Sunday, October 23, 2011

They Hate This

Just finished participating in the Canzine Hollywood Ripoff challenge where 3 contenders - an illustrator, a 'zinester' and a poet (me) had 30 minutes to come up with an image, a zine or a poem based on a movie. The movie, revealed only at the last minute, was Ghostbusters. I'm pretty pleased with what I delivered (though I sweated a bit!). Here it is:

They Hate This

“They hate this,”
he says
fingers tinkling on the keyboard
“but the ladies love it,”
he thinks.
The charm
His charm
as he lays it on thick
heaps it on
like gravy
spilling over the keys
but she’s not buying it
looks at him like he’s a crackpot
She’s the one who called
Ghost Busters
She’s the one who called
Peter Venkman
And Peter Venkman delivers
whether its
attention to lonely old ladies
or attention to lonely young ladies
or even middle aged lady crackpots
who call Ghost Busters…

“What’s your name?”
he asks.
“Dana,” she offers reluctantly
“Well Dana. It seems ok in here to me,”
he says
“But a little messy…”
She seems displeased
That’s how it always starts
but soon
the charm creeps inside
haunts you
gets inside your bones
like ghosts
in the architecture
and at first you think
you want the ghosts out
that you want
Peter Venkman to leave
but the memory lingers
like the dear departed
and soon enough
who ya gonna call
to haunt you?
to possess you in your body
until you’re writhing in bed
longing for the keymaster
hovering five feet above
your passion
in feverish desire
until who you gonna call?
You’ll call this ghost buster
to bust your ghosts
to make your eggs pop
right out of the carton
and fry on the tabletop
until you don’t know
what’s come over you
until you scream out in lust:
“There is no Dana!
Only Zool!”

“Oh yes,”
he says
fingers tinkling on the piano
“They hate this.”
“But,” he thinks
“The ladies
love it.”

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Some Advice on Time Travel

Wow, I think it's been nearly 3 years since I've bothered to submit and actually got a piece published in a place other than my own cancerously growing hoard of lit sites. This time its in my old favourite Feathertale. I'm really proud of this poem: Some Advice on Time Travel (an excerpt from Philip Roder's Let's Go to the Future, fourth edition, 2095)

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Zues and the Sales stats

Just got the stats: 150 copies of Zeus and the Giant Iced Tea SOLD! Considering that selling 50 copies of a poetry book is pretty impressive, and that my initial (and ambitious) goal was to move 100, I'd say (ignoring all those 2-star reviews I keep getting over at Goodreads) Zues and the Giant Iced Tea is an ALARMING success!

On top of that, I may actually end up having a launch (albeit 6 months late...) in the fall sometime here in Toronto. I'll keep you up to date on that!

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Poetaster trivia!

Made some trivia for Poetaster on Goodreads. Was fun to go through an old book. Poetaster is quite a bit darker and raw than Zeus - kind of a shock to flip between the two.

Anyway, have a go at some poetry trivia! (Any poets out there interested in building a pub-quiz around poetry?)

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Encounters with the Underground - a tribute to Steve Kostecke

It is with great shock and much sadness that I learned yesterday that good friend, fellow indie writer and founding member of the Underground Literary Alliance Steve Kostecke recently passed away.

Steve was instrumental in my own involvement in the underground writing scene and had the distinction (among many more notable distinctions) of being the only indie writer and ULA member I've actually met in person.

When I started Red Fez back in 2002 it was a project born out of total isolation from any sort of writing community (particularly the insular academic/lit journal community) and frustration with the lottery-like publishing process of the status quo. Red Fez, and my writing, floundered for a few years until I came across a lovely little writeup in Broken Pencil on Slush Pile, the Underground Literary Alliance's zine. It was an awakening to the fact that I was not alone in my frustration with the system, and that there were others out there acting against it and being far more effective at it! Slush Pile, amazingly edited and assembled in Asia and then shipped back to the US to be printed, not only published a sort of raw, gripping writing I had never experienced before, but articulated a lot of what I had been unable to put into words. I wrote an email to the zine publisher about my efforts with Red Fez, asking to learn more about this ULA organization. Steve Kostecke wrote back.

A lot of Steve's personality was constructed in my mind, as with most online relationships, from emails. I never could quite get a grip on who he was. His writing was raw and both bashedly and unabashedly macho. He was, somehow, the strong, cocky, unrooted silent type, operating a literary revolution in North America from while teaching English across Asia. Steve, as Karl Wenclas puts it in his memory, had a zen-buddhist personality, straightforward, approachable, honest, unpretentious....combined with the cocky smarts of a fly-boy.

