Friday, April 11, 2014

A Reading I Gave Months Ago

Here's video which Evan Karp took of the reading I gave in January at the Emerald Tablet for the Under the Influence series (which Evan hosts). I was invited to read by Evan after Miranda Mellis suggested me. Each reader then suggests/nominates another writer for a subsequent reading. The person I suggested doesn't know I was the one who put their name out there. So this is sort of an unveiling. I asked Evan to keep me anonymous. But, now, I'm happy to say I suggested Evan Kennedy for this reading - which he then gave in March. I've seen Evan Kennedy read a few times now, I think, and it always blows me away. I'm sorry I wasn't able to attend his Under the Influence reading. Oh well. I wanted to stay anonymous just because I thought it would be fun bit of mystery. Maybe Evan Kennedy didn't even think about it.

So for my reading, I responded/was influenced by Thich Nhat Hanh and Ludwig Wittgenstein. I'm not 100% engaged with either of their work. I've only recently started reading Wittgenstein and have only read two small books by Hanh. So my response is slightly superficial. I don't feel bad about this. I'm just mentioning it in case someone watches the video and feels like I did a poor job of representing their work. But whatever.

The essay I read from doesn't have a title but if I were to title it now I would call it "Essay on Human Suffering". It's written in my 'vibes' style. People might be familiar with this if they have seen other readings I've done. It's my preferred style to use when I read. It's more poetic. Recently, I also read at CCA and for that I read from my just published novel The Wolves from Publication Studio. Yes, it is fun to read certain parts of The Wolves but usually I feel uncomfortable reading from it because I worry people would rather hear something else. I'm probably being neurotic about it. Honestly, it's just more fun to read from my vibes essays. At some point I should put them together into something more cohesive and make it a book. 

Friday, January 10, 2014

The Wolves official book trailer

I'm excited to post this beautiful promotional video made by Jessica Yatrofsky. My novel The Wolves will be available March 2014 from Publication Studio as part of their Fellow Travelers Series.

The Wolves is split between two parts. The first is the story of two ill-starred lovers, overcome by their devotion to each other and their destructive appetites. The second is a re-telling of the life of the 14th-century catholic Saint Catherine of Siena and her relationship to her biographer Raymond of Capua. The two parts mirror each other and question the limits of identity, bodies, and faith.

Here is a short excerpt from the first part of The Wolves:

I thought you had really left, now you're bleeding, you're going to die. I see, feel, or imagine the dick going inside her. The trapped blood rushes from my feet to my abdomen, fills up my scrotum, my cock is fat. I wish there was a way to fuck without blood, to love without the body. I thought you were gone. Hairless stomach, brown pussy. Did you consider leaving? No, I knew to wait for you. Once our bodies meld together, her hair will become mine and a fine layer of fur will shroud our pussy and cock. We will encircle our abdomen, spin into a tiny clump of flesh, we float through the air invisible.

I've been thinking about our diamond rings. I didn't know we still had those. I saw her swallow it. No, you weren't there because that was your fantasy, this is real, the rings aren't real. But, this could be a dream. I'm telling you that it's not, I'm sorry for telling you I didn't want to talk to you, I shouldn't have said that. Her lips are dry, I bite them, careful not to bite the side that Raymond tore. When we kiss, I feel like I'm kissing you and everyone you've ever been. That's wrong, I'm the only person here. We can swallow our rings. I think we should bury them. We can do it your way if you want.

We were always together, and I made you my husband, you were mine and I was yours, didn't we link ourselves enough? I want you to go deeper, right there. The inside of my asshole is pink, my dad told me, oh never mind. Yes, I understand. What about your parents? They don't matter. None of this seems real, you're talking too much. I want you inside me, I am already. The inside of her pussy is pink, I feel its color now. Head near her heart, where everything takes place. We combine lungs, throats and ligaments.

Feeling is expansive. Even our small skeletal bodies are infinite in feeling, minds surpass canvased skin. Feeling is not infinite, it begins and ends. Fucking you doesn't feel any different than before. I was upset when I thought you had really left, I felt I had lost you. The bodies melt, summer finally ends with no music. I am unable to think, thought sits just outside my grasp. I wish you had four dicks, I would put them all inside me. Where would the fourth one go? She laughs, I want you to fuck my brain. A dick isn't a body. I tighten the muscle, it's a story-teller, glyphs, and smoke signals. To me it's only your cock. I have dreams of being inside you. I want you inside me. I dream we are fucking and I am someone else, you are someone else, but it is still us.

