Goodnight nobody / Goodnight mush

by Kristen Iskandrian


I gladly add my voice to the chorus of Goodnight and Thank You to Gene and to Blake. Thank you, for creating this bizarre little hole that grew & grew, a hole I happily fell into time & time again. I didn’t post often, and haven’t in ages, but I visited regularly and learned a lot here–about books I would not necessarily have found otherwise, and presses, and people asking important questions and creating amazing things. Thank you to those of you I haven’t met in person, but feel I know vibrationally, which can be better than IRL.

I know there were flare-ups and hurt feelings, but if I’m going to be honest, I more often than not left this space with more–not less–empathy. Behind each voice, behind each screen, is an actual person, and therefore, I think it’s safe to say, a person in pain. Pain is a good teacher.

It might sound silly, but one of the things I learned from the past 4-5 years of clicking around here: the internet is the ultimate nobody & the ultimate everybody. HTMLGiant was a very good place for negotiating this weird, constantly askew binary. And I think, at its best, it was an exemplary art forum–many people here seem to know that the only way to talk about art, really, is to make it. Questions of good or bad, like it or don’t like it, generally didn’t resonate for long. People risked ridicule and criticism to talk about things that moved them.

People risked. I guess I can’t think of a higher compliment.

 

25 Points: Matt Meets Vik

by Richard Brammer and Victoria Brown

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Matt Meets Vik
by Timothy Willis Sanders
Civil Coping Mechanisms, 2014
164 pages / $13.95 buy from Amazon

Or ‘Rich Meets Vik’ to review ‘Matt Meets Vik’ as Richard Brammer teams up with his girlfriend ‘Vik’ (Victoria Brown) to review this book.

1. Vik: At the end of the book, I didn’t expect it to be the end and kept turning (scrolling) the pages thinking there would be another chapter. When I realised that it was the end I was pleased at the way it ended.

2. Vik: I’m a woman so I don’t often get to hear a man’s raw thoughts. I liked that this book put me in the position to see male thoughts. I assume that they are real-ish male thoughts.

3. Rich: Shit! I haven’t started reading the book yet. I’m going to read it and find out. I’m not sure but I think I have real-ish male thoughts to compare them to, as a scientific  control.

4. Vik: The book is set when Snake was a big deal on Nokia phones. I never had a Nokia, but I remember the enthusiasm Nokia owners had for Snake.

5. Rich: I had one of those Nokia’s. Before that I had a Nokia 5410 or something (in about ’95 and this was before my impoverished dispersed family had a house phone even). I loved Snake though. I was as addicted to Snake as I could’ve been to anything 2-dimensional at that time. I used to commentate to myself about my own performance on Snake like it was a sport and I was a great renowned competitor.

6. Vik: Actually I did have a Nokia phone but it was such an early Nokia that it didn’t allow you to access your address book when typing a text message so you would have to memorise the phone number of the person you wanted to text when texting. Which was terrible.

7. Rich: Shit! There’d be v apathetic riots if technology was designed like that now. My first phone had a text facility but the network ‘didn’t support it’. Should we review this book now?

8. Vik: I read this book in about 4 sittings; it is 177 pages long. I read it really quickly.

9. Vik: I’m a woman named Vik but I didn’t identify that much with the character named Vik, in fact I identified as much with the character named Matt as I did with Vik.

10. Vik: There are other characters, Chantelle, Ralph, Lucas and Esme and maybe some more. Continue reading

His Geography: The Collected Works of Michael Ondaatje

by Anthony Strain

A. “There are stories the man recites quietly into the room which slip from level to level like a hawk.”

The English Patient

Screen shot 2014-09-19 at 2.03.52 PM

1. A popular mistake about Canada is that it is fundamentally North. Otto Friedrich’s biography of Glenn Gould compares Canada’s relationship to the North with America’s to the West, except there’s no Disneyland in the Arctic. Most of Canada’s population is concentrated in the southernmost quarters; post-Gould Toronto produced Petra Collins’ Instagram, among a lot of other non-Drizzy things. One quarter of all postwar immigrants to Canada came to Toronto. Canada’s history is only one centennial in; its youth relative to the rest of the world may account for why the rest of the world sometimes acts so strange about it. Cats still aren’t sure about humans because in evolutionary terms they haven’t been around as long as dogs and are still socializing themselves. There are no cats in the Bible, for instance.

