Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Rapid Review: So You Want to Talk About Race by Ijeoma Oluo

"If a person of color is willing to talk to you about race, even if they aren't very friendly while they're doing it, it's a generosity." ~Ojeoma Oluo, Google Talk presentation
So You Want to Talk About Race (Seal Press, 2018) is a book that functions as a bridge between the lived experiences of people of color and white people to help, primarily, white people align themselves to people of color and Racism. She starts off early in the book by explaining carefully why you (white person) need to read this book. In sum, no matter how "woke" you are on the spectrum of "woke," you're not there yet. 
This is not Racism 101. This is not for people who haven't yet noticed inequality or racism. In fact, Oluo would argue that empathy has little to do with ending racism. Being nice will not stop Racism. Reading diverse books will not stop children of color being disciplined at much higher rates and with more severe punishments than their white peers. Holding the door open for a person of color will not halt the Industrial Prison Complex. This book will, however, explain why these small acts do little to counteract Racism and, thus, how to do much more.

Or maybe So You Want to Talk about Race is Racism 101 for the Twenty-first century and understanding Racism's disease and symptoms and how to identify those now. It's definitely the handbook for all people who have been living and working under an inadequate definition of Racism. Racism is not an individual problem but as a systemic one that infects all who live within the culture of White Supremacy. It is a system created by a culture that normalizes and romanticizes whiteness, typically through the oppression, disempowerment, and portrayals of people of color as violent/inhuman/alien/less-than/absurd/ignorant/stupid/lazy/objects/etc.

And from that definition of Racism comes not only the real possibility of taking part in dismantling that system, but also Oluo's purpose in writing the book: to contextualize this definition, help white readers witness the reality of this definition in action through various anecdotes, statistics, comparisons, connections to institutions and their relationships to each other, and then to provide white readers with suggestions of how to position their imaginations, actions, and understanding of themselves and others in relation to, for example, cultural appropriation or to the school-to-prison pipeline or to communication with people of color in the workplace. Intersectionality, microaggressions, the model minority myth, affirmative action, protest, equity versus equality, the trials of intercultural friendships--and so, so much more.

While reading the book, readers learn about Oluo's own life, from the experience of being a queer woman of color, to being raised by her white mother who didn't understand systemic racism, to the ways in which her body and voice have been censored by white people and institutions in ways that have deeply affected her life and perspective--experiences that are usually hidden but that Oluo shares so that white readers will understand.

For a better idea of all that Oluo's tackling, visit the publisher's page and read all the rave reviews. This is, without doubt, the most helpful book on the relationship between white people's imaginations and Racism and how to reposition that imagination in a way that will lead to effective action. The book also helps contextualize other systems of oppression, from patriarchy/misogny, abelism, homophobia, etc. The world makes much more sense to me now after reading Oluo's book and how to interpret what I'm witnessing, and past experiences.

Put this on the TOP of your book club's reading list, and definitely order it for your local library if it doesn't yet shelve a copy or two. And if you live in a neighborhood that has a Free Little Library, buy a copy for that, too. This is an excellent and NECESSARY read. Today. BUY IT TODAY!
"What we're doing when we're talking about race, usually, is we have people who are trying to come to their own personal goals, and usually people of color who come to talk about race are trying to get other people to understand what is harming them. And, very often, white people come to talk about race to try to make sure the person they're talking to knows that they are not the person who is harming them. Those are two completely different conversations that will never meet. Because you have one person whose lived experience says, 'You are harming me, and I need you to understand,' and you have another person whose lived experience says, 'I am not part of the problem, I am a good person, and I need you to understand.'
"Because we don't state what we're talking about when we talk about race, you can dissolve an entire friendship in a discussion, and if you were to ask why, of each person in that discussion, the reasons would be completely different. So we know it is tough. We know there's a lot at risk. And if you are a white person in this room, and most of you are, and you're thinking, 'What if I get called racist? The last time I tried a couple times, it ended really bad.' Trust me. No conversation about race has ever ended nearly as bad for you as ends for people of color. So, before we launch into why we have to do it anyways.
"If a person of color is willing to talk to you about race, even if they aren't very friendly while they're doing it, it's a generosity." ~Ojeoma Oluo, Google Talk presentation 
Ojeoma Oluo, author picture


Thursday, March 15, 2018

April 7: The Whole World at Once at the Casey, Illinois Library

If you've followed this blog for any amount of time, you know how important the library is to who I am. The Summer Library Series is based on my love for the annual summer reading programs that my hometown library hosted. My interest in visual art started in the local library by sitting on the floor with my father looking through the heavy art books they had, which were mostly Renaissance art and Renoir.

