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Odd Words (Lazy, minimalist edition) September 30, 2010

Posted by Mark Folse in Odd Words, Toulouse Street.
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Also I just feel compelled to write. I have excess mental activity — a WASTE of it, really, I’m not saying I’m smart, I’m mentally TWITCHY, restless — and writing total focuses, harnesses it.
–Timothy Donnelly, author of The Cloud Corporation

Bad blooger, bad columnist. I didn’t get an Odd Words written last night because I spent two hours in an online Rumpus Poetry Book Club chat with Timothy Donnelly, author of the amazing book The Cloud Corporation. That deserves a long write up (the book and the chat) but I have to get to work, so here’s a quick post I’ll update later so you don’t miss:

§ 17 Poets! Literary & Performance Series presents an evening with Megan Burns, editor of Solid Quarter literary journal, featuring readings by poets Valentine Pierce and Gary Gautier. The featured program will be followed by Open Mic hosted by Jimmy Ross, admission is free

§ On Saturday, Oct. 9 there will be a Book Release Party for Sarah K. Inman’s post-Katrina book The Least Resistance, the latest release from local press NOLAFugees, at Handsome Willy’s. In our current minimalist mode, a blurb: “THE LEAST RESISTANCE is a deft, vivid, apocalyptic reinvention of Kosinki’s classic fable, BEING THERE. It’s a story where the most startling happenings are probably the most true to life. Inman has an unflinching eye for detail and a deceptively casual way of communicating the absurd. It’s as if Chauncy Gardiner passed through the garden gate and into Cormac McCarthy’s THE ROAD.”
-Bill Loehfelm, author of FRESH KILLS and BLOODROOT

§ On Saturday Oct. 9 Nancy Harris, poet and keeper of the flame at the weekly Maple Leaf Poetry Reading (the longest running series in the south) will read at Alvar Library at 3 p.m. Oct. 9 is the birthday of Everette Maddox, founder of the series. At the Leaf, Oct. 3 is an open mike.

§ New Orleans’ Octavia Books celebrates its 10th anniversary on October 16. The bookstore invites all of its customers and friends for a big afternoon party with champagne and cake. When Judith Lafitte and Tom Lowenburg opened the bookstore, “conventional wisdom said it couldn’t be done,” said Lowenburg. “Only about five independent bookstores opened that year in the U.S.”

End of the Line September 28, 2010

Posted by Mark Folse in 504, NOLA, Toulouse Street.
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In the accidental marsh along Marconi Avenue, once a set of power lines crossed the Orleans Canal and went somewhere. Now there are no power or telephone lines, just the lone guy wire. The street lights are wired underground and so did not work when I came home in 2006, Marconi between Lakeview and City Park was as dark as any country lane, and there was little traffic. You could stop in the road and watch the ducks waddle across from the lagoon to see what the frogs were making such a ruckus about. Further south toward the railroad trestle it was eerie to drive in the pitch black, headlights illuminating the twisted fingers of oak branch that overhang the road, every frightening Disney forest scene replaying somewhere just beneath your stomach.

The iconic bit of wood stands like much of New Orleans, against all odds or common sense, leaning persistently into its last guy wire. One wonders why it’s still here, but it persists in the middle of a marsh because we all have better things to do than to take down old telephone poles.There’s a band playing somewhere, but first we have to eat. And just because it’s no longer in use for its original, practical purpose it serves as a trellis for wild vines, as another roost for the hundreds of water birds in the park, as a reminder that we build our future atop the ruins of the past as almost no other place in America does.

Heaven September 24, 2010

Posted by Mark Folse in Toulouse Street.
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There is a short list of songs I hope someone plays over me when the bottle of Jameson stands atop the foot of the pine box. I need to write it down. This is one.

Odd Words September 23, 2010

Posted by Mark Folse in books, literature, New Orleans, NOLA, Odd Words, Toulouse Street.
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No, I didn’t exactly forget to write a column this week. I just should have written in earlier because last night I was at the first of two Nights Creole Arabesque & Transylvanian-Moldavian Fascination (the first event listed below) listening to talented young writers and their mentor from Romania share imaginative stories based on the model of Sheherezade, the medieval storyteller of 1,001 Arabian Nights. The event also feature a hilarious retelling of a Brer Rabbit story by Bill Lavender and a brilliant and theatrical piece about an Irish sailor in the transatlantic slave trade by Moose Jackson.

