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Your Own Back Yard – Michael Gillan Maxwell

Visual Art – Creative Writing – Social Commentary

Month

March 2014

Tagged: “My Writing Process”

Lunch Laddy at the Dirt Track Races
Writing at the Dirt Track Races

Tagged: “My Writing Process”

“My Writing Process” is an ongoing series in which authors “tag” each other to answer some questions about their work. Robert Vaughan invited me to participate. Initially I declined, but reading Robert Vaughan’s and Bud Smith’s responses to these questions kind of got the wheels turning. I have always been fascinated by the creative process and it seems to be different for each individual.

Robert Vaughan’s most recent book is Addicts & Basements (Civil Coping Mechanisms)http://www.amazon.com/Addicts-Basements-Robert-Vaughan/dp/1937865231 Bud Smith (http://budsmithwrites.com) is the author of Tollbooth and Or Something Like That. He just released full length poetry collection, Everything Neon by Marginalia Books. He also is the host of The Unknown Show.

Authors Mia Avramut and Gary Powell have accepted my invitation to participate. Gary Powell is the author of Speedos, Tattoos, and Felons: A Novella in Stories http://www.amazon.com/Speedos-Tattoos-Felons-Novella-Stories/dp/1492820504

Here are links to some of Mia’s work:

http://www.escapeintolife.com/poetry/mia-avramut/

http://www.thricefiction.com/

http://www.menacinghedge.com/spring2013/entry-avramut.php

http://thebookendsreview.com/2013/07/29/mia-avramut-postcard-from-kettwig/

http://lucidplaypublishing.weebly.com/glass-eye-chandelier.html

Here are my responses to the questions.

1) What am I working on?

I have two chapbooks looking for a home. Although, it seems the longer they are homeless, the more they keep changing. “Long Gone and Never Coming Back” is a poetry chapbook and the other is a flash fiction chapbook called “Between Dusk and Dawn.” If they go much longer before finding a publisher, they will be full length collections and may not contain any of the work that currently comprises them.

I’m also working on a portfolio of altered photographs called “In The Studio” which documents my friend Daniel Hoffman’s work as a luthier making cellos. I’ll be posting that on my website. To view Hoffman’s exquisite work go to http://www.danielhoffmanluthier.com.

I have an ongoing series on my website called The Lunch Lady Cookbook where I post recipes and photographs, music and beverage pairings all carried along by tongue-in-cheek goofy narrative. I also write essays when the spirit moves me and irate letters to my legislators when I’m hot and bothered by environmental issues, which seems to happen more and more frequently.

Oh yeah. Almost forgot to mention. I write songs too. Singer/songwriter/Americana story stuff, blues, ballads and rock and roll. Guitar, harmonica, vocals ~simple chords and simple structures.

2) How does my work differ from others of its genre?

I think, like everybody else, I try to be authentically “myself” and put my “personal stamp” on it without getting so esoteric that I lose the reader. My best work conveys irony, humor and redemption, no matter how far it may veer into the dark side. From time to time, I’m lucky enough to write a piece that only I could write. However, that’s a slippery and intangible bit of magic that I am at a loss to explain, because I don’t even understand it myself.

3) Why do I write what I do?

It usually comes from a deep emotional response or a reaction to a situation, social condition, event, or nature. Sometimes it’s triggered by a song or a visual image. I also seem to write a lot of stuff that comes from driving my car. I have a lot of fun writing parody and satirical pieces laced with ironic, often self deprecating humor. This shows up a lot in my series The Lunch Lady Cookbook and in my serial detective noir send-up “The Last of the Hard Boiled Dicks.”

4) How does my writing process work?

I compose most every thing on my computer or iPad. I think all my years of academic writing rewired my brain. Or maybe “short-circuited” would be a better description! Songwriting is done differently. I usually write songs in long hand and use a guitar or mandolin to play the chords. Although, some of my best songs came to me, unbidden, while doing things like mowing the lawn or walking my dogs. In a couple of cases they came like a “download” ~ fully formed with lyrics, melody, chords all intact ~ and I had to rush into the house to write it all down before it vanished back into the ethers. It was like I “channeled” them. A lot of my poetry starts with a line that has come to me in a near dream state, either just before falling asleep or as I’m awakening. Most of the heavy lifting in my writing is done with a burst of energy using blunt instruments and big, broad strokes. After that, it seems like an endless process of revising, cutting, and rearranging words and phrases. It’s like feng shui. I’m also a recovering adverb and cliche abuser, so ferreting out those buggers is an important part of the process. Quite often, I’ll get ideas for poems while driving my car and I start scribbling madly in a notebook on the passenger seat. Of course, this is even more dangerous than texting, so I’ll pull over if at all possible. I also beg, borrow and steal ideas shamelessly, then hammer it into something that is my own. Don’t we all? Perhaps the secret to transmuting it into something new and original lies in responding in a truly honest, personal and authentic manner. That’s all easier said then done, but it’s worthy of striving toward.