In fourth grade, my first speech in 4-H was on Van Gogh, and all the books I used and spread out before me on the counter of a church basement were books I'd borrowed from my library and interlibrary loans. How did I read every book in the Trixie Belden series? They were in my library. AVI, Maurice Sendak, Janet Lunn, Arnold Loebel, Lucy Maud Montgomery? Writers I met at my hometown library. Choose Your Own Adventure books? Yep. Anne of Green Gables series? Yep. Sweet Dreams Romance series? Yep. Truncated versions of Edgar Allen Poe stories? Yep! The turning wire racks of my library. Where did I watch my mother become interested in genealogy and crouch over wooden tables tracing her family from here to there? Same library.

Could I go on? Yes. From mythology to mysteries to Stephen King and back. Records, computers, videos. Cassette tapes with picture books in plastic bags. Magazines. Books for sale in the entrance (paperbacks 10 cents/hardbacks 20 cents).

Where did I learn about Contestoga wagons and daring girls who dressed as boys to seek their adventures? Where did I learn to read? To find items in Richard Scarry books? To shelve books and file library cards? Those summers I volunteered in fifth and sixth grades at the library.

Why am a writer?
The library.

(I'm starting to feel a bit like the Cowardly Lion's song regarding Courage. Where did I find what courage I did have? THE LIBRARY.)

So you now might more wholly imagine how very pleased I am to announce that amidst visiting home for the first time in nearly a decade, I'll be spending the afternoon at the very library where I grew up. I'll be reading from my newest collection of stories The Whole World at Once, followed by a discussion.

The event is free and open to the public, and of course, you're invited.

April 7th, 2018
1 PM
Casey Township Library

Facebook event details here: https://www.facebook.com/events/179687779343250

Friday, March 9, 2018

Erin Pringle on L.A. Talk Radio's The Writer's Block

Last night, I had the opportunity to speak with Bobbi Jean Bell, Richard Paolinelli, and Jim Christina, on The Writer's Block. We talked about the contrasts among darkness, silence, and beauty; if I ever experience writer's block; expression; why most all my characters move through the stories without names; and more.

It's a great discussion, with serious moments marked with the laughter that allows real human conversation to happen.

Thanks to everyone at The Writer's Block for having me, delving into The Whole World at Once, and the good thoughts shared on, and sparked from, this episode.

You can listen to the episode here: http://latalkradio.com/content/writer-030818%20#audio_play

The Writer's Block is a weekly discussion about books with writers, and airs every Wednesday at 7 PM (PST). You can tune in on your radios in L.A. or stream live via this link: http://latalkradio.com/content/writers-block

If you caught the episode live last night, let me know. :)
And if you stream it now, let me know, too.


Monday, March 5, 2018

I'm reading with ANN TWEEDY at Last Word Books!

Last Word Books, Olympia, WA
On March 23rd, I'm driving to Olympia to spend the evening with Ann Tweedy in a bookstore. And this time, we will meet having already met, and I'm looking forward to these new terms.  

Last summer, I was lucky to meet Ann Tweedy when we read at the Hugo House in Seattle. When she began reading her poetry, I experienced the jarring/intensity/yes that happens when art says, yes, here I am for you, between bodies. That disarming feeling when someone's speaking the truth about what has been made silent or turned into silences. About the body, about motherhood in terms of bodies, about feelings I had but forgotten because very little in the surrounding world has made those feelings recognizable as real or worth thinking about. 