It’s not too late to get yourself over to the Goldmine for the second night, so scan the bullet below and read the rest of this later. If I had anything clever to say to top this post it was swallowed in my utter amazement at the talent I saw on display last night. if you need clever, do I really have to read HTMLGiant, The Rumpus and Maud Newton for you every week? (I am sure Ms. Newton regularly crushes under her heel the notion that men don’t make passes at women in glasses, but since this week’s blog reminds us she’s married you could skip it so as not to be heartbroken. Except that he husband interviews William Gibson.)

And so, after my opening paragraph, why are you still here when you should be on your way to the second night of:

§ Two nights of Creole Arabesque & Transylvanian-Moldavian Fascination. Last night featured guest writers & poets Lucian Dan Teodorovici, Bogdan Odagescu, Marius Conkan, Bill Lavender, R. Moose Jackson, James Nolan and DeWitt Brinson. Thursday, September 23, 8:00 p.m. (that’s tonight, as in right now, so go there and read this later) the featured guest writers & poets include Andrei Codrescu, Ruxandra Cesereanu, Corin Braga, Dave Brinks, Jessica Faust-Spitzfaden, and Kip Cairo.

EVENT PROLOGUE: Sheherezade, the medieval storyteller, told stories for 1001 nights in order to save her life from the cruel sultan Sharyar, who married a virgin every night and had her killed the next morning. Only Sheherezade’s stories could stop him from his murderous insanity. The 1001 Nights Storytelling Festival and its participants are out to prove that the 21st century is the new Oral Century. They believe that New Orleans and Transylvania are the places where Sheherezade 2 is going to offer a new model for survival through storytelling. The events will center entirely on the human voice and imagination. The Transylvanians will unveil sequels to the 1001 Nights in English translation, some of them interpreted by New Orleans actors, surprise musicians and dancers, while the New Orleanians will unveil accounts of unmerciful fabulosity.

Also featured in this festival — A meeting of Two-Continent Imaginations: Corin Braga, founder of The Center For Imagination Studies from Cluj, Transylvania, and Confessor Emeritus of Abomination and founder of The New Orleans School for the Imagination Dave Brinks joined by collaborateurs Andrei Codrescu and Bill Lavender.

§ Also part of this cross cultural story slam is a 1001 Nights Story-telling Festival Symposium Friday, Sept. 24 at 2 p.m. at the University of New Orleans in the TRAC Building, Room 103, featuring the ring leader of the Transylvanian Invasion Corin Braga along with New Orleans School for the Imagination ringleaders Dave Binks, Andrei Codrescu and Bill Lavender. A writing workshop on collaborative poetry will precede this event, but there’s no time on the card they handed out so just go early.

§ If this seems to be turning into all 17 Poets! at the Goldmine all the time, well that’s what’s on top of the stack and closest on the calendar. On Saturday night, the Goldmine will be closed to its usual weekend business of dance clubbers and consumers of Flaming Dr. Peppers (don’t ask) in order to feature an evening with poet ANDREI CODRESCU signing & reading from his new book The Poetry Lesson (Princeton) at the Gold Mine Saloon this coming Saturday at 7:00 p.m., September 25, 2010, admission is free.

§ When Dave Eggers told the crowd at his event at this year’s Tennessee Williams festival that there were still 100 Katrina books waiting to be written (like this one, I think he was right. At Garden District Book this Saturday, Sept. 25 at 11:30 am author Jean Redmann will read and sign Water Mark, the lastest installment in her Micky Knight mystery series, this one tied to solve the reasons behind the death of one of the many bodies found in the flooded homes of postdiluvian New Orleans.

§ Following Redmann at Garden District is Nolde Alexius, Judy Kahn, Allen Wier, Jeanne Leiby, Moira Crone, and other contributors discussing and signing their book Best of LSU Fiction. is not only a literary history of Louisiana’s flagship university but also an original presentation of some of the country’s best fiction writers. From Pulitzer Prize–winner Robert Penn Warren to Olympia Vernon, LSU MFA graduate, acclaimed novelist, and winner of the Ernest Gaines Award for Literary Excellence, this vital anthology includes original author biographies that trace the establishment of LSU’s prestigious literary tradition. Contained within are stories, some never before published, by LSU notables James Wilcox, Andrei Codrescu, Walker Percy, Moira Crone, David Madden, John Ed Bradley, Tim Parrish, Rebecca Wells, Olympia Vernon and many more.

