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As I said elsewhere, I can’t begrudge WalMart for giving me a job when I needed one.  Truth is, however: I have not written a lot in the past two years. And, I can’t say I didn’t try. My new eChapbook, Four Murders, was almost completely written over my lunch breaks, usually at a picnic table outside of the store.  The ebook consists of four long-ish poems that take cues from other poets like Akhmatova, Shiki, Carroll, and Crapsey.  Basically, I took a line from somebody else and tricked it out into being a poem title. Then, I wrote with a sense of radical diversion. The result?   … Four Murders.  Really, and honsetly.  Each of the poems included are about a sense of “Murder.”  The eChap is only available via Merchant’s Keep.

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Well, I have been through two disasters when it comes to small press genre publishing.  I don’t bring them up to pour salt on anybody’s wound, but to simply point out how happy I was to see Needfire publish Barry Napier’s “A Mouth For Picket Fences.”   My history with Barry is rather simple.  One day, while reading for a poetry anthology, I opened up my email to see a submission from him.   I never talked or interacted with him before.  It was the first time I ever saw his name.  I seriously considered the poem for a moment, and then typed out a kind rejection.  Then, I tried to go on my way.  For some reason, his poem lingered for awhile, even if it didn’t fit the guidelines I was operating under.  Basically, the poem was written in a very contemporary way, which sometimes is a highly rare thing when it comes to horror and poetry.  So, I wrote him back and asked for him to seriously consider sending me something else.  He did, and both poems easily became my two favorite poems in Death in Common.  So, began, via email, to twist his arm into writing a book of poetry.  He seemed interested, so I applied more pressure to twisted arm.  Then, the floor fell out from the publishing arrangement that I had at the time, and then it also crumbled around the follow up attempt to publish that anothology.  With those set backs came the sinking realization that I was harassing a guy into writing a book, and then had no means to publish it.  That changed with my new relationship with Belfire Press and its Needfire imprint.   And, I’m very glad I was able to stick with Barry and see it through to the end, wherever that end took us.  A Mouth For Picket Fences is a really, really good book.  I’m honored that I was able to facilitate Barry’s interest in every way that I could.

Oh, and yeah, it’s available on Amazon.  I highly recommend it.

My life has been one big lurching from crisis to catastrophe over the past two years.  My mother has inoperable cancer in her lungs and brain, and on her spine.  “Inoperable” doesn’t necessarily mean “Terminal,” but every hospitalization is a cause for alarm.  Every phone call from my father that starts, “Um, your mother…” is a cause for worry; in the past two years, I have had to grieve multiple times, because I thought death had come to claim my mother.  Thankfully, she has pulled through every time, and that’s largely due to the treatment she receives at Sloan Kettering in New York City.  Still, it has been a constant emotional roller coaster.  Her illness will never go into remission, but there are bright spots where she is healthier than in other moments, and that breeds false hope.  And if one thing is certain, false hope is always shattered.

My mother’s health issues haven’t been the only thing distracting me.  The economy went into recession years ago, and because of a host of personal health problems of my own (Undiagnosed Adult ADHD and severe sleep apnea) my professional life suffered greatly.  I went from teaching freshman writing part time at Rutgers and a few community colleges to working at WalMart full time.  I will not begrudge (much!) WalMart.  They were there when I desperately needed a job with stability.  Even during my productive years of adjuncting in college, I always complained about the constant spells of unemployment.  WalMart employed me year round, and the company even taught me some much needed lessons in how to be assertive and organized.

However, Mr. Sam’s Empire was not the panacea I so dearly wanted.  I eventually stopped teaching altogether, but my financial problems countinued to mount.  Over the last year, I have had to fight Chase Home Finance and diferent lender on four separate occasions regarding “intent to foreclose” notices on my home.  Keep in mind that my wife and I, like so many other people in this country, tried to file for a loan modification under President Obama’s “Making Homes Affordable Plan.”  Nearly a year has passed, and I’m still getting threats in the mail, and my mortgage hasn’t been modified.  Hell, I had to pull my father out of retirement, give him a power-of-attorney, and unleash him on the banks.  Shakespeare once said “Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned.”  I agree with that.   However, I must add, “Hell hath no fury like a retired Federal employee who knows bureacracy all too well.”  Jenny and I are lucky I have my father as a reasource.  If he wasn’t there there, and if he didn’t offer his services as a pitbull, I would have lost my home many months ago, like so many other home owner who have been crushed in this recession.

