Serendipshity

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Every day feels like the end of the line. Each avenue leads to getting lost. Survival doesn’t wait for callbacks or reviews. Life will throw you challenges without regard to your readiness.

New York will have to wait. When the money runs out, you’ve gotta go find some. Nobody’s putting these books out for me. In fact, I’m putting them out for them. So, the paper chase it shall be. The quest for means finds me today in the city of Cleveland, which despite my desire to call it Leaveland soon, turns out to be a nicer place than I think every time I pass through.

The people here have midwest nice mixed with eastern swagger. They’re generally pleasant but on the move. The architecture is a complex mix of colonial, victorian, and twentieth century that inspires one to aim for magnificent grandeur despite the constant toilet-smell of the Cuyahoga. 

Luckily, the Cavaliers are out of town for this portion of the playoffs, so driving rideshare should be much easier through the lakefront vicinity. Ohio has always proven well for (faceless corporation who will terminate me if I name them on the web) driving. I plan to spend a few days here, make some dough for chapbooks and bills, and get myself closer to Milwaukee for the big show on May 23rd.

Speaking of chapbooks, I’ve given myself a personal goal of completing one per month, to be mailed out to VA subscribers along with their monthly full-length poetry selection. This ambitious objective is meant as a way to incentivize investment in the press as well as push me to keep my writing sharp. I already have two 24-page booklets finished, and am in the middle of a third. If you wish to keep up with this endeavor, you’ll have to either subscribe to VA Press or see me at a reading. This shit is exclusive, yo!

Enough advertising, I’ve got a lot of books and a short reading tour to work on. I just wanted to drop a line to say that even though I thought Cleveland sucked for most of my life, it’s actually an all right place. I wouldn’t quite say it rocks, but I can certainly see why it’s not empty.

Change Your Mind,

FLF

PS: At this moment, I’m hearing Frankie Cosmos in a Starbucks, so naturally, I will now have to burn america down. Stay punk!

I am a Ghost

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This has been true for quite some time but gone largely unnoticed. Floating through existence and not anywhere near real. A pathway of invisibility has opened, creating portals.

A friend called me on the telephone while I was driving yesterday to bond over a rock star’s suicide. I didn’t realize it until he called, but I was driving directly toward that friend’s house, so he invited me there. This happened because of choices made outside practical reality. A decision was made to keep moving randomly and drove me to a  connective bond forged in a place where those energies chose to meet, because I am a ghost.

I don’t mean to imply that I’m dead. I’m just not living in the world I was originally born. It’s reasonable to assume that my physical body is still tangible, especially because it’s still the misshapen, self-abused shell I’ve tattered over the last thirty-nine years. But tangibility is withering, and existence is far more dreamlike and readily achievable. 

A fiction is being lived: The fabrication that one can simply will a destiny and live it. This would not be possible for a mortal, therefore I must be an apparition. I have no money, nothing to trade save the magic incantations of poetry, fungal mass transporting untestable ideas. My composure and theories are those of an atheist, a fact-reliant citizen, but my actions are those of a conduit, a reed through which life may breathe legendary coincidences. I’m being exhaled in seasonal gusts. I’ve allowed circumstance to carry me, make me a phantom of light, waiting to be transported to the next impossible place where I’ll either solidify or spend a few moments as a wispy composition on the wind’s theremin. It’s likely I’ll see you soon. Let me know if I’m real.

Coug Life

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Twilight is  beginning to cover the State College Walmart parking lot. A white and red CATABUS turns left onto Atherton carrying virtually no one the day after graduation. I came here to make hella bank doing rideshares, and hella bank I made. Of course, now the car is having trouble from all that driving, so the spoils will once again go to the victor.

Sitting in this half-working car editing VA’s next release, Grace Takes Me by David J. Thompson, is a fitting setting for the poems the collection contains. David’s work is heartbroken, full of shattered dreams and reminisces of lost chances. While I’m far from shattered, the poems are a suitble reminder that you can count on life to create obstacles any time you’re sure of your next move.

State College is the real name of the town where Penn State University lies. It really is nothing but the college, and this Walmart and various other Walmart-esque vendors. The people to whom I gave rides here were all young, ambitious, exuberant, and excited. It was absolutely refreshing to be faced with so much positivity after so much driving justifiably upset people around in the forgotten and defiant rust belt cities which I’ve grown accustomed. These kids made me feel excited for the future and affirmative in my goals to carry the press forward. Even now that the car has taken a shit, I believe that I’m ready for whatever may come.

With my means of gainful employment removed from me, I have plenty of time to catch up on the more important but less profitable work that I need to accomplish, namely David’s book. It was supposed to come out in March, but March was truly the cruelest month. Luckily, after a remorseful apology and explaining to David my predicament, he gracefully accepted that shit happens and said he would wait for me to put the book out in May. It’s going to come out too, though probably later than even the postponed date, but you know, shit happens.

