Monday, October 31, 2011

Sustineri Ira: More thoughts on Hunter S. Thompson

Reading some old Hunter S. Thompson, I am struck by his ability to sustain his anger and loathing for a thing to the Nth degree, until both he and the reader have reached their logical conclusion.  In short, the evil we see in the world, after everything has been said and finally tallied, remains us.  We are the evil.  The world is fine, and most people in the world would be fine if we could just mind our own fucking business.

Thompson, I believe, wanted to believe in a world conceived by John Locke, a world where the natural state of man is goodhearted and without malice.  What tore up Thompson was the idea the whole world may have wanted to have the freedoms which Locke described, but played the game as if Thomas Hobbes' ideas of absolute rule was the means by which you take control and achieve said Locke like freedoms.  Look at everything Hunter Thompson wrote.  See how he injected himself in the story, felt obliged to never shy away from truth, even as he created a fiction for the reader to enjoy. 

Some might say Thompson suffered from hyperbole, that he exaggerated and told outright lies in order to create shock and dismay among the readers.  I say he was simply trying to express his dismay, his inability to find the same raving lunatics everywhere he went.  as early as high school he was speaking of the doomed, highlighting the difference between those who were on the winning side of the social order and the rest of us, the doomed.  Think Lenny Bruce.  Think George Carlin.  I believe the world chewed up Hunter Thompson and shit him out like it does with all of us, but he just wasn't as willing to brush himself off and get back in line like so many of us are.  He had probably had enough in his childhood and did what most of us want to do:  He found a way to live and work outside the system.  Not out of any innate desire to fuck it up for the rest of us, but merely out of a desire to maintain some level of sanity.

Drugs?  Violence?  Insanity?  These weren't a cover or a mask, they were a method of knowing when something wasn't quite kosher.  If he encountered something which seemed level and he was stoned, something was wrong.  If something sounded too good to be true and he was straight, then something was amiss.  I think his so-called persona was a means of possessing a traveling, deeply personal touchstone.  With his work as a writer objectivity became useless because there is no objectivity in the world he traveled. 

* * *

My love of Hunter Thompson runs deep.  

For me, you have to go back to my last year of high school.  I found (I can't remember where---probably at some yard sale) a ratted copy of Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail, '72 and it was a lightning rod for me.  I had no idea I was such a political junkie, but there it was.  I was hooked.  I was a debate club/drama club geek and everything else in school meant very little compared to those activities, but with that book came a flood of consciousness.  I was only seventeen, but I already knew something was going on with the way Thompson described what was happening.  Suddenly I was writing an underground paper, making fun of everyone from Pat Robertson, Jerry Falwell, Jim Bakker,  and the evangelical right, all the way to Moamar Ghaddafi.  It was liberating.  Suddenly I was one of the kids with something to say.  I took on debate with a vengeance, going balls to the wall in Lincoln-Douglass Debate and ripping everyone else a new asshole in Team Policy Debate.

I was just fooling around with poetry back then.  I had no idea it was going to be what I would come to focus on, but I fell in love with writing and pointing out the absurdities of the world at large.  I had no idea it was going to be anything, nor did I ever really care if it took me anywhere.  I was having fun, and when you are having fun, then, as Hunter might have said, the screwheads could just go fuck themselves. 

It really was that simple.  When I got into college I took to my writing classes like a vengeance.  I knew I was not going to be a journalist, but I still pimped myself out to the college editorial board and hung out with all of the staff writers, though i never became one of them.  I was too busy bullshitting my way through the meetings and having too much fun messing with the minds of naive Utah college students to really be a part of that.  Remember, I had been in the army by this time.  I had seen the world outside the borders of Mormondom, and I was there to light a fire beneath some asses. Eventually though, I had to make a choice, well several really, and I chose to go a different way.  Why would I follow Hunter Thompson.  He had already stomped the terra firma far better than I could, and to mimic his style for a few essays was one thing (as this is a faint shadow of his style) but if I was going to be myself, I needed to take what I learned from Hunter, not simply try to keep up with him. 

I decided to take that edge he gave me and apply it to the classroom.  As a teacher I try to keep my students guessing just a little bit.  Is this old, fat, balding man going to go completely nuts by the end of the hour or is he going to be able to hold it together?  It may not be Gonzo journalism, but it's about the closest thing to Gonzo teaching out there by a long shot. "When the going gets weird, the weird turn professional," and that's what I am.  I'm a professional.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Gone Gone Gone

I have just deleted my old blog, though I suspect that is entirely impossible with the world of the Internets.  It is something I will probably regret doing, but I am getting used to that these past months.