Ann read this poem, "Flower Stalk," which begins this way:
 At a poetry workshop in the Sierras, a bunch of us gather for lunch
after the morning session. The workshop leader
tells us about the young niece he adores, says he's jealous
of children who pee their pants from laughing.
I look around and guess—no one else at the small table has given birth—
and I almost say once you have a baby, there's much more opportunity
to pee one's pants, laughing or coughing, you name it.
But there's shame in it, how the body becomes compromised,
makes its small refusals. Almost mournful
that you never understood its near perfection until then.
And it was at But there's shame in it, that I heard her speaking from a place I've been and felt lonely/isolated within. But that, of being amid a group to which I don't belong but pass within, and witnessing the the moment the group identifies with itself but I don't, and we depart, though not in body, in our ways of moving through the world . . . 

I'd quote the whole poem, but please travel to it yourself; the last part of the poem breathes so hard through my memory and experiences that I don't want to articulate that. Continue reading Flower Stalk by Ann Tweedy.

In sum, I so look forward to being with Ann Tweedy again, amid words and shelves of words and people who read words. I believe that we'll each be reading a bit, from our books and new works, but also moving into conversation with each other and the audience in a way that allows some examination of this world. Please join us.

Friday, March 23, 2018
111 Cherry Street NE, Olympia, WA
7 PM
Free and open to the public

More on Ann Tweedy (click to travel there):
Ann  Tweedy

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Rapid Review: Uncle Tom's Children by Richard Wright

Last week, I discovered a copy of Richard Wright's Uncle Tom's Children at a used bookstore. This is the third work I've read by Wright, in line with Native Son (fiction) and Black Boy (non-fiction). Like his other work, Uncle Tom's Children does not flinch from the violent and impossible labyrinth that is living in the United States as a black person.

Published in 1936, the book begins with a non-fiction piece, "The Ethics of Living Jim Crow," in which Wright recounts his experiences learning the unwritten rules white people required black people to follow, from his first job in which his life is threatened because he referred to a white person in conversation without using "Mr.", to witnessing his white bosses beat a black woman in the back of the store--an event treated by his boss as a delicious matter of fact. After she wanders into the street, bloody, weak, confused, a white police officer arrests her for intoxication.

Starting the book with the non-fiction piece serves to authenticate the reality that all the following novellas take place in, and to establish Wright as the clear storyteller of the book. The reader cannot sink too far into a story without remembering its author and the first non-fiction piece, which is important since these fictions contain such vivid, awful violence many readers will shirk from it by trying to shrug it off as fiction. Nope. The organization of the book refuses this wish. Fiction is bound to reality, and any attempt to deny this reality is to be aware that Wright is watching and knows this impulse and will not have it.

Except the first piece, the rest of the book is comprised of short stories/novellas, each told in a series of small sections that typically culminate in a person trying to save his life, or her own, after breaking the white man's code which Wright illuminates as ridiculous, arbitrary, and impossible with a guaranteed violence built into it--not just violence committed to the body, which Wright shows, but also the violence committed to the soul, identity, relationships, and one's ability to grasp what reality is since so much of reality is maneuvering through illusion.

In the story "Big Boy Leaves Home," which might, from the title, seem like a coming-of-age story about a boy maturing into a man about to start a new life . . . is not. "Big Boy Leaves Home" is the story of a group of teenagers who skip school on a hot day and want to go swimming, but a white man owns the pond and will likely kill on sight. The teenagers go swimming anyway, which ends with a white woman screaming, a white man shooting two of them, and one of the teenagers (Big Boy) killing the white man in defense. Of course, as soon as the white man is shot, everyone, including the reader, knows that this is the certain death for the teenager. The rest of the story is the two surviving teenagers attempt to save their own lives, while white people follow in a mob that burns down houses and worse.

In the last novella, "Bright and Morning Star," a mother has raised her two sons to young adulthood. Now, she is made to witness the destruction of her sons, which coincides with the blossoming of their ideas and beliefs in a workers' revolution and unification of poor white and black people in order to gain any traction to better lives. Her eldest son has been put in prison for his ideas, and her next son is about to die for the same reason. And she knows it. And she tries to protect him and the group of people in the community who believe the same. This night, she summons courage to "talk back" to white men who come hunting for her son. "Bright and Morning Star" is an incredible story that, in little time, explains how religion had been used to quiet the woman to the tragedy of her life--and after her awakening to communist ideas, she begins to feel alive.

