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Poetry and Blood September 21, 2014

Posted by Mark Folse in FYYFF, Louisiana, Mardi Gras Indians, New Orleans, NOLA, postdiluvian, second line, The Narrative, Toulouse Street, We Are Not OK.
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Yes, there is poetry in the ground, as the famous 19th century Creole poet said, and there is blood on the streets. If you look at the sagging shotgun shacks at the edge of the fashionable neighborhoods, the ones with the paint peeling from their gingerbread, and see opportunity and not poverty, you are part of the problem of the new New Orleans exceptionalism.

I am a New Orleans exceptionalist with every chauvinist drop of Gallic blood in my veins, but it is tempered by my nearly 300-year old Cote des Allemans heritage, the practically of finding enough to eat in this city, a problem solved three centuries ago by the arrival of my people who came with no glint of gold in their eye but with strong backs and a willingness to make it work, to feed the foolish Frenchman seeking Spanish riches in a land of mud.

The joy that manifests itself in the brass band on the corner or at the head of a second line, the flavor of every forkful of real New Orleans food seasoned with the cast off bits of the pig, is born out of the ecstatic Black church, the fanciful celebration of slaves dreaming of the land of milk and honey in their weekly escape from the Exodus of the hustle, the daily struggle.

law1The newcomers are as ignorant as my own ancestors, who fell for John Law’s flyers with imaginary palm trees promising tropical indolence and mountains in the background no doubt filed with gold and silver. What the newcomers lack is the experience of the toil of serfdom and a willingness to work hard to build a city. They are not fleeing religious persecution and war but arrive with the uniquely American dream of a quick buck with as little work as possible, with the mark of Wall Street and Silicon Valley stamped on their heads as clearly as the mark of Cain. They come not to build, for all their modern talk of entrepreneurship, but to destroy. They come like the famous swindler and gambler Law to remake an alien land in their own image. They come to a city 300 years old not to build but to destroy.

Orleanians know about entrepreneurship but are more likely to call it the hustle. Grilling pork chop sandwiches in the street without a license or selling ice cups out your window in the summer is entrepreneurship, but it is an entrepreneurship of people looking to make next month’s rent, who have never had enough money in the bank to dream big. There are big dreamers standing on corners selling crack, who are ethically and economically no different from real estate flippers. They see a need and fill it because it’s all about the Benjamins, not the consequences.

The real entrepreneurs are those pushing the pork chop sandwiches, the people who get up in the dark to catch the Michoud bus for the long ride in from the East to a low-paying job. What the newcomers don’t understand is that the people here dream different dreams. They dream of Indian and Second Line suits that will set them back month’s of wages. They dream of a midnight brass band on Saturday night in the club up the street, and a ghetto burger on the break from the back of a pick up truck; not of a vacation in the Caymans. They dream and hope that their eldest child will get the rest out of bed and off to a second-rate school in the dearly bought uniforms of our new exercise in segregation: the charter school. They dream the same dream their parents did at the start of desegregation: a less laborious life, and more time for joy.

New Orleans and much of South Louisiana live by a different standard that the rest of America. They live for the joie de vivre that brings the tourists and the newcomers. A hard way of life has trained them to live not for money but for the joy wherever they can find it. Yes, they dream of nice clothes for church and Saturday night, that tricked out car, that big-ass pickup, the way the generation of the Great Depression dreamed of those things, and when the money is good they will get them. They will dress up and drive that car or truck to a house full of friends where the grill is burning and the drink is flowing and the music a bit too loud. The house may be a small but righteous brick ranch–each a perfect mirror of the post-WWII white Lakeview of my youth before the McMansions builders moved in–or a tumbledown in the city, because so many don’t understand investment. They understand rent. The closest they ever came to investment was the opportunity to buy a Schwegmann’s bond as they stood in line to cash their paycheck and pay the NOPSI bil. The house does not matter. They will go in search of the joy.

The newcomers don’t understand this but they are the joy-killers. Every lease or mortgage they sign at exorbitant rents drives the joy away. They destroy the neighborhood that supported that corner store with the magnificent po-boys at the counter in the back. They will find the corner bar where each generation of musicians learned their trade a noisy nuisance. They will loiter over their free trade coffee, mocking our own chicory as the drink of people who don’t understand coffee although the coffee shop was the center of social and business life in this city centuries ago. They will wax excited when the sketchy store with its square-bottled wine and mouth-watering po-boys turns into some fusion cooking monstrosity.

What will happen when the speculators drive everyone out of the neighborhood at the center of which stands the Indian-practice bar, when some of the newcomers complain of the noise on the street and the odd go-cup abandoned on the hood of their car. When the people who assembled their on Sunday to practice the ancient chants are driven into diaspora, how long will they persist? One hopes they will, just as so many city churches survived a generation or two after their parishioners fled to Metairie, Chalmette or the East. Even if their sacred meeting place of faded bar signs survives, will they bring their children in (sorry, not allowed) or to just stand on the street outside listening and learning? And how long before the NOPD drives by to scatter those children for loitering while Black in the neighborhood of houses their grandparents built?

New Orleans must market its exceptionalism to survive. It brings the tourists, and maintains the remaining jobs in the city. The wealthy men reluctant to admit newcomers to the clubs that were the center of their inner circle drove away the oil men and let the port go to ruin. There are no other jobs. Their narrow-minded stupidity and Southern comfort in the ways of segregation built the city we have today. Is out only choice to mimic them–to try to drive the newcomers and their money away in an effort to preserve our dream, our joy, and yes our exclusivity, our exceptionalism–as they did to preserve their’s? Do we let the newcomers come, and place out hope in the city’s incredible power of assimilation, of Creolization, that our own exceptional melting pot will convert them not into Anglo-Saxon Yankees but blend them into our Pan-Caribbean gumbo?

More importantly, what should we do, what should we expect them to do unless we model it for them and make it a part of that gumbo to care about the dissolution of public education, the generational poverty, the busy Second Line’s worth of bodies that fall each year in a pool of blood? If I knew the answers I would tell you, and I have pondered these questions since the days of the Wet Bank Guide, since that moment a decade ago when we confronted absolute hopelessness and met it with resolution. What should the people who cashed out their IRAs and maxed out their credit cards to rebuild a city with their own sweat and blood say to those arrive with a down payment in hand looking to buy a piece of the dream? That your hustle is nothing unless you understand the roots of the joy you seek to have stamped on your hand Saturday night. That unless you understand this city and are ready to bleed for it, the dream you are buying will ultimately prove as empty as John Law’s promises of three centuries ago.

Odd Words September 18, 2014

Posted by Mark Folse in Book Stores, books, bookstores, Indie Book Shops, literature, New Orleans, Odd Words, Poetry, Toulouse Street.
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This week in literary New Orleans:

& Thursday at 6 pm check out the weekly Spoken Word event #WordConnections at the Juju Bag Cafe.

& At 7 pm The Fiction Writers’ Group meets at the East Jefferson Public Library is a support group for serious writers of fiction. The group does not focus on poetry, essays or nonfiction. Events consist of critique sessions from group members, author talks and writing exercises. Free of charge and open to the public. Registration is not required.

& Every Thursday evening the New Orleans Poetry Brothel hosts a Poetry Hotline. Call 504-264-1336) from 8-12 pm CST and we’ll to hear an original poem.

& Every Friday The Rhyme Syndicate presents a spoken word open mic at Dish on Haynes Boulevard hosted by Hollywood. Doors at 8. Admission $7, $5 will college ID. Music by DJ XXL.

& Saturdays at 11:30 am its Story Time with Miss Maureen at Maple Street Book Shop. Wear your best hat! We’ll be reading Happy Birthday Madame Chapeau by Andrea Beaty, pictures by David Roberts. From the bestselling team behind Iggy Peck, Architect and Rosie Revere, Engineer comes this delightful and very stylish story about love, community, and friendship, with some fancy hats thrown in for good measure. Full color.

& Trisha Rezende, MFA, leads a dynamic writing workshop where students will produce, share, and critique texts while learning how to develop character, voice, and style Saturday 10:30 am – noon at the Nix Branch of the New Orleans Public Library.

& Saturday at 3:30 come meet author Lawrence Goldstone when he stops by Octavia Books to sign copies of his latest book, BIRDMEN: The Wright Brothers, Glenn Curtis, and the Battle to Control the Skies. From award-winning writer Lawrence Goldstone comes a gripping narrative of the to-the-death rivalry between the Wright Brothers and Glenn Hammond Curtiss, and a fresh look at a formative era: the astounding and dangerous early days of flight.

& Every Sunday at 3 p.m. The Maple Leaf Reading Series, the oldest continuous reading series in the south, founded by Everette Maddox, features guest poets and an open mic. This Sunday features a long awaited event– a new book from Ralph Adamo. Come by and hear Ralph read, pick up your copy, and enjoy some refreshments on us. Ever is a collection of poems begun at the turn of the 21st century, composed and revised through the beginning of the year 2014. In this, his 7th collection and his first following Waterblind: New & Selected Poems (2002), Ralph writes through wars, hurricanes and endurance of every sort. He writes about becoming a father after age 50 and raising two children in a time of transition and conflict, in forms ranging from tight couplets through prose poetry and various experimental turns. At times painfully lucid, at times opaque, simultaneously personal and universal, Ralph’s poems seek that most elusive goal: truth as far as language can pursue it.

Monday kicks off Banned Books Week with two events:

& At the main branch of the New Orleans Public Library, 219 Loyola Avenue, co-sponsored by the New Orleans Public Library, the Jefferson Parish Public Library, the ACLU of Louisiana, and the New Orleans Gulf South Booksellers Association, the evening promises to inform and entertain attendees with a stellar roster of participating authors and local luminaries.

Schedule to read are the following: Thomas Beller, author of J.D. Salinger: The Escape Artist; Nancy Dixon, author of N.O. Lit: 200 Years of New Orleans Literature; Bill Lavender, author of Q; Constance Adler, author of My Bayou: New Orleans through the Eyes of a Lover; Bill Loehfelm, author of The Devil In Her Way; Rebecca Snedeker, co-author of Unfathomable City: A New Orleans Atlas; Kim Vaz-Deville, author of The ‘Baby Dolls': Breaking the Race and Gender Barriers of the New Orleans Mardi Gras Tradition; Stephanie Grace, New Orleans Advocate columnist; Charles Brown, Library CEO & City Librarian, New Orleans; Nevada Barr, author of Destroyer Angel; Amanda Boyden, author of Babylon Rolling; Maurice Ruffin, attorney and author with the MelaNated Writers Collective.

& Mid-City’s new bookstore Tubby and Coo’s on Monday features: 5:30-6:00 p.m. Open mic – customers read from their favorite banned books and 6:00-6:30 p.m.: Local romance author Farrah Rochon reads from her favorite banned book. On Tuesday 5:30-6:00 p.m.: Open mic – customers read from their favorite banned books and 6:00-7:00 p.m.: Local mystery authors Greg Herren & J.M. Redmann read from their favorite banned books.

& Susan Larson, the former book editor of the former Times-Picayune newspaper and member of the National Book Critics Circle hosts The Reading Life on WWNO (89.9 FM) on Tuesdays at 1:30 p.m. She features interviews with authors of local and national interest. Watch Odd Words on Facebook and Google+ on Tuesdays for a complete list of her guests and features.

& Michael Rubin, author of THE COTTONCREST CURSE, visits Octavia Books on Tuesday at 6 pm. The bodies of an elderly colonel and his comely young wife are discovered on the staircase of their stately plantation home, their blood still dripping down the wooden balustrades. Within the sheltered walls of Cottoncrest, Augustine and Rebecca Chastaine have met their deaths under the same shroud of mystery that befell the former owner, who had committed suicide at the end of the Civil War. Locals whisper about the curse of Cottoncrest Plantation, an otherworldly force that has now taken three lives. But Sheriff Raifer Jackson knows that even a specter needs a mortal accomplice, and after investigating the crime scene, he concludes that the apparent murder/suicide is a double homicide, with local peddler Jake Gold as the prime suspect. Michael H. Rubin’s The Cottoncrest Curse takes readers on the bold journey of Jake’s flight within an epic sweep of treachery and family rivalry ranging from the Civil War to the civil rights era, as the impact of the 1893 murders ripples through the twentieth century and violence besets the owners of Cottoncrest into the 1960s.

& At 6 pm Tuesday Peter Abadie presents Green in Judgement Cold in Blood at the Garden District Book Shop. Assassination is the template that binds this work together. Whether it’s the murder of the modern world through a political miscalculation during the Cuban missile crisis or through mistakes made in Indochina, the result would be the same. The individual assassinations of John F. Kennedy, Lee Harvey Oswald, innocent Russian peasants, Ngo Diem of Vietnam, his brother, Nhu, and even the Empress of Hungary, is a replete theme that hovers throughout the novel. The self-immolation by a Buddhist monk and the attempted assassinations of Fidel Castro, his brother Raul, and Che Guevara, adds considerable spice to the murderous stew. Couched behind most scenes are the actions of the four sets of brothers. Whether it’s the Kennedy, the Bundy, the Castro, or the Ngo Dinh brothers, their insatiable desire to rule was paramount in most of their decisions and in two of the four sets, it led to their demise.

& Tuesday at 7 pm the Jefferson Parish Library features Three New Authors at the East Jefferson Regional Library:

  • When the Lights Went Out in the City is the first children’s book for New Orleans native Christi Johnston Rice. With the help of Megan Kay Nolan’s illustrations, the book follows Flambeaux, a power truck, as he drives throughout the Greater New Orleans area during a hurricane power outage. It is an interactive “hide and seek” book with familiar sights, such as City Park, Audubon Zoo, and other local spots both parents and kids will enjoy. Christi Rice is a “born and raised” New Orleanian. She is a graduate of Mount Carmel Academy and she attended Louisiana State University and University of New Orleans. She is the marketing director for the professional organizer Clutter Clearer, LLC. This is her first adventure in writing a children’s book.
  • Hurricane Boy, by Laura Dragon. In this coming-of-age story, Hollis Williams matures in the traumatic events of Hurricane Katrina. Living with his siblings and his grandmother, Hollis’s greatest wish has always been to reconnect with his absent father. Through the turmoil of the storm and the ensuing tests of his determination, Hollis keeps this dream alive. Their home destroyed, Hollis and his younger siblings are taken to a shelter in West Virginia, where he discovers what family means and finds his own inner strength. Laura Dragon is a clinical social worker and a writer on the side. She has been writing for 20 years and Hurricane Boy is her first published novel. She says writing is harder work than she ever realized, but it’s been worth it.
  • This Day, by Kristen Hedgepeth. At 16 pages, This Day is a compact, illustrated volume that shows children why this day can be a better day than the one before. Hedgepeth believes there are many children who need something positive to help them face another day, especially if they have been abused, lost a loved one, are being bullied or having a rough time in todays’ challenging world. The book is dedicated to children affected by domestic abuse. A portion of the proceeds from the book will be donated to this cause. As a reminder, October is fast approaching and is recognized nationally as domestic violence awareness month.

& Every Tuesday night get on the list to spit at the longest running spoken word venue in New Orleans at Sweet Lorraine’s Jazz Club hosted by African-American Shakespear. Doors open at 7pm and the Mic pops at 8pm. It is $5 to get in.

& Wednesday at the Latter Memorial Library A Book Club Named Desire meets. Adults meet to discuss a local classic every fourth Wednesday of the month at 6 pm. For more information, contact Toni at tlmccourt@hotmail.com.

& At 8 pm Wednesday WHO be reading at the Poetry & Music at BJs’ Blood Jet Series at BJ’s at 8 pm. This week features Laura Theobold & Danielle Buchanan.

& Every Wednesday at 8 pm at the Neutral Ground Coffeehouse there is an hour-long open mic poetry night (or fiction night; whatever you want to read really!).

I Just Want To See His Face September 6, 2014

Posted by Mark Folse in art, cryptic envelopment, New Orleans, The Narrative, The Typist, Toulouse Street.
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“I don’t wan’t to walk and talk about Jesus. I just want to see his face.”
— Mick Jagger/Keith Richards

\Dog Goya

Can you see the face, the one with the long beard, and the left hand raised as if watching this scene through some impervious barrier of glass or time? Or is it simply an illusion, the wish to believe that some being is at least disturbed enough by this scene to press their face into it like Jesus into the veil of Veronica? You can see it in some reproductions but not others. It is hard to see here. I can see it in the card on my wall if I turn the desk lamp directly on it. It is not, however, anything holy. Perhaps it is just mad Jehovah reveling in his ability to destroy what he has made. There is no suggestion of redemption. Or perhaps it is simply a disturbance in the pigment, a bit of holy toast for the damned.

Odd Words September 4, 2014

Posted by Mark Folse in Book Stores, books, Indie Book Shops, library, literature, New Orleans, novel, Odd Words, Poetry, Toulouse Street.
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This week in literary New Orleans:

& Thursday at 6 pm check out the weekly Spoken Word event #WordConnections at the Juju Bag Cafe.

& Thursday at 6 pm Garden District Books hosts New Orleans Under Reconstruction: A Crisis of Planning, with author Carol McMichael Reese with contributors: Elizabeth Mossop, Jeanne Nathan, W. W. Raymond Manning, Bradford Powers, and David Waggonner. When the levees broke in August 2005 as a result of Hurricane Katrina, 80 percent of the city of New Orleans was flooded, with a loss of 134,000 homes and 986 lives. In particular, the devastation hit the vulnerable communities the hardest: the old, the poor and the African-American. The disaster exposed the hideous inequality of the city. In response to the disaster numerous plans, designs and projects were proposed. This bold, challenging and informed book gathers together the variety of responses from politicians, writers, architects and planners and searches for the answers of one of the most important issues of our age: How can we plan for the future, creating a more robust and equal place?

& Also at 6 pm Octavia Books features Katy Simpson Smith and THE STORY OF LAND AND SEA, her debut novel. Drawn to the ocean, ten-year-old Tabitha wanders the marshes of her small coastal village and listens to her father’s stories about his pirate voyages and the mother she never knew. Since the loss of his wife Helen, John has remained land-bound for their daughter, but when Tab contracts yellow fever, he turns to the sea once more. Desperate to save his daughter, he takes her aboard a sloop bound for Bermuda, hoping the salt air will heal her. In this elegant, evocative, and haunting debut, Katy Simpson Smith captures the singular love between parent and child, the devastation of love lost, and the lonely paths we travel in the name of renewal.

& At 7 pm Thursday the East Jefferson Regional Library hosts The Fiction Writers’ Group, a support group for serious writers of fiction. The group does not focus on poetry, essays or nonfiction. Events consist of critique sessions from group members, author talks and writing exercises. Free of charge and open to the public. Registration is not required.

& Every Thursday evening the New Orleans Poetry Brothel hosts a Poetry Hotline. Call 504-264-1336) from 8-12 pm CST and we’ll to hear an original poem.

& Friday at 6 pm Octavia Books Mark Schapiro presents and signs CARBON SHOCK: A Tale of Risk and Calculus on the Front Lines of the Disrupted Global Economy. Mark Schapiro takes readers on a journey into a world where the same chaotic forces reshaping our natural world are also transforming the economy, playing havoc with corporate calculations, shifting economic and political power, and upending our understanding of the real risks, costs, and possibilities of what lies ahead.CARBON SHOCK evokes a world in which the parameters of our understanding are shifting—on a scale even more monumental than how the digital revolution transformed financial decision-making—toward a slow but steady acknowledgement of the costs and consequences of climate change. It also offers a critical new perspective as global leaders gear up for the next round of climate talks in 2015.

& Every Friday The Rhyme Syndicate presents a spoken word open mic at Dish on Haynes Boulevard hosted by Hollywood. Doors at 8. Admission $7, $5 will college ID. Music by DJ XXL.

& Saturday at 10:30 am Poems & Pink Ribbons: Write to Wellness returns to the Keller Library & Community Center. Local NOLA writers lead creative writing workshops and wellness exercises for breast cancer patients, survivors, family and friends. Workshops continue through Nov. 11, and culminate in a Celebration Reading: December 6, 11 a.m. – 1 p.m. at the Rosa Keller Library & Community Center/

& Saturday at 2 pm its The Poetry Buffet Maple Leaf V Anthology Reading at the Latter Memorial Library, featuring readings by poets included in the anthology. Published by Portals Press, the anthology collects work from readers at the south’s oldest continuous literary reading.

& Every Sunday at 3 p.m. The Maple Leaf Reading Series, the oldest continuous reading series in the south, founded by Everette Maddox, features guest poets and an open mic. This Sunday features an open mic.

& At 7 pm Sunday Team Slam New Orleans hosts their September Open Mic and Slam at The Shadowbox Theatre, one of four more chances to qualify for the 2015 Slam New Orleans Semi-Finals. The show will kick off with an open mic and close it with a one-round open slam. $5 Admission. Free to slam.

& Susan Larson, the former book editor of the former Times-Picayune newspaper and member of the National Book Critics Circle hosts The Reading Life on WWNO (89.9 FM) on Tuesdays at 1:30 p.m. She features interviews with authors of local and national interest. Watch Odd Words on Facebook and Google+ on Tuesdays for a complete list of her guests and features.

& Tuesday at Octavia Books On Tuesday, September 9, 6:00 P.M., at 6 pm Morgan Molthrop shows us the connection between Andrew Jackson’s successful New Orleans campaign and the city leaders’ strategies in the wake of Katrina. Meet the author of ANDREW JACKSON’S PLAYBOOK: 15 Strategies for Success! McCall Molthrop examines surprising tactics and innovations that have contributed to the city’s rapid recovery, suggesting that contemporary civic leaders have much in common with U.S. Gen. Andrew Jackson who soundly defeated the “invincible” British Army at the Battle of New Orleans 200 years ago. By interviewing a wide array of notable local sources, Molthrop juxtaposes events from 1815 with those of 2005, demonstrating unconventional attack plans that achieved improbable victories. Success tips are categorized with military terminology, including shoring up defenses, using guerrilla tactics, acting with bravado and never forgetting the prize. Readers can reap valuable life lessons along with a fascinating history lesson.

& Every Tuesday night get on the list to spit at the longest running spoken word venue in New Orleans at Sweet Lorraine’s Jazz Club hosted by African-American Shakespear. Doors open at 7pm and the Mic pops at 8pm. It is $5 to get in.

& Wednesday at the Latter Memorial Library A Book Club Named Desire meets. Adults meet to discuss a local classic every fourth Wednesday of the month at 6 pm. For more information, contact Toni at tlmccourt@hotmail.com.

& Wednesday at 7 pm the East Jefferson Library features New Orleans Hurricanes from the Start by Nicholas Meis. While hurricanes of various sizes and strengths have impacted the Crescent City since its earliest settlement in 1718, there is little record of the magnitude and regularity of these storms. In this work, authors David F. Bastian and Nicholas J. Meis delve into a wealth of historical documents, journals, newspaper articles, and expert analyses in order to characterize and categorize the storms that have affected South Louisiana. The first recorded hurricane to strike New Orleans was in 1722. With a seven-foot storm surge, high winds, and heavy rain, the storm caused widespread destruction and evoked the same fear and anxiety that modern-day New Orleanians face during a storm. Although today’s advanced technology and engineering are a far cry from the makeshift systems that protected early settlements, even strong defenses sometimes fail. In great detail, Bastian and Meis examine Hurricane Katrina, the devastating 2005 storm, and analyze what went wrong, how it could have been prevented, and what may be in store for the Crescent City. Bastian and Meis have more than 70 years of combined civil-engineering experience. Both authors came to New Orleans in the wake of Hurricane Katrina with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. During the rebuilding effort, they began to explore the history of natural disasters in the region. Bastian, a consultant, lives in Annapolis, Maryland. Meis, a technical writer, lives in New Orleans.

& At 8 pm Wednesday poet Ralph Adamo will be reading at the Poetry & Music at BJs’ Blood Jet Series with a new collection out from Lavender Ink followed by music from Tha Neighbors.

& Every Wednesday at 8 pm at the Neutral Ground Coffeehouse there is an hour-long open mic poetry night (or fiction night; whatever you want to read really!).

& Next week Maple Street Book Shop celebrates its 50th anniversary with a weekend whirl of events. Check Odd Words next Thursday for all the details.

Odd Words August 28, 2014

Posted by Mark Folse in books, LGBT, LGBTIQ, literature, New Orleans, Odd Words, Poetry, Toulouse Street.
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This week in literary New Orleans:

Tonight kicks off The Waves,a new LGBTIQ reading series presenting student voices, local writers, and visiting writers side by side. Our kickoff reading, coinciding with Antenna Gallery’s 2nd Annual True Colors LGBTQ Art Exhibition, will feature an all local line-up: Chanel Clarke, Tyler Gillespie, Elizabeth Gross, Megan Ann Mchugh, Kay Murphy, Brad Richard, Anne Marie Rooney, Elizabeth Lindsey Rogers, Spencer Silverthorne, Madeleine LeCesne and perhaps even more.

