Dec 052010

Diane Schoemperlen is a good friend, a novelist, short story writer, editor, and winner of the Governor-General’s Award for Fiction (1998) and the Writers’ Trust of Canada Marian Engel Award for an author in mid-career (2007). In 1995 dg and Diane edited the annual Coming Attractions story collection for Oberon Press in Ottawa. Technically inventive and exuberant, Diane structured her first novel, In the Language of Love, on the hundred words of the Standard Word Association Test.  She writes poignant, emotionally articulate fictions which yet have a foot in the camp of experiment and formal play. The story published here appeared in Best Canadian Stories (edited by John Metcalf, Oberon Press, 2008) without the collages under the title “Fifteen Restless Nights.” This is the first time the text and visual elements have appeared together the way they were intended. They make a welcome addition to NC’s growing collection of off the page and hybrid works. And it’s a huge pleasure to introduce Diane to the NC community.



On Making Collages

My interest in collage as an art form began twenty years ago when I was working on my first novel, In the Language of Love (1994). I chose to make my main character in that book a collage artist and, in doing research on the art of collage, I became more and more interested in creating some myself. I began with relatively simple pieces, hung them on my own walls, and gave them away to friends. I actually sold a few too. It was not a big leap then for a writer to think of putting collages in her next book. I had become very interested in the interaction between visual art and the written word, the different parts of the creative brain involved in creating the two art forms, and the similarities between collage and my written work. So my next book, Forms of Devotion (1998), was a collection of short stories illustrated with black and white pictures that were actually images from earlier centuries that had since gone into the public domain. This book went on to win the Governor General’s Award for English Fiction that year. In the following years, I published several other books, none with illustrations, but for all that time I was collecting all kinds of things that might someday be used in more complex collages. To be honest, what held me back from actually making the collages was my anxiety over what my agent and my editor were bound to say about the impossibility of actually publishing them. Finally I put aside my anxiety on that front and decided to do them anyway, without worrying about whether or not they would ever be published.

As with the stories in Forms of Devotion, sometimes the story came first and other times the pictures. In this particular case, I had the story first and created the collages later. The entire process of putting them together is done by the old-fashioned cut-and-paste method, one little bit at a time. This is very labour-intensive and more than a little time-consuming, but it is immensely satisfying. I don’t use PhotoShop or anything like that. The computer is important in the process though, as I use my scanner to copy anything that I want to preserve in its original state, and also to resize anything that doesn’t fit in the spot where I want to put it. The computer also allows me to reproduce anything on a transparency when I want to use that for a special effect. Some of the paper bits and pieces in the collages were purchased expressly for this purpose, while others were found by accident or searched out on purpose. I have also incorporated some three-dimensional objects, such as eyelets, sequins, stars, fancy paper clips, an actual watch face, and a piece of old jewellery. I also use felt pens, coloured pencils, and rubber stamps. I am especially fond of maps, both new and old, and have used these as the backgrounds for each piece.

—Diane Schoemperlen


I Am a Motel

by Diane Schoemperlen




All day driving west. The highway liquefies in waves of heat, dissolving over and over at the horizon.


Pull in.


Check in.


Unlock the door.

Half the window is blocked by an air conditioner that generates more noise than relief.


Royal blue bedspread shiny and slippery.

Blood-red carpet matted and stiff. Leave your shoes on. Sleep in your socks so your bare feet never have to touch it.

A pattern of cigarette burns on the carpet between the two blue beds. Try to discern shapes in them the way (in another lifetime) you used to make shapes in the clouds.

Running away from home.

In fact, there was no running at all: no thudding of feet on concrete, no ducking behind hedges and parked cars, no leaping over white picket fences, no sweat dripping down forehead or torso, no grasping, no grunting, no vicious dogs drooling and panting in hot pursuit.

There was only the smooth steady purr of the car engine.

There was only the cryptic message stamped across the bottom of the mirror: Objects Are Closer Than They Appear.

