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Getting It Straight October 29, 2012

Posted by The Typist in books, literature, New Orleans, Odd Words, publishing, Toulouse Street.
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Let me get this right out front: this piece has not been fact checked. Hell, on a good day I manage to swat all the homonyms that jump up on this screen like roaches on toast. And at the end of the day Toulouse Street is more about fidelity than facts. Not an unusual state of affairs according to James Pogue, who says the problem with the famously aggressive fact checking of magazines like The New Yorker is it collides with “the emerging new essay…trying to do something that is obviously art” in which writers change facts.

Fortunately, I spent the morning with a panel of the checkers and the checked–local magazine veterans Pogue, Nathaniel Rich, and Chris Rose–who have been on both sides of the fact check desk at publications including The Paris Review, GQ, The New Yorker and The Oxford American. All appear in the current issue of Ox Am, including Pogue’s piece “Diary of a Mad Fact-Checker”. Rich was fiction editor of The Paris Review and worked as fact checker at The New Yorker where even the poetry and fiction is fact checked “which really surprised some of the poets.” His piece in the current Ox Am is about bird watching and we have absolutely no idea if a Connecticut warbler is exactly the size Rich represented with his hand. However, since you can’t see this on the podcast we have decided to let it pass in honor of the greater truth. In the middle was Chris Rose, who hold the Brittany Spears beat at the Times Picayune among other duties, who put his case plainly: I just write it the way I’m pretty sure it happened.”

The problem with the approach Pogue describes, citing Dr. Hunter S. Thompson as the textbook illustration, is that for most writers “just making stuff up . . . completely destroys your credibility” and ends up just creating a media event a la James Frey. Still, the panel title was “New South Journalism” and depending on how you parse that sentence, it might include HST’s famous description from Fear & Loathing on the Campaign Trail of how to handle an uncommitted delegate. Or bats. The panelists made clear, however, such nonsense is not going to get in the mainstream of American publishing unless dressed as the deli delivery guy. It may, however, come to prevail in the online world. Rose noted that reporters filed copy directly onto NOLA.COM at the same time it was sent to the without passing through the copy desk. There were some howlers among the examples but Chris Rose’s probably deserves its 15 minutes in print somewhere. Trying to describe the important of Cosimo Matasa’s recording studio to this history of rock-and-roll, he wrote for the upcoming Ox Am music edition that Matasa was making rock-and-roll “before Dick Clark and Ed Sullivan ever laced up their blue suede shoes.” Until the fact checker called him to ask if either of these gentlemen were noted for wearing blue suede shows. I think you can see where this is going (and it not skip to 54:40 on the podcast), but you won’t read that stylistic bit in the upcoming Ox Am.

[The topic seemed to have leaked out of the room into a poetry interview/reading hours later, when Louisiana Poet Laureate Julie Kane shared an anecdote about the poet she knows who was published in The New Yorker and was told that the constellation he mentioned could not possibly have been in the sky at the time of day and year the poem was describing. “He was surprised they didn’t call his lady friend to make sure she absolutely was in the sleeping bag next to him that night,” she said.]

The panelists spent two-thirds of their alloted an awful lot of time on fact checking, but Rich’s tales about bird watchers at Grand Isle means I’m going to have to go back and unskip his article when I get a minute. (Nothing personal, Nathaniel, I just don’t have time to read a magazine one and through, and the leisure time for second passes through my magazine stack is measured in feet on one side of my couch), and on the transition away from pulp-and-polish to digital media Rose, who’s piece on the Ox Am was about the gradual demise of the city’s newspaper the Times-Picayune summed it up best “I make something you can hold in your hand at the end of the day–a story, a book, a newspaper–and after I’ve worked my ass off and bled, where is it?”

This is all good fun, whether the panelists are trying to on-up each other with the best example of overzealous fact-checking or when Rich tell us about his week in trip to Grand Isle to find birdwatchers in their natural environment, but there is a long, thoughtful discussion of the evolution away from print toward digital about midway through the podcast and I don’t have time to transcribe and which you really ought to listen to. Jump to 31:06 and listen through 40:22 if you are as pressed as time for I am. Bob Mann poses the question, Pogue answers first and Rich second, and Rose gives the coup de grace.

Podcast: New South Journalism – Louisiana Book Festival 2012

South of 90 October 28, 2012

Posted by The Typist in books, New Orleans, Odd Words, Poetry, Toulouse Street, We Are Not OK.
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Martha Serpas holds enough degrees in creative writing to sketch the outline of a novel on and a Master of Divinity from Yale. She has a preface by Harold Bloom in her first book of poems. She explains the title of a new poem “The Diener,” a word with a German root meaning servant and applied to the person who runs the hospital morgue. The title stumped Bloom, the sort of accomplishment you want in your obituary, like the drummer acquaintance I had in DC who visited New Orleans with The Nighthawks for several months in the 1980s and was introduced by Zigaboo Modaliste to his table at Dookie Chase as a “bad motherfuckin’ drummer.” If I ever find my provincial ass trapped in a Manhattan cocktail party, I want to arrive with Martha and Maud Newton. They can dump me at the door, as long as I can nod my head toward them across the room and say, I came with Martha and Maud.

She surveys the small room of poetry readers at the Louisiana Book Festival with a leonine calm, exudes a gentle accessibility and level headedness necessary to someone who volunteers as a hospital trauma chaplain. She was born in Galliano and attended LSU and the University of Houston. She spent enough time at NYU and in New Haven to attract luminaries such as Bloom but also taught at the University of Tampa and now in Houston, and prefers to describe herself as “from the Gulf Coast.” You sense that beneath the sheepskins is a girl from Galliano done good, can easily see her standing at the saw horse table peeling shrimp, a brown long neck at her elbow, someone from the only place on earth you can stand south of ninety.

Her love for her home south of Highway 90 comes bubbling out when talks about a film project A Vein in the Gulf, which resulted from the idea of her friend Elizabeth Coffman than they take a van full of film students and poets to the Louisiana coast to document the impact of wetlands loss. There is also a natural, Catholic-school modesty when she speaks of writing about Lafourche Parish, especially after what she calls “the big event” of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. “I struggled just writing about my home town,” she said of her first book of poems, Côte Blanche, the one with a preface by Bloom. “Who am I to write these poems about these folk and these places?” After the storm, she came to a realization with the help of friends. “If [I] don’t write it, if I don’t take that platform how does that help the people I love and the place I love . . . well, maybe one person will understand the culture, appreciate the culture, can be moved by the culture [then] why would I not want to reach that one person?”

It is in that conversation that she drops the bomb that leaves me flabbergasted, the acknowledgment most folks north of 90 have not yet admitted to. “We have to keep trying to save [the wetlands] even though we know it’s impossible to save it. It’s too late.” I have read the literature of coastal loss since I was a weekly newspaper editor in St. Bernard Parish in the 1980s, insist to everyone I know that they must read Mike Tidwell’s story of the slow holocaust on the coast Bayou Farewell: The Rich Life and Tragic Death of Louisiana’s Cajun Coast but few people are willing to speak that truth aloud. “It’s too late.”

At the end of the interview I ask her if she finds some confluence between her work as a trauma chaplain and writing about Lafourche, “The first image that popped into my mind is when I visit a patient that is dying, what we would call the death watch, and people look at the monitors as if that is going to tell us anything in terms of how long that process will take, and we’re all there…the family…most people want to be there. That is what flashed through my head when you say that. It’s death, and its beautiful. Even the destruction of the wetlands is beautiful because something will come out of it, some life will come out of it even though … I can’t see it. I don’t see anything life-giving come out of it even as I know intellectually that something will.”

I know at the end of the interview that Côte Blanche is the first of the stack of books I brought home I will want to read, and that I need to see A Vein in the Gulf. Interviewer Julie Kane, the poet laureate of Louisiana, concluded my question and the author’s answer with a quotation from an author whose name neither I nor my record catch, that “all poetry is elegy.” As I pack up to leave the room, I think that the hurricane coast may have found its elegist. She prefaces her answer to my question with a quote from rabbi I can’t quite make out on the recording: “You are not required to complete the work nor are you free to desist from it.” If not their elegist, the people of Lafourche and the whole coast have certainly found their chaplain.

Podcast: Martha Serpas with Julie Kane – Louisiana Book Festival 2012

See No Weevils October 26, 2012

Posted by The Typist in cryptical envelopment, New Orleans, The Narrative, The Odd, The Typist, Toulouse Street.
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It might well be an heretofore undiscovered coffee weevil, a clever adaptation capable of carefully retracting itself back into the appearance of dark roast grounds. The bottom of the can had returned to its customary repose after a protracted second glance, but he dug in his finger and stirred the fragrant grains just to be certain. He closed his eyes briefly to bask in the aroma, then checked again. Nothing moving down there. Not now, at least. When the sun glanced alarmingly off the microwave, he realized he had been standing there quite a while poised between coffee and afternoon. He decided not to make a second pot but to settle for a Bialetti of espresso, just too small cups, hardly worth counting, to help him settle down and determine how to complete the rest of today before tomorrow. His to-do list and calendar were a nightmare of gooey atmosphere and cement feet. He was falling irretrievably behind and something he would have to see to name—and he would rather not—was gaining. There could be no waking to safety without sleep.