The real question is if anyone will notice.  As it is, I have hardly any readership on this blog and I suppose I deserve that, seeing how dark I have become without regularly writing poems over the course of this year.

The real issue for me is that I always seem to be chastised for the things I want.  I wanted to write a book of poems completely unlike anything else I have written and I can't for the life of me find anyone to give it more than a glance, leading me to believe I have given birth to a world-class turd of a manuscript.  I wanted to write another book on my home town, more comprehensive and with deference to its people and history and for my hubris have been met with a 10 month writer's block.

“No sympathy for the devil; keep that in mind. Buy the ticket, take the ride...and if it occasionally gets a little heavier than what you had in mind, well...maybe chalk it off to forced conscious expansion: Tune in, freak out, get beaten.”
― Hunter S. ThompsonFear and Loathing in Las Vegas

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Too much work

One of the things I seem to rebelling about in this world of poetry is how there is always something I seem to be forgetting.  No matter how much I do, how much I seem to get through and over with, I always find something I am not doing.  Maybe what I am feeling right now is an overload and instead of concentrating on the fact I am not doing much writing, perhaps try to see if there is any energy I am diverting away from writing which is going to the unnecessary.

I joined Good Reads, but i don't know how it all works, and how I am supposed to keep up with what's on my shelf, what I am reading now, which books I need to go through and rate, making friends like on Facebook, and uploading book covers.  Recently I stumbled back into Good Reads and noticed one of my books was credited as having been written by someone else entirely.  I had to plead ignorance and have a friend fix it for me.  Apparently I'm a nobody over at Good Reads because I don't have editor status.  Other friends have graciously added book photos and informed me of good feedback, but I am simply lost.

I joined Facebook and I love learning about new presses and 'friending' them.  After, I research them and decide if I am going to submit to them.  I like thinking I am gathering this information because I will gladly pass it on to anyone who is asking for a direction to go.  But that's only the start of it.  I enjoy being a part of the writer community on FB, and some of my on-line writer friends and I share more than 100 common friends.  Wow!  How could you not like networking like that?  But wait, there's more!  I also have an "author page" and a page for my press, Hobble Creek Review, which adds a whole new dimension to this creative life of mine.

I also have a page on Google +.  Is that awesome or what?  No,  I'm serious.  Is it awesome, or am I the butt of some horrible practical joke?  Google+ seems to be a bridge too far for me.  I an't tell you how many requests I get for Linkedn (I think I have half a profile thee, but I must admit I would rather poke a hot needle in my eye than ever go back), and of course there's Twitter.  Next week, we will be all feeling the pressure to join in on Conference Call, the new app that lets you talk to as many friends as you can at once.

It really gets to be too much.  How many people have 'liked' my pages? How many people are talking about my pages? How many virgins have been sacrificed to my Facebook image in hopes of a better harvest?

I am also tired of reading about the big C&C: Craft and Criticism.  I have talked about being snow blind, and I am in the middle of that right now.  I cannot sit down and really enjoy reading right now.  There are a few poets I can read no matter what, but for the most part, the new books I have purchased (both books of poetry and books on theory/criticism) have yielded me nothing.  Dean Young's Fall Higher and Collin Kelley's Slow to Burn seem to be the exceptions.  Most everything else in poetry I can read and see an intellectual aesthetic, but nothing is punching me in the gut.  As for criticism, I am simply unable to comprehend what I am reading.  I honestly cannot follow what is being said.  What's more, I know on some level, and for some portion, the fault lies with me, not the poets.

And then there is all of the competition between poets.  We keep saying we want to be a community and we want to support each other, but what do we do instead?  We submit in secret.  We hide submission calls  to new journals and anthologies, pray our poet friends don't find out about  that new book contest from the new press we found by way of "insider information."  I know I have been guilty to some extent, keeping secret the places I submit my book manuscripts to, and after all, some secrecy is alright.  I mean, I did all the work.  I researched and I figured out which presses were a good fit, and I should benefit from that.  But is that all there is to it?  rarely do I ever see anyone talk about an anthology's submission call.  More times than not I read about somebody getting accepted or receiving their contributor copy.  The fact is I believe it is too much work to be a poet with everything I have to learn, creating a total world profile, and simply learning my craft, to have to still put up with the competition other poets throw in my face.