There was only driving and caffeine and smoking and singing along with the car radio.

There was only ending up here.


Nobody knows where you are.

Stare intently at the phone anyway, willing it to ring.

Here you are nowhere.

Here you are no one.

You thought you would like this more than you do.

Continue reading »

Dec 052010

EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the fourth in a four-part series of essays on Montaigne.

To read the entire series, CLICK HERE.


Every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end.
- Semisonic, “Closing Time”

On this, the last for now of my studies of Montaigne’s motifs, I thought it fitting to discuss his dislike for succinctly wrapping things up. It makes sense, then, that the last of Montaigne’s Essays is also the least singular in topic, and the most far-ranging in scope. And it’s also interesting that the first in order of Montaigne’s Essays, written more than a decade earlier, is titled “We Reach the Same End by Discrepant Means” – even then, when his essays were generally shorter and more singular in topic and theme, he was pushing the singularity of individual experience as the most important facet of truth (a notion much less popular in the late sixteenth century than it is now). This is perhaps one reason he’s now accepted as the fountainhead of the form – he put the “personal” in the personal essay.

That I am ending my Montaigne series on the fourth entry, one short of the promised five, only serves to reinforce this point – one cannot predict where our own experience will take us, or for how long, which Montaigne essentially says in “On Experience,” the final in his Essays:

I, unconcerned and ignorant within this universe, allow myself to be governed by this world’s general law, which I shall know sufficiently when I feel it.    (374)

Personal, learned experience as the only conveyor of truth is an idea Montaigne examines playfully through much of “On Experience”:

Oh what a soft and delightful pillow, and what a sane one on which to rest a well-schooled head, are ignorance and unconcern…Is a man not stupid if he remembers having been so wrong in his judgement yet does not become deeply distrustful of it afterward?…To learn that we have said or done a stupid thing is nothing: we must learn a more ample and important lesson: that we are but blockheads. (375-376)

With this we come to perhaps an important attribute of the personal essay, and nonfiction in general, which sets it apart from the novel for instance, which serves its reality in a delineated framework, as Nabokov describes in “Good Readers and Good Writers” from his Lectures on Literature:

We should always remember that the work of art [Nabokov is referring to the novel here, specifically Madame Bovary] is invariably the creation of a new world, so that the first thing we should do is to study that new world as closely as possible, approaching it as something brand new, having no obvious connection with the worlds we already know. (1)

This, to me, is one of the great pleasures of the novel – at the end of a great (or even good) novel, one feels a sense of loss at having finished it, at leaving the fictional world it’s created. But unlike the novel as Nabokov describes it here, the essay never ends at its end. There is always another essay to write, as long as there is another human to write about human experience, continuing to assay and refine our collective understanding through the individual thought and expression of that understanding. Closure, then, is not something essayists, and essay readers, try to find in the essay, but rather what they try to escape.

This brings us, again, back to “Of Experience.” In it Montaigne ponders verisimilitude and enstrangement (“Nature does not makes things ‘one’ as much as unlikeness makes them other: Nature has bound herself to make nothing ‘other’ which is not unlike”), gives opinions on law which seem to predict Locke’s, ponders whether truth is watered down in interpretation and fragmentation, of course contemplates himself extensively (herein lies the line, reacting to Aristotle, “I study myself more than any subject. That is my metaphysics; that is my physics.” ), repeats his distrust of medicine he began in earlier essays, and stresses the importance of habit in sleeping, diet, and bowel movements.

