Bulwarks against the tidal wave of horror . . . #SelfCare
Poem: “In Service of Staying Alive“, by Lynne Procop.
Novel: That would be Deep Singh Blue, by Ranbir Singh Sidhu — a coming-of-age novel about a Sikh-American teen growing up in a racist suburb of San Francisco during the 80s. It’s a love story, a tale of existential angst. It’s darkly humorous, betraying intelligence and sensitivity. I really liked it.
Website: Whenever I remember, I like browsing through Alice Walker’s blog. It’s unassuming, low-tech and earnest, a kind of online version of a family-run diner that advertises with a sign reading “Eat Good Food Here” . . . and the food is actually really good. It reminds me that integrity and genuine care for the world still exist. That there are still elders we can learn from. Like Dan Rather, Alice Walker makes me feel safe.
Film: I’m sure it will be Moonlight when I finally see it.
TV series: The Affair
Sporting moment: Colin Kaepernick
Political moment: Colin Kaepernick
Celebrity: Colin Kaepernick
Video game: Colin Kaepernick (just kidding)
Song: Anything by Kaytranada, whose album 99.9% dropped this past Spring
Music video: You’re the One, by Kaytranada, of course.
Tweet: “Anybody ever seen Eric Holder and Stedman Graham in the same room at the same time?” @TheJazzyBelle
In The Wake On Blackness and Being, Christina Sharpe
Radical Dharma: Talking Race, Love and Liberation, Rev Angel Kyodo Williams, Lama Rod Owens and Jasmine Syedullah
The Missing Museum Amy King
Black Lavender Milk Angel Dominguez
Places To Donate:
Naomi Jackson’s The Star Side Of Bird Hill. Mitchell Jackson’s Residue Years. Basically, anything written by a Jackson.
Two that are out in 2017 but I was lucky enough to see in advance: Natalie Shapero’s Hard Child, and Adrian Matejka’s Maps To The Stars, both to be published this coming April. So. Damn. Good.
D-Listed. Makes me cackle like a witch. .
I have a 15 year old son. The only films I see involve cartoon men in capes.
Jessica Jones, of course! She’s my spirit animal.
Overwatch. Especially Sombra.
Discovering that Gareth Bale exists
The song they often play in the last two minutes of my barre class. This is when we’re in bridge position while thrusting our crotches into the air forcefully. It’s made a big impression on me.
Selected Completed Trilogy: March
Selected Depressed American Town: Elmer City, Washington
Selected Coverage of Time Travel: Time Travel: A History by James Gleick
Selected Book of Poems: Night Sky with Exit Wounds by Ocean Vuong
Selected Smaller Book of Poems: Staying Alive by Laura Sims
Selected Larger Book of Poems: Like Bits of Wind by Pierre Chappuis
Selected Disappointing Comeback in Internet Poetry: HTMLGIANT
Selected Poetic Recluse: Rauan Klassnik
Selected Previous Poetic Recluse (Still in Reclusion): Jason Conger
Selected Nostalgia-Triggering Streaming Show: Stranger Things
Selected Staple Green Fruit: Avocado
Selected American City of Today: Los Angeles
Selected American City of the Past: Seattle
Selected American City of the Future: Milwaukee
Selected Non-American City of the Past, Present, Future: Hong Kong
Selected American Volcano: Mount Rainier
Selected Worst Transit Experience of All Time: Mumbai
Selected Person of Interest: Kanye West
Selected Robot of Interest: Mark Rubio
Selected Coffee: Starbucks
Selected Donuts: King Donuts Teriyaki and Laundry in Rainier Beach, Seattle
Selected Social Media: Queen Mob’s
Selected Search Engine: DuckDuckGo
Selected Dadaist: Francis Picabia
Selected Social Justice Poet: Scherezade Siobhan
Selected Digital Chapbook: [Untitled Black Book] by Greg Bem
Selected Mindfulness Practice: Daily Notes of Appreciation
Selected New Documentary: 13th
Selected New Film and Psychedelic Experience: Trolls, on Psilocybin Mushroom
Selected Awkward Film Awkwardly Watched a Year Late: The Lobster
Russell Bennetts: Top 3 Screengrabs From the San Junipero Episode of Black Mirror
Allison Grimaldi Donahue
3 Summers – Lisa Robertson, from Coach House Books
Monitored Properties Florencia Castellano translated by Alexis Almeid from Ugly Duckling Presse and also Sound & Fury Blunt Object by Claudia Rankine and Ronaldo V. Wilson in the PS1 Greater New York Readers Series
Anything in Nicole Brossards’ book Ardour, translated by Angela Carr, from Coach House Books
The Vegetarian by Han Kang, translated by Deborah Smith
The Baby Sitter at Rest by Jen George, from the Dorothy Project
Peter Handke, A Sorrow Beyond Dreams. I know it’s old, but whatever, I liked it this year.
theshallowends.com. Eloisa Amezcua curates one beautiful poem per week. It’s a wonderful place to meet new work.