Odd Words October 25, 2012

Posted by The Typist in books, literature, New Orleans, Odd Words, Poetry, publishing, Toulouse Street.
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This Saturday is the Louisiana Book Festival in Baton Rouge on the Capitol grounds, kicking off at 10 a.m. with the presentation of the Louisiana Writer Award for 2012 to John Bieguenet at 10 a.m. Currently the Robert Hunter Distinguished University Professor at Loyola University, he is the author of several novels and numerous plays, including a Katrina cycle Rising Water, and is best known around New Orleans for his reports on post-Federal Flood New Orleans for the New York Times.

You can read the full festival schedule here, but this is a quick rundown of events on Odd Words’ radar:

  • Louisiana Writer Award ceremony, 10 a.m., House Chamber in the Capitol
  • Oxford American panel on New South Journalism with James Pogue, Nathaniel Rich and Chris Rose, moderated by Bob Mann, 11:15 a.m. in House Committee Room 4.
  • The Big Read: Tim O’Brien’s The Things They Carried. 12:15 p.m., House Committee Three.
  • Conversations with Tim Gautreaux with panelists (not the author) including Louisiana Poet Laureate Julie Kane and Susan Larson.
  • In Conversation with Lousiana Writer Award Winner John Biguenet with Darryl Borque, 4 p.m., Senate Chamber.

There will be vendors aplenty up and down the mall, and a Barnes and Noble Tent, music in the food court and a generally delightful day for bookaholics.

We now return you to chronological order, already in progress:

& Thursday night at 17 Poets! the mad Minotaur of New Orleans poetry Thaddeus Conti launches his new book b-sides that from Lavender Ink, combining his startling poetry and drawings. Sign-up for open mic begins at 7:30 and the show at 8 pm. Open mic is hosted by the dreadlocked dreadnought of New Orleans letters, Jimmy Ross. From David Rowe’s introduction to Conti’s first book, apoetics: “Like Dionysus himself, Thaddeus is twice-born. Seems the first time, in the a.m., he managed to bring the womb along with him. So they stuffed him back in, separated him from the uterine lining, &, in the p.m., re-delivered him. All on a Halloween day in New Orleans. And since the good padre couldn’t very well name our protagonist after the dithyrambic god of tantric intoxication, he went with (Jude) Thaddeus, the flame-headed patron of desperate cases & lost causes. In lieu of/en route to being thrice-born, he aspires to leave behind–in tubs of Tupperware–ten thousand x-fine pen-&-ink line drawings. As for a price tag, well, he’d rather give you a drawing gratis, for, were he to charge what it cost him, you couldn’t begin to afford it.”

If you have not yet had the Thaddeus Conti Experience, it’s time you checked out the most dynamic and startling poet in New Orleans, sez me.

& Tonight at Octavia Books at 6 pm New Orleans’ own Pulitzer Prize winner Robert Olin Butler reads from and signs his just released very first crime novel, THE HOT COUNTRY, an epic saga full of intrigue, romance and espionage set during the early stages of World War I. “No writer in America today can be said to surpass Butler in the eating-his-cake-and-having-it-too category: He’s literary, entertaining, serious and funny.” –The Sun-Sentinel.

& Tonight at Garden District Books Arthe Anthony’s Picturing Black New Orleans: A Creole Photographer’s View of the Early Twentieth Century is featured at 5:30 pm. Florestine Perrault Collins (1895–1988) lived a fascinating and singular life. She came from a Creole family that had known privileges before the Civil War, privileges that largely disappeared in the Jim Crow South. She learned photographic techniques while passing for white. She opened her first studio in her home, and later moved her business to New Orleans’s black business district. Fiercely independent, she ignored convention by moving out of her parents’ house before marriage and, later, by divorcing her first husband. Between 1920 and 1949, Collins documented African-American life, capturing images of graduations, communions, and recitals, and allowing her subjects to help craft their images.

& Another Thursday event: Ogden Museum of Southern Art is pleased to announce the New Orleans launch of “Clementine Hunter: Her Life and Art” (LSU Press). This book is the first comprehensive biography of this self-taught artist. Authors Art Shiver and Tom Whitehead explore her life and reveal this Louisiana painter’s impact on the modern art world. Hunter, using objects available around her—such as glass snuff bottles, ironing boards, window shades—as well as canvas, producing between 5,000 to 10,000 paintings, including the African House mural, located on the grounds of Melrose Plantation, where she lived and worked. Hunter’s paintings reflected the life around her on the plantation—cotton planting and harvesting, washdays, weddings, baptisms. The book signing is free; admission to Ogden After Hours for music, cocktails and art (not necessarily in that order) is free to museum members; $10 general admission.

This is an impossibly rich Thursday. I’m going to have to catch Thaddeus but there is something on tonight for every interest so there’s no reason to stay home.

& Friday, Oct. 26 Octavia George Singleton returns to Octavia Books to read from and sign STRAY DECORUM, his new collection of stories at 6 p.m. The book features eleven of his stories, all previously published in journals like “The Atlantic,” “Oxford American,” and “The Georgia Review,” in which George Singleton brings small-town South Carolina alive. Using everyday situations like a dog needing its annual vaccination and buckets of humorous observations, Singleton pokes and prods his readers into realizing we’re all simply restless for a pat on the head “Singleton may have invented a new genre. Call it The Hoot.” —Kirkus Reviews

& Friday night at 6 p.m. the Maple Street Book Store at Bayou St. John hosts is continuing The Diane Tapes reading series, featuring notable local authors Carolyn Hembree, Brad Richard and Adam Atkinson. Atkinson is an MFA candidate at LSU, where he’s also the Co-Editor of OH NO, the Literary Director of Open Thread, and the coordinator of various festivals and reading series. Richard’s poetry collection Motion Studies won the 2010 Washington Prize from The Word Works, and will be forthcoming in 2011. He is also the author of the collection Habitations (Portals Press, New Orleans, 2000) and the limited edition chapbook The Men in the Dark (Lowlands Press, Stuttgart, Germany, 2004). Hembree’s poems have appeared in Colorado Review, DIAGRAM, Gulf Coast, Indiana Review, jubilat, and Witness, among other journals and anthologies. Kore Press published her debut collection, Skinny (paperback, $14.00), in 2012 . Her poetry has received three Pushcart Prize nominations, a PEN Writers Grant, a Southern Arts Federation Grant, and a Louisiana Division of the Arts Fellowship Award in Literature.

& Friday at 7 pm a book discussion of poet and publisher Bill Lavender’s book-length, autobiographical poem Memory Wing will meet in the back patio of Pravda Bar, 1113 Decatur St. Organizer Laura Mattingly decided to take her love of the book, expressed in talking to everyone about it and urging them to read it, to the next level. Odd Words agrees and hopes to be there, and this is certainly way more organized than me doing through a countless copies of Gravity’s Rainbow pressing it on people, or circulating my paperback copy of Mystic Pig all through the city.

& Saturday at 6 p.m. Faubourg Marigny Art & Books, the city’s premier GLBT bookshop, hosts JM Redmann and Greg Herren, editors of “Night Shadows: Queer Horror” and Mary Griggs, author of “Crash Stop” FAB is at 600 Frenchmen Street. Email owner Otis Fennell at fabotis@yahoo.com for more details. FAB also carries a good selection of local interest books, and an eclectic selection of books, records and clothes on the tables outside. If you’ve stumbled past it a hundred times at the corner of Bourbon and Frenchman without stopping in thinking “gay book store, meh” you have been missing out on one of the Marigny’s signature experiences.

& Crescent City Books concludes its 20th Anniversary reading/reception series this Saturday at 2 p.m.with David Lummis, author of the newly published follow-up, “The Coffee Shop Chronicles of New Orleans, Part 2: The Last Beaucoeur.”

& Sunday, Oct. 28 at 1 pm you have a second chance to catch historian Arthé A. Anthony’s PICTURING BLACK NEW ORLEANS: A Creole Photographer’s View of the Early Twentieth Century at Octavia Books. I really ought to invest in a coffee table, but then I couldn’t afford glorious New Orleans picture books.

& Sunday Oct. 29 All you pale midnight rambler’s and fans of True Blood will have to venture into the sun for Marcelle Bienvenu’s True Blood: Eats, Drinks, and Bites from Bon Temp at Garden District Books at 2 p.m. True Blood, HBO’s blockbuster paranormal drama, enthralls a diverse audience of 13 million viewers (and counting). Menus at the now-famous Fangtasia and Merlotte’s Bar and Grill play a key role in the series, providing sustenance for its human characters, evoking memories of a bygone life for its vampires, and serving as a powerful symbol for the desires and carnal needs the characters harbor. Plenty of underground parking in the building for the sunlight averse.

