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  • mono 8:41 pm on December 6, 2013 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: bizarro central, , creative process, creative writing,   

    The Tea House: On Writing

    I wrote a short piece on writing, more specifically on my experience writing THE MONDO VIXEN MASSACRE. If you are interested in the creative process, please have a look at the article. If it spurs you to write or study a film or keep on with whatever writing project you are working on, then I have done my job. Otherwise, please enjoy and keep writing.


  • mono 9:19 pm on December 5, 2013 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: audiobook, author reads, , , creative writing, , live reading, new fiction, ,   

    The Mondo Vixen Massacre: An Excerpt (as read by the author) 

    Last night, I prepared and recorded myself reading from the beginning of MVM. When I was a classroom teacher, I would often read aloud to my students and found the exercise to be a calming and meditative way to bring students into the fold of a book. Of course, I would then open up the floor to any student who wished to read out loud and we would go around the room in this way. I believe that voicing a text is a healthy exercise in developing one’s reading ability and experience of the book. While no reading is ever perfect, when we hear a book read (especially by the author), we can learn to understand how they meant it to be voiced and felt. I hope you enjoy this reading. Thank you.

  • mono 11:24 pm on December 4, 2013 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , creative writing, , jamie grefe, , ,   

    Thank You /// Noise 

    I would like to thank everyone who has purchased a copy of my debut novella, THE MONDO VIXEN MASSACRE. The reception to the book’s unique style and content has been overwhelmingly positive. It’s been invigorating to speak with writers and readers who like the book. I’ve met many interesting people through this publication process and the journey is just beginning.

    If you have purchased a copy of the book, I encourage you to help spread the word by writing a review or a blog post about your thoughts of the book. Every review helps and I wholeheartedly appreciate the gesture. In return for your effort, I am happy to offer you high-quality audio files of improvisational/noise music that I’ve created throughout the years, most or all of which is now out-of-print. Chances are, if you like the book, you will like the sounds.

    Also, if you know of any good blogs that might be interested in a promotional copy of the book (maybe, you yourself) or if you are interested in becoming a part of my upcoming blog-tour, please get in touch.

    At the end of the day, I set out to write a book that would satisfy readers. Of course, I understand not everyone will enjoy the book, and that is fine, but please know that behind the crazy story and absurd situations in the book’s universe, there is a lot of heart.

    Thank you!


  • mono 11:02 pm on April 25, 2013 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: birds llc, creative writing, , dana ward, , lydia davis, , NYC, partyknife, , , , sink review   

    Contradiction and Community: A Talk with Dan Magers 


    The poetic work of Dan Magers is challenging and engaging, beautiful and mysterious. A few weeks ago I wrote a short piece about one of Magers’ poems and, more recently, had the chance to speak with him about poetry, process, and influences to his work. The results of this conversation, printed below, hopefully give some fresh insights while providing us with a context of how a poet works and thinks. I would like to thank Dan Magers for his time and thank you for taking the time to read this conversation.


    Jamie Grefe: Do you find yourself exploring philosophical ideas through your poetry? Do those two worlds ever overlap in your writing?

    Dan Magers: Yes, and no. I sometimes use the language of philosophy a lot in my writing,
    but I feel like philosophy and poetry have different aims. There is this quote I heard in grad
    school, though I forgot who said it: philosophy and science are about finding contradiction and reconciling it, but poetry and art find the contradiction, but are fine with just leaving it, or even heightening it. But I do think my work is influenced by philosophy.

    Grefe: Do you write every day? I’m very interested in your writing habits and how a piece might take form. I know that’s a very open-ended question with many different possible answers, but any insights into your process would be interesting.

    Magers: No, I don’t consciously write every day, and particularly right now I’m really busy with work. This used to be something that made me freak out all the time, not being able to have time to write, but I’ve become more relaxed about it in the last few years, understanding that sometimes it’s okay to take breaks. I think about writing and poetry every day. For the last few years, I’ve usually written stuff down in a big Word file of stuff, and then later I’ll start selecting parts that still speak to me, and then try to collage them into poems. That’s how Partyknife was written and that’s how I’ve been writing lately, a little different from my first chapbook Exploitation Poems, which was a little more deliberate, written in unrhymed, metered sonnets, though I’m sure there were lines that became stuck in my head that I would then try to put in the poems, etc.