Fuocoammare, Fire at Sea in English
The Fall. Gillian Anderson. ahhhh. and Transparent forever.
Pipilotti Rist at the New Museum
I saw the Nets lose. But I did get a free hat. That was exciting.
Pauline Oliveros. x.
Kevin Morby, “Beautiful Strangers”
Blood Orange: “Augustine”
This Russian hacker business is certainly living up to expectations.
Kevin Barry: Beatlebone
Lim Lee Ching: The Works of Tomas Tranströmer: the universality of poetry
Adel Abdessemed et Adonis: La peau du chaos: correspondances
Sylvère Lotringer: Mad like Artaud, translated by Joanna Spinks
Neil Murphy & Keith Hopper (Eds). Writing the Sky: Observations and Essays on Dermot Healy
Ruben Pang: Zwitterion, solo show at Primo Marella Gallery, Milan
Responses to art:
Hélène Cixous et Adel Abdessemed: Insurrection de la poussière: Adel Abdessemed, suivi de A.A. et H.C. correspondence.
Michael Kearney. Four Letter Words, with illustrations by Djohan Hanapi
The Time Traveller: rare books & vintage thoughts
Tan Bee Thiam & Lei Yuan Bin (dirs): Fundamentally Happy
Book: The Most High, Maurice Blanchot
Novel: The Peripheral, William Gibson
Website: QM yo!
Film: On one end of the spectrum, Julieta. On the other, Captain America: Civil War.
TV series: Penny Dreadful (R.I.P.) and The Young Pope.
Videogame: I don’t play videogames but if I did the first one I’d buy would be No Man’s Sky.
Political moment: czarny protest
Sporting moment: The Astros didn’t make the playoffs…I don’t wanna talk about it.
Celebrity: Russell Bennetts
Month: the 13th month
Food: I’m not a vegan but this place is pretty rad – The Root
Controversy: Tay’s crowdsourced racist diatribes.
Tweet: “2016 – the Movie”
Book of poems:
Kimmy Walters, Killer. I never expected to like this book this much. Walters invariably writes poems that tell stories. And that is so awesome.
Nick Ascroft, ‘Five Limericks on Grief’.
Old Village Life (1920), by P. H. Ditchfield. It took me from July to November to read this period-piece about why peasants were great but peasant-fucking Toryism is greater, so I have to say something about it. This may be the first book I have ever been bored reading. (I have never been bored in my life, and I grew up in large part without the Internet.) Extra marks to Ditchfield for ending every chapter with some variant of the statement ‘Space does not permit me to tell you all the other fascinating things I know about this topic.’
The Guardian’s real journalism has been more important than ever before this year. On the night of the US elections, I was at a reading in Christchurch, and the only decent, surreptitious way I could keep up with the unfolding horror was via the app. Multiply this experience by 365. Honestly. That’s what the Guardian is.
It was obviously Poldark.
When I was attacked by a seagull as big as a chair in Hastings and robbed of my fish and chips on the day that the EU referendum results had been announced.
Nico Rosberg’s retirement from Formula One as world champion. He enumerated the predictable reasons (‘to spend time with my family, esp. my wife, who runs a posh ice cream parlour in Ibiza; to think about my future as a lawyer; to have one fucking moment to myself maybe’), but his sudden stepping-back from something that had totally dominated his life genuinely touched me. I imagine that he is the racing driver who is most like me.
Cathedral of the year:
Ripon. Had my nose broken in a freak road accident just yards away from it. Lovely stuff.
Balue, Wavy Daze. New Mexico bedroom surf.
New Zealand’s urban middle classes are in the throes of an addiction just as serious as the crystal meth epidemic ravaging rural and dispossessed communities: Cannonhill Gourmet’s Saffron, Dill & Mustard Mayo is altering people’s brain chemistry, man.
Being a piece of shit is apparently fine now: discuss.