I’d like to focus the last of my commentary on the last 20 or so pages of the essay, as Montaigne weaves a few threads together here, providing a thematic crescendo for both the essay and his Essays, without ever acknowledging an end to his work. For 10 pages, he directly alternates a rather lighthearted discussion of food, class and serenity with a frank meditation on his own aging; some highlights:

I have decided never again to run: it is enough for me if I can drag myself along. Nor do I lament the natural decline which has me in its grip – no more do I lament that my lifespan is not as long and massive as an oak’s. (404)

There are men who groan and suffer for want of beef or ham in the midst of partridge! Good for them: that is to be a gourmet among gourmets: it is a weak ill-favored taste which finds insipid those ordinary everyday foods…The essence of that vice consists in failing to enjoy what others do and in taking anxious care over your diet…let boys be fashioned by fortune to the natural laws of the common people; let them become accustomed to frugal and severely simple fare, so that they have to clamber down from austerity rather than scrambling up to it. (405-406)

God shows mercy to those from whom he takes away life a little at a time: that is the sole advantage of growing old; the last death which you die will be all the less total and painful: it will only be killing off half a man, or a quarter…Everywhere death intermingles and merges with our life: our decline anticipates its hour and even forces itself upon our very progress. (407-408)

A man who wants a regimen which serves him must not allow it to go on and on; for we become conditioned to it; our strength is benumbed by it…Thus are men undermined when they allow themselves to become encumbered with restricted diets and to cling to them superstitiously. They need to go farther and farther on, and then farther still. There is no end to it. (410)

Perhaps I should apply Montaigne’s advice to my quoting, though I might like to continue further with the juxtaposition as his two intertwined conversations dovetail into a beautifully rendered exposition on the last few pages of Montaigne’s philosophy of the essay’s, humanity’s, and time itself’s boundless nature:

I who boast that I so sedulously and individually welcome the pleasures of this life find virtually nothing but wind in them when I examine them in detail. But then we too are nothing but wind. And the wind (more wise than we are) delights in its rustling and blowing, and is content with its own role without yearning for qualities which are nothing to do with it such as immovability or density. (413-414)

This meditation gains a great splendour by a comparison of my condition with that of others. And so I pass in review, from hundreds of aspects, those whom fortune or their own mistakes sweep off into tempestuous seas, as well as those, closer to my own case, who accept their good fortune with such languid unconcern. Those folk really do ‘pass’ their time: they pass beyond the present and the things they have in order to put themselves in bondage to hope and to those shadows and vain ghosts which their imagination holds out to them – the more you chase them, the faster and farther they run away…so too your only purpose in chasing after them, your only gain, lies in the chase. (421)

*            *            *

Albert Goldbarth’s “Griffin,” like Montaigne’s “Of Experience,” is more interested in connections than endings. Like Joe Brainard, who was a visual artist first and a writer second, Albert Goldbarth is not known primarily as an essayist but as a poet. I haven’t read any of his poetry, but that presumption surprises me, especially since the Wikipedia on him entry notes his “distinctively ‘talky’ style,” which could also be said about Montaigne. I discovered Goldbarth while reconning’s “hybrid essay” contest last year; I had no idea what a hybrid essay was, and TheDiagram recommended that anyone who, like me, wasn’t familiar with the loose formal requirements of the form read Goldbarth’s “Griffin.” So I did.

The griffin, or gryphon, is a mythical lion/eagle hybrid, and Goldbarth uses it to explore the beginnings and endings of things – relationships, civilizations, boundaries – using the Griffin’s own lack of a clear, defined type or species as the archetype of transcendence – in being two things at once, it is neither and both of them, and something more than either:

And in fact the griffin and all of its kin – all of the hybridizedopposites, from real-life hermaphrodites to the fabled goat-footed people of northern Scythia and the dog-headed tribes of western Libya – hold a psychological value. They lead us through the horrors and astonishments of realizing that all of us lead dichotomized lives, and all of us…are the stuff of amazing weddings, some metaphorical, some literal. (22)

The essay, a meditation on convergence and divergence, floats associatively through time, space, and tone. Starting with “This seems to be the summer of com-, recom-, and uncombining,” Goldbarth introduces the reader to his friends Arthur and Martha, who are recently separated. Arthur has moved out and Goldbarth is taking a walk with Martha, who is telling him about Arthur’s stated need to find himself. Throughout the essay Goldbarth recounts the jolt this separation gives to the stability of his circle of friends – they had, after all, merged Arthur and Martha linguistically, calling them Marthur and Artha. In a moment of especially close self-examination Goldbarth, speaking of his friends, intimates a sense of the role of the nonfiction writer that echoes Montaigne:

