It’s a huge honor to announce that my poem “Strawberry Fields Forever” has placed as an honorable mention in the 2018 Stephen A DiBiase Poetry contest, and I’m joined by a bunch of excellent poets including Martin Willitts Jr. (1st place), Richard Foerster (2nd), Rebecca Schumejda (3rd), Olivia McKee, Mary Panza, Dan Wilcox (all honorable mentions), and others. There will be a reading in May in Albany, NY for winners and finalists and it’ll be open to the public. I’ll post more details soon and I'll be there. My poem, “Strawberry Fields Forever,” is from my book We Are All Terminal But This Exit Is Mine and looks back on a childhood memory of picking strawberries with my mother at a farm that no longer exists, or at least it doesn’t exist the way it did way back when. I miss simpler times like those, and this poem is a nostalgic one for sure. My deepest thanks too the judges and those who organized the contest. You certainly made my day much brighter.
It happens to all of us at different points in our writing lives: we hit a stretch where we can’t seem to finish anything, or the ideas have dried up faster than morning rain on an Arizona highway. It happened to me this last year when I finished one novel and was excited to start a fresh project, except each novel idea I started fizzled out. They weren’t right. Same went for a few short stories I had rattling around in my head. I’d make it halfway through before casting each aside. Even poems felt forced. I felt stuck. I WAS stuck. And I was breaking Neil Gaiman’s wise and important rule: “Whatever it takes to finish things, finish.” It was a hollow, scary feeling.
But instead of sitting back and waiting for inspiration to strike, I tried a few of the methods below to jumpstart that old excited feeling, to help me start something I could finish. I picked these up from other writers, so it's not like these are fresh, original ideas, but they helped me out, bit by bit. I’m hoping that if they worked for me, they’ll work for you.Read More
Watching a twelve-year-old child working a typewriter is a special kind of magic in our modern era, magic enough all on its own, but when he finishes and says he wrote about his feelings on police brutality and runs off to give it to a friend, that’s not magic, that a game changer.Read More
Two new pieces that relate to driving along the more remote and nostalgic stretches of highway are now posted at the Punch Drunk Press website. My narrative poem "West Texas Skyway" concerns a memory of driving out to Ft. Davis and Alpine with my father and sister, and my poem "We'll Take a Trip to See" concerns memories of returning to a small town long after leaving a life and relationship behind, many years prior. I hope you enjoy, and many thanks to the editors at Punch Drunk Press for including my work at their website!
I recently had the privilege to be part of Up The Staircase Quarterly's 10th Anniversary celebration, in which April Michelle Bratten, longtime editor of the incredible magazine, asked me to help select one of the best pieces over the last 10 years. Since one of my own poems appeared in UTSQ in 2011, she asked that I scour that year for a choice poem, and I selected "waking//daydream//or I MAY JUST CEASE TO EXIST:" by Faith Mingus. It's an excellent poem about her truest self, an existence of choice, a reality running counter to her day-to-day life. I highly recommend not just this piece, but the entire issue, which is full of other great selections, poets, and reviews! And keep submitting your own work to UTSQ, which I hope will be going strong for another ten years and far beyond!
About twelve years ago I received a poetry rejection from a magazine editor who shall remain nameless (because I can’t remember who it was for the life of me). This editor told me he rejected my work because the poems were all about myself, the poet, writing poetry, and nobody cares about “I” poems anymore. While this was (and remains) untrue in the wider sense, it took me years to understand what this editor meant by his rejection.Read More
My new flash fiction story "Two Kings" now appears at Indigent Press, which you can read online alongside a slew of other great poets and writers, including Heather Minette, Jason Ryberg, Kat Giordino, Paul Corman-Roberts, and a bunch of others. This quick little story of mine takes place just before Christmas as I scrounge for extra cash to get by and visit the quarreling "two kings" to trade gold for cash. I hope you enjoy. My deepest thanks goes to the Indigent Press editors for including my work!
