Autumn Heals: Reflections on Moving Home, 2 Years Later

Driving through Rensselaer County, autumn 2015

Driving through Rensselaer County, autumn 2015

Two years ago I moved back to the Albany area after spending years in NYC and beyond. I moved back for health, financial, and personal reasons, and I didn’t know what I’d expect of the area after being merely an occasional visitor for so long. In truth, the move left me feeling very lonely. I spent most of my time either with the dog, resting up in bed trying to get back on my feet, or driving through the countryside alone. It was autumn and I’d drive to orchards, buy apples and cider and donuts, and find remote cornfields or cemeteries or roadside creeks and sit and eat and contemplate. Most of my friends lived far away and I don’t always do a good job of reaching out to new people, so it was a quiet autumn, a beautiful one, with gorgeous foliage and all the time in the world to explore and re-discover the area. I look back on that time with a lot of fondness despite the powerful feelings of depression and uncertainty I felt at the time. I was not well, in a lot of ways, and I struggled, but something about having that season to myself embedded that period deep into my psyche. I feel it so much, every single autumn. It’s home, and this area really is perfect for experiencing the season between September through December, an eventful time of transition, but also one rich with solitude and reflection. A time of looking back mixed with preparations for what will come. It was also during this time I wrote some of the poems that make up my newest book, We Are All Terminal But This Exit Is Mine. The book references a lot of solitary exploration, autumn adventures, and wistful reflections, among deeper darker topics, and to have that book come out from Unknown Press in October, my favorite month, well…it just feels right. For all the sadness I’ve felt in this season, there’s goodness and peace as well. I hope this book shows that, and I hope you are able to get out and experience a little of the autumn season in the ways I’ve been able to over the years. It’s a magical healing thing, and we all deserve to be in a place like that from time to time.    

Coming Soon: We Are All Terminal But This Exit Is Mine

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My new book of poetry, We Are All Terminal But This Exit Is Mine, is almost here! Bud Smith and Devin Kelly at Unknown Press have been putting in a lot of work to help shape these poems into what I feel is my best collection ever, and I’m excited that the book will likely hit sometime close to Halloween, if all goes well. Considering the poems we assembled, it’s perfect timing.

Autumn and October in particular loom large in the nostalgic landscape of my childhood, which is explored in these poems. There are some fun and happy Halloween poems in there, and some darker memories brought to light as well. Half the poems are about growing up in a rural trailer park as a bookworm struggling to find my way, wondering about the expectations and promises of adulthood. The other poems are about going through cancer treatments and unemployment as an adult and looking back on all those old expectations and feeling disillusionment and fear, but also feeling comfort whenever I reminisce about those memories as a kid. At the time they felt like some pretty tough struggles, but things look different when you’re hooked up to an IV in a ward full of bald children or fainting on subways on the way home from hospitals. Those childhood memories become enlightening little episodes and start to feel like the exits you take from highway's life in order to get home again. I hope you’ll enjoy reading about them.           

This collection has been in the works for a few years, going through a couple presses, but I’m incredibly happy that Unknown Press took up the torch and helped bring this thing to life. In the coming weeks I’ll reveal the cover, a more specific release date, and I’m going to try to line up some readings and release parties. If you know if anyplace I can reach out to for a reading, whether it’s a feature, joining a bill of other writers, or just hitting an open mic, please let me know! And free review copies will be available, of course.

Thanks very much for all the support. This book means the world to me and I can’t wait to share it with you.   

There Are No Rules: My Time Writing for Writer's Digest

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A few years back I worked for Writer's Digest, serving as an editor in both their book and magazine divisions, and one thing I loved to do was write for their advice blog, “There Are No Rules.” Not that I’m some bestseller rife with literary wisdom, but I always felt we each have our own writing insights, tricks, and habits that are helpful to us and might be helpful to others. Besides, what writer doesn’t like writing about writing from time to time? A lot of my old blog posts are about breaking out of writing slumps, self-editing and revision, how watching Star Wars or Hitchcock’s Rear Window can help your writing, the best books to read during Halloween, advice on self publishing (a bit dated but still useful), and there’s interviews with writers, editors, and much more. Enjoy!

Piece By Piece: My New Column in The Blue Mountain Review

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Every writer has been there. Whether it's burnout or writer's block, we all hit that wall where nothing seems to work, we can't finish anything, and great ideas die on the vine before they're ripe. I hit this wall a few times each year, but I've found little ways to work around (or through) that usually do the trick and get me back on track. I shared a few of these tips in my latest column, titled "Piece By Piece," for The Blue Mountain Review, Issue 8. Check out page 50 for my quarterly column. The issue is full of excellent poetry, prose, art, interviews, and a lot more, so it's definitely worth your time. My deepest thanks to Clifford Brooks and the staff at The Blue Mountain Review for including me yet again.  

Open Calls for Poetry, Fiction, and More!

I'm editing for two publications this autumn and both are still looking for work! Check out these calls and please feel free to spread the word!