2. The book of 2014, nonfic anyway, was Capital in the 21st Century by Thomas Piketty, a book carrying the mythical glow of pregnancy. Stephen Marche reviewed it for the Los Angeles Review of Books, calling it ‘perhaps the only major work of economics that could reasonably be mistaken for a work of literary criticism.’ He relates realism’s utter defeat of the other forms, the fun ones like lyricism or even minimalism, and credits Jonathan Franzen, that old serpent, with its proliferation. We already knew all that. One of the writers Marche suggests has fallen out of usage is the Canadian Michael Ondaatje: from Ontario by way of Sri Lanka, educated in England, known for hushed, haunted pieces like The English Patient (1992),Divisadero (2007) and The Collected Works Of Billy The Kid (1970). He also wrote a memoir, Running In The Family (1979), which includes the following clip:

“At St. Thomas’ College Boy School I had written ‘lines’ as punishment. A hundred and fifty times. [fragment in Sinhalese] I must not throw coconuts off the roof of Cobblestone House. [fragment in Sinhalese] We must not urinate again on Father Barnabus’ tires. A communal protest this time, the first of my socialist tendencies. The idiot phrases moved east across the page as if searching for longitude and story, some meaning or grace that would occur blazing after so much writing. For years I thought literature was punishment, simply a parade ground. The only freedom writing brought was as the author of rude expressions on walls and desks.”

Continue reading

Sport and Prose in Kerry Howley’s Thrown

by Josh Cook

Howley7Thrown 
by Kerry Howley
Sarabande Books, Oct. 2014
288 pages / $15.95  Buy from Sarabande Books andAmazon

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I had no sight into Daisy’s heart, but I felt that Tom would drift on forever seeking, a little wistfully, for the dramatic turbulence of some irrecoverable football game.

— F. Scott Fitzgerald

 

Gravity forgot me. I was the goalie in a pick-up soccer game in high school. My friend kicked a beautiful curling shot from just beyond the eighteen meter line; a quality of kick that elicits sharp breaths from attentive spectators. I jumped, deflected the shot over the cross-bar, and then. I was just. In space. Weightless. Drifting. Orientationless. Or rather, what orientation I had shuffled realms of sensing, considered foreign methods of angle and duration. I couldn’t tell you where I was or how I got there.

My back slammed onto the ground. The angle of my jump, the force of the shot, my singular focus on making the save, and my lack of expertise in such moments combined to turn me horizontal in mid-air. My body dispersed, but a bound self persisted enough that I vividly remember this instant of free-fall.

Many people, through many routes, have pursued similar fleeting moments; moments when nothing needs to make sense and nothing needs to be sensed because we have been removed from the mundane requirements to sense and make sense. Depending on the tenor of your philosophy, you might call this phenomenon “enlightenment,” “nirvana,” “losing yourself,” “bliss,” or any permutation, step towards, or variant thereof. Kerry “Kit” Howley might call it “ecstasy” or “ecstatic experience;” a specific usage of the term drawn from Schopenhauer and phenomenology.

Thrown, Howley’s chronicle of the pursuit of this “ecstasy” is The Great Gatsby from Gatsby’s perspective, but instead of a beautiful woman with whom the fresh potential of young love was shared, Howley courses an experience of hyper-aware ecstasy that Kit stumbled into first while escaping a beigely debilitating “conference on phenomenology, where a balding professor stunningly wrong about Husserlian intentionality dominated the postconference cocktail hour.” (p3) Kit, “[h]aving nothing to do in Des Moines beyond explore Husserl with nonsmokers who did not understand him[…]walked the conference hallways,” until she encountered this moment of ecstasy in a Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) match featuring Sean Huffman. Soon after, she encountered that experience again through the martial efforts of Erik Koch. Then Kit pursued that ecstasy through thousands of miles of travel, months of stagnation, and unsatisfying moments, even abandoning her own philosophy degree. And she pursued without waver, without doubt, and with a rare prose confidence. I’ll say this now because other themes and ideas will pull me away from this moment, because there are questions of narration and “fiction” I will not answer, because I’m a person and so will grapple with the ideas that connect to my emotions, because there will not be another chance, and because it is thrilling to say this; very few works of contemporary anything compare to the opening chapter of Thrown. Continue reading

2010 – 2011 Minnesota Timberwolves

by Andrew James Weatherhead

Prior to the 2010-2011 NBA season, I conceived of an ambitious project to write short, non-fiction prose poem biographies of all ~400 NBA players. I started with the Minnesota Timberwolves, who, at the time, had one of the more eclectic rosters in the league. After maybe 40 hours of writing, I finished nine biographies and gave up on the project as a whole. I tried submitting the results to prominent literary journals of the time (6×6La Petit ZineDiagramjubilat), wistfully hoping someone would see some merit in them. No one did.