Steve lured me in to the ULA, first as a Canadian correspondent, and then as a full fledged member. In my opinion he was probably the group's strongest writer (among strong writers) - a sort of modern day Hemmingway, but better, in my opinion. (Seoul in Slices is a great example.) There was an elegant, unwashed  honesty to it - Steve shared everything as it was, as he felt it and didn't feel the need to explain it. His work was documentary like: "travel writing", as Jeff Potter put it in his tribute over at Out Your Backdoor (who published Steve's novel, Wasted Angels), which is accurate, but Steve's writing far too little credit. Karl Wenclas, another co-founder of the group, states that Steve was the ULA member he least expected to leave this early because of his cool-headed nature. I'd add that his openness and non-judgmental attitude also made him seem like the member least likely to have helped found the outrageous activist group. Steve would associate with almost anybody (a habit that is the genesis of some of his creepier tales of the far-east) and perhaps what frustrated him most about the lit scene was its inability to do the same for indie-writers, it decision to pinch off the water supply and mire itself in a snake-eat-snake's-tail circle of handouts, backscratching and phoney relationships.

Steve was a huge reason why the group was founded and why it lasted as long as it did. Even after the group exploded in the end, spewing out a number of battle hardened writers and spawning groups like the Guild of Outsider Writers and a much stronger Red Fez, Steve declined invitations to join new ventures, believing in the base tenets of the ULA and feeling they were still right. Long after our group relationship had ended I would get updates from him on a number of great back-boiler projects he had going, ready to launch as soon as the ULA got over its squabbling. Pat Simonelli described Steve as the mother of the group and perhaps was too patient with its unruly roost in the end. Steve had the great ideas, the great writing, the smarts...but he wasn't going to bother wrestling anyone to the ground to make them listen. It was a strength and a weakness and it was all Steve.

In the Summer of 2005 I traveled to Japan to meet some friends and had the opportunity to meet with Steve and stay with him a few days in Tokyo. I had always been a bit intimidated by Steve I suppose. His writing was so worldly and macho, but countenanced with that confident, motherly appeal. I spent about three days with Steve and his personality suddenly made so much sense when I met him in person. If you haven't met him, I can't describe it, and it's too late to get a chance to do it now. But he became whole for me in that moment and I was able to finally conclude (there were some doubts!) that Steve was a really amazing guy with a natural love for writing and human expression, particularly in literary form. The world had a lot to learn from Steve, but as the world is, you know, it wasn't really ready to listen. And like Steve was with his writing, he wasn't going to be bothered to smack it around a little to make it pay attention. It was and is the world's loss for it, and a loss for those of us who knew him.

I fell more out of contact with Steve after that, and hadn't heard from him in the last year or two, though I thought of him often, wondering which bar he was sitting at in Japan, or which new girlfriend he was bunking with these days, and always meant to get back in contact with him once things slowed down for me. So it was with a lot of shock and sadness to learn that his travels had ended. But if you weren't out there asking, Steve wasn't going to stand up and slap you in the face with it.

Steve left behind a lot of great work, great ideas, and fond memories. The world lost a great writer and literary thinker this year and doesn't even know it.Rest in Peace, Steve Kostecke. I look forward to hearing about your wild adventures beyond the grave someday.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Zeus and the Giant Iced Tea trivia questions!

Zeus and the Giant Iced Tea: PoetryHey...this is cool. I can make trivia questions about mine, or other people's, books! Now that's promotion I can get behind!

Try out the ones I made for Zeus! Never before have questions been so trivial! Can you get 100%? Can you get 5%?

Tuesday, April 26, 2011


Wow, I never realized how good Goodreads is for stalking your fans! Too bad I found this out by getting my first Goodreads rating for Zeus and the Giant Iced Tea: 2 out of 5 stars! Ouch!

So I did some digging and see that this particular reader has set this book on the quality shelf among such peers as Wrestling Superstars II, I Was for Sale: Confessions of a Bondage Model and The Satanic Rituals: Companion to the "Satanic Bible". Zeus was rated lower, in this person's opinion, than Bomb Queen Volume 3: The Good, The Bad And The Lovely and Zombies: A Record of the Year of Infection. Even poetry books by Jewel and Billy Corgan fared better than mine!