In sum, Uncle Tom's Children is a harrowing book full of beautiful lives caught in a wretched reality made by, and perpetuated by, people who control it and then claim ignorance about its existence. How I wish someone had taught this book, or any book by Richard Wright, when I was a literature student. But they didn't.

I don't wonder why.


Places to find Uncle Tom's Children by Richard Wright (click for links)
Reminder: If your library does not hold a copy of this book, you can request the book through Interlibrary loan, or request its purchase. Librarians are always looking to add books that community members believe will benefit the collection. 

Thursday, February 8, 2018

It's Atmospheric, I Suppose: An Interview with Julia Drescher

Tramping through, hunting in, being hunted in the many woods (“dark” “Horrible”) that are the terrain of this book, Drescher finds/makes a clearing where a “gwhirl” is “breathing freely” and speaks in blood. Here she, who is at once many female-marked speakers, whirls, turns back on, turns her back on the usual tellers, or hunters, in order to open the epic.
– Susan Gevirtz, on Open Epic by Julia Drescher


Open Epic (cover) by Julia Drescher,
Delete Press 2017
After finding ourselves graduated from the MFA program at Texas State University, Julia Drescher and I spent the next two handfuls of years teaching there. Most every day we'd meet by the brick wall outside and talk. About the rain, about teaching thesis statements, about the state of the world, and words, too, sometimes. 

Once, I found her hand-stitching cover artwork for a book her press was preparing to launch. Another time, she showed me the wallpaper samples she'd gotten from Kiki Smith, and I ordered some, too, immediately drawn to the work.

For years our friendship went like this, sharing cigarettes, miseries, teaching tips, and jokes, before we each moved to states further north--her to Colorado, me to Washington. And while we've both left teaching, we're still connected, somewhat like telephone poles thousands of miles apart. From time to time, we remember and write. More often, we forget but then, out of our blue, we'll exchange interesting objects.  

Most recently, a package appeared on my doorstep containing Drescher's newest book of poetry, Open Epic (Delete Press 2017). 

It's a handsome book: cover, shape, and binding. And what lies within is a rattling play of thought and language, of fairy tale but not. Of anger but not. A hunt, torn apart. Like kathryn pringle and kari edwards, Drescher moves through the atmosphere of language and meaning, questioning--and asking us to question--where language and meaning intersect, deteriorate, and shift like so many pieces of earth in water.  

After reading Open Epic, I sent Julia a list of questions and asked if she'd answer them. She did. That is what follows.


What interests you about the edges of language and meaning?

JD. Right now I am listening to Julius Eastman’s “Prelude to the Holy Presence of Joan d’Arc” & I can’t tell if what word’s being sung is “said” or “sad”. It’s awesome.

It seems like the typical turn in poetry happens in the line, but your poetry turns within the collision of language itself, which isn’t made to seem like a collision but almost part of a stroke—the reader swimming from word to word, made to trust but not trust what the next word will do to the previous. The experience of reading Open Epic, for me, is like swimming underwater above sharp rocks.

JD. The trust-not-trust of language – I have never thought of that before (for myself) but I can see it as perfectly true. I must get this from my mother, I think.

I do sometimes think of lines in (my) poems as wrecks – sometimes what gets in the way of the poem one moment & then is the way of the poem in the next (the former having to do with my tyrannical tendencies, I think, & the latter is maybe when the poem can exceed these)…As a reader, I can’t help but be absorbed by misreadings/mishearings & interminable associations (polysemy etc.) & that makes its way into my writing.

Too, I guess the ‘wreck’ of the line is tied to sound & rhythm – like, I am always off-beat, can’t quite get the senses of the sound arrangement  to “come out right” etc. This happens, as well, in reading the poems out loud – the voice in my head is not the voice that comes out of my mouth (sometimes, this is very frustrating & sometimes I find myself super-interested in this ‘gap’ more generally).