Best Tweet Responding to Politicians Kissing Trump’s Ass:
Gonna compile a coffee table book of politicians in the moment they realize they sold their souls to support Trump pic.twitter.com/ru6ThdDTuT
— Black Marvel Girl (@blackmarvelgirl) November 30, 2016
Best Article Remembering Prince: Prince’s Closest Friends Share Their Best Prince Stories
Best TV Series Addressing Consciousness: Westworld
2nd Best TV Series Addressing Consciousness: Mr. Robot
Most Fun Song To Sing In the Car With Your Kid: “Closer” by The Chainsmokers (featuring Halsey)
Given the Marvel Universe and the Marvel Ultimate Universe merged (collapsed and reformed) a while back, I’ve been going through all the prior Ultimate titles over the past few months, having now read most of Ultimate Spider-Man and The Ultimates, moving slowly into Ultimate Iron Man and Ultimate X-Men. I’ve yet to really enter Ultimate Fantastic Four, but I suspect I will, soon enough. Brian Michael Bendis’ work throughout has been incredible, and his current work on Miles Morales’ Spider-Man is absolutely stellar.
Perhaps an issue every year, but I always find it extremely difficult to limit my responses to only a couple of poetry titles. There is such a wealth of interesting work! I could mention Mary Austin Speaker’s The Bridge (Shearsman Books), Sandra Doller and Ben Doller’s collaborative prose-work The Yesterday Project (Sidebrow Books), C.D. Wright’s posthumous The Poet, the Lion, Talking Pictures, El Farolito, a Wedding in St. Roch, the Big Box Store, the Warp in the Mirror, Spring, Midnights, Fire & All (Copper Canyon), Pattie McCarthy’s Quiet Book (Apogee Press), Suzanne Buffam’s A Pillow Book (Anansi), Susan Landers’ Franklinstein (Roof Books), Phil Hall’s Conjugation (BookThug), Rosmarie Waldrop’s Gap Gardening: selected poems(New Directions), Emily Carr’s Whosoever Has Let A Minotaur Enter Them, Or A Sonnet—(McSweeney’s), Amelia Martens’ The Spoons in the Grass are There to Dig a Moat (Sarabande Books), Solmaz Sharif’s Look (Graywolf Press), francine j. harris’ play dead (Alice James Books), Sandra Ridley’s Silvija (BookThug), Donika Kelly’s Bestiary (Graywolf Press), Elisa Gabbert’s L’Heure Bleue or The Judy Poems (Black Ocean), Brynne Rebele-Henry’s Fleshgraphs (Nightboat Books) or Sarah Mangold’s Giraffes of Devotion (Kore Press, 2016). There are most likely other titles I can’t think of at the moment, including a small handful of 2016 poetry titles I’ve yet to properly go through. One I might focus on is Vancouver poet Jordan Abel’s Injun (Talonbooks, 2016). Here is an excerpt of the review I wrote:
Abel’s project both engages and works to unsettle, attempting both an ease and unease into the ongoing shame of how aboriginals are treated and depicted in Canada through repetition, erasure and settler language. Simply through usage, Abel forces us, the occupiers, to confront our language, in an effort to reconcile, restore and heal, none of which can truly exist without real conversation. The poems in Injun exist as a single book-length erasure and reclamation project, one with the result of seeing sketched erasures alongside exploded characters that are difficult to replicate within the space of this kind of review. Lines and phrases explode across the page.
There were a couple of chapbooks that stood out over the past year, including Lea Graham’sThis End of the World: Notes to Robert Kroetsch (Apt 9 Press), Stephen Brockwell’s Where Did You See It Last? (Textualis Press) and Sonnet L’Abbé’s Anima Canadensis (Junction Books). For whatever reason, I’m not seeing as many chapbooks as I used to. Perhaps it is the mass of babies we’ve had lately (okay, two isn’t a “mass,” but we are deeply distracted).
There is always the weekly “Tuesday poem” series I curate at the dusie blog, as well as the monthly “spotlight” series I’ve been curating over at the Drunken Boat blog, but one of my favourite poems of the past twelve months comes from American poet Layli Long Soldier; this is a poem that was making the social media rounds for a couple of weeks, posted online at Mud City Journal. Her first book, Whereas, is due out this March with Graywolf Press, and I can already tell you (from the “pre-publication copy that arrived a few weeks back) that it is utterly remarkable and ground-breaking. Already winner of a 2016 Whiting Writers’ Award, I fully expect that the book will be winning even more prizes once it appears. Wow.
I’ve been ordering books, still, but I haven’t read a novel in months (to clarify: we have a three year old, as well as a new baby born this past April). I’m not even sure what the last novel I read actually was. It might have been Helen Oyeyemi’s Boy Snow Bird (2014), which I loved, or Ken Sparling’s This poem is a house (Coach House Books). I am so behind on everything.