It’s strange and harrowing, awful and wonderful to read words that are so brutally honest about human failure. From relationships to dreams, the poems I’m looking at have so much to say about how none of us are guiltless nor deserve the things we crave. Despite this, somehow, in both the lines of the poems and in my own heart, I find reason to insist on continuing to pursue what Bach called the joy of man’s desiring. Like life itself, there doesn’t really need to be a reason to do anything, though I’ve plenty.

So, I’m bringing the car to a shop in the morning and I’ll let the diagnosis decide for me whether I’m headed back to New York or continuing my shady hobo quest to cover the United States with poetry. I’ll be happy and fine either way, even if there is no real reason to be.

My sister and I have this weird connection to John “Cougar” Mellencamp, and David’s book has sort of a Coug feel to it, so I’ll make my closing salutation the title of JCM’s really unlistenable but aptly titled sophomore album:

Nothin’ Matters and What if It Did,

FLF

 

Well, Shit

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Throughout most of the last year, I’ve had an if you build it, they will come mentality. There haven’t been any actual voices in my head, but my general attitude has consisted of believing that because I’m doing something for which I truly have a passion, people will gravitate toward my efforts and Vegetarian Alcoholic Press will become a reputable and self-sufficient organization. 

That attitude was complete bullshit. 

I was another sucker trying to live the American dream, which is called a dream for a reason. Sometimes risking everything you have in the name of what you love works out, but not often. Especially when what you love is something as obscure and unpopular as poetry. 

I quit my day (night) job and dove into working on the press full time. The idea was that without the stress and distraction of menial labor, my focus would become pure and VA would be able to grow, which it did, but nowhere near enough to even cover the expenses of production.

So, a year and several thousand dollars of debt later, it seems I’ve run out of options and must return to exercising my more profitable talents, namely bartending. 

The people who last worked with me in a tavern setting knew that I’d reached the end of my rope and had been yanking furiously at its frayed ends. I thought my job was destroying any chance for me to ever have a successful and happy life and that I’d be stuck in it forever, well, till death. But the real problem wasn’t the job itself. It was the monotony. I had spent so long doing the same thing in the same place I was going insane with grief.

Today, I find myself in New York, a city I’ve fallen in love with over the last year. Every time I’ve been here, I’ve thought I would love to live here if I could afford it. The thing is, I can both afford to live here and keep funding the press if I simply swallow my pride and return to the line of work society deems me most suited. I have no money and no other way left to get any. It would be stupid to let go of my ambitions and those of whom I’ve published by refusing to take action. I am capable of tolerating and exceling at a bar job. And I’ll be doing it where I want to be. Time to update that resumé.

Find a Way to Make It Work,

FLF

 

 

 

Motivational Delusions

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I’ve taken it upon myself to live ridiculously. I’ve taken the bait. American culture constantly sells the idea that if we believe in anything strong enough and work hard enough to make it reality, success will come. Sometimes this is referred to as the protestant work ethic. Whatever it is, I must not be working hard enough.

In the last few years, I’ve come to love editing, publishing, and producing the work of relatively unknown poets. The joy I witness when they hold their very own books in their hands for the first time is worth everything I put in to making it happen. In truth, however, it has so far been and end in itself.

The world of poetry, at least in the U.S. has far more producers than consumers. Perhaps I’m wrong in this statement, but my press definitely gets at least four times as many submissions of manuscripts than orders for books, a situation that’s caused me to lose my home and thus my ability to engage in my work freely, as well as face the humiliation of depending on help from people who continue to work their asses off for the stability I’ve shunned.

I’m not proud of these choices. I simply can’t bring myself to change. I’ve found a direction in my life that has given me a profound sense of fulfillment despite it resulting in the perpetual disappearance of every thing I’ve earned in my adult life.

I do not believe in destiny or the American dream, I simply don’t want to do anything else and would prefer to live in squalor than give up what makes me happy. It’s extremely uncomfortable, but far better than the decades I spent holding back in fear from losing the comforts to which I’d grown accustomed.  Every one of those terrors has been realized and my life is still far better than when it was dependable. It could possibly get worse, but dreams are often nightmares, and we can always wake up, or better yet, become lucid.

Don’t Worrry about Reality,

FLF

Stables

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Places of development always seem half finished. Roaming through the affluent college towns of the midwest, one can find a lot of consistency and not a lot to do. The suburbs blend in smoothly with the cities because the cities were nothing but a square mile surrounding a campus until the investors decided they were tired of paying for poor people’s educations and moved from the old cities to move some more dirt. Small towns are becoming strip-mall metropolises while our city-cities debate whether gentrification is better than leaving up rows of rotting buildings and most who can eventually move out anyway.