The truth is, I have been barely scraping by the last two years.  It got to the point where, between 9 hours at a WalMart store and marathon days on the phone with my mortgage lender and/or HUD — not to mention constantly grieving over my mother’s illness — that I have largely stopped writing, and my ability to edit has trickled down to “barely.”  I thought I could manage, but you know, if you look at what I have done, the answer to that is a resounding “no.”

Recently, I received a slightly annoyed email from an writer and an editor I greatly admire.  Unfortunately, I do believe that I have a history of annoying the hell out of him.    His causes for concern were completely justified, and I would understand if he did not want to work with me ever again.  Hell, being a “professional” means you can separate the stink of your personal life with how you can interact with other professionals.  Apparently, I have yet to really learn this lesson.  By default, that makes me far less than “Professional.”  That just makes me one guy who feels overwhelmed by nearly everything and hasn’t yet found a proper way to cope.

There is light at the end of this tunnel.  As much as I feel constantly crushed by circumstance, there are new opportunities ahead of me.  I recently asked for a demotion at WalMart.  I am staying there to keep my discount card, and to have an escape route if the prospect of self employment implodes after a few months.  But, basically, I am now a freelance writer, and my chief client is Demand Studios.  Basically, I write “How To” articles for eHow.com.   There are people in freelance writing who will frown upon this, and they will vent spleen all over the place about how providing content to web content mills is not true freelancing.  These people like to use words like, “Word slut” and “prostitute” because it’s Demand Studios, and not thumbing through a Writer’s Market, crafting query letters, and writing for magazines.  To those people, I honestly have to say, “Go fuck yourselves.”  I honestly apologize if my making more than WalMart wages is an affront to your morality.  A man and his wife have to eat and pay their bills.   Also, it helps to pay my mortgage on time — it gives the banks less reason to take my home from me.  This is why I’m more than happy to to write a string of articles about how to change wiper blades on a car.

The other truth is this.  Writing for Demand Studios pays a lot better than anything I ever did from 2000 to 2009.  Yes, that means that eHow articles are far more profitable than trying to scrap together part time college work.  eHow is better than WalMart.  In short, eHow will allow me to stop being miserable about money all the time, and now I can persue, with renewed, stronger vigor, the editing and writing projects I have dreamed of in the last two year.s

 

In about two to three weeks from KHP/Skullvines, a Merchant Keep exclusive e-book:

It’s a quartet, ranging 30ish pages, using other poets as starting points, and then radically diverging from them, including:

Men of Dirt and Dust:

Based off lines taken from Adelaide Crapsey.

City without a Hero:

Based off of a haiku by Masoaka Shiki.

To Be Bandersnatched

Plays around with the made up words from Jabberwocky.

In Contempt of Sleep

Based off of two lines from Anna Akhmatova.

Wherein I talk about things!

Specifically: Wood Life, Death in Common, Into the Cruel Sea, growing up overseas, and my problems with “horror poetry.”

A fragmented (but very readable) book about the messy psychology of a serial killer

Amazon.com

Barnes and Noble.

Books-a-Million

Recently, in talking to a friend and fellow writer about publishing photocopied, side stapled chapbooks, I remembered New Michigan Press from many, many years ago.  Back then, I was impressed by the amount of care they put into pamphlets that were cheaply produced, and yet, somehow looked elegant.  So, I decided to check in on them, and I’m happy to see that they’re still around.  Also, it looks like they’ve moved to POD publishing, too.  And, it looks like the care in artist direction has carried over.  Unfortunately, I don’t have any money blow, but I really do want to get the Paul Guest and Arielle Greenberg chaps some day soon.  At anyrate, here’s a short blurby review I wrote of Mistranslating Neruda by Matt Mason.  The review is like five years old and originally appeared in The Main Street Rag.

Mistranslating Neruda
By Matt Mason
New Michigan Press (2002) $5, 35 pgs.
http://www.thediagram.com/nmp/
Poetry Chapbook

Stephen Tapscott, in his translation of Pablo Neruda’s “Love Sonnets # 37,” writes O love, O crazy sunbeam and purple premonition, / you come to me and climb your cool stairway, / the castle that time has crowned with fog, / pale walls of a closed heart. Tapscott captures something – no matter who translates – inherent in Neruda’s poetry: a collection of strange images, weird word combinations, and a strong sense of emotion. Neruda’s work always has had a knack for clothing itself in off-kilter metaphors while still confronting vivid emotions. Yes, a lot of 100 Love Sonnets is inherently surreal, but surrealism isn’t usually a tool for romantic verse. Still, Neruda always succeeds, and that has inspired decades of imitation.