It is simply all too much work for me, and I keep coming back to the idea of just giving some of it or all of it up for the solitude of what I had five or six years ago.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Hobble Creek Review: Pushcart Nominations

It’s about time to let you all know Hobble Creek Review has made its nominations for the Pushcart Prize.  Here they are:

Please go have a read, and if you know any of these really fine writers, please drop them a line and congratulate them.  Every little bit helps out.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

House Cleaning

You know I usually count myself among the slow kids when it comes to picking up new concepts, but I am even slower than that when it comes to learning how to organize my life as a poet and deal with the mechanics of the poetry business.  It is with this in mind that I announce my discovery of putting various poems I write into distinct and separate folders which are named for various projects I have decided to begin.  Note how I said begin, and not finish

I came to this idea t his morning after conceiving of yet another writing project.  What amazes me is how easily I can come up with new projects all the while I am still struggling to complete two projects I think has some real momentum.  Of course the second project of the two is itself, already a demonstration of my procrastination as a poet.

I have my Springville book to return to, for which I only have about 10 pages solid writing to account for, and now I have my 'other voice' book manuscript, which has about 35 poems and more than 50 pages of solid writing behind it.  And though that is a distraction, I have come up with a third manuscript idea to distract me from my first two.  Hence my new system of poem organization, which many of you probably tried to tell me about on many occasions.

As such, I have made a command decision to simply write poems for a few months.  Write poems or fragments of poems as they come.  When I have finished a poem, I will put it in the appropriate folder and leave it alone.  Every few months I will revisit each of my book projects and see where I stand with each.

Lather.  Rinse.  Repeat.

* * *

I told Sandy Longhorn I was going to try and talk about this next subject because I have been trying for the past week or so to put my thoughts into order and a context which would be both honest and meaningful.  It is the subject of finding value in my own work as a poet.

One of my biggest flaws as a poet is that I have a difficult time charging money for my books and services as a poet.  I feel guilty about charging people for my books and I need to stop doing that.  I certainly don't expect a lot of you to understand this, but I have a difficult time looking at my own work and putting a monetary value on it.  I can put a value on the work and labor Foothills Press puts into creating my books because they have and I try to encourage people to buy books from them at full price to help them out as much as possible, but I balk as soon as the money comes to me. 

This isn't a virtue.  It isn't as simple as saying I am an artist and I believe in the free exchange of art.  I strongly believe in being paid for my work and efforts but I have an even more difficult time coming to terms with my own sense of worth as a poet.  I guess there is a part of me which still thinks I am on the outside, even though I have had quite a bit of success, and certainly have been met with a good amount of friendship within the poetry community.

Lately, this is what consumes my writer's block.  I am writing poetry in drips and drabs (two and a half poems in the past two weeks, plus the haiku/senryu in a previous post) but it is my fear of not meeting the standards of those friends and their work which has paralyzed most of my abilities.  Suddenly I am afraid that someone or even I will try to make a comparison of worth because of this contest or that fellowship. or which press is publishing whose book---things for which I am not even competing.  And all along the way---every step of this long journey---is the very simple and very real fear that I will never be the poet I should be, that I will never be good enough.

What makes this all so frustrating is that while I am in the depths of writer's block, I begin to believe those things about myself and the whole reason I am blocked is because I am no longer a good enough writer to write poetry on the level I want to write it.

* * *

Even with all of this, I have been doing well in the submission department.  I have quite a few out, and I have several different packets of poems out in the world.  My usual, as I have explained is to only have four or five poems out at a time, but to have them all over the place.  Now, I must have 12-15 poems out in the world to 15-16 places.  I was really pleased with a response from Quarterly West, who responded only a week after I sent them work.  I was rejected but encouraged to send work again in the future.  Even without the encouragement I was pleased because they responded quite fast.  Of course that's what all poets like.

Other places have been taking their time.  I sent off a request for an update since one press asked for a nudge if they took too long.  I was happy to learn they are still considering my work.  I am still in love with submishmash as a poet, but I do not share that affinity as an editor.  Well, not for a little one horse publication like HCR.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Hobble Creek Review Issue 14 is now up and live!

Hobble Creek Review is now live, featuring a special tribute to William Kloefkorn.  Please stop by and have a read.  We are featuring the following writers and poets:

Kristin Berkey-Abbott
C.E. Chaffin
Michael Diebert
Richard Fenwick
Timothy Gray
Ruth Gooley
Rick Harris
John Philip Johnson
Alie Kloefkorn
Linda Lambert
Dave Lee
Jon D. Lee 
Kelly Madigan
Tamara Madison
Dana Guthrie Martin     
Matt Mason
Marge Saiser
Nancy Savery
Barbara Schmitz
Peggy Shumaker   
James Valvis
Rex Walton
Natalie Young

Friday, October 14, 2011

Writer News: New Format

My book, Dear Mr. Rove: 32 Letters to Karl Rove, is now on ibooks for $3.99! Pass the word!

