“Failed State” in Failed Haiku!

cover of Failed Haiku Issue 52

I was chuffed to place two pieces in a special haibun issue of Failed Haiku, a journal otherwise specializing in senryu — humorous or satirical haiku. Guest editors Terri and Raymond French chose “School of Quietude” as well as the title haibun from my still tragically unpublished manuscript Failed State. (Which these days is feeling more prophetic than ever, I’m sorry to say.) Here’s a direct link to the issue [PDF]. My stuff is on pp. 40-41. The whole issue looks terrific.

I aspire to be a haiku poet, but most of the time I do feel as if I fail at it… in a kind of senryu direction, if I’m lucky: just a bit too unsubtle, a bit too arch. So while this was my first submission to Failed Haiku, I’m sure it won’t be my last.

One of the cool things about the journal is they don’t give a damn whether a piece has appeared anywhere else before, and they can’t be bothered to mention it if so. But I do feel compelled to point out that a different version of the closing haiku in “Failed State” appeared as part of a multi-author haiku-year-in-review broadside from Broadsided Press a few years ago. All the other haiku are new to the interwebs. I seem to recall I shared the prose portion of “School of Quietude” on social media (Instagram?) a year or two ago.

Apocalyptic Anthems and Memento Mori: Metal for a Pandemic

Listen on Spotify or Listen on YouTube (ideally with your ad-blocker on)

cover of Black Sabbath - Black SabbathHeavy metal turned 50 years old on February 13, the release date of Black Sabbath’s self-titled first album — just in time for a global pandemic. That’s a grim coincidence, but it does give one indication of why the genre has had such staying power, in all its diverse manifestations (folk metal! Doom Metal! Progressive Metal! Stoner metal! Symphonic Metal! And on and on, for a total of approximately 666 distinct sub-genres): we live in grim and increasingly brutal times, and metal speaks to people like me who believe there’s value to looking horror in the face. Memento mori (“Remember that you must die”) is an ancient and very multicultural wisdom path, and I was fascinated to discover while pulling this playlist together that Lamb of God, one of the most popular and influential metal bands of the past 20 years, have just released a single (and stunning video) with that very title, adapted to the COVID-19 pandemic. Randy Blythe, their lead singer and lyricist, gives the background:
Continue reading “Apocalyptic Anthems and Memento Mori: Metal for a Pandemic”

Two haiku in The Heron’s Nest and one in Frogpond

Once in a while I summon the motivation to submit poems rather than just self-publish, and so once in a while I place poems in journals. Funny how that works. The latest success: two haiku in the March issue (Vol. XXII, No. 1) of The Heron’s Nest, an online quarterly edited by the excellent modern haiku poet John Stevenson. They’re both on Page 6. As in most haiku publications, I’m identified only by name and location (which is actually one of the things I really like about haiku culture; I hate how much mainstream poetry orgs focus on personality). Although I gave Plummer’s Hollow as my location, in fact both haiku were written in the UK.

I should also have a haiku in the latest issue (43.1) of Frogpond, the journal of the Haiku Society of America, but since they don’t send out contributor copies and I’m not a member, I’m not entirely sure. Anyway, here’s the haiku they accepted last September:

bare hand
so lovely and cool
harvesting leeks

A memory from childhood. This was actually the second time they’ve published me, but the first was decades ago before I knew much of anything about haiku so it doesn’t count.

Videohaiku feature at Atticus Review + REELpoetry festival gig

Some of my videohaiku, along with an artist’s statement, comprise the latest biweekly feature in the Mixed Media section of Atticus Review: Five Trains / Sea Levels. I’m honored to appear in one of the web’s two or three best homes for videopoetry in English, edited by Matt Mullins, himself a stand-out practitioner of the craft. I’d been reluctant to submit since I know Matt pretty well—I didn’t want to either presume on our friendship, or put him in the awkward spot of having to say no. (I’m told that’s not the way most poets operate, but whatever. Ambition is poison.) But when Matt solicited work, I sure wasn’t going to refuse!

That was several months ago; they have a long queue. Fortunately, my turn came up just in time to promote a program I’m giving as part of the 2020 REELpoetry festival in Houston, which takes place on the weekend of January 24-26. On Sunday, in lieu of a reading I’ll be showing a bunch of my videohaiku, and expanding on some of the thoughts in the Atticus Review essay.

The REELpoetry folks also have me giving the keynote address (gulp!) on Saturday, and I’ll be helping to kick things off on Friday night with a screening called Poesía sin fronteras / Poetry Without Borders focusing on Latin American poetry films, especially those that grew out of the online “Poetry from the Other Americas” group translation project back in 2015-16. Here’s a trailer:

Watch on Vimeo

I’m also on the five-judge panel, and I can tell you that the competition films range all the way from great to spectacular. So why not spend a weekend watching poetry films in Houston, Texas? I’ll be the guy with the big, dark circles under his eyes from weeks of sleep deprivation.

Autumn Metropolis is up

still from Autumn Metropolist showing fallen leaves on a sidewalk

My latest videohaiku sequence, Autumn Metropolis, completes the cycle begun with Winter Trees and continued in Pennsylvania Spring and Summer in the UK. (Yes I know, I’m not good with titles.) In fact, the cycle ends as it began: with a video of a train. The foregoing links take you to the sequences’ dedicated pages here (which include the texts). I’ve also just shared Autumn Metropolis at Via Negativa together with some concluding thoughts about the sequence and the whole cycle, which I may or may not do anything further with. It’s not as if traditional publishers are clamoring for submissions of videopoetry. And the fact that I’ve already released them in video form renders the texts undesirable to most haiku journals. But that’s O.K. On balance, I’m pleased with how this experiment has turned out.

