we are all terminal but this exit is mine

"Long Before Twilight" at Lonesome October Lit

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One of my favorite online literary journals, Lonesome October Lit, has published my poem "Long Before Twilight," which contains all sorta of fun nostalgic references to my grade school library, books about werewolves, and childhood daydreaming. The poem also appears in my narrative poetry collection We Are All Terminal But This Exit Is Mine, which is available at Amazon. Be sure to read the other eerie, spooky poems and stories over at Lonesome October Lit too, and let me know what you think! Thanks for reading.

'Terminal' Gets A Nod In Misfit Magazine

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The editors at Misfit Magazine included a brief write-up of We Are All Terminal But This Exit Is Mine in their lengthy "Books Received, Reviewed, Acknowledged" section. They point out one particular poem, "Ghost Train," as being a standout, and it's always interesting to me which poems make a mark with people. It's always a different one, for different reasons, and this poem and I go way back so I'm glad it stood out. Take a look at the write-up and scan the section to see who else they've been reading! They also publish a lot of great poets and writers, including Kevin Ridgeway, Megan Jessop, and Holly Day in their current issue, so check that out as well.  

Upcoming Poetry Readings / Spring & Summer

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Over the next handful of months I’ll be reading my poetry at a few events in upstate New York, although I may be able to attend some others in NYC and areas beyond if the timing works out. I’m also hoping to set up a few readings on the west coast later this year, so watch this space for more announcements!

March 28, Wednesday - Noir at Troy Poetry Mission: Co-host R.m. Engelhardt had the genius thought to hold a themed reading for noir pieces, something we both love, and we’re hoping you will too. Sign-up starts at 7:30 pm at O’Brien’s Public House in Troy, NY, and the reading starts at 8 pm. Have a drink, a mean, sit back, and enjoy the noir poems and stories from local writers, including yours truly.   

April 20, Friday - Readings Against the End of the World: In mid-April, Albany, NY will celebrate a week of readings and events as part of the annual Word Fest. I will be giving a 10-minute reading as part of the Readings Against the End of the World, a 24-hour read-a-thon to benefit the South End Children’s Cafe. The event will kick off Friday, April 20 at the Husted Hall Café on the UAlbany Downtown campus, and will continue until Saturday, April 21. As always, I’ll have copies of my book We Are All Terminal But This Exit Is Mine on hand.

May 6, Sunday - DiBiase Poetry Prize Reading: My poem "Strawberry Fields Forever" placed as an Honorable mention in the 2018 Stephen A DiBiase Poetry Contest. So many great writers appeared among the winners that it's an honor to even be mentioned, not to mention the $70 check that helped pay off some medical bills (and maybe bought a whisky or two). Winners and finalists will be giving a reading of their work in a special afternoon event. This will take place on Sunday, May 6 between 1:30 and 3:30 pm at the main branch of the Albany Public Library which is located at 161 Washington Ave. in downtown Albany NY. Again, I’ll have books on hand for anyone interested.

July 19, Thursday – Albany Social Justice Center Reading: On what I can only suspect will be a hot Thursday night in upstate New York, I’ll be reading as the feature poet at Albany’s Social Justice Center at 33 Central Ave. There will be an open mic before I get up there, and I’m looking forward to seeing who shows up to read their own work. And again, I’ll have plenty of books on hand.  

More to come!

Honorable Mention for the 2018 Stephen A DiBiase Poetry Prize

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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.    

"The Best Book of 2017"

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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.  

Writing Advice I Learned (and Re-Learned) In 2017

Writing Advice I Learned (and Re-Learned) In 2017

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!  

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2017: The Year of Finishing Something...Anything!

2017: The Year of Finishing Something...Anything!

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.

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Thank You, Unknown Press

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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.

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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.

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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.    

"The Green Carpet" Now Appears at Words Dance Publishing

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My poem "The Green Carpet," which also appears in my new book from Unknown Press, We Are All Terminal But This Exit Is Mine, is now featured over at Words Dance Publishing, a fantastic site that posts all kinds of great literary content. The poem looks back on my fond childhood memories of my elementary school library and how formative that place became, and all the feelings that can overcome you later in life when you realize those warm, wonderful places feel so far behind you that you'll never be able to reach them again. It's a good example of the kind of work you'll find in my book, which is available at Amazon or by contacting me at jhdwriting@hotmail.com. My deepest thanks to Amanda Oaks for accepting the piece over at Words Dance. Definitely check out their site! And thank you for reading.   