Book Review Before Whose Glory by Lawrence Kessenich 2013 FutureCycle Press

Book Review Before Whose Glory by Lawrence Kessenich  2013 FutureCycle Press

Cover

Lawrence Kessenich’s Before Whose Glory is his first full length collection of poems, published in 2013 by FutureCycle Press. Kessenich writes about time and space, people and places, unfathomable mysteries and the beauty of nature, the human condition and the experience of being alive. Before Whose Glory is a collection of beautifully crafted poems, each one a story, each one its own self contained universe.

To say that Kessenich’s poems are accessible is not to say that they are without depth. The poems in this collection are deceptively complex, intricately layered and subtly nuanced. Each poem offers a clear path through the piece without obfuscation, needlessly difficult arcane references or unintelligible abstractions that might otherwise leave me bewildered and wondering if I’ve missed the point. These pieces are compelling and evocative. They insinuate their way into my subconscious and run through my head like my favorite songs. They are poems I find myself going back to and noticing something new with each reading.

Kessenich’s poetry is narrative and reflective and the artist’s sensibilities are pervasive throughout the collection. His understated, gently ironic humor and sense of the absurd comes through in the pieces based on true stories ripped from the news that are stranger than fiction. Other poems are poignant and compassionate reflections on relationships and family life written from the perspective of being the Devil himself, a kid with a paper route, a son, a lover, a husband, a father, or a citizen of planet Earth.

With this collection of symmetrically crafted poems, Kessenich demonstrates a dazzling ability for juxtaposing the mundane with the sublime. Some pieces begin in a very ordinary setting and end in reverent contemplation of the spiritual and metaphysical and sometimes it’s the other way around. Either way, the poems in Before Whose Glory give me cause to pause; stop what I’m doing, question, reflect, appreciate and remind me to be grateful for life and all its blessings.

Book Review ~ Dead Letters JP Reese (2013-ČERVENÁ BARVA PRESS)

Book Review

 Dead Letters  JP Reese (2013-ČERVENÁ BARVA PRESS)

DeadLettersFront.full

JP Reese’s Dead Letters (2013-ČERVENÁ BARVA PRESS) is a captivating and compelling chapbook of poems that will keep you coming back for more. Each of the twenty poems in this collection is an exploration of lyrical language, vivid imagery and human emotion. Reese’s dedication to the craft is evident in the way she deliberately uses form to serve function in order to create a sense of time and place and to convey the message in each individual poem. Each of the poems in Dead Letters flows effortlessly when read off the page and is spellbinding when read aloud. While the poems in Dead Letters are readily accessible, they are also subtly nuanced and have the kind of depth that reveals something new with each reading. This is a really fine short collection written by a fine poet. This chapbook is one well worth reading and adding to your library. You’ll find yourself going back to it again and again.

Bound by Blue: Stories by Meg Tuite 2014 Sententia Books

Book Review: “Bound by Blue: Stories” by Meg Tuite 2014 Sententia Books

Bound by Blue Cover

I know it’s been said before, but it took courage to write this book and it takes courage to read it. It’s not for the faint of heart. It’s rough, tough and in your face, unflinching yet poignant and compassionate, but certainly not without humor and redemption. Meg Tuite’s stories are inhabited by wanderers, wonderers and seekers, lost and broken souls, parents and children estranged and searching for connection, people looking for meaning and characters dancing on the fringes of society and the edges of reality.

Each story, from the opening “The F Word” through the keystone in the arch, “Bound By Blue”, that leaves you stunned and reeling, to the final (and my favorite) piece “The Healer” bristles with fulminating energy that simmers just beneath the surface before exploding in your face. These stories are written in prose that is rendered with the sensibilities of a visual artist and the soul of a poet.

The 13 stories in this brilliant collection are dark, tough, beautifully written and skillfully wrought by an author who can look right through you and immediately tell if you are bullshitting or not.

Meg Tuite’s writing is raw boned and edgy and her voice is all her own and totally original and unique. Bound By Blue is unlike anything you’ve ever read. It’s a beautifully designed book, published by Sententia Books, and the cover art alone, a reproduction of a painting by Goro Endow, would be reason enough for me to buy it. You should buy Bound By Blue, read it, talk about it and try, just try, to write something as unique and powerful as this. Go ahead. I dare ya!

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