Issue 14 of The Blue Mountain Review is now posted online and it looks pretty amazing. The new issue includes work and words by Jericho Brown, Robert Pinsky, Melissa Studdard, Elizabeth Beck, Meagan Lucas, Lane Young, and a whole swath of other writers. There’s also a bunch of interviews, art, and essays, including one by me called “Everyone Has a Story to Tell,” in which I thumb back through the years to the time I was talking to a bunch of construction workers about writing and where stories come from while we drank happy hour beer in Jimmy’s Corner in NYC. They didn’t think much of my ideas, except one guy, and I hope that guy eventually told his own story, somehow. My thanks to the editors and Clifford Brooks as always for including my little piece. If you want to take a look you’ll find it on page 100. Thanks for reading!
The Blue Mountain Review
Turning words into comfort, weapons, and the most widely embraced artform of our time
During many of the most recent political shifts toward conservative nationalism, be it in Europe or in America, I have heard the call that artists must take up the mantle and create, that this must become a period of renewed drive, and that poetry, among the many arts we need now more than ever, will lead the way back to brighter times.
I have my doubts. Certainly not about the power of poetry to provide solace in trying times or to lift the veil on hypocrites and racists. Instead I worry about poetry’s ability to do so in an effective manner. I should add that my doubts do not stand in defiance of trying, but if we’re going to turn our art into tools of comfort for allies and into useful weapons against oppressors, we’d better make damn sure we’re not working inside an echo chamber.Read More
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
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
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!
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.
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.
The anniversary issue of The Blue Mountain Review is now live and includes an interview in which Clifford Brooks asks me about how Hobo Camp Review (my online literary magazine) came about, what advice I have for writers submitting work to magazines, what concerns I have about bad publishing practices like reading fees, and what new books I'm working on right now. The issue also includes a bunch of great poetry, fiction, other interviews, and Robert Pinksy is the featured author. Thanks for taking a look!
Southern poet, rogue, and Pulitzer nominee Charles Clifford Brooks III interviewed me for the third issue of The Blue Mountain Review, and we discuss my thoughts on the literary community, where quality writing comes from, and of course, fight clubs...which don't exist, I promise, so please stop asking...ahem, anyway. The issue also includes three of my poems, "dawn and the empty bottle of wine," "Having Come Down the Mountain," and "How to Read the Braille of Your Heartstrings." You can read the entire issue online (I'm on page 89), and it includes a ton of other spectacular writers and poets, including Dr. John Ratledge, Regina Walker, Rowan Johnson, and others. Thank you for taking a look!