Ah, yes. If only friends were characters, whose lives abide by authorly rules of beauty and whose suffering could, at the very least, be explained away in those acceptable terms. But I’m at a loss for advice, now, here, in the park, as the light and the branches deal out the scenery of our friendship. (10)

Goldbarth also explores the erotic poetry of Catullus and Ovid in an attempt to contextualize his friends’ breakup, but also to explore whether it’s ever possible, or advisable, to completely merge oneself with another:

So: what is and what isn’t a proper coupling? We could say that the definition of those two states is what a culture exists for. (5)

Besides the Griffin, Goldbarth explores some more popular myths – Adam and Eve, vampires, werewolves, Springsteen’s New Jersey – in an attempt to justify and/or nullify humanity’s tendency toward wedlock, and its attendant fear of death. This makes me think of Olympia Dukakis’s famous interaction with Danny Aiello in Moonstruck, when she asks him why men chase women – he evades the question by alluding to Adam’s missing rib then finally, when she continues pressing him, he says, “I dunno. Maybe because they fear death?” “That’s it!” she says. “That’s the reason. Thank you – thank you, for answering my question.” Of course, her question was also her answer. I bring this in because Goldbarth spends a substantial portion of the essay exploring our connections with each other as attempts to connect with something greater than ourselves, something that perhaps is as conflicted as we are:

Maybe a people’s God is required to be so whole, and his people so unreservedly pledged to a mimetic wholeness, only because some last remaining intention-node in the back of the brain suspects that in reality the Creator of this universe is conflicted in his own wants and intentions. To suspect such a frightening thing is to need immediately to deny it, with every atom of our zealousness. (37)

I’m listening to Bruce’s song “The River” right now, from the album of the same name – by a strange coincidence, they’re playing it at the coffee house while I’m writing about an essay that devotes multiple pages to Bruce’s Jersey mythology. Like many of the songs on the album, it’s about an unhappy marriage. In the climactic verse leading into the last chorus, the narrator remembers taking his wife to the reservoir in the summer before their discontent:

At night on them banks I’d lie awake
And hold her close just to feel each breath she’d take
Now those memories come back to haunt me, they haunt me like a curse
Is a dream a lie if it don’t come true, or is it something worse?

Perhaps I’ve gone a little off topic. But perhaps not – perhaps, by diverting from the stated topic, I’ve attempted what both Montaigne and Goldbarth do. Allowing free rein to thought is, perhaps, an escape from the beginnings and the ends – a chase after the thoughts that will escape into the ether if they don’t cross the boundary, as Lou Reed once said, of the lifetime between thought and expression.

—John Proctor

See also Part One of the series.

Part Two.

Part Three.

Dec 032010

This is Natalia  Sarkissian’s second “What it’s like living here” piece. The first brought us the shocking news of her son’s illness. This one delivers the aftermath, hope and dogs and gorgeous cityscapes from Milan.


What it’s like living here

By Natalia Sarkissian in Milan

December, 2010

Dear DG:

You ask about Nick, his heart, the operation. He’s pretty much himself again; kids are resilient that way (their mothers and fathers less so). We’re picking up where we left off before we put everything on hold. Not easy these days with life everywhere often a challenge:

“Camera da Letto” means refuge

The alarm rings in the pearly gray of morning.

White sheets—from a transatlantic trip to Macy’s in Boston—slide like silk as you stir, your dreams of sand and sun on the Sound dispersing with the squeal.

You reach out an arm. You fiddle with a button. Silence ensues.

You blink in the shadowy room. Then you light the alabaster lamp from Volterra, the one you bought on sale years ago when Rinascente department store revamped and unloaded merchandise—60% off. Now a milky glow shines encouragement on your side of the bed.