Well, not really “memoir,” per se, but Toronto poet and editor has been curating a new series of non-fiction titles over at BookThug, her “essais” series. The first two appeared this past year and are must-read: Toronto writer Margaret Christakos’ remarkable lyric essay/memoir Her Paraphernalia: On Motherlines, Sex/Blood/Loss & Selfies and Erin Wunker’s Notes from a Feminist Killjoy: Essays on everyday life. As I wrote as part of my review of Wunker’s book:
Composed as “notes,” the book is structured as any critical thesis might be—“Preface: Letter to My Daughter,” “Introduction: Some Notes for You, Reading,” “Chapter 1: Notes on Rape Culture,” “Chapter 2: Notes on Friendships,” “Chapter 3: Notes on Feminist Mothering” and “Postscript: Sometimes Refusal is a Feminist Act”—Wunker’s Notes from a Feminist Killjoy is smart, funny and visceral, terrifying and wise, and constantly attempting to comprehend, unpack and negotiate into language some extremely complicated cultural and human activities. Her writing is deeply personal and inviting, moving from conversation to theory in a completely natural way, utilizing theory to further that conversation that she knows she is but a small, but necessary, part of.
I tend to follow a variety of websites, almost randomly, including Jacket2, Essay Press, The Rusty Toque, Bywords.ca, ottawa poetry newsletter, Omniverse, a l i c e b l u e, Tarpaulin Sky,The Bull Calf, Geek Tyrant, The Capilano Review, Apartment613, Delirious Hem, Entropy,Hazlitt and Open Book as well as the Ploughshares and Drunken Boat blogs, among plenty of others…
Doctor Strange was pretty damned good. By the time this posts, I will have seen it in theatres twice.
Batman vs Superman only made sense in the extended version, which was, I think, worth watching. But Wonder Woman actually looks like a far better film. We’re waiting for Suicide Squad to be rentable on iTunes, although I’ve heard mixed things about that. The new Star Trek was pretty good, also.
Given we’ve two small children, going out to see films is, obviously, a rarity.
I’ve been revelling in our usual variety of television goodness, including The Flash, Supergirl and Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Where the hell is our next season of Doctor Who? God damn.
The Crown was impressive. Luke Cage was amazing. Class was pretty good (and I hope they do a second season). We’re in the midst of Mr. Selfridge on Netflix right now, and my wife is watching the 400 seasons of Midsomer Murders, which I mock constantly, at the deliberately-misheard suggestion that murders in a quaint British village are somehow seasonal (“It’s nearly July, Bob, and you know what that means.” “What does it mean?” “Well, all the murders are coming.” “Oh, no, that doesn’t begin until mid-summer. Not until the second week of July.” “That’s a relief, Bob. What should we do until then?” Well, I’d say there’s time to go camping before all the murders…” “Or maybe water-skiing?” “That would be nice.”).
I am still heartbroken that Agent Carter was cancelled. Stupid television executives.
Ugh. There have been plenty, but all the opposite of “favourite.” Even beyond the American election and potential Russian interventions, the ugliness around UBC and Stephen Galloway, the Jian Ghomeshi debacle, and oil pipelines, etcetera, there’s the genocide as part of the civil war raging in Aleppo. My god. In many ways, it has been an absolutely terrible year. To be in this place, now, shows how little we’ve actually learned from our prior mistakes.
Lots of Brian Eno the past couple of months, in the background as I work. Once I completed my manuscript of short stories, I temporarily retired some of the other music I was listening to, including David Bowie’s Heroes and Dive, by Tycho.
Tweet: Too many to keep track. I forward things constantly, both from my personal twitter and the Chaudiere Books twitter.
That being said: despite the fact that I don’t know either of them personally, tweets from Scaachi Koul and Nicole Cliffe are a source of delight and amusement. They are my two favourite twitter-ers on the tweety.
Book: Im Schwarm, Ansichten des Digitalen, by Byung-Chul Han. Because Internet is over.
Memoir: Memorie di un italiano, by Ippolito Nievo. Because DFW is nobody.
Website: keelynet.com/leed.htm. Because it’s the origin of Sweet Sixteen by Billy Idol.
Film: The Big Short. Because money is over, too.
TV series: Stranger Things. Because it feels like being home.
Song: Benjamin Clementine live for Burberry’s. Because I don’t know him, but my cousin Daniela says that he’s a poet, too.
Music video: “Secchio” by Pop X
Because Italian countryside offers the best culture.
Food: This collection of champagne. Because champagne never betrays.
Controversy: Enrico Mentana on Facebook. Because fair play is overrated.