& Monday afternoon at 4 p.m. Karen Marie Moning returns to New Orleans for a spectacular pre-Halloween book launch party for ICED at Le Pavillon Hotel. The signing, hosted by Octavia Books will continue into the evening. To attend the signing, you must purchase ICED though Octavia Books. The first book in her hotly anticipated new urban fantasy trilogy, set in the world of her blockbuster Fever series, ICED is the addictive first book in this new trilogy, catapults us into the frenetic world of the Fever series, picking up immediately where Moning’s Shadowfever—an instant #1 New York Times, #1 Publishers Weekly, #2 USA Today, and #1 Wall Street Journal bestseller—ended. At its center is Dani O’Malley, the powerful, tough-talking teen sidhe seer who has stolen readers’ hearts.

& Also on Monday at Maple Street Book Shop at 6 pm Beau Boudreaux will be reading from, and signing, his collection of poetry, Running Red, Running Redder. Joining Boudreaux is Theodore Ross, author of Am I a Jew?: Lost Tribes, Lapsed Jews, and One Man’s Search for Himself. Am I a Jew? is a story about the universal struggle to define a relationship with religion. Ross was nine years old when he moved with his mother from New York City to the Mississippi Gulf Coast. Once there, his mother decided, for both personal and spiritual reasons, to have her family pretend not to be Jewish. He went to an Episcopal school, where he studied the New Testament, sang in the choir, and even took Communion. Later, as an adult, he wondered: Am I still Jewish? Seeking an answer, Ross traveled around the country and to Israel, visiting a wide variety of Jewish communities in an effort to experience the diversity of Judaism. Maple Street’s web site calls Boudreaux’s slyly humorous poems exquisitely lyrical, and quietly elegant.

& Tuesday, Oct. 30 at 6 p.m New Orleans foodie Poppy Tooker comes to Octavia Books for a talk and booksigning for the lauch of Mme. Bégué’s Recipes of Old New Orleans Creole Cookery originally published in 1900 from the handwritten notes of Mme. Bégué herself. Elizabeth Kettenring came to New Orleans from Germany in 1853. She married Louis Dutreuil and opened a restaurant in the French Quarter in 1863. After Dutreuil’s death, she married Hippolyte Begue and changed the restaurant’s name from Dutrey’s to Begue’s.

& Also on Tuesday at 6 p.m. on the north side of the Big Lake in City Park, join Megan Burns n claiming the space for poetry with an inaugural reading with poets Nik De Dominic, Tracey McTague and Ben Kopel. Seating provided in the outdoor mini-theater. Feel free to bring food & drink. Costuming encouraged. De Dominic is a poet and essayist. Recent work appears in Guernica, Michigan Quarterly Review, DIAGRAM, and elsewhere. He is a poetry editor of New Orleans Review and a founding editor of The Offending Adam. He teaches creative writing and literature inside Orleans Parish Prison. McTague has officially gone AWOL, & may never be heard from again. In her former life, she organized the Battle Hill Poetry Marathon, the New Zinc Bar Reading Series, and served as both editor & consigliore for Lungfull! Magazine from 2001 to the present. Her forthcoming book, Super Natural, from Trembling Pillow Press, is due out this winter. Kopel was born in Baton Rouge, Louisiana in 1983. He holds degrees from Louisiana State University, The Iowa Writers’ Workshop, and The University of Massachusetts Amherst MFA Program for Poets and Writers. His latest book is Victory from H_NGM_N press

Wednesday, Oct. 31 (Boo!) the Algiers Regional Branch of the New Orleans Public library hosts Poetry Night at 5:30 pm.
If you love to write and/or read poetry now is your time to shine! This program will allow adults to perform original or borrowed poetry, lyrics, monologues, speeches, etc.

&Looking ahead to November: the annual Ladyfest music, art and literature event will feature two dates for the literary performance series of LadyFest New Orleans- Wednesday, Nov. 7 from 7-10 pm at 1501 St. Roch Ave, and Friday, Nov. 9th from 8-11 pm at Buffa’s Lounge. Each event will be free of charge and feature musical accompaniment.

& It’s your last chance to catch an exhibition featuring first editions of books by Lafcadio Hearn, whose writings promoted the mystique of New Orleans to the nation, as well as prized works from his art collection will be on view Oct. 18-28 in Tulane University’s Special Collections Gallery, located in Jones Hall, Room 205. The exhibit is free and open to the public, 10 am-6 pm Monday-Saturday and noon – 6 pm Sunday. “The Open Mind of Lafcadio Hearn in New Orleans” will celebrate Hearn’s tolerance and cooperative mindset with art from Greece, Japan and the Hearn Collection at Tulane. The exhibition, which is financed and co-organized by Matsue City, Japan with support from Tulane’s Asian Studies Program and Tulane’s Louisiana Research Collection, will also include “La Cuisine Creole, A Collection of Culinary Recipes” and numerous other Hearn works, as well as pieces by artists such as Ynez Johnston and Masaaki Noda. I’m somewhat sorry I missed the opening lecture by Bon Koisume, Hearn’s great-grandson and advisor to the Matsue,Japan Lafcadio Hearn museum but if I had not, I would have missed the magic of the moment of meeting him in the Yakumo Japanese Garden.

Organizers Jena Mae and Laura Mattingly are currently scheduling female poets and performers for both nights, and we want you to participate! Please email Laura Mattingly at lmattinglynola@live.com, or Jenna Mae at grokthegrass@yahoo.com, if you are interested in participating in either event. Please specify in the email which date works better for you! A note for the Wednesday reading: The St. Roch Ave. location is a private, but spacious residence. It will be a poetry salon and art exposition. We are also looking for female visual artists interested in displaying their works at this event. Please contact Jenna Mae for more details.

Odd Words Omissions October 24, 2012

Posted by The Typist in books, Fortin Street, literature, New Orleans, Odd Words, Poetry, publishing, Toulouse Street.
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A couple of items I missed (it happens) for tonight:

& The Faulkner Society and partners will present a program on the importance of reading to students of the Roots of Music program today at 5 p. m. in the Arsenal, 3rd floor, reached through the main entrance of the Cabildo. Some 150 students and staff will hear the Guardians of the Flame Mardi Gras Indian Tribe perform and discuss the importance of reading to success and personal satisfaction in life. They will be focusing on A Lesson Before Dying by Louisiana Literary Master Ernest Gaines. The program will begin with a presentation by Tulane’s Dr. Nghana Lewis, an expert in the work of Mr. Gaines,who will explain to these middle and junior high students (all of whom are having difficulties with reading and with their studies in general) how to properly read the book to get the most out of it. Then, the Faulkner Society will present each child with a fre copy of the book, a book mark, and a readers’ guide to the book. Each book will have a book plate with a place for each child to personalize his/her book. Then the Indians will enter, enact a scene from the book, talk about reading and play with the students in place.
They will then lead the kids out into Jackson Square for a concert with the kids in front of the Presbytere, preceding refreshments and and program for adults on the second floor of the Presbytere.

& The NOCCA Creative Writing Program is pleased to present the Fall installment of its Creative Reading Series for 2012 – 2013 with authors Jamey Hatley and Brad Richard Wednesday oCT. 24 AT 7 p.m. in the Kirschman Artspace at NOCCA. 2800 Chartres Street. Reception to follow. Free and open to the public.

Jamey Hatley is a native of Memphis, TN. Her writing has appeared in the Oxford American and Torch. She has attended the Callaloo Creative Writing Workshop, the Voices of Our Nation Writing Workshop and received scholarships to the Oxford American Summit for Ambitious Writers and the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference. In 2006 she won the William Faulkner-William Wisdom Award for a Novel-in-Progress. She has an MFA in Creative Writing from Louisiana State University.

Brad Richard’s books include Habitations (Portals Press, 2000); Motion Studies winner of the 2010 Washington Prize (The Word Works. 2011); and Butcher’s Sugar (from Sibling Rivalry Press (2012). He has also published two chapbooks, The Men in the Dark (Lowlands Press, 2004) and Curtain Optional(Press Street, 2011). His poems and reviews have appeared in American Letters & Commentary, Guernica, The Iowa Review, Mississippi Review, New Orleans Review, and other journals. He is chair of the creative writing program at Lusher Charter High School in New Orleans. He is also co-director of the New Orleans New Writers Literary Festival, a festival for high school writers, and the Scholastic Writing Awards of Southeast Louisiana, a regional affiliate of the Alliance for Young Artists & Writers.