Don’t move quite yet. Study instead the India-ink drawings of cocktail parties and frivolity facing you—the ones you sketched when you were twenty and going to be a painter. Then contemplate the alcove where your desk sits piled with papers, the old dresser loaded with a tower of books. You’re a mother, a part-time translator, part-time English teacher and when time permits—writer—now. A translation project (small) awaits. A lesson plan (a doctor wants to converse in English for an hour) awaits too. Not much money, but at least it’s some. In the afternoon you’ll do homework with Chris. And then there’s that novel you’re writing.

Sigh, and say, “first things first.”

Kick the sheets back.

Slip into your jeans, your t-shirt, your sweater.

Turn off the light: a mound still snores gently under the white sheets from Macy’s.

Tiptoe: the mound, in the old days (how many months of joblessness is it now?) used to be up first, shaving and showering before a day directing strategic sales in a large multinational. Now, if roused, the mound remonstrates.

Continue reading »

Dec 012010

A trial poster by Ginger Anne London, featuring the WOA logo by Philip Hartshorn

Sometimes you see a big-budget Hollywood film and you notice something in the background that shouldn’t be there, or someone’s hand is in a different spot after a lightning-fast cut, or all of a sudden Steven Baldwin is wearing a different shirt. Y’know, the gargantuan flubs that don’t take anything away from the story but become brief distractions.  I’m proud to say that after several eight, ten and thirteen-hour days of nearly nonstop editing, Wings Over Arda: The First Age does not have… many of those.

The rough cut of the film is finished.  Clocking in at 63 minutes (not counting the closing credits), it’s a massive file which will be exported in HD (1080 P) for Blu-Ray discs, as well as standard definition for DVDs.  Basement-bound for a week, my brother and I sifted through the various hours of footage, culling the most powerful takes from the ocean of decent, mediocre, and just plain bad.  I applied my final script revision during the last two hours of edits, and we had to employ some serious editing magic to get certain scenes to look the way we desired.  I ended up cutting one full scene I didn’t need, but other than that, every bit of work we put into the shooting period shows up in some way, shape or form in the film.  Next, the film will go into fine-tuned edits, further audio work, and special effects, while others compose/prepare/donate the musical score.

Here’s a little taste of what other members of the cast and crew were up to, besides waiting patiently, whilst Philip and I sat in the basement with our muscles atrophying.

Ginger Anne London, who plays Glorfindel in the film, is proficient in Graphic Design and put together the little gem seen above, featuring the characters of Dior (Philip Hartshorn), Caranthir (Samuel Aguirre) and Voronwë (Jennifer Wicks).  I like to call it “People With Hoods.”

Jen with the "Arda Buddies."

Jen, our costume expert and one of the film’s leads, used the remainder of our costume materials to create the “Arda Buddies” (or “Arda Pals,” I’m not sure which I like better), plush dolls modeled after Jen and myself.  Yes, there is a plush doll of me, and Wings Over Arda officially has, to use the parlance of our times, “swag.”  I was rather surprised to wake up and see the below photo after naively thinking Jen was joking about making these.

Anna Pauline Kenzie

Music is being done by several talented folks.  We’ve received musical contributions from the likes of Andrew Busone (my cousin, guitarist/singer/pianist/drummer extraordinaire); VCFA’s own Red Heart the Ticker; and even a few from musicians who saw our project’s fan page and expressed interest.  The main theme/leitmotif of the film is currently being composed by the amazing Anna Pauline Kenzie, an operatic singer and stage actress who also appears in the film as Elwing.  Additional tunes are being put together by my brother Philip, who plays the piano and excels at the Finale music program.

Everyone has been pretty well occupied over the past week, and in the spirit of the time of year, given a certain writer/director plenty to be thankful for.