§ At the Maple Leaf on Sunday Poet Kay Murphy celebrates her birthday and retirement from UNO with a poetry reading.

§ I don’t normally do children’s books, but Jewell Parker Rhodes’ Ninth Ward sounds like such a gem I am tempted to pick it up. (I have to confess to having picked up some of my children’s books over the years, wanting to revisit A Wrinkle in Time and Treasure Island). Twelve-year-old Lanesha lives in a tight-knit community in New Orleans’ Ninth Ward. She doesn’t have a fancy house like her uptown family or lots of friends like the other kids on her street. But what she does have is Mama Ya-Ya, her fiercely loving caretaker, wise in the ways of the world and able to predict the future. So when Mama Ya-Ya’s visions show a powerful hurricane–Katrina–fast approaching, it’s up to Lanesha to call upon the hope and strength Mama Ya-Ya has given her to help them both survive the storm.

§ I usually don’t mention this but after Jimmy Ross told me the story of his regular dumpster diving behind the Latter Memorial Library, which used to through out its old books, I think we should refer to this as the weekly You Should Thank Jimmy Ross For This Memorial book sale. 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. every Wednesday and Saturday. Latter Library Carriage House, 5120 St. Charles Ave., (Uptown), 596-2625, http://www.nutrias.org. A blogger I read (I think it was NolaNotes, but I could be wrong; I can’t find it searching her blog archives) wrote a lovely piece about a particularly obsessive fellow who is an avid and regular shopper there, and her competition with him for prized volumes. If nothing else, you should go read NOLA Notes to see why she was on the Top 10 list of Best New Orleans blogs in this year’s reader poll.

What Do You Hear? September 18, 2010

Posted by Mark Folse in Toulouse Street.
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Mr. M- stood in front of a dozen young musicians, teenagers culled from the list of local jazz education programs. They had just finished an exercise in playing over a song, rotating solos over some unidentified blues number. “What do you hear in the song?” Mr. M- asked. Most fumbled for words as if with the keys on their horns the first time going over an unfamiliar scale.

I don’t know if it was because they knew who Mr. M- was, the family he represented, perhaps their parents drilling it into them on the way to the session what a privilege it was to be asked to participate. Perhaps they were just teenagers, awkward in front of an unfamiliar teacher on the first day of school. You could hear it around the corner where I sat listening, in the voice he used as he went down the line repeating the question, that he wasn’t getting the answers he was looking for. Not yet.

I sat in the entry alcove on the floor, making some note or other, distracted, thinking about the question, about what Mr. M- wanted from his young charges. He wanted, I think, for them to hear something that clicked in their heads something that told them where to go when it was there turn to solo. I sat and listened to them go through the exercise again, the same basic blues song, each instrument trying to take their few bars and find something to play. I don’t know if they understood what he was asking for but thought I did.

In the song I hear a young man coming up the subway steps to a wet Manhattan avenue, lemon hacks hissing on the neon painted street, the music of a half dozen clubs spilling into the street, a confusion of notes colliding with the flashing cocktails lights but the young man hears a familiar rhythm of men swinging hoes in the sun transformed into the swing of hips in a gin-sweet road shack, sorrow crying out birthing joy in the endless swing of time. He opens his case and lays it on the street, chums for tips with a crumpled dollar and a scattering of change. He cradles his pawn-bought C melody and gently fixes the neck from memory, eyes closed, head nodding in 4/4 time. He fixes his lips to the reed and plays his hungry homesick blues away, drowns the jukebox confusion and traffic clamor in whatever it was he found in all that sound roaring around the corner, something that made it his corner, his moment, his solo with all the colors in the street sheen singing through it.

If the kids in the room keep trying, someday the will find it. It will come to them like the paragraph above, something that–listening to the band behind–knows just when to come in and where to go, the notes following their own inexorable logic.

Odd Words September 16, 2010

Posted by Mark Folse in Odd Words, Toulouse Street.
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Some ruminations on writing, submission and editing that comes out of the suicide of Virginia Quarterly Review Managing Editor Kevin Morrissey, continuing (in the ;ast bit) on last week’s theme:

28. That’s what most editors and agents dream about – that one story or novel or memoir they can’t dismiss. And we all want to write it. We all want to summon within ourselves such a voice, such courage, such attention to pain and beauty. But most of us fail. Our days rank as failures. And so we send out work that – as Genoways did me the great favor of pointing out – doesn’t honor our talent. And who do we blame? We blame the editors and agents, who are often merely stand-ins for the parents and siblings who thwarted us long ago.

