"Skin Suit" by Janalyn Guo at Quarterly West
Super stoked to be reading with my dear pal Janalyn Guo for the Bat City Review reading series on that first day of December. Rumor is she might be reading this story, one of the coolest short stories I've read in a long while. This story bends so strangely, touching science fiction and surrealism and allegory and prose poem, and I'm so elated in that. Here is the opening paragraph:
My parents are membranes of light. They are more magnificent than the Aurora Borealis or a rare tube of color that appears in a meteor shower. They travel together, inseparable like the iridescent wings on a dragonfly.
There is a bright body-shaped hole the size of me that forms when they intersect, which lasts maybe two weeks out of the year. That is when I take my annual vacation from the factory. I travel northward, to my birthplace, and wait for them in a belly boat adrift on a glacial lake. It is really quiet here, and the water is so still, it is as if I am puttering through empty space. I can smell the bears in the periphery. It has been a long time since my last visit, and I’ve forgotten how dramatic my parents’ arrival is. When I see their overlapping membranes lower from the sky, the entire landscape brightens and flares. I enter through the shape of me.
Naked as a Gay Bird
Local theater artist Jay Byrd has created this riveting one-man show illustrating his childhood and coming-out process. Filled with sometimes-hilarious-sometimes-heartbreaking anecdotes, such sleeping with a Diana Ross drag queen, this was a raucous good time, my hands betraying my hickish-ness and slapping my thighs all night. Always shaken when theater slings me deep into my own memories of awkward early forays into sexuality and confused moments of being a young man. Salvage Vanguard Theater did another great show, another big applause from this theater newb.
Other People's Comfort Keeps Me Up At Night by Morgan Parker (Switchback Books)
I was letting this book shine on the shelf until the right moment, and this month I found it, Texas chilling out and the world being rocked by prejudice and terrorism. Morgan Parker is a true necessity to this poetic life, a poet that is as fearless as she is vulnerable, as smart as she is emotional. I am simply blown away by these poems, none more so than the "Miss Black America" series, leaning again and again on that anaphoric question "does she." One goes a little something like this: “Does she got that good hair / from her mama’s side // Does she let her / white friends touch”
This goofy truck stop shines on the side of many Texas highways, and in all my travels, I have zipped by but never stopped. Mostly, it's because Diana hates that little beaver's face. But the other day, after helping a friend post-surgery, I was zipping back to Austin and stopped into see what all the glow was about. Wow, they got their logo game locked down.
I knew drummer Toto Miranda's main project The Octopus Project, but it wasn't until going to the wedding reception party of Toto and his wife Sarah Saltwick that I got my first earful of Woozyhelmet. They shred, they wail, and they rock. I prefer my punk rock a little goofy and a lot of loud, and Woozyhelmet delivers on both levels. I am very stoked that they'll be closing out EIB 2015 with a set at Cheer Ups on the 15th.
Start of NBA Season
The NBA zoomed through November, and though I don't get to watch nearly as many games as I'd like, every time I plopped down in front of some bar's television for an NBA broadcast, I was majorly pleased. The Warriors are beating everyone! The Pacers are holding on tight to 3rd in the East! Kobe announced his retirement in a poem! The 76ers might be the worst team ever! Andre Drummond is grabbing nearly 17 rebounds per game! Here's my bold prediction for the month: the Warriors stay undefeated until the December 8th showdown with the Pacers. Yes, I am saying the Pacers are the first to take down the defending champs.
Naturalism by Wendy Xu
So happy to see this new chapbook from Wendy Xu pop up at #12 on SPD's best sellers list for the month. Woohoo for people still reading chapbooks, but even more woohoo for people still writing amazing chapbooks. Wendy is one of my favorite contemporary poems--acutely aware (both of the self and the world), magically empathetic, and beautifully lyrical. These are poems I will return to when I feel the world crumbling, which is more and more often these days. Here's my favorite part of the first poem "Recovery"--
"I was an egg and more eggs swimming / in the margin's pool. Life is vague and vaguer when / we still kneeling in front of the television push / a finger inside."
What has gotten into me? I house-sat for five days last week less than four blocks from this place, quite possibly my favorite bar in town, and I did not mosey in a single time. But don't doubt my love, Workhorse. This is how I like my bars these days--cozy and friendly, affordable and delicious. As they say "happy hour starts when you get here," so I suggest you start a $3 Lawnmower from St. Arnold's Brewery; if you're hungry, I'm a sucker for the grilled chicken sandwich (that goat cheese!) with a side of mac-and-cheese. Also, bonus entertainment: this is a hot spot for first dates, so be prepared for lots of nervous laughter and darting eyes.
The semester is just about to close, and halfway through this rowdy Michener run, I'm in awe of my numerous and amazing classmates. It's been a pleasure having a few of them read at Everything is Bigger this semester (a secret way for me to see new work from people I'm not in class with, haha / see Becca Liu's amazing poems at last month's shindig); more will be invited to that stage next semester, no doubt. I have the urge to just list a heaping of their good names, but will resist and narrow to the classes. Dean Young called our workshop one of the three best he's ever taught. My classmates in Heather Christle's poetry and technology course were so brave and thoughtful, trying new processes, such as tarot card poems and erasures of Hilary Clinton's emails. And last but not least, my playwriting workshop were so kind letting this ol' poetry crash their parties and plays; be on the look-out for that influence sneaking into my poems. Blessed to be here.
