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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:

 

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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:

 

8/14/2013

 

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

 

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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.

 

8/15/2013

 

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

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

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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

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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.

Eligibility

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!

https://drunkenboat.submittable.com/submit/27945

 

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Published Jun 09, 2014 - Comments Off

Mendieta

 

“I want to tell you about the splitting, of a female body—how I squeezed into it—fitting barely, of the texture of melancholy, of a sycophantic love, draw a flicker for you, let you enter as if entering me.” Dawn Lundy Martin, from “Negrotizing in Five or How to Write a Black Poem, Four: I/M/A/G/E” in A Gathering of Matter/A Matter of Gathering.

 

Commingling in the past month’s news: the remembrance of Ana Mendieta’s death evoked by Carl Andre’s retrospective opening at DIA, HowDoYouSayYamInAfrican? pulling out of the Whitney Biennial, and the May 23rd rampage of Eliot Rodger that killed six people and left 13 wounded. While it’s possible to view these stories as isolated incidents, loosely connected by timing, their interconnectedness is far too real. Misogyny and racism, embedded within the social and institutional structures that dictate authority and control, don’t seem to have lost their power.

 

In thinking about bodies, it becomes very obvious that it is the bodies of Others – bodies that are either not cisgender male, or not white, or both – that are the kinds of bodies meant to endure these injustices. Reading these events as bodies helps one see more clearly how, in the persistence of historical narratives of white or male or white and male superiority, entitlement, and dominance, there are those who will always be sacrificed, and as such end up becoming sacrificial symbols rather than subjects in their own right.

 

TheYams

 

I concluded my last post on luciana achugar’s OTRO TEATRO considering the utility of pain “as that which connects us to this earth” and the idea of taking pleasure in enacting revolt. I see this proposition as a precarious one; how to view our wounds as spaces of fecundity and potential that hold the key to more truthful power. Or actual power. But how do we not stay within the realm of sacrifice? How can our bodies signify other meanings and ways of seeing, being seen, valuing and being valued?

 

The title of my series, “Witch Craft,” was taken from a comment made by choreographer, Jen Rosenblit, at a L.A.B. discussion at the Kitchen where she posed the question, however facetiously, “where is the witch craft in craft?” This question seemed to link my interests, in curating as making space, in performance as a sometimes ritual, and the process of making as part magic. It’s also about locating and transmuting the darkside of power and power-relations.

 

So it seems only fit to mention Rosenblit’s A Natural Dance, here, in my final post of the series. I want to talk about the moment in the dance, in which she engages with dancer, Hilary Clark. It was the first time I had seen them dancing together, although Rosenblit took up Clark’s role in a touring version of Young Jean Lee’s Untitled Feminist Show (UFS).

 

In A Natural Dance, the pair appeared to alternate stepping in front of one another across the stage, as if attempting to protect each other from the audience’s gaze. While turning, Clark’s face of protestation or sarcasm grew and grew until it became theatrically etched into the audience’s gaze. Making their way upstage, they began to repetitively toss their heads toward the back wall of the theater, in a moment that felt like a world in and of itself. Something about their dancing went right into and through me. It was undeniable. It was force and beauty and feminist rage. Rage in their fingertips sweeping out, in their necks pushing forward, and their feet on the floor. It was in that moment that I felt like a breath went into my body, a breath I didn’t know I needed to take.

 

Rosenblit

 

I briefly sensed that this might have been a comment on their roles in Lee’s piece. But this wasn’t about fierceness for fierceness’ sake, enacted to fulfill an image. It was about Rosenblit and Clark dancing on and for their own terms. What I admire in Rosenblit’s work, and especially in A Natural Dance, is her ability to set her own terms for choreography and for how performing bodies are to be viewed. In this sense, her aesthetic choices necessarily become political acts. As Eva Yaa Asentewaa commented, “if anything happens between and among those bodies in space, it happens in the charged and naturally absurd space of juxtaposition and repetition, not because someone once laid out Rules of Choreography. Or rules of anything.”

 

It felt only appropriate to see a Natural Dance the same weekend that artnet published an interview with members of HowDoYouSayYamInAfrican?. Witnessing Rosenblit on her own aesthetic and ideological terms reflected, in part, the Yams’ pursuits to create their own terms at the Whitney. In both instances, these artists have sought to carve out a space for the agency of their work as distinctly not normative, and meant as such to question normativity with regard to the body, identity, and ways of making work.

 

Yams1

 

Question: How to enact a kind of revolt that can proliferate into new forms of recognition and understanding after the immediacy of cathartic rage?

 

“What kind of understanding will sink into the body? It’s just one body despite other previously stated facts and when it feels something it really does. It changes, though, and it grows up and looks completely different in the face.” Dawn Lundy Martin, Discipline.

 

“Sometimes that’s the way that white supremacy works: The actual people who are perpetuating it have no analysis, or they pretend to have no analysis, about what they are doing—and you just feel a deep hurt at not being taken seriously. Our souls, our art, our position, our politics, are completely not being given consideration, Christa Bell, as interviewed by Ben Davis and with the Yam collective on artnet May 30, 2014.

 

Yams2

 

I want to imagine spaces where artists and audiences can come into being as an act of co-creation. I also feel it is necessary to desire new images and new narratives, and to create out of this desire. I want to believe that we can open up spaces for the unrecognizable, and instigate new languages and forms of knowledge from our own subjectivities.

 

- MARISSA PEREL

Marissa Perel is a Brooklyn based artist and writer. Her working method is interdisciplinary and includes performance, installation, video, text, collaboration and curating. Her work has been widely shown in New York and abroad, and her criticism has been published on many on-line platforms. She originated the column, Gimme Shelter: Performance Now on the Art21 blog, and was an editor of Critical Correspondence, the on-line dance and performance journal of Movement Research. She has contributed to the Performance Club, Bomblog, Bad At Sports, and Tarpaulin Sky, among others. www.marissaperel.com

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Published Jun 03, 2014 - Comments Off

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