Return to the table of contents

Dec 012010


Brad Green writes from Denton, Texas, dry, empty land filling up with urban detritus no different from anywhere else. But it looks different, and Brad writes of it with a raw, desolate naturalism reminiscent of the young Larry McMurtry of, say, The Last Picture Show. Someone just wrote dg about these “What it’s like living here” pieces. She said, “I guess what I like best is that every essay, supposedly on place (and even when it seems to strictly adhere to details of a place’s terrain and citizens) is really, at the end, so nakedly about its author.” All dg can add is, “Yup. That’s the way it works.” Read this one.



Photo 1


What is Felt

Of course, the days are filled with sound. That sense comes to you well before touch, before sight or cognition even. It’s habit now to slap that numb walrus of a hand on the alarm to halt the return of the world, anything to stay away for a few moments more, but your feet find the floor in the dark and bear your morning wobble. They always do. The bedroom door squeaks open. Steam billows in the shower. You forget to flip on the exhaust fan and when you step past the fish-patterned curtain, the mirror reveals your face full of fog. Who you are sharpens as the morning evolves, though. A half-hour later, your fingers feel blood-carbonated and you’re able to grasp the toothbrush, the keys, the steering wheel. One can curse the carpal-tunnel or consider it some sort of earned pain the way a war hero carries an amputation, but really, you’ve done nothing heroic—ever. That numbness pillows each night because you hunch over the keyboard, filling your evenings with failure.


What is Feared

The road is white in the morning air. It’s some new compacting gravel that men in mudblistered trucks put down. You live far enough out that you don’t warrant asphalt. Slow cattle bend their heads to the grass and oaks thick with dust blur through the window glass. At stop signs, the car engine sounds confused. The plugs need changing. Things are out of tune. A hard, black carbon clogs the chambers, the motor working harder than it needs in compressing the distance between you and where you must go. You stop where the gravel road ends and dust boils up around the car. The ground in North Texas is cracked most of the time, congested with bristleroot, trumpet vine, or the tortured gnarls of juniper, so dry it tatters up behind wherever you go. Before you turn onto the paved road leading to the highway, you face the sky, tightening your fists on the steering wheel. Contrary to what people say, wide horizons make us small.

Photo 2


What is Endured

There’s a vent you listen to all day in your office. It hisses air, flutters the leaves of the bamboo you bought for life and color. Faces float by the slim rectangle window in your office door. The email dings reverberate and follow you around, warble the phone in your pocket. One feels pursued, exposed, dedicated, hollow.


What is Lost

Where you work used to be barren field. It seems like that wasn’t so long ago, but the grass waved there long before the baseball of ache took up camp in your lower back, before the stiff gray began its sly fuming around your ears. Concrete and glass have sprouted in vast squares where once in high school you stood naked on the dirt with a girl till the morning sun found you. Now there’s a squatting Wal-Mart, a place impossible to be that human in again. There’s a Best Buy, a Target, the Bed Bath and Beyond, Fuddruckers, IHOP, and the lot, now smooth with concrete, where there was a house in which you got drunk mixing diet coke and beer (a bad night), and another two streets over where your finger found M—’s most precious nub and you watched her buck and shudder into an entirely new person, afraid that you’d committed some irreparable harm. There’s where your father grabbed you by the collar and slammed you against the car for running away, and there, just a short jog down the road, there’s where you lost God.


What is Found

Photo 4

What’s on the other side is remarkably similar to where you are now.

And that’s what you find moving through the day, the shape of the absences in your life, the holes where things once were. You encounter memory at every turn and each turn shades what you see now. In fact, the more the world glints, the more resonant the once-lived. So you drive around at lunch, finding moments, scribbling them down in your notebook. There’s Thrill Hill where you got that ponderous, brown Oldsmobile airborne before it thudded into the road, scraping the frame against the sun-hot spall. There’s the old barn where you fucked A— and came in her sock, laughing as she wore it crusty all the way home. There’s the pole where C— lost control of his truck and you found him whimpering on the seat, eyes bright with shattered glass. There’s the house where you cranked the big block engine in your 62 Chevy truck, heard something wrong, and had to unwedge a kitten from the fan blades. There’s where you held it soft as warm pudding in your palms, and there’s the field where you cried after hiding it under a rock.