Two years later, Tim and Gene were kicking around an idea for an HTMLGiant newsletter-type publication, which would include original writing next to interviews and other articles (I think?). Tim asked if I had anything to contribute; I think the only guideline was “something chill re: style.” I sent the Minnesota Timberwolves bios and they were enthusiastically accepted, but the newsletter never fully materialized.

Things change and things don’t change. I still like these a lot and thought I’d share them. S/O Tim, Gene, and Blake. Continue reading

Lydia Swartz : Why Shld I Read YOUR Book ??

by Rauan Klassnik

lydia

ok, Lydia, so why should we read YOUR book ???

Reasons to read Shufflepoems, forthcoming from Minor Arcana Press. Shuffle & read them in any order:

 

It’s not a book. It’s a deck of poems. Which you shuffle, so.

 

It’s the same temperature as your flesh, unless you’re a zombie.

 

If I go back to writing about pain, you will be sorry.

 

Can you follow a recipe? Does that necessarily mean you have to?

 

You’re blocked up like a constipated rooster. Pull a card. Then write/paint/dance about it.

 

Sometimes you read sitting down. Sometimes you read standing up or lying down. Sometimes you read walking. Or in the tub. Or in a moving vehicle.

 

Have you checked out the Minor Arcana Press staff? Cuu-uuuute!

 

I know where you live, possibly. Continue reading

25 Points: Sorrow Arrow

by Alex Manley

sorrow-arrow
Sorrow Arrow
by Emily Kendal Frey
Octopus Books, 2014
92 pages / $12.00 buy from Octopus Books

1. I read Sorrow Arrow in June.

2. “What was the last book you read/what was your favourite, lately?” A friend of mine who was out of town for the summer sent me this text message. I told her it was Sorrow Arrow by Emily Kendal Frey. When she got back into town a few months later I loaned it to her.

3. If you’re like me, once a year or so, you read a book that makes you rethink the way you’ve been writing entirely and you come away from it sure beyond a shadow of a doubt that the only way to write is the way that writer does it.

4. Sorrow Arrow was one of those books. When I was finished with it I just felt the entirety of all the poetry I’d ever written pass into obsolescence.

5. My first exposure to Emily Kendal Frey was when we both had prose poems published in Issue 6 of Banango Street in January. I felt privately certain they only published my poem because it was a prose poem roughly the same length as hers and together the two felt like they were kin somehow — cousins of about the same age who look just like each other but only met for the first time in their late teens. Hers was the more successful cousin by far.

6. I added her on Facebook and a few weeks later she posted as a status the sentence “She is born!” and the book’s cover, a faceless blankness wrapped in a green wreath, whirling, encircling sheaves of grass.

7. Two weeks later she posted that the book was available for order and I ordered it immediately.

8. Here is one of the poems: “A radiation plume is making its way to us/We write it down so we won’t think/Lap dogs sprinkled with acid snow/I got on the plane and sat back/Out the window I regretted complaining/I’m sorry I wasn’t able to get inside your color/The sky was cobalt, deafening/I die so I can live/Outside category” (p. 57)

9. At the centre of Sorrow Arrow is a tragedy. There is a tragedy at the centre of every great book of poetry, I imagine.

10. Frey’s tragedy runs through the poems—none of which have titles—like a skein of gold, a vein you can see just beneath the skin, a tungsten wire that glows bright and hot to the touch. Continue reading

Self-Publishing Question

by Adam Robinson

When I started DIY publishing in 1994, I didn’t know what I was doing. My zine, .iota, which I published with friends, only lasted a few issues. The work I did in college, as the Arts editor for the school paper and the fiction editor for the literary journal, was insubstantial. When I offered cash for a fiction prize with The Kankakee Review, a journal I started in 1999, I only got a handful of submissions. I wasn’t any good at it (although I did run interviews with Jacques Derrida and Cornel West and the band Buffalo Tom).

