Bodies of Water in Austin, TX
When I moseyed down from Indiana, one of the first wow features of this Austin, TX was the glorious nature just a small scoot away in many directions. And with the heat upon (though admittedly, yup, not as scorching as years past) and the rain replenishing the pits regularly, I've spent big hunks of June dipping in-and-out of water, whether it's swimming, canoeing, fishing (oh btw, fishing is no-license required in Texas State Parks, if you're into that thing), or some hallelujah combo of those. Go-to spots: Onion Creek at McKinney Falls State Park, free / run-off side at Barton Springs, and Lady Bird Lake. And next up, a return to the river for some good toobin'.
Swan Feast by Natalie Eilbert
Julie Carr sure did get it right in her blurb for Natalie's first full-length, Swam Feast, when she declared, "This is the voice of contemporary feminism, brazen, smart, unafraid, and desirous of nothing less than life." My favorite part of Natalie's work has always been how she manages to deliver such emphatic pronouncements that blur the lines between the intellect and the emotional, throwing me at the grapple that these strands might not really be un-twine-able. Very proud to be on Coconut Books alongside Natalie and her great hollers like "Remember to love its trash because like it you didn't ask to be made."
'The Deslondes' Self-Titled Album
I'm not one to declare things "Best," knowing all of us people are partial and blessed with various palettes and opportunities of liking, but gracious, it's hard for me to hold it back. This just might be the best, start-to-finish, country album I've heard made in my lifetime. Lucky enough to see these fellas live twice, and it is very clear to me, they are what country music is destined to be--sorrowful-yet-still-hopeful, solid, and danceable. Don't believe me? Check out this video of my favorite tune from the album, "Louise," being played in a tiny van.
Badgerdog Summer Camp and Workshops
This is my third go-round as a Badgerdog summer camp teaching artist, a program run by the great Cecily Sailer. Again again again, I'm blown away by the goodness my kiddos can conjure, and you can spy some over at the Badgerdog blog. Also, I've been honored to get to teach an adult poetry workshop on the Poetics of Joy (with two more in the works for later this summer); was real nervous about this tight-knit regular crew, but blown away by their youthful spirits when learning and loving poetry. BIG JOY to see this community providing solid, fun spaces for writers.
Love and Information by Caryl Churchill
Asked Diana for some recommendations of plays / playwrights that would unscrew the top of this skull in regards to what a play can be / can do. And this first "here-you-go" did the trick, yup. Conversations with parts unassigned to characters, settings undefined, and slapped with titles like "Message" and "Star," the pieces in this book baffle in their simplicity, and with the quiet moments of life as main thread inspiration, they explode beyond description. All I can do here is give my own "here-you-go"--
God gives your life meaning. You've said that.
If there wasn't God there'd be no meaning to your existence?
So does God have a higher god to give his existence meaning? and that god a higher god and that god
no of course not
of course not, so all this stuff he's done, he might find it all a bit meaningless. I'm suprised he's not depressed.
I don't think he minds whether he means anything or not. I don't think he thinks about it.
So why do you think about it?
I'm not God am I?
But I don't mind not meaning anything, does that make me God?
It makes you really annoying.
Thoughtful Responses to Charleston Shooting
Out of the pain and the awful, what? Responses, responses from all sides, and through the muck has come an enormous stack of thoughtful, useful, and engaging responses to the terrible events and surrounding issues in Charleston. These pieces, obviously, speak for themselves (and please, please pass along any I'm missing):
Zak Cheney-Rice on why the shooting was an act of Terrorism
Katie Zavadski with everything we need to know about the shooter
KJ Dell-Antonia on talking to students/children about racism
Claudia Rankine on how "the condition of black life is one of mourning"
Obama's reaction to the shooting // Obama's eulogy at the funeral of Clementa Pinckney
Austin is super lucky to have this flash fiction magazine among the good good journals calling the city home (Smoking Glue Gun, Bat City Review, flag + void, Austin Review, and Covered in Fur--to name a few other stellar ones). Kirby Johnson seems to know just how I like my fiction--snappy with a poetic mutter, haunting through its brevity, and able to fit in my back pocket as I stroll down to Nasty's to shoot some pool. Check out this first paragraph of the winning story for the 2014 NANO Prize, "The Weight of the Moon" by Jasmine Sawers (side note: this year's NANO Prize is taking submissions until September 1st and is judged by the Amber Sparks.):
"The moon fell from the sky last Tuesday. I rolled her into the shed and gave her some water. Thank you, she said. Don't worry about it, I said. I patted her sorest-looking crater. I got some lotion and rubbed it on. Thank you, she said."
SCOTUS Ruling in Favor of Gay Marriage
Gotta be joyful for equality. So happy for all my friends, family members, community folks, and people around the nation finally holding the rights they are entitled to. Been a BIG JOY seeing the photos of folks legally recognized as married FINALLY (some after a half-century together) and the relief for them from the burden raised, issues like hospital visitation, family planning, and financial co-dependency heading towards being more guaranteed and reliable.
90's Meg Ryan
Austin Hayden's necessary venture in inserting literature into the space of music continues to be a successful one with this new issue "The Studded Belt Phenomenon." This Gob heart of mine truly believes both contemporary independent literature and DIY music will be better off when the similarities are recognized, the resources shared, and the fires encouraged to burn together. That is what has always excited me about this project, now two years (!) old--with stuff like Nina Puro's amazing elegies (with lines like "the girl in the dream / kept a whisper / & an atlas in a / vial round her neck / to turn down that / cold wind.") sharing space with a song like "You're So Sorry" by "friends first, bands second" group SPORTS, how is it not a win for everybody?
"Biscuits" by Kacey Musgraves
Wow, just wow. Couplet queen does it again with this too-catchy-and-sweet-to-be-dismissed-simply-as-"corny" pop-country tune. I've seriously watched / listened to this thing at least 25 times in the past week.