29. But the blame rests with us

30. To a lesser but crucial extent, it rests also with those fellow travelers who have turned away from the necessary pleasures of art, and retreated into the frantic enticements of screen addiction, into false narratives designed (actually) to keep the turbulence of their internal lives at bay. “

§ 17 Poets returns to The Gold Mine at 7 p.m. after their summer hiatus with “A CEREMONIAL COMMUNITY BLESSING for the GULF REGION” featuring: Works by contributing artists of The New Orleans Photo Alliance, A Drum Circle Ceremony (bring yours!) led by poet Dave Brinks, tasty morsels of Alligator-Crawfish JAMBALAYA for everyone; as well as word offerings by writers & social activists SUSAN PREVOST, NEELY SHUJA, JAMES NOLAN et al…followed by OPEN MIC hosted by Jimmy Ross.

§ At the Maple Leaf on Sunday at 3 p.m. poet Gina Ferrara reads from her work, followed by an open mike.

I have to confess a fondness with the Arctic from childhood, and have read just about everything on exploration of the area but not much fiction. Having exhausted the histories and memoirs, maybe I should check out Chesley Hines’ book Sixty-Four Degrees, which he will read from and sign Saturday 9/18 at Garden District Books. “Sixty-Four Degrees is a spell-binding adventure novel, set on the rivers and glaciers of the sub-Arctic, as well as the icy and turbulent waters of the Southern Ocean surrounding Antarctica.” Damn, it doesn’t feel quite so humid this morning all of a sudden, which is perhaps part of the root of that childhood fascination.

§ Next Wednesday Sept. 22 Pulitzer Prize winning poet Natasha Trethewey comes to Octavia Books to read from and sign BEYOND KATRINA A Meditation on the Mississippi Gulf Coast. Beyond Katrina is Trethewey’s very personal profile of the Mississippi Gulf Coast and of the people there whose lives were forever changed by hurricane Katrina. Here and around Toulouse Street we all talk about the Federal Flood, but I have family on the coast as well as it’s important we never forget the Hiroshima barrenness of the Mississippi coast after Katrina.

§ Although this belongs in next week’s colum I thought I’d call out the return of award-winning poet, novelist, essayist, and NPR commentator Andrei Codrescu who will be reading from and signing copies of his latest title, “The Poetry Lesson,” at Octavia Books in New Orleans on Sept. 23 (that’s next Thursday, not tonight).

Damn, I was too tired to do this last night (long week at work, as if you couldn’t pick that thread up from the blog) and now I need to get to work. If I’ve missed some event not tonight, I’ll add it later. If you find this and you have a local event don’t count on my finding it somewhere else, send it to the email address down along the column to the right.

Pull And Be Damned September 13, 2010

Posted by Mark Folse in cryptic envelopment, The Narrative, Toulouse Street.
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For several years I worked in Desktop Support for another Counting House, this one in Fargo, N.D. This is the sort of job where you get to visit everyone’s cubicle and while handling their keyboard, mouse and telephone–collecting every virus and germ known to man–you often spend long times looking at what are called crawl bars, those small screens on which a bar slowly advances as some mundane, under the hood task completes.

During my time as a LAN Admin (basically a bit and circuit Mr. Fix It, a man with a convertible screwdriver and a penlight in my top pocket at all times) you can get a feel for a person you don’t know well if you spend some time examining what they’ve put on their desk or up on their wall while waiting for that crawl bar to reach the end of the line. (No, I will not come over to your house and help you get the virus off your computer. I’m terribly rusty at that sort of thing. Nothing personal).

One of my favorite bits of cube wall art was a copy of a bit of Counting House correspondence someone had posted up on their wall, sent to an address on Pull And Be Damned Road in somewhere in Washington State. While slaving away in the Corporate Cube there is something just perfect about that name. New Orleans has its share of Odd street names (I was born in a hospital on Perdido Street, and I can find it any time, even give directions to it but mostly by landmarks) we have nothing to match Pull And Be Damned.