The internet since the early 2000s has made it possible to achieve a much higher profile, though the requirements are the same; you have to work hard, have reasonable expectations, and be cool in the world in order to be successful. But the potential for success in terms of readership is greater.

 

In 2003 I was a very active member of a blogging community, and at my blog I wrote about current events, trying to quit smoking, my love for the Milwaukee art scene and an unsystematic host of other things. There were a couple dozen people in that “ring,” and the attention we gave each other was motivating. We commented on posts, or we’d respond at length on our own sites. Do you remember this stuff? This was before pingbacks were automatic, so you’d manually have to insert a code somewhere. It was a long time ago, the dawn of Web 2.0.

What was crucial in that scene, for me, was the motivation that came from people responding to each other. Smart, funny people engaged my point of view, and accordingly I genuinely cared about theirs, and sometimes that meant we’d argue long into the night. I remember the too-much-coffee feeling I’d get every time I hit the button that posted my comment. “No! Jihad means suffering!” I’d say, or whatever.It’s because of that feeling, which comes from real conversation, that I kept tuning in. And I would learn about the work these people were doing, and I would support them, and they would support, provoke, and invigorate me—and of course we weren’t famous or widely read or even that good (but we were pretty good)—but thanks to them I kept working. Dialogue with a community of likeminded people is part of my artistic process.

It’s also part of what has made my current venture, Publishing Genius, successful. Spending large chunks of time—10,000 hours—emailing, tweeting, reading other people’s writing, using Facebook and so on has been my primary “marketing plan,” insofar as doing what I already want to do anyway is a plan. Something obvious that I say all the time: “If you’re not interacting with people who are doing what you’re doing, you won’t achieve your goal. But those interactions have to be natural to you. If you try to force it, you’ll lose interest and get discouraged.” Continue reading

A Tagger Named Little Bricks

by 

planes
I swear this is true. It starts here:

I went on to speculate that said tagger was probably based in Pittsburgh.

When I was a kid, we lived in Pittsburgh and sometimes my folks would bring my brother and me to the Kennywood amusement park.

So, sometimes I remember things—or, I guess what happens is I half remember things and want to remember the rest, so my brain does what it can to fill things in like the bastard that it is. I remember that at Kennywood, I became terrified when a “control your own altitude” plane ride in the part of the park for very little children went up beyond my tolerance. It was a modified carousel- or octopus-style ride with planes on armatures around a central axis and motor, and each plane had a stick that allowed the passengers to cause the arm to lift the plane off the ground. I was seated with another child—the planes accommodated two “pilots” each—a daredevil who grabbed the stick on the plane and pulled back, and up we went to a height that dizzied me. (I assume now that the distance between myself and the ground at the armature’s full extension was probably less than six feet. I was a tense, small child.) I screamed and my father got the operator to stop the ride so I could get off it. I still feel shame about this incident. I am in my 40s.

I am also, to this day, afraid of flying. Talk to me after a flight and you are talking to a man whose brain is warmly pulsing with alprazolam. A few years ago, I had a picture of Joe Kittinger, an American pilot who until recently held the record for longest skydive, tattooed on my arm in hopes that it would act as a barrier between myself and my fear of flying, but it has not worked. Things rarely work out as we want them to.

But I was on Kennywood. Continue reading

25 Points: Man Alive

by Matt L. Rohrer

Man Alive: A true story of violence, forgiveness and becoming a man.

by Thomas Page McBee

City Lights/Sister Spit 2014

172 pages. $11.17 Buy from: City Lights

 