Final issue of alice blue review
Sad to see it go, but goodness alice blue review went out with a whopping helping of goodness. This was one of the first magazines I ever clicked through, and I am sure I will be zipping back to their archives often. From this offering, I particularly felt zing from the work of Joshua Ware and Roberto Montes and Kiik Araki-Kawaguchi and Paige Taggart. Also, it was a joy to see the editors' farewell notes and even a little inclusion of their own poems; specifically, Amber Nelson has always been a bright star in my poetry sky. So long, dear abr.
First Recordings by Junior Kimbrough
Somehow this blues master has slipped by my knowing. But no longer! After Spotify suggested one of his songs from this album (the algorithms have me quite figured out), I found myself looping back through this small batch of songs. I am rocketed by his manner of picking, these shaky grooves, and his croon soars, no matter what he's saying. He could play the Pizza Hut menu, and I'd be moved by his delivery of "extra large cheese." A true blues genius!
Rules for Werewolves by Kirk Lynn
One of my professors here at UT, Kirk Lynn is a true wild man, a challenger of forms, and a pleaser of audiences. Whether through his teaching or his time with the Rude Mechs or his other writings, I've learned to never expect anything from Kirk Lynn; instead, I expect everything--humor and violence, experimentation and cold-blooded sentimentality, mania and wit. This novel written completely in dialogue was one of the most exhilarating novels I've read in a long while. His theater chops are showing, no doubt, and that's not a negative to this fiction, it's a total hellyeah.
"Howdy Doo" by Lost John
You think Eric Witthans and crew would take a break after their stellar release earlier this year, Arkansas Miracle California Shame. But nope, no, nuh-uh. He is still writing new jams, like this one "Howdy Doo," and processing them through his amazing band. I am blown away by the power of this one, probably the loudest Lost John yet, accompanied by Eric's scratchiest vocals. But don't you worry, Merey's smooth backing vocals, Lee's fancy keyboarding, and Eric's witty lyrics keep this thing floating fun.
Middle Earth by Henri Cole
For over a year I passed over this book on my to-read shelf, assuming it wouldn't light much of a fire. Goodness, I'm an idiot sometimes. This is one of the most illuminating and enlightening book of poems I have ever read. Clear and astounding, the voices in these poems straighten humanity's collar. Just check this opening to "Powdered Milk"--"Come to the garden, you said, / and I went, hearing my voice inside / your throat. It was a way of self-forgetting." Wow.
Forgiveness Forgiveness by Shane McCrae
Shane McCrae is quickly becoming one of my favorite contemporary poets. His syntax is jagged, his stories are hard-hitting, and his voice is unique and necessary. The poems in this book deal with race as portrayed and enacted, both by the speaker and characters surrounding. I am blown away by the engulfing quality of these poems, the accumulation of story and sound nearly knocking me out of my seat. But like most of my favorite poems, these poems are impossible to properly describe. Check out "The Visible Boy" at The Atlas Review.
Steeplechase Disc Golf Course
All four people I have ever taken down to this course have declared it one of their favorite courses after just a round. A little surprising to these Gob ears, as the course doesn't wow with landscape (say of Austin Ridge) or amazing lines (like a Roy G). Rather, it is just really well designed. Weaving through a city park, it offers amazing variety with lots of O.B. (a creek and walking path both snake through the course) and great, subtle elevation change. Bonus points for good signs and double tee-pads. I always manage to shoot well here, so here's to hoping to make a tourney out there soon.
"The Girl Who Could Only Say sex drugs and rock n' roll" by Kendra Fortmeyer (Awst Press)
One of my favorite things about living in Austin is the massive amount of people making good DIY art. Wendy Walker and the rest of the AWST cohort are tops on the list, spending the last year or so putting out an amazing catalogue of pocket-sized chapbooks from emerging authors, both local and afar. This one comes in the typical AWST delivery style--beautiful cover art, bound in a neat, tiny package--but it tears open narrative in such a great way. Writing teenage characters is so tricky, avoiding that angsty pit, and Fortmeyer does it so well here, writing a protagonist that's rich and complex. The title says it all, but it also says nothing; this is a story that you have to watch unfold.
East Austin Studio Tours
Another really incredible thing about this town is its art scene, and East Austin Studio Tours is one of its top events. Like the literary scene, there are so many pockets of people doing their thing, whether it's commercial art, performance art, or experimental installations. My favorites from the weekend were Angelbert Metoyer's Life Machines at Co-Lab Projects, LK James' Lunch series at AWST's space in Bolm Studios, and Jamie Lee Wade's sculptures at her space in Canopy. I also found out about an incredible handbound notebook shop called Iona Handcrafted Books.
"Ode to Voicemail" by Angel Nafis in Sixth Finch'
Another solid issue of Sixth Finch, with this poem being the most memorable for me. In the way that great stand-up comedy can grind and accumulate a subject until it feels like we're seeing it for the first time, Nafis waxes on Voicemail in a way that buffs it so clear, I almost see right through it to the larger picture. I am also intrigued by this take on the ode, one of those tricky one that truly sees the holistic good/evil of something, before landing the thumb finally on the infinite love.
I like my pop-punk a certain way--absurd, clangy, and more-often-than-not, female-fronted. Check, check, and check for Bully. These songs are making arguments or redefining anything. They are existing--up-and-down, surprising, and a little jarring. Listening to a Bully song feels like hearing it being written, chord-by-chord, the jumbles as part of the process. Favorite track right now is "Milkman."