I’ve always thought of myself as an urban person. I wasn’t made that way. Growing up in between two tiny Wisconsin towns as a child, I’d hear trains pass in the distance and dream of taking them to Milwaukee or Brooklyn. I’ve done both, and always feel better when I can walk for miles surrounded by people and holes to crawl into, should the need or urge arise.

Now it seems clear that there’s little difference no matter where people dwell. There are small matters of population and modes of transport, but for the most part, people are generally boring, repetitively commuting to their schools and jobsites, discussing the same issues (equality or personal gains with slight variations on themes), then back home to ingest some digital entertainment or chosen chemical. They’ll travel a little bit and gain an annoying perspective about what life really means until they forget their discoveries and settle back into routine.

This is how we function. It seems like only a few very loud people are upset about it. Everyone questions it at some point, but most of us remain happy eating our tails as producer-consumers measuring sporadic quips against each other. Some of us make more of us, and we all just keep passing the time with our chosen prescriptions. It really doesn’t matter where we live. Everywhere we are, we indulge in habit and savor its rhythm.

I used to think this was bad, or ignorant, but I’m beginning to see that it’s what most people want and that’s ok. The simplicity of dependable outcomes can provide great comfort whilst existing in a natural world that is violent and unpredictable. Humans only seem to become volatile when their predictability is infringed upon. Of course every generation gets fancy new ideas from youth and their usurping academics, but these minor revolutions rarely disrupt everyday people’s lives unless they choose to heed them attention, most prefering to stay out of the way unless directly confronted. Those who face oppression and their advocates are almost always fighting for stability and normalcy. Those with power only yield to such demands when doing so results in less disruption.

What I’m trying to say is, we probably want to be boring. Which can only be countered by asking why we create.

Keep Making Shit,

FLF

Oblivious

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And so, it's Poetry Month. A time for us to dress up buses and subways, put out little cards in cafes, write a poem a day, and celebrate a bunch of dead people. My poetry month thus far has been spent living a bad art film, roaming Iowa in a late-model Chevrolet, giving Lyft rides (one of which a customer wrongly reported me as being intoxicated and almost caused me to lose my only current source of income), and searching the landscape for anything resembling inspiration.

One source of enlightenment was a meeting I had in Ames with some wonderful poets enrolled at Iowa State. I contacted Crystal Stone via Instagram (which may seem weird but is also how I booked half of our winter tour), and she arranged for two other poets in her program to meet for dinner in Ames and discuss writing and our hopes for the future of verse. Matty Layne and Kate Wright joined us at one of those fancy American food beer places and had a very exciting discussion on what poetry meant to each of us. The best part was that each of them have disctinctly different writing styles and vastly disproportionate views on where their efforts will take them. Matty is of the activist variety, Kate writes narratively and is pursuing the academic route, and Crystal writes with extreme vaguery while going the promotional/advocate route like myself. It was incredibly refreshing to meet and discuss our collective art while I found myself in a strange land. I'm extremely grateful the three of them were willing to meet and hope to find news of their successes as they continue their pursuits.

I spent a few days driving around Des Moines after that, and thanks to the hospitality and demeanor of those citizens, decided it was time to head back to Wisconsin before venturing out to New York for the NYMPH release. I'm lucky enough to have a warm and comfy place to stay in Madison for a few days before I continue the deranged mission I've made for myself. I may be crazy and no one may care about this press, but I still don't see what else I should be doing with my life whether it's April or this perpetual December my travels have unveiled.

Stay Groovy,

FLF

Purpose or Pointlessness

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Today, I’m at the supreme siren of all coffee chains, pleased to have a scalding monster of house blend holding my status as an approved wi-fi user. The road has been a bit kinder in the last couple days, as Iowa has proved its welcoming reputation. With the help of a dear friend, I’ve found myself lodging in downtown Iowa City hosted by a lovely couple, two cats, and a very funny dog.

Driving has been difficult, as people request rides few and far between. I managed to come up with my car payment on time, and a few book orders came through over the weekend, so it looks as though there should be no hiccups in getting NYMPH printed on time as long as I bust some serious ass in the next two days. As always, accumulating the bare minimum of capital gets in the way of focusing on my chosen work.The last few days have me overwhelmed by the notion that my goals are naive and unachievable. No one really reads poetry, and of those who do, very few of them know of or care about this lofty operation. I keep finding poets online concerned more with message or lament than craft. Does anyone read to find the magic in words or do they simply crave affirmation for their borrowed attitudes? How can I get to those concerned with the art of writing and convince them this press is legitimate? Will it always be uphill?

I’ve found something in this life that causes me to feel a genuine purpose and fulfillment. It doesn’t matter that I’ve had to give up basic comforts to keep things going. What matters is that they keep going. A friend asked me recently after all the debt and desperation I’ve caused myself, how far down I would have to be to consider myself at rock bottom. My answer was and is, when I give up.

Keep Doing What You Love,

FLF