About the Readers:

  • Anne Marie Rooney is the author of Spitshine, as well as two chapbooks.
  • Elizabeth Lindsey Rogers was born in a hailstorm, is the author of the poetry collection Chord Box, and lives on a street named Desire.
  • Tyler Gillespie is a pale Floridian whose writing has appeared or is forthcoming in Rolling Stone, Salon, NPR, and PANK, among other places.
  • Madeleine LeCesne is a senior at Lusher School and a writer in the Certificate of Artistry Program, directed by Brad Richard.
  • Elizabeth Gross throws her poems around and recently some have landed in LEVELER, Painted Bride Quarterly, B O D Y, and the upcoming Queer South anthology from Sibling Rivalry Press.
  • Spencer Silverthorne is a MFA candidate in poetry at the University of New Orleans.
  • Chanel Clarke is a graduate of the Michener Center for Writers and has had poems published in Anti-, Flag and Void, Smoking Glue Gun, and Hayden’s Ferry Review.
  • Brad Richard directs the creative writing program at Lusher Charter School, has published three books and two chapbooks, and is working on, among other things, a manuscript titled Reconstructions.
  • Megan Mchugh, who recently completed her MFA at UNO, is a garden teacher with the Edible Schoolyard New Orleans, and also grows/designs flowers at the flower farm and design studio, Pistil and Stamen.
  • Kay Murphy is Professor Emeritus at the University of New Orleans. Her poetry and essays have been published far and wide.

& Thursday at 6 pm check out the weekly Spoken Word event #WordConnections at the Juju Bag Cafe.

& Thursday at 7 pm the East Jefferson Regional Library hosts an Author Event! featuring two new books by Sally Michelle Jackson. In A Darker Side of the Light (The Heilsing Cases) (Volume 1) the central character is a paranormal investigator (a friend refers to him as a con man) who played at investigating his caseload. He admits that he takes cases, does minimal legwork to solve them, and does little more than reassure the client that “everything is all right.” And then one night, he finds himself investigating a real case and it changes his life. In Never Stop Dreaming the main character dreams of one woman night after night – and he doesn’t seem to have control over them. In fact, it seems as if someone else is running the show in his dreams. This is no longer acceptable, so he turns the tables in his search for the woman and he does it in the only way that he knows how – through dreams. Jackson also will discuss Poems from a Transgendered Heart, a collection of poems published in 2011 that serve as attempt to convey the emotional part of a transsexual’s journey of self-discovery and transitioning.

& James Butler, a writer of science fiction and fantasy (especially steampunk), leads a workshop to encourage the creation of these genres by local authors at the East Jefferson Regional Library. Open to all levels. Free of charge and open to the public. No registration.

& Every Thursday evening the New Orleans Poetry Brothel hosts a Poetry Hotline. Call 504-264-1336) from 8-12 pm CST and we’ll to hear an original poem.

& Friday at 6 pm author Michael Pitre’s presents Fives and Twenty-Fives at the Garden District Book Shop. Fives and twenty-fives mark the measure of a marine’s life in the road repair platoon. Dispatched to fill potholes on the highways of Iraq, the platoon works to assure safe passage for citizens and military personnel. Their mission lacks the glory of the infantry, but in a war where every pothole contains a hidden bomb, road repair brings its own danger. Lieutenant Donavan leads the platoon, painfully aware of his shortcomings and isolated by his rank. Doc Pleasant, the medic, joined for opportunity, but finds his pride undone as he watches friends die. And there’s Kateb, known to the Americans as Dodge, an Iraqi interpreter whose love of American culture—from hip-hop to the dog-eared copy of Huck Finn he carries—is matched only by his disdain for what Americans are doing to his country. Returning home, they exchange one set of decisions and repercussions for another, struggling to find a place in a world that no longer knows them.

& Every Friday The Rhyme Syndicate presents a spoken word open mic at Dish on Haynes Boulevard hosted by Hollywood. Doors at 8. Admission $7, $5 will college ID. Music by DJ XXL.

& It’s Story Time with Miss Maureen Saturdays at 11:30am at Maple Street Book Shop. This week features My Teacher is a Monster by Peter Brown. A young boy named Bobby has the worst teacher. She’s loud, she yells, and if you throw paper airplanes, she won’t allow you to enjoy recess. She is a monster! Luckily, Bobby can go to his favorite spot in the park on weekends to play. Until one day… he finds his teacher there! Over the course of one day, Bobby learns that monsters are not always what they seem. Each page is filled with “monstrous” details that will have kids reading the story again and again. Peter Brown takes a universal and timeless theme, and adds his own humorous spin to create another winner of a picture book.

& Saturday at 1 pm Bob Rogers discusses and signs his book The Laced Chameleon at Garden District Book Shop. Mademoiselle Francesca Dumas is a quadroon (one-quarter African American) and concubine of a New Orleans banker, Joachim Buisson. Courted by moneyed white men, she leads a sheltered life of elegant gowns and lavish balls until a bullet shatters her dream world. While awaiting the arrival of the Union Navy among a throng gathered atop a Mississippi River levee April 25, 1862, Francesca’s lover is shot dead by her side. Rain soaked and blood-stained Francesca vows revenge. The grieving Francesca is evicted from Joachim’s house by his family who refuses to honor the lovers’ plaçage (concubinage) contract. Francesca’s life becomes intertwined with a homeless hungry white woman and her children when she shares her last Confederate dollars to buy food for them. Her investigation of the woman’s plight lands her work as a spy for Major General Benjamin Butler’s army occupying New Orleans. As Francesca struggles with her identity to make principled choices between another plaçage arrangement and independence, an acquaintance is murdered and her best friend, Emily, is kidnapped.

& Every Sunday at 3 p.m. The Maple Leaf Reading Series, the oldest continuous reading series in the south, founded by Everette Maddox, features guest poets and an open mic. This Sunday features an open mic.

& All area libraries will be closed for Labor Day on Monday.

& Susan Larson, the former book editor of the former Times-Picayune newspaper and member of the National Book Critics Circle hosts The Reading Life on WWNO (89.9 FM) on Tuesdays at 1:30 p.m. She features interviews with authors of local and national interest. Watch Odd Words on Facebook and Google+ on Tuesdays for a complete list of her guests and features.

& Tuesday at 7 pm The East Jefferson Regional Library hosts Three New Authors who have brand new books: Tanisca Wilson, author of “Proclivity”; Cynthia Addison, author of “Mamma Said” and “The Devil Hates Marriages”; and Rhea Mayfield Berkeris, author of “Born Special.” Free of charge and open to the public.

& Every Tuesday night get on the list to spit at the longest running spoken word venue in New Orleans at Sweet Lorraine’s Jazz Club hosted by African-American Shakespear. Doors open at 7pm and the Mic pops at 8pm. It is $5 to get in.

& Wednesday at the Latter Memorial Library A Book Club Named Desire meets. Adults meet to discuss a local classic every fourth Wednesday of the month at 6 pm. For more information, contact Toni at tlmccourt@hotmail.com.

& Wednesday at 7 pm the East Jefferson Regional Library hosts an event in its Culinary Legacies series, an interview with Sam Irwin, author of Louisiana Crawfish: A Succulent History. Sam Irwin is the guest interviewee of this event sponsored by the Southern Food and Beverage museum. The hunt for red crawfish is the thing, the raison d’être, of Acadian spring. Introduced to Louisiana by the swamp dwellers of the Atchafalaya Basin, the crawfish is a regional favorite that has spurred a $210 million industry. Whole families work at the same fisheries, and annual crawfish festivals dominate the social calendar. More importantly, no matter the occasion, folks take their boils seriously: they’ll endure line cutters, heat and humidity, mosquitoes and high gas prices to procure crawfish for their families’ annual backyard boils or their corporate picnics. Join author Sam Irwin as he tells the story–complete with recipes and tall tales–of Louisiana’s favorite crustacean: the crawfish.

& Wednesday The Maple Street Book Shop will host the launch party for Katy Simpson Smith’s novel, The Story of Land and Sea, at 7pm Sat The Columns Hotel (3811 St. Charles Avenue). Set in a small coastal town in North Carolina during the waning years of the American Revolution, this incandescent debut novel follows three generations of family—fathers and daughters, mother and son, master and slave, characters who yearn for redemption amidst a heady brew of war, kidnapping, slavery, and love.In this elegant, evocative, and haunting debut, Katy Simpson Smith captures the singular love between parent and child, the devastation of love lost, and the lonely paths we travel in the name of renewal.

& Every Wednesday at 8 pm at the Neutral Ground Coffeehouse there is an hour-long open mic poetry night (or fiction night; whatever you want to read really!).

An Imaginary City August 25, 2014

Posted by Mark Folse in Fortin Street, New Orleans, Odd Words, The Narrative, The Typist, Toulouse Street, Uncategorized, We Are Not OK.
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I live in an imaginary city. Its borders on one side are indistinct, the gradual erosion from solid land through marsh to water. These boundaries shift daily with the tide, and monthly with the moon, and every day grow a little closer, the city a little smaller. On the other sides there are walls built to keep back the sea, to contain the river. These are not ours to command. All we have with certainty is our imaginary city, its rituals of uncertain origin, its people of many colors and languages. They walk and dance on streets that ripple like the water, fracture like ice on a river breaking up in the spring, and crumble from neglect. These are the only streets we have ever known. Only the names are important: Pleasure, Desire, Humanity, Music. The names are part of the dream of the imaginary city. Martin Luther King Boulevard and Jefferson Davis Parkway intersect and end where Earhart Boulevard flies toward the Potemkin America of the imaginary suburbs.

There are in fact many imaginary cities I inhabit, all in the same place. There is the city of the tourists, the ones who buy Carnival beads in August and wear them drinking in the streets. This is a city of imaginative drunkenness and lewdness, mostly confined to a few blocks of one street, where people buy Big Ass Beers and drinks the size of goldfish bowls or shaped like hand grenades, as if they wish to immerse themselves in liquor or explode into outrageous behavior. They holler at women on party balconies to “show their tits.” Some drunkenly comply. They behave, in short, like drunken louts released from all restraint. This is encouraged. Virtually every doorway in these few blocks leads to a bar, the rest to t-shirt and trinket shops where they can buy their beads and shirts only someone completely inebriated would consider wearing. They show these shirts to friends at home, snicker, and put them in a bottom drawer. I occasionally inhabit this city if only for a moment, to cross the street of the endless Carnival, to escape to another imaginary city. A few people I know work there. Some love it. Some hate it. It either is or is not a particular person’s imaginary city. For the visitors, it is the only city.

I can cross Canal Street, the famous divide between two of the largest imaginary cities, to the skyscrapers and renovated 19th century office blocks of Uptown. (Don’t call the skyscraper village Downtown, or you will quickly become lost. Downtown is Another City). This is where the wealthy sit in air-conditioned comfort–over lunches that would cost the waiter a week’s wages–and wonder at the indolence of so many of the people of their imaginary city. They are the God-fearing Protestants from the north who came after the war and built that side of Canal Street into a landscape of mansions and shotgun shacks for their servants. An antique streetcar, long out of manufacturer and kept running entirely with hand built parts, rumbles under great oaks down the avenue. On this avenue the wealthy and those who would be wealthy enact the ritual of Uptown Carnival, in which these people ride atop massive papier-mâché barges tossing imaginary jewels of Chinese plastic to the grateful (if indolent) throngs that line the street. This has been my imaginary city, at times, looking out from the nineteenth floor contemplating what fine restaurant a salesman might take us to. I too have stood where the streetcars run and fought for my share of worthless plastic.

Downtown is not where the business of the city is done. This seems appropriate to an imaginary city. Downtown begins with the blocks of the Old Quarter where drunken tourists reign and slowly gives way to the city downriver. Things run down quickly going toward the sea but that is to be expected. The certainty of the land beneath this imaginary city dissolves with each block further down toward the delta. The clocks on abandoned bank buildings stand forever at some o’clock. Here it is Central River Time. Paint peels more slowly in this imaginary city, and so is left as it is. I can think of a half-dozen facades in this imaginary city with faded advertisements for beers out of style longer than I can remember. The sidewalks here are not fractured by the stately oaks of Uptown but more likely by a weedy camphor or blackberry. People do not call the city to complain. They crush a camphor leaf in their hand and inhale, or stop to pick a handful of berries. They step over the heaves and holes on their way to more important business. There is cooking to be done, music to be sung, cold beer and friends to attend to. I live far in the back of this imaginary city, off the portage that once ran from the Bayou to the River. There was a clerk at a drug store not four block away I had not visited in 20 years who took a long look at my driver’s license, and remarked I looked just like my father (20 years dead). No doubt there are dwindling towns scattered in the rural landscape where such things might happen, but only one imaginary city where it could happen to you today.

The imaginary city is old by the standards of the New World. Only the pyramids of the displaced Natives are older. Yet nothing here is as old as the imaginary city. Over the centuries, fire and flood have erased everything but the names of the streets in the French Quarter, lined with Spanish colonial buildings. Kings, founders, a street called Barracks that explains the curious grid streets of the French Quarter, a fortress built in a conquered land. Elsewhere the streets run perpendicular to the river, slowing pulling away from each other or colliding as the river dictates: new streets appear, others disappear. The cross streets follow the bends of the river or simply begin and disappear in a geometry that defies simple formulae. It is a fractal city, chaotic order out of chaos. You can spend an entire lifetime here and still discover new streets and wonder: was this always here? Or is it simply a symptom of an imaginary city? Were the houses a Carnival façade, something erected for some private entertainment, or has another imaginary city intersected ours like two bubbles colliding?

It would be impossible to live here if it were not an imaginary city.

In the concrete world of rotting sideboards that hides beneath the imaginary city, things can be too awful to imagine. The bloodstained streets are the killing fields of a constant, random war. The newspaper of the imaginary city counts the daily dead and wounded, but it is easier not to take the paper if you wish to live in the imaginary city. You can live in your own imaginary city and cluck and shrug and say: not in my imaginary city. These things don’t happen Uptown. These things don’t happen in the blocky, post-War suburbs of the Lakefront. And how about them Saints? Football season is upon us and in the imaginary city football crosses all boundaries, melds the imaginary cities into one imaginary city, if only for a Sunday afternoon, a Monday morning. Football and Carnival are the pillars of the imaginary city, the many imaginary cities that make up this imaginary city. We imagine ourselves one city.

Behind all this, the uncivil war goes on, cousins killing cousins, neighbors killing neighbors. You can try to ignore it but every now and then, you step outside for a cigarette at night and hear in the distance not the horns of the ships making the tight bend in the river but the crackle of small-arms fire, and then the sirens. In your heart, you pray that a stray bullet has not taken another child. You step back inside, suddenly distracted by a song on the imaginary city’s radio station where they do not play the top hits of an imaginary nation but the music of the imaginary city. You return to the collective imaginary normal until the sound of a snare drum or a trumpet calls for forth a slow spiritual, or vibrant gospel song you know will be played somewhere in this imaginary city to walk and wake those who have just died.

It would be impossible to live here if it were not an imaginary city.

Odd Words August 21, 2014

Posted by Mark Folse in Book Stores, books, bookstores, Indie Book Shops, literature, New Orleans, novel, Odd Words, Poetry, Toulouse Street.
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This week in literary New Orleans, the libraries are where it’s at:

& Thursday at 6 pm check out the weekly Spoken Word event #WordConnections at the Juju Bag Cafe.

& At 7 pm Prospect New Orleans & NOPL present Keith Calhoun & Chandra McCormick in conversation with Kalamu ya Salaam The artists will share how Kalamu ya Salaam has inspired their practice. All three will discuss their collaborative unpublished work Banana Republic: Black Street Life and Culture in New Orleans at the Keller Branch of the New Orleans Public Library.

& In Jefferson at 7 pm the Great Books Discussion Group meets to discuss The Red Badge of Courage at the East Jefferson Regional Library. This small masterpiece set the pattern for the treatment of war in modern fiction. Amid the nightmarish chaos of a Civil War battle, a young soldier discovers courage, humility, and, perhaps, wisdom. Widely praised for uncanny re-creation of the sights, sounds, and sense of actual combat. An enduring landmark of American fiction.

& Every Thursday evening the New Orleans Poetry Brothel hosts a Poetry Hotline. Call 504-264-1336) from 8-12 pm CST and we’ll to hear an original poem.

& Every Friday The Rhyme Syndicate presents a spoken word open mic at Dish on Haynes Boulevard hosted by Hollywood. Doors at 8. Admission $7, $5 will college ID. Music by DJ XXL.

& Saturday at 2 pm it is Poetry for Teens,Michael Quess? Moore, Sam Gordon, & Mwende Katwiwa, New Orleans slam poets and educators, will present a poetry reading and workshop for teens.

& Every Sunday at 3 p.m. The Maple Leaf Reading Series, the oldest continuous reading series in the south, founded by Everette Maddox, features guest poets and an open mic. This Sunday features writer Ed Ruzicka reads from his book, Engines of Belief – Engagement with Modern Art.

Monday the Robert E. Smith Branch of the NOPL offers a writing workshop open to all comers at 5:30 pm.

& Susan Larson, the former book editor of the former Times-Picayune newspaper and member of the National Book Critics Circle hosts The Reading Life on WWNO (89.9 FM) on Tuesdays at 1:30 p.m. She features interviews with authors of local and national interest. Watch Odd Words on Facebook and Google+ on Tuesdays for a complete list of her guests and features.

& Tuesday at 6 pm Octavia Books hosts a reading and signing celebrating the launch of New Orleans writer Michael Pitre’s FIVES and TWENTY-FIVES, a truly stunning work of art, and a debut novel that Kirkus called “a book in which everything rings so unshakably true. A war novel with a voice all its own, this will stand as one of the definitive renderings of the Iraq experience.” A heart-stopping debut novel about war and its aftermath by an Iraq War veteran—and an essential examination of the United States’ role in the world.

& Every Tuesday night get on the list to spit at the longest running spoken word venue in New Orleans at Sweet Lorraine’s Jazz Club hosted by African-American Shakespear. Doors open at 7pm and the Mic pops at 8pm. It is $5 to get in.

& Wednesday at the Latter Memorial Library A Book Club Named Desire meets. Adults meet to discuss a local classic every fourth Wednesday of the month at 6 pm. For more information, contact Toni at tlmccourt@hotmail.com

& Every Wednesday at 8 pm at the Neutral Ground Coffeehouse there is an hour-long open mic poetry night (or fiction night; whatever you want to read really!).

Odd Words August 13, 2014

Posted by Mark Folse in Book Stores, books, bookstores, Indie Book Shops, literature, memoir, New Orleans, novel, Odd Words, Poetry, publishing, Toulouse Street.
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Another quiet week in literary New Orleans until we celebrate Charles Bukowski’s birthday Saturday at the Loa Bar starting at 8 pm. Then things might living up just a bit. (Details below). Until then, don’t wake the librarians.

Last spring, Press Street unveiled in a soft opening the new Reading Room 220 on the first floor of our headquarters on St. Claude Avenue. The community space—which hosts events, adult writing workshops, Big Class activities, and more—includes a collection of quality books and periodicals that span subject, format, and genre. Many are from independent publishers and are not readily available in bookstores and libraries around town. As we continue to acquire books and catalog and organize our collection (which will soon be available for your perusal on Goodreads), we will feature some of the noteworthy publications that you can find at the Reading Room 220. Press Street/Room 220 is located at 3718 Saint Claude Avenue. Press Street is open from 12-5 pm Saturday and Sunday. Call for additional hours: 504-298-3161.

& Thursday at 6 pm check out the weekly Spoken Word event #WordConnections at the Juju Bag Cafe.
& Every Thursday evening the New Orleans Poetry Brothel hosts a Poetry Hotline. Call 504-264-1336) from 8-12 pm CST and we’ll to hear an original poem.

& Thursday at 7 pm James Butler, a writer of science fiction and fantasy (especially steampunk), leads a workshop to encourage the creation of these genres by local authors. Open to all levels. Free of charge and open to the public. No registration. Location: Jefferson Parish East Bank Regional Library

& Every Friday The Rhyme Syndicate presents a spoken word open mic at Dish on Haynes Boulevard hosted by Hollywood. Doors at 8. Admission $7, $5 will college ID. Music by DJ XXL.

& George Gurtner will be signing his book, Cast of Characters, Saturday at 11 am – 1 pm at Maple Street Book Shop. Cast of Characters comprises colorful true stories of life in and around the Big Easy. Selected from the column of the same name written for 35 years by George Gurtner in New Orleans Magazine, this collection of unusual people— from creative loners to lovable freaks and many gradations between— is testimony to why New Orleans continues to be the most interesting city in the country. Foreword by Erroll Laborde, photos accompanying most characters by Frank Methe.

& Saturday celebrate Charles Bukowski’s birthday with a special event at Loa Bar located on the corner of Camp and Gravier Streets from 8 – 11 PM. Specials will include ham on rye sandwiches, stiff spirits and a toast at 10 pm. Also salon style poetry readings by celebrity guess and an open mic. There will also be a silent film and music. Special Guests include publisher and book collector Edwin blair, Author jeff weddle, International Gold Medal winner and poet Sarah Gamard, author and journalist Steve Garbarino. Rare first editions from Bukowski’s work from Loujon Press and others will be on display.

& Every Sunday at 3 p.m. The Maple Leaf Reading Series, the oldest continuous reading series in the south, founded by Everette Maddox, features guest poets and an open mic. This Sunday is an open mic.

& The monthly meeting of the New Orleans Haiku Society takes place at the Latter Memorial Library, That cool grey temple/Shaded by green oak trees on/St. Charles Avenue, at 6 p.m.

& Susan Larson, the former book editor of the former Times-Picayune newspaper and member of the National Book Critics Circle hosts The Reading Life on WWNO (89.9 FM) on Tuesdays at 1:30 p.m. She features interviews with authors of local and national interest. Watch Odd Words on Facebook and Google+ on Tuesdays for a complete list of her guests and features.

& Every Tuesday night get on the list to spit at the longest running spoken word venue in New Orleans at Sweet Lorraine’s Jazz Club hosted by African-American Shakespear. Doors open at 7pm and the Mic pops at 8pm. It is $5 to get in.

& Every Wednesday at 8 pm at the Neutral Ground Coffeehouse there is an hour-long open mic poetry night (or fiction night; whatever you want to read really!) 

Odd Words August 7, 2014

Posted by Mark Folse in books, Indie Book Shops, literature, New Orleans, novel, Odd Words, Poetry, Toulouse Street.
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This coming week in literary New Orleans:

& Thursday at 6 pm check out the weekly Spoken Word event #WordConnections at the Juju Bag Cafe.

& Every Thursday evening the New Orleans Poetry Brothel hosts a Poetry Hotline. Call 504-264-1336) from 8-12 pm CST and we’ll to hear an original poem.

& Saturday at 1 pm Garden District Book Shop hosts Bob Rogers and his new book The Laced Chameleon. Mademoiselle Francesca Dumas is a quadroon (one-quarter African American) and concubine of a New Orleans banker, Joachim Buisson. Courted by moneyed white men, she leads a sheltered life of elegant gowns and lavish balls until a bullet shatters her dream world. While awaiting the arrival of the Union Navy among a throng gathered atop a Mississippi River levee April 25, 1862, Francesca’s lover is shot dead by her side. Rain soaked and blood-stained Francesca vows revenge.

& Saturday at 7 pm T E N D E R L O I N Magazine returns with Cold Cuts: The Third Weird Thing reading series at Kajun’s Pub featuring opening jam by Jenn & Mel, Andrew Ketcham, Peter Twal and Alec Vanthoumout. Cold Cuts is a poetry reading interested in performance and a performance interested in reading poetry. Each reading will consist of 3 – often on the theme of 2 poets and a 3rd weird thing: the performative. But we encourage all our poets to perform and all our performances to poet. We like to showcase our TENDER LOIN writers, and we like to showcase local artists.

& Every Sunday at 3 p.m. The Maple Leaf Reading Series, the oldest continuous reading series in the south, founded by Everette Maddox, features guest poets and an open mic. This Sunday is the launch of the Maple Leaf Rag V anthology of poetry, published by Portal’s Press. MLRV is a selection of poems from readers who have been featured or are regular participants in open mike at the reading.

& Susan Larson, the former book editor of the former Times-Picayune newspaper and member of the National Book Critics Circle hosts The Reading Life on WWNO (89.9 FM) on Tuesdays at 1:30 p.m. She features interviews with authors of local and national interest. Watch Odd Words on Facebook and Google+ on Tuesdays for a complete list of her guests and features.

& Tuesday at 6 pm Octavia Books hosts historian Michael S. Martin presenting and signing his new biography, RUSSELL LONG: A Life in Politics. Russell Long (1918-2003) occupies a unique niche in twentieth-century US history. Born into Louisiana’s most influential political family, and son of perhaps the most famous Louisianian of all time, Long extended the political power generated by other members of his family and attained heights of power unknown to his predecessors, including his faV ither Huey.

& Every Tuesday night get on the list to spit at the longest running spoken word venue in New Orleans at Sweet Lorraine’s Jazz Club hosted by African-American Shakespear. Doors open at 7pm and the Mic pops at 8pm. It is $5 to get in.

& Every Wednesday at 8 pm at the Neutral Ground Coffeehouse there is an hour-long open mic poetry night (or fiction night; whatever you want to read really!) 

For events at your local library please visit Nutrias.org for the New Orleans Public Library and http://www.jefferson.lib.la.us for Jefferson Parish.

Forward to a Preface July 28, 2014

Posted by Mark Folse in literature, New Orleans, Toulouse Street.
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One of the benefits of Generalized Anxiety Disorder is the squirrels don’t give a damn about seven hours of jet lag, or yesterday’s epic 25 our travel day. A man wakes up to pee after a certain amount of sleep, the merciless digital clock reads 8:00 and they leap to their wheels: the squeaks of anxiety over things to be done, the horrible cogs begin to turn. It is 15:30 Central European Summer Time, siesta in Spain but those rules no longer apply. I need a driver’s license to replace the one stolen in Madrid. I have classwork over due. I have no idea what my apartment looks like after leaving my 19-year old son alone for 40 days and 40 nights but I imagine there is enough cat hair in the carpet to knit a sweater and streaks of black mold creeping up the wall in the usual spots.