Photo 5

Why these memories? Why not something else? Why not the way a chocolate ice cream cone melts? Why not your high score on Space Invaders? Why not those 45,000 words about a desert planet you wrote after reading Dune when you were eleven? Why not the white flesh of an apple bursting its juice in your mouth?


What is Heard

There are questions you can’t realistically answer, but are doomed to ask. Those questions arise from place. Place fuels our sense of the important and loss is the measure of everything we might become. It’s not the sex we remember as much as where it happened. Death is a thing that occurs in a geographic location and God, well God is absent from the largest space we can imagine. When that place becomes too onerous to bear, you turn to fog and rely on what you hear, because when our palms slip free of their tactile nature, we demand more of the ears and are left with the dings and alarm of a quotidian life: a hissing air vent, the metallic confusion of a car engine, the grey chatter of an office. The keys clatter late at night, those slim hours all that you have to plumb what matters, a narrowing time when the air is fraught with night-creaks and windows blacken the world until place loses it shape to the dark, moments you’ve lost swelling into their forgotten forms, drawing breath again in your mind unmoored by Rum until you finish your day alone with want and that catch in your throat, the numbness threading fat through your palms, the page holding you rapt in its wide, white jaw.


—Brad Green

Nov 302010

Poems from Privanje na svetlobo (Adjusting to the Light)

By Andrej Hočevar

Translated by Andrej Hočevar and Kelly Lenox

Kelly Lenox is a poet, translator and Vermont College of Fine Arts graduate. Some of you have attended the VCFA summer residencies in Slovenia where Kelly has been the boots-on-the-ground facilitator and interpreter for ages. DG particularly recalls a day he and Kelly spent wandering around Venice together during the 2008 residency. She was a delightful Virgil to dg’s Dante, though, as dg recalls, Kelly was nearly as lost as he was. In part because of her connection with Slovenia through VCFA, Kelly has made something of a specialty of discovering Slovenian poetic talent. Herewith, a series of poems by the young Slovenian poet Andrej Hočevar.

Don’t miss these poems. There are some lovely, heart-breaking lines:

I re-stack the books, I lie on the sofa,
my presence only thickening the dark,
my stillness but a thing among things.

And this:

I drink another glass of wine
out of another glass. Where are you.
There is a new color forming as the birds
breathe with the evening. Where are you.
I don’t know how to put this; I mean,
look, how I struggle with myself
for you to see me at all.

Born in 1980 in Maribor, Hočevar has published four books of poetry. He also writes essays and reviews of books and music, is a member of the editorial board of the Literatura magazine, and plays bass guitar in the rock group Mrtvi psi. His poems have been translated into Croatian, Macedonian, Serbian, Italian, Hungarian, English and German.



Meja med mano in zrakom se je
dvignila čez vrhove dreves, zdaj je
oddaljenost dneva najbolj otipljiva.
nebo je narobe obrnjeno jezero,
naježene veje, ke jih bo zdaj
zdaj pogoltila tema, stojijo
pokončno kot moški v osemdesetih.
Danes je rojstni dan mojega deda
in nov letni čas mi k nogam polaga
stare užitke, v katere začenjam
spet verjeti. A dnevi so zdaj kratki,
zato začnemo hitreje misliti
na tistega, s komer jih želimo končati.


The border between me and the air
has risen above the treetops—
the remoteness of the day at its most tangible.
The sky is an inverted lake,
the bristled branches, soon to be
swallowed by the dark,
stand upright like a man in his eighties.
Today is my grandfather’s birthday
and the new season brings me
old pleasures I’m beginning to believe in once again.
But the days are short now
and so it is earlier when we begin
thinking of the person
we want to end them with.