Jumping the Groove October 22, 2012

Posted by The Typist in cryptical envelopment, Fortin Street, Jazz, New Orleans, Shield of Beauty, Toulouse Street.
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like a skittering stylus, a warp in the musical continuum when even the moderately sophisticated listener who is not a player loses connection to the time, the drummer Ali Jackson’s soft foot on the bass drum and his mad, scattering drum licks like the branches of lightning in a duo with Victor Goines’ tenor, playing inside the time that lifts the listener outside of the time, outside of Time entirely, into a void bright as stage light with only two voices, reed and drum, murmurs of appreciation and cocktail clink muted to zero, everything not born of breath and stick muted to zero, the players trading off one to the other, trafficking in time on a wavelength undefined by sine and cosine, mind to mind, instrument to instrument. When great players recalibrate time your body, unnoticed, still dies cell by cell but your mind is briefly illumined by the infinite, your life not longer but broader, your personal event horizon expanding in a perfect sphere to encompass everything which, in that moment, is not, the Big Bang and Gabriel’s horn reconciled.

Yakumo Fee Nah Ney October 21, 2012

Posted by The Typist in City Park, cryptical envelopment, Mardi Gras Indians, music, New Orleans, NOLA, The Narrative, The Odd, The Typist, Toulouse Street.
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We go in the Wisteria Gate because the crowd is so large and the Japanese Garden in New Orleans is so small. We end up at the back of the crowd as the tour guide makes his spiel, and as everyone finally moves into the garden my friend pulls me back toward the plaque in front so she can read it.

She thinks the name Yakumo Japanese Garden is funny. I’m trying to explain to a gentleman with foreign-accented English why the name Yakumo Nihon Teien (Yakumo Japanese Garden) is funny to a New Orleanian. There’s no quick way to explain Jocomo fee nah nay except to say it’s a Mardi Gras Indian chant rooted in Creole and leave it at that. While we are talking a Japanese gentleman comes up and begins to earnestly read the plaque at the entrance. “And Yakamein,” my friend reminds me, “don’t forget to tell him about yakamein.” The Japanese man bends neatly at the waist to read to the bottom with the practiced habit of bowing rather than hunching over as I did. He comes up from reading the bottom of the plaque and stands admiring it. A woman behind me says something in Japanese, and the man turns to pose beside the plaque. “That’s Yakumo’s great-grandson,” she says in English over her camera, and I frantically dig for the phone. He is Bon Koizumi, a professor at the University of Shimane, Junior College and Adviser to the Lafacadio Hearn Memorial Museum in Matsue, I learn when I exchange my embarrassingly cheap and a bit tattered business card for his elegant one, trying to bow just a bit deeper as much for the embarrassing card as the honor. without getting into a contest that leads me to tip over, feinting like a lineman trying to draw an offsides so that I bow just a bit lower and come up last without provoking a second bow. It is not just an exchange of cards. It is a special moment, Yakumo’s great-grandson in the garden named for him on the day of Japan Fest.

Bon Koizumi, great-grandson of Yokumo Koizumi (Lafcadio Hearn), in the Yakumo Japanese Garden in New Orleans.

This is an above average Japan Fest for me. After an early set by Kaminari Taiko I manage to watch the entire tea ceremony. In the past it was done in a small room and the doors were closed once it began, but this year it has been moved to the atrium. Once I’m done snapping pictures, I try to sit on my heels with my feet folded under and realize if I want to be invited to participate, I’m going to need a year of stretching and practice before I could sit in that position for 30 minutes. I catch most of the Kendo demonstration, and decide to take their offer to go up on stage and give one of them a few good whacks on the helmet. I take a card. (Another thing to do? Really?). I find the Haiku Society and enter the one I wrote the night before. I don’t know the man behind the table but he recognizes my name as last year’s winner, and we make arrangements to get my book prize. Always nice to make an impression. I once again stump the women who will write your name in calligraphy on a book mark with my annual request for Dancing Bear in traditional characters. The younger woman who draws mine resorts to voice searching some site on her iPhone but manages to make me another temple bell pendant for this year. I wander through the Go room and pick up a pen made from recycled paper at the City of Matasue table. Matasue is a sister city to New Orleans, based in part on Hearn’s residence in their city and our’s. I grabbed some lunch from Ninja sushi, and manage to chop-stick up the last few grains of rice from my plate one by one.

I’m having a fantastic time, and I haven’t met Bon Koizumi yet.

My particular friend and my son text me within minutes of each other. Both have decided to come. Awkward, the little sing-song voice in my head telsl me but it turns out fine. Later they sat and chatted naturally as I went to buy us waters, another fortuitous moment in the day. I buy them wristbands and my son is off to the anime room upstairs but I notice the ikebana table is already torn down. It is four o’clock and I forgot that the times had been shifted to work around the 5k race this morning. It is all over except for the final taiko set. She and I wander back into the hall full of vending tables and I go back to see if the porcelain plate, a fluted rectangle with a high-gloss tropical ocean blue finish in one triangular patch, and the other rough clay with fine striations like the rakings of a karesansui garden. Miraculously it is still there. I’m dead broke and trying not to buy anything but I desperately want one of the miniature net floats, the glass balls bound in a net of rope that I have seen before in Quarter shops long ago. I had a long conversation with the couple behind the table when I first stopped there earlier in the day about the full-sized float, telling them they used to wash up on Grand Isle and such places. They didn’t know they were found in the Gulf. We discuss the wide-ranging Japanese fishing fleet and ocean currents while I occasionally pick up and admire the plate, then wander off empty-handed.

When I come back, they remember me. We’re about to close up, he says, I’ll make you a deal on anything on the table. I pick up the plate. Ten dollars, he says. I smile and reach for the last miniature float and my wallet. As we turn to go I notice something I did not see before, or which was not on the table. It’s a clearly used walking stick inscribed with three Kanji characters. I love walking sticks and can’t resist picking it up, holding it in two open hands and staring after hefting it. The characters mean I have walked the three mountains, he tells me, explaining that pilgrims who visit the Three Mountains and climb to the Shinto temple at the summit of each have their walking sticks stamped with these characters. I think I manage a wow while nodding in appreciation and stand holding the stick out before me at forearms length in my open palms like a an altar boy holding the cloth for the priest at the consecration.

I will never know why, perhaps something about the way and length of time I hold the stick that way, my head moving slightly to take it in from handle to foot, stopping each time to rest on the three characters. Take it, he says.

What? I answer. Take it, he says. It’s yours.

I hardly know what to say. The couple are American enthusiasts. This is not the stereotypical story of admiring an Asian man’s watch too long or too enthusiastically.

Seriously? I ask again, impolitely I realize. I’m just dumbstruck by his offer.

Absolutely, he says with no further explanation,smiling, arms folded to end the discussion.

I don’t know what else to do but return the stick to is customary stance resting on the ground, and shake his hand and thank him.

Earlier I spoke with the architect who designed the Japanese garden, offering my admiration and hearing about his two summers studying in Japan. I offer to volunteer, to pick litter from the dry stream bed that wanders through the garden, the nod of karesansui in the small space, anxious to learn some of the secrets. I feel an invisible poke in the ribs through the corner of the eye from my friend. (Another thing to do? Really? When do you plan to sleep?). I tell him of the gardens I have seen in the U.S., and my dream of a pilgrimage to Japan to visit the gardens. We exchange cards; no bowing this time.

I have always spoken of my hope to visit the Prefecture of Kyoto in Japan and see the gardens as a pilgrimage. Now I stand in my house holding a pilgrim’s stick with its unearned, at least by me, inscription. Yamagata Prefecture is not near to Kyoto. Perhaps I will never climb the Three Mountains of Dewa if I go to Japan, but holding this object I think about the relationship between this gift and geis, the ancient Celtic curse of obligation. I know visiting the gardens of Kyoto is not just a bucket list dream of a man working paycheck to paycheck with no prospect of retirement beyond Social Security. It has always been more than just that but as I place the stick against the wall next to the front room bookshelves I know that I will go, that I must go. There was a reason for the gift neither I nor the gentleman who gave it to me understood at the time, an unspoken communication between the stones of the Shinto temples of Mount Haguro, Mount Gassan and Mount Yudono and those of the gardens of Kyoto and the American gardens I have seen, the stones I have seen today, a reminder of a dreamy, romanticized desire straight from the pages of Yakumo Koizumi become now an obligation of pilgrimage, no longer a possible indulgence of a man with time and money to spare but an ordained act of grace.

Postscript: Most readers will glance past the title and think it just a clever turn of phrase from a former headline writer, but there is something a bit deeper. The chants written down by Sugar Boy Crawford half a century ago and which became the song “Iko Iko” are phonetic appropriations from Creole, warped either by time or Sugar Boy’s phonetic transcription. Jocomo fi nou wa na né is one researchers assertion, meaning Jocomo caused our king to be born. Jocomo fi na né is approximately “Jocomo made it so”, and I think Yokamo did.

Odd Words October 18, 2012

Posted by The Typist in books, literature, New Orleans, NOLA, Odd Words, Poetry, publishing, Toulouse Street.