NOW AVAILABLE: We Are All Terminal But This Exit Is Mine

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My new collection of poetry, We Are All Terminal But This Exit Is Mine, is now available from Unknown Press! This has been a long process (over two years!) to get this from the page to the reader, but it's finally ready to share with you all. This collection explores the childhood memories and nostalgic daydreams of a grade-school bookworm now grown up to face cancer, chemo, debt, solitude, and the fear that all the joys and hopes of a bygone youth are slipping out of reach. I couldn't be happier to have worked with writer/publisher Bud Smith on this project, and I included a poem below as a sample of what you'll find inside.

The book is available at Amazon, by special order through your local bookstore, and by writing me at jhdwriting@hotmail.com for signed paperbacks. (Yes, yes, good old ancient Hotmail.) Blurbs and recommendations are available at the book's page on my website. Free PDF copies are available for reviewers, and I'll have free physical copies for reviewers soon too. If you'd like one, please contact me. Thank you all!!

 THE GREEN CARPET

It is a waiting room of chipped plastic tables full of
wrinkled copies of Highlights magazine and cardboard
flip-books about bears flying in hot air balloons, the
scent of rubbing alcohol and Lysol. These children here
are bald or soon will be and I run my hand through my
own hair, find bloody fingertips, red robins in flight
through my very flesh, flying away and away and away.
Opening my eyes and counting my inhale/exhale, I see
that the carpet here is lime green, shag, just like the
green carpet where the small children of Green Meadow
Elementary sat in the library, 1985, ‘86, ‘87…we read
books about dinosaurs and planets and gigantic men who
chopped trees in days gone by alongside blue oxen. There
were books of women who flew planes and disappeared,
and of ghosts who haunted castles, books of egghead
professors with childish brain games, and books of
children who had troubles just like the troubles we had
at home or in our classrooms, on the bus, with bullies,
siblings, nightmares, parents who disappeared, feelings of
isolation, feelings. None of them had the troubles we had
when we grew up though, or the troubles the bald
children here have discovered. Publishers and sales reps
probably don’t like tallying such figures. Back then,
Letter People lined the walls and a TV with Ramona
played on rainy days. There were book club sales, book
reports, and wooden chairs lined up along the wall,
straight and small. All of us sitting on the green carpet. I
believe the rain still falls on the windows there, while
kids here grow old, fall down, their eyes drifting against
the wash of a television glow in hospital rooms and daybeds,
their blood and marrow melting, betraying,
hounding them, the pages of their stories thinning out
and fading blank. And then someone calls my name so I
rise and walk across that green carpet to see how many
pages my own story has left.

My "Talk With Me" Interview with Marcia Epstein

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Today I had an incredibly fun interview with Marcia Epstein on her hour-long "Talk With Me" podcast, where she speaks with poets, writers, and artists about their work, their lives, and how the two intertwine in happy, frightful, productive, and connective ways. We spoke about Hobo Camp Review and how it all began, my upcoming collection of poetry We Are All Terminal But This Exit Is Mine (which will be ready to release VERY soon!), and about my experiences going through cancer and trying to maintain some sort of "normalcy" in both writing and social aspects of my life, and also about trying to decide when, why, and how I wanted to share these experiences with those around me. It's the first time I spoke about all this in such a public way, and many of the poems I read on the show are about this time in my life as well. I hope you enjoy listening. You can also download the show at iTunes, I believe. A big thank you goes to Wolfgang Carstens for connecting me with Marcia. Wolfgang is a kickass poet, the editor of Epic Rites Press, and a Hobo Camp alum, so please look for his work! As far as my book, Bud Smith and I are in the final proof stages and it's almost ready to launch. I'll be giving away free extras with the first wave of books going out the door - more details about that soon. Thanks very much!        

On the Air with 105.3 FM & The Sanctuary for Independent Media

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I hit the airwaves last week at WOOC 105.3 FM alongside my Troy Poetry Mission co-host R.M. Engelhardt to talk to Meghan Marohn and Bryce Miller about our monthly reading series in Troy, NY, the recent StoryHarvest event at The Sanctuary for Independent Media, and how poetry and readings can help build community bonds. We even read some poems on the air. You can find our segment at the station's SoundCloud archives, along with a bunch of other insightful, informative interviews. I was caught a little off guard as I forgot to bring some poems with me (what's a poet without a poem!?!?) but I ended up finding and reading my new piece "Last Appointment of the Day," which will appear in my upcoming book, We Are All Terminal But This Exit Is Mine (Unknown Press, 2017). As I mention in the interview, the book will be out around Halloween. More details on that soon. Until then, listen in to 105.3 FM whenever you can! Thanks for listening, and thanks to Bryce Miller, Meghan Marohn, Steve Pierce and everyone at the Sanctuary for having us on the radio!      

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.