Can we just take a moment to reflect on the aesthetics of Italy’s ballot paper. Whatever you do, do it in style pic.twitter.com/9bz8uQPu5u
— Gabriel Gatehouse (@ggatehouse) December 5, 2016
Because it is possible to fail with savoir-faire (kidding, we won’t fail).
Fashion label: Vivetta. Because of its excellent fabrics and fresh design.
A book is a better companion than a dog, eats less, no handling of shit, no fleas in your bed, can be kept in a pocket or a bag, picked up, opened—a book is “opened”, and—relationship engendered—disengagement from the banal passing of sidewalks and storefronts on the bus—engagement with something other
A bookstore/library is a refuge–repository of minds other than one’s own, voices… but not the emotional Id bared to the airways, the snarling of social media, the hysterics of the orgasmic press in its orgies of spectacle, a bookstore is a balm, a containment of rationality. If one buys books, surely the world must go on long enough to allow one to read them…
2,478,067 books published worldwide according to UNESCO. Every Friday (when in Berlin) peruse the English section of the Oxfam store, like shuffling around the foyer of a temple. A type of fate—which book will appear today. A meditative act. Books find their readers like water finds its level.
Float, by Anne Carson. When is a chapbook not a chapbook? When it’s done by Anne Carson: “A collection of twenty-two chapbooks whose order is unfixed and whose topics are various. Reading can be freefall.” (Transparent Slipcover). When is a chapbook not a chapbook? When it’s an oracle? For example, selecting one of the chapbooks with this review in mind I pull: “Possessive Used as Drink (Me), A Lecture on Pronouns in the Form of 15 Sonnets.”
Triple Sonnet of the Plush Pony Part I
Do you think of your saliva as a personal possession or as something you can sell?
What about tears? What about semen? Linguists tell
us to use the terms alienable and inalienable
to make this distinction intelligible.
E.g., English speakers call both blood and feces alienable on a normal day
but saliva, sweat, tears and bowels they do not give away…
and then later:
Such thinking will affect how a word like “rape” is defined
or how sorcerers aim their spells or how you feel in your mind
when you address animals. Of course cows and cats,
sheep, pigs, donkeys, dogs and rats
depend on their owner to keep or dispose.
But your pony you cannot sensibly classify with those.
Or another poem from that pamphlet begins:
A pronoun is a kind of withdrawal from naming.
Because naming is heavy, naming may be slightly shaming.
Something different, a collection of orthoses for the mind.
I have read more poems this year but written less. There are too many good poems. There are too many bad poems. Never enough time. A sampling:
On the Certainty of Bryan, Olena Kalytiak Davis
the ship, Nhã Thuyên
Light Trails of Henry Jackamarra Cook, Judith Crispin
The Art of Unselfing, Safiya Sinclair
from Hellenic Post, Alistair Noon
Poetry Is Not You, Rosario Castellanos
The Animals are Leaving, Charles Harper Webb
The Trees Named “Glowing Embers”, Erin Belieu
To Tell of Bodies Changed to Different Forms, Jorie Graham
What a Thing Wears, Kaveh Akbar
from The Black Maria, Aracelis Girmay
The After Party, Jana Prikryl – like a fine-cut jewel
Mysteries of Small Houses, Alice Notley – turned me away from Notley
Justice, Tomaz Salamun – notes from a master, some of it poetry
War of the Foxes, Richard Siken – better than most, but… Crush
Verbannt!, Ann Cotton – a daunting and amazing feat
Autobiography of Red, Ann Carson – what poetry can do, can’t wait to read Red doc>.
Novels started this year but not finished:
Infinite Jest, David Foster Wallace page 168. This thing weighs something like 8 pounds, you can’t carry it anywhere. Strategy for 2017 is to slice the binding into 4 parts, re-glue a cover for each part and then start over. No Tomes.
Swan’s Way, Marcel Proust page 238. With sentences this long one needs a lengthy stay in a hospital, or sanitarium or prison. 2017 looks promising.
A Brief History of Seven Killings, Marlon James page 78
Dead people never stop talking. Maybe because death is not death at all, just a detention after school. You know where you’re coming from and you’re always returning from it. You know where you’re going though you never seem to get there and you’re just dead. Dead. It sounds final but it’s a word missing an ing. You come across men longer dead than you, walking all the time though heading nowhere and you listen to them howl and hiss because we’re all spirits or we think we are all spirits but we’re all just dead.