New Orleans has more independent new-and-used bookstores per capital than any other major city except Manhattan in New York, which is a dead tie, according to Micheal Zell of Crescent City Books. More on all this later when I get through my notes on yesterday’s forum on New Orleans Literary Life at the University of New Orleans’ English Department’s 3rd Wednesday speaker series.

Against the Day Update/Kindle Update: Page 1085/100%. I sort of missing doing this the last few weeks, but I finished the book 10 days ago and hated the Kindle experience so much that I immediately downloaded Tom DeLillo’s the Angel Esmerelda and Matt Johnson’s Pym: A Novel on a recommendation by Maud Newton [sigh]. I am currently reading Louis’ Maistro’s New Orleans Stories: New Orleans Stories which is I should mention free. Why wouldn’t you want to go out and download that? My offer still stands to purchase my copy of Against The Day to fill that gaping hole in my Pynchon shelf from the first Indie book store owner to offer up a blurb for Odd Words.

& so to the listings…

& Tonight, Oct. 17 at 8 p.m. 17 Poets! hosts novelist LOUIS MAISTROS and poet JOSEPH MAKKOS followed by OPEN MIC hosted by Jimmy Ross. Maistros is a longtime resident of the New Orleans 8th Ward neighborhood, is the author of The Sound of Building Coffins and Anti-requiem: New Orleans Stories. His work has appeared in publications such as the New Orleans Times-Picayune, Relix Magazine, the Baltimore City Paper, Entrepot, and many others. He is also an accomplished art photographer, and has been called “a wizard with light, shadows, and colors” by Louisiana Poet Laureate Julie Kane. Makkos is also a resident of New Orleans, serves as a full-time faculty member in the English department at Delgado Community College. He also operates an independent letterpress studio & publishing house, where he serves as editor-in-chief. He received his M.F.A. in Creative Writing from the University of New Orleans.

& Cynthia LeJeune Nobles will present and sign her fascinating historical book The Delta Queen Cookbook, a combination history and cookbook on the world’s last authentic overnight wooden steamboat and the food that was served on boardtTonight at 6 p.m. at Octavia Books The Delta Queen Cookbook brings the Delta Queen’s story to life with an engaging historical narrative and over 125 recipes prepared by the steamboat’s former chefs during their tenures in the “cookhouse.”

& Imagine growing up in New Orleans and developing a food allergy. (Try finding a place to eat dinner with someone with a violent allergy to anything that swims. This is hard.) Imagine growing up with a father known for his rich, Creole-style cooking, who instilled a love and appreciation of food from the very start. Now imagine not being able to eat most of his dishes anymore. That’s what happened to Jilly and Jessie Lagasse when they were diagnosed with gluten allergies in 2001 and 2004, respectively. So they learned to adjust, changing the ways they cooked, ate, and used ingredients. THE GLUTEN-FREE TABLE provides a well-balanced base of recipes that can add flavor and enjoyment to the menus of even the most demanding gluten-free eaters. Tonight, Oct. 17 at 5:30 p.m. at Garden District Book Shop.

& Tonight at Tulane City of Matsue, the official friendship city of New Orleans will host a Special Lecture on Open Mind of Lafcadio Hearn, Book and Art Exhibition at the Freeman Auditorium at 6 p.m. Professor Bon Koizumi (Hearn’s great-grandson) will give a special lecture on Open Mind of Lafcadio Hearn. Patrick Lafcadio Hearn (Koizui Yakumo) lived in New Orleans for ten years from 1877 to 1887 working as a journalist. For Hearn who was accustomed to buying one way tickets and travelling the world, this was one of his most lengthy stops. ‘The Open Mind of Lafcadio Hearn in New Orleans’ will display approximately 24 pieces from the 2010 exhibition in Matsue Castle; 2 pieces from the American College of Greece; 3 of his favorite items from the Matsue Hearn Memorial Museum; 26 of first editions of the books mainly from his time in New Orleans (Rare Book Collection, Special Collections, Howard-Tilton Memorial Library,*2 Tulane University).

& Michael Allen Zell will be signing his book Errata at Maple Street Book’s Bayou St. John location on Friday, Oct. 19 at 6 p.m. “In Zell’s debut novel, a young New Orleans cabbie named Raymond Russell has been dramatically shocked by the intensity of a crime and is blocked such that he cannot write about it directly. He lets elements leak out associatively so as to prime the engine of his obsessive mind for what he must reveal. Picture a neo-noir Nabokov using Stern-like disgressions directed by Joycean movements of the mind. This book, with its sultry darkness of city and soul, teaches the reader how to uniquely read it. Zell has an inventive and engaging voice, positioning him as an inheritor of the likes of Jorge Luis Borges, Italo Calvino, Julio Cortazar, Bohumil Hrabal, Milan Kundra, and Bruno Schulz.”

& Sunday at 3 p.m. at the Maple Leaf Bar Reading Series is an open mic. Next week Oct. 28 Michael Allen Zell reads from and signs his novel, Errata.

& Also this Sunday you get another bite at the Lagasse girl’s The Gluten Free Table at Maple Street Book Shop’s Healing Center Location at St. Claude. No time listed. Call for details: (504)304-7115.

& I have no idea what Duck Commander is about, but I pulled the cable plug a while back. For fans on the curious (me) Willie and Korie Robertson, stars of the A&E hit series “Duck Dynasty,” will be at the Maple Street Book Shop Uptown location signing their book, The Duck Commander Family: How Faith, Family, and Ducks Built a Dynasty, Sunday, October 21st, 2-4PM. “Part redneck logic, part humorous stories of our family, combined with faith, business tips and a little history- this book is the inside sneak-peek for everything you wanted to know about growing up a Robertson and what it is like to be a part of this family,” says Willie.

& On Sunday evening at 7 p.m. Spoken Word New Orleans presents Speak Easy Sundays Poetry at the Club Caribbean 2441 Bayou Road. Cover. Visit their website for updates on other spoken words and visiting artists all around town.

& On Monday night Press Street’s Room 220 will host Adam Parfrey reading Ritual America and Joseph Scott Morgan will be reading Blood Beneath My Feet at 735 St. Ferdinand Street at 7 p.m. (This is a private residence, not the Antenna Gallery). Pafrey, described by the Seattle Times as “one of the nation’s most provocative publishers”, has published a book that peels back the curtains on America’s secret societies. Ritual America reveals the biggest secret of them all: that the influence of fraternal brotherhoods on this country is vast, fundamental, and hidden in plain view. In the early twentieth century, as many as one-third of America belonged to a secret society. And though fezzes and tiny car parades are almost a thing of the past, the Gnostic beliefs of Masonic orders are now so much a part of the American mind that the surrounding pomp and circumstance has become faintly unnecessary. Have you ever been locked in a cooler with piles of decomposing humans for so long that you had to shave all the hair off your body in order to get rid of the smell? Joseph Scott Morgan did. Have you ever lit a Marlboro from the ignited gas of a bloated dead man’s belly? Joseph Scott Morgan has. Morgan became a death investigator with the Jefferson Parish Coroner’s Office in suburban New Orleans in 1987. At the time of his hire, he was estimated to have been the youngest medicolegal death investigator in the country working in a major metropolitan area. Over the course of his career he was required to work in the morgue during the day and subsequently work as an investigator for the coroner at night. Maple Street Book Shop (Healing Center) will be on-site to sell 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. repeating Sundays at Noon. She features interviews with authors of local and national interest.

& On Tuesday, Oct. 23 Octavia Books hosts a presentation and book signing with Tonja Koob Marking & Jennifer Snape celebrating their new book of historical photos LOUISIANA’S OIL HERITAGE from Arcadia Publishing, whose books on K&B, Maison Blanche and other local topics you may have seen checking out of Walgreen’s with their historical plaque title boxes and sepia covers.. This book covers the history of Louisiana’s oil patch from the discovery of oil in 1901 through 2001.

& Thomas Joseph Perez will be signing his novel Katrina Lashes Arabia at Maple Street Book’s Healing Center location at 6:30 p.m. A New Orleans ex-pat working as a nurse in Saudi Arabia looses her temper at a Saudi man in the marketplace shortly after the hurricane of the same name strikes her home and finds herself taking refuge from the authorities in the place of a Saudi Prince which interesting sexual tastes who is working on biological weapons on the side. The picture of a sexually submissive Saudi prince gives new meaning to the word spellbinding, and I think we can chalk this up as the Katrina Novel No One Could Have Predicted.

Next Week: Robert Olin Butler at Octavia Books.

Waiting for Godot on the Road Home October 17, 2012

Posted by The Typist in Back of Town, Gentilly, je me souviens, New Orleans, NOLA, Treme.
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A new post up at the Treme blog Back of Town, on the scene from Waiting for Godot and my own experience of the play.