    Grefe: Do you feel your method resonates with the line, “a poem is never finished, only
    abandoned,” or do you feel that you get to a point where you can comfortably say, “this
    particular piece is where I think it should be.” That is, do you ever feel that some of your older work could be remixed or revised or rewritten? I often have that feeling with my own work, but am not sure how others deal with that feeling.

    Magers: I write a lot, but I am very picky about saying when a poem is “done.” I usually will
    finish something and then hold onto it for a long time, constantly rereading it, and then usually I’ll keep revising. At some point, I intuitively think that a given piece is done. When I was revising the Partyknife manuscript, I definitely went back and cannibalized old poems, and that’s definitely something that I’m pretty okay with – taking the strongest lines from old stuff and combining that poetic DNA with new strong stuff to make better poems. I don’t publish very prolifically, so I usually have a lot lying around.

    Grefe: Do you find yourself reading a lot of poetry?

    Magers: Yes, I do read a lot of poetry – I’m surrounded by other poets in NYC, and besides
    reading their work, they are always suggesting new stuff, and I’m also just reading stuff I come across too.

    Grefe: That must be quite a wonderful thing, to be surrounded by a supportive and engaging community.

    Magers: It is really great being surrounded by other poets – it’s one of the great things about living in NYC. There is a big and supportive community of writers.

    Grefe: Have you considered or attempted writing fiction or exploring the “poetic” or “lyric”
    essay form? (which leads to an underlying question of: why poetry?)

    Magers: There was a point in late 2008/early 2009, where I was like “fuck poetry, what’s the point” and I started writing short stories. I wrote three of them: the first two were pretty good conventional stories, and then the third was this more experimental but crappy piece that came out of reading Lydia Davis I guess. I went back to poetry, and actually that third story became the backbone of the narrative that runs throughout Partyknife. and When I was editing the manuscript, I took a ton of stuff from that story. I’m into the idea of the lyric essay, though I guess I don’t think very much about whether my writing is fitting in one genre or not. I’ve been reading and rereading Dana Ward’s first book This Can’t Be Life, and that book is so prose-heavy, and very infused by memoir, and yet I have no problem with calling it poetry. He also thinks of it as poetry, too—the opening poem is partly about just that.

    Grefe: That’s, perhaps, one of the beauties of poetry–just how large and encompassing
    it is. I taught sonnet writing last year to high school students, which was amazing, but I’m
    always interested in how one can gain a sense of writing poetry. So, how do you think one can become a more astute reader/writer of their own work, especially when creating a collection of poems? Also, did you decide the narrative backbone prior to writing Partyknife or did it arise from below and begin to organically seep through?

    Magers: I think one of the outcomes of not being a teacher is that I don’t think as much about how to define or talk about writing, since I don’t really have to boil it down for students. I do feel like if one is reading and writing poetry that they see the world a little differently, maybe not as straightforwardly, more okay with living among the contradictions. Maybe that is just me. The narrative for PK I think sort of organically grew probably before even writing the short story I mentioned. The Birds editors edited it very thoroughly and intensively, and when I was revising, a lot of the stuff from the story got used for the book. I also expanded on the characters in the book based on editor suggestions. It’s not a memoir, but I kind of think of the book as the last will and testament of my 20s.

    Grefe: Do you have any close readers who you tend to share your unpublished work with
    (perhaps, friends or family) or do you tend to keep your work private until released?

    Magers: I have about a half dozen close readers of my work, though it’s only been lately that I’ve been showing new work to them. Basically all of 2012 I was just writing and not showing anything to anyone. I felt like I could indulge in that because I had a new book out and the pressure was off to finish anything new. My readers are generally other NYC poets who are my friends.

    Grefe: In closing, would you mind sharing some influences with me? I’m an avid reader and I’m sure there are some other readers out there who are interested in exploring influences. Poets? Fiction? Philosophers?

    Magers: there are a ton, I don’t even know where to begin. I feel like different influences have come at different times, and some I haven’t returned to in a while. One of my favorite books is Denis Johnson’s Jesus’s Son. The language of that book continues to blow my mind and I reread passages of that book pretty often. I was a huge John Ashbery fan in grad school and he no doubt influenced me, though I don’t really write like him anymore and haven’t read his work lately. I think I was really taken with This Can’t Be Life in 2012, and I’m finishing up a review of it.I was blown away by Ariana Reines’ second book Coeur de Lion when I first read it. I also just love reading stuff on the Internet, like Wikipedia, or doing cursory readings of the technical language of aerospace and civil engineering, which I don’t have training in and don’t really understand, or about ecology and other sciences. Some of those things are maybe not yet that present in my work. I’m fascinated with religious writing, it definitely goes on…and that’s just the literary influences. I’m very influenced also by music and film.

