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Meditations in an Emergency

Updated: 2018-03-06T15:06:01.528+08:00


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Conversation with Bill Yarrow


The Lice of Christ, MatHat Press, 2014 Incompetent Translations and Inept Haiku, Červená Barva Press, 2014"Boris, it was Boris I thought of then,sipping a Gin Rickey on Spring GardenStreet in the Shade of Fairmont Park with a blonde woman (not my mother) whose daughter(granddaughter?) I was watching now under colored flood lights, white seashells on the blackwalls, whose breasts, eyeing each other like oldfoes, shook out of synch like a putativesuicide in an antique novel or postwar film. What is art? asked lithe Tolstoyand the answer fluttered back: "What you suck.""Excerpt from “THE TWO LERMONTOVS”, Incompetent Translations and Inept HaikuHow do you blend the sense of humor with lyricism in your poetry?I don't know. What can I tell you? I love to laugh. I like to make other people laugh.  I like puns, non sequiturs, malapropisms, the absurd. I like pushing the envelope. I like poking holes in the envelope. I like ripping up the envelope and throwing it in the trashcan. Jokes are timing. Jokes are punchlines. So are poems. I like the windup, the delivery, the off-balance pitcher regaining his posture, the ball sailing across or curving into the strike zone. I like the knife-perfect dive. I'm mad for juxtaposition. Words against words. Lines against lines. This against that. The pretty against the ugly. The raw against the cooked. The cooperative in bed with the unruly. The pristine vs. the stained. The rumpled vs. the starched. I just try to write as precisely as I can. A lapidary sentence floats my boat. "Exuberance is beauty." "Energy is eternal delight."  Blake is the touchstone, but you know who also is inspiring to read? John Bunyan.I've read a fair bit of your poetry in the past few years. One thing I've always admired—the rhythm and sounds move together seamlessly and the momentum is always fitting with the theme. It often ends with a lot of punch. How do you get there?The book that's helped me most as a poet is Barbara Herrnstein Smith's 1968 brilliant scholarly study Poetic Closure: A Study of How Poems End. It won't teach you how to write poetry exactly, but it does unpack poems in quite an extraordinary way. It's one of those books like Colin Wilson's The Outsider or Norman O. Brown's Love's Body that is capable of rewiring your brain. It rewired my writing brain. I learned the ending must be the different brother. It's the ribbon that turns the purchase into a gift.How do I get there? I write in the thrall of the ending. I write backwards. That is, I write from the bottom up.  It's what Poe said in "The Philosophy of Composition":  "It is only with the dénoument constantly in view that we can give the plot its indispensable air of consequence, or causation, by making the incidents, and especially the tone at all points, tend to the development of the intention."  I take Poe's advice seriously:  always know where you are going. (A draft has only the vaguest sense of the journey. A draft is a map looking for an X.) A poem is a postcard from your destination.  The best destination is always a sock in the jaw.  I try not to end up in the middle of a muddy field. I try like hell not to end in a nest of pillows.Re: rhythm, sound, momentum.... Here are my teachers, the elements in my periodic table: Marlowe and Shakespeare. Samuel Johnson and James Boswell. Ralph Waldo Emerson and Thomas Love Peacock. Arthur Schopenhauer and Franz Kafka. Isaac Babel and P.G. Wodehouse. Henry Miller and Edward Dahlberg. Samuel Beckett and Alain Robbe-Grillet. Grace Paley and Donald Barthelme. Jorge Luis Borges and Lydia Davis. I read these authors for their sentences. I relish how their sentences end.Paper : Scissors : Rock  ::  Alliteration : Assonance : RhymePaper and alliteration are cheap. Scissors cuts paper and assonance cuts alliteration.  Rock and rhyme are dangerous, but what is dominant is not invincible:  paper covers rock and alliteration can obliterate rhyme.  How did you arrive at the formal va[...]