The beginning of A Brief History of Seven Killings captivated my mind, I picked it up at the Film Museum bookstore at the Sony Center at Potsdamer Platz in Berlin. Paid full price for it. But then, I stumbled and stopped. Do over in 2017.
last year was a Bolaño and Murakami year, this year: Roth, Kundera and Ferrante
Sabbath’s Theater, Phillip Roth (1996), read at the beginning of the year. Mickey Sabbath? Who knew the year would turn out to be a kind of “Sabbath” year?
Immortality, Milan Kundera
Testaments Betrayed, Milan Kundera
The Unbearable Lightness of Being, Milan Kundera
The Days of Abandonment, Elena Ferrante
The Neapolitan Novels Books 1-4, Elena Ferrante
Ethan Frome, Edith Wharton
The Japanese Lover, Isabel Allende
I and Thou, Martin Buber
The Reality of Being, Jeanne De Salzman
Gaga Feminism, J. Jack Halberstam
Queer Theory, Gender Theory, Riki Wilchins
The Lobster (2015), Yorgos Lanthimos, released in Germany 2016. Best Love story ever. (trigger warning – somewhat critical view of the binary of “coupling”, also, animal cruelty)
Arrival, (2016), the film was okay, but really I want to talk about the theater I went to in Ft. Collins, Colorado. The chairs were like the first class recliners on a Transpacific flight. Huge (were they leather? not sure) a whole theater of these chairs; everyone in their little island of comfort, with a nice tray for your drinks and snacks; a singular, decadent, pampered experience. This is how eternity should be when you have to go back over all the details of your life at judgment day. Makes every film bearable.
Werckmeister Harmonies (2000) Bela Tarr, based on the 1989 novel The Melancholy of Resistance by László Krasznahorkai. There is an English sub-titled fragment of 10 minutes available on Youtube. But the entire film is difficult to come by.
Paranoid, Happy Valley, Marcella, Broadchurch, etc. What is it about British detective series? Usually set in some remote, beautiful landscape; no one carries a gun. Most violence is off-screen. Spattering of back-story; awkward, flawed protagonists – this last brought acutely to light while watching Happy Valley–the person I was watching it with suddenly retorted, “God! They’re all so stupid, they all deserve to die.” Strangely, human with that British quality of giving a nod and a wink to the banality of life. Like an effervescent tablet in a glass of water following some comfort food.
Fleabag – hilarious, poignant, disturbing, empowering, ferocious, just right at 30 min, most adept breaking of the third wall in television this year
Penny Dreadful , over-the-top, faithful to its title, unstoppable women characters, John Clare—Frankenstein’s creature as tortured poet; what series can you find that is dripping in the poetry of the Romantics?
Caucusing for Bernie Sanders in Linn County, Cedar Rapids, IA (my registered home as an US American living abroad in Germany). A moment in time when it seemed possible, if only remotely, that the US people might pick a candidate that was actually left of center; a chance to put forth a candidate that will most likely never appear in US politics again—a democratic socialist that has been in office as an independent but aligned with the Democrats for 30 years—an exciting, hopeful moment.
Iowa trounces Nebraska 40-10. Preparing to leave my parent’s house do some shopping. All the football fanatics: home watching the game. A good time to miss the crowds. Several of the starting Iowa players were out with injuries, I was spouting predictions that the Cornhuskers would most likely win. I saw the first 5 minutes of the game standing in my parent’s living room with my coat on, ready to leave. The Hawkeyes busted past the Cornhuskers defense and scored twice in the first quarter. It’s good I don’t gamble.
Patti Smith singing at the Nobel Prize Ceremony for Bob Dylan’s winning the prize in Literature. Her feelings: our feelings.
Ógeðsleg feat. Kylfan, Reykjavíkurdætur – no explanation, just can’t stop listening to it.
”Lemonade”, Beyonce. A music video so big and bad only HBO could handle it.
Hongshao rou (Mao’s Red-braised pork belly) Hongdu Restaurant, 28 Dongjiaomin Alley, Dongcheng Qu, Beijing Shi, China, 100005
2016 US Election (the whole kit-and-caboodle)
I know, as a writer, I should consider its possibilities and follow people; it still strikes me as the equivalent of a selfie in words. Case in point: it appears to be the communication of choice for king twit Trump.
Poet I Met: Tracy K. Smith
Poetry Collection: Daniel Borzutsky, The Performance of Being Human.
Online Publication: David Biespiel’s Poetry Wire.
Novel: Garth Greenwell, What Belongs to You.
Nonfiction: Paul Lisicky, The Narrow Door.
Film: The Conjuring 2
TV: Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell
Sporting moment: Lady Gaga, National Anthem, Super Bowl 2016.