Oh well. At least it's nice to hear what people think! The reader is obviously a wrestling fan - I wonder if The Muscle pissed them off?

Onwards and upwards (or downwards!)

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Saturday morning thoughts: Poetry as Jazz

Turned on the good ol CBC radio 2 app this morning and had this revelation:

It seems like contemporary poetry is a lot like modern jazz. Half the time when you turn on the radio or open up some journal you get this this overwrought, overthought construction that only musical theorists could love (and you still wonder if they actually do like it - or if they are just trying to impress themselves), and half the time (if you're lucky) you'll get that something smooth and meaningful, that something you'd actually want to settle down with on the couch on a Sunday.

Anyway it, and this ensuing blogpost, inspired this poem:

Saturday Radio Jazz time
Just looking for something
to waste the morning
reading poetry to
and all I get
is five guys
treating their gear
as an arsenal of noise
and running their fingers
up and down
every key in their possession
like they were paid by the note
while I do the same
with the radio dials
just trying to escape
just trying to just find
and Meaningful
not overwrought
or overthought
or overplayed
just something sweet
and true
like a girl alone
writing poetry in a coffee shop
and not
or overthought
or overplayed
like too much poetry is
these days.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

From my upcoming comic book...

My good friend Mav and I are starting up a comic book serial sometime this year called RAILS - the Royal Alberta Illustrated Literature Society. Our first issue probably won't be until later in the year, but we'll be launching issue 0.5 in April and presenting it at the Kazoo Zine & Comics expo on Sat April 16th. Should be about 24 pages and will include some of my work (comics and poetry) and a good chunk of Mav's as well. Come check it out!

Here is a preview from my comic short, The Owl, that I'll have in it:

And check out some of Mav's great work here:

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Zeus and the Giant Iced Tea Contest Winners!

Recently there was a Zeus and the Giant Iced Tea giveaway over on Congratulations to Lisa, Rachel and Ina! I have sent forth three copies to the three corners of the globe (USA, Australia and India) with your names on it. Hopefully they will find you there to inform you of your mission: enjoy the book!

(Bonus mission - review the book! Extra points!)

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Fuck a Poet

The fuck-a-poet club

those clubs
mile high or higher.
Any fool
can pay
to ride on an aeroplane
and get bounced around
in a plastic shell.

Forget those
swinging swingers parties
where swingers swing
their swinging bats at any ball
that slings its way
into the park.

How many people
will you ever fuck
that will write a poem
about it afterward?

Schluff off
those other suitors
in their tailored bravado
boring people
fuck boring people
over martinis
between business hours and television shows
Who the fuck orders
a grilled cheese sandwich
in a restaurant?
Who the fuck orders
a grilled cheese sandwich
in a restaurant
when they could
fuck a poet?

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Water in the Desert

I stumbled across this review for Game Quest the other day. It's always kind of delightful to come across reviews for my self-published work. Partly because I had no distribution model other than Amazon and my own site, so the chance of Game Quest being read, let alone reviewed, is very very small. Game Quest has kind of had a life of it's own. One of my first orders was to Abu Ghraib (yes, that Abu Ghraib - insert your jokes about my book being a good implement for torture due to its size, weight or content here) and though I've stopped promoting the book years ago, still sell ~3 copies a year on Amazon and the ebook version sells quite well - about 1 a month. Despite being the most daunting (for most people) of my books in both theme and size, it seems to have found some tenuous foothold in the underculture. Anyway, so it's extra great when you find out that someone read it and actually took the time to review the book. In this case it was particularly nice because I could tell that the reviewer engaged with the book, understood it on a deeper level and had some interesting things to say about the work.

I'm not sure what most author's motivations are for writing. Mine is a desire to communicate. I don't particularly enjoy the editing, the printing and, especially, the promotion that goes into translating a story from something cool in your head to something real on the page. All that effort is a LOT of work and the end goal is to present it to the world and hope to hear back from them on what they thought. I don't really care if it's good or bad (of course, good is preferable), I just like to hear what people thought to see how and if it engaged them. Reviews are my favourite part after coming up with the idea in the first place. It's like getting the chance to reread your book from the POV of a reader...and loving it, or excoriateingly tearing it to shreds. Which, in turn, makes the hardest part about being a small-beans author is you don't get a lot of that. But boy does that water in the desert taste good!

Incidentally, Zeus and the Giant Iced Tea also just got reviewed (huzzah!) by the University of Lethbridge Student newspaper, which you can read here.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

ZATGIT: The Unveiling

Zeus Arrives!