    Grefe: Any projects on the horizon?

    Magers: I have a few new projects in the works, but I feel like at least some of them will come to nothing. The more I conceptualize projects, the less I tend to write them. I need to look at the drafts I’ve finished in 2012 and early this year to see what I have, try to finish some of those. I have some book project ideas, but it will probably take a while to work through them.

    Grefe: Well, I wish you the best with your work. I’m sure those drafts hold many beautiful
    poems. Thank you so much for your time.

    Magers: Thanks so much for interviewing me.

    /// /// /// /// /// /// /// /// /// /// /// /// /// /// /// /// /// /// /// /// ///


  • mono 1:07 pm on March 24, 2013 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: creative writing, , litpub, lost highway, , play, roger caillois, roxane gay   

    A Voluptuous Panic: Further Thoughts on the Lyric Essay

    The link above, which I encourage you to visit, is an article by Roxane Gay on the ways in which the lyric essay “manipulates a world.” She says, “it is play at its most primitive level, the idea of vertigo …” Gay goes on to quote Roger Caillois as saying, vertigo: “an attempt to momentarily destroy the stability of perception and inflict a kind of voluptuous panic upon an otherwise lucid mind. In all cases, it is a question of surrendering to a kind of spasm, seizure, or shock which destroys reality with sovereign brusqueness.”


    I am taken by this phrase, “voluptuous panic” like in the back-and-forth between two comedians or close friends who unabashedly take turns verbally one-upping (smashing) each other, the gestures and insults, the surreal put-downs and taunts spiraling into pure lunacy and laughter. [seized by joy]

    {It is not unusual to hear of musicians speaking of a performance in terms of the mystical, the magical, a moment disappeared into the void. I gave a speech a few months ago and was flowing in the moment, was so caught up in the moment that after it was finished all that was left was a splendid calm and one frozen frame of being on stage–the rest I could not recall.}


    Is the purpose of the lyric essay to destroy reality? Is it to augment truth or present truth as it is–muddled by the mind that grasps it, dirtied from the outset? Is it to get lost in the way thought-streams branch and slash, weave and explode? Is it to present “the truth” as we know it, turn, mix and cut that truth into shredded maps or bits of routes? Is the lyric essay’s pleasure in the act of reading the text (being drawn in), the taking of a “real” event and re-imagining it–the act of imagination is, in itself, perhaps, a lyric essay unending… Or, does the lyric essay present the truth as something concocted, something always in flux, heavily interpretive depending on the receiver?


    A character in David Lynch’s film LOST HIGHWAY speaks of not liking photographs, but rather choosing to “remember things in his own way.” This seems to me like how the lyric essay can be envisioned. Maybe Lynch’s film, with all its rabbit holes, leaps into differing or parallel dimensions, perhaps this film would be an example of the filmic version of a lyric essay…Imagine INLAND EMPIRE unfolding into…


    May our words lead us into that state of “voluptuous panic.” May we be seized by the spasms of our own words like so many caverns opening up, one after another, unfolding in that space where fiction and non-fiction coexist or, like two snakes in tongue-battle, suck each other up in the folds of our own slick bellies, drunk on venom, made lucid by the nets of our own words.

  • mono 12:09 pm on March 23, 2013 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , creative writing, john d'agata, , , michael martone, , ,   

    Toward a Definition of the Lyric Essay: Observations on The Seneca Review 


    This article is probably more for my own understanding than anything else, but if it helps a few people down the road, then that makes it even more meaningful, magical.

    I stumbled across lyric essays a few years ago when reading works by Michael Martone, Brian Oliu, Lia Purpura, John D’Agata and others whose names are slipping at the present moment (feel free to list your favorites in the comments section, esp. links to great online pieces).

    It was the way those essays swerved and cut, turned in on themselves or shot out down so many lost highways that pulled me in. It was the focus on how the essay was as opposed to what it was trying to convey. Also, I was a high school English teacher, so most of the essays we did in the classroom were standard five paragraph essays: persuasive, research, comparative, personal narrative. After spending time with the above-mentioned writers and digging a little below the surface, I was taken in by this most gratifying form of the lyric essay and now, some years later, continue to grow, question, fail, write, learn, listen.