I thought it was my house. A left-side double with a carport on the right attached to the next door neighbor’s single-level ranch. My stomach knotted convulsively. The panic bands tightened around my chest. A wave of Permanent Traumatic Stress Disorder, the tension of being transported into a scene I didn’t quite remember, being among the hundreds turned away every night from the Gentilly production of Waiting for Godot in 2007 but I knew the play, knew the text, knew the essential and painful rightness of it like a necessary amputation. I had only been there in spirit but had gone home the last night and after dispirited drinks at the Circle Bar I wrote in the small hours of the morning my reaction to a play I had just not seen.

That could be my house.

Read more…

Endless Vacation’s Last Parade October 14, 2012

Posted by The Typist in cryptical envelopment, Gentilly, New Orleans, The Narrative, The Odd, Toulouse Street.
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They came by twos and threes and fives by bicycle up Esplanade as I sat doing my laundry, everyone smiling like it’s a church picnic, the women all wearing something pink and gauzy in their hair, everyone dressed not quite in costume but like a circus on holiday. One guy had a horn case on his back. Something happening in the park, I tell myself as I crush my cigarette and go back into fold underwear.

I get home and toss the surplus dufflebag on the bed where it still lies. My son shows no enthusiasm for going to Blues Fest and frankly I have no stomach for crowds, beer and boogie today, a busy week behind me and another in front of me. I’m dead out on the couch when the sound wakes me coming up Fortin Street, a small band playing a slow, gay, vaguely European march, Nina Rota’s idea of a village band. I missed the banners in front, and call out to find they are Endless Vacation. “It’s their last parade,” I swear she said but in my half-awake, stuporous joy I might have heard them wrong. Most of them just walk wearing broad grins like masks, a few few high step and swing their arms high in time and others prace like parts of a carousel. They turn into the empty lot next door because it is there. The band stops in the middle and continues the same song, the same eight bars over and over again, and more of them break into a broad, skipping dance, a few by twos or threes join hands and do the same skip-dance in a circle.

I look for a camera, a microphone boom, a plump-faced man from off the wall of an Italian restaurant, hair pomaded high and back, to stand with a megaphone to shout directions but this is not Fellini, this is vérité, just another typically Odd bit of life in New Orleans, a reminder of why I am here. After perhaps five minutes, the banners move through the lot toward Maurepas and turn left against the one-way street. The parade slowly reforms, the solo dancers and circles aligning like filings to a magnet, and careens on toward downtown, the circus air fading in the distance, leaving the raucously quarrelsome feral parrots silent in the trees.

I stand on my stoop smoking, trying to reconcile Endless Vacation with a last parade and decide every parade must be the last until someone suggests the next, an inside joke informing their bright-eyed, psilocybin smiles. Perhaps they never mean to stop, the invincible certainly of youth, to march until they pass into that unrecorded ward where every day is sunny, Sunday and Carnival, leaving a puzzled city all humming the same song on Mondays as regular as red beans, with no idea where they heard it and unable to resist its lilting insistence.

On the Eighth Day October 14, 2012

Posted by The Typist in cryptical envelopment, Fortin Street, The Narrative, Toulouse Street.
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Consider that the Laundromat opened seven minutes ago and that you have not showered and must go to the bank first for money, that something must be cooked tonight for dinner in case we do not make it to Blues Fest and that Clarence Carter plays until eight and Treme starts at nine, that the vacuum cleaner is working again and I am fairly certain there is more square footage in my bedroom to vacuum than I can currently see, and that I should either file all the papers I’ve pulled our or acquired or check the fire extinguisher, that it is highly unlikely to spend an entire afternoon at Blues Fest not drinking beer, and I will have to go out to watch Treme and will almost certainly jump on the open thread at Back of Town when I get home with a comment, and feel the desire to answer other commenters. Somewhere in here I have to explain Hamlet to my son, and cannot fathom when I’ll fit that in.

And on the eighht day, the secret one He tells no one about lest they bother him with prayers and all that damned incense, the day outside the sphere of creation, the one to which only His Omnipotency has a key, He rested, having spent the seventh day not resting exactly but, having broken the door locks on his microwave, created Wal-mart and explored all of its consequences. On that eighth day he collapsed onto the couch with The Word and after reading only one century took a nap. He woke from a mild nightmare, having dreamed of a million alarm clocks simultaneously announcing Monday, and lay pondering whether the fjords were all they could be. He could always go back and revise them again.

Odd Words October 11, 2012

Posted by The Typist in books, Fortin Street, literature, New Orleans, Odd Words, Poetry, publishing, Toulouse Street.
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“If the writing is honest it cannot be separated from the man who wrote it.”
— Tennessee William

The chiseled academic definition of Creative Non-Fiction allows no room for creativity beyond style and there are only so many songs in the world. Tennessee Williams wrote drama, a species of fiction but when my brother died and my boss waited for an explanation all I could think to say was, “you probably thought Tennessee Williams was making all that shit up.” I try to imagine her, this Nordic woman from the polar edge of North Dakota, in her college-career crowning role as Blanche DuBois. All stage magic is dishonest, the pickpocket elevated to gentleman in a top hat with a pocket full of silk handkerchiefs. The best magic starts with “give me a quarter” and ends with it appearing behind your ear, just another moment on a street but more than that. What does it matter if it was a nickle or a dime? No one will dispute the creative power and the inner truth shining out of recognizable faces in Williams’ plays. Creative Non-Fiction is just another pigeonhole and good writing, fictive or factual, should draw you out of the mail room and into an unfamiliar place filled with familiar objects, people whose names you are certain you should know. Tell a story and tell it true, letting the facts arrange themselves as necessary. Don’t let exact change get in the way.

& so to the listings….

& Comix Comics fans will want to check out Stephan Pastis: Pearls Freaks the #*%# Out: A Pearls Before Swine Treasury at 5:30 tonight at Garden District Book Shop. From fire-breathing jugglers to sword-swallowing illusionists, this treasury showcases all strips from “Larry in Wonderland” and “Because Sometimes You Just Gotta Draw a Cover with Your Left Hand,” along with Pastis’ original commentary, which provides insight into what Pastis was thinking at the time random strips were conceived, and also fan reactions. Tackling topics ranging from current events and modern technology to human and croc nature, “Pearls Freaks the #*%# Out” offers up a sideshow of feisty characters, including arrogant, self-centered, and totally hilarious Rat, who leads his four-legged collection of freakish friends through a carnival of misadventure. Joining the circus-like cavalcade are Pig, the slow but good-hearted conscience of the strip; Goat, the voice of reason that often goes unheard; Zebra, the activist; and those eternally inept carnivorous Crocs, who we learn happen to taste a lot like chicken. Pastis’ cynical humor and sharp wit imbue this entertaining vaudevillian collection

& Thursday at 8 p.m. 17 Poets! presents Ben Kopel and Carrie Chappell followed by open mic hosted by Jimmy Ross. Doors open at 7 and sign up for open mic begins at 7:30. Kopel was born in Baton Rouge, Louisiana in 1983. He holds degrees from Louisiana State University, The Iowa Writers’ Workshop, and The University of Massachusetts Amherst MFA Program for Poets and Writers. Chappell is a poet by ways of Birmingham, Tuscaloosa, and now living in New Orleans. Her poems have appeared in Boxcar Poetry Review, Bateau Press and elsewhere. Currently, she is pursuing an MFA in Creative Writing at the University of New Orleans, where she serves as Associate Poetry Editor for Bayou Magazine.

& Saturday from 10:30 am – 12 noon the Poems and Pink Ribbons project will host a reading by workshop leaders and participants. This program gives women with breast cancer and cancer survivors an opportunity to express themselves through poetry, working with local poets. At the newly renovated and expanded Rosa Keller Library, 4300 South Broad. The instructors in Poems and Pink Ribbons are Jarvis DeBerry, Kysha Brown-Robinson, Geryll Robinson, Kelly Harris-DeBerry, Melissa Dickey and Gina Ferrara. Come out and show some love and support for their brave students.

& Saturday afternoon the New Orleans Dickens Fellowship will host their monthly discussion on their current reading, Great Expectations. They will Part I, Chapters 7-14 at 2 p.m. at Metairie Park Country Day School’s Bright Library.

& Also on Saturday Crescent City Books will host George Schmidt Reading and Reception on for the Crescent City Books 20th Anniversary Celebration. The event will run from 2-4 p.m., with the reading/q&q/discussion from 2-3 p.m. and reception/signing following until 4 p.m. George Schmidt speaks about his art and signs his retrospective book “Satire, Scandal, and Spectacle.”

& At the Downtown Library on Saturday check out the Mutabilis Press/Improbable Words Poetry Reading featuring a Louisiana All-Star cast including Stella Brice, Megan Burns, Peter Cooley, Gina Ferrara Bruce Fuller, Ava Leavell Haymon, Julie Kane, Rodger Kamenetz, James Nolan and Biljana Obradovic. It’s not on the library’s Nutrias.org site and there’s no time posted on the event’sFacebook page so check back there and here later for the time.