One of my favorite televisions shows of all time is Peep Show, easily one of the most unique comedies ever filmed, in that the show is shot entirely from the perspectives of either Mark or Jeremy (Jez), two "odd couple" roommates who are both social misfits in their own spectacularly bizarre ways. I have to thank my former roommate Liz for bringing this gem into my life. I had given it a shot years prior and hated the only half-episode I watched, but then I gave it a second chance when she raved about it, and it quickly became our most quotable show. The five episodes I chose as my favorites, to my surprise, are almost all from seventh series (for those unaware, in the UK shows come out in a series, not a season), but just because 4/5 occur in that one series, I assure you that each year's offerings have stunningly hilarious moments, arcs, and characters that make every series worth watching. But these five are my absolute favorites and perhaps you'll like them as well.Read More
The Tom Petty poetry tribute is now live at Hobo Camp Review, and features poetry inspired by Tom's work and lyrics by such poets as Ally Malinenko, Jonathan Dowdle, Jake St. John, Bridget Clawson, Annmarie Lockhart, and even one by myself titled after his non-album track, "Surrender." I couldn't resist adding a poem too, as Tom was such a big influence and a constant musical companion throughout my life. The issue also features four book reviews, inclduing one by our new associate editor Rachel Nix, and two interviews with Ben Sobieck and Destini Vaile. Plus we have some non-Petty poetry too, including three poems by one of my favorites, Orooj-e-Zafar. It's one of our biggest and best issues yet and I'm really proud of how it turned out. Check it out if you have the time!
My short essay, "I Saw It On The Radio," now appears in the massive new anthology, From Somewhere to Nowhere: The End of The American Dream. This anthology is huge, and filled with fiction, essays, art, and more from artists all over the world, but was organized by a loose yet long-standing poetic collective called The Unbearables, who are based out of NYC. This book was in the works for years and I'm impressed by just how much they fit between the covers. The pieces focus on the experiences and observations on American life during and since 9/11, and its publication was delayed in order to include work that looks at our American life under Donald Trump's administration, capping the collection with a rather intense and anxiety-filled finale. My own piece is simply about my experiences on the morning of 9/11, and how I witnessed the towers fall while listening to live radio and watching it on TV at the same time. I was alone, but in a sense, I was with everyone listening in too, all watching the possibilities of a rather mundane Bush presidency crumble into eternal war and strife. The complexities of our world are not easily laid bare, but this anthology tries its best. Check it out if you can! It's a little on the pricey side, but you really get your bang for your buck. Seriously, it's hefty, you could knock out a burglar with this thing if you needed to. Enjoy!
One of my favorite literary and cultural magazines online, Drunk Monkeys, just named my latest collection We Are All Terminal But This Exit Is Mine as their pick for the Best Book of 2017. It's a massive honor and I'm blown away by the response, especially from a group of editors and writers I already deeply respected. In their post, they said, "It’s a powerful, transformative, and funny work - and our choice for Best Book of 2017. ...no book moved us, challenged us, and inspired us like James Duncan’s poetry collection We Are All Terminal But This Exit is Mine." Check out their website for the entire review. As always, I owe a lot to Bud Smith at Unknown Press for working with me on the book and for pushing me in new directions. And thank all of you for reading the book (signed copies are still available!) and for supporting me over the years.
No writer is done learning, and some methods and "tips" we learn evolve over time and take on new dimensions. I did a lot of writing in 2017, not all of it as successfully as I wanted, but throughout the ups and downs I learned a few things (and re-learned even more) that might also help you too. Good luck in 2018!Read More
The new issue of The Blue Mountain Review is now live, and includes my latest column for the BMR gang, this one titled "StoryHarvest: Write for Yourself, Write for Us All." Its about first time poems, how we decide what to write about, and my experience at the StoryHarvest event at The Sanctuary for Independent Media, an incredible education and social service organization located in Troy, NY. Their StoryHarvest event brought community members, children, teens, and artists together for an event celebrating local culture, food, art, music, and more. I brought along my typewriter and sat with people who never used one (or haven't in years) and encouraged them to write some poetry. It was a great time and I learned a lot about where inspiration for poetry comes from, which I discuss in the column. The issue is packed with great writers too, such as AnnMarie Lockhart, John Dorsey, Ryan Quinn Flanagan, Clifford Brooks, and many others. Take a look!
Kleft Jaw #11 just blew a hole in the internet with their 11th issue, and I'm grateful to have two pieces within, a poem titled "Lo Cool, 69 Degrees" and a flash fiction story called "$10,000" which used to be a poem I originally wrote in Colorado but I fleshed it out to an actual story because it needed more room to detail the weird encounter I had with a man in a coffee shop out in Ft. Collins a few years back. You can read these pieces in the online magazine, and please check out the other work and art in the issue. It's a wild collective over there and I'm always pumped to be included in some Kleft Jaw chaos.