  1. This is a memoir of transitions, journeys, and radical love/forgiveness.
  2. In this memoir, Thomas’ tells the story of his transition to manhood alongside his account of being robbed at gunpoint.
  3. I’m so glad this book exists. I’m so glad Sister Spit’s new imprint under City Lights exists. I’m so glad Thomas Page McBee exists to have written it.
  4. There is a very palpable danger in this book. Matthew Shepard and Brandon Teena’s names  flicker in the background as Thomas traverses the middle of the country, anxiously hoping that he passes as male during every interaction with surly bartenders and gas station clerks.
  5. Thomas and I were in the same writing program at SFSU eons ago when he was a poet. He has always been a kind, thoughtful chum.
  6. Thomas was the “masculinity expert” for VICE and writes the column “Self Made Man” for The Rumpus.
  7. This book gives a nuanced look at male privilege and gender constructs: Thomas acknowledges his male privilege within his terrifying robbery. The mugger gives directions to him, trains his eyes on him, points his gun at him. Thomas’ female companion, Parker, is a shadow, her words are ignored by the mugger, who eventually, reluctantly takes her credit card. I think this moment is a nice metaphor for the privileges and pitfalls of masculinity. Thomas, the man, is taken seriously, is heard and seen. Thomas, the man, is thrown to the ground, is expected to absorb violence and keep his composure. When Thomas speaks, his voice still high and feminine, as he has not yet started taking hormones, the mugger lets him go.
  8. Parker is such a lovable character (and great person in real life). She is supportive and honest and tough and sassy and smart and blurts out things like “wherever you are, whoever you are, you have a right to be here.”
  9. You get a sense of the strain that Thomas’ transition, all the societal implications that go with this change, the mugging, take a serious toll on he and Parker’s relationship, and that’s super sad, because these people are clearly so much in love.
  10. This book is filled with men doing awful things: There’s the robbery. A murder. The racist and vengeful court system.  There’s Thomas’ father molesting him, when he was a young girl. There’s a dark family history full of incest and abuse.
  11. Anger is like the one sacred emotion that traditional gender norms have allowed men. Vengeance is the medium of expression. Thomas’ memoir rejects this construct and refuses to turn men into “monsters.” Again and again, Thomas refuses to succumb to vengeance. He acknowledges that a fistfight or a drunken argument is the prescribed remedy for men who’ve hurt each other, yet he does the best he can to SEE the men who’ve injured him. He refuses to reduce men to their worst acts by acknowledging their transgressions alongside their suffering. He tries again and again, as best he can to forgive them.
  12. Thomas used to edit a fashion blog called The Ironing Board Collective where he wrote about his style sense, his ideal body type (essentially Paul Newman at his hottest), Kanye West, etc.
  13. Here are two little sections I love:
  14. I looked so much like a teenage boy that I’d mostly forgotten my difference. It was only at odd moments that I’d pass a mirror and see shapes that shouldn’t be there, a stranger who looked like me but wasn’t me at all, a stranger like a kick in the chest.
  15. You’d have to be pretty destroyed to hold a gun to another person’s face and shoot it, I thought.  And you’d have to have abandoned yourself to the core to want to annihilate a child.
  16. You know the particularly joyful, cathartic, queasy feeling of removing a frighteningly long ingrown hair, snipping out old stitches, squeezing pus out of a weeping wound? That’s what reading this book is like.
  17. I’d recommend this book to: Survivors of abuse. Men who aren’t satisfied with mainstream or even so-called alternative portrayals of masculinity. People who are in relationships with people who are transitioning. White people who feel confused/guilty about gentrifying their neighborhood. Victims of violent crime. Perpetrators of violent crime. People with violent dads. People with neglectful moms. People who do their best to love them anyway. Everybody else.
  18. With all the stories people are sharing around sexual violence/coercion/rape within the “alt-lit” scene, I keep thinking about restorative justice ( defined as “a system of criminal justice that focuses on the rehabilitation of offenders through reconciliation with victims and the community at large.”)  The 6-12 school in Brooklyn where I work tries it’s best to use restorative justice models to address behaviors that range from mundane (talking in class) to horrendous (sexual predation/violence/etc.) Restorative practices compared to more traditional punitive approaches (which exclude victims and offenders from the justice process) take a great deal more resources: time, energy, follow through, patience, humility, generosity, self awareness, etc.  Man Alive displays the work restorative justice requires: the difficult conversations between the abuser and the survivor, the soul searching Thomas must do to come to a place that resembles forgiveness, the pain Thomas bravely faces in order to move forward into a new gender identity, a new place, a new life…
  19. Men are committing most of the raping, abusing, acts of intimate violence. Therefore it’s critical that men are educated around these issues. This book is an important piece of that discussion.
  20. Now that I’m almost done writing about Thomas’ book, I plan to give it to this one trans student I have who I hope will enjoy reading it, although I fear she’s not a skilled enough reader to make sense of it all. Are there good books about transitioning for teens with low reading levels? LMK!?
  21. Here’s some more stuff from the book I liked:
  22. “Court is now in session,” the bailiff announced… “Please rise,” he said; and I thought of church as we, as one, did.
  23. A wedding had seemed the perfect opportunity to dress up like adults, and somehow magically become them.
  24. This book ends in the ocean as all things should.
  25. I ❤ Man Alive.  

Continue reading