Holy Excitement Batman!

Anticipation Builds...

What the crap is this stuff? Where's ZEUS?!?

Oh! Here it is!


Hmmmm. Minimal spelling mistakes. Good, good...

Even babes like it!

Oh, the life of an arteest!

Saturday, February 5, 2011

What is Zeus and the Giant Iced Tea about Anyway?

Baddest cover
for a book of poetry
You know, in my zeal to promote this book, the effort of nearly two years of my and other’s metaphorical blood, sweat and tears, I may have forgotten to mention what the book is actually about! While ‘buy it!’ is a very important message I want you to take home from me about the book, that is not actually all the book has to say. In fact, ‘what the book is about’ is one of the more interesting aspects of this collection, and one of the hardest things to determine in putting it together.

So what the hell is Zeus and the Giant Iced Tea about?

You know, ‘What’s it about?’ is an unusual question in the poetry world when I think about it. It’s not generally asked. When plugging your new book to potential readers ‘it’s a collection of poetry’ is typically more than enough to put off the inquirer's curiosity in your writing. Cue the “I don’t know anything about poetry” response and glazed over deer in the headlights of Robert Frost’s speedster ripping down the highway in the dead of night with a giant spinning bladesaw reflecting the moon on the front... For those who like poetry (and there aren’t many who believe that they do), the sad triumph of form over content in the poetry world precludes the importance of it having to be (or even actually being) about something.

But the fact is that all collections are about something. Or at the very least, I claim Zeus to be about something. Why? Because I had to put it together. I had to have a reason for selecting, rejecting and aggregating the poems I picked from my treasure trove of gems, gold, fool’s gold, coal and acursed items. Zeus has a criteria, standards, a vision.

I articulate that vision fairly clearly (I hope!) in the short and entertaining (I hope!) intro to Zeus and the Giant Iced Tea, which you can read here (click ebook and read the 'Why Zeus and the Giant Iced Tea?' section). But before I get more into what Zeus is about I’d like to talk more about ‘aboutness.’

That collections of poetry, even random ones, are about something escaped even me until Zeus slapped me in the face with it. My first poetry book, Poetaster, pretty much falls into the random collection category. I was asked to submit something to Ekstasis and so I gathered all my poetry in a virtual pile and started picking out the stuff I liked best. It wasn’t until I started (struggling with) putting Zeus together that I realized Poetaster had a focus. It was an introduction: Hey poetry world – here’s me! It was about me and the best of the stuff I was writing about, thinking about and dealing with from the dawn of my first feeble attempts to Ekstasis asking me to submit. The collection is a bi-product of that era: forceful, sarcastic, bitter, ironic and optimistic. These poems about the death of my father, international travel, office jobs, the lameness of the literary scene portray an author who is alternatively confident, lost, self-assured, struggling and ready to tear the literary world a new one if only to get some fresh air into the joint!

Seriously, is this the part where you tell us what the hell Zeus and the Giant Iced Tea is about? Cause my time at the wash-o-mart is almost up and I gotta pick up my clothes.

So if Poetaster is about ‘me’ in the first era of my poetry writing, what is Zeus and the Giant Iced Tea about? Zeus is a radical departure from Poetaster. It is not about me, but about fiction - or rather poetry's take on story telling. I like to think of Zeus as a love letter from poetry to fiction. The poems in Zeus are complete stories in themselves (The City, or the Muscle), and sometimes they are snippets of stories from a greater, untold story - like peeking through a keyhole in a door: you get a salacious snippet of the action going on, but get to make up the rest for yourself (The Two Xs, Crash Landing). Others are individually sealed poems that, as they are read, build and build into a much larger and complete story (The Sultan Poems). Zeus is an ode to fiction, to narrative storytelling, but from the dreamlike mind of poetry.

The Making of Zeus (It sprung from my forehead!)

To be honest I had no idea what I was going to send to Athabasca Press when I was asked to submit. I thought it would be as easy as Poetaster – spend a few hours rummaging through my poems, put em into categories and ‘voila!’ But I didn’t just want to do more ‘random stuff from Leopold McGinnis’, and I wasn’t sure I had much left after Poetaster. I struggled for quite a while to find a thematic collection when I realized, like the nutty professor, that I had a number of poems that were not similar in theme but in format! Poetic experiments telling complete stories, or teasing us with pieces of them. I didn't have a lot of them, but as I started collecting, and expanding my definition of what counted as 'narrative' I found I had almost enough for a book! Thanks be to god! I fleshed that out with the Sultan Poems (which deserves a post on its own, growing like a cancer from 1 poem to 3, to 6, to 8, to 16 and, finally 19 to take up more than a third of the book!) and I had a unique and interesting collection that was definitely NOT Poetaster and definitely ABOUT something.