In short I am up, with coffee: not a proper Spanish con leche, two shots of espresso lathed in frothy milk–a concept I could never quiet communicate in Italy; they always thought I wanted a cappuccino and two espresso, cappuccino and doblio technically correct but as functionally wrong as a Starbuck’s grande–but coffee none the less. The first sips of the first drips take me back in memory to the day before yesterday but I am too tired to call up the phrase for a cafe sin leche(cafe solo; the cogs turn but slowly yet).

I am up in part because of the rigors of castle life. It is idyllic as the pictures suggest but I usually awoke in my room in the croft, a barn converted to a dormitory, by seven a.m. with Ezra Pound’s Cantos of the day on my mind. There were endless notes to transcribe from C.F. Terrell’s Companion to the Cantos, the poem itself thick with Greek and Latin and allusions to the classics, medieval Provençal and Italian history, and modern events. Somewhere in my notes the phrase “[William] Burroughs cut-ups & [John] Dos Passos” appear. While there are powerful and lyrical passages of the poet’s own throughout, so much is an artful crib: the “epic poet” (as the professor referred to him, punning on E.P.) translating beautifully if not faithfully or borrowing heavily from Homer, Dante, Cavalcanti and other medieval and classical sources.

In short, it was a lot of work between tramping over the cobblestones in sight of the mountains spotted with precarious vineyards and coffee, between coffee and stepping into the castle proper for class. I am tanned, bested and unsteady but with the exception of one down day in Barcelona between check-out and my night train to Granada, I have been on the squeaky wheel myself most of the last 40 days and 40 nights, a discipline that will hopefully carry me through jet lag and into a poetry manuscript with preface and an outline of a paper before my library privileges expire tomorrow, through cleaning house, getting a new driver’s license and looking for a job.

Un otro cafe, por favor.

Odd Words June 17, 2014

Posted by Mark Folse in books, bookstores, Indie Book Shops, literature, memoir, New Orleans, novel, Odd Words, Poetry, Toulouse Street.
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& This Thursday Maple Street Book Shop hosts Bonnie Warren and her book New Orleans Historic Homes. New Orleans is world famous for its unique residents and stunning architecture. Those who live in the Crescent City have crafted homes to suit their tastes and needs, creating some of the most beautiful, fascinating structures in the nation. Explore the private homes of renowned neighborhoods, including the Garden District, the French Quarter, Bayou St. John, the Bywater, and the Faubourg Marigny. Warren profiles the residents, their relationships to their homes, and well-known former occupants. Homeowners discuss the histories of their houses, detailing renovations and repairs and expounding upon striking the balance between preserving history and infusing the home with personal style.

& Thursday at 6 pm Octavia Books hosts Alan Furst’s book MIDNIGHT IN EUROPE. The New York Times bestselling author Alan Furst, the “most talented espionage novelist of our generation” (Vince Flynn), now gives us a taut, suspenseful, romantic and richly rendered novel of spies and espionage, in Paris, New York and Madrid, on the eve of World War II.

& Every Thursday evening the New Orleans Poetry Brothel hosts a Poetry Hotline. Call 504-264-1336) from 8-12 pm CST and we’ll to hear an original poem.

& Thursday at 6 pm check out #wordconnections spoken word event at the Juju Bag Cafe.

& Every Thursday evening the New Orleans Poetry Brothel hosts a Poetry Hotline. Call 504-264-1336) from 8-12 pm CST and we’ll to hear an original poem.

& Friday at 6 pm Octavia Books hosts Karen White’s book A LONG TIME GONE. When Vivien Walker left her home in the Mississippi Delta, she swore never to go back, as generations of the women in her family had. But in the spring, nine years to the day since she’d left, that’s exactly what happens—Vivien returns, fleeing from a broken marriage and her lost dreams for children. What she hopes to find is solace with “Bootsie,” her dear grandmother who raised her, a Walker woman with a knack for making everything all right. But instead she finds that her grandmother has died and that her estranged mother is drifting further away from her memories. Now Vivien is forced into the unexpected role of caretaker, challenging her personal quest to find the girl she herself once was

& Every Sunday at 3 p.m. The Maple Leaf Reading Series, the oldest continuous reading series in the south, founded by Everette Maddox, features guest poets and an open mic. This Sunday features a Summer Solstice Open Mike.

& On Monday the Jefferson Parish Library continues hosting The Artists’ Way Seminar, a 12-part series of seminars based on the classic book, The Artist’s Way: A Spiritual Path To Higher Creativity, by American author Julia Cameron, with Mark Bryan. The book was written to help people with artistic creative recovery, which teaches techniques and exercises to assist people in gaining self-confidence in harnessing their creative talents and skills. Correlation and emphasis is used by the author to show a connection between artistic creativity and a spiritual connection. Cherie Cazanavette is the group moderator.

& Susan Larson, the former book editor of the former Times-Picayune newspaper and member of the National Book Critics Circle hosts The Reading Life on WWNO (89.9 FM) on Tuesdays at 1:30 p.m. She features interviews with authors of local and national interest. Watch Odd Words on Facebook and Google+ on Tuesdays for a complete list of her guests and features.

& Tuesday at 6 pm Octavia books hosts a presentation and signing with presidential biorgrapher Nigel Hamilton featuring his new book, THE MANTLE OF COMMAND: FDR at War, 1941-1942. In time for the 70th anniversary of D-Day, a close, in-the-room look at how President Roosevelt took masterful command and control of the Second World War, from wresting key decisions away from Churchill and his own generals, to launching the first successful trial landing in North Africa, and beginning to turn the tide away from the Axis.

& Every Tuesday night get on the list to spit at the longest running spoken word venue in New Orleans at Sweet Lorraine’s Jazz Club hosted by African-American Shakespear. Doors open at 7pm and the Mic pops at 8pm. It is $5 to get in.

& Every Wednesday at 8 pm at the Neutral Ground Coffeehouse there is an hour-long open mic poetry night (or fiction night; whatever you want to read really!)

& Wednesday at 8 pm at the Allways, Esoterotica presents “Tantalizing Travels in Desirous Destination!”, an evening of erotic writings.

N.B. The Blood Jet and Tender Loin reading series are adjourned until the Fall.

I am in Europe in a literary workshop for a month. Please get me your events as early as possible through the end of July so I can keep up Odd Words catch as catch can.

Odd Words June 11, 2014

Posted by Mark Folse in books, bookstores, Indie Book Shops, literature, memoir, New Orleans, novel, Odd Words, Poetry, publishing, Toulouse Street.
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& Thursday at 6 pm Octavia Books features Andre Dubus III’s DIRTY LOVE. In this heartbreakingly beautiful book of disillusioned intimacy and persistent yearning, beloved and celebrated author Andre Dubus III explores the bottomless needs and stubborn weaknesses of people seeking gratification in food and sex, work and love. In these linked novellas in which characters walk out the back door of one story and into the next, love is “dirty”-tangled up with need, power, boredom, ego, fear, and fantasy. Slivered by happiness and discontent, aging and death, but also persistent hope and forgiveness, these beautifully wrought narratives express extraordinary tenderness toward human beings, our vulnerable hearts and bodies, our fulfilling and unfulfilling lives alone and with others.

& Thursday 5:30 pm the Nix Library features Hope and New Orleans: A History of Crescent City Street Names. Author and photographer Sally Asher reads from her new book, a tour of the city’s most colorfully named streets and intersections

& Every Thursday evening the New Orleans Poetry Brothel hosts a Poetry Hotline. Call 504-264-1336) from 8-12 pm CST and we’ll to hear an original poem.

& Thursday at 6 pm check out #wordconnections spoken word event at the Juju Bag Cafe.
& Every Thursday evening the New Orleans Poetry Brothel hosts a Poetry Hotline. Call 504-264-1336) from 8-12 pm CST and we’ll to hear an original poem.

& Every Sunday at 3 p.m. The Maple Leaf Reading Series, the oldest continuous reading series in the south, founded by Everette Maddox, features guest poets and an open mic. This Sunday features Fiction writer Louie Crowder reads from and signs his new book, In Irons from Gallatin & Toulouse Press.

& This Monday New Orleans celebrates Bloomsday upstairs at The Irish House, 1432 St. Charles Ave. for Bloomsday, a celebration of James Joyce’s Ulysses, sponsored by Crescent City Books. Come read or just join us and enjoy good food and drink (for purchase) from acclaimed Chef Matt Murphy. All are welcome to read, time permitting, up to 10 minutes max.
Featuring guest readers: Brian Boyles, Pandora Gastelum, Susan Larson, Stephen Rea, Maurice Carlos Ruffin, and members of the New Orleans Poetry Brothel

& On Monday at 6 pm Garden District Books hosts Scott Cowen’s The Inevitable City: The Resurgence of New Orleans and The Future of Urban America, co-written with Betsy Seifer. This is the story of the resurgence and reinvention of one of America’s greatest cities. Ordinary citizens, empowered to actively rescue their own city after politicians and government officials failed them, have succeeded in rebuilding their world. Cowen was at the leading edge of those who articulated, shaped, and implemented a vision of transformative change that has yielded surprising social progress and economic growth: a drowned city identified with the shocking images of devastation and breakdown has transformed itself into a mecca of growth, opportunity, and hope.

& On Monday the Jefferson Parish Library continues hosting The Artists’ Way Seminar, a 12-part series of seminars based on the classic book, The Artist’s Way: A Spiritual Path To Higher Creativity, by American author Julia Cameron, with Mark Bryan. The book was written to help people with artistic creative recovery, which teaches techniques and exercises to assist people in gaining self-confidence in harnessing their creative talents and skills. Correlation and emphasis is used by the author to show a connection between artistic creativity and a spiritual connection. Cherie Cazanavette is the group moderator.

& Susan Larson, the former book editor of the former Times-Picayune newspaper and member of the National Book Critics Circle hosts The Reading Life on WWNO (89.9 FM) on Tuesdays at 1:30 p.m. She features interviews with authors of local and national interest. Watch Odd Words on Facebook and Google+ on Tuesdays for a complete list of her guests and features.

& Every Tuesday night get on the list to spit at the longest running spoken word venue in New Orleans at Sweet Lorraine’s Jazz Club hosted by African-American Shakespear. Doors open at 7pm and the Mic pops at 8pm. It is $5 to get in.

& Every Wednesday at 8 pm at the Neutral Ground Coffeehouse there is an hour-long open mic poetry night (or fiction night; whatever you want to read really!)

Next Wednesday I will be in transit to Europe. Please get me your events as early as possible starting next week through the end of July.

Odd Words June 4, 2014

Posted by Mark Folse in books, Indie Book Shops, literature, New Orleans, novel, Odd Words, Poetry, publishing, Toulouse Street.
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& Thursday at 6 pm Octavia Books hosts Edward J. Branley presents and signs his new book, NEW ORLEANS JAZZ, including more than 200 vintage images documenting the birth and development of jazz in New Orleans. Branley is the author of several historical books on New Orleans, including New Orleans: The Canal Street Car Line, Brothers of the Sacred Heart in New Orleans, and Maison Blanche Department Stores.

& Thursday at 7 pm the New Orleans Public Library and Prospect New Orleans feature the first P.3 Reads, a conversation between Zarouhie Abdalian and Jerry Ward exploring Brenda Marie Osbey’s All Saints: New and Selected Poems. P.3 Reads, a Prospect New Orleans Public Program, is inspired by Artistic Director Franklin Sirmans’ vision for the at Alvar Branch, 913 Alvar Street. Prospect.3 (P.3). The program takes place monthly in different NOPL branches. Artists who will be featured in the upcoming P.3 Biennial will discuss with members of the New Orleans community the books that have been important in their lives and work.

& Every Thursday evening the New Orleans Poetry Brothel hosts a Poetry Hotline. Call 504-264-1336) from 8-12 pm CST and we’ll to hear an original poem.

& Thursday at 6 pm check out #wordconnections spoken word event at the Juju Bag Cafe.
& Every Thursday evening the New Orleans Poetry Brothel hosts a Poetry Hotline. Call 504-264-1336) from 8-12 pm CST and we’ll to hear an original poem.

& Thursday the Jefferson Parish Library SciFi, Fantasy and Horror Writers’ Circle meets at 7 pm at the Lakeshore Library. James Butler, a writer of science fiction and fantasy (especially steampunk), leads a workshop to encourage the creation of these genres by local authors. Open to all levels. Free of charge and open to the public. No registration.

& Starting Friday catch Pressure Cooker for the Soul new play by Moose Jackson. Jackson also authored Loup Garoup and is a notable local poet. Doors and Pre-show 6:00PM. Show @ 6:45PM Shows 6/6, 7, 8, 2014

& Starting Friday St. Francisville, La. will host the Walker Percy Festival, A Literary Festival Celebrating the Writer and His Works June 6—8. Good food and drink, live music, and a great time talking about books and Southern culture under the live oaks: That’s what the inaugural Walker Percy Weekend has to offer when it celebrates the acclaimed novelist’s life and work in St. Francisville, June 6—8. * Tickets are limited and selling fast. You can get tickets here

& Saturday starting at 4 p.m. author and award-winning playwright Louie Crowder will sign his new novella In Irons from Gallatin & Toulouse Press at Faubourgh Marigny Art & Books, 600 Frenchman Street.

& At 3 pm Saturday in Aclee Fortier Park (Esplanade Avenue at Mystery Street) 100,000 Poets for Change hosts World Word Against Police Brutality. “Poetry vigil for Peace against police brutality stop the killing stop the WAR… Poets are invited to read, recite, sing or spit poems to raise consciousness about police brutality and to change hearts, the only way to achieve justice.”

& Saturday the Latter Memorial Library features the monthly Poetry Buffet hosted by Gina Ferrara. Reading this month are poets Peter Cooley, J Bruce Fuller, and Lee Grue.

& Every Sunday at 3 p.m. The Maple Leaf Reading Series, the oldest continuous reading series in the south, founded by Everette Maddox, features guest poets and an open mic. This Sunday features poet Delia Nakayama reads from her work followed by an open mic

& Sunday is a special evening with Khaled Hosseini – #1 New York Times bestselling author of THE KITE RUNNER – celebrating the paperback release of AND THE MOUNTAINS ECHOED. The author will be interviewed before a live audience by Louisiana Cultural Vistas editor David Johnson. Octavia Books is holding the event at Temple Sinai, 6227 St. Charles Avenue (at Calhoun), New Orleans, LA. Doors open at 4:300PM and the program will start promptly at 5:30. Tickets are required! The cost per ticket is the same as the price of the book. You will get to meet Khaled Hosseini in person while he signs your copy. Call or visit Octavia Books (or their website) to order tickets in advance.

& Speak Sunday is hosted every Sunday at 7 pm by Duece the Poet at Therapy, 3001 Tulane Avenue, also featuring live painting of the performers by C.C. Givens.

& On Monday the Jefferson Parish Library continues hosting The Artists’ Way Seminar, a 12-part series of seminars based on the classic book, The Artist’s Way: A Spiritual Path To Higher Creativity, by American author Julia Cameron, with Mark Bryan. The book was written to help people with artistic creative recovery, which teaches techniques and exercises to assist people in gaining self-confidence in harnessing their creative talents and skills. Correlation and emphasis is used by the author to show a connection between artistic creativity and a spiritual connection. Cherie Cazanavette is the group moderator

& On Tuesday at 6 pm Garden District Book Shop presents Jeanette Walls’ The Silver Star. It is 1970 in a small town in California. “Bean” Holladay is twelve and her sister, Liz, is fifteen when their artistic mother, Charlotte, takes off to find herself, leaving her girls enough money to last a month or two. When Bean returns from school one day and sees a police car outside the house, she and Liz decide to take the bus to Virginia, where their widowed Uncle Tinsley lives in the decaying mansion that’s been in Charlotte’s family for generations. An impetuous optimist, Bean soon discovers who her father was, and hears stories about why their mother left Virginia in the first place. Money is tight, and the sisters start babysitting and doing office work for Jerry Maddox, foreman of the mill in town, who bullies his workers, his tenants, his children, and his wife. Liz is whip-smart—an inventor of word games, reader of Edgar Allan Poe, nonconformist. But when school starts in the fall, it’s Bean who easily adjusts, and Liz who becomes increasingly withdrawn. And then something happens to Liz in the car with Maddox.

& Tuesday at 6 pm Octavia Books and the Jewish Community Center invite you to a presentation and signing with outgoing Tulane University President Scott Cowen celebrating the launch of his new book, THE INEVITABLE CITY: The Resurgence of New Orleans and the Future of Urban America. This is the story of the resurgence and reinvention of one of America’s greatest cities. Ordinary citizens, empowered to actively rescue their own city after politicians and government officials failed them, have succeeded in rebuilding their world.

& Tuesday at 6:30 bring Author Night at the Hubbell Branch of the New Orleans Public Library, featuring Vietnamese Cuisine in New Orleans by Susan Pfefferle. The East meets the Westbank and more! With recipes by local Vietnamese cooks and world-renowned chefs, this cookbook provides the reader with a detailed offering of Vietnamese cuisine in the New Orleans area. Join us for a discussion and book signing.

& Every Tuesday night get on the list to spit at the longest running spoken word venue in New Orleans at Sweet Lorraine’s Jazz Club hosted by African-American Shakespear. Doors open at 7pm and the Mic pops at 8pm. It is $5 to get in.

& Room 220 and The N.O. Loving Festival host NATIVE. HOMELAND. EXILE. featuring five New Orleans writers will explore the theme native, homeland, exile through readings and a Q&A from 6 – 8 p.m. on Wednesday at the Press Street HQ, 3718 St. Claude Ave. Readers include: ADDIE CITCHENS, a Mississippi native and New Orleans-based writer of literary fiction. She has been featured in the Oxford American‘s “Best of the South” edition, in Calloloo journal, and others; JERI HILT is a Louisiana native with roots in New Orleans, Avoyelles Parish, and Shreveport. She writes fiction and teaches literacy in the Lower Ninth Ward; AMBATA KAZI-NANCE is a writer and teacher living in her hometown New Orleans with her husband and son. She writes for Azizah magazine and Grow Mama Grow, a blog for Muslim mothers; and, J.R. RAMAKRISHNAN whose journalism has appeared in Style.com, Harper’s Bazaar, Chicago Tribune, and Grazia, amongst other publications. Her fiction has appeared in [PANK]. She arrived in New Orleans by way of Brooklyn, London, and Kuala Lumpur, her original hometown. She is director of literary programs for the Tennessee Williams/New Orleans Literary Festival. They will provide attendees a concert of voices from women writers of color that unflinchingly captures the coming of age in America’s New South. This event is part of the New Orleans Loving Festival, a multiracial community celebration and film festival that challenges racial discrimination through outreach and education.

& On Wednesday at 6 pm Maple Street Book Shop features the Plume Anthology of Poetry Reading. lume (http://plumepoetry.com/) has become one of the most respected and influential on-line poetry journals. Its contributors are a veritable Who’s Who of contemporary American Poetry. Readers will include Carrie Causey, Peter Cooley, Benjamin Lowenkron, Brad Richard and Christopher Shipman.

& Every Wednesday at 8 pm at the Neutral Ground Coffeehouse there is an hour-long open mic poetry night (or fiction night; whatever you want to read really!)

Odd Words May 21, 2014

Posted by Mark Folse in books, bookstores, Indie Book Shops, literature, memoir, New Orleans, novel, Odd Words, Poetry, publishing, Toulouse Street.
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& Thursday at 6 pm is the one year anniversary of #wordconnections spoken word event at the Juju Bag Cafe, featuring heRO 44 featuring for the first time at #wordconnections. heRO 44 is Roosevelt Wright, III the author of two books, Tenacity, and The Power of Possibility. His third book, Rise Beyond Tolerance, is scheduled for release Summer 2014. He has starred in over 30 stage plays and has written and directed 4 of his own

& Thursday at 6:30 Bayou Magazine hosts a launch party for Issue No. 61 at the Mid-City Yacht Club featuring readings by Bayou Magazine Contributors, including this year’s James Knudsen Prize in Fiction Winner, Michael Gerhard Martin, Issue 60 essayist Juyanne James, Issue 60 poet Thomas Schwank, and Issue 59 James Knudsen Prize in Fiction Winner, Ari Braverman backed up by the musical stylings of The Shiz.

& Thursday at 7 pm James Butler, a writer of science fiction and fantasy (especially steampunk), leads a workshop at the East Jefferson Regional Library to encourage the creation of these genres by local authors. Open to all levels. Free of charge and open to the public. No registration.

& Every Thursday evening the New Orleans Poetry Brothel hosts a Poetry Hotline. Call 504-264-1336) from 8-12 pm CST and we’ll to hear an original poem.

& Friday at 6 pm Octavia Books features a presentation and signing with writer and Tulane University professor Thomas Beller featuring his new biography, J.D SALINGER: The Escape Artist, a spirited, deeply personal inquiry into the near-mythic life and canonical work of Salinger. Three years after his death at ninety-one, J.D. Salinger remains our most mythic writer. The Catcher in the Rye (1951) became an American classic, and he was for a long time the writer for The New Yorker. Franny and Zooey and Raise High the Roof Beam, Carpenters introduced, by way of the Glass family, a new type in contemporary literature: the introspective, voluble cast of characters whose stage is the Upper East Side of New York. But fame proved a burden, and in 1963 Salinger fled to New Hampshire, spending the next half century in isolation.Beller has followed his subject’s trail, from his Park Avenue childhood to his final refuge, barnstorming across New England to visit various Salinger shrines, interviewing just about everyone alive who ever knew Salinger. The result is a quest biography in the tradition of Geoff Dyer’s Out of Sheer Rage, a book as much about the biographer as about the subject-two vivid, entertaining stories in one.

& Saturday at 1 pm the Garden District Book Shop features Regina Charboneau’s Mississippi Current Cookbook: A Culinary Journey Down America’s Greatest River. Discover the diverse food and culinary traditions from the ten states that border America’s most important river–and the heart of American cuisine–with 200 contemporary recipes for 30 meals and celebrations, and more than 150 stunning photographs.

& Every Sunday at 3 p.m. The Maple Leaf Reading Series, the oldest continuous reading series in the south, founded by Everette Maddox, features guest poets and an open mic. This Sunday features an open mic.

& Sunday is Slam and Spoken Word Day in New Orleans. WhoDatPoets.com lists five Spoken Word shows on Sunday nights. For phone numbers with more details on all these readings visit WHODATPOETS.COM. (I stopped listing all of the events because one venue’s name forced me to limit this post for readers over 21. Check WHODATEPOETS.COM for all the latest on slam and spoken word in New Orleans.

& Speak Sunday is hosted every Sunday at 7 pm by Duece the Poet at Therapy, 3001 Tulane Avenue, also featuring live painting of the performers by C.C. Givens.

& All area libraries will be closed Monday for Memorial Day.

& Tuesday at 6 pm the Garden District Book Shop features Barbara Herman’s Scent & Subversion: Decoding a Century of Provocative Perfume. Perfume has been — and continues to be — subversive. By playing with gender conventions, highlighting the ripe smells of the human body, or celebrating queer and louche identities, 20th-century perfume broke free from the assumptions of the prior century, and became a largely unrecognized part of the social and style revolutions of the modern era. In Scent and Subversion, Barbara Herman continues her irreverent, poetic, and often humorous analysis of vintage perfumes and perfume ads that she began on her popular blog YesterdaysPerfume.com. The book features descriptions of over 300 perfumes, starting with Fougère Royale (1882) and ending with Demeter’s Laundromat (2000).

& Tuesday at 7 pm the Edith S. Lawson Library in Westwego hosts The Fiction Writers’ Group, a support group for serious writers of fiction. We do not focus on poetry, essays or nonfiction. Events consist of critique sessions from group members, author talks and writing exercises. Free of charge and open to the public. Registration is not required.

& Every Tuesday night get on the list to spit at the longest running spoken word venue in New Orleans at Sweet Lorraine’s Jazz Club hosted by African-American Shakespear. Doors open at 7pm and the Mic pops at 8pm. It is $5 to get in.

& Wednesday at 6 pm Garden District Book Shop features Ronlyn Domingue’s The Chronicle of Secret Riven. One thousand years after a great conflict known as The Mapmaker’s War, a daughter is born to an ambitious historian and a gifted translator. Secret Riven doesn’t speak until her seventh year but can mysteriously communicate with plants and animals. Unsettled by visions and dreams since childhood, she tries to hide her strangeness, especially from her mercurial father and cold mother. Yet gentle, watchful Secret finds acceptance from Prince Nikolas, her best friend, and Old Woman, who lives in the distant woods. When Secret is twelve, her mother receives an arcane manuscript to translate from an anonymous owner. Zavet suffers from nightmares and withdraws into herself. Secret sickens with a fever and awakens able to speak an ancient language, one her mother knows as well. Suddenly, Zavet dies. The manuscript is missing, but a cipher has been left for Secret to find. Years later, Secret becomes a translator’s apprentice for Fewmany, an influential magnate, who has taken an interest in her for reasons she cannot discern. Before Secret learns why, Old Woman confronts Secret with the truth of her destiny—a choice she must make that is tied to an ancient past.