As with every annual list, I only include books I've read for the first time, but they can be from any year. It wasn't a bad year for reading but I feel like I read less and less every year since leaving NYC. I guess all that time reading on the subway actually made a bigger dent in my To Read list than I gave it credit for. But like I said, 2017 wasn't so bad. Here are some of my favorites. What were yours?Read More
My 2017 writing life started by trying to revise a novel I had worked on for almost a decade, before deciding around March that it just wasn’t working. Plot holes kept shifting, twists I added to make the story unique only made other part of the story implausible, and I kept blending too many genres to the point where I didn’t know if the story was taking place in the past, present, or future, if it was a dystopian story or a noir or both or neither. I admit, I was making it too hard on myself, too complex, but I had lost the clear vision needed to simplify that story. I was in too deep and it just wasn’t working out. I love the characters so damn much, but I decided to stop for good (or...for now?) and pursue other projects I wanted to work on.Read More
I don’t remember exactly when Bud Smith and I began following each other online, but I loved his work and I thought his blog was chock full of hilarious and whip-smart posts. Even better, when I began crossing paths with him In New York City at various readings, I found out that not only is he a talented guy, but he’s a really GOOD guy, generous, helpful, and he wants to see the writers around him succeed and be happy almost more than he wants that for himself, it seems. So when we talked about doing a book together, which turned into We Are All Terminal But This Exit Is Mine, I knew I wasn’t just in good hands, I was in the best hands.
Unknown Press, as far as my book is concerned, consisted of Bud and his friend and editor Devin Kelly, who also happens to be another astoundingly talented writer Bud has published, and both of them offered helpful suggestions and insight about how to reshape and improve my poems. I loved some advice and took it, and I wasn’t sure about some and passed on it every so often, which Bud was absolutely happy to allow me to do. There was give and take, communication, lots of passes and questions and updates and trial and error, a real collaborative open effort. All heart. All joy. Did we miss some little things? Maybe. We’re human. Would I have done it any differently? Not on your life. Unknown Press was the way to go with this book, and they gave 100% of the profits directly to the author. No fees, no cut, no charge for layout, editing, anything. It’s all about the work, making it awesome, putting it out into the world, high five, grab a beer, and life keeps moving.
I am deeply appreciative of Bud’s work on my book, and Devin’s too, and I hope you’ll seek out their own books. I’m reading Bud’s Dust Bunny City right now, a book of poetry and fiction he collaborated on with his talented and always delightful wife Rae Buleri. I highly recommend it, as well as his novels F-250 and Tollbooth. I’ve read both, and loved both. I'm also dying to read his new memoir, Work. And Devin’s book Blood on Blood is on my “Must Read in 2018” list, and I hope it’s on yours too. Please check them out and support their work. They’re writers who work hard to make other writers better, and I think that’s a great example of how we should all be in this community of ours.
Now that I’m on the cusp of crossing Spoon off my “Bands To See Before I Die” list, I thought it would be fun to rank their albums (no EPs or extras, of which there are many) based on my subjective thoughts on the quality of each and the album’s impact on my listening habits. And I should note I don’t dislike any of these albums, but there are certainly some that are stronger than others, and some remain in my heavy listening rotation long after their release for damn good reasons. Okay, let’s get to it!Read More
Earlier this year, the editors over at Cahoodaloodaling asked if I would join them as a guest editor for one of their issues, and I jumped at the chance. They also allowed me to suggest a theme. It was a huge honor being asked, and right away I knew I wanted to edit an issue based on the idea of solitude. Solitude is a major theme in my life, both as a comforting thing and as the sometimes lonely side effect of being a writer in need of quiet time in order to work. It can be good and bad, and for others, it can be a relief or a tragedy, something to embrace or to fear. It means so much to so many, and in this issue we capture a lot of that, covering an array of feelings about solitude and what it means, in an issue we titled Solitude's Spectrum.
Though we read blind submissions, there are a lot of writers I know and respect in this issue, including Megan Merchant (who wrote our spotlight piece "of use," Rebecca Schumejda, Bridget Clawson, Shanti Weiland, and many more, as well as an interview with another favorite poet/editor, April Michelle Bratten. My deepest thanks goes out to Raquel, Rachel, Hannah, and all the other editors and readers at Cahoodaloodaling for letting me join the team, if only for a little while. And thank you as well for taking a look at the issue, my interview within with Rachel Nix, and at everything else Cahoodaloodaling offers at their site. Enjoy!
My poem "September in the Attic" now appears (on page 31) in the new issue of Free Lit Magazine, which has a unique "Magic" theme, and climbing into one's attic in early fall can certainly become a magical adventure full of nostalgia and daydreaming, something I explore in this poem. You can read the issue online or download a PDF, and I hope you'll consider sending them your own work. My thanks to the editors for including me, and my thanks to you for reading.