Instead we have–along with the usual complements of trees, mythical figures and World War I generals who replaced Germanic sounding names–streets named Pleasure, Humanity and Desire. The reward at the end of the day for laboring on Pull And Be Damned Road is knowing I can walk out the door, turn left and in a block’s space step onto the former Calle Real and proceed until I reach Toulouse Street. A left will take me to Fahy’s (Vaguely) Irish Pub for a drink (it’s your basic townie watering hole but I can get Guinness and Smithwicks and it’s a congenial sort of local so perhaps “vaguely” is unfair, just because it isn’t some national chain marketing and art department’s idea of an Irish Pub.) I can’t think of a better idea at the moment than to be there but I’m not. Pull and Be Damned and no pints at lunch here in The Cube.

***

There is at my current employer a craze for Germaneurotic* homogeneity in The Cube. I am allowed two pictures, and must stick nothing on my wall with tape or push pins. My cube should look like any other cube except for a specified number of items that I could conceivably pack in my shoulder bag should they decide to abrupt relocate me. Yeah, right. The properties police have not been by to check on me since I threatened to climb up on my desk and rip the wires out of the ceiling speaker when the promised pink noise (a dull hiss like an untuned AM radio) in our new quarters turned into Soft Rock Classics. This was bad enough until the loop got stuck on the same three songs. I used to be a fan of the Moody Blues but go into twitchy convulsions now if I hear Nights in White Satin.

If this sounds insane, compare it with U.S. Bank, the place I worked in Fargo, N.D. (Everyone I need for a reference from there now works somewhere else, and I signed no non-disclosure agreement so if they don’t like this story that’s just too bad). Some bright wag decided to save money on office supplies and an edict came down that no one should have more than two pens or pencils on their desk at any time. Post-In notes were also banned. The reported explanation was “don’t they have paper and tape?”

This was a job at which, during our monthly large department briefings we had to keep our Policom on mute the entire time, and frequently wipe up the coffee we spit all over the table in convulsive laughter. Hint for folks in H.R.: this is a sign of excellent moral. It’s when people stop laughing at senior management that you have to start putting in the metal detectors and reminding people that firearms are not allowed on company property, including the parking lots.

That was one of my better jobs–two theatre majors and an English major running a project management team. And we were damned good at it, because if you major in Theater or English or Art History you get very good at reinventing yourself, or at keeping your orders straight: one or the other. We did not fit the Culture that looped endlessly on our screen savers very well, but we invented our own that made our jobs not just bearable but enjoyable.

All new assignees to a project who were not clearly bread in some corporate basement from carefully selected genetic material for Enthusiastic Compliance were required to adhere to certain rules. For example, you were required to watch the films Office Space, Terry Gilliam’s Brazil and The Princess Bride. The first two make some sense. The latter was originally on the list only because the youngest member of our team (dance and theatre arts) was a cult fanatic about the movie and could recite the entire thing.

And it’s not a bad movie, really. Project Management (my current self-invention of a career path) is itself a quest fraught with peril, monstrosity and the bizarre. The Counting House iis thick with rodents of unusual size, executives of Humperdinkian scheming, fawning dishonesty, along with hordes of of mid-level devious and diminutive Sicilians, (or people who at least would have made call back for the role of Vizzini based not on an particular acting skill but a natural resemblance to the character.). If you manage projects in corporate America, the Cliffs of Insanity are never far out of sight.

And until the lottery comes through it’s Pull And Be Damned Road for me. It’s OK, as long as I’m still laughing about it, and can dream of the promise of a pint or a glass of whiskey at the end of the day somewhere along Toulouse, where I can dreamily reconnect with real life in a place where Pleasure intersects with both Piety and Desire.

* An I think self-explanatory neologism for which I can’t take personal credit.

Let the water hold me down September 13, 2010

Posted by Mark Folse in cryptic envelopment, Dancing Bear, Toulouse Street.
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There are days only David Byrne being mounted by the loa can explain or console.

Odd Words September 9, 2010

Posted by Mark Folse in Odd Words, Toulouse Street.
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I have been writing on a site that is not ready for the light of day, and I find that some of what I am putting down there sounds a lot like something from Stephen Elliott’s Daily Rumpus emails or Jim Carroll’s autobiographical work. It’s not surprising, as I admire their work tremendously, believe in a form of writing in which the autobiographical point of view is not the point but simply a tool to tell a different, a larger story. When I started writing again after a long quiet period (decades) my original intent was to tell the story of a place, to find a way to paint the landscape of New Orleans; not just a physical landscape but the experience of living in that landscape in a particular time, using my own experience as the most expeditious way to do so.