“Hilda’s Hunting,” the first movement of Open Epic, reads as a mourning song to a heroine who has been displaced by a (historical) focus on the men and their doings while simultaneously examining-through-fracturing The Hunt as a traditional, patriarchal activity. Was this originally your intention, or did one appear as you worked on the other?

JD. I very much began writing this poem from the line “Hunting is about / Completing the sentence”—& then, in some ways the poem develops out of a refusal of that construction (i.e. the reliance on – even faith in – sound & the slippery-ness of language as the means for not ‘completing the sentence’ (&, therefore, not ‘hunting’?) — ‘Hunting’ being, anyway, not quite the word for not having a wor(l)d that speaks to what’s going on, where it’s trying to get to, get out of, etc.

So—displaced in a certain sense, yes, & anger/rage (mourning) about that – but more so, I think, about being angry at oneself for being angry about that situation of being ‘outside’ of some (heroic-historical –therefore “important”, “legitimate” etc.) focus– like, what’s so great about it anyway? & then, too, that it feels like you are forced to continually inhabit that anger because, you know, the very real effects of other people acting out/on this fantasy of “placement” won’t leave you alone…(&/but then doesn’t the position of “displacement (from)” provide some things that are vital to living, that are absolutely invaluable, that the “(historical) focus” won’t/doesn’t?)

I would say (& other people have said it before & better than I) that one of the insidiousnesses of any—particularly white, particularly western—“patriarchal activity” is the fact of my own varying complicities in it even as, let’s say, I never gave (& never could give) consent to it being in the first place— which is the situation of everyone to a certain extent,  just some are more invested in it continuing to be the normative situation etc.

& so, then, thinking about whatever benefits befall from that when my whiteness is added to the mix, the construction becomes also how to give away, or refuse, what you have but never wanted in the first place…

I think the Hilda poem doesn’t seem to actually present, let’s say, “Men” as a completely physical presence as such (or, if they are there, they have already been consumed) – the speaker & Hilda are saturated in & saturate the “traditional/patriarchal” violence, trying (& failing) continually to find an out-place from that.

Do you think that a questioning of tradition/history, without a re-examination of language itself, is authentic? Is questioning itself limited if language itself isn’t also part of the questioning? It seems you’re after both these questions in Open Epic, if not to answer them then to raise them.

JD. I can’t answer this directly, I think. (It would go into that too-much-&-not-enough territory).
 So how about this:
  • After the “election” in 2016 (& surely some version/the same version of this has always been around) I saw a sign that said “IF YOU DON’T VOTE, YOU DON’T COUNT”. & it made me so very viscerally angry & exhausted at the same time. While understanding (perhaps) where it’s coming from, I find it just a completely horrible & brutal expression – As the list could be endless (&, frankly, does include most who do vote): “illegal” immigrants don’t count, trees don’t count, children don’t count, mountains don’t count, refugees don’t count, oceans don’t count etc.etc.etc.( don’t count)… all of which is unbearably true, has been true, under particularly political modes -- & so, to *repeat* this ‘logic’ of *literal & figurative* value like it will get you anywhere close to whatever beautiful better world you imagine -- is just fucked-up-sad to me…
  • I recently sent a friend of mine who’s a poet/lawyer the following query:

There's a lawyer here who's trying to get the Colorado River (I think) legally classified as a person (much like New Zealand, or that guy who's tried with chimps etc.) & I wanted to know: Has anyone ever tried to get themselves (re)classified legally as, like say, a *river* (or something)?      
  • Just yesterday I heard a story on the radio about a “Southern Accent Reduction class” being offered to workers in Tennessee. Its purpose was to help them acquire a “more neutral American” sound in order to ensure that people would “pay attention to what you say, not how you say it.” Being from Texas (& being a person who sometimes “loses” my accent, sometimes “finds” it (&, unintentionally, others!) – usually depending entirely on what person or people I am around), I cracked my ass up all the way home.
  • I think I have been in love with the word “ain’t” since before I was born.
Without knowing whose body the ghost belongs to, would it be difficult to discuss the ghost? Sometimes I feel this way in trying to write about your work, ask you a question about it, though when I am not searching for language, I do not feel at a loss in the same way. Respond how you will.