& Downtown on Saturday Oct. 13 at 1 p.m. David Lummis will be signing his new book, The Coffee Shop Chronicles of New Orleans, Part 2: The Last Beaucoeur at Maple Leaf Book Store’s Healing Center location. This much anticipated sequel picks up almost exactly where Part 1 left off. It’s the morning of Friday, August 26, 2005, and B. Sammy Singleton is still reeling from the night before. Something is very wrong. Sammy’s best friend, Catfish Beaucoeur, is missing, having left behind clues including a book of lynching photography and a disturbing handwritten poem.

& Don’t pig out at Sunday dinner or you won’t appreciate the Sweet Potato Guacamole when Garden District Book Shops hosts Fred Thompson and Fred Thompson’s Southern Sides. Side dishes are the very heart and soul of southern cuisine. So proclaims Fred Thompson in this heartfelt love letter to the marvelous foods on the side of the plate. From traditional, like Pableaux’s Red Beans and Rice, to contemporary, like Scuppernong-Glazed Carrots, Thompson’s 250 recipes recommend the virtues of the utterly simple and the totally unexpected. “Fred Thompson’s Southern Sides” celebrates the sheer joy of cooking and eating these old and new classic dishes

& Sunday at 3 p.m. at the Maple Leaf Bar Reading Series poet Chris Champagne reads from his work, followed by an open mic.. Followed by an open mic.

& On Sunday evening at 7 p.m. Spoken Word New Orleans presents Speak Easy Sundays Poetry at the Club Caribbean 2441 Bayou Road. Cover. Visit their website for updates on other spoken words and visiting artists all around town.

& Monday at 7:30 p.m. in Tulane University’s Dixon hall hear authors E.O. Wilson and Alex Harris discuss their book Why We Are Here. Presented by Tulane University’s A Studio in the Woods; Center for Bioenvironmental Research; New Orleans Center for the Gulf South; and Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, this historic collaboration between a beloved naturalist and a great American photographer presents a South we’ve never encountered before. Perceiving that Mobile was a city small enough to be captured through a lens yet old enough to have experienced a full epic cycle of tragedy and rebirth, the photographer and the naturalist joined forces to capture the rhythms of this storied Alabama Gulf region through a swirling tango of lyrical words and breathtaking images.

& 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. repeating Sundays at Noon. She features interviews with authors of local and national interest.

& & Tuesday night at 6 p.m. at Octavia Books and again Wednesday, Oct. 17 at the Maple Street Book Shop Michael Zell of Crescent City Books celebrating the launch of his debut novel, ERRATA. A young New Orleans cabbie named Raymond Russell has been dramatically shocked by the intensity of a crime and is blocked such that he cannot write about it directly. He lets elements leak out associatively so as to prime the engine of his obsessive mind for what he must reveal. Picture a neo-noir Nabokov. The title Errata reflects Raymond’s 22 day attempt at correction of his seeming culpability. Associative language forms the building blocks of the story via Montaigne-esque essays, 1984 World’s Fair era history, and literary ruminations. Errata uses neo-noir conventions as the trappings for an ambitious boundary-blurring meditation on balancing the in between of isolation and sociability, wisdom and madness, symbol and text, and innocence and guilt.

& Also on Tuesday night at 6:30 p.m. the Hubbel Library in Algiers will host an author night featuring New Orleans Impressionist Cityscapes: The Allure of the Image by Phil Sandusky in the carriage house behind the Algiers Courthouse, 225 Morgan Street.

This book looks beautiful. It’s a good thing I don’t have a coffee table or I would be one broke-ass, semi-employed student and writer who can’t afford a coffee table much less this book I’m sure. It’s going on the imaginary display shelf close to that Diego Rivera catalog all in Spanish I couldn’t afford at Crescent City Books.

&If you can’t get across the river check out the Alvar Library also on Tuesday night but at 7 p.m. featuring Delia Tomino Nakayama & Peter Nu: Poetry, Song, & Piano Music. Peter’s amazing steel drum is not out of the question, I hope.

& Heads up: It’s time to register for the workshops at the Louisiana Book Festival held the day before the Festival, Friday, Oct. 26. This year’s four WordShops will focus on the fiction writing process, writing for young adults, writing about Louisiana and the process of getting published or self-publishing. The all-day WordShop will feature Robert Olen Butler who will present “After Craft: The Process of Writing Fiction.” It starts at 9 a.m. at the Capitol Park Museum. Butler is the author of Pulitzer Prize-winning A Good Scent from a Strange Mountain. Three half-day WordShops are also scheduled, one morning session and two afternoon sessions. From 9 a.m. to noon, The New York Times bestselling young adult author and National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature Walter Dean Myers will teach “Just Write: Here’s How! A Workshop for Writing Young Adult Novels” in the Seminar Center of the State Library. From 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. in the Capitol View Room of the State Library, authors Cheré Dastugue Coen and Ronald M. Gauthier will present “So You Want to Be Published?” This WordShop takes a look at the challenges and rewards of getting work published. Also from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m., author Ken Wells will present “Selling Louisiana: Think Locally, Publish Nationally” in the Seminar Center of the State Library. To register for WordShops call Michelle Hobkirk at 225-342-4931 or download the registration form from the “Exhibits & Workshops” section of http://www.LouisianaBookFestival.org. Registration and payment are due by Oct. 23, $40 for half-day WordShops and $75 for the full day. Free parking is available.

If you are not on this list well I’ve asked you before and will remind you again: send the deets to odd.words.nola@gmail.com as soon in advance as possible.

Rhythm and Hooves October 11, 2012

Posted by The Typist in cryptical envelopment, Fortin Street, New Orleans, The Odd, Toulouse Street.
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If you want to get women, forget the dog. Get a pygmy goat.

The owner moved through the crowd with the goat in his arms, his own tight Bacchic curls. He gladly offered the goat the moment you reached out to pet it then slid off to the side like a magician revealing the hidden woman inside the cabinet. The men always took the goat when offered. Each stroked it gently as a woman might a cat, cradled it like a baby with the broad grins of new fathers, the tiny horns suggesting a hundred sons. The women crowded around, oohed and took pictures and suddenly Socrates’ power was obvious, the wriggling virility beneath the curly pelt of petting-zoo cute. The blues act out of Tallahassee held center stage like a Ferris wheel but here in our corner under the oak the goat turned the tip away from the stage and into the promised sideshow mysteries.

Socrates never make a sound, even when he tried to gallop out of someone’s arms back to his owner, but I imagined him late, in the backyard beneath the bedroom window, bleating in time

Happy Birthday Everette Maddox October 9, 2012

Posted by The Typist in books, New Orleans, NOLA, Odd Words, Poetry, Toulouse Street.
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Join us tonight in the back patio of the Maple Leaf Bar to read some ‘Rette and celebrate. Until then, courtesy of 13Possums:


On a hill high above
the mild October day
I stand, heroic, hands
clasped behind my back,
as the last musket’s
crack fades
and the smoke drifts away
from the place where the famous
battle of my youth was fought.
Who won? Who lost?
Who knows? My speech,
which I seem to have misplaced,
tells. Oh well:
myself and loves and grey
uniform were not among
the casualties, quite; though
a gold button dangles.
Now we’ll bind the wounds,
free the slaves, and set up
(oh shrewdly!) a national shrine
in the decaying mansion
of my body: post cards,
stuffed possums, and (out back)
whiskey to be sold
such emissaries
from the glacial future
as have coin to spend

Railroad Tales October 8, 2012

Posted by The Typist in Fortin Street, geo-memoir, Memory, New Orleans, The Narrative, The Typist, Toulouse Street.
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12:06 p.m. Train 19 is  waiting for a  freight. Ballast, ties  and razor wire, the statue of Vulcan in the distance gazing distractedly at a idle rail car salvage yard, capsized tankers and broken rust-brown boxcars like some hobo graveyard. The New South is just visible over the brickwork lofts where cotton factors and coke brokers once counted prosperity in locomotives: So long, Birmingham.

12:52 p.m. Where the line crosses the highway it’s crew-cut America, not a brick out-of-place, Golden Arches by Walgreen’s by Winn-Dixie, Advance Auto Parts and Pawn America, not a button missing but down a drive beside the tracks and just out of sight of Hardee’s there’s Harold’s Auto, dirty white stucco on the railroad side, a customer in front.

1:07 p.m.–We stop to let the northbound Crescent pass just up from the Tuscaloosa depot. Na-hah, no time for a smoke, the conductor says and by the time I’m back in my seat I’ve missed the chance at a snapshot of the station sign. When I pick up the phone again the little weather man says I’m in Green Pond. I look up and there it is outside, more blue than green except where the cypress are flooded just below my window.

