. The winner will be announced to our email list and on our website in September, 2014, and we expect to publish the winning book in April of 2015.

How to Submit

Submit a previously unpublished, full-length poetry manuscript with a table of contents, between 30 and 120 pages. No manuscript will be rejected simply because it’s shorter or longer.

Submit as a single document a cover page with the title of the manuscript only, a table of contents, acknowledgements of previous publications if applicable, and the complete finished paginated manuscript. Do not include any identifying information in the submission, including acknowledgements. (If your name is an integral part of your work, please contact us for guidelines on replacing it with a pseudonym for the purposes of judging the contest). Submittable provides fields to fill in your contact information: name, address, telephone number, and email address.

Individual poems in a contest manuscript may have been previously published in magazines, journals, anthologies, or chapbooks, but the work as a whole must be unpublished. If applicable, include with your manuscript an acknowledgments page for prior publications.

Simultaneous submissions to other publishers or contests are permitted, as long as you notify us promptly if a manuscript is accepted elsewhere.

Multiple submissions are accepted, so long as each submission is accompanied by a separate reading fee.

Upload complete submission, and pay reading fee here.

(We are an independent, nonprofit literary press. Reading fees help with, but do not entirely cover, the cost of reviewing manuscripts, and publishing and publicizing the winner. If for reasons of financial hardship you cannot afford to pay the reading fee, please email us at editor@drunkenboat.com and we will try to help.)

Submit today!



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Published Jun 09, 2014 - Comments Off

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