Your skin tastes like my skin. You want to believe. Our skin flaps, sweats, and slides on top of each other. I let go of her nipple, kiss my way to her lips. Our tongues slip out of mouths, we are still hungry. Her nose and cheeks are cold. The center of her heart is white and I feel its color with the tip of the dick. The rest of my body is shutting off, toes knees shoulders off. Are they finally disappearing? I open my eyes to see her staring back at me, pupils black and dead. The cock hemorrhages and fills her with come, our body shuts off. Stillness. Wolf stares into me, oh fuck, don't move. Do you feel that? Shhh. Her breath is hot, I want to crush in my hand the empty space that sustains her. I might be wrong. Look at me longer, don't stop looking at me. Could this have happened without knowing the colors of the inside of our bodies, without losing or exorcising limbs? //

I'll be reading new work at Under the Influence in San Francisco on Friday January 24th 2014. Please come and watch me channel Wittgenstein and Thich Nhat Hanh. I will be performing a part of my on-going "vibes" lectures.

More on Publication Studio's Fellow Travelers Series: The Fellow Travelers Series is modeled deliberately on Olympia Press's outstanding Traveller's Companion series of the 1950s and 1960s. Where the Traveller's Companion series published work that had been banned or censored through moralistic prohibitions, the Fellow Travelers series presents great new work that has been effectively "censored" by the market. (From Publisher's Forward to Spreadeagle by Kevin Killian, another in the Fellow Travelers Series)

Book trailer #2 THE WOLVES

A second, shorter trailer for The Wolves.

Here's a very short excerpt from the first part of the novel:
Wolf returns without the books and stands by the open window smoking a cigarette, red stained lips. Black leggings and a sheer white tank top, afternoon sunlight confuses white skin and cotton, contoured bone, dry, freckled hips, the black outline of her cross. Dust particles float around her small breasts, she jumps up onto the windowsill, brings her knees to her chest, small feet, dirty soles, taps her foot, takes a drag from the cigarette. She blows the smoke out the window, takes three vicodin, she's about to speak, is this summer ever going to end? //

Book trailer #3 THE WOLVES

A third, shorter trailer for The Wolves.

Here's an excerpt from the second part of the novel:
"What was the voice calling to you, Catherine?"

"It was not a voice," she says. "I felt a light in my body. It was this light which told me without words, without speaking, to look into the sky. From that hill I could see the valley drenched by sunlight. Something appeared closer to the spires and bells of the buildings in the city."

"And what was it?"

"It was a royal court. Jesus sat on a golden throne. He wore a diamond tiara and carried a gilded staff in His hand. The light in my body came from Him. I cannot adequately explain this feeling to you, Father. His blue eyes stared back at me and He reached out His white hand and over me made the Sign of the Cross. From the center of His chest I felt a beam of light enter my body. I had the sense of unending love and for the first time I truly felt my soul. His light entered me and made me one with His body. There was no separation between me and what I saw." //

Monday, October 28, 2013

We Hella Believe

That's me and Chris Conley, singer/guitarist of Saves the Day. B and I saw Saves the Day not too long ago and it was an amazing experience. One that actually began well before the day of the actual show. At least over a year ago, I learned Saves the Day would be recording/releasing a new album. They've been one of my favorite bands since I was 18 years old. Their music has been a part of my life since then. I've lost track how many times I've seen them perform. I've also lost track how many times I've met Chris; this was the first time I thought to take a picture of our meeting. I'd guess the first time we met, we were probably 19 or 20 years old, and here we are in that picture at 31 and maybe 32? He's married and has a child. He still rocks on stage just as hard as he did way back when.