& 8 p.m. every Wednesday the Blood Jet Poetry Series hosted by Megan Burns happens at BJ’s in the Bywater. This week’s features are Gina Abelkop, Anne Marie Rooney, & Magdalena Zurawski.

& Every Wednesday at 8 pm at the Neutral Ground Coffeehouse there is an hour-long open mic poetry night (or fiction night; whatever you want to read really!)

Odd Words May 14, 2014

Posted by Mark Folse in books, bookstores, Indie Book Shops, literature, memoir, New Orleans, NOLA, Odd Words, Poetry, publishing, Toulouse Street.
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& Thursday at 4 p.m. the Smith Library in New Orleans hosts Kelley Armstrong and Melissa Marr, bestselling authors of both adult and young adult book series, have teamed up and are visiting us for an afternoon to chat about their brand new books and answer questions about your earlier favorites. Signing to follow.

& Thursday at 6:30 pm Garden District Book Shop features Monte Dutton’s The Intangibles. It’s 1968. The winds of change are descending on Fairmont and engulfing the small South Carolina town in a tornadic frenzy. The public schools are finally being completely integrated. Mossy Springs High School is closing and its black students are now attending formerly all-white Fairmont High; the town is rife with racial tension. Several black youths have been arrested for tossing firebombs at a handful of stores. White citizens form a private academy for the purpose of keeping their kids out of the integrated school system. The Ku Klux Klan is growing. This is a story of a high school football team that puts aside its differences, never realizing that, outside its bounds, the world is unraveling. It’s a story about the cultural changes, good and bad, that take place when two societies shift and finally come together. The Intangibles is a story of triumph achieved at considerable cost.

& Porter Shreve will be reading and signing The End of the Book at Maple Street Book Shop Thursday at 6 pm. The End of the Book is the story of an aspiring contemporary novelist who may or may not be writing a sequel to Sherwood Anderson’s classic Winesburg, Ohio. Adam Clary works in Chicago for a famous internet company on a massive project to digitize the world’s books, but secretly he hates his job and wishes to be a writer at a time when the book as physical object and book culture itself have never been more threatened.

& Come meet internationally best-selling author Sarah Pekkanen (The Best of Us, These Girls, Skipping a Beat, and The Opposite of Me) at Octavia Books at 6 pm Thursday when she presents & signs CATCHING AIR, a new novel that once again delivers her “refreshingly introspective, sharply realistic, and tenderly humorous” style (Booklist) and will have readers “flying through the pages” (Hoda Kotb, Today show). It is the story of two couples – a pair of brothers and their wives – who leave everything behind to run a bed and breakfast in bucolic Vermont. But what starts out as an experiment in simpler living turns out to be more complicated than any of them could have imagined, testing the limits of love, family, and the power of forgiveness.

& At the Jefferson Parish East Bank Regional Library hear poet and editor Peter Cooley. He is the author of numerous poetry collections, including Divine Margins (2009), A Place Made of Starlight (2003), and The Astonished Hours (1992). His poems have been widely anthologized in collections such as Best American Poetry (2002) and Poets on Place (2005). Cooley served as poetry editor for the North American Review from 1970 to 2000. He has taught at Tulane University and the University of Wisconsin. He lives in New Orleans. Born and raised in Detroit. He earned a BA at Shimer College, an MA at the University of Chicago, and a PhD at the University of Iowa.

& Every Thursday evening the New Orleans Poetry Brothel hosts a Poetry Hotline. Call 504-264-1336) rom 8-12 pm CST and we’ll to hear an original poem.

& Friday at 2 pm Garden District Book Shop invites you to meet bestselling author and star of Chelsea Lately as she signs her new book Uganda Be Kidding Me. Tickets are $29.43 and will include admittance for 2 adults as well as one copy of Uganda Be Kidding Me. Only copies of Uganda Be Kidding Me purchased from Garden District Book Shop will be signed. This is a signing only. Wherever Chelsea Handler travels, one thing is certain: she always ends up in the land of the ridiculous. Now, in this uproarious collection, she sneaks her sharp wit through airport security and delivers her most absurd and hilarious stories ever. On safari in Africa, it’s anyone’s guess as to what’s more dangerous: the wildlife or Chelsea. But whether she’s fumbling the seduction of a guide by not knowing where tigers live (Asia, duh) or wearing a bathrobe into the bush because her clothes stopped fitting seven margaritas ago, she’s always game for the next misadventure. Complete with answers to the most frequently asked traveler’s questions, hot travel trips, and travel etiquette, none of which should be believed, UGANDA BE KIDDING ME has Chelsea taking on the world, one laugh-out-loud incident at a time. Chelsea Handler is the star of her own late-night talk show on E!, Chelsea Lately, and E!’s comedy series After Lately, as well as the #1 bestselling author of Chelsea Chelsea Bang Bang; Are You There, Vodka? It’s Me, Chelsea; and My Horizontal Life.

& At 6 pm Friday Garden District hosts Clifton Crais’s History Lessons: A Memoir of Madness, Memory, and the Brain. Born in Louisiana to a soon-to-be absent father and an alcoholic mother—who tried to drown him in a bathtub when he was three—Clifton Crais spent his childhood perched beside his mother on a too-tall bar stool, living with relatives too old or infirmed to care for him, or rambling on his own through New Orleans, a city both haunted and created by memory. Indeed, it is memory—both elusive and essential—that forms the center of Crais’s beautifully rendered memoir, History Lessons. In an effort to restore his own, Crais brings the tools of his formal training as a historian to bear on himself and his family. He interviews his sisters and his mother, revisits childhood homes and pours over documentary evidence: plane tickets, postmarks, court and medical records, crumbling photo albums. Probing family lore, pushing past silences and exhuming long-buried family secrets, he arrives, ultimately, at the deepest reaches of the brain. Crais examines the science of memory and forgetting, from the ways in which experience shapes the developing brain to the mechanisms that cause the chronic childhood amnesia—the most common and least understood form of amnesia—from which he suffers. Part memoir, part narrative science and part historical detective story, History Lessons is a provocative, exquisitely crafted investigation into what it means to be human.

& Show your New Orleans Public Library Card and get FREE entry into the RT Booklovers Convention Giant Book Fair on Saturday, May 17th. Over 700 new and bestselling authors will be signing and selling copies of their latest novels. For more information about the RT Booklovers Convention, and to see a full list of authors attending, visit rtconvention.com

& Julie Lamana will be signing her middle-grade novel, Upside Down in the Middle of Nowhere, Saturday, 11:30-1PM at Maple Street Book Shop. Armani Curtis can think about only one thing: her tenth birthday. All her friends are coming to her party, her mama is making a big cake, and she has a good feeling about a certain wrapped box. Turning ten is a big deal to Armani. It means she’s older, wiser, more responsible. But when Hurricane Katrina hits the Lower Nines of New Orleans, Armani realizes that being ten means being brave, watching loved ones die, and mustering all her strength to help her family weather the storm. A powerful story of courage and survival, Upside Down in the Middle of Nowhere celebrates the miraculous power of hope and love in the face of the unthinkable.

& Saturday at 3 pm the Norman Meyer Library hosts Everything You Wanted to Know About Publishing But Did Not Know Who To Ask! Join us for a conversation with author Kimberla Lawson Roby, Latoya Smith (editor at Grand Central Publishing) and Linda A. Duggins (publicity director at Grand Central Publishing) about the writing process, the industry and being an author in 2014. Q&A and book signing will follow.

& Join Gallatin & Toulouse Press as they launch the novel In Irons by Stonewall Chapbook award-winning local playwright Louie Crowder at the newly renovated Apple Barrel on Frenchman Street.

& Sunday at 11 am Garden District Books features GMA host Robin Roberts’s and her memoir Everybody’s Got Something in which she recounts the incredible journey that’s been her life so far, and the lessons she’s learned along the way. With grace, heart, and humor, she writes about overcoming breast cancer only to learn five years later that she will need a bone marrow transplant to combat a rare blood disorder, the grief and heartbreak she suffered when her mother passed away, her triumphant return to GMA after her medical leave, and the tremendous support and love of her family and friends that saw her through her difficult times.

& Sunday at 1 pm at Octavia Books meet New York Times bestselling authors Melissa Marr and Kelley Armstrong presenting ODIN’S RAVENS. The duo co-authored their debut middle grade series, THE BLACKWELL PAGES. ODIN’S RAVENS is the epic sequel to LOKI’S WOLVES. Perfect for Percy Jackson fans, the series is filled with explosive action, adventure and larger-than-life Norse legends. When thirteen-year-old Matt Thorsen, a modern-day descendant of the Norse god Thor, was chosen to represent Thor in an epic battle to prevent the apocalypse he thought he knew how things would play out. Gather the descendants standing in for gods like Loki and Odin, defeat a giant serpent, and save the world. No problem, right? But the descendants’ journey grinds to a halt when their friend and descendant Baldwin is poisoned and killed and Matt, Fen, and Laurie must travel to the Underworld in the hopes of saving him. But that’s only their first stop on their journey to reunite the challengers, find Thor’s hammer, and stop the apocalypse–a journey filled with enough tooth-and-nail battles and larger-than-life monsters to make Matt a legend in his own right.

& Every Sunday at 3 p.m. The Maple Leaf Reading Series, the oldest continuous reading series in the south, founded by Everette Maddox, features guest poets and an open mic. This Sunday features an open mic.

& Sunday is Slam and Spoken Word Day in New Orleans. WhoDatPoets.com lists five Spoken Word shows on Sunday nights. For phone numbers with more details on all these readings visit WHODATPOETS.COM. (I stopped listing all of the events because one venue’s name forced me to limit this post for readers over 21. Check WHODATEPOETS.COM for all the latest on slam and spoken word in New Orleans.

& Sunday also brings The Revival of Spoken Word at the Regency Reception Hall, 7300 Downman Road. Poets from “back in the day” will be reuniting one more time. This show will feature Peteh Muhammad Haroon Gina Marie Christopher Williams Kenneth Dillon Charles EasyLee Peters Blaque Wido Marcus Page Brandi FlueryTony WilsonTarriona Tank Ball Michael Pellet Erika Murray and many more. Free Food. Hosted by Black Steel( Régan Paul LeCesne) and Spoken Word New Orleans. $5 cover.

& Speak Sunday is hosted every Sunday at 7 pm by Duece the Poet at Therapy, 3001 Tulane Avenue, also featuring live painting of the performers by C.C. Givens.

& Monday at 6 pm Master short story writer Ellen Gilchrist, winner of the National Book Award, returns with her first story collection in over eight years at Garden District Book Shop. In Acts of God, she has crafted different scenarios in which people dealing with forces beyond their control somehow manage to survive, persevere, and triumph, even if it is only a triumph of the will. In one way or another, all of these people are fighters and believers, survivors who find the strength to go on when faced with the truth of their mortality, and they are given vivid life in these stories, told with Ellen Gilchrist’s clear-eyed optimism and salty sense of humor.

& Also at 6 pm Monday The New Orleans Haiku Society shares Haiku on the third Monday of every month at the Latter Branch Library, 5120 St. Charles Ave. All are invited to attend. For more information call 596-2625.

& Monday at 7 pm the East Jefferson Regional Library hosts The Fiction Writers’ Group, a support group for serious writers of fiction. We do not focus on poetry, essays or nonfiction. Events consist of critique sessions from group members, author talks and writing exercises. Free of charge and open to the public. Registration is not required.

& Tuesday brings the third annual Best vs Worst Slam! Best vs Worst pits Team SNO against Team POO, a team of fake poets played by real life comedians of The New Movement. The concept is simple: Team SNO performs real pieces while Team POO entertains us with outlandish characters and hilarious “poems” in a two-round slam.Don’t miss your chance to check out one of our most fun and unique shows of the year. It all goes down this Tuesday, May 22nd at Press Street on 3718 St. Claude Ave. Doors open at 7 PM.  Show begins at 7:30.  Admission is $5. 

& Tuesday join author Robert Simonson signing his book The Old Fashioned: The Story of the World’s First Classic Cocktail, with Recipes and Lore at the Cane & Table, 1113 Decatur Street. No single cocktail is as iconic, as beloved, or as discussed and fought-over as the Old-Fashioned. Its formula is simple: just whiskey, bitters, sugar, and ice. But how you combine those ingredients—in what proportion, using which brands, and with what kind of garnish—is the subject of much impassioned debate. The Old-Fashioned is the spirited, delightfully unexpected story of this renowned and essential drink: its birth as the ur-cocktail in the nineteenth century, darker days in the throes of Prohibition, re-ascension in the 1950s and 1960s (as portrayed and re-popularized by Don Draper on Mad Men), and renaissance as the star of the contemporary craft cocktail movement. Books will be available on-site from Garden District Book Shop.

& Tuesday at 6 pm Garden District Book Shop hosts Eve O. Schaub’s A Year of No Sugar: A Memoir. It’s Dinnertime. Do You Know Where Your Sugar is Coming From? Most likely everywhere. Sure, it’s in ice cream and cookies, but what scared Eve O. Schaub was the secret world of sugar–hidden in bacon, crackers, salad dressing, pasta sauce, chicken broth, and baby food. With her eyes open by the work of obesity expert Dr. Robert Lustig and others, Eve challenged her husband and two school-age daughters to join her on a quest to eat no added sugar for an entire year. Along the way, Eve uncovered the real costs of our sugar-heavy American diet–including diabetes, obesity, and increased incidences of health problems such as heart disease and cancer. The stories, tips, and recipes she shares throw fresh light on questionable nutritional advice we’ve been following for years and show that it is possible to eat at restaurants and go grocery shopping–with less and even no added sugar.

& Every Tuesday night get on the list to spit at the longest running spoken word venue in New Orleans at Sweet Lorraine’s Jazz Club hosted by African-American Shakespear. Doors open at 7pm and the Mic pops at 8pm. It is $5 to get in.

& Also at 8 p.m. every Wednesday the Blood Jet Poetry Series hosted by Megan Burns happens at BJ’s in the Bywater. This week’s features are Gina Ferrara & Izzy Oneiric.

& Every Wednesday at 8 pm at the Neutral Ground Coffeehouse there is an hour-long open mic poetry night (or fiction night; whatever you want to read really!)

&Wednesday at 7 pm Esoterotica, brings back “Pervspectives” originally part of the New Orleans Fringe Festival 2013, transforming the AllWays, 2240 St. Claude Avenue, into a completely immersive, and erotic fetish club experience. You will see what happens at, during, and inside a fetish event, from the unacquainted newbie to the seasoned player. Through interaction, performance monologue, poetry and prose, “Pervspectives” brings you the kinky, the sensual, the sometimes hilarious, and the undeniably human experience.

The Fourth Battle of New Orleans May 9, 2014

Posted by Mark Folse in assholes, Federal Flood, FYYFF, New Orleans, Ninth Ward, NOLA, Rebirth, Recovery, Remember, Toulouse Street, We Are Not OK.
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My father Sidney J. Folse, Jr, A.I.A, was a professional contemporary of the August Perez family, Sr. and Jr. Forty-five years ago my father risked everything to stop construction of the Riverfront Expressway. He was senior vice president of Curtis & Davis, a firm highly dependent on government contracting. (They built, among other landmarks, the Rivergate and the main branch of the New Orleans Public Library). Every arm of big local money and government wanted that expressway built, the very people who controlled his livelihood, that of his employers and every man under him. He did not care. He stepped up, as president of the local A.I.A chapter that was vehemently opposed to its construction. He challenged the head of downtown business association to a debate on WWL-TV, which that gentleman declined. When he tried to drop off my oldest sister’s wedding portrait at the Times-Picayune, he was told “that bitch’s picture will never run in this newspaper.” (It was, thanks to my mother’s intervention with Nell Nolan). Nathaniel Curtis and Arthur Davis could have told my father to back off. They did not. For this the city owes these gentleman a great debt.

I know the unintended consequences of that battle. I drive down Claiborne and see it all the time. Still, imagine where Woldenberg Park and the Moon Walk now stand a six-lane elevated expressway. That is not the issue here. (Imagine, for that matter, the giant framework of a sound-and-light show in Jackson Square in front of the Cathedral. It was planned. The wiring to support it exists today under the flag stones surrounding Jackson Square).

The issue is: where do we draw a line in the sand? New Orleans is undergoing an ugly, greed-fueled transformation I predicted almost ten years ago on my blog Wet Bank Guide. Many things have been proposed since the storm in the name of redevelopment. Sean Cummings’ Elisio Lofts, another high-rise abomination at the foot of Elysian Fields, was stopped. The redevelopment of the old Holy Cross School site with another inappropriately sited high-rise proposed by Perez APC, has just won approval from the New Orleans City Council.

Enough.

I want to walk up to August Perez III and say, “I am the son of Sid Folse, and I am here to fuck with you.” I can’t determine if Perez Jr. is still around. Certainly papa Perez Sr would understand what that meant. I don’t hold my father’s lofty position. No one will consider that I debate Pres on WWL-TV for 30 minutes after the news. It does not matter. I am my father’s son. I gave up much to come home after the storm: my job, my financial security, my marriage. I stood in front of the Mid-City Planning Group after the storm and fought for an endorsement of the Crystal Apartments while some of my neighbors hurled the words “Section 8″ at me with the same vehemence as the mothers who spit on and shouted “nigger” and “monkey” at Leona Tate, Tessie Prevost, Gaile Etienne entering McDonough 19 and Ruby Bridges entering William Frantz.

I won.

I will choose my battles and I will win again. Perez’s abomination combines the worst of the Riverfront Expressway and the Claiborne Expressway. It is an attempt to usurp the historic riverfront in the name of commerce: not an expressway for the convenience of suburban drivers and trucks bound for the (then dying) wharves, but the usurpation of the Ninth Ward for the wealthy in search of a view. The final outcome will impact the 89% Black Lower Ninth Ward as the Claiborne Expressway did the people of Treme. It will destroy the rapidly recovering neighborhood to “save” it, as people rush in to convert its quaint homes into valuable properties leveraged by Perez’s development.

This, I propose, is where we draw the line in the sand. This is where the subjects of the people who have ruled this city since the Civil War from their comfortable Uptown (and now their Warehouse District condos: thanks Lester Kabacoff, father of Pres) should rise up. Except for a brief shining era during the terms of Moon Landrieu and “Dutch” “Little Caeser” Morial, the wealthy have sculpted this community to fit their wants and desires with no regard for the people who once labored on the decrepit wharves and now staff the tourism monster.

Enough.

I will choose my battles and I will win again.

This is where the dollar-eyed dreams of the post-Federal Flood elite come to their end, or the city we all came home to save dies. If this stands, the high-rises will march the length of the park Mr. Cummings helped engineer with recovery dollars to make his property more valuable. This is how redevelopment is done today, how the Anacostia Projects were torn down in D.C., the working class Blacks banished to the counties, in the name of redevelopment. This is how historic Charleston, S.C. became a part-time ghost town after Hurricane Hugo.

Enough.

I have paid in blood and tears for the privilege of coming home. I will pay again and again until the work is done, or I have drawn my last breath.

Mr. Perez, I am the son of Sidney Folse, Jr. A.I.A, and I remember. I am here to fuck with you. I am burning with the spirit of my ancestor.

I will do everything in my power to make you regret this confrontation.

Fuck You You Fucking Fucks.

Correction: This is directed to Angela O’Byrne, who is the new principal of the firm operating under the Perez name. If it’s just a name on the door, my apologies to August III.

This changes nothing.

Odd Words May 1, 2014

Posted by Mark Folse in books, bookstores, Indie Book Shops, New Orleans, novel, Odd Words, Poetry, Toulouse Street.
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This coming week in literary New Orleans:

& Here are the second weekend lineup of book signings in the Southern Bookseller’s Association Book Tent at Jazz Fest:

Thursday

  • Susan Larson, 12-1PM, Booklovers Guide to New Orleans
  • Bill Loehfelm, 2-3PM, The Devil in Her Way
  • Bonnie Warren, 3-4PM, New Orleans Historic Homes
  • Michael Murphy, 4-5PM, Eat Dat New Orleans: A Guide to the Unique Food Culture of the Crescent City

Friday

  • Richard Sexton, 12-1PM, Creole World: : Photographs of New Orleans and the Latin Caribbean Sphere
  • Cornell Landry, 1-2PM, Happy Jazz Fest
  • Diane de las Casas & Kid Chef Eliana, 3-4PM, Cinderellephant & Cool Kids Cook: Fresh and Fit
  • Edward Branley, 4-5PM, New Orleans Jazz

Saturday

  • Rob Owen, 12-1PM, Spy Boy, Cheyenne and Ninety Six Crayons
  • Poppy Tooker, 1-2PM, Louisiana Eats
  • Rebecca Snedeker, 3-4PM, Unfathomable City

Sunday

  • Sally Asher, 12-1PM, Hope & New Orleans
  • Johnette Downing, 2-3PM, How to Dress A Po’Boy

& Saturday at Maple Street Book Shop it’s Story Time with Miss Maureen, who’ll read A Lion in Paris by Beatrice Alemagna. A Lion in Paris is widely regarded as the most accomplished book by multi-award-winning children’s author/illustrator Beatrice Alemagna. It tells the story of a lion who, bored by his rural life in the savanna, seeks excitement and opportunity in the City of Light. Upon arriving in Paris, the lion is disappointed to find that despite his size, people barely pay attention to him, not even when he lets out a ferocious roar on the busy underground Metro.
Revealing the sights and sounds of Paris from Montmartre to the Eiffel Tower, this beautifully illustrated book successfully conveys the experience of being a stranger in a new city and the process of understanding one’s own identity.

& Every Sunday at 3 p.m. The Maple Leaf Reading Series, the oldest continuous reading series in the south, founded by Everette Maddox, features guest poets and an open mic. This Sunday features JAZZ FEST OPEN MIC.

& Sunday at 7 pm Slam New Orleans hosts a special event for our May monthly show: “Diasporic Diction: Voices of Color,” a showcase featuring some of New Orleans finest on the mic. The night includes a featured performance by noted poet Kalamu Salaam and a showcase with performances by: Chuck Perkins, Delia Tomino Nakayama, Gian Francisco Smith, Ro Wright (heRO44), Honey Sanaa, Sha’Condria iCon Sibley, Joao J O Amos, Jose Torres-Tama, Kelly Harris DeBerry and SOL Galeano. We will kick off the show with the Voices of Color open mic. $5 admission.

& Sunday at 9pm will be tThe last book party celebrating the release of “New Orleans: the Underground Guide” (LSU Press) and “Famous People I Have Met (Collected Works 1999-2014) is a LIVE HIP-HOP show at Vaughan’s featuring a live interview with Katey Red (who will also “read poetry”), plus live music by MC Know One, Lucky Lou, Missing Persons, MC Intel, and live band MadFro feat. Slangston Huges!

& Sunday is Slam and Spoken Word Day in New Orleans. WhoDatPoets.com lists five Spoken Word shows on Sunday nights. For phone numbers with more details on all these readings visit WHODATPOETS.COM. (I stopped listing all of the events because one venue’s name forced me to limit this post for readers over 21. Check WHODATEPOETS.COM for all the latest on slam and spoken word in New Orleans.

& Speak Sunday is hosted every Sunday at 7 pm by Duece the Poet at Therapy, 3001 Tulane Avenue, also featuring live painting of the performers by C.C. Givens.

& On Monday at 6 pm Garden District Book Shop will feature Ryan Holiday’a The Obstacle is the Way: The Timeless Art of Turning Trials into Triumph. The great Athenian orator Demosthenes was born with a crippling speech impediment and was robbed of his inheritance by cruel guardians. Samuel Zemurray was a poor roadside fruit peddler pitted against the behemoth United Fruit Company. Ulysses S. Grant found himself stuck across the Mississippi river, desperately trying to break into the impenetrable fortress of Vicksburg. These icons and many others throughout history—from John D. Rockefeller to Amelia Earhart to Richard Wright to Steve Jobs—were often placed in nearly impossible situations that turned out to be the platforms for astounding triumphs. They were not exceptionally brilliant, lucky, or gifted. Their success in overcoming extreme obstacles was the result of a timeless set of philosophical principles that great men and women have always followed. Now Ryan Holiday unpacks those lessons and re-frames them for today’s world, building on the wisdom of the ancient Stoics and a rich trove of examples. He shows us how to turn obstacles into advantages, through controlling our perceptions, swift and energetic action, and true force of will.

& Monday at 5:30 pm: Do you think in verse that could become poetry? Do you imagine characters, dialogue, and scenes? If so, join the Smith Library’s free Creative Writing Workshop.

& On Monday Charles Robert Marsh will be reading from and signing Strange Glory: A Life of Dietrich Bonhoeffer at Maple Street Book Shop at 6PM. In the decades since his execution by the Nazis in 1945, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the German pastor, theologian, and anti-Hitler conspirator, has become one of the most widely read and inspiring Christian thinkers of our time. Now, drawing on extensive new research, Strange Glory offers a definitive account, by turns majestic and intimate, of this modern icon.

& At 7 pm the Jefferson Parish Library East Bank Fiction Writers Group will host speaker Chris Smith, who will discuss book promotion. The Jefferson Parish Library hosts roughly 80 authors per year who present their novels to library patrons. Though they have created and managed to publish a work of literature, many authors are unprepared for all of the activities to market their books, and many do not know how to conduct a basic book signing. Other authors may have created a short story, but do not know where to submit. And some authors are so wrapped up in the craft of writing that they never become connected to the local writing community. This event will start with a basic discussion of how to conduct a book signing but the overall goal is to begin the process of compiling a list of resources for local writers. The final product will include festivals, book signing venues, classes, etc.