Music Artist: SBTRKT
Music video: “Reminder” by Moderat
Recipe: Chorizo stuffing by Pati Jinich
Book: Truth Truth Truth by serge gavronsky
Chapbook: Just got a super sexy one from Misti Rainwater-Lites called No Guns No Knives No Disco Biscuits: and let me tell you she really goes down on the text!
Poem: “Potatoes are my Eyes” by a homeless man in Harvard Square
Novel: The one about growing up in the projects in Southie by Paul Kenney
Memoir: “My Nights at the White Horse Tavern” by Rus S. Fox
Website: trick questions!
Film: Man on Wire — i watch it every day
TV series: Obv Shamelss
Political moment: The night i dreamt it was all just a bad dream.
Sporting moment: The time I flew 5 feet off my uni !!!
Celebrity: There are no celebrities in my town
Song: too many to list, and i hate lists, but any of the danceable trashy R&B HH hits you hear on beantown radio 24/7
Controversy: “Who is Russfox?”
Tweet: the one where someone called me twisted bitch.
Legend of a Suicide, by David Vann
This book did not come out in 2016. I only read it this year. It will hurt you in the way only dragging the rotting corpse of a dear loved one through the frozen Alaskan wilderness can. I also read it while sleeping in the back seat of my car in New Mexico during a solo cross-country trek, so it holds sentimental significance.
When Gary Johnson said that thing about eye-balling Mt. Everest’s vagina. Because WTF.
Or, when Jill Stein demanded a recount in Wisconsin. Like, Jill, if you were so worried about Hill winning the election, why the fuck did you run against her?
Gotta know how bad that journal didn’t want you.
Trump vs. Megyn Kelly
Fuck ‘em both.
Phoebe Waller-Bridge is my new favorite writer/actress. Women who challenge the norms of “female” humor are coming from everywhere these days. I love it! She’s making some of the funniest, most honest content you can find on the screen.
Always June. I’m on the cusp of magic, and always seem to be somewhere transformative between the 17th and 23rd.
“Deepthroat Love” by O
New to me in 2016
“715 – CRΣΣKS” by Bon Iver
I mean, it’s a capella auto-tuned. I’ve been waiting years for this Bon Iver album.
For this category I’m going to pick one of those types of books: Carlos M. N. Eire’s The Reformations: The Early Modern World, 1450-1650. Eire is counted among a group of esteemed contemporary historiographers like Diarmaid MacCulloch, Patrick Collinson, and Eamon Duffy that even while disagreeing violently with one another have done much to explicate the contours of what remains the single most important event of the past millennium. We’re a year away from the 500th anniversary of Martin Luther’s little stunt in Wittenberg, and the implications of that event still resonate in all kinds of ways. We’re possible post-Protestants, or even post-Christians these days, but secularism has always been more of a very particular heretical variant of Protestant theology more than it was the absence of belief. In the modern secular West we approach religion a bit like how the Victorians approached sex – we’re squeamish about it and pretend it doesn’t exist even while it’s everywhere. This is neither condemnation nor celebration, simply observation. Eire’s doorstopper of a book (which I’d be lying if I said I have finished) is the latest worthy volume that tries to understand just what the hell happened when Christendom seemingly fell apart.
Are those the little photocopied things held together with twine, available at your slightly grimier bookstores? If my last answer was any indication I am not cool enough to read chapbooks.
So, Claudia Rankine’s brilliant Citizen: An American Lyric technically came out in 2014, but being fashionably late I didn’t actually read it till this year. The rare poetic best seller, Citizen is an epic for the United States at this moment. Investigating all of the subtle and not-so-subtle ways that race informs everything from policy to personal interaction, Citizen’s popularity shows what it looks like when a country is trying to imperfectly come to terms with itself. Politicians and pundits often speak of this much-vaunted-but-rarely-enacted largely mythic “national conversation on race.” That the United States was a nation founded on the labor of black bodies, and that black men and women are still disenfranchised, exploited, and flat-out-murdered (often with no legal repercussions) is a sin and to the lasting shame of the nation. White liberals were shocked by the election of a demagogic fascist; Americans of color have known for a long time that those ugly threads have been part of the American tapestry for four hundred years. Yet Rankine’s poem, for all of its darkness, still yearns towards justice. As she writes, “Just getting along shouldn’t be an ambition.”