Continue reading »

Nov 292010

‘Tis the season of eating and eating and eating and drinking.  And drinking.  Whether you drink to make the extended family table seem humorous rather than grim, or because “holidays” is a better excuse than “Tuesday,” or because you love the sounds of the drinks—Beaujolais, Tobermory, Stolichnaya, Boone’s Farm—you’re probably about to embark (or have already embarked) on a late-year bender.

A cabernet glass, a shiraz glass, and glass for pinot noir

What does this have to do with writing? (Need I respond, really?)  Well, I recently wrote a triad of essays on Scott Russell Sanders’s “Under the Influence,” which is about Sanders’s alcoholic father.  It’s a wide-ranging and powerful essay that charts a life of drink, in a way that is neither judgmental nor sentimental.  Tough to do.  I have an alcoholic father, so I know this essay was deliberately assigned by DG for some diabolical ulterior motive (and I thank him…I think).

The third of my essays is about lists.  For it, I narrowed my beer-blinders from my more typical whole-essay examinations of structure and techniques and instead took apart just one sentence.  Yup, one sentence—but it’s a doozy.  (I think I’ll memorize this and say it as next year’s Thanksgiving grace.)

Consider a few of our synonyms for drunk: tipsy, tight, pickled, soused, and plowed; stoned and stewed, lubricated and inebriated, juiced and sluiced; three sheets to the wind, in your cups, out of your mind, under the table, lit up, tanked up, wiped out; besotted, blotto, bombed, and buzzed; plastered, polluted, putrified; loaded or looped, boozy, woozy, fuddled, or smashed; crocked and shit-faced, corked and pissed, snockered and sloshed.

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Nov 292010

Here’s a new poem by my friend John Lee who hails from Brantford, Ontario, (Wayne Gretzky’s hometown and the place where Alexander Graham Bell lived while experimenting with early telephones), just fifteen miles down the road from the Glover family farm. “In the Muddy Shoes of Morning” is the title poem of John’s new book, the last of a trilogy, what he calls The Port Dover Trilogy. You may all remember Port Dover from last summer when Jonah and I spent an afternoon at the internet cafe there, also because it is Fred Eaglesmith‘s homebase. Port Dover was once reputed to have the largest fresh water fishing fleet in the world and was famous for its distinctive steel-hulled boats called turtlebacks. My grandfather built a cottage in Port Dover, and I spent a good deal of my growing up time on the beach or in the bars of that town.

This poem is absolutely gorgeous—a giddy couple staggers across a muddy field in the rain, but at the turn, the poet changes keys, softly and gently modulating his poem into a meditation on the ages, on life and death and love. I particularly like the biblical rhythm and reiteration “…the very breath of their going/ and their having gone.

and I think now as I write this poem
of  hundred-thousand-year-old preserved impressions
of a man and a woman
following the almost permanent footprints
to the very breath of their going
and their having gone

say this of me, reader
after the voice-vanish of this life
I felt the joy of foolishness
and in the muddy shoes of morning
saw love

The book, In the Muddy Shoes of Morning, is being released by Hidden Brook Press in December.


In the Muddy Shoes of Morning

By John B. Lee

Last night in the dark
we walked mud-blind
crossing the sludgy roadwork
between house and car
and we seemed to find
in the unfrozen ground
of early spring
with every mucky step
the deep wet weight
of a puddleplace
or the clay-heavy suck
of something that wanted our shoes
and we clung together
laughing and yawing
and seeking a way
when earlier in the light
we had simply followed our eyes
over the sure dryness
of a mother-lucky path
but somehow
this sinking-in was far better
this sticky yellowing of shoe soles
feeling an almost toppling
and joyful giddiness
of shared fate
a commingling
as we sank and rose and pitched
like children
over the new-plowed furrows of a rain-soaked field

and I think now as I write this poem
of  hundred-thousand-year-old preserved impressions
of a man and a woman
following the almost permanent footprints
to the very breath of their going
and their having gone

say this of me, reader
after the voice-vanish of this life
I felt the joy of foolishness
and in the muddy shoes of morning
saw love

—John B. Lee

See also “Burning Land.”