& Tuesday at 6 pm Octavia Books hosts author Cara Hoffman and her unflinching new novel, BE SAFE I LOVE YOU. Lauren Clay has returned from a tour of duty in Iraq just in time to spend the holidays with her family. Before she enlisted, Lauren, a classically trained singer, and her brother Danny, a bright young boy obsessed with Arctic exploration, made the most of their modest circumstances, escaping into their imaginations and forming an indestructible bond. Joining the army allowed Lauren to continue to provide for her family, but it came at a great cost.

& On Tuesday Afton Wilky is the 1718 Society’s featured reader for May at 7 pm at The Columns Hotel. Afton Wilky is a multi-disciplinary artist—painter, poet, she works with digital media, and is a book artist. She is the author of Clarity Speaks of a Crystal Sea (Flim Forum Press, Feb 2014) and her work is in or forthcoming from journals such as Black Warrior Review, LITMag, Ink Node, EOAGH, textsound, Word for/Word, and Jacket2. She is the Managing Editor of The Volta. The 1718 Society is a literary organization comprised of Tulane, Loyola, and UNO students. Their monthly reading series at the Columns Hotel is free and open to the public. It showcases the work of student readers, as well as that of prominent local and national writers.

On Tuesday Garden District Book Shop will host Bill Loehfelm and his new novel The Devil in Her Way. Maureen Coughlin’s life has changed in more ways than one. She is starting over in New Orleans as a newly minted member of the police force, but her transition from cocktail waitress to cop hasn’t gone as smoothly as she’d hoped. To her commanding officer’s amusement, Maureen kicks off her final week of field training by taking a punch to the face as a panicked suspect flees an apartment building, leaving behind several guns and a stash of pot. But out on the street, on the fringes of the action, Maureen sees something transpire that leaves her shaken, and she’s sure there’s more to this story than meets the eye. As Maureen embarks on a dangerous hunt for answers, Bill Loehfelm guides us around the Crescent City’s hidden corners and into its darkest outposts. The result is The Devil in Her Way: a propulsive thriller as electrifying as the city itself.

& Every Tuesday night get on the list to spit at the longest running spoken word venue in New Orleans at Sweet Lorraine’s Jazz Club hosted by African-American Shakespear. Doors open at 7pm and the Mic pops at 8pm. It is $5 to get in.

& Fleur de Lit’s monthly reading series focuses on music on Wednesday, May 7th, at 6:30pm at he American Can Co. Matt Sakakeeny, author of Roll With It: Brass Bands in the Streets of New Orleans, Sally Newhart, author of The Original Tuxedo Jazz Band, and Joel Dinerstein, author of American Cool, will read.

& Wednesday at 8 pm feeatures Esoterotica’s 2nd Annual “Debaucherous Duets”. This was so incredible last year, and we had so much fun, that the local provocateurs of Esoterotica are doing it again, together, on stage, Wednesday, May 7th. Yes, that’s right, it’s an evening showcasing entirely collaborative and group erotica.

& Every Wednesday at 8 pm at the Neutral Ground Coffeehouse there is an hour-long open mic poetry night (or fiction night; whatever you want to read really!)

& Also at 8 p.m. every Wednesday the Blood Jet Poetry Series hosted by Megan Burns happens at BJ’s in the Bywater. This week’s features Vincent Cellucci & Benjamin Lowekron.

Also at 8 pm the UNO MFA Poetry Program will host a reading at the Banks Street Bar. Poets from Carolyn Hembree’s poetry class of Spring 2014 who will be reading include: Poets to read:, Kia Groom, Roxy Seay, Christian Coleman, Benjamin Sines, Liz Hogan, Lauren Walter, Jessie Strauss, Maya Lowy, Nordette Adams, M.e. Riley. and Phyllis Dunham.

54: Funny Old World April 13, 2014

Posted by Mark Folse in 365, New Orleans, The Narrative, The Typist, Toulouse Street.
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There I am, the difficult first step of my project for school done plus half a dozen other errands, the first good day in a carpet of nails week that reached its nadir when I realized I owe the IRA a pile of money. I am are literally sitting on top of the rainbow sipping a beer and then I call my girlfriend and she is having a terrible no good very bad day and my little bubble goes: pop. Fibromyalgia results in a lot of terrible no good very bad days. I coo comforts, especially for the “terribly lonely part”, promising to stop by after the poetry reading I’m off to.

How terribly lonely can a person be, I find myself thinking moments after hanging up, when I last saw her yesterday? I begin to feel boxed in by the situation, its terrible frequency. How the hell am I going to go to Europe and leave her behind? Her condition gives her both tremendous strength and fragility, and when I am handy fragility is an available out from the pain. There is a reason, I think, there are boxes marked Dependent on the tax forms I finished and not all of it is fiduciary. The molars start to grind, the chest starts to tighten and suddenly the rainbow is a little grey cloud and you, Oh Eeyore, are the butt of the universe’s whimsical sense of humor.

So I go to the bar (all the poetry readings in New Orleans are in bars) and instead of sticking to my unemployed Hi-Life budget I order a nice draw and a shot of tequila good tequila. One of the poets shows up and sits at my table and asks how it’s going. I answer “fair”, then hold up the glass of tequila I shouldn’t have ordered and make a correction. “Changeable” I say, holding the blue agave barometer up to the light. “It needs to get to about there,” pointing toward the bottom,” to be fair.”

I’m about to launch into a totally unwanted Slavic litany of complaints when suddenly the juke box erupts with “In Spite of Ourselves”, a duet by John Prine with Iris DeMent. It’s “our song”, or as close as we have to one. Twenty minutes before the first of the millennial poets steps on stage and speaks a single line the stage lighting switches as if to a stage direction: Dark Irony. I feel my ears and tail growing, the first drooping and the latter swishing away the flies while I think: “earthquake weather.”

The poets are quite good but in my life’s movie director’s viewfinder kit is the Male Gaze 1000+ Deluxe and in the relationship mood I’m in, it’s the first one my hand instinctively plucks out of the case. [Women of all persuasions, you may want to stop reading here, or just note that the comments are open). It’s not so much the biological notion that we are bred to spread our seed as it is the fragility we will not admit of the male ego, as easily bruised as a peach in a shopping cart. Of all the reactions to that, short of the one that involves storming out to the workshop and finishing that new cabinet you want in record time, few are pretty. Altruism in sexual arrangements is as old as the chimpanzee but leave us feeling hurt and we’ll be siting some distance from the fire brooding, bearing our fangs at any who approach, scratching our nuts and wondering what’s for dinner. We look across the fire and wonder what old Gruntle’s partner Melon Breast is like on the animal skins.

I struggle now to remember the lines of poetry, although much of it was good. (My memory is not the best, and I really wanted to buy at least one book but I am no longer the poetry reading Medici who always buys a book. I’m just too broke). All I recall of the first reader is that this young M.F.A. student is so drop-dead out of my league I would need the Barbie Firewoman Rescue Ladder Company truck to get within decent gazing distance of her sandaled toes. The next vents about her ex-girlfriend and I remember the line “fisting your hair” and nope. The third poet, I think, is the best [if you allow for the few poems about selfies but that is what the age demands] but she also writes about her boyfriend, whom I meet when I go over to complement her, give her my card and tell her there will be pictures up on the Odd Words site later tonight.

Then my friend takes the stage and after a few damn fine poems of his own, brings out a translation of Catullus he has published and the second poem is “8. Advice: to himself,” which begins like this is A.S. Kline’s translation:

Sad Catullus, stop playing the fool,
and let what you know leads you to ruin, end.
Once, bright days shone for you,
when you came often drawn to the girl
loved as no other will be loved by you.
Then there were many pleasures with her,
that you wished, and the girl not unwilling,
truly the bright days shone for you.

The rest of the poem is about the girl rejecting him, and Catullus counseling himself not to continue to pursue her, probably as far from my actual situation as could be but the troubled male ego doesn’t approach every challenge with logic and tool in hand, and I think very hard about ordering another tequila. It doesn’t help that the next is “27. Falernian Wine”

Serving-boy fill for me stronger cups
of old Falernian, since Postumia,
the mistress’s, laws demand it,
she who’s juicier then the juicy grape.
But you water, fatal to wine, away with you:
far off, wherever, be off to the strict.
This wine is Bacchus’s own.

This night, I think, is going swimmingly, as in the backstroke in bathtubs of gin. Instead of more unwatered wine I head out the door for the promised visit and hug but there are a dozen competing emotions ratting around in my head like an untuned engine with bad lifters. Some days I feel this is what our relationship is like. My god you love her and want to drive around town and show her off to everybody in the Classy Woman Club but parts are impossible to get and the necessary repairs are impossible. We’re both getting older and the hand-holding to more-exciting-contact ratio is regressing rapidly backwards toward middle school.

I hug her with genuine affection, hold her until she is ready to sit down again. Then I plant myself at the far end of the bed and begin to vent. This really goes no where except to deplete her supply of tissues. We part with another long hug, not really wanting to let go even after agreeing “we’ve had this ‘discussion’ before,” and no one is really satisfied. There is nothing to resolve. You love each other, and love is hard; sometimes so hard a person just wants to walk away from it for a while and kick the rocks in their head down the street. We think the partner we find by our age is the one we’ve been waiting for and that’s mostly true, older and wiser, but it doesn’t mean it’s all smiles and unspoken but knowing exchanges in the rocking chairs. Still, you know for all the usual and unusual trials and tribulations, as Prine and DeMent croon, that you’re never going to let her go.

She tells me to go home, which my lizard brain intercepts before it can reach the frontal lobes and translates: go to the Holy Ground and sulk over a pint. I go and everyone there is relentlessly cheerful with drink but I’ve put on the cape of inviolable male entitlement and resentment and the atmosphere doesn’t help much. The cheerfull and cute redheaded barmaid slips me an extra pint since I had to wait for the first while they change the keg, one from the old and one from the new. I think she is just being sweet but I can taste the difference, the malty savor of the last of the old keg like a bottle of the rare XXX Export instead of the overly gassed typical American pint. I escape into the flavor, taking it in sip-by-sip and insist she compare them herself when she gets a free minute. She lingers, lets me try her new vape (hibiscus flower, not tobacco) and it’s like a whiff of her perfume, She lingers and talks perhaps a little too long, until the other barmaid interrupts and asks if she’s busy.

When she brings me another (my third) there is a little heart drawn in the foam. Flirting with bar maids is great craic but I realize my sulk is probably so palpable it’s hurting business, that it’s probably just another part of the transaction between a great bartender and regular customer. She’s cute and a real sweetheart but also a pro who makes mean martinis when you’re in the mood for them, and knows the trade well. Still, there was that night we talked about writing, one of the nights I go their to scribble in the cheerful, neutral brown noise of Guinness and crowd. She always wanted to write, she said, started and then stopped. She asks where she would find the time and energy. If you can get out of bed and make coffee and you have it in you to write, I tell her, then you are two thirds of the way there. Before the day gets away from you, take that first cup and a pen and curl up and write whatever comes into your head. There’s really no other way to get started. I scribble that advice again on a napkin, along with the Cheryl Strayed quote “write like a motherfucker”, secure it all with the clip of a spare pen with her name written on the outside of the bar nap so the other tender won’t just scoop it up, and put it atop her last tip. I like to think I left something more on the bar that night than the usual wad of dollars and the musk scent of men alone at a bar. Whether that beaming smile is strictly professional old-regular or genuinely meant just for me, it doesn’t matter tonight. That little gesture of a heart on the foam pokes a pinprick hole in the balloon of miasma I’ve blown up around my self-absorbed ass, and I go home after that one. I’ll not get a better pint tonight, not even the last of a barrel.

The radio is off in the car and I catch myself whistling “In Spite of Ourselves.”

He’s got more balls than a big brass monkey
He’s a whacked out weirdo and a lovebug junkie
Sly as a fox and crazy as a loon
Payday comes and he’s howlin’ at the moon
He’s my baby I don’t mean maybe
Never gonna let him go

In spite of ourselves
We’ll end up a sittin’ on a rainbow
Against all odds
Honey, we’re the big door prize
We’re gonna spite our noses
Right off of our faces
There won’t be nothin’ but big old hearts
Dancin’ in our eyes.

I may be an ass, but at least I’m not Eeyore anymore.

53: Branded April 11, 2014

Posted by Mark Folse in 365, New Orleans, Poetry, Toulouse Street.
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Branded

Has this kind inscription from an academic and poet I admire branded me as a “post-post-modernist?” Or am I misreading the ambiguity inherent in short, cryptic messages, especially a poet’s inscription?

Hmmmmm.

I don’t know. Some of the poetry I have read in the last several years is Conceptualist, some drivel and some fantastic. Other books ooze New Sincerity like the confessional of Facebook and Twitter. If you’re going to lay out your life, at least dress for the occasion in something not from American Apparel. If you life is boring, give me “Dream Song. No. 14“. Spare me the banality of your latte. The lyrical, however, has not died, thank bog. The last book I read that completely floored me was Keetje Kuipers’s The Keys to the Jail. It is many things: angry, sarcastic, but most of all lyric. And the idea of a democratic poetry (not the PPM idea that everyone has an equal voice; talent and craft must enter somewhere) but rather in poetry that is grounded in an almost modern aesthetic of the concrete (little c), the descendents of William Carlos Williams and Charles Olson, that is accessible (my heroes include Charles Bukowski at his best, Niyi Osundare, Everette Maddox), and yet allow for the play of language upon the page and upon the ear.

Personally, and in spite of the immense Theory baggage that goes with the term, I rather like metamodernist: “Aesthetically, metamodernism is exemplified by the writings of Haruki Murakami, Roberto Bolaño, David Foster Wallace, and Jonathan Franzen, as they are each typified by a continuous oscillation, a constant repositioning between attitudes and mindsets that are evocative of the modern and of the postmodern but are ultimately suggestive of another sensibility that is neither of them; one that negotiates between a yearning for universal truths and relativism, between a desire for sense and a doubt about the sense of it all, between hope and melancholy, sincerity and irony, knowingness and naivety, construction and deconstruction.”

At least, that’s where I’m trying to go. Perhaps I am too “young” a poet at 56, taking up writing and not just reading less than 10 years ago) to have blazed a clear trail of my own. I keep my machete sharp and steer by the distant mountains of past masters, the promise of rivers of clear water free of crocodiles, Theorists and anything resembling The New Sincerity, anything smacking of pseudo-modernism, of Google Poetics or any related nonsense.

For me, “post-postmodern” is not an epitaph, but the sign at the foot of the trail warning of precipitous inclines, precarious stretches of crumbling ledge, and hic sont leones.

Odd Words April 10, 2014

Posted by Mark Folse in books, literature, New Orleans, Odd Words, Poetry, Toulouse Street.
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This coming week in literary New Orleans.

& Thursday at 6 pm the Belle Chase Library hosts native son Geoff Munsterman who will will read from and sign his poetry collection Because the Stars Shine Through It (2013 Lavender Ink). Guests are invited to purchase books from the author before or after the reading, which should begin around 6:30. Cookies and refreshments will be available.

& Also on Thursday at 6 pm Garden District Book Shop hosts Zachary Lazar and I Pity the Poor Immigrant. The stunning new novel by the author of Sway is another “brilliant portrayal of life as a legend” (Margot Livesey). In 1972, the American gangster Meyer Lansky petitions the Israeli government for citizenship. His request is denied, and he is returned to the U.S. to stand trial. He leaves behind a mistress in Tel Aviv, a Holocaust survivor named Gila Konig. In 2009, American journalist Hannah Groff travels to Israel to investigate the killing of an Israeli writer. She soon finds herself inside a web of violence that takes in the American and Israeli Mafias, the Biblical figure of King David, and the modern state of Israel. As she connects the dots between the murdered writer, Lansky, Gila, and her own father, Hannah becomes increasingly obsessed with the dark side of her heritage. Part crime story, part spiritual quest, I Pity the Poor Immigrant is also a novelistic consideration of Jewish identity.

& On Friday at 6 p.m. pm Garden District Book Shop features Frances Mayes’s Under Magnolia. A lyrical and evocative memoir from Frances Mayes, the Bard of Tuscany, about coming of age in the Deep South and the region’s powerful influence on her life. Under Magnolia is a searingly honest, humorous, and moving ode to family and place, and a thoughtful meditation on the ways they define us, or cause us to define ourselves. With acute sensory language, Mayes relishes the sweetness of the South, the smells and tastes at her family table, the fragrance of her hometown trees, and writes an unforgettable story of a girl whose perspicacity and dawning self-knowledge lead her out of the South and into the rest of the world, and then to a profound return

& On Saturday at 11:30 a.m. Maple Street Books presents Story Time with Miss Maureen. This week she’ll read The Country Bunny and the Little Gold Shoes by Marjorie Flack. The country bunny attains the exalted position of Easter Bunny in spite of her responsibilities as the mother of twenty-one children.

& At 1:30 pm Octavia Books at children’s book author Whitney Stewart presents and signs her new picture book, A CATFISH TALE: A Bayou Story of the Fisherman and His Wife. Deep in the bayou, a Cajun fisherman named Jack catches a magic fish that offers to grant wishes in exchange for being set free. Jack doesn’t have a lot of wishes, but his wife Jolie sure does—for a mansion, a paddleboat, fame and fortune! With each wish, all the fish says is “Ah, tooloulou—if that ain’t the easiest thing to do.” But when Jolie wants to be crowned Mardi Gras queen, have things gone too far?

& Saturday evening at 7 pm the journal T E N D E R L O I N presents it’s reading series The Third Weird Thing at Kajun’s on Sat. Claude. This month our 3rd weird thing is the 4th! Four poets for your pleasure: Jennifer Hanks, M.K Brake, Min Kang and Joseph Bienvenu. About the series: Cold Cuts is a poetry reading interested in performance and a performance interested in reading poetry. Each reading will consist of 3 – often on the theme of 2 poets and a 3rd weird thing: the performative. But we encourage all our poets to perform and all our performances to poet. We like to showcase our TENDER LOIN writers, and we like to showcase local artists

& Every Sunday at 3 p.m. The Maple Leaf Reading Series, the oldest continuous reading series in the south, founded by Everette Maddox, features guest poets and an open mic. This Sunday features an open mic.

& Sunday is Slam and Spoken Word Day in New Orleans. WhoDatPoets.com lists five Spoken Word shows on Sunday nights. For phone numbers with more details on all these readings visit WHODATPOETS.COM. (I stopped listing all of the events because one venue’s name forced me to limit this post for readers over 21. Check WHODATEPOETS.COM for all the latest on slam and spoken word in New Orleans.

& Sunday at 7 pm the two-time national champion Slam New Orleans hosts The New $#!% Slam at the Shadowbox Theater. “Bring your new hat, your new date, and most importantly your NEW POEMS as we celebrate all things new. Please bring new poems that have not yet hit the The Shadowbox Theatre (and preferably any) stage.”

& Speak Sunday is hosted every Sunday at 7 pm by Duece the Poet at Therapy, 3001 Tulane Avenue, also featuring live painting of the performers by C.C. Givens.

& Monday the East Bank Regional Library hosts it’s Fiction Writers’ Group featuring Greg Alexander, a local author who lives and works in Metairie, will discuss his new book, The Holy Mark. The Holy Mark is a monologue told from the point of view of a psychologically disturbed Catholic priest who continually rationalizes and justifies his relationships with teenaged boys. It combines the elements of a psychological case study and dysfunctional New Orleans Italian family saga. The Holy Mark is the story of one reluctant priest caught between the cynicism of his own Southern upbringing and the political machinations of the Roman Catholic Church. Gregory Alexander was born and raised in New Orleans. After completing degrees in Psychology and American Literature, he taught English at several Catholic schools in the city. His short stories, including the genesis of The Holy Mark, have appeared in literary magazines across the country. Alexander has been a contributing book reviewer for the New Orleans Times Picayune.

& Susan Larson, the former book editor of the former Times-Picayune newspaper and member of the National Book Critics Circle hosts The Reading Life on WWNO (89.9 FM) on Tuesdays at 1:30 p.m. She features interviews with authors of local and national interest. Watch Odd Words on Facebook and Google+ on Tuesdays for a complete list of her guests and features.

& Tuesday the Latter Memorial Library at 7 pm presents New Orleans Memories: One Writer’s City featuring local author Carolyn Kolb discussing her new book.

& Every Tuesday night get on the list to spit at the longest running spoken word venue in New Orleans at Sweet Lorraine’s Jazz Club hosted by African-American Shakespear. Doors open at 7pm and the Mic pops at 8pm. It is $5 to get in.

& Best-selling author and media personality Sarah Vowell will give a presentation of her work at 6 p.m. on Wednesday, April 16, in the Freeman Auditorium in the Woldenburg Art Center on Tulane University’s campus. Vowell, whose books often present U.S. histories infused with her irreverent comedy, is the author most recently of Unfamiliar Fishes, which the New York Times called “a whiplash study of the Americanization of Hawaii and the events leading to its annexation. Its scintillating cast includes dour missionaries, genital-worshiping heathens, Teddy Roosevelt, incestuous royalty, a nutty Mormon, a much-too-­merry monarch, President Obama, sugar barons, an imprisoned queen and Vowell herself, in a kind of 50th-state variety show.” She is also the author of, among other books, The Wordy Shipmates and Assassination Vacation, she was a contributing editor to This American Life, and she was one of the original contributors to McSweeney’s. (h/t to Room 220, which called this to my attention. It didn’t show up on the Tulane calendar).

& Wednesday at 6 pm Garden District Book Shops presens Justin Go’s The Steady Running of the Hour. Just after graduating college, Tristan Campbell receives a letter delivered by special courier to his apartment in San Francisco. It contains the phone number of a Mr. J.F. Prichard of Twyning & Hooper, Solicitors, in London—and news that could change Tristan’s life forever. In 1924, Prichard explains, an English alpinist named Ashley Walsingham died attempting to summit Mt. Everest, leaving his fortune to his former lover, Imogen Soames-Andersson. But the estate was never claimed. Information has recently surfaced suggesting Tristan may be the rightful heir, but unless he can find documented evidence, the fortune will be divided among charitable beneficiaries in less than two months. In a breathless race from London archives to Somme battlefields to the East fjords of Iceland, Tristan pieces together the story of a forbidden affair set against the tumult of the First World War and the pioneer British expeditions to Mt. Everest. Following his instincts through a maze of frenzied research, Tristan soon becomes obsessed with the tragic lovers, and he crosses paths with a mysterious French girl named Mireille who suggests there is more to his quest than he realizes. Tristan must prove that he is related to Imogen to inherit Ashley’s fortune—but the more he learns about the couple, the stranger his journey becomes.

& Every Wednesday at 8 pm at the Neutral Ground Coffeehouse there is an hour-long open mic poetry night (or fiction night; whatever you want to read really!)

& Also at 8 p.m.every Wednesday the Blood Jet Poetry Series hosted by Megan Burns happens at BJs. Features for the 16th are TBA. Check the daily Odd Words posting for an update.

If you don’t see your event listed here, please be sure to send it to odd.words.nola@gmail.com no later than the Wednesday before the event. Late entries are accepted and added to the blog and so get into the daily post, but getting the in early is appreciated.

52: THAT BRIGHT MOMENT April 8, 2014

Posted by Mark Folse in 365, cryptic envelopment, New Orleans, NOLA, The Narrative, The Typist, Toulouse Street.
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YOU ARE TRAPPED IN THAT BRIGHT MOMENT
WHERE YOU LEARNED YOUR DOOM
— Samuel R. Delaney in City of a Thousand Suns

[Slight return...]

I’ve just finished my taxes and realized i made a $5,000 mistake last year. Also, the IRS does not do payment plans for the unemployed.

The unemployed who plan to to run up a credit card to go the Europe and lock themselves in a castle in the Tyrolean Alps for a month were I will determine if I am a poet or a poseur, doing an intense side class on Ezra Pound because we all have our mountains to climb.

We all have our mountains to climb and so in spite of all this I will do whatever is necessary to make sure my daughter is settled safely at Columbia University for her graduate degree and Matthew realizes his musical dreams no matter the cost.

No matter the cost even if you are on the black diamond slop to penury. You have been poor before and remember how it is done. Marianne and I lived for years as two, first in college on a fraction of my daughter’s allowance, managed when my newspaper salary was in the high four figures and don’t regret a moment of those days.; I made my choices and I remain convinced they were the right thing to do.

The right thing to do is to find the life you were meant to live and do it regardless of the cost. I pray my children discover their path young and are ready for every ugly bump, blowout and broken axle life throws in their way. I waited until too late in life and now I pay in currency of blood.

In currency of blood I would pay the price demanded of me. My family’s blood is older than the Lakota in the Dakotas, and no less bound to the land I stand upon. My claim to this place, Mr. Jefferson, is more honest than your patrimony as is my honest Creole blood. I am home and here I make my stand. For all my decisions there is a cost and now I have to pay.

Now I have to pay the bankers who unmanned me and the Central Government I foreswore any real allegiance to almost a decade ago, proudly tossing the American flag in the trash when I needed a new pole to fly the ensign of the City of New Orleans every July 4th, Memorial Day and any other inappropriate occasion. I wish I’d kept them so I could fly the charred remnants upside down at half mast when George Bush take his last overlight to hell. No matter: I am a citizen of New Orleans and an accidental resident of any other entity. I know who I am.