Follow this link to learn more.

It's strange I get sort of excited about this kind of news because I really never think in terms of how wide spread ibooks or Kindle can be.  Do I expect my book to go viral and be this amazing phenomenon?  No.  Not at all.  I just think that its pretty neat someone could potentially run across my book and consider buying it---someone who in all likelihood would never have that opportunity without e-publishing.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Pop Culture Haiku & Senryu

Quentin Tarantino

Reservoir Dogs (redux)
This time we get
the diamonds all the way
to Mexico

Pulp Fiction
Jules and Vincent
walk out of the cafe
dignity intact

Jackie Brown
Oh, brown sugar---
Pam Grier on the big screen
still turns me on!

Kill Bill (vol. 1 & vol. 2)
A single sword cut
severing the pale moon
from its orbit

Inglorious Basterds
A trail of death
behind enemy lines:
"Business is a boomin'!"


Sunday, October 9, 2011

The Gospel of Poetry

Over at Jeannine's blog, she's talking about "poetry evangelism" by going to cons to show there is poetry in the world which has an out of poetry community appeal.  It reminds me of a few friends.  First is long-running topi, friend, and mentor, Dave Lee.  Dave, for as long as I have known him has been an evangelical for the gospel of poetry.  For those of you unfamiliar with the meaning of the word "gospel," it literally means the "good news."  I think all poets should be traveling evangelical ministers for the gospel of poetry.  And if one cannot travel, then one should build a pulpit in the front yard and preach to those who walk or drive by.  Dave has spent his life going anywhere he was asked (even to a few of my classes) to talk abut the wonderment and beauty of poetry.

Years ago, literally a few days before 9/11 happened, Dave was being considered for the U.S. Poet Laureate position.  This was when Billy Collins was selected, and Dave was in Washington D.C., where he and Billy, and another poet had breakfast with the President.  I think Dave would have made a wonderful Laureate because it would have opened up to him a much larger platform to talk about what he already believed about poetry.  Still, when Collins was selected, and we spoke on the phone (I had called to track him down to make sure he was okay because of the attacks) we talked poetry.  He read and re-read a new poem to me.  We talked about poetry, and Dave told me I had to go out and get Billy's book of selected poems.  You see, he wasn't bummed about not having a larger platform.  He was excited because he had discovered a new poet to read, support, and mention in his sermons.  

The other person is William "Bill" Kloefkorn.  Not by coincidence he was a dear friend of Dave's and so willing to help with anyone who showed even the smallest spark of interest in poetry.  Bill was quite famous for being a champion of the writer, and went to considerable lengths to make each writer he worked with feel worthy of the task at hand and very capable of creating poetry which was both well written and true to the voice of the poet.

I have said before how Bill was instrumental in my getting my first chapbook into shape.  He helped pare it down into a real chapbook, something with real meat and bone in its structure.  He spent a considerable amount of time with me, which is what he did with anyone who asked him for help.  We began to bond on another level when we both talked about having been in the military, though that was never a focal point for us.  Instead, we chose to make fun of Dave's girlish penmanship.  It was Bill, I believe to this day, who opened up the door to my first chapbook being published.  I think he was the one who told me about Mark Sanders, who ended up awarding my book with the Main-Traveled Roads Chapbook Award.  Bill continued to respond to my letters over the years, sending me poems and encouragement.  For him, it was always the next poem which mattered most, and that made him an endless fountain of guidance and inspiration.

Right now, I am putting the finishing touches on the next issue of Hobble Creek Review.  It's a special issue, featuring quite a few writers from Nebraska and other places who knew Bill Kloefkorn, Dave Lee included.  I may not be able to travel around much and preach the gospel of poetry as much as I would like, but I have built my own pulpit, and with it, I am going to preach a sermon or two for Bill.  He certainly deserves more than what I can give him, but I am going to give him what I can.  In the next week or so I will be announcing the release of Hobble Creek Review.  I hope you will all come by and take a look, as this is my contribution to the gospel of poetry.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Sophomore Slump

I really am wondering about the sophomore slump.  From all appearances and signs, it looks to me as if I am going through exactly that.  The realm of film has a lot of evidence to back up the notion of an artist's second effort, especially those of directors, is less than stellar or are somehow decidedly more difficult to create.  In my case, I see the same patterns.  

My second chapbook was probably published a year too soon.  Along those same ideas, I am fearful the manuscript I have out making the rounds (Sailing This Nameless Ship) is simply not good enough.  I had a major flash of success, getting some 20 or so poems published from the manuscript in a relatively short period of time.  2009-2010 was a really great time for me as far as that manuscript goes, but now, it has been almost a year and a half since any other poems from the manuscript have been accepted for publication.  It’s as if the manuscript has stalled out. 