Failing up: More texts from Failed State make their way into the world

Oops, I’ve forgotten about this website again! I apologize to both of my subscribers.

To be honest, I think my major creative accomplishment of the summer has been learning how to make no-knead, whole grain sourdough bread that is not at all brick-like. But since this is a writer’s blog, I do feel obliged to periodically make note of my publications and other similar accomplishments. Why this is important, I’m not entirely sure (unlike with bread baking, where the rewards are obvious and life-sustaining). So. Um, let’s see. I had a haiku appear in an actual print publication called hedgerow, their spring issue, which turned out to be a rather nice anthology, including some genuinely fine English-language haiku that I was pleased to share space with. The haiku of mine that the editor chose happens to be the one that closes my manuscript Failed State:

fresh snow
the child fills the trailer
of her toy truck

Another couple of haiku appeared online in NOON: journal of the short poem, both in Issue 15 (pp. 34-35 if you’re in a hurry). Again, good company, and yes, both haiku are also from Failed State, written this spring as replacements for earlier, weaker haiku. I was especially pleased with the second one—

above the mall
the rest of the mountain’s
unrest

—which caps a haibun titled “Economic Growth”. (Environmentalist friends from the Altoona area may recognize the reference to the ill-advised Logan Town Centre, which despite its name ignored the many serviceable brownfields areas in the actual town center to take advantage of a ridiculous tax break and carve out a steep, seep area on the side of Brush Mountain. Which hasn’t actually collapsed onto Barnes & Noble and Bed Bath & Beyond quite yet, but a big scary crack has opened up in the slope just above.)

Also worth mentioning is a haiku I wrote for a senryu contest sponsored by a publication called Sonic Boom. It’s true that I tend to turn my nose up at contests, but they can be a great spur to creativity, and such was the case this time, as it not only yielded another replacement for a haiku in Failed State, but it was also accepted for publication since it landed on both judges’ shortlists, apparently. You can find it here (PDF) on page 22. A memory from childhood.

Also, Marie Craven’s videopoem based on some of my erasure haibun appeared in Rochford Street Review, Lori Ersolmaz’s Triptych filmpoem from Failed State was screened at the Oaxaca Filmfest, and In West Virginia by Pamela Falkenberg and Jack Cochran, based on my haibun of the same title, has appeared in six festivals, including the Buffalo International Film Festival, the Lisbon Film Rendezvous, the Ó Bhéal International Poetry-Film Competition, and the Green Screen Environmental Film Festival in Trinidad and Tobago.

New videopoetry collection: Summer in the UK

still from "cows on the common"

I’ve just completed Summer in the UK, my third online anthology of videohaiku. Go watch! Or read on for a little bit of background.

Much as I love my Pennsylvania mountaintop, I’m not as fond of our humid and increasingly hot summers; the cooler and drier maritime climate of the UK, where my partner lives, is far more to my liking. Regardless, summer is my least favorite season, and I often find it difficult to get in the mood for creative work. For most of July I fell off the videopoetry wagon altogether. But with a rush of catch-up videopoeming and a generous definition of summer (early June to the autumn equinox), I think I now have just enough to make a satisfying collection of haiku videos, if not quite as coherent a sequence as I put together for winter or spring. The high point, I think, is a nine-verse renku (linked verse) sequence called “Sea Levels” based on a low-tide visit to the submerged forest off the Welsh coast at Borth. Other locations in the collection include Aberystwyth, Hebden Bridge, Brill in Buckinghamshire, and various places in London, including Kew Gardens and the British Museum. To preserve a sense of seasonal progression, the videos are presented in the order in which the footage was shot rather than the order of composition.

As before, I’ve given the collection its own permanent page here (linked in the drop-down menu under Videopoetry if you’re viewing this on a proper computer), in addition to a showcase on Vimeo and a playlist on YouTube. The individual videos have also been shared on my Instagram and Twitter accounts (but not Facebook, because I have no truck with that hell site). If anyone would like to share this collection, first of all, thank you! And I think that YouTube will actually give you embed code. I’m happy to share the Vimeo embed code on request. Or of course you could simply share the link to my page.

A new videopoetry collection: Pennsylvania Spring

still from "spring woods at dusk"

Spring may not quite be over yet in Pennsylvania, but it is for me, since I’ve just made my annual eastern migration across the Atlantic to spend the summer and much of the fall with my partner Rachel in the UK. And I’d accumulated 24 spring-themed videohaiku—two more videos than in Winter Trees—so it was time to see whether they worked as a sequence, and I’ve decided that they do. Voilà: Pennsylvania Spring.

As I noted on Via Negativa just now, all but one of the videos was shot on an iPhone without any advance planning, just capturing things of visual interest and letting them prompt haiku a day or more later. The exception, “coal country spring”, uses old home movie footage that came to me in a similar serendipitous fashion: via @HomeMoviesBot on Twitter. As with Winter Trees, I feel that these are best experienced as they unfold, scroll-like, in the video series (which Vimeo now calls a showcase—previously album—and YouTube calls a playlist), in part because the visuals and audio are meant to add an extra dimension to the haiku, as with any videopoem. I am composing as much with video editing software as with the pen, and some of the haiku fall a little flat on the page. But I do include a transcription for the visually impaired. Go read/watch.