JD. It is difficult to discuss! So here is a (perhaps heavy-handed) collage:

(From Timothy Morton’s Hyperobjects): “A bird detects the quantum signature of an electromagnetic wave, not the wave itself, by means of a quantum scale magnet in its eye. Birds perceive not some traditional material lump, but an aesthetic shape.”
Is there a “quantum scale magnet” in our ears, in our tongues?
(From Barthes’s “The Grain of the Voice): “am I hearing voices within the voice? but isn't it the truth of the voice to be hallucinated?”
Ghost = guest + host?
The roots being ‘fury, anger’, ‘ugly’| ‘to wound, tear, pull to pieces’ | ‘to give up, give away’
How it feels what it means to love ferociously
(From an interview with Clarice Lispector):
                                                                        CL: I’m a little tired.
                                                                        Q: Of what?
                                                                        CL: Of myself.
                                                                        Q: But aren’t you born again and refreshed with
     every new work?
                                                                        CL: Well. For now I am dead.
     We’ll see if I can be born again.
     For now I’m dead.
     I’m speaking from my tomb.
(Barthes again): “(it is not the psychological 'subject' in me who is listening; the climactic pleasure hoped for is not going to reinforce – to express – that subject but, on the contrary, to lose it.)”
(From Baraka’s “Hunting is Not those Heads on the Wall”): “And even to name something, is to wait for it in the place you think it will pass.”
. . .
Part of the visceral pleasure in reading your work is the rhythms that the language takes in/falls into, often through repetition of fracture:

she holds like these her hands
she holds
these like
her hands
like is to
pretend as

& in her hand some shine & in her hand some bruise

So not just repetition, but using repetition to cause an expectation and then, once the expectation is formed, avoiding resolution by making the language blossom differently—but then the pleasure still comes from this, from being denied resolution of our (readers’) expectations as created by repetition. Do the conventions of poetry hinder or help the questioning of language? Or is questioning itself unable to be done as thoroughly in prose? I guess I’m wondering how the conventions of poetry limit even poetry, limit language—if pleasure is a limitation. Perhaps it isn’t. Or is pleasure what is used to move the reader through the questioning, as plot is often used in prose? Your turn, speak however you will to any of this.
JD. I am glad if it does what you say.
I think very interesting things can generate & move in limits (which are or can be shape-shifting things themselves).
In terms of pleasure, this recently came out of (seemingly) nowhere:

It is as if we live
with other words—true

pleasure is always disturbing. That feeling

a body gets wanting
to follow the eyes over a ledge – no –,

I could not write a poem
to save my life. But

poetry (what’s disturbing)
is not for saving life—

it’s for giving it away

For the past several years, when I write, I’ve been in conversation partly with Flannery O’Connor. This hasn’t always been true, but it has been of late. Is there a writer you are partly in conversation with in your writing right now? What writer, or work, do you return to again and again as the years pass?

JD. It really is quite hard for me to separate or delineate reading & writing so I combined two of your questions because of this & I thought it would make it easier to respond. However, because I could go on forever about reading (who what when where why), combining these questions doesn’t make it any easier! The works I return to again & again (i.e. the writers who, when I first read them, I knew I would be a reader of theirs forever), I think, would be who I am always in a “conversation” with (though most, probably, would want nothing to do with me!)

The people I quoted in the ghost question are the most recent writers I have been reading/returning to, but with a few absences:

Literally every day I am lucky enough to be in conversation with C.J. Martin & his work.

I have been reading Akira Lippet’s books & also re-reading Lisa Robertson (& pretty soon, Norma Cole) & then, of course, for the last 10 years I am always reading/listening to Fred Moten.

How would you describe your relationship with words?

JD. My relationship with words is atmospheric, I suppose.

Since writers often find themselves in a writing workshop, whether that’s in a classroom or coffee shop, and the workshop has the possibility to humiliate/harass/wound writing that defies/questions/wonders about language and how it moves, what advice would you give writers who are compelled to write outside of convention, or in unexpected ways? Ideally, the workshop’s goal is not to humiliate/harass/wound writing, no matter its form/path/appearance, so what advice would you give readers who come across such a writer in a workshop?