Stone Bride Madrigals


Pleased to announce the release of my poetry chapbook, Stone Bride Madrigals, published by corrupt press (Paris). Special thanks to editor Dylan Harris. Love to David Heg for the cover art. See more of David's photography, excerpts from my poems and my video readings here. On a snowy write in Brooklyn, I met the statue who was to appear in many of the poems I'd go on to write -- it was the moment I started writing poetry. My statue walked through all kinds of disintegration. Sometimes she saw death. These poems are her songs. US$ 8 (shipping included). Order your signed copy here:Stone Bride Madrigals, what a lion with terror. What a white blanket baptism in a dreamy kind of rain. What Nicolette has done here is capture the sounds of colors--textures slashed across landscapes, illuminating the bodies and minds of the collection's inhabitants for the disintegrating matter that they are. They have choked a hole, goes the tangle of her text. They have choked a hole. --David Tomaloff, author of SLEEP (Plain Wrap Press)In this spellbinding collection, Nicolette embraces and forsakes, while conjuring poignant allegories of loss and decay to configure an "atlas of wounds". In the process, beings morph into urban landscapes, and real or imaginary transgressions become flesh. Reconstructed as a dark, elegant origami of a million facets, her work fits into the palm of the beguiled reader, indestructible, never to leave. A true phenomenon of contemporary poetry!--Mia Avramut, Associate Poetry Editor at Connotations PressWith the authority of heightened emotion, Nicolette's powerfully paced juxtapositions send familiar grammar scurrying to sulk in the face of her haunting imagery on the edge of consciousness. New verbs have taken over, and Nicolette tells them where to go: they go to you. They go to the part of you regular old verbs couldn't reach. You are no longer safe. Thank goodness.--Tantra Bensko, author of Lucid Membrane [...]

Blood A Cold Blue - Conversation with James Claffey


Get your copy of Blood a Cold Blue here.Nicolette: I see your characters (esp. the narrators) drift in and out of ruins a lot. How did you tread that fine line yourself when you were writing these stories? James: I’m not sure I trod the fine line in the writing of the stories, as the voice of each comes from a place of unknowing, of subconsciousness. Ruin and its avoidance were part of my experience growing up in Dublin. My father lost the family business when I was a small boy, and that experience shaped him as a person for the rest of his life. We’d drive past the place every summer on the way to the West of Ireland on our holidays and he would curse, become morose, and bemoan the loss of what had been a life of some privilege. After that loss he worked to support his young family, a lot of sacrafice, a great deal of pride. From those memories, from the struggles my parents went through, I saw the shadow of ruin on our house and it has stayed with me to this day. Also, I’m captivated by the dichotomy between survival and disaster, the gust of fortune that might consign a character one way or the other. I find much to explore in flawed characters and don’t for the most part write about happy, positive people. Strugglers are much more interesting, don’t you think?Nicolette: Your portrayal of these strugglers is so visceral, too. "My teeth chatter from the cold, the edge of my left eye twitches faster than my heartbeat, and there's a hollow feeling in the roof of my mouth...I knew she was dead from the way her neck angled, the pale skin, her cigarettes on the ground beside her--Marlboro Lites--and me having told her over and over that smoking kills." ("The Way Her Neck Angled")Besides your memories -- which fill that place of unknowing you re-create on the page -- what else would you say inform/shape your approach to characterization? James: Noticing. Paying attention to the small things, the rust on a hinge, the shade of lipstick on an old woman, the shape of arthritic fingers. I fall back on the quote, "God is in the details," to explain my approach to character. For me, the particular is critical to flesh out a character, those particular quirks and traits that mark one person apart from another. As I get responses to the book I notice my writer's eye tends towards the grimness and the seediness of life. This I have to ascribe to my self-reflective manner and the darkness that comes from an Irish childhood where all about me were destroyed people hiding in corners of the Dublin streets. When I was a kid we came across tramps, tinkers, beggars, and in their faces the etched lines of hard lives must have spoken to me at a deep level. It's not that I don't embrace hope and joy and beauty, I do, but through a particular prism that contorts those things into something more problematic, more honest, more real.Nicolette: One thing I've always loved about your writing -- the rhythm. It's a moving shadow that traces the character's emotions and it's very palpable. How do you find/relate to this music, when you write?James: The rhythm is something I found happened when I stopped writing for the express purpose of finding an agent, getting a publishing contract, pleasing other parties and other monstrosities! A rhythm existed in my writing before all of that, but it was subverted by my own shortcomings and inadequacies, and when I gave up on the notion of pleasing others, the writing found its own voice, its own path so to speak. Some of the musicality is down to growing up in Ireland, immersion in the patterns of speech that mark our island soul, and even though I've been away now for twenty years, those important formative years when language acquisition took place cemented those Celtic rhythms and notes in my brain. As far as musicality goes I'm useless in terms of playing instruments, though I do a little tone-deaf singing when I read certain stories that contain song lines. Sometimes I listen to music when I wr[...]