Of course, then I forgot to tell everyone about that part in my frenzy to get the world to pay attention. Hopefully this post makes amends!

Anyway, that’s the story, or at the least the story that Zeus is trying to tell, and overall I think poetry does an excellent job telling a story. I hope you’ll check it out.

Note: I hope to write more about the whole publishing process in the coming weeks, so stay tuned.

Friday, January 28, 2011

It's a review!

Sort of. It's a paragraph, at least, by someone other than me telling you to pick up a copy! Check it out!

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Beware the Podcasts, Pod-cats!

So I just finished my second podcast. The first is about Salvation (perhaps you've heard of it?) and the second about Malls (also known as shopping centers). They were pretty fun to do, and both turned out really well (though they were a lot of work, especially sandwiched between school, a book launch and an upcoming vacation before book launch! yipes.)

So why do a podcast? Well, the simple answer is because my book publicist asked me to. You know, to whet your appetite for more poetry and get you drooling over the delicious release of my new book, Zeus and the Giant Iced Tea this March. (I plan on writing more about the publishing process here later as well.) But I hope to continue doing them even after the book, because they are a great forum for reading poetry within a philosophical and entertaining context. Also, I bought this BAD-ASS microphone on Boxing Day and I was eager to use it! If you're a poet interested in doing recordings, podcasts or readings, I HIGHLY recommend you get it. It's easy and does amazing recordings, records straight to mp3 and so much more.

Anyway, I've put up a sample of podcast #2 for your entertainment. It's me reading a poem called On the Trail of Ibn Battuta about a mall in Dubai. That poem also appears in Zeus and the Giant Iced Tea.

I hope the first podcast (Salvation) will be up in the next couple of weeks, with Malls to be out in mid to late February.


Next up, a new video involving my fridge!

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Zeus copy

Things are ramping up for the March release of Zeus and the Giant Iced Tea (3rd and final proofs to be done today!) AU Press has even got a placeholder up for the book, where you can get a sneak preview of the cover and read some of the promo copy for the book.

Even is excited about it!

I've seen the full cover of the book (just released the other day) and it looks FANTASTIC! But you're going to have to wait until the launch to see that.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

A Sequel to a Poem I Haven't Published

So, I was going through the proofs of my new book (Due March 2011!), which is a rather tedious (but also sometimes fun) process in which you hum and haw over each period and comma and syllable in your work. But as I was reading through the last poem in the book (We Heart Robot) and was inspired to start writing a sequel to it. This is largely unfinished, and who knows if it ever will be, but it was fun to start so I thought I'd share it.

Anyway, some prologue: The original poem (which you can find in my new book) sort of covers how all those girls got into his stomach in the first place. But I kind of wondered, during the review, what Giant Robot and the 1000 Japanese Schoolgirl's lives were like post departure from Earth. (Yes, this is an actual poem...published by an actual press.)

Anyway, here goes, the sequel to a poem you haven't read yet!

Gigantic Robot and the Shortcake Planet

One day
A thousand Japanese school girls
(and a few friends hanging out)
were lounging in the belly-lounge
of Gigantic Robot’s stomach
when he ran out of
Strawberry Shortcake gas

He rumbled
And he trembled
And the thousand schoolgirls
erupted in a chorus
of ‘ohhhhs’
and even a few tea sets
got broken
and beanbag chairs

Whatever shall we do?
Where can we get more gas?
The girls asked
and then it was decided.
Going back to Earth
was no option
- too dull
for these well-heeled universal citizens
and the tiramisu just wasn’t that great -
they must go to the planet
but first
they’d need to buy
lots of gifts

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Zeus and the Giant Iced Tea Poster DESIGNED!!

Ok, I got it together and MAN does it look slick! It's bad that I'm more excited about the book cover at this point than the book in time, but slightly understandable, I suppose, after the innumerable man hours I put in over the holiday season proofing it (just print it already!) Anyway...look for some poster contests soon!

Now I've just got to find a printer...and someone to post them up on street posts ACROSS THE GLOBE!