JD. Workshops are weird, at best. & who am I to offer ‘advice’!!??
I can only say that my experience didn’t happen to be as horrible as I know they can be, probably because:
  1. The teachers I had always encouraged us to read read read – which I interpreted as permission to continue to be interested  over & above being (or presenting oneself as) interesting. I still think this is something to “live up” to. Also, making friends with people who were interested in reading, learning constantly, treating other people with respect etc. very much helped.
  2. When I was a kid & visiting extended family (which we did quite often), the general rule was that my sisters & I were to be seen & not heard—which meant we had to remain present at the dinner table long after we had finished eating, listening to the adults talk. On the one hand, I think this was actually really good training just generally for reading & studying, & then, more specifically, for having my poems “workshopped” (…the on-the-other-hands, I don’t even have time to un-pack:)
  3. I am stubborn as fuck. This isn’t a brag – it has caused me lots of problems & it is a problematic characteristic etc. but it did, sometimes, help me—I guess, in terms of deciding what not to listen to or, better yet, how to listen to someone who might be using the workshop to “humiliate/harass/wound”. I mean, really, it just boils down to the fact that if the position you have taken in a workshop is to be the one to “humiliate” etc., it’s just beyond pathetic & not helpful to anyone.

[&, as a silly side-note: given the *academic* workshop set-up – wherein no one has a clue as to what they’re doing most of the time but everyone feels like they have to act like they know *exactly* what to do etc.—aren’t workshops kind of like (in their best & worst senses) parenting advice books? LOL.]

What projects are you working on in either your writing, reading, or press-publishing?

JD. Through Further Other Book Works, & in conjunction with Cuneiform Press, C.J. Martin & I just published a book of the poet Helen Adam’s collages  (The Collages of Helen Adam). I just finished a long poem I had been working on awhile, so I got about a day of feeling something close to satisfaction & then I am flailing again. So now I’m in some sort of hibernation pattern (which involves lots of reading & collaging).


Julia Drescher

Saturday, February 3, 2018

Rapid Review: Tomorrow or Forever by Jack Kaulfus

Cover of Tomorrow or Forever by Jack Kaulfus,
due out this July by Transgress Press
I spent yesterday reading one of my favorite books of all time: Tomorrow or Forever by Jack Kaulfus (Transgress Press 2018). In short, it's fantastic, compelling, full of shadows and ghosts and ache and unexpected corners to endings. A plane crashes while a baby cries, but there is seemingly no baby; a teacher takes a bus of students to a haunting garden of sculptures; a woman assembles the bones of primates while her ex-husband won't accept the divorce; character after character struggles with time and its place in identity, or an identity's place in time--especially in relation to others. My favorite story is "When it Happens," a fictional speculation of the night Frank Goldberg disappeared. Deft, careful, kind, mournful.

Hopefully, Jack will sit down for an interview here pretty soon, and we'll go into more depth about the stories, the writing, the now and future.

Tomorrow or Forever arrives on shelves this July. Make a mental note. Because you'll want to return to it, so follow Jack on Facebook now so you don't forget to remember.

Like Jack on FB here: https://www.facebook.com/tomforever/
Jack's website here: https://jackaulfus.com


Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Rapid Review: George by Alex Gino

Cover of the novel George by Alex Gino
I just finished reading the novel George, about a fourth-grade trans girl, Melissa, who is thought to be a boy by her family and friends, but who is trying to figure out a way to tell people who she is.

Much like last month's selection, Beautiful Music for Ugly Children, our main character in George isn't struggling with figuring out who they are, but how to communicate who they are to people whose reactions will have a deep impact on how our main character moves through the world.

As for narrative and writing, George is a pretty ordinary story, and in the genre of Rite-of-Passage books. Outsider character not understood by those around her but with the additional complications caused by communities who don't easily identify with, or (try to) understand, the character's experience.