1:54 The plastic compartment at the end of the car is not the gentlemen’s smoking compartment of the Southern Crescent I rode 35 years ago. I wash my hands and find the Formica “club car”. A fiftyish couple sit alone sipping Miller Lights. He’s in his Saints jersey. She is, I will later learn, bat-shit crazy drunk and hungry for company. He is just back from three months in rural Alabama. “A whole lotta nothing and cows. And they’ll steal anything right out your yard while you’re asleep: tractors, 18-wheelers.” No one on the platform wants to hear your story. It washes over them like a puff of smoke. They all want to talk, to tell you their’s.

2:05 p.m. You no longer slide past the blast furnace kitchen with its smoking stove to a table served by Black men in white jackets juggling the travel bottle liquor before they pour your drink. Refrigerated sandwiches, mostly gone. I’ve had too much good pulled pork to risk the cellphane version. I buy a water bottle at a stadium-seat price to carry back to my airline first-class coach seat. I need to study biology I remind myself, but look up at every flashing box car siding and am captured by the landscape as it rolls by in its monotony searching for that glimpse of variety. Every now and then a tar paper and trailer family compound is a creek and some trees away from a big brick ranch with horses in the back. Biology is hopeless.

2:15 p.m. We cross a river lined with chalk bluffs Google does not bother to name, somewhere just north of Livingston and west of Demopolis.

Active transport across the phospholipid bilayer is via locomotives and requires the expenditure of energy in the form of diesel.


2:35 p.m. I am ready for a cigarette. Every time we slow down for curve or a bit of bad track I touch the Zippo in my pocket as if it were a saint’s medallion but so far no luck. I am entirely at the mercy of a conductor who does not wear a pocket watch and manages his passengers via iPhone. I finish my Crystal Geyser and wish I’d packed a sandwich.

2:50 p.m. Gravel loading to a row of short hopper Southern cars, rusted lines of iron pipe, stacks of lumber, the utility co-op, pulling into Meridian. I will kill for a cigarette and a vending machine with a grander ambience than the club car.


3:07 Time for a smoke and a half, as the train stops to take on fresh water. There’s a boil order in New Orleans. Meridian has a pretty little station, all brand new that puts Birmingham’s dingy under-the-tracks kiosk to shame but there’s not enough time to step inside to look for anything to eat before they “board!” us back inside. We move 20 feet and stop. Look’s like it’s the club car microwave fare or nothing. I had hoped for a wrapped egg salad sandwich as I learned a long time ago that’s the safest bet under such circumstances. If it gives no indication of color, smell or taste it’s usually safe to eat. “Smell up the cars, it would,” the British-inflected attendant says.

A parade of graffiti
One chalk mark flower
Love in the railroad ruins

3:55 Somewhere in the deep south of Shelby County, Alabama a Scots-Irish mechanic with a misspelled French name utters an ancient German expletive while lowering a Japanese transmission.

Somewhere between Meridian and Picayune the landscape’s blur looses its relation to the speed of the train. Invasive vines strangle the stunted native pines, farmstead follows no ‘count town, all in endless repetition regular as freckles, an embryonic recapitulation of the South.

The tale falls off. Coffee. Biology. Pine trees.

5:18 p.m. Two hours out of New Orleans and they’ve put the coffee cups away so I get a crew cup free and must not tip. “I know. That’s the rules. I’ve got too many years to break them.” I take my little coffee and peanut M&Ms back to my car.

Past Hattiesburg the trees get twiggy, the bottom lands more often flooded. What once were rippling little rivers take on the somnambulant character of bayous. I am getting close to home.

6:22 Across the Pearl and Bogue Chitto, briefly leaving the spindly pines behind for cypress swamps and houseboats, then passing beneath I-10 and into Slidell. My Louisiana begins south of I-10, but we won’t be truly south of South, deeper south than any bit of Dixie in our own peculiar territory, until we cross the Lake and it becomes a cardinal direction unto itself.


6:39 What’s left of sunset over Lake Pontchartrain. Highway 11 has cut across and left us for the first time since we started. After the bridge the high embankment of New Orleans East, rip rap replacing ballast, and I watch for the sad skeletal pilings of the camps that once ran from Little Woods into town. I spot an intact gazebo and I’m suddenly surprised to find a half-dozen reconstructed camps. A little spit of scrub covered land behind a low chain link fence is all I guess remains of the ruins of Mayor Maestri’s “gently” segregationist Lincoln Beach, reminding me of where I’ve just come from. Across the Seabrook Bridge, bits of weather-worn wooden platforms are all that are left of the old, single-car lane with its wait-your-turn stop lights once tacked to its side like the old Huey P. Long and we are in the city.

I’m hungry. After that gazebo against the dying sky, the remains of the old Seabrook crossing to Haynes and it’s almost forgotten, gone-to-Kenner promise of fried oyster “boats”, it must be freshly caught and fried. Nothing else will do.


Odd Words October 4, 2012

Posted by The Typist in books, Everette Maddox, literature, New Orleans, novel, Odd Words, Poetry, publishing, Toulouse Street.
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& then there is this, courtesy of Maud Newton [sigh]. A tempest in a thimble to my humble self, so far removed from the important world in which such people move. The problem I see with the proliferation of book blogs is for the writer and avid reader who spends too much time on them, the realization of how many potentially wonderful books are being churned out by presses large and small that I will never find time to read, one of which is the comprehensible book in Borges’ Library of Babel in which I will find the key that unlocks “aha! that is how it is done!”, to realize how deep and broad the competition is, a river I could never swim. It is a wonder that the visitors to such places, myself included, bother to write at all, but once you’ve been cursed with a tongue of fire there is no going back to mending nets.

& so, onto the listings…

& This coming Tuesday is Everette Maddox’ birthday, and the loose-fitting plan so far (hatched by me because I don’t have enough to worry about already) is to show up in the patio of The Maple Leaf Bar around 7:30 p.m. to read and celebrate the words of New Orleans’ most iconic poet, founder of the Maple Leaf Reading Series and by all accounts–including his own–a mess. I think a sort of half-baked plan involving the Leaf, poetry and alcohol would meet with the approval of the author of “Just Normal“. If you haven’t read Maddox you have no excuse since UNO Press, back in the days when it mattered, issued the wonderful I hope it’s not over and goodbye anthology. In fact, if you haven’t read Everette Maddox you are not allowed to mention Confederacy of Dunces again until you have rectified this oversight.

& Tonight at 6 p.m. Octavia Books hosts the New Orleans premier of MEANWHILE, BACK AT CAFE DU MONDE . . . Life Stories about Food, including readings and signings by the book’s creator/editor Peggy Sweeny-McDonald and contributors Margarita Bergen, Nell Nolan, Sal Sunseri, Liz Williams, Karen Benrud, Drew Ramsey, Matt Murphy, Leon Contavesprie, and more. “Based on presentations of Meanwhile, Back at Café Du Monde . . ., these foodie monologues invoke your own special comfort foods, recalling tasty memories of life, love, family, and friends to warm your heart, feed your soul, and make you pause to savor the sweetness of life!”

& Also at 6 this evening, Maple Street Book Shop Uptown will host Sonpri Gray signing her latest book, Kept, an insightful-narrator-rises-above-her-humble-circumstances book (as opposed to a gaggle-of-inseparable-girls-friends-and-their-lives subgenre of Chic Lit. I would definitely have picked up this book for my ex- on spec at the library, and I had a pretty good track record on picking winners.

& At 7:30 p.m. 17 Poets! hosts poets AMANDA AUCHTER and PATRICE MELNICK followed by OPEN MIC hosted by Jimmy Ross. AUCHTER is the founding editor of Pebble Lake Review. She is the author of The Wishing Tomb, winner of the 2012 Perugia Press Award and of The Glass Crib, winner of the 2010 Zone 3 Press First Book Award for Poetry. MELNICK is a writer, arts administrator, educator and business owner. Melnick taught English and creative writing at Xavier University in New Orleans for 13 years where she founded and developed one of the first creative writing programs in New Orleans at a historically black university. Additionally, Melnick has taught a literary nonfiction workshop in the low-residency MFA program at the University of New Orleans

& Saturday is the monthly Poetry Buffet at the Latter Library at 2 p.m., featuring poets Vincent Celucci, Chris Shipman and L.A. Weeks reading from their work. I have to get the mistress of ceremonies and talented poet Gina Ferrara to start posting bios for her folks, ’cause I have to stop writing this and go make some money.

& Also this Saturday the excellent Crescent City Books is hosting a 20th Anniversary Reading/Reception from 2-4 p.m. with guest Carolyn Hembree, professor at the University of New Orleans and the author of the recently released collection of poems Skinny. Also, day-long discounts and giveaways are also promised. Best collection of new, used and noteworthy and collectible books anywhere. Try stopping by to visit with Michael when the American Booksellers are in town and try not to get trampled.

& On Saturday at 6 p.m. Maple Street Uptown will feature Andrew Kahrl signing and reading from his book, The Land Was Ours: African-American Beaches from Jim Crow to the Sunbelt South. The Land