Units & Increments and poetry

This week I figured out why, in InDesign, I might want to set my vertical and horizontal units differently. Previously I set them both to inches. Changing that under Preferences > Units & Increments is always the first step in my workflow.

I understand that some graphic designers are trained to think in pixels or picas, but I’m not. Those are basically a foreign language to me; I could get by passably in that country, but I’m not fluent.

Horizontally, inches make a lot more sense to me. When calculating a book’s spine width, for example, I’m very good at setting my vertical guides by inch marks. I even know my fractions.

Vertically, I hardly look at any measurements—until recently, when I decided it was time to finally conquer aligning paragraphs to a grid. Continue reading “Units & Increments and poetry”

“Power Chord” Scratch Track

This is a song I recorded so I could share it with my old band, Sweatpants. It was a long time ago, so I feel like I can listen to it with some detachment. And objectively I can say it is fierce and shredding.

“Get up on the stage and fight
Behind the drums and flashing lights
We’ll rock

“Give big gifts to your friends,
you’ll find yourself with happy ends.
Bill burns me CDs,
he knows the songs that will please,
Fugazi”

Listen:

Not Elves Exactly

On Saturday I had the opportunity to lead a poetry workshop at The Letters Festival here in Atlanta, at the Goat Farm (that’s the beautiful place where the picture above was taken). I chose to focus my workshop on the question of meaning in poetry, which is something I always shy away from (in past workshops, lectures, and panel discussions I would always opt to talk about specific things, like the use of sentences in poetry, or jokes), but this time I decided I’d tackle the essential question head on. Here are my notes.

Not Elves Exactly

John Ciardi, poet, fighter pilot, translator, etymologist, TV personality (d. 1989), says we shouldn’t ask “What does a poem mean” but “How does a poem mean.” This was in his 1960s book, How Does a Poem Mean. Continue reading “Not Elves Exactly”

The Sonnets by Sandra Simonds

 

The Sonnets
poems by Sandra Simonds
from Bloof Books

I love the poems of Sandra Simonds (like, here’s one from Everyday Genius), and so can you. This is a great book. I tore through it. Am tearing through it. That’s not a nice way to put it. I love these poems. I love the way they combine ordinary moments but make them strange with language.

“isn’t that what’s / awesome about being an American poet? / You can just take your ignorance / and run with it or rename it bravado.”

Mathias Svalina’s Wastoid

Wastoid

Wastoid
poems by Mathias Svalina
from Big Lucks Books

I just got this beauty in the mail. It’s poems. It’s sonnets, even. But they are in paragraphs. The book is called Wastoid and every poem in there is also called Wastoid. Guess they didn’t want to wastoid any time doing up new titles. (The acknowledgments notes that the title was inspired by a metal band from Lincoln, NE, named Wasteoid.)

This is a pretty hefty book, at 154 pages. Sara Woods made the cover. It’s beautiful. 

Most of the poems begin “My lover is” something.

Meg Ronan’s “The Obligatory Garnish Argument”

Ronan

the obligatory garnish argument
by Meg Ronan
from Spring Gun Press

Meg Ronan sent this to me months ago, but when it arrived I was moving and it was packed up before I even knew what it was.

What it is is the obligatory garnish argument, which sounds like the best Guns n Roses album ever. Not that, though. Instead it is a book of little tiny word nuggets to rearrange your mindspace, like:

the obligatory garnish argument

this glob drought          requires
liberal sub-global oxygen garden policy
here, take all my cable knits

Which is writing I like a lot, lot, but me personally I cannot read many in one sitting even though they’re not long and the book is not long. (Are there patterns to these pieces? How were they composed?) But Ronan, smart, inserts what I take to be found text that plays with the “are you still reading this” trope of tl;dr patterns. That’s what this book is! It’s a question about reading. “If you’re still reading this you’re pretty serious about your car audio.” It’s a thing about endurance. It’s a question about beauty.

“Don’t read any further.” “Stop suffering.”

the obligatory garnish argument

born for this barging this constant charitable
luxury mirage        more serious shards please
change me for the ragged flora and the boredom

I don’t endure poems like that! I refresh myself with them. Poems like that hand me back the thoughts I had that I didn’t get. I like what Sandra Doller says in her blurb, “What happens when text is filtered through the meaning machine? What will stem the exhausting tide of linguistic proliferation?” This! Henry Miller referred to “the sieve through which my anarchy strains, resolves itself into words.”

Check it out.

From the failed head shot bin

With Chouchou

I had to provide a photo of myself for a thing, which is never fun. Cameras steal souls. I think I get why so many authors have lame head shots; it’s an awful thing to try deliberately to “capture” your identity. I found that the more I tried, the less recognizable I became to myself. This doesn’t seem to be the case for cats.

In other news, I am editing Everyday Genius this month, and yesterday I emailed a bunch of my favorite people and asked for whatever nonsense they wanted to send me, like whatever old thing they don’t work on anymore, or something scrawled off, or whatever, and great stuff is coming in. Got an amazing story by Gene Morgan. It’s making it fun again! The guest editors over the last couple years have been amazing. EG is a fascinating journal, having published 1385 posts (probably that’s like 1200 writers).

I just reread this essay of my own that I wrote in 2011 for Everyday Genius, about trying to remember a poem, and still couldn’t remember the poet.

I used to be a big blogger!

The Harbour Beyond the Movies by Luke Kennard

kennard

The Harbour Beyond the Movies
by Luke Kennard
from Salt Publishing

My brother got me this book for Christmas, off my Amazon wish list. I didn’t even know I had one of those. But when I opened this present at Christmastime I was surprised that he’d gotten me such a deep-cut poetry book, something from 2007. That’s when he explained the wish list.

I put it on the wish list because Mairéad Byrne had Luke Kennard blurb her book, The Best of (What’s Left of) Heavenso I wanted to see what his stuff is like.

I like it a lot, of what I’ve read so far, which is a couple poems. Thanks bro!

Quarry Light by Claudia Smith

ql
Quarry Light
fiction by Claudia Smith
from Magic Helicopter Press

The mailman just dropped this off. It looks great. The design, inside is out, is excellent. There are six stories in the 120 page book. The cover painting is elegant. I just looked at the copyright page and there is a lot of information on it. On the back, MHP’s helicopter logo has fully grown on me.

A couple Barthelmes blurbed it. Steven said you should reckon with and celebrate her talent. Frederick said the stories are frightening and heartbreaking. Elizabeth Ellen said Claudia Smith is able to make you thirteen and terrified of everything.

I haven’t read it yet but maybe I’ll save it until when the power goes out on some stormy night this winter.

Gigantic Failures by Mark Cronin

mc

Gigantic Failures
by Mark Anthony Cronin
from Small Victories Press

Doesn’t this book look awesome? It’s a collection of nine stories. The title pages for each story has a really cool drawing on it. One of the stories is called “Daedelus, the Bastard!” It begins, “The neighbors god damn kid shot the swimming pool with his BB gun, Rodney Cafner notices as he’s taking out the trash.”

The stories are great, the book looks great and fits nicely in your hand and I’m not just saying that because Mark let me layout the pages. I can’t wait to finish reading this book and then see what’s next with Cronin and Small Victories.