Photo credit: Farah Sosa, Courtesy of the California Arts Council

Why are your Poems so Dark?

I hesitate to define poems as light or dark, because I think the poem exists as it is, in its own sphere, its own space.  A poem tells its own story, and poems are supposed to tell some sort of essential truth. There is light in the world and darkness, of course. When we write from the dark space, we are simply tapping into one of the parts of the world that exists and needs a voice.  Many people who read my poems, tell me that my work has opened up a space in them that they didn’t know existed , or didn’t give permission to exist. I think in order to be fully in touch with ourselves as a writer, we need to allow all of the shades of our writing to make an entrance into the room.

The sky has never forgiven you
for your blackness

when you fly
inside the backdrop of night
I am the only one who sees you

you claw your way
into my dreams
but I cannot
find you in the morning

Why?

Fuck him, he deserves to be devoured.

 

Who?

Mark and I often send pieces of Art and/or Words to each other. More often than not, we ignore them! But sometimes a piece will inspire the other to create something. It works both ways – Art & Words and Words & Art.

Man in Mouth

By TNB Poetry

Poem

Art by Mark Shuttleworth, Words by Luigi Coppola
Video-poem can be viewed here


He craves the salivated slabs
that sparkle crisp and clean
then shudders as they close and clench:
a prison pure, pristine.

He yearns for molten mounds of flesh,
a writhing, licking thing;
his mass sinks into palette, pores –
a thrashing, lashing sting.

Now playing on Otherppl, a conversation with Nikki Dolson. Her new story collection, Love and Other Criminal Behavior, is available from Bronzeville Books.

Dolson is a writer primarily of short fiction, which has been published in places like Shotgun Honey, Tough, Thuglit, and Bartleby Snopes. Her other book, All Things Violent, is available from Fahrenheit Press. She lives in Las Vegas.

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All of your parents—both birth and adoptive—are dead. How do you feel about the fact that they never had the chance to read some of the things you’ve written about them?

I’m not sure they have never read them; are you? Actually, I think my dad would get a kick out of recalling how much he enjoyed that Life magazine cover shot of Dorothy Dandridge (see: “Daddy Registered Republican, 1931—[1]“), however, I don’t think my mother would appreciate being reminded of our conversation about my “sexual exploits” (ha!) (see: “Red Background”).

The year Mother arrived on Ellis Island, the heavyweight fighter,
Jack Johnson, began serving a one-year sentence in Leavenworth
for violating the Mann Act, but everybody knew

Jack was doing time for loving a whole lot of white women
and each and every one of them every which-way.
Mother, fresh from hibiscus and the Caribbean Sea,

knew nothing of it; didn’t know that some who thought
if you’re light, well alright, would look at her and wonder
is she a white girl…?

Now playing on Otherppl, a conversation with Genevieve Hudson. Their new novel, Boys of Alabama, is available from Liveright Publishing.

 
This is their second time on the program. They first appeared in Episode 544 on September 26, 2018.

Hudson’s other books include the critical memoir A Little in Love with Everyone (2018), and Pretend We Live Here: Stories (2018), which was a LAMBDA Literary Award finalist.

They hold an MFA in fiction from Portland State University, and their work has appeared or is forthcoming in ELLE Magazine, OprahMag.com, McSweeney’sCatapultBookforumBitch, and other places. They have received fellowships from the Fulbright Program, MacDowell, Caldera Arts, and The Vermont Studio Center. They are a Visiting Fiction Faculty member at Antioch University-Los Angeles’s MFA Program, a freelance writer, and also work in advertising. They live in Portland, Oregon.

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Mary South’s You Will Never Be Forgotten is an excellent collection of high concept short stories, usually having something to do with the intersection of technology and being human—energetic literary fiction that sometimes collides with sci-fi, or something even more interesting that I can’t put my finger on; I just think of them as Mary South stories. A clone named Keith, being harvested for his internal organs, is also an object of love; a person who works as an online content scrubber lashes back at a venture capitalist who sexually assaulted them; a devastated mother resurrects a deceased daughter with new tech. I loved this book. I read it on an airplane right before Covid-19 quarantine happened and was in awe after every story, “Oh this one will be a movie someday.” “Oh this one could, too.” “Oh they should make six movies out of this one.” Mary South has big ideas but cares just as much about her sentences and her characters. There’s a big heartbeat, a big pulse of life running though the veins of her writing. She’s an idiosyncratic, singular voice out there, telling radical stories about normal people thrust into a strange changing world. What else can I say? When I finished You Will Never Be Forgotten and got off the airplane, things were beginning to shut down for the coronavirus. I wanted to know more about Mary South and how she creates her unique stories. Instead of meeting up in person in the city, like I’m sure we would have done, and recording the conversation over a few beers, the questioning turned to telephone calls and emails and google docs and on and on, at least we didn’t have to do any Zooms. All right. Well, I’m always interested in where artists come from, so I guess we’ll begin there. The first thing I learned about Mary South is that she grew up in a small town called Rosemount. There were a lot of woods, she says. It was quiet.