Some time after 2004 I stopped really paying attention to what Saves the Day was doing. I didn't stop listening to their music but I just didn't follow along as closely as before. Yet, when their next few albums came out I bought them and quickly fell in love with them. When I started grad school in 2010 they released their second most recent album. At some point, I made the discovery that this band was my favorite band. Their 2010 album Daybreak hit me hard (in the feels) and made more sense to me as a 28-29 year old than their earlier records had to my 18-19-20 year old self. Anyway, news of their newest record came and I started a long email chain with a few of my friends about our favorite Saves the Day songs. We rated and ranked our favorites, discovering along the way which songs we each felt closest to. Each email progressively proved to me how deeply I felt about this band. (In a way also reminding me how close I felt to my friends.)

I'm not unaware of what a lot of people think about the career of Saves the Day and more correctly of Chris Conley who basically is Saves the Day. I'm not going to defend them to music snobs; ok, but actually I might. Imagine this: inside Slim's, the night I saw them with B, every single person in the audience smiling, raging hard, and singing every lyric that poured out over us for 90 minutes and 30 songs. No band could not be respected for engendering so much love and enjoyment. I guess that's an argument in favor of superstar popstars. I don't know, maybe in the indie-rock world that I feel gave birth to me and this band, so much love seems an important antidote to the bland coolness of mid/early 2000s "indie rock", or emo, or whatever it is this music is called. Ok, actually, I guess emo involved quite a bit of emoting, heroification of the singers/lyricists, etc... but definitely there was a hipness to being into the music but not overly attached. Maybe that came just after emo re-exploded in the early 2000s. The point is I love this band. I am proud to nerd out so hard about what they've made.

I guess the realization is that this is the only life I will ever live and I think 'Oh my god, I've found something that I love, something that makes me feel understood, and look at all these other people who are probably feeling the same thing, goddamn this is the most amazing thing I've ever seen in my life..." Something like that. And then I realize that this thought is exactly what Saves the Day's new album is essentially about. Being so happy to have ever lived in the first place and just standing in awe at this simple and yet profound fact. I wore the We Hella Believe shirt because I thought Chris would like it. That he would understand it.

Here's a video from Saves the Day s/t new album.

It's important to believe. Like in August while I was helping out my friend at his print shop and I got an email from Publication Studio letting me know that they were going to be publishing my book. I have never felt so much excitement surge through my body. I didn't know whether I wanted to pass out, laugh, or cry, or I don't know...explode?

So more information will be coming up about that later on. The initial details are that it will be coming out some time early 2014. Also, it's being published as part of their Fellow Travelers Series. Kevin Killian's book Spreadeagle, which everyone should read, is also part of that series. Publication Studio also published Dodie Bellamy's the buddhist too so it's just crazy to me to be a part of something they are also a part of. (I know I gush about Dodie and Kevin a lot. I love them.)

Finally, a few weeks ago now, I think, two of my closest friends got married. I was the best man for the groom. It was second time being a best man of sorts - the first was also this summer when my cousin got married. I was her 'man of honor'. At my cousin's wedding, I didn't prepare a speech because I thought it would be better to speak from the heart. I think I did fine but I was overcome with emotion in the moment, I couldn't project my voice or make it through thoughts without crying. Also, when I try to explain things off the cuff, I resort to the most meandering proof of the rightness and clarity of my thought. As if I were giving voice to the philosophical argument going through my head. Then I speak too quickly and everyone gets lost, including me. I think it's because I feel what I say is a conclusion and I need to lead everyone to that conclusion. Anyway, I didn't want to speak without notes at my best friend's wedding so I wrote out everything I wanted to say a few days before and crafted it as if it were a reading. I printed out the notes and felt safe in knowing if I just stuck to the script, I would perfectly express what I wanted to say. In the moment, I was very nervous, but I stuck to my notes and only when I actually looked at the bride and groom did I feel overwhelmed by the emotion. So I stopped and caught myself so that I didn't burst into tears. The negative of reading from notes is that I felt in a type of daze, like I wasn't quite there, and now I don't remember what people looked like as I looked out over the reception. As soon as I was finished, I came out of the daze to find that people really liked my speech. So when I didn't read from notes, I felt more included in the moment but overcome by it. When I read from notes, I felt excluded from the moment but never overcome by the emotions. I think it would be nice to merge those two.