If I find myself sounding like or at least reminding myself of Carroll or Elliot or other first person writers, I have to ask: Am I simply aping my betters, or using the simplest path to my end? Keep in mind that I wrote nothing for a very long time (reams of bad poetry and worse stories in college, then I drifted into journalism and other things and wrote very little until perhaps five years ago). Perhaps I am simply a young writer trapped in a middle-aged body and do some of the things that a young writer does, emulating my idols as a path toward finding my own voice, but I fell into something like their model before I even started reading them, started reading them in facts because I heard echoes of what I was doing myself.

This type of narrative that is not something new. Creative non-fiction with the author as character is not a recent invention, but goes back in my own lifetime as far as Carroll and Hunter S. Thompson and Joan Didion, and is a distant relation of the confessional poets of the 1950s and later. Diarists have been a staple of literature since Boswell. This voice and point of view serves my purpose well for now.

I started writing on these blogs, telling these stories in the first person for two reasons. The original impetus was Hurricane Katrina and the flood, and I was writing about it from over a thousand miles away. Some of what I wrote came out as straight journalism, and some of it as something else. As a dear friend and former colleague (who is still a working journalist) has frequently reminded me, I was a crappy journalist but a good writer. The pieces people responded to most, which drew the most comments and links and hits were those pieces written in the first person, that allowed me to act as storyteller. It was the reactions of my online readers in real time, a luxury writers before me did not have, that drove me in the direction of writing the way I do today.

The second reason is my position in life. I cannot make the time to sit and write The Great New Orleans Novel and not because it’s already been written. (It has and it’s not the book you think, but that’s a topic for another day). Neither can I take my experience in journalism and emulate the New Journalists and become the Wolf or Didion of postdiluvian New Orleans. I simply don’t have the time to do that sort of reporting or to try to find some grant that would pay me to write such book. I cannot just walk away from the responsibilities of middle-age, a child in college and another college-bound . He’ll want a car just like his sister and the insurance will be ruinous; a mortgage on what had to be paid for a dry house in a city where 80% of the houses flooded, the only type of house I could get insurance and so a loan; the ridiculous cost of living in New Orleans because we’ve had to pay largely from our own pockets for our own recovery.

Perhaps I could take up the amphetamine habits of the Beat generation and completely give up sleep. I did in some fashion in the years right after Katrina, would work late into the night or get up at 4:30 or 5:00 in the morning to write. My poetry blog Poems Before Breakfast, takes it’s title from that practice, stealing time to write at the edges of the day. Hell, these ideas came to me at work on day this week but there was no time to do more than jot a few notes and I started this as at 3:21 a.m. because I work up recounting these thoughts I had at work today and could not resist getting up and setting them down.

It requires a willingness to lay out your own life for all to see, to live out the stereotypical nightmare of standing naked before the class reading your essay. The nakedness of the autobiographical first person is an easy thing to do on a blog because you are not required to confront an audience in your nakedness as you first sit down to type, but over time if you succeed at what you are doing you will find yourself holding a manuscript or even a bound book and reading these same pieces to an audience, in full cognizance of your nakedness and thinking some listeners will find you self-important if not egomaniacal. If you know me personally you know that I am far from that sort of person. I used to listen to Garrison Keillor’s radio show a lot, both for the music and the storytelling. The latter struck me as fascinating because it sounded like straight Southern Gothic transposed in place, replacing race with Lutheran and Catholic, the familiar conflict between town and country. I used to find the Powder Milk Biscuit commercials particularly appealing, with their line about giving shy people the courage to get up and do what must be done.

That’s me, my reticent German roots showing through the brightly colored hair of a Carnival costume, through even my daily costume of a hat (always) and a fondness for what the rest of the world calls a Hawaiian shirt but we think of as a Jazz Fest shirt. Still, at any gathering even of some of the people I am closest to the larger the group the more likely I am to gravitate to the edge, to listen more than I talk. There is some other impulse to the way I write, and I trace it not just to the long list of writers I cited above. I write the way I do partly out of necessity.