    From what I can gather, this article from The Seneca Review is a solid entrance into a working definition of the lyric essay. Let’s dig in:

    These “poetic essays” or “essayistic poems” give primacy to artfulness over the conveying of information. They forsake narrative line, discursive logic, and the art of persuasion in favor of idiosyncratic meditation.

    1. The form (artfulness) of the essay takes prevalence over content or traditional introduction-body, conclusion structure. Information is not just conveyed, it is shaped.

    1.1. What are specific examples of this artfulness? Failures? Successes?

    2. “Idiosyncratic meditation:” the lyric essay is a place to ruminate, to ponder, to wander.

    The lyric essay partakes of the poem in its density and shapeliness, its distillation of ideas and musicality of language. It partakes of the essay in its weight, in its overt desire to engage with facts, melding its allegiance to the actual with its passion for imaginative form.

    2.1. Form///Density///Shapeliness///Distillation///

    7.1. Language///Weight///Engagement///Imaginative///

    It might move by association, leaping from one path of thought to another by way of imagery or connotation, advancing by juxtaposition or sidewinding poetic logic. Generally it is short, concise and punchy like a prose poem. But it may meander, making use of other genres when they serve its purpose: recombinant, it samples the techniques of fiction, drama, journalism, song, and film.

    3.2. Associate: apple, red, blood, body, human, word, tongue, Eve, Eva Mendes, mend, stitch, needle, poodle, stick, leap, gorge, gurgle, the way spit sticks to the roof of the mouth.

    3.3. Form Notes: Concise, Punchy, Meander, Recombinant, Fiction, Drama, Journalism, Song, Film

    Or, storyless, it may spiral in on itself, circling the core of a single image or idea, without climax, without a paraphrasable theme. The lyric essay stalks its subject like quarry but is never content to merely explain or confess. It elucidates through the dance of its own delving.

    4.0. How does a piece spiral? What does it mean to circle the core? Are we assuming there is a thesis?

    4.1. Stalker: Jason Vorhees, Michael Myers, Freddy Kreuger, Leatherface, Scream

    4.-0. How does one express the form of a dance through a piece of writing?

    Loyal to that original sense of essay as a test or a quest, an attempt at making sense, the lyric essay sets off on an uncharted course through interlocking webs of idea, circumstance, and language – a pursuit with no foreknown conclusion, an arrival that might still leave the writer questioning.

    5.5. “Uncharted course,” “Interlocking,” “Circumstance,” “Questioning,” “Quest.”

    We turn to the lyric essay – with its malleability, ingenuity, immediacy, complexity, and use of poetic language – to give us a fresh way to make music of the world.

    666. Music like: Sensational, Danny Brown, Secret Chiefs 3, David Sylvian, Kool Keith, Will Oldham, Frank Sinatra, Scott Walker, Fear of God, Pig Destroyer, Scelsi, Harold Budd, Claude Young, The Locust.

    “…there are new worlds to be found.”

    /// /// /// /// /// /// ///

  • mono 12:43 pm on March 22, 2013 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , creative writing, , ,   

    A Mysterious Form

    I just started in on this interview with Lia Purpura. Seriously good stuff here on the craft of essay writing:

    Lia Purpura: The issue of how one discernible genre grows from another is utterly mysterious to me. I’m certain that I’m writing prose, though my essays are called “lyric essays.” In fact, I’ve just written an essay titled “What is a Lyric Essay?” for Seneca Review. In it, I’m making a plea for allowing the form to remain as mysterious as possible. I do mean “mysterious” though in the best way – challenging and magical and able to work on a reader and knit up above the page. I don’t mean at all “unclear” or “sloppy”. The language ought to be as precise as possible in order to affect the most unlikely moves. When I’m writing, an impulse makes itself known as a prose itch or poem-itch. Some failed poems have extended out into prose and found their musculature that way. I don’t think a derailed essay has ever turned itself into a poem.”

    As I’m currently re-reading Purpura’s “On Looking” for enjoyment and craft technique, I find passages like this illuminating when itching to craft my own pieces and extend my grasp on how an essay could be. If you have any great examples of lyric essays that move you with their magic and/or that you have written, please drop a comment or two. 

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