I know who I am and not a citizen of Delaney’s dystopia. I’ve known for a long time there was no enemy over the mountain, that pro patria nonsense. I know who I am, a poet not a poseur, and yet rebel against my own cause. “A post-post-modernist” someone kindly inscribed in an autographed book but that is not quite right. I am a broken link in the DNA array of the next step of evolution. Farewell Aquarius and your outworn Piscean god. “We are ready for a new avatar,” Coco sang but I am not it. Perhaps a fraction of John the Baptist, wailing in the wastelnd, fit only to wash her feet but not to baptize.

Trapped in that bright moment in which I learned my doom:, mountains to climb no mattèr the cost, whomever I must pay in currency of blood. I know who I am. I am finished.

Radio Free Toulouse: Hey Man, Slow Down April 5, 2014

Posted by Mark Folse in 365, cryptic envelopment, New Orleans, The Narrative, The Typist, Toulouse Street.
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“sometimes I get overcharged. that’s when you see sparks.”

Odd Words April 3, 2014

Posted by Mark Folse in books, Indie Book Shops, literature, New Orleans, novel, Odd Words, Poetry, publishing, Toulouse Street.
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This coming week in literary New Orleans. Be sure to check out the National Poetry Month event listing on ToulouseStreet.net or find the link on the Odd Words Page.

& Thursday the Delta Mouth Literary Festival in Baton Rouge kicks off four days of events through the weekend. featuring sixteen readers at various venues. Their website is deltamouthfestival.com and you can keep up with them on their Facebook page.

& Friday at 6 pm Maple Street Books features Michael Grabell (2009), Aran Donovan (2013), and Anne Marie Rooney (2008) reading Friday, April 4th, at 6PM! All have been featured at one point in the Best New Poets annual anthology. Each year, Best New Poets has a guest editor selects 50 poems from nominations made by literary magazines and writing programs, as well as an open internet competition.

& April 5th at 2 pm the U.S. Mint Louisiana State Museum in New Orleans brings Resilient Women, a poetic performance of ancestral power:  with Delia Tomino Nkayama, Troi Bechet, Miki Fugii, Jenna Mae, and Mona Lisa Savory.

& Saturday at 10 am Octavia Books hosts friends of the Child Development Program (CDP) for a special reading/performance by members of the Marsalis Family featuring Delfeayo Marsalis’s new picture book, NO CELL PHONE DAY – followed by a jazz concert by local musicians. And, just mention CDP when you check out and we will donate a portion of your purchases to CDP. NO CELL PHONE DAY is a children’s picture book written by world-renowned NEA Jazz Master and Grammy award-winning producer, Delfeayo Marsalis and illustrated by award-winning Harlem artist, Reginald W. Butler. The book playfully addresses the idea of imposing technology and how it affects our relationships with loved ones. In the book, Delfeayo and his daughter decide to put down their cell phones for a day to explore their hometown of New Orleans!

& Saturday at 1 pm Garden District Book Shop features Jane Scott Hodges’s Linens: For Every Room and Occasion. The book is is the ultimate guide to living and entertaining with fine textiles. Whether your style is classic or modern, casual or formal, crisply pressed or nonchalantly rumpled, linens are uniquely adaptable to the way you live and decorate and the surest way to put a personal stamp on your home.

Saturday at 2 pm bring the National Poetry month instance of the Poetry Buffet at the Latter Memorial Library hosted by poet Gina Ferrara will feature an outstanding collection of poets at 2 pm including: Grace Bauer, Dave Brinks, John Gery, and Julie Kane reading from their work.

& Saturday evening at 6 pm Octavia features Michael Patrick Welch’s NEW ORLEANS: The Underground Guide. Red beans and rice, trad jazz, and second lines are the Big Easy’s calling cards, but beyond where the carriage rides take you is a city brimming with genre-defying music, transnational cuisine, and pockets of wild, artistic locals that challenge preconceived notions of what it means to be New Orleans. With a respectful nod to the traditional and a full embrace of the obscure, New Orleans: The Underground Guide is a resource for discovering the city as it really is — as much brass bands and boas as it is bounce and bicycle tours. From a speakeasy in the Bywater neighborhood to the delightfully sketchy vibe of St. Roch Tavern, lead author Michael Patrick Welch uncovers an unexpected tableau of musicians, venues, and novel ways to pass the bon temps.

& Every Sunday at 3 p.m. The Maple Leaf Reading Series, the oldest continuous reading series in the south, founded by Everette Maddox, features guest poets and an open mic. This Sunday kicks off National Poetry Month with Poets Grace Bauer reading from and signing her new book, Everywhere All At Once, and poet Julie Kane reading from and signing her new book Paper Bullets

& Sunday is Slam and Spoken Word Day in New Orleans. WhoDatPoets.com lists five Spoken Word shows on Sunday nights. For phone numbers with more details on all these readings visit WHODATPOETS.COM. (I stopped listing all of the events because one venue’s name forced me to limit this post for readers over 21. Check WHODATEPOETS.COM for all the latest on slam and spoken word in New Orleans.

& Sunday at 7 pm the two-time national champion Slam New Orleans hosts The New $#!% Slam at the Shadowbox Theater. “Bring your new hat, your new date, and most importantly your NEW POEMS as we celebrate all things new. Please bring new poems that have not yet hit the The Shadowbox Theatre (and preferably any) stage.”

& Speak Sunday is hosted every Sunday at 7 pm by Duece the Poet at Therapy, 3001 Tulane Avenue, also featuring live painting of the performers by C.C. Givens.

& Monday at 5 pm the Creative Writing Workshop returns to the Robert E. Smith Memorial Library on Canal Boulevard.

& Also on Monday the East Bank Regional Library hosts it’s Fiction Writers’ Group – Critique Session. The Fiction Writers’ Group is a support group for serious writers of fiction. We do not focus on poetry, essays or nonfiction. Events consist of critique sessions from group members, author talks and writing exercises. Free of charge and open to the public. Registration is not required.

& Susan Larson, the former book editor of the former Times-Picayune newspaper and member of the National Book Critics Circle hosts The Reading Life on WWNO (89.9 FM) on Tuesdays at 1:30 p.m. She features interviews with authors of local and national interest. Watch Odd Words on Facebook and Google+ on Tuesdays for a complete list of her guests and features.

& The West Bank Fiction Writer’s Group meets Tuesday at 7 pm at the The Edith S. Lawson Library in Westwego/ Writing exercises or discussions of points of fiction and/or critique sessions of members’ submissions. Meets the second Tuesday of every month. Moderator: Gary Bourgeois. Held in the meeting Room.

& Every Tuesday night get on the list to spit at the longest running spoken word venue in New Orleans at Sweet Lorraine’s Jazz Club hosted by African-American Shakespear. Doors open at 7pm and the Mic pops at 8pm. It is $5 to get in.

& On Wednesday at 3 pm Octavia Books Grammy Award winner, musician/actor, and New York Times bestselling author Rick Springfield makes a special visit to Octavia Books in anticipation of his forthcoming novel, MAGNIFICENT VIBRATION. Rick Springfield will sign original lithographs he created for MAGNIFICENT VIBRATION and bookplates for the book which is being released on May 6, 2014. To meet Rick, you must purchase a ticket. Each ticket admits one person and will be exchanged at the event for a signed lithograph and signed bookplate. And you will receive a copy of MAGNIFICENT VIBRATION after publication. Tickets are $45. Why are we here? What is love? Is there a Loch Ness monster? Does God send text messages?” These are the kinds of questions Horatio Cotton, aka Bobby Cotton, asks as he sets off on an uproarious adventure to find his purpose in life. After stealing a mysterious self-help book called Magnificent Vibration: Discover Your True Purpose from a bookstore, Bobby calls the 1-800 number scrawled inside the front cover, only to discover that he has a direct line to God. This launches Bobby on a whimsical quest, serendipitously accompanied by a breathtakingly sexy and exceed­ingly sharp travel companion named Alice. Together the pair sets out to find some combination of spiritual and carnal salvation—and possibly save the planet.

& At 5:30 pm Octavia then hosts George Packer for the paperback release of THE UNWINDING, which won the National Book Award last year. It’s currently nominated for the National Book Critics’ Circle Award as well! James Carville will give the introduction at the event. A riveting examination of a nation in crisis, from one of the finest political journalists of our generation.

& Finally, Octavia ends a busy day at 7 pm with a presentation, tasting, and book signing with writer Dane Huckelbridge featuring new book, BOURBON: A History of the American Spirit. This is popular history with a whiskey-soaked edge––an artful and imaginative biography of our most well–liked and, at times, controversial spirit that is also a witty and entertaining chronicle of the United States itself.

& Every Wednesday at 8 pm at the Neutral Ground Coffeehouse there is an hour-long open mic poetry night (or fiction night; whatever you want to read really!)

Also at 8 p.m.every Wednesday the Blood Jet Poetry Series hosted by Megan Burns happens at BJs. Feature this week are Poets Charles Alexander and Daniel Reinhold.

Fifty: Traces of Angels March 29, 2014

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feathergirlThis is my entry in Harriet “Happy” Burbeck’s call for stories for her art show “Illustrations Stories That Haven’t Been Written Yet” (which closed last night).

She goes out in the morning looking for traces of angels. Her momma’s house is chock-a-block with cherubs and delicate porcelain nymphs with gilded wings. Even the fractured worm of ash of the cigarette her mother passed out smoking sits in a bowl cradled by the hands of a pieta-headed angel. These are not the creatures she hears in the night, the woosh of muscular wings, the cries that frighten the hoot owls. The curio cabinets rattle at their passing. When she can no longer fight off sleep she dreams of their hot breath on her neck, dark forms standing guard against darkness. She goes out in the morning, gathers their tremendous feathers and takes them into the woods behind the house. She plants their spines like saplings. With each new plume the forest grows more fiercely green, the trunks and branches more muscular and rough. She sits in her feather garden listening to the crows talk, listening for the familiar voices from her dreams.

Forty Nine: This Fresh Hell March 28, 2014

Posted by Mark Folse in 365, cryptic envelopment, New Orleans, The Narrative, The Typist, Toulouse Street.
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You can’t imagine a city like this. The archetypes are all wrong. You’ve drunk so much you’re sure you going straight to Baptist hell the minute you cross the Mississippi line but don’t realize it’s right outside your curtained hotel window, the vomit brimstone steam from hoses rinsing off the blistering streets, the smell of gluttonous garbage decomposing in the brutal, golden sun of August, the flash of gold from the teeth of the last tranny hooker stumbling home. Cathedral Jesus knows what you’ve been up to but he’s been hanging in this city so long all he really wants is to bum a cigarette, something toward bus fare to somewhere less molten, more regular in its habits, some place evil orders the breakfast biscuit and eats it methodically before it pulls out the gun, the horror and the glory of the certainty of Satan’s works on a placid landscape.

Forty Eight: INSERT TITLE March 25, 2014

Posted by Mark Folse in cryptic envelopment, New Orleans, The Narrative, The Typist, Toulouse Street.
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If I don’t shave, would I be starting a new, full beard? It seems an inauspicious day to start something and equally so to do anything as ambitious as shaving. If I were any less ambitious today I might be mistaken, should someone discover me on the couch, for a catatonic. I have a house full of unread books, one clean plate, a rinsed out coffee up and a fractious garbage can that refused to move itself to the curb unaided. I’m not sure what time it is because my upended bicycle, waiting these two weeks for me to repair the front tire, has become a fixture in front of the bookcase and obscures the clock.

I am, for the moment, perfectly happy with this situation. I am wearing my Hefner burgundy velour robe, managed to make a pot of coffee and when the last cigarette in the pack runs out, I have a pouch of loose tobacco and can resume my project to save money and smoke less by rolling one. Except: rolling cigarettes is such a bother, but it is still more in keeping with my current state of affairs than actually putting on pants and walking four blocks to the grocery..

This is New Orleans, and should I choose to appear at Canseco’s wearing nothing but my robe, my thin hair a charged nimbus about my head and my cheeks suitable for removing paint, I might be worth two sentences between the check out girls before the next neighborhood character. This, however, smacks of intentionally eccentric performance, and intentionality (Christ, I hope that’s not a neologism) is not on the agenda.

Which is all to say that I started this (yet another) project 365–to write something on the blog every day–with entry Zero on January 14. It is March 25th, and I am only up to 48. No, I am not going to launch Excel and do the date math necessary to quantify my failure to meet that goal. I carefully explained to my children while helping them with math that estimation is an important skill in addition to precise arithmetic, that I used it almost daily in my job as a project manager, and I leave calculating precisely how far behind I am to the earnest and eager reader to figure that out.

I think, with another cup of coffee, I might manage to stand in the shower long enough to feel clean, put on yesterday’s jeans, and pick out a book from the clutter and walk toward the park. Walking is an almost automatic act once you set out, requiring no particular ambition. If I had a loaf of bread, I might even make a sandwich, but I don’t so I won’t. Grabbing a couple of apples that have never made it off the kitchen table and out of their plastic bag into the refrigerator may have to do. They are Pink Ladies and delicious, and should provide just enough sugar energy to put off walking back from the park to the coffee shop later.

TWF14: The Law and Order Episode of Who Killed the Essay March 24, 2014

Posted by Mark Folse in books, literature, lyric essay, memoir, New Orleans, NOLA, Odd Words, Toulouse Street.
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“This is the Law and Order episode of Who Killed the Essay,” moderator John Freeman said to open the Tennessee Williams Festival panel “The Return of the Essay.” “Someone killed it. We’re going to find out later from Lennie Briscoe,” the character from the crime drama franchise. Panelists Dani Shapiro, Kiese Laymon and Roxanne Gay promptly put a bullet in the head of Freeman’s metaphor.

“The essay isn’t dead, it never died,” panelist Roxanne Gay shot back. “We have the arrogance in this age of believing that we’re going to be the end of literature when it has been around for millenia. That is always appalling to me. The book is dying. Are you kidding me? People were writing books on rice paper. Calm down. Books aren’t going anywhere, readers aren’t going anywhere. I think things are shifting. The essay from Montaigne to [fellow panelist] Kiese, we’re still doing it. I think we’re in the golden age of the essay. I’ve never read more stunning essays than the ones I read every single day and the art hasn’t been perfected because it can’t be perfected but people are practicing it at such a level. If the essay is dead, then the afterlife is quite wonderful.”

“The internet has done a lot of terrible things, but one of the best things it’s done has democratize this writing thing. It has allowed us to read all these amazing essays,” Laymon said. “I think there was a golden age. I think [James] Baldwin was the golden age. Every day, or every other day, I read an essay on the Internet that actually scares me as a writer. I think those are the best essays, I think s— I can’t do it. I just can’t do it as well as other people can do it. Now we have people not waiting for crusty editors to say: here’s your stamp that says, now you can put it out there. Also it puts out some art that is not so great, but it’s also allowed me to read some of the greatest essays that I have read in my life.”

“I don’t think we can know a golden age that we’re in one,” Dani Shapiro, countered. “I will admit tweeting this morning the title of this panel and saying, I don’t think it’s vanished. I also think it’s worth noting that the word essay means attempt, to attempt to get something right and true and universal and authentic down on the page. That’s like saying human nature is dead.”

Freeman asked his panelists: “If style is a struggle and essay is an attempt, what are you attempting in an essay? What makes you want to put the struggle in that form?”

“There’s an urgency when I’m writing an essay,” Gay explained. “Something has gotten under my skin. One of the first essays that got under my skin. One of the first essays that got my attention was “The Careless Language of Sexual Violence”. It was about a young girl that was raped in Cleveland, Texas. The New York Times wrote a story about the town–poor, poor town–and think of these poor boys but there were like 30 of them. The magnitude of the crime was horrific and the shoddiness of the reporting was also horrific. I went into this fugue state trying to temper my rage with understanding how we got to a place as a culture where we’re worrying about a town instead of this 11 year-old girl. The essays that I love writing the most are where I’m trying to make sense of this crazy world, but also acknowledge the god in this world.”

“Kiese, you [mention] the fact that an essay is going to deal some collateral damage to their family, because the wedge into a topic is not just your experience. It’s everything you grew up with. I wonder if you could talk about writing about your family and those essays and how you weighed what you would actually reveal because the truths you tell are quite difficult.”

“I feel like I’ve been writing about that question in my essays and my fiction. I come from a family in central Mississippi. I was raised by my mother. She was 19 when she had me. I went to graduate school and went to stay with my grandmother [also] in Mississippi. They’re both wonderful, brilliant people but whenever they got around white people their wonder and their brilliance and their thickness shrunk, and I think a lot of time they want me to also shrink my brilliance on the page. In [one] essay I talk about my mother pulling a gun on me when I was 19, partially because she wanted me to act right. I was trying to say in that essay there is a consequence to acting right in this country especially for folks of color…I think we talk about the consequences too often of not acting right, but there is a self consequence for acting right.

“Form is really important for me and I’m pushing back against forms and against my mom and I was trying to push back against my inclination to write predictable punditry. My inclination is to just write the traditional, standard essays that will make people say, ‘that’s a smart African-American man’ as opposed to being a potentially revelatory Black human being.” Later in the panel he added, “I come from a community where sadness, funk, funny happens all the time and I was being encouraged to take the funk and funny out.”

“Dani, you’ve written about your family in two memoirs, and this book Still Writing, it looks like a book about writing but then it’s threaded through with all these tiny memoirs,” Freeman asked Shapiro. “Did you find that to write about writing did you have to write about your family?”

“When it comes to form and when it comes to realism, it feels like in the last ten years of my writing life things have been breaking apart. The more I try to make something whole the more it breaks apart. I think what you just said about realism and the surreality that is at the core of it in some way is so true: the puzzle like structure, my last memoir Devotion was puzzle-like, every essay that I’ve written in the last five years. When I started Still Writing I was writing a blog because my publisher told me I had to write a blog. And I was thinking what can I blog about that’s not going to make me want to stick pins in my eyes every day. What I wanted to write about was how to do this every day. I didn’t want to write another book about craft. I wanted to write about what it takes: the courage, the tenacity, the persistence, the resistance. Then I started getting letters from people says, ‘I really needed this today’ and I thought, people are actually asking me to write a book. How often does that happen?”

“I’m reading this and what is it like to revise your life, the story of your life in public.” Freeman said.

“I think it would be an amazing thing for the same writer to spend an entire writing life writing the same memoir every ten years because it would be a different book every ten years because the relationship between the self and the story is the story. When I wrote Slow Motion [arising from the death of her father] I had feeling that this was the before and after moment. I wasn’t old enough to know that there is more than one before and after moment. It was also my son’s illness fifteen years later, and my mother’s death.

There was an essay in Ploughshares that was called “Plane Crash Theory.” I think it’s my best essay. It began shortly after 9-11, my infant son was dropped down a flight of stairs by a baby sitter and for months and months I couldn’t write a thing. It was all in the shadow of 9-11 and felt like a shadow had flown over our house and was hovering there. I was having coffee with a friend of mine in Brooklyn who’s a writer and I said, ‘I haven’t written a word since Jacob fell down the stairs’ and she said, ‘that’s your first sentence’. I couldn’t tell the whole story because the essay couldn’t contain that he was dropped down the stairs but that a few weeks earlier I had noticed these little movements and he was later diagnosed with this rare seizure disorder. An essay couldn’t contain both of those, so I took all of my anxiety and my fear and my feeling of–writing, what is the point of it–but finding a way to pour all of that into a very disciplined form and tell the whole story emotionally and not tell the whole story, what to leave in and what to leave out, which is such an important part of writing memoir and essay.”

“I think one of my most popular essays to write was the hardest to write,” Gay said in a comment that resonated for me in the post-Katrina room. “It was about The Hunger Games, because I love, love, love the Hunger Games to insanity. I started to think what is it about the Hunger Games that captures me as an adult because they are YA . There is a young woman in the novel Katniss, she has to endure the unendurable over and over again is that it showed PTSD as it is, as something that cannot necessarily be cured but something that you learn to live with, and as something that will shape the decisions you will make.”

Freeman asked the panelists if there was someone, an essayist, who opened a door and what they did. “I would say in a word [Joan] Didion if it was an essayist,” Shapiro said. “Grace Pailey was for me an example of the life of a writer, a life I wanted in some way. When I think of Grace I think of her sentences, I think of her fiction, the distillation, a certain kind of minimalism before there was minimalism. She was tremendously important to me.”

Gay, after citing the encourage of her parents from age four, cited Edith Wharton. “She was doing it when women weren’t encouraged” to write. “She is the master of the elegant sentence.” And Zadie Smith: “she is fierce. She makes me feel like I can do anything with the word.” Laymon also talked about his grandmother’s influence. “My grandmother taught me how to work. She worked at a chicken plant and the way she talked about it, the craft, she made me feel I was beautiful.” His essayist pick was James Baldwin. “The Fire Next Time was the first book that I really, really read. I would tear it apart. Ultimately I think I became the writer I want to be because in The Fire Next Time, someone who was so great could not make space for Black women. You could be so sublime and so great and not make space for this entire group of people you should make space for. Baldwin’s otherworldliness is something I could aspire for, not just because of his prose but because of the gaps in his prose.”

Odd Words March 22, 2014

Posted by Mark Folse in books, Indie Book Shops, New Orleans, novel, Odd Words, Poetry, publishing, Toulouse Street.
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The rest of this week in literary New Orleans now that the Tennessee Williams Festival is {almost} behind us:

Sunday still offers some choice Tennessee Williams Festival events, both at 11:30 am: first is The Return of the Essay, featuring panelists Kiese Laymon, Roxanne Gay and Dani Shapiro in the Royal Ball Room at the Monteleone Hotel. The second is Sing Me A Story, Tell Me A Song: When Writing Demands Melody featuring David Simon, Tom Piazza and Luke Winslow King, at the Palm Court Jazz Cafe. And at 1 pm there is Cultural Vistas’ 25th Anniversary Panel.. Join executive editor David
Johnson in a discussion about documenting Louisiana for the past quarter century, along with contributor and author Sally Asher, longtime music reviewer Ben Sandmel and history columnist Richard Campanella. At the Monteleone Royal Ballroom.

And don’t forget the Stella and Stanley shouting contest at 4:15 pm at Jackson Square.

& This Sunday at Octavia Books hosts renowned cartoonist Michael Fry (co-creator and writer of OVER THE HEDGE) comes to read and sign his two recent ODD SQUAD books: ZERO TOLERANCE and BULLY BAIT — middle-grade illustrated novels for all ages. Michael Fry has been a cartoonist/writer/entrepreneur for over 30 years. In addition to THE ODD SQUAD novels, Fry has created or co/created four international syndicated comic strips, including Over the Hedge, which runs in 150 newspapers worldwide – and it was adapted into the hit animated movie of the same name. Over the Hedge was nominated for Best Comic Strip in 2006 by the National Cartoonist Society Rueben Awards.

& Every Sunday at 3 p.m. The Maple Leaf Reading Series, the oldest continuous reading series in the south, founded by Everette Maddox, features guest poets and an open mic. This Sunday features Thaddaeus Conti and Joseph Bienvenu followed by an open mic.

& Sunday is Slam and Spoken Word Day in New Orleans. WhoDatPoets.com lists five Spoken Word shows on Sunday nights. For phone numbers with more details on all these readings visit WHODATPOETS.COM. (I stopped listing all of the events because one venue’s name forced me to limit this post for readers over 21. Check WHODATEPOETS.COM for all the latest on slam and spoken word in New Orleans.

& Speak Sunday is hosted every Sunday at 7 pm by Duece the Poet at Therapy, 3001 Tulane Avenue, also featuring live painting of the performers by C.C. Givens.

& Monday the Robert E. Smith Library at Harrison Avenue and Canal Boulevard hosts a writing workshop starting at 5:30 p.m. “Do you think in verse that could become poetry? Do you imagine characters, dialogue, and scenes? If so, join the Smith Library’s free Creative Writing Workshop.”

& Also on Monday the East Bank Regional Library hosts it’s Fiction Writers’ Group – Critique Session. The Fiction Writers’ Group is a support group for serious writers of fiction. We do not focus on poetry, essays or nonfiction. Events consist of critique sessions from group members, author talks and writing exercises. Free of charge and open to the public. Registration is not required.

& Susan Larson, the former book editor of the former Times-Picayune newspaper and member of the National Book Critics Circle hosts The Reading Life on WWNO (89.9 FM) on Tuesdays at 1:30 p.m. She features interviews with authors of local and national interest. Watch Odd Words on Facebook and Google+ on Tuesdays for a complete list of her guests and features.

Tuesday at 6 p.m. Octavia Books hosts a presentation and signing with journalists Jonathan Allen and Amie Parnes, featuring their new book, HRC: State Secrets and the Rebirth of Hillary Clinton. Hillary Clinton’s surprising defeat in the 2008 Democratic primary brought her to the nadir of her political career, vanquished by a much younger opponent whose message of change and cutting-edge tech team ran circles around her stodgy campaign. And yet, six years later, she has reemerged as an even more powerful and influential figure, a formidable stateswoman and the presumed front-runner for the 2016 Democratic presidential nomination, marking one of the great political comebacks in history. The story of Hillary’s phoenixlike rise is at the heart of HRC, a riveting political biography that journeys into the heart of “Hillaryland” to discover a brilliant strategist at work.