 

Mary South: My mother is from Northern Minnesota, another small town called Starbuck. She has the strong accent and everything. She comes from a long line of farmers. She’s told me both some pretty harrowing and funny stories about farm work.

 

Bud Smith: What happened on the farm?

 

MS: When she was a child, my mother became attached to this calf, which she named Velvet because its coat was so soft. She still brings up sometimes how she showed up after school one day on the farm to see it, but Velvet had been shipped off to the slaughterhouse for veal. This anecdote will often segue into how my great-great-grandmother walked heavily pregnant behind a covered wagon for weeks until they reached northern Minnesota and started farming back in the 1800s.

My mother’s uncle Claude managed the farm for decades until he died and it was finally sold. He could toss a bale of hay with one arm into his tractor even when he was very old. Those bales are heavy, a hundred pounds or more. We would visit him on occasion when I was a kid; on one such trip, he whispered to me that he believed aliens were living underneath the surface of the earth. I told my mother about it later, and she said, “Oh, Claude was just messing with you.” I think he had a bit of a diabolical sense of humor.

Photo credit: Giuliana Maresca

So, the title, “Lullabies for End Times”…

Pure coincidence. If you believe in that kind of thing.

The tuner bird now nests,
now thrums,
in its cage of bone.
Plays harp of cat gut strings
by the red light
that dictates my resonant streams.
Sisyphean translator
at the first breath’s strum.
That sought to home
that homed to seek
from its first beat—
under the weight of words
and through that escape room of language
that forever unhomes.

Delitas(n., Spanish) crimes.

Escuela Superior Mecánica de la Armada,
Buenos Aires, August 8, 2018.


i.

Hard to resist the word’s resemblance
to “delights,” but knowing it can’t be,
I look it up after reading it over
and over on plaques stationed here
and there in this naval base turned
detention center. Bare except for the faces
stenciled across walls, blurbs about
terror, death flights, bodies
washing up in the Rio de la Plata.

Now playing on Otherppla conversation with Wayne Koestenbaum. His new essay collection, Figure It Out, is available from Soft Skull Press.

 
Koestenbaum has published nineteen books, including Camp Marmalade, Notes on Glaze, The Pink Trance Notebooks, My 1980s & Other Essays, Hotel Theory, Best-Selling Jewish Porn Films, Andy Warhol, Humiliation,and Jackie Under My Skin. His essays and poems have been widely published in periodicals and anthologies, including The Best American Poetry, The Best American Essays, The New Yorker, The New York Times, The Paris Review, London Review of Books, The Believer, The Iowa Review, Cabinet, and Artforum. Formerly an Associate Professor of English at Yale and a Visiting Professor in the Yale School of Art’s painting department, he is a Distinguished Professor of English, French, and Comparative Literature at the CUNY Graduate Center in New York City.

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On its surface, Teddy Wayne’s latest might seem like an obvious rebuttal to today’s literary culture. Set a quarter-century ago, Apartment is a book about young, white men narrated, not surprisingly, by a young, white man. A brief, breezy read, chock full of winning twists of prose, Apartment is a semi-satirical take on class, masculinity, and the Academy; Columbia’s MFA program, to be precise, where dubiously constructive workshops teem with “types” recognizable to anyone who’s been within screaming distance of an MFA.

Now playing on Otherppla conversation with Joseph Di Prisco. His new novel, The Good Family Fitzgerald, is available from Rare Bird Books. It was the official May pick of The Nervous Breakdown Book Club.

 

Di Prisco has published four other novels (Confessions of Brother Eli, Sun City, All for Now, and The Alzhammer), three books of poetry (Wit’s End, Poems in Which, and Sightlines from the Cheap Seats), two books on childhood and adolescence co-written with psychologist and educator Michael Riera (Field Guide to the American Teenager and Right from Wrong), and two memoirs (Subway to California and The Pope of Brooklyn). His book reviews, essays, and poems have appeared in numerous journals and newspapers, and his poetry has been awarded prizes from Poetry Northwest, Bear Star Press, and Bread Loaf.

He lives with his wife, photographer Patti James, and their two whippets (Raylan and Ava—yes, their names straight out of Elmore Leonard) in Lafayette, California.

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Support the show at Patreon or via PayPal.