Sometimes I worry it is the easy path, that I am not challenging myself, that I could do so more if I just pushed myself harder, if I only had the time, but I don’t. I have all the obligations listed and I am well into midlife. I have some stories I am compelled to tell, and some poems (some personal, some not) I am compelled to write, and I have to write them and grow in writing them as best I can in the time I am allotted. I said earlier I might be a young writer trapped in an middle-aged body but I’m not. I’m an aging writer who is not chasing life with the catapult impulse of youth but as a man running at once away from and toward death. I live in a city that is sinking a surely as Atlantis and I have to build this boat as best I can with the materials at hand and the skills I already have, so that something of this place will perhaps be remembered, as if I only am escaped alone to tell thee.

And so to the listings…

§ Maple Street Book Shop will feature manager Gladin Scott’s Birthday Bash the weekend of September 10th, 11th, and 12th, A donation of 20% of all book sales at the Maple Street Book Shop sales will be donated to Lusher School’s Creative Writing Program.

§ Also, Maple Street will host Brunch on Sunday, September 12 at 1pm with local students from the Creative Writing Program at Lusher Charter School reading from and discussing their original work.

§ “Before (During) After”, a photo book that combines a through-the-lens visual and literary exploration of how Hurricane Katrina has transformed the lives and work of twelve photographers. Contributors sign the book. 6 p.m. Friday. Maple Street Book Shop, 7523 Maple St., 866-4916.

§ Here’s one that sounds Odd enough it should probably be at the top of the list: author Katheryn Krotzer Laborde signs and discusses Do Not Open: The Discarded Refrigerators of Post-Katrina New Orleans. 1 p.m. Saturday. Garden District Book Shop, The Rink, 2727 Prytania St. We got the funk.

§ Poet David Rowe reads from and signs his book, Unsolicited Poems, followed by an open mike at the Maple Leaf Bar Poetry Reading. (If you catch me typing Maple Leaf Books or Maple Street Bar, well, I just need to focus. It happens all the time on the first draft. Its and it’s and its thing).

The Middle of Somewhere September 5, 2010

Posted by Mark Folse in Toulouse Street.
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I thought I had something more clever to say than “I’ve been there” but I guess I don’t. You take a right if you’re on your way to drop your child at International Band Camp.

When we lived in Detroit Lakes, MN there was a navy recruiter who would set up his table in the tiny shopping mall there. There was some reason for a lot of tables to be there, people with sports cards, the Girls Scouts and Boy Scouts selling something, I don’t recall the occasion. I just remember talking to him while my son poured through a box of Pokemon cards. Isn’t this about as far from the ocean as a Navy man could possibly be (unless, of course, he were in the Russian Navy).

He laughed and explained that they get a lot of recruits from people in places like this, kids who want to get as far away as they can and see the world, young men and women who might have seen Lake Superior but have never seen the sea. I thought about that as we walked out into the parking lot, filled with sea gulls that lake hop all the way from the Atlantic, across the Great Lakes, then through the famous 10,000 lakes. I wondered at the time if seagulls migrated but I don’t think I ever got the answer. I just found their presence comforting, an Orleanian and sometime beach bum stranded as far as I could possibly be in North America.

Everything You Need To Know About Rising Tide V September 4, 2010

Posted by Mark Folse in Toulouse Street.
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In one neat little package.

And congratulations to Clifton Harris of Cliff’s Crib for winning the 2010 Ashley Award. If you live in New Orleans, read blogs and aren’t reading Cliff, you should get your self over there.

Onward Through the Fog September 2, 2010

Posted by Mark Folse in cryptic envelopment, Odds&Sods, quotes, Toulouse Street.
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Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try Again. Fail again. Fail better.
– Samuel Beckett

I’m not sure I should put this as the sig on my Counting House business email, but for the last seven or eight years through two jobs I’ve had a quote by the infamous UFO fraud Frank Scully at the bottom of all my emails. I’ve gotten many compliments on the quote–””Why not go out on a limb? Isn’t that where the fruit is?”–but only one person who asked me who he was. It was the middle of the night, maybe 2:00 am, on one of the interminable overnight computer system change calls I sometimes have to attend; just two project managers stuck on the phone with nothing to do while other people do the real work somewhere off screen. I was sitting on my porch smoking a cigarette, courtesy of my wireless headset, just killing time. I don’t know how old the woman on the other end of the line, whom I’ve never actually met, is but she has a 19 year old son, so we’re likely contemporaries. She thought it funny that no one else had asked who Scully was, when so many people over the years had said “great quote!” in that edgy, slightly over-caffeinated way of people who actually enjoy their jobs in The Cube. I think I might use it as the epigraph for that book of Lessons for the Business Life from The Teachings of Don Juan and Carlos Casteñeda if I ever get around to writing it.