& Every Tuesday night get on the list to spit at the longest running spoken word venue in New Orleans at Sweet Lorraine’s Jazz Club hosted by African-American Shakespear. Doors open at 7pm and the Mic pops at 8pm. It is $5 to get in.

& On Wednesday at 6:00 at TEN gallery, 4432 Magazine Street artist Harriet Burbeck will discuss her work on view. Michael Allen Zell will read from his book The Oblivion Atlas and discuss collaborating with photographers Louviere and Vanessa. Burbeck is also soliciting submissions from writers from the show Illustrations From Stories That Haven’t Been Written. Writers are invited to view the work and submit stories inspired by her fabric art to tinylittlehappy@gmail.com. She will post all submissions on her blog, and one story will be selected for publication in the forthcoming new journal Ark of New Orleans.

& Wednesday at 6 p.m. Garden District Book Shop hosts Sally Asher and Hope & New Orleans: A History of Crescent City Street Names. New Orleans is a city of beautiful contradictions, evidenced by its street names. New Orleans crosses with Hope, Pleasure and Duels. Religious couples with Nuns, Market and Race. Music, Arts and Painters are parallel. New Orleans enfolds its denizens in the protection of saints, the artistry of Muses and the bravery of military leaders. The city’s street names are inseparable from its diverse history. They serve as guideposts as well as a narrative that braid its pride, wit and seedier history into a complex web that to this day simultaneously joins and shows the cracks within the city. Learn about Bourbon’s royal lineage, the magnitude of Napoleon’s influence, how Tchoupitoulas’s history is just as long and vexing as its spelling and why mispronouncing such streets as Burgundy, Calliope and Socrates doesn’t mean you are incorrect–it just means you are local!

& Wednesday the Jefferson Parish East Bank Regional Library hosts an Author Event featuring Game Changers: The Legacy of Louisiana Sports, by Marty Mule. Mule, a local author who has written numerous books about Louisiana sports, talks about and signs his latest book.

& Former Louisiana Poet Laureate Darrell Borque will be reading at 8 pm Wednesday at the University of New Orleans in room in LA 197 (the Liberal Arts Lounge). Open to the public.

& Every Wednesday at 8 pm at the Neutral Ground Coffeehouse there is an hour-long open mic poetry night (or fiction night; whatever you want to read really!)

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TWF14: Untangling the skein of memory March 22, 2014

Posted by Mark Folse in books, memoir, New Orleans, Odd Words, Tennessee Williams Festival, Toulouse Street.
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A book on authors who knit was not what I expected when I walked into the panel An Examined Life: The Mysteries of Memoir but as Ann Hood pointed out “knitting is a metaphor for life.” Both her personal obsession with knitting and her novel The Knitting Circle grew out of trying to cope with her own tragic loss of a child. She also authored a memoir about the loss of her daughter Grace, COMFORT: A JOURNEY THROUGH GRIEF but knitting proved to be her best coping mechanism “After my first knitting lesson I realize I got through two-and-a-half hours without crying.” She soon discovered other authors who knit, and decided to pitch her new book Knitting Yarns: Writers on Knitting. She took her editors grunt when she pitched the idea as a yes, and ended up with 27 essays by authors who knit and how it changed their life. When she read her own audio book, she imagined the “fedora-wearing Brooklyn hipster” who was her audio engineer must have thought he had drawn the worst assignment ever, but she said he confessed to crying by the end of the four days by the stories he heard.

An Examined Life covered a lot of ground, some of it at the edge of memoir, but the four authors on the panel–Hood, Blake Bailey, Lila Quintero Weaver and Emily Raboteau–all authored recent books that attempt to reclaim a part of their lives. Bailey’s story of his brother, who fell into drugs and died by suicide, is the closest to true memoir. “Scott was the better brother, the more promising of [us] two before he started to go off the rails. We should have landed in the same place and we didn’t and I decided to write [the book] to figure out why.”

Quintero Weaver’s Dark Room: A Memoir in Black and White, a graphic-novel approach to a tale of growing up a Latin American immigrant in rural Alabama during the civil rights movement is, by her description, as much a book about place: what Odd Words likes to call a geo-memoir. Her father was the town’s only photographer, but the illustrations in the book are all Quintero Weaver’s. Raboteau’s exploration of African-Americans who moved to Israel and Africa looking for a place that felt like home was driven by her own desire to find her identity as a bi-racial child of the 1960s who grew up in New Jersey constantly answering the question “where are you from?” and ends with a return to Bay St. Louis, Mississippi, the town her parents fled after her grandfather was lynched.

Solace and closure, the discovery of one’s real place in life and the world, are the meat of memoir. Only Bailey’s and perhaps Quintero Weaver’s books would be easy to file in the bookstore under memoir, but all drew deep on the author’s desire to understand critical events of their own lives.

Asked by moderator Nancy Dixon how their families’ reacted to their books, Bailey replied, “it was brutal. If you’re the sort of person who frets about what your family will think you’re in the wrong genre.” Quintero Weaver responded about the reaction of the people of the small Alabama town she writes about. No one would tell her exactly why they didn’t like the book but suspects “they want to move on.” Marion was at the center of the Civil Rights movement and the murder of Jimmie Lee Jackson while the Southern Christian Leadership Conference was in town led to the historic march from Selma to Montgomery. She heard second-hand that the president of the Chamber of Commerce said, “we don’t want her book in our town.”

Hood summed up what is required of the memoir author: “You have to write like you’re an orphan.”

Earlier in the day, novelist Justin Torres spoke of his own approach to putting a life’s experiences down into words in his bildungsroman We The Animals,the story of his own gradual “orphaning” from his family. “When I started, I was writing back to my family…I’d been ejected [for coming out queer] and the original motivation was anger.” Torres brief, 125-page tale of three brothers is fictionalized, although after reading it one brother told him of an episode, “I remember that.” “You can’t,” Torres replied. “I made it up.” Later he added, “I did not write my memoir. This is not my life. This is the emotional texture of my life.”

Asked toward the end how his family initially reacted to the book, Torres said “I hurt them. You don’t tell family secrets. I don’t know that I did the right thing but I believe in art.”

Torres’ interview with Festival Programming Director J.R. Ramakrishnan was titled “The Super Sleek Novel” and a great deal of the discussion was about the brevity of the novel and how it achieves its goals in such a short space. When he went to New York, every publisher he met with told him they loved the book, but he needed to write another 100 pages. Novels are supposed to be 250 pages long, he was told over and over again. The last editor he met with also responded positively to the book, and Torres told her, “but you want me to write another hundred pages, right?” but she said no.

The book unfolds as a series of very short chapters, each unveiling one small aspect of the character’s life growing up with his two brothers. “Super compressed, super distilled chapters: that’s what works for me. I could be very poetic and still get to the point…little movements that were so complete and yet captured the world. What I really like about the short form is you are always creating tension and then there is a little climax.” Most of the chapters begin in the first person plural before moving to the first person. “The idea of we is we feel a collective personality as children, [my brothers and I] had this non-verbal way of understanding each other” and as the book progresses the characters gradually lose that, subtly depicting the gradual unraveling of childhood and Torres’ own place in his family.

Asked if he could write with the same passion if he were not writing from his personal experience, Torress said, “I think that what is true is the kind meaning you make out of your experience. We’re all thrown here on this earth and there’s no meaning, it’s chaos. A lot of writers are communicating the way they found meaning in this world. That’s inherently personal You have to find a way to create meaning. I choose to write from personal experience. I choose to keep it close. Also, because I feel [as] a mixed-race, queer, working-class dude, it’s political in a lot of ways. I’m really interested in intersectionality, I’m very interested in the ways i which my various identities are constructed socially…its absolutely possible to due to that in fiction” as well as writing from personal experience.

Torres never names the parents in his book. “They really are archetypes of our ideas of masculinity and femininity. I made a myth out of them to essentialize them….[t]here is a lot of opportunity for projection” in the book, and he says he frequently is told by readers that’s exactly what my experience was like. “There’s such a universal element in the book” a lot of people see their own families and experiences in it. “I hope the book breaks people’s hearts because we need to keep breaking people’s hearts.”

TWF14: Our Steampunk Copyright Law March 20, 2014

Posted by Mark Folse in literature, New Orleans, Odd Words, Tennessee Williams Festival, Toulouse Street.
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Current copyright “is something of a steampunk law…full of Rube Goldberg contraptions,” New Orleans intellectual property attorney Marie Breaux told the Tennessee Williams Festival Master Class on copyright. “The copyright is not of our time…was drafted to address analog issues.” It does not fit any longer because publication is defind in very physical terms. “What happen to a journal that is only published online? We have some guidance from the Registrar [of Copyrights] but we just don’t know.”

“It may be OK for a library to scn a work and email it to a patron but not to post it on the website,” she gave as one example. And shoe-horning software into the literary copyright box is equally problematic, expecially the idea of work-for-hire when we “live in a freelance world.”  Most distrubing of all, she suggests that copyright is killing books. “You’re more able to find a book from 1880 than 1980.” As books fall out of print getting rights clearances discourges other publishers from reissuing a title.

“It’s time for a new law. This is not Marie Breaux, coyright attorney from New Orleans ,” but she says the Registar has said it is time for a new law. Breaux gave an excellent summary of the history of copyright, from the earliest recorded pronouncement of an Irish king who asserted that St. Columba had no right to copy a psalter written and illuminated by St. Finian. He ruled, “to every cow, it’s calf. To every book its copy.”  England produced the first copyright law, protecting the exclusive rights of printers who reproduced ancient works. In the United States the basis of copyright was written into the Constitution, the authors anxious to encourage innovation in writing and inventions by providing the protections of copyright and patent.

Nation-based copyright law ran into problems with internationalization in the 19th century. Herman Melville first published Moby Dick in Britian to secure copyright there before the American edition was issued, Breaux explained. However the British publisher accidentally omitted the Epilogue, and British reviewers uniformally panned the book as nonsensible. American newsapers picked up with British reviews (as there were no international copyright agreements), and the book flopped into obscurty based on the British reviews. Charles Dickens also had problems with the United States. He had an official U.S. publisher but no protection from others who reprinted his works without permission or compensation.

Today’s problems with antiquainted law is “we are all infringers,” whether we are forwarding an email (violating the implied copyright of the original author), or coying content from the web and sending it to a friend or reposting it, and even by singing “Happy Birthday”  without permission of the publisher. The last illustrates one problem with current copyright law. Over the last century the length of copyright has been continally extended. Breaux used the example of the first Mickey Mouse cartoon “Steamboat Willy.” Everytime that work approaches falling into the public domain, there are amendments to extend the life of copyrights.

The landsape is already changing in response to the Internet and other technologies. She cited the Creative Commons License, which does not alter the copyright but establishes various grants of rights for works put into easiy reproducable forms such as on the Internet. She also cited a growing movement among scholars for Open Source Publication. Many scholarly articles produced by goverment-education scientists doing goverment-subisidized work wind up in scholarly journals that are only available on the Internet behind paywalls. Getty Images, the long-time enforcer of copyright protection for professional photographers, has created an application that allows embedding non-water marked images inside an embedable application that allows Getty to retain control.

“Can we put the toothpaste back in the tube?” one of her cloing PowerPoint (c) slides asked. “Nope” was her answer. “The [current] copyright [law] is not for our time.”

Forty Six: One More Drop of Poison March 17, 2014

Posted by Mark Folse in 365, New Orleans, The Narrative, The Typist, Toulouse Street.
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There’s devils on each side of you with bottles in their hands
You need one more drop of poison and you’ll dream of foreign lands
— Shane MacGowan of The Pogues

Someday I will learn to act my age, but at a particular friend’s St. Patrick’s Parade party there’s not a lot of positive encouragement or enough in the way of positive role models. It’s still only the 16th and I somehow have to recover from my Shane MacGowan imitation to get through an online test and quiz and be fresh enough to venture out tomorrow for the Downtown Irish Parade on the Big Day.

A fellow blogger lamented the leprechaun carnival that is St. Patrick’s Day in America, but by Christ’s nails this is New Orleans. Give us the opportunity of a party in nominal honor of a Catholic saint in mid-Lent and the outcome is predictable. I didn’t catch any beads yesterday but I managed a cabbage or two for the boil that followed the parade. And what is more suitable to a saint’s feast day than drunken float riders hurling large, heavy vegetables at the equally intoxicated parade watchers? They can dye the river green in Chicago and cover Fifth Avenue in a carpet of green vomit but I don’t think anyone quite takes is to the extreme of playing drunken cabbage dodge ball.

Honestly, I think New Orleans is more entitled to its St. Patrick’s Day and i’s St. Joseph festivals than most of the rest of America. Here where everyone is essentially Creolized into Orleanians, observing one’s roots takes on a special meaning. New Orleans is full of the Irish, who were brought to dig the New Basin Canal and whose bones litter the spoil banks that are now West End Boulevard. There were the waves of Sicilians who were lynched when convenient by practiced hands. There are all the Germans of course, whose culture was mostly eradicated by the quasi-fascist hysteria of WWI, but their descendants still bake all of our French bread. And Deutsches Haus manages its own festival of too much beer and food, Oktoberfest, every year. I think I brought my best German to yesterday’s celebration. I was once having dinner with an old colleague’s daughter and her Austrian husband in DC. He remarked after I downed a glass of beer (and not my first) with my first bowl of gumbo that I “drank like a German”, and I’ve always taken that as a compliment.

Things got a bit out of hand by mid-afternoon Saturday. Biscuits for breakfast were no match for whiskey and strong ale for lunch and I’m not as young as I used to be. There was a stumble-and-tumble and the Shirtless Nipple Sticker Incident but mostly we’ve learned how to role with it down here. The root-heaved and muck-cracked sidewalks have sent us all ass-over-Evil-Kenievel on our bicycles more than once and we’ve learned to roll and post like a small boat breasting an Irish wake. At St. Patrick’s Day Lent is the penance of an early riser who ought to be sleeping it off rising up groggy and foggy to make breakfast and coffee. There were the listings to post, a manuscript promised to read and a test to be taken later. Somewhere on Sunday was a brilliant Irish stew with the last can of Irish Channel Stout to give strength because really Saturday’s parade is just a rehearsal for the 17th.

Forty Five: The Lost Tribe of the Celtic Race March 15, 2014

Posted by Mark Folse in 365, Acadian, New Orleans, The Narrative, The Typist, Toulouse Street.
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I am 1/32 Irish as best I can tell. Having an LDS sibling with the obsessive geneoligizing helps one to know these things). I have, however, always been an Hibernophile. I fell in love in Yeats at an early age, helped restart Bloomsday in New Orleans, and actually started Finnegan’s Wake before this semester, then laid it aside. Too much for class work. My delayed honeymoon with No. 2, an incorrigible Irish-American of the went-to-Notre-Dame sort, was to Ireland. And I love the music perhaps most of all. There are two main threads that inform American popular music: the Celtic and the African/Caribbean.

So shall I wear green and head out in the rain (again) to the parade today? The Uptown Irish parade drives me mad in a way. I am in Krewe du Vieux, and I would love to see all those drunks frogged march through the Quarter the way the NOPD drives us like cattle through the streets. Then again there is always the chance that I will manage to catch an old friend who is legally blind but still goes out on his own on Carnival Day, and marches in the parade today. (That, my friends, is a dedication to celebration few of us can match).

I imagine I will dig out one of my rugby shirts, either the wool County Offaly one I bought in a sports shop because I like the look of it, or the cheap green one with the shamrocks. I prefer the more authentic one, which I only learned were the colors of County Offaly when a guard at Shannon Airport greeted me with an Up Offaly! and explained it to me.

I may not be Irish, but I am in good part Acadian along with German and French via Haiti. My paternal German ancestors were long ago creolized into the Acadian way of life. As a fan of the music, I was listening to Fiona Richie’s Thistle and Shamrock national broadcast the day she was interviewing Micheal Doucet of Beausoleil. Somewhere toward the end of the conversation, they were discussing the similarities of Celtic and Acadian music, and Richie pronounced the Acadians “the lost tribe of the Celtic race.” I know what she meant. My trip to Ireland often felt like a trip to a hilly version of South Louisiana: the ease of the people, the music I heard in pubs, the craic.

That’s always been a good enough reason for me to join the drunken throngs in their tacky t-shirts and other things green. See you at Magazine and Louisiana.

In the spirit of “everyone is Irish” here are the Chieftains with the Rolling Stones and Ry Cooder.

Forty Four: Redemption Songs March 13, 2014

Posted by Mark Folse in 365, cryptic envelopment, New Orleans, The Narrative, The Typist, Toulouse Street.
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Now at the annual collision of our African, Celtic and Sicilian cultures, in this town where the African’s ripped from their villages and put into bondage were too valuable a property to risk so the hungry Irish were set to work and die digging the New Basin Canal, where the Sicilian residents of the French Quarter were lynched by practiced hands, the Mardi Gras Indians will come out even as the Irish and Italians stage their parades and the green beer and red wine will flow, and the streets will be lined with pork chop sandwiches and loose feathers, a celebration in the way only our entirely Creolized culture knows how to do best. In this one place God set aside like Nod for the rejects of Anglo culture and in which we have established (with a wink and a blind eye from God) all that the propaganda of the north promised in their lies, the true melting pot. It is time to to sing Redemption Songs.

Odd Words March 13, 2014

Posted by Mark Folse in books, Indie Book Shops, literature, New Orleans, novel, Odd Words, Poetry, publishing, Toulouse Street.
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& Interested in learning how to write comics? Think you’ve “got ideas”? Bring them to the new class at BSI Comics, Comic Book Writing 101. On the second and fourth Thursday of every month, the store will host a workshop that will show you how to: Quickly turn an idea into a full script; Write dialogue Collaborate with artists and letterers; Produce and distribute a comic book or graphic novel. You’ll get everything you need to start in a single session. The first event is on March 14th, from 6-10 p.m. (includes a 20 minute break) at BSI Comics in Metairie, at 3030 Severn Ave. Tickets are available at nolacomics.eventbrite.com. The cost for the class is $25.

& Thursday at 6 p.m. Octavia Books hosts a presentation and signing with Richard Campanella celebrating the release of his new book, BOURBON STREET: A History. New Orleans is a city of many storied streets, but only one conjures up as much unbridled passion as it does fervent hatred, simultaneously polarizing the public while drawing millions of visitors a year. A fascinating investigation into the mile-long urban space that is Bourbon Street, Richard Campanella’s comprehensive cultural history spans from the street’s inception during the colonial period through three tu-multuous centuries, arriving at the world-famous entertainment strip of today.

& This Friday at 9pm Cafe Istanbul will have another Artistic Mash Up. All artist are welcome.Many of the artist who have performed at the world famous venue will be in the house. Queen Darrinisha will present a mini drag show, Piano players and vocalist are coming. There will be many more local heroes burning up the stage. Ms Kelly Love Jones will be our featured artist. If you would like to collaborate with her fill free to bring a guitar or bring a song.

& Saturday at 11 a.m. Maple Street Book Shops Whitney Stewart will read and sign her new book, A Catfish Tale. Deep in the bayou, a Cajun fisherman named Jack catches a magic fish that offers to grant wishes in exchange for being set free. Jack doesn’t have a lot of wishes, but his wife Jolie sure does—for a mansion, a paddleboat, fame and fortune. With each wish, all the fish says is “Ah, tooloulou—if that ain’t the easiest thing to do.” But when Jolie wants to be crowned Mardi Gras queen, have things gone too far? Whitney Stewart is an award-winning author of young adult biographies, middle grade novels, and picture books. She has traveled widely in Asia and interviewed such figures as the 14th Dalai Lama, Aung San Suu Kyi, and Sir Edmund Hillary.

& On Saturday at 6 p.m. Octavia Books presents a special evening with author Jan-Philipp Sendker when he comes to read and sign his highly-anticipated new novel, A WELL-TEMPERED HEART, the sequel to his international best-selling novel THE ART OF HEARING HEARTBEATS. Almost ten years have passed since Julia Win came back from Burma, her father’s native country. Though she is a successful Manhattan lawyer, her private life is at a crossroads; her boyfriend has recently left her and she is, despite her wealth, unhappy with her professional life. Julia is lost and exhausted. One day, in the middle of an important business meeting, she hears a stranger’s voice in her head that causes her to leave the office without explanation. In the following days, her crisis only deepens. Not only does the female voice refuse to disappear, but it starts to ask questions Julia has been trying to avoid. Why do you live alone? To whom do you feel close? What do you want in life? Interwoven with Julia’s story is that of a Burmese woman named Nu Nu who finds her world turned upside down when Burma goes to war and calls on her two young sons to be child soldiers. This spirited sequel, like The Art of Hearing Heartbeats, explores the most inspiring and passionate terrain: the human heart

& The new “Underground Guide” to New Orleans is out now from LSU Press! To celebrate we are having a book party a month from March until JazzFest. Each of the book parties will have a theme: Rap, Burlesque, Metal. Michael Patrick Welch, Brian Boyles, and special guests will conduct live interviews with members of the various music communities, followed by some live music and other performances. The first party will be Saturday at 9 p.m. at the Allways featuring burlesque artist Trixie Minx, plus Cherry Brown, Ri Dickulous (sensual sword swallowing) and the Gris Gris Strut (dance troupe). Featuring the music of Lil Current Vocal Club.

& Every Sunday at 3 p.m. The Maple Leaf Reading Series, the oldest continuous reading series in the south, founded by Everette Maddox, features guest poets and an open mic. This Sunday features poet Dave Brinks and Loren Pickford on sax followed by Open Mic.

& Sunday is Slam and Spoken Word Day in New Orleans. WhoDatPoets.com lists five Spoken Word shows on Sunday nights. For phone numbers with more details on all these readings visit WHODATPOETS.COM. (I stopped listing all of the events because one venue’s name forced me to limit this post for readers over 21. Check WHODATEPOETS.COM for all the latest on slam and spoken word in New Orleans.

& Speak Sunday is hosted every Sunday at 7 pm by Duece the Poet at Therapy, 3001 Tulane Avenue, also featuring live painting of the performers by C.C. Givens.

& The New Orleans Haiku Society shares Haiku on the third Monday of every month at the Latter Branch Library, 5120 St. Charles Ave., from 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. All are invited to attend. For more information call 596-2625.

& Also on Monday Loyola University hosts a reading and interview with the 2014 Zale-Kimmerling Writer-in-Residence Susan Choi. Susan Choi is the author of four novels. She studied literature at Yale and writing at Cornell and worked as a fact-checker for the New Yorker. Her first novel, The Foreign Student, was a finalist of the Discover Great New Writers Award at Barnes & Noble and won the Asian-American Literary Award for fiction. Her second novel was a work of historical fiction, American Woman, and was selected as a finalist for the 2004 Pulitzer Prize. In 2009, her third novel, A Person of Interest, was a finalist for the PEN/Faulkner Award. Her most recent novel is My Education. Choi has received fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Guggenheim Foundation. She was selected as the inaugural recipient of the PEN/W.G. Sebald Award in 2010. Currently, Susan resides in Brooklyn, New York with her husband, Pete Wells, and their sons.

& Susan Larson, the former book editor of the former Times-Picayune newspaper and member of the National Book Critics Circle hosts The Reading Life on WWNO (89.9 FM) on Tuesdays at 1:30 p.m. She features interviews with authors of local and national interest. Watch Odd Words on Facebook and Google+ on Tuesdays for a complete list of her guests and features.

& On Tuesday the Great Books Discussion Club meets a the Old Metairie Library from 7-8:30 p.m.

& Every Tuesday night get on the list to spit at the longest running spoken word venue in New Orleans at Sweet Lorraine’s Jazz Club hosted by African-American Shakespear. Doors open at 7pm and the Mic pops at 8pm. It is $5 to get in.

& The English Department is holding its second Third Wednesday event of the semester on for March. The topic this month is “A Look at Internships.” Join UNO student Paige Nulty and UNO alums Missy Wilkinson and Bethany Jones as they discuss their experiences with internships

& Join Big Class and Maple Street Books on Wednesday at 6 p.m. for a celebration of a yet-to-be-titled book of tales by young writers. Since December, the 50 talented storytellers in Renew Cultural Arts Academy’s 3rd-grade, with the help of Big Class’s volunteers, have been writing and workshopping imaginative and compelling fairy tales and folk tales. These tales range in tone from hilarious to terrifying, telling of the redemption of princesses and the downfall of zombies. The young writers will be marking the release of their publication (which also collects their original illustrations), with cupcakes and a reading. Join us for a celebration of stories and their tellers.

& On Wednesday at 6 p.m. Octavia Books features a presentation and signing with Sam Irwin celebrating his new book, LOUISIANA CRAWFISH: A Succulent History of the Cajun Crustacean. The hunt for red crawfish is the thing, the raison d’être, of Acadian spring. Introduced to Louisiana by the swamp dwellers of the Atchafalaya Basin, the crawfish is a regional favorite that has spurred a $210 million industry. Whole families work at the same fisheries, and annual crawfish festivals dominate the social calendar. More importantly, no matter the occasion, folks take their boils seriously: they’ll endure line cutters, heat and humidity, mosquitoes and high gas prices to procure crawfish for their families’ annual backyard boils or their corporate picnics. Join author Sam Irwin as he tells the story—complete with recipes and tall tales—of Louisiana’s favorite crustacean: the crawfish. Sam Irwin is a freelance journalist and writer who lives in Baton Rouge. He is the former editor of the Louisiana Market Bulletin and served as the press secretary for the Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry. He received his undergraduate and graduate degrees in history from the University of Louisiana at Lafayette in the 1970s. A product of a mixed marriage (his father’s family is from north Louisiana, while his mother’s is from the heart of French-speaking Louisiana), Irwin’s writing showcases the Bayou State. Irwin’s fiction has won several prizes, and his nonfiction work appears regularly in Louisiana newspapers and regional magazines, including Country Roads, The Advocate and House and Home. His writing has also been featured in Louisiana Kitchen and Culture, Louisiana TravelHost, Offbeat, 225, Louisiana Film and Video, Teche News and Louisiana Cookin’.