Solitude's Spectrum

Cahoodaloodaling is publishing an issue on solitude, all the good and bad about it, all the pain and joy that comes with being alone, the complexities, the simplicities, the self-imposed retreats, and the harrowing exiles. Tell us what solitude means to you in a poem, short story, essay, photo, artwork, song, or anything else you can create! The full call and guidelines are available at the website. Deadline is 9/9/17.

Ghost Stories 'Round the Campfire

Hobo Camp Review is looking for work that uses ghostly imagery, metaphors, characters, or references spirits and hauntings in any which way. Your work might be a true story, or a frightening piece of fiction, or a poem with only a wisp of a reference to ghosts. We're open for essays, artwork, photos, and more. Check out the full call and guidelines at the HCR site! Deadline is 9/24/17.

"Feral Kingdom" now appears in Picaroon Poetry #9

My new poem "Feral Kingdom" now appears in Picaroon Poetry Issue 9 (on page 19, click on the cover toward the bottom of the page to open the PDF of the issue) alongside a veritable pirate crew of dastardly poets, such as Tobi Alfier, Amber Decker, Darren C. Demaree, Robert Okaji, Howie Good, and more. My poem takes a look at a life spent living out of boxes, on the move, dependent on kindness, luck, and every penny one can scrape together. It's not an easy life, it's not always even a good life, and it's the kind of life that flies by a little too fast if you ask me. I hope you enjoy it. The issue is downloadable as a PDF, or you can flip through and read it online. My deepest thanks to the editor, Kate Garrett, for accepting my work! (She also took another poem of mine for an issue due in November.) And thank you out there for reading. I always appreciate it.   

Rusted Ghosts of Sidewalk Town

My poem "Rusted Ghosts of Sidewalk Town" now appears at Windedrunk Sidewalk: Shipwrecked in Trumpland, an assemblage of poems about our modern life during the 45th presidency. This particular poems reflects on the unspoken hopes of the homeless, the steel-hearted indifference of our lovely modern age, the hollow men and women who run the show, and the shattered windows, empty shoes, and racist graffiti that trails in their wake. I hope you'll read with an open mind and an open heart. Thanks, and please consider sending them your own work!

Five Films That Make Me Want to Write

As a writer, films about writing can come across as inspiring and rejuvenating, or as extremely hokey, or, I admit, both (looking at you Finding Forrester…"you the man now, dawg" still makes me cringe). When I’m feeling uninspired, ill, depressed, tired, or suffering through writer’s block (thankfully, this is rare), settling in for a good quiet film alone can help take my mind off things, while at the same time stoking the desire to get back in front of the keyboard. Here are some of my favorite films that make me want to sit down and write.

Additional note: I should say this is not what I’d call a list of the BEST films about writers or writing, but movies that get me feeling better about wanting to writing. They’re a bit of an endorphin shot in the creative arm, a cinematic sugar high to get me started, if you will.

Final note: I’m always open for suggestions about other inspiring films about writers/artists, especially since this list is admittedly narrow in its scope (white male writers of the 20th century). So please fire away with your favorites and I’ll be sure to watch!  

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New Poem in Trailer Park Quarterly, Vol. 6

My poem "We the Faithful" now appears in Volume 6 of one of my favorite publications, the always top-notch online journal, Trailer Park Quarterly. The poem appears alongside the fiction and poetry of many fine writers, such as John Dorsey, Puma Perl, Alan Catlin, Michelle Hartman, William Taylor Jr. (winner of this issue's Annie Menebroker Poetry Award), and others. I hope you take a look at the whole issue and consider sending you're own work! And I hope you'll enjoy my piece as well, a little something dedicated to my mother and all the other single parents out there fighting the good fight. Thank you.  

Poetic Focus: From I to Eye

My new essay "Poetic Focus: From I to Eye" now appears in Issue 7 of The Blue Mountain Review, an awesome online magazine produced by the good folks at The Southern Collective Experience. In the essay I talk about how writers can (and often do) evolve and progress by shifting the focus of their work from being about themselves to being about what they see in the world. It often takes time to do this, as I explain from experience, but I feel the transition shows the true growth of an artist. Take a look, and please do explore the rest of the issue. It's loaded with tons of great content. Thanks! 

Guest Blogger at The Poets That You Meet

Shanti Weiland graciously reached out to me to ask that I contribute to her blog series The Poets That You Meet, where poets talk about the inspiration and writing process behind one of their poems. My post is titled "Wading Into the Sea Change", in which I discuss my poem "The Last Appointment of the Day" and how sitting in an endless series of medical waiting rooms over the last few years made me start to take a closer look about what made those rooms so unsettling, so static, so haunting, so sad, and even at times so comforting. I also recorded an audio version of the poem (pardon my voice) which you can find in the post. I hope it's an interesting and maybe even enlightening post. Thanks for reading.     