In that regard, Mistranslating Neruda is Matt Mason’s homage to Pablo Neruda’s Twenty Love Poems and a Song of Despair. Not only does Mason mimic the sequence in length, but he also tries duplicating the inventive use of language: Like angel hair pasta waving goodbye to the boiling water, / the sausages from the refrigerator fly into your hands. // Innumerable hearts of the sausage / fortify inside the rare silences of young love. Equally emblematic for the rest of the sequence, Mason writes, early on: Body of a woman, white as flour, as egg whites, / you break into the world with the immediacy of warm cookies.
Lines like these make Mason’s chapbook a hoot to read. While he actively tries to mimic Neruda, to “mistranslate” him, Mason’s own sense of absurdity takes off, pulling the reader along. These poems also display the depths of Mason’s imagination, but do they stand up to the master inspiring them?
No, but they weren’t intended to, either. In his preface, Mason claims everybody has read a horrible act of translation, be it in high school English texts or elsewhere, and this chapbook was to be a satire on “mistranslations.” That doesn’t change the joy of language Mason revels in, and to this collection, that’s a gift.

As has been noted elsewhere, I’m taking a job at Belfire Press as “Poetry Editor.” The details are still being worked out, but the terms were more than agreeable. So far, it entails heading up a poetry imprint called Needfire, which will publish a fixed amount of titles a year. Death in Common: Poems from Unlikely Victims will follow me to Needfire and will be one of those titles. These Apparitions: Haunted Reflections of Ezra Pound is also following me to Needfire.

At Bandersnatch, the Pound book was planned as a chapbook; however, since every press has different circumstances, the current length of the anthology is too short, and it needs significant expansion. So, I’m going to tweak the guidelines, the contact info, and then repost them.

I would also be remiss if I didn’t thank Jodi Lee and Louise Bohmer not only for the opportunity to work with them on a steady basis, but for believing in my abilities.

EDIT TO ADD:  And I’m a dolt for forgetting Bob Freeman as somebody whom I’m always grateful to work with.

I detest drama and public bickering, but given that I co-founded Bandersnatch Books, I feel the need to make the following statement:

A week or so ago, Scott Colbert announced on the Bandersnatch Books website that he was temporarily stepping down from co-publishing, so that he could focus on regaining his health after a recent hospitalization.  I began bringing in some people to help with laying books out and clearing out the back log.  Basically, I began to find people I could delegate work to, instead of doing it all myself.  On May 18, 2010, at 12:59am, I received an email from Mr. Colbert informing me that he had changed all the passwords to Bandersnatch accounts in his name.  He also informed me that I was not allowed to work on anything related to Bandersnatch Books, and that I had to cease and desist from working on the Bandersnatch Books website.  Basically, he asserted that he actually owned the company and was firing me.  This, of course, was counter to our initial agreement of many months ago, where we were “co-publishers” and “partners.”  Several emails later, at 1:47am, he offered me a job editing poetry books.  I emphatically declined.

Mr. Colbert makes several allegations on his blog regarding me and what impelled him to his actions.  While I now could offer a very vigorous rebuttal with counter points, I will not do so.  What has been done cannot be undone.  A tolling bell, as a saying goes, cannot be un-rung.    Further argument and acrimony will not change anything, so it would be a futile waste of time and effort. So, now, I am simply publically dissassociating myself from Scott Colbert, whatever team he is putting together, and Bandersnatch Books in totality.  It should be noted that this statement has no baring on any writer conducting business with Mr. Colbert.  It is not a judgement of any writer engaged with Colbert or Bandersnatch Books, and it should not be construed as such.  I have nothing more to publically say on what happened, for the time being.

As for the contributors to Death In Common, apologies are sincerely extended, as the book is again leaving a publisher while on the cusp of final publication.  Rest assured, talks are already underway regarding placing it and The Pound poetry project at a different press.  I’ll be forthcoming with the details once  papers are signed and the new deal is official.

Currently, the two following titles are available for purchase.