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Party in the USA

That's Ted Rees' Arthur Rimbaud tattoo. Oh and I think maybe Sarah Wintz's face emerging from Ted's back, I just noticed this. We were at Woolsey Heights for a reading by Alli Warren, David Brazil, David Buuck, Elaine Barry Kahn, and Melissa Mack. I was in a state of absolute exhaustion because I had been running around all day beforehand trying to accumulate housewares for my new room in my new house in Oakland. So I skipped lunch and right when I got to the reading I drank three or four cups of water. Finally, I awoke from the stupor in time to hear Brazil's reading which blew me away. All the readers were magnificent. Elaine and Alli had this casual delivery - even though Elaine said she was very nervous - which I really appreciated it. Melissa was reading from a book she had just published and somewhere in there she was talking about a memorization class. These were inside jokes and I wasn't inside but I didn't mind. Finally, Buuck read and for his last of three pieces he was joined by a soundtrack made by Tom Comitta. David's final line was "stand up" and at the moment we were all supposed to stand up... and we all did and then the music turned on and the lights went out and it turned into what Woolsey Heights almost always (or always) turns into which is a dance party - which I really appreciate because I love dancing and don't get to do it as much as I used to.

Off to another reading of sorts, Poem Talks organized by Sophia Dahlin: At the n/a space, Lindsey Boldt and Dodie Bellamy talked about one of their poems for an hour each and instructed us, the audience, in the poem's creation. This actually took place on the very day I moved and I was typically exhausted. I don't know why I was doing this to myself, but I feel like since I'm off work right now I really want to get in as much poetry as I possibly can. Lindsey had us write for a bit and when we were done we got to share. To my surprise I volunteered to read first. I don't know why I did that. I had written something about Kevin Killian being a basketball player. I think we were supposed to write something a little more internal/visceral, I don't know, I'm a novelist, I couldn't help but want to make a story out of the way Kevin had stretched his hand and I imagined him as a young hot shot basketball player, in the big game, peering to the side at his domineering father. I'm sure I'm recycling a movie here.

Dodie's talk was very interesting to me because in all my time of working with her I have never thought to ask about the process of her book Cunt-Ups. Dodie has a new book coming out from Les Figues Press. It's called Cunt Norton and she utilizes the same technique for it as she used for Cunt-Ups. That book was extremely important to me, or is rather, because it was the first book I read by Dodie prior to starting at CCA. I followed Cunt-Ups in a way for my book. In it, among other things, Dodie smashes these hyper-sexual flourishes into one another, separated by commas, identities shifting, bodies shifting. It's beautiful. If you've read my book, you will see when I'm following Dodie's lead. During her talk I wanted her to talk about someone on some site calling Cunt-Ups "experimental fiction" or something like that, but I guess that's not what we were there for. (Note: blogger says I'm misspelling cunt.) Below is what Google books says are common terms and phrases of Dodie's Cunt-Ups.

And well before all this there was the talk of the town: The East Bay Poetry Summit. I feel like it will be one of those weekends where time separates itself. Or like the question will be asked, Where were you during the Summit? I was only able to go to the reading at Woolsey Heights. It'd be difficult to explain what the scene was like. Past readings at Woolsey have been well attended, crowding the two living rooms with people... when I showed up for the Summit event, the people spilled out of the house, down the stairs, out into the courtyard. It was madness. I remember sitting near Brandon Brown on the steps, listening to the readers over the speakers. The audiences' applause was picked up by the microphone inside and then sent out to us on the outside. I think Brandon was smiling the entire time. True to form the reading ended in a dance party. I kept thinking I do not want this moment to end, I do not want this moment to end. But, eventually, we had to say goodbye, or I did really, and I walked home, thrilled and intoxicated.

It's a little bit difficult to say how I feel after all these readings, as a novelist. Part of me wants to go home and start writing poetry which I can then read for everyone. But that's just not what I do. Maybe I should do it? It would be totally nonsensical for me to even begin however because I'm working on another novel and I really just don't have time to work on other projects. Or actually, I'm working on the new novel, and several other novel-like projects and really just don't have time to do anything else. I suppose the energy which these readings create in me then gets funneled into my writing in other ways. Is it true prose/fiction writers sometimes don't read poetry? If you are reading this now and you write fiction/prose, you should go to a book store and pick up a poetry book, any one, and just start reading. I don't know what you should do if you're poet... I'd say read a novel I guess. Honestly, I might be content to just live with Rimbaud for all time. Like maybe Ted has the right idea.