Edan Lepucki’s California: A Novel was the most prescient and beautiful book I read last year. Part of a renaissance in American literary depictions of a soon-to-pass apocalypse (as I argue here), Lepucki follows the anti-Eden of a couple forced to live in the California wilderness after the gradual decline and fall of the American empire. Cal and Frida eventually find their way to an enclosed, intentional community (and as we all know by now, utopias are never quit what they seem). Lepucki writes in the grand American tradition of finding genesis in apocalypse, the novel is tough, rugged, tender, and as gorgeous as a rain-dappled leaf in a redwood forest.
Tom Bissell’s Apostle: Travels Among the Tombs of the Twelve is the best memoir that I read in 2016. Or it’s a memoir of a sort; Bissell doesn’t perseverate on himself or his background as he recounts travelling to a tomb associated with each one of the New Testament apostles, and yet his own loss of faith (and accommodation for a newer, maybe truer type of “atheistic faith”) is threaded through his explorations, as he travels from Israel to Rome to India. Best known for his writings about video-games, Bissell is at his core one of the great travel writers of the 21st century, and Apostle walks that fine line between faith and doubt which must be engaged by any pilgrim who ventures into those uncertain realms.
Rebecca Solnit’s Facebook page. I check all the standard lefty websites almost obsessively, every single day (if not hour), but Solnit’s posts are some of the most hopeful that I read, as a new darkness seems to be descending on America. She demonstrates to us what the resistance must look like. Also, I would be remiss not to mention The Revealer, Marginalia at the Los Angeles Review of Books and Killing the Buddha (and not just because I’ve written for them). All of those sites represent a renaissance of writing in what I like to call “The New Religion Journalism,” an academic yet accessible approach to covering the God-beat that has developed over the past decade and a half.
This season of The Apprentice has been terrible, just really angry and frightening. Though how about those kids on Stranger Things!
As I’m writing this I have no idea how successful they’ll be (their chances aren’t good) but I think that the so-called Hamilton Electors represent a spirit of genuine hope in a nation that is unraveling at the seams. All indications seem to be that the world’s oldest democracy is on the verge of either authoritarianism or anarchy, and for those who’ve put perhaps too much stock in the power of American institutions the election of Donald Trump feels like a loss of faith. For foreign readers, being reminded of the Electoral College’s existence is like a primer in how antiquated and stupid the Constitution’s method of selecting a president is. Hilary Clinton now leads by almost three million votes in the popular election, but because of how we structure our system (and the original reasons were all racist, as indeed they are now) we’re seemingly stuck with a nightmare. The Hamilton Electors convincingly argue that as ridiculous as the system is, Alexander Hamilton’s writings in the Federalist Papers make clear that the college can be a genuine stop-gap in preventing a demagogue who has been influenced by a belligerent foreign dictator from becoming president. That the Hamilton Electors have made this argument using a distinctly American rhetoric and history is crucial. They’ll probably fail, but the use of an egalitarian, just, progressive and higher patriotism will be crucial in the years ahead.
Beloved songwriter Bob Dylan’s 24-10 Denver Broncos victory over the Carolina Panthers in Super Bowl 50. It cemented his status as not just a thirteen-time Grammy Award winning recording artist, an inductee into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and Noble laureate, but also, the oldest quarterback to ever sin a Super Bowl ring.
Because I am a 30-something, bearded white guy the obvious answer is Bon Iver’s new album (though I did like it).
Cart-food. And not the yuppie, bougie kind, but water dogs and mystery meat.
If 2016 has proven anything, it’s that you can say or do anything and as long as you are rich and white you can still have millions of people elect you President of the United States. Nothing is a controversy anymore, but pretty much everything is an obscenity.
Emoji set gives me counsel:
Event in writing life: The Passion According to G.H., Clarice Lispector
Revisionist read: Interior with Sudden Joy, Brenda Shaughnessey
Game: Last Visit to the Shard, Connor Sherlock
Retrogame: Silent Hill 2
Symbolic creature: Mole
Bonsai: Juniper in Bunjin style
Book: Swarm Queen’s Crown, Stephanie Adams-Santos
Poem series: THE ADRIFT OF SAMUS ARAN, Owen Vince
Poem: “Of the Skunk,” Stephanie Adams-Santos
Poem: “A memory of owls,” Gillian Laker
Essay: “Traveling Circus,” Melissa Wiley
Story: “The Trunk Show,” Matthew Baldwin
Salve post-Trump: “Do You Think,” Jayne Cortez
AD&D creature of interest: Kuo-Toa
Cocktail: Trinidad Sour
High plays on iTunes: “Plosive Attack,” Parasite Eve OSV
Retrodisc: Homogenic, Björk
Thing in France: Exécution sans jugement sous les rois maures de Grenade, Henri Regnault
Thing in the United States: #NeverTrump
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