Then there is my new flight of fancy, the new manuscript I have been toying with for a little while now, which may be just that---a distraction.  I know the pattern well.  I get about 90% finished with something and then I can’t easily bring myself to finish the last 10%.  I get restless and move on to something else.  For a long time I have been trying to understand why I do this.  I wish I had a definitive answer, but I really think I am afraid to finish something because I don’t want to let anything go once and for all.  I think I have a need to hang on to things, even after it’s time to let them go and allow myself to move on. 

Then there is my current lack of writing, poems only coming in drips and drabs, rather than my usual trickle.  I’ve talked about this before, but I think it’s related to what I am talking about today.  Even when I am not writing much of anything good, I am usually still writing.  However, I think I am both stuck on the idea my second manuscript needs to move forward before I can, and the idea that I am afraid to really finish anything concrete or measurable.  I know poetry is a thing one should not measure.  I am referring to the idea of completing a thing as opposed to measuring the worth of quality or quantity.

Thursday, October 6, 2011


One of the things I am getting used to, or rather learning as I go, is the process of asking people to let me read at their function or school.  I told you all about being able to read at the Hollow Earth Conspircay event a while back, but that was an invitation which came out of the blue.  What I am experiencing now is an entirely different animal.

Summer before last, I attended a writer's workshop, geared for teachers.  The idea of the workshop (four 4 Day weeks) was to give teachers the opportunity to grow as writers themselves so they in turn could help their students grow as writers.  I met a friend who was on one of the various committees for Great Basin College which set up events.  Among the things they control is having guest readers come to the college.  My friend suggested that with my book coming out in 2011, it would be cool to have me come out.  We tentatively began work on getting me there.  Well, my friend is no longer on that committee, and the college is 110 miles away, so I had to send my "proposal" by e-mail and have it read in absentia.  Her is where I pulled my first rookie mistake.  I should have had a sample of my work prepared to accompany my proposal for a workshop and reading.  Instead, some of the members expressed a desire to see some of my work, and I had to quickly gather a few poems from my books to send along.  No sweat there, but the format was in the least, lacking a professional appearance. 

I also missed out on suggesting to the committee that I teach a continuing ed class as an alternative to the committee funding me.  Again, that suggestion came from my contact.  I had only asked for $150 or so because I am not well known, and all I really want is enough to cover gas and buy dinner, but if I had known about the continuing ed thing (which the teacher gets a whopping 70% of the course costs at the college) I would have been selling that up and would have come across as more knowing than I really am.  "Oh the places you'll go."

So what I want to know is what advice you can offer me, other than what I've just learned, which will help things go smoother the next time I apply to be a reader.  Any advice will help and be dearly appreciated.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

New Territory

So a few days ago I was talking about how I was finding it difficult to put together a manuscript of poems because of the diverse nature of the poems I have written.  Well, as I was starting to put together the next issue of Hobble Creek Review (which will be featuring a tribute to poet William "Bill" Kloefkorn), I decided to go ahead and give it a go.  Thus far, I have about 35-37 poems I feel good about, which equals somewhere in the neighborhood of 55 pages, which includes front matter.  That leaves about 10 poems or so for me to feel comfortable about calling it a real manuscript of poems.  I know I tend to work on the smaller side of manuscript length, but that's just me.  Besides, I think with about 65 pages, I will be in the 72 page final count neighborhood, and that's just fine with me.  Then comes the work I will find most difficult:  Being willing to continue to work on the manuscript, willingly throwing out weaker poems as I write stronger poems more in line with what the book should be.

I need to always keep in mind my loyalty to the poem is paramount.  After comes loyalty to making the best manuscript.   Finally, I need to do my best to place the manuscript with the best publisher for the work, rather than finding the closest person.  At no point in that structure do I have room for loyalty to my ego, nor should there be.  If anything my ego needs to be in place to ensure the best book possible comes from all my efforts.

What comes next?  Poetry.  I need to write a lot of poems.  Now this may sound strange but I want to write the kind of poems which are the result of quirky prompts, and this is where you come in, dear readers.  I am asking for any of those strange little prompts you have seen or created which make for delightfully weird poems.  If you know any, please send them my way.  I will be making the same request on FB, so you can send them to me there, too, if that's how you want to do it.  Also, I am always up for a manuscript swap when I get to this point because I am curious to see if there is anything I am missing.  So, if you are interested in that, please let me know.  I will offer a clean, fresh look at your manuscript and notes in whatever form you want.