& Every Wednesday at 8 pm at the Neutral Ground Coffeehouse there is an hour-long open mic poetry night (or fiction night; whatever you want to read really!)

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Forty Three: The Dog Breath Variations March 9, 2014

Posted by Mark Folse in cryptic envelopment, Dancing Bear, New Orleans, The Narrative, The Typist, Toulouse Street.
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If I have to explain how one gets from the hubcaps in the bathroom of Cafe Borrega to lying in bed listening to Frank Zappa’s Uncle Meat you are likely to get lost along the way. There is no map.

The place is packed and the bartender is slammed. They’ve been getting some good press but just lost a chef. “Come back in a few weeks, then Yelp us,” one server tells me, after another suggests a kind review. “Only people who want to complain ever post on Yelp.” It takes a while to get served at the bar, until a regular hails Hugo. The couple next to me are dressed to go out: she’s in a nice dress and he’s wearing a British tan sports coat. Yuppies, you discover, can be people, too. I watch Hugo hand mashing the limes for the margaritas. There is a twenty minute wait for margaritas.

Pachuco: a Mexican-American subculture that emerged in West Texas and migrated to Los Angeles. Zoot suiters. Gangsters. Also a style of doo-wop music that emerged from this culture in the late 1950s and early 1960s.

I order a Hornitos Reposado, iced, and a Bohemia. I have a sentimental attachment to Bohemia. It was the first beer my father ever ordered for me. We were on a trip to Monterrey, Mexico to visit the mountains where the flyways of the eastern monarch butterfly converge.

I walk into the Apple Barrel
& there you are, Venus de Miller
perched on your bar stool pedestal.
The barmaid asks me what I want
but I’m not paying any attention to her
& anyway I’ve left my stomach behind
somewhere in the mountains outside Monterrey
filled with a million Monarch butterflies.
— “Venus de Miller”, Poems Before Breakfast

“Cucuroo carucha (Chevy ’39)
Going to El Monte Legion Stadium
Pick up on my weesa (she is so divine)
Helps me stealing hub caps
Wasted all the time”
— “Dog Breath, In the Year of the Plague” – Frank Zappa

No Hornitos, Hugo tells me. Would you like to order something else? I hesitate. I’m not a tequila connoisseur; I just know I like it. Another sentimental attachment, the drink of Coco Robicheaux. We trade Coco stories. “May I suggest something?” Of course. Out comes a bottle of Siembra Azul. It is a wonderful tequila, with a strange flavor that somehow makes me think of a peyote button, something earthy with a dusty fruitiness. (Blue agave is not a cactus, or related to peyote. Agave is a cousin to aloe). I give Hugo a twenty for my drinks, and leave him the five in change as a tip. Boisterously friendly, he tells me the next one is on him after an appreciate sigh on my first sip and a compliment on his selection. There is the immediate male bond of one guy inducting another into his passion. He leaves the bottle on the bar.

It is not just the Chevrolet hub caps (suggesting a particular fondness for that make) but one is a work of art, a Louisiana license plate dated 1956 with the outline of a pelican in the center, beneath an old, unidentifiable but clearly 1950s hood ornament. “Primer mi carucha (Chevy ’39)…” The pachuco rhythms and voices of the first part of Zappa’s delirious concerto grosso starts to hum itself in my head.

Outside the bathroom Alex McMurray and Paul Sanchez are trading licks and lead vocals. This is as far as you can get from Uncle Meat but not so far removed from pachuco. There are brilliant acoustic guitar moments in the third movement (if I may call it that, and I will), “The Dog Breath Variations.” The pairing of New Orleans’ two premier folk rockers are why we are here. The two rows of tequila and the smells coming from the kitchen are incidental. Cafe Borrega is very much a Three Muses sort of place, set up as a restaurant with music. We spend half our time there leaning on the railing between the stage and the pick up window, trying to stay out of the way of the servers. Whatever the waitress says about the fill chef, the smells are wonderful. Later they tell me he is just too slow, and that this is the first time they’ve had an overflow house. I swear to come back soon and eat.

Eric’s friend Allison reaches over and picks up the menu face down on the musician side of the railing. On the back are a set of what appear to be fortune telling cards. Her British friend (whose name is drowned in agave), she says is El Borracho. He doesn’t know any Spanish and asks, what the hell is that? Is he taking a shit? (In the picture the drunkard is bent a the knees, suggesting unsteadiness). Eric, she says, is El Gallo, the rooster. No one who knows Eric would disagree. I have on a red shirt, and so I am El Diabolito. A little devil? I can own that I tell her. She goes to put the menu down and and stop here. Which are you? La Estrella, I announce, and she smiles. Enamoramiento. (Love sick fool. Diabolito, si).

I had to text Eric to get Allison’s name, although we’ve met at least twice before. For the rest of the night, I think of everyone by their card names: El Borracho, El Gallo, La Estrella.

We get another round, and I manage to spill half my glass. We are all laughing, and Alex McMurray says “I hear someone talking about tequila.” “I spilled half of mine,” I holler back. “The hand of an angel spilled it,” I say “This much and no more tequila tonight.” “You better tip that angel well,” Sanchez says. They break into The Champs song Tequila. After a few choruses they stop, and McMurray offers a shot to anyone who will dance on the bar like Pee Wee Herman. Eric rushes to steady the stool I put my knee on but I think my angel is still close, and then I’m up and they’re playing Tequila again and Hugo has his iPhone out, a huge grin on his face, as I shuffle and shake.

I try to decline the shot. Hugo will hear no objection.

“Please hear my plea.”

The first non-doo wop line of Dog Breath, spoken in exaggerated baritone by Zappa.

Given his fascination with pachuco music and his last name, it would be easy to think Zappa Chicano. Actually, he is from Baltimore and of Sicilian, Italian, Arab and Greek heritage. His family moved to Los Angeles County when he was a child.

“Zappa grew up influenced by avant-garde composers such as Varèse, Halim El-Dabh, Igor Stravinsky, and Anton Webern, R&B and doo-wop groups (particularly local pachuco groups), and modern jazz… [b]y his final year, he was writing, arranging and conducting avant-garde performance pieces for the school orchestra.”
–Wikipedia entry, “Frank Zappa”

Zappa’s first national exposure came in the late 1950s, in which a clean cut young man in a suit demonstrates to Allen how to play the bicycle as a musical instrument, and jams with the show’s band.

We meet the two women who are clearly their for the musicians after the last set is over and Sanchez and McMurray come to the bar. Nicole says she lives in Mid-City. I tell her I live in Gentilly. What we both mean, after discovering that we live maybe three blocks apart, is that neither of us wants to own the stuff Faubourg St. John moniker. She is friends with Sanchez, and the younger woman with her is his niece. “I’m sure I’ll see you around Canseco’s.” Eric, we discover, also know’s the co-owner Linda, Hugo’s wife. This is a very small town of half a million people. This is one of their stories.

I am slowly sipping Bohemia by this time, and Eric is deep into conversation with Paul Sanchez. It is one of Eric’s life time goals to befriend every musician in New Orleans. I lean around Eric and ask McMurray how one auditions for his Valparaiso Men’s Chorus project, in which he leads a small band and a group of men in singing chanteys. “Show up for the next show. Show you can sing.” He tells me the next date, but I had already bookmarked it in my calendar, being fascinated but never having witnessed their performance at the Saturn Bar.

As I drift deep into the complex second movement “Legend of the Gold Arches” I lay in the dark and think: concerto. No single instrument is featured, so the correct term is concerto grosso. The form died out in the late 18th century, but was revived by a long list of modern composers ranging from Stravinsky to Phillip Glass. I don’t think about them as I listen in the dark. I listen to the intricate play of Zappa’s studio mix orchestra and think of J.S. Bach. I resolve to ask the guy who runs the Open Ears free jazz series, who teaches at Loyola, if he thinks “Dog Breath,” “Legend of the Gold Arches” and “The Dog Breath Variations” could be considered a concerto grosso. His answer will not really matter. This is the music they would play in any heaven worth of the name and in the hell reserved for the classical snobs of the sort who drove the jazz program out of the University of Chicago.

By the end of the night, as my eyes drift over the collection of Latino brick-a-brack that decorates the bar, I am fixated again by the rotating Virgin of Guadaloupe over the cash register. She spins around a counter-moving inner psychedelic transparency projecting ever changing colors and a halo of parabolas of light on the nearest walls. I can not get “Dog Breath, In the Year of the Plague” out of my head. (It is, in spite of the name, a catchy pachuco pop/doo wop song). Eric I know will talk all night if Sanchez lets him, and I know the hours musicians keep. I go to Patrice’s and she about to go to sleep. Before she puts the light out, I dig my headphones out of my bag and dial up Uncle Meat on my ‘Droid and jump to the fifth track. I close my eyes in the dark, but can’t get to sleep until almost the end of the record.

“Primer mi carucha (Chevy ’39)
Got me to El Monte Legion Stadium
Pick up on my weesa (she is so divine)
Helps me stealing hub caps
Wasted all the time

Fuzzy Dice
Bongos in the back
My ship of love
Ready to attack”
— chorus and refrain from “Dog Breath” by Frank Zappa

Forty Two: Of Course It Is March 8, 2014

Posted by Mark Folse in 365, 504, Fortin Street, Louisiana, New Orleans, The Narrative, The Typist.
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Eric: “This is the best bar in New Orleans.”

The Typist: “At this moment, yes it is.”

Forty One: Adiu Paure Carnaval March 5, 2014

Posted by Mark Folse in 365, New Orleans, The Narrative, The Typist, Toulouse Street.
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At the conclusion of Carnival in Nice, France, an effigy of Monsieur Carnaval is burned, the ancient story of the burning man, the sacrifice in fire. As told by Mama Lisa’s World Blog, in that rite Monsieur Carnaval “is responsible for all the wrongdoing people do throughout the year. At Carnival time in France, Monsieur Carnaval is judged for his behavior throughout the preceding year. Usually he’s found guilty and an effigy of him is burned.”

Accompanying the ritual is a song, and I offer the lyrics collected by Mama Lisa below, both in Occitan (the language of the Troubadors) and in English. I suggest you click the link to open in a new tab or window so you can follow along as far as the MP3 goes.

And so, from New Orleans, Adiu Paure Carnaval.

Adiu paure Carnaval
(Occitan)

Adiu paure, adiu paure,
adiu paure Carnaval
Tu te’n vas e ieu demòri
Adiu paure Carnaval
Tu t’en vas e ieu demòri
Per manjar la sopa a l’alh
Per manjar la sopa a l’òli
Per manjar la sopa a l’alh
Adiu paure, adiu paure,
adiu paure Carnaval

La joinessa fa la fèsta
Per saludar Carnaval
La Maria fa de còcas
Amb la farina de l’ostal

Lo buòu dança, l’ase canta
Lo moton ditz sa leiçon
La galina canta lo Credo
E lo cat ditz lo Pater

Farewell, Poor Carnival
(English)

Farewell, farewell,
Farewell, poor Carnival
You are leaving, and I am staying
Farewell, poor Carnival
You are leaving, and I am staying
To eat garlic soup
To eat oil soup
To eat garlic soup
Farewell, farewell,
Farewell, poor Carnival.

The young ones are having a wild time
To greet Carnival
Mary is baking cakes
With flour from her home.

The ox is dancing, the donkey’s singing
The sheep is saying its lesson
The hen is singing the Credo
And the cat is saying the Pater.

Forty: Ring of Fire March 3, 2014

Posted by Mark Folse in 365, New Orleans, The Narrative, The Typist, Toulouse Street.
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The doom jukebox sings Ring of Fire in the chase light calliope fun house of madness. Betz Brown is lining up snake bites for the regulars. The front door is a barricaded beer and cocktail stand but the regulars know to come down the buildings side entrance. The men’s bathroom is ankle-deep but what can you do? It’s Carnival Day at the Abbey in the late 1970s, the reign of Queen Betz, den mother to the lost. Molly’s with their Media Night thinks they attract the best and brightest, but the Abbey (which still had a shelf of books to read atop the cigarette machine in those days) were the best, the brightest, the most golden-tongued and the most drunken. It was where Marianne and I spent the election night, the year I convinced Guide newspapers to hold the Section I press for late election coverage and we kicked the Times-Picayune West Bank edition’s ass.

It was the place to be.

Betz left, finally pregnant by a regular selected by her but kept secret. (It was not me). Molly’s could have the ghost of Walter Cronkite tending bar one night, but if you consider your patrons a suitable gene pool for your child, Molly’s at the Market will never hit that mark.

I have never stopped visiting the Abbey, through its boring, immediate post-Betz days as a darts bar, and then biker bar, trannie bar, and its return as the watering hole of the dissolute twenty-something. Through all its transformations (except perhaps the first) I was, after explaining over my beer my presence, welcomed like family. The Abbey is not just a bar, it is an exclusive club, a secret society, and the mere mention of the name is the only signal we have.

I wandered in the evening of my first Carnival home in 21 years, in 2006, and found it returned to something familiar: the young and wild lined up at the bar. Is was as if I had stepped into a time machine, expecting to recognize faces in the crowd. I bought the couple at the end of the bar I was talking to a memorial snakebite but was taken aback when the barmaid asked me “what kind of snakebite?” Back in the day there was only one kind, and I only drank them when Betz was working two cocktail shakers while the bartender lined up the shot glasses.

There are two reliable stops on my Carnival itinerary. To sit on the stoop of the building where my great aunts once lived in the 800 block of royal, the spot from which I watched Carnival pass as a small child, calling up my earliest memories of watching Rex from my father’s shoulders back in the day when a moss man was instantly recognized. The other stop will be the Abbey. My days of snakebites are behind me but if I can get a PBR and a shot for $5 I’ll take it. Fortified by whatever cheap whiskey they might be pouring I will wade into the still dysfunctional bathroom and be a bit disappointed if I don’t leave with my shoes wet.

I will then take my anointed dancing feet down toward the drum circle of Frenchman having touched the holy relics of Carnivals past.

Odd Words February 28, 2014

Posted by Mark Folse in books, literature, New Orleans, Odd Words, Poetry, Toulouse Street.
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This coming quiet Carnival week in literary New Orleans:

& For the complete list of New Orleans libraries due to carnival, visit the New Orleans Public Library calendar page. In Jefferson Parish the Rosedale Branch will be closed for construction on Saturday. All Jefferson Parish Public Libraries will be closed on Tuesday.

& Saturday at 11:30 it’s Story Time with Miss Maureen at Maple Street Book Shop. This week she’ll read Gaston Goes to Mardi Gras. King Cake will be served

& Every Sunday at 3 p.m. The Maple Leaf Reading Series, the oldest continuous reading series in the south, founded by Everette Maddox, features guest poets and an open mic. This Sunday is a Mardi Gras Open Mic.

& Sunday is Slam and Spoken Word Day in New Orleans. WhoDatPoets.com lists five Spoken Word shows on Sunday nights. For phone numbers with more details on all these readings visit WHODATPOETS.COM. (I stopped listing all of the events because one venue’s name forced me to limit this post for readers over 21. Check WHODATEPOETS.COM for all the latest on slam and spoken word in New Orleans.

& Speak Sunday is hosted every Sunday at 7 pm by Duece the Poet at Therapy, 3001 Tulane Avenue, also featuring live painting of the performers by C.C. Givens.

& Monday at 5:30 pm the Smith Branch Library at Canal Boulevard and Harrison Avenue hosts a creative writing workshop.

& Susan Larson, the former book editor of the former Times-Picayune newspaper and member of the National Book Critics Circle hosts The Reading Life on WWNO (89.9 FM) on Tuesdays at 1:30 p.m. She features interviews with authors of local and national interest. Watch Odd Words on Facebook and Google+ on Tuesdays for a complete list of her guests and features.

& Tuesday at 6 p.m. Garden District Books will host author George Fowler III’s My Cuba Libre: Bringing Fidel Castro to Justice. The book is the very personal story of his lifelong battle to remove the dictator from power and bring democracy to his homeland. Fowler exposes the monstrous actions of the Communist Party of Cuba and makes a firm case for indicting Castro for crimes against humanity. Fowler also provides a first-hand account of events like the Elián González case, the Brothers to the Rescue shoot down, and Cuban embargo negotiations.

& Every Tuesday night get on the list to spit at the longest running spoken word venue in New Orleans at Sweet Lorraine’s Jazz Club hosted by African-American Shakespear. Doors open at 7pm and the Mic pops at 8pm. It is $5 to get in.

& Every Wednesday at 8 pm at the Neutral Ground Coffeehouse there is an hour-long open mic poetry night (or fiction night; whatever you want to read really!)

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Thirty Nine: Always for Pleasure February 26, 2014

Posted by Mark Folse in 365, New Orleans, The Narrative, The Typist, Toulouse Street.
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OK, cheating although I just pumped out 800 words at the Holy Ground trying to come down from today’s coffee and class buzz. This is getting so many hits this week I thought I’d dust it off and shared in again.

It’s sometime toward four in the morning as we amble in loose groups down Newton Street toward our cars and away from the Mystic Order of Mysfits Ball. There’s no real point in wearing a watch to MoMs unless its necessary to your costume, in which case you should find a broken one to wear. The point is to step briefly outside of time and the world and into the by turns quixotic and erotic bestiary of the MoMs, a moment at the peak of Carnival reserved for those who truly understand the masque, who step into their costumes so completely that they are–for a few hours–transformed, surrender themselves completely to pleasant ecstasy the way the devout surrender themselves to be mounted by the loa.

At MoMs are lieutenants whose job is to inspect people’s costumers. The tickets read Full Costume Required, and those who don’t comply are placed in Costume Jail for a while and given the alternative of surrendering their pants. We slip past the inspection line through a break in the police railings just to save time, confident we pass muster. The lieutenant who frisks everyone who enters, with particular attention to womens’ breasts and everyone’s crotch, sticks his hand down the back of my pants and announces loudly that’s he’s found crack. He peers into our eyes and says, well, the only problem is your pupils are not sufficiently dilated. We’ll get to work on that, we tell him. This is definitely not the Family Gras a nearby suburb hosts the same weekend. This is as far from the Chamber of Commerce vision of child-friendly daytime parades and the frat adventure travelogue of big ass beers and show your tits as the Coliseum was from the rites of the mystery cults. It is the ancient Dionysian spirit of surrender to animal pleasure resurrected for the modern world.

This particular party has gone on for over 30 years, a core of a few hundred people from the Gentilly who started out at a Disabled American Veterans hall in Arabi and which has grown into a coveted ticket, a massive party of a few thousand old friends and total strangers in costumes that tend toward the lewd and the illuminated. The same band–the Radiators–has performed for over 30 years but is breaking up this year. I haven’t been to MoMs in seven years, finding the all night revelry with no where to sit and an irresistible urge to stroll and costume-watch and dance until almost dawn a bit much, but I remember the early MoMs balls, spent Wednesday nights in college at the Luigi’s pizza restaurant where the band the Rhapsodizers transformed into the Radiators, and I can’t imagine missing what I feel like may be the last genuine MoMs.

It’s done now and you think you are, too, a pleasant exhaustion in which the muscles are not tensed by hours of dancing but deeply roll-back-on-your-pillow-and-light-a-cigarette-with-a-sigh relaxed. You are aware at some level that it’s cold and damp and your costume is bare-chested but you are flush with warmth. You should be watching the broken and puddled industrial street but your eyes wander off to the constellation of sodium lights in the sky that mark the twin river bridges, a reminder that it’s time to go home.

“Can you give us a ride across the river?” Marie Antoinette asks. Two women in period dresses, one in a full out Louis Quatorze wig and matching makeup, are walking along beside us. “We’re going to Mid-City.” Well, so are we and the chances of their getting a cab in Algiers this time of morning are slim, although an empty United Cab glides by as we walk, ignoring their hand signals.

I look at my friend for a moment. “Sure, come on.” As if rewarded for our generosity, as we reach Lamarque Street and the car we find an abandoned cooler. I open it,and find it is full of well-iced citrus-flavored soda water. A mystic and perfect piece of luck. Our little group and the people around us all fish out a can, and we drag the cooler out of the street so we can leave. As the two women climb into the car I start rearrange things out of the back seat to make room for them. One hands me a stack of books and asks what it is. I give them my best calling-on-a-bookstore spiel about a Howling in the Wires, and one immediately announces she wants to buy a copy. Things are off to a fine start.

Our passengers are bubbling with excitement after their first MoM’s Ball and can’t stop talking about it. We ask where they are from. They’re in from L.A. for their first Mardi Gras and I pepper them with questions, putting on my best cab-driver-out-for-a-tip manners including some blow-by-blow travelogue. We pull up to a stop sign and I tell them we can take a right into Gretna, where the local police could match the L.A.P.D. club swing for club swing on a D.W.B. stop, or a left if they wanted to pick up some crack.” They break up laughing over the crack remark. “This is the over the river and through the hood shortcut.” I can’t help it. If someone is on their first trip to New Orleans I immediately act as if they were guests of friends who just stepped into my house. And there’s something in me of the voluble cabbie once I have a couple of smitten visitors on the hook.

We all fumble in our costumes for a dollar for the bridge toll, and as we drive up the span with the city laid out before us they start to debate if they want to be dropped off downtown to find a cab to Mimi’s, a popular local bar in the Bywater. I know the place well, I tell them. We launched the book upstairs. They turn out to be friends of the owners, and to know the tapas chef well. Marie Antoinette tells us how her friend (Lisa G is all I remember of a name) once spent a night in a sleeping bag with the chef after a wedding they all attended.. “But he’s married now,” she adds. I never get the other woman’s name straight and she remains Marie Antoinette in my head for the rest of the night. Marie has been in town before, and was supposed to interview local blues player and character Coco Robicheuax for her thesis, but I never manage to get out of her what her thesis was about. (He’s the fellow who decapitates a chicken in the radio studio in Treme). I ask them if they’ve been watching Treme and Marie has. Her “sissy” works from the Treme team, doing makeup.

We are a set of four old friends by now in the way that only strangers who share a table in New Orleans ever seem to be. If they want to be dropped at Mimi’s, I think: no problem. Glad to show the visitors a good time. I look at my companion. “You want a drink?” “Sure.” We pull off the expressway at O’Keefe and head downtown. As we near Canal Street, the corners are crowded with people trying to hail full cabs. They would have been lucky to make it home much less Mimi’s if we’d dropped them in the middle of downtown, and Mimi’s is a fair walk from Canal. We make our way around the edge of the Quarter, comparing cities we have known to New Orleans. “I can imagine what would happen if you started asking strangers for a ride in L.A.” and they agree whoever was stranded would be there until it was a safe hour to call a friend for a ride.

We roll down Rampart, Marie pointing out Armstrong Park (“it used to be called Congo Square, she explains”) to Lisa G, proudly showing off her New Orleans knowledge to her first-time visitor friend. When we park on Franklin, Lisa G. holds out a twenty and says she wants a book. “Keep the change,” she says and I wrestle with layers of elastic to find the short pants pockets under my costume. “Fair enough.” Its getting on toward morning but Mimi’s is still full. The woman find a table empty except for a glassy-eyed drunk sitting bolt upright against with wall with a thousand yard stare. They ignore him and circle up at the rest of the chairs and we join them. I excavate the twenty and get a couple of drinks from Neptune the bartender, forgetting that Marie and Lisa G. had promised to buy. I barely sip my whiskey, wondering why I bought it but gulp down the water back. Our table is suddenly crowded with strangers and a few people Marie seems to know. “Y’all just come from MoMs Ball?” people ask, looking at our costumes. A complete stranger comes up and hugs a couple of us. We look at each other trying to figure out who knows him, but he seems to read that. “I don’t know y’all, but I could tell you just came from MoMs. Wasn’t it great?”

Lisa G. keeps telling us how much she loves this place, wants to move here. Lisa G. has lived a lot of places and traveled. Chicago. San Francisco. New York. She’s not crazy about L.A. San Francisco feels comfortable to people from New Orleans, I explain, and tell her the old saw that it’s one of the few places people who leave the city don’t eventually return from. San Francisco is just as bad, says says. People there don’t make eye contact with each other. “Yeah, it has this vibe” Lisa G. says, but it’s not New Orleans.” Yeah, it’s not, we all agree. She has the bug bad, the “NOLA gene” that gets switched on when certain people first visit, my friend says.

“There’s just no other city like this in the world,” Lisa G. says in that wistful way locals know means: she’ll be back.

People in costume continue to pour into the bar, ready to continue their party until dawn. We all admire each others attire and nod appreciatively. More strangers stop to talk about MoMs, and our little foursome grows into a boisterous, impromptu party of extravagantly dressed people who were all strangers 30 minutes ago but who recognized initiation in the mystery cult of MoMs the way Masons once noticed each others watch fob. Here in New Orleans it might have taken a little longer to assemble an impromptu party without that cue, but it likely would have happened anyway. It always does.

No, we all agree, there really isn’t any other city like this in the world.

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