The Troy Poetry Mission Reading Series

I'm very proud and honored to announce that I'm the new co-host of the Troy Poetry Mission reading series, a monthly event that takes place in O'Briens Public House, a stellar Irish pub in the heart of downtown Troy, NY. The creator of the series, poet R.M. Engelhardt, hopes that the two of us will be able to expand upon the already great readers that attend each month and bring some new faces to the area. It's my first time hosting a regular series, so I aim to do my best to add as many diverse styles and voices to the lineup as possible. The series takes place on the last Wednesday of each month, and includes an open mic for any and all who wish to read. Stop in to take the stage, mingle with fellow writers, have a beer and maybe dinner, and let's continue to make Troy a thriving hotspot for poetry!

New Flash Fiction Inside Ink In Thirds Magazine

My flash fiction piece "Thompson Hill" now appears in Issue 10 of Ink In Thirds Magazine, on page 17. It's available in print or as a PDF that you can read online for free. The story is one of about thirty flash fiction pieces I'm hoping to include in a collection titled, at the moment, as Nights Without Rain, and I'm holding off on releasing the collection until one of my upcoming poetry books comes out. Both have a TBD release date, but I'm hoping it will be in late 2017. I'll keep you posted. As always, thanks for reading.      

"Nights Don't Die" Now Appears in Five:2:One

My latest poem "Nights Don't Die" now appears in Five:2:One, Issue 15. The magazine is "dedicated to the transgressive, experimental, and the progressive of the literary world," as their website declares, and each issue is full of art, poetry, fiction, drama, and book reviews. It's available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and CreateSpace. I got to read through this issue a week ago and I was thoroughly impressed by the amount of work and effort the editors put into the magazine. It really looks great, and they have my deepest thanks for including me.    

"The Young May Love Without Fear" at Winedrunk Sidewalk

My poem "The Young May Love Without Fear" now appears at Winedrunk Sidewalk, a blog that posts a poem every day of Donald Trump's presidency. The poem itself is from a line from the Humphrey Bogart anti-fascist film Passage to Marseille, in which he plays a French anti-fascist newspaper publisher who is imprisoned by the Vichy government, and later escapes from prison to fight for a free France. It's a fantastic film, and I only hope my poem humbly but accurately represents the film's driving emotion. And make sure to submit your own work to Winedrunk Sidewalk when you can! Thanks.    

New Flash Fiction in Full of Crow, Winter 2017

My flash fiction piece "Desperate Ain't Lonely" now appears in the Winter 2017 issue of Full of Crow. It's a brief story about a couple driving through the West Virginia mountains at night pondering what love and loneliness really mean. I'm planning to include the story in a collection of flash fiction perhaps later this year, tentatively titled Nights Without Rain. I'll post more about that as publication nears. And as always, thanks for reading!

Ranked: Every Ryan Adams Album

I have friends who will kill me over these rankings, but I gave this a shot with Tom Petty’s albums so why not for another of my all-time favorites, Mr. Feelings himself, Ryan Adams. I’m loving his new album Prisoner, so I decided to test myself and see where it ranked on my own list of his albums. I should note this list does NOT include any of his compilations or live albums, none of his Whiskeytown stuff, or any of his many singles, bootlegs, unreleased tracks and albums, or side projects. Just Ryan Adams studio albums and his longer EPs.

I’d also like to say there’s only one album listed that I don’t like to some degree, so yeah, I’m pretty biased and this was ridiculously hard. Ok, let’s get in there.

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My Essay "The Closed Circuit of Poetry" Now Appears in The Blue Mountain Review

I keep hearing fellow writers say we need art and poetry now more than ever in this era of rising nationalism and fear, but unless we make the effort to reach outside our artistic echo chamber, poetry may fail to provide comfort for our allies and weapons to use against our enemies in these trying times. I explain how I think we can all help make poetry the most embraced art form of our time in my new essay "The Closed Circuit of Poetry" in the new issue of The Blue Mountain Review. The issue appears online in PDF format and my essay is found on page 27, but there's a lot of great art, interviews, poetry, and prose throughout the issue, so take a look. Many thanks to the editors for allowing me to speak my mind in this essay, and thanks to you all for support.     

Poems, Reviews, and Upcoming Fiction

It's been a busy winter so far, and it's only getting busier. Here's a rundown of what's out now and what's coming soon!

  • My review of Nice Feelings by Iris Appelquist now appears at Up The Staircase Quarterly, which is a stellar publication you should be reading.
  • My poem "Going Ghost" now appears at Boned, a journal of skeletal writings. I omitted this poem from my collection Berlin (Maverick Duck Press) so I'm happy it finally found a home.
  • My poem "Nights Don't Die" should appear in the upcoming issue of Five:2:One this month.
  • I have two flash fiction stories coming up in late winter: "Desperate Ain't Lonely" will appear in Full Of Crow, and "Thompson Hill" will appear in Ink In Thirds. I'll post links when they both hit!
  • And finally, for now, I recently had a poem called "The Carson Effect" in Winedrunk Sidewalk: Shipwrecked in Trumpland, and I'll soon have another titled "The Young May Love Without Fear". They publish a new poem every day of Trump's presidency, and if you're not the biggest fan of the current admin, you'll want to take a look.

Thanks for reading and all of your support!