It’s easy to wonder exactly what the fuck you’re doing with your life when you’re on a business call at 2:00 am Saturday morning, why this terribly pleasant woman and I aren’t having this conversation over a drink or maybe beignets and a cafe au lait instead of through crackly headsets, as if adding a few CPU to some distant server were the Apollo 11 mission. We both seem the sort of person who has been at the corporate grind long enough to exude not the electric enthusiasm of the people who run Moloch but instead a quiet confidence tempered with a certain cynicism, as if we both know we have better things we should be doing with our lives were it not for the obligations–some out of love, some out of stupidity–we have acquired over the years.

Houston comes back on the line, and I snub out my cigarette, and go back into the home office, feeling just a little better for the whole exercise because I wasn’t left alone with the technicians and the vendors, the hour of silence waiting for them to come back on the line, because of the feeling there is another person in the room you could actually talk to once we’ve all signed off for the night.

Odd Words September 2, 2010

Posted by Mark Folse in Odd Words, Toulouse Street.
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Poet Nicole Cooley offers some thoughts on writing in New Orleans after Katrina (and the flood), in an online column at Poets&Writers.com (h/t to Ray Shea for this)

For creative writers in New Orleans, the questions raised by the storm remain. How do we approach the enormity of Katrina and its legacy in order to write about it? And how has the literary community of New Orleans changed since the hurricane? Fiction writer, translator, and playwright John Biguenet articulates this dilemma in an essay he wrote for Before During After, a collection edited by Elizabeth Kleinveld, forthcoming later this year from the University of New Orleans Press. “What conventions exist to depict something that has never happened before?” he writes. “What American novel traces the eradication of one of our cities, the exile of two hundred thousand citizens, the obliteration of a set of intertwined cultures centuries old?…We are only now just beginning to discover what it’s done to us.”

The trick of it, Ray pointed out in a private email exchange, will be to do what Haruki Murakami accomplished in After The Quake, his collection of stories inspired by and set just after the 1995 Kobe earthquake, but the one thing absent from all of it’s pages is the quake itself, its direct aftermath. Who will right the first book of this sort for New Orleans, and what shape will it take? I I knew the answer to that question I wouldn’t be typing on this blog.

A quick troll through the published listings shows not much going on, but there was so damn much last week that’s not surprising. It may be September but its still awfully hot and then there’s the opportunity for hurricanes, so we’re not exactly an attractive venue for traveling artists this time of year. I’m still disappointed to have missed Yusef Komunyakaa at Tulane’s Katrina commemorative poetry reading, but there was so damn much to do last week, not the least of which was getting my daughter moved into college.

A reminder: if you stumble into this because you find this sort of thing interesting, remember to send me your listings. If you don’t I have to rely on what I find in Gambit and the Times-Picayune, and neither is the best source of information on this sort of things anymore, which is the whole point of this blog post.

§ Sunday is an Open Mike at the Maple Leaf Bar Poetry Reading Series. Then on Sept. 12 Poet David Rowe reads from and signs his book, Unsolicited PoemsT, and on Sept. 19 our incredibly talented local poet Gina Ferrara, who was a contributor to A Howling in the Wires.

§ Nothing else. That’s it. Read a book. Join a book club if you need a book to read. How about this one. Or this one. I’m in the latter. I don’t plan to try to write reviews, but hope they will try for an online discussion of the sort the prose club has done.

XXXY? September 1, 2010

Posted by Mark Folse in Toulouse Street.
3 comments

A big “Thanks, Asshole” to whomever added a link here to freesexmovies.somegibberish.com. With all this fresh traffic maybe I should try to monetize. All I can think of is I’ve pissed someone off, because I can’t imagine what a spider would find here that would trigger this, so somebody must have added me to a list somewhere.

Swell. So, if you now can’t get here from work anymore I guess you won’t be able to read this posted typed up at 1:52 Universal Moloch Time. But then most of the people I read are blocked anyway, so I’m in good company.

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