This is the second book of the Queerest Book Club Ever, a YA book club, that meets at Tacoma's King's Books. I follow it from afar, and am glad to read books about LGBTQ+ characters--characters who never appeared even as minor characters in the books I read growing up, much less studied in my children's literature courses (because, for the most part, they didn't exist--the books, of course, not the people).

If you're in or near Tacoma, the meeting to discuss George is February 12th at 7 PM.

More info here: http://www.kingsbookstore.com/event/queerestfeb

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

So There I Was: On the Radio Program So There I Was

Erin Pringle on So There I Was (December 2017)
As a kid, I would carry a small, pink radio/cassette player around town, to the diner, throughout the house--listening to 102.7 WPFR, which was the best radio station broadcasting out of Terre Haute, IN and that reached my ears in Casey, IL.

Eventually that station disappeared, and sometimes I listened to the local station, 104.3 FM, WCBH, and once or maybe twice, I volunteered there, ran the recording of Casey Kasem's Countdown, and learned more about how the radio worked.

Casey also had an AM station, WKZI, but I only listened to that once a year, when they held auctions on the radio and you could telephone in and bid. We won a large teddy bear one year, a carwash package another year. Flowers, maybe? My joy wasn't so much the object but the act of bidding, and hearing that we'd been the highest bidder--on the radio!

In sum, I've always been a bit of a radio lover.

Every week, Spokane community members Neal and Heather host a show, So There I Was, on KYRS Radio (88.1 FM/92.3 FM). The show covers local artists, musicians, actors, and everyone in between who is involved in events and projects around Spokane. The show's goal is to create a "portrait of Spokane, one story at a time."

I was lucky enough to meet Neal and Heather for the first time when we talked about The Whole World at Once, back in April of 2017, just before the book was released. Then I came back in August to report on how the tour went. They let me return in October to share urban legends for Halloween. Then, in December, I visited again, this time to talk about the Fuse Spokane Book Club, Book Your Stocking, and the books I've been reading.

Since I love the radio, and this show, I'll be back next week on So There I Was for a discussion on books, groundhogs, and valentines--and maybe a bit of love in there. First loves? Fifth loves? No loves, sure. Those, too. Victorian paper valentines with chubby cupid cherubs? I'll try to sneak a word in there about those, too.

I very much enjoy talking with Heather and Neal. They're kind, witty, and let conversations wind into interesting stories. Probably I should just invite them to dinner, but this is the best way to find them now. I hope you enjoy So There I Was as much as I do, or at least nearly as much, because I have deep feelings about the show.

Listen to past shows from the archive. Click to listen:

Neal, Heather, and Erin after August show 


Friday, January 19, 2018

Rapid Review: dôNrm’-lä-püsl by kari edwards (Joan of Arc Project)

I spent last night reading dôNrm’-lä-püsl, the last poetry manuscript by kari edwards, edited by Tina Žigon, and published posthumously by eth press (2017).

It’s the first work by kari edwards that I’ve read and, now, certainly not the last. This book is an examination/resuscitation of Joan of Arc, through her own and imagined voice and her experienced voices.

I’m wholly fascinated by the work. From its explorations/compressions of time, setting, language (thus, meaning; thus, now-ness). To the vivid, sudden imagery. Not to mention the turns of voice and directions of perspective. And humor, often the humor of frustration at the carnival created by bureaucractic-clinging to arbitrary definitions of what is, as Joan is being questioned about the authenticity of the voices when she has the more pressing matter of trying to save the world.

I’m so glad that Tina Žigon found the manuscript in the SUNY Buffalo archives and brought its flickerings to light. And the book begins with a useful essay by Žigon that frames the manuscript, from edwards’ interest in Joan of Arc to Žigon’s process in working with the manuscript.

I must reread dôNrm’-lä-püsl many more times and will be glad to do so. One of the best aspects of poetry is that it expects your return, and has prepared for it. While edwards did not envision this work being published in this way, she was certainly preparing for, and creating, a return to return to return such that a returning would no longer be necessary and language could expand.

Available here: https://punctumbooks.com/titles/donrm-la-pusl/

From kari edwards' dôNrm’-lä-püsl (eth/punctum press, 2017)