> Language > Place blog carnival


Language > Place blog carnival: a BluePrintReview project and a joined blog cyber journey featuring international perspectives on language and place. The second edition of > Language > Place blog carnival features over 20 writers from around the world. It unfolds between directions, detours and codes to arrive at fictive domains that are made real by the yearning for souls adrift. The journey continues, looking into private places and eccentricities, to trace slipping boundaries and the sense of one's ever shifting homes. For info on how to join the next carnival, related links and notes on the project, visit the > Language > Place info page. NicoletteDetours/DirectionsDorothee Lang lives in Germany. This summer she flew to Vienna for some days. The lingual fun started on a day trip to Bratislava, once a trilingual city and now capital of Slovakia. Through a misunderstanding, she got lost in “Nove Mesto”, the 'new part of town' with a friend. 'The day trip to Bratislava indeed felt like a trip through history, and the Slovak language made it special, and more "abroad".' She blogged about the trip in: ‘Vienna, Bratislava, Istanbul’.Karyn Eisler from Canada finds herself in foreign places where languages become music. Sometimes they dance in images, as in the Hungarian spa town of Hévíz. Look here.Steve Wing from Florida grew up in a mono-linguistic place and grew to love other cultures and languages. In ‘road signs’, he muses on the relationships between words, directions and origins: ‘Even where there is one predominant language, though, there are traces of other tongues. So it is with the words on these road signs, which open like doors onto other cultures...'Exchanges DecodedChristopher Allen, an American writer and teacher living in Germany, travels the world with his ‘linguistic advantage’. He blogs about his adventures at ‘I MUST BE OFF’ and for this month’s blog carnival, he sent ‘Taksi or Fright’, an entry about his attempts to make himself understood in Southeast Asia in November.Parmanu is from India and his job with a multinational company has brought him to Germany. For December’s blog carnival he sent ‘Super 8’, an entry about a brief conversation in English he had with a German passenger on the train, the charm and complexities of exchanges spanning cultures and languages.‘It is with us humans, we fall into our language in times of emotional communication,’ notes Abha Iyengar, a poet and freelance writer from New Delhi, India. During a Writing Residency in Tamil Nadu in Southern India from 2009 to 2010, Abha navigated between the differences in sounds, sights and people in her temporary dwelling and those in her hometown. Follow her discovery in ‘An Ambassador Mercedes in Pondicherry’.'I love the idea that multiculturalism--or is it duoculturalism? is alive and well and on my back,' Matt Potter notes in his entry 'Dyeing for it’ about his love for the 'trans-global warriors' T-shirts that accompany him across Germany and Australia. Matt loves sex, fashion and words--and he flaunts his stuff with flair (ignore the adult content warning note).Fictive DomainsMarcus Speh is a native German who mostly writes in English because he thinks in images and a foreign language is a wonderful plaything. He blogs at Nothing to Flawnt, a reference to his long-time nom de plume, Finnegan Flawnt. While on vacation in Texas this October, Marcus wrote whimsical stories on different objects found on a Texan beach. Check them out here.‘One day, he thought, his postcards to his wife would be found - these drawings would be his last words to her,’ writes Stella Pierides in her short short ‘Postcards’, which looks back on the cruelty of the Greek Civil War from 1946 to 1949. You can also read her notes on the story in ‘Language, Trauma, and Silence’. Originally from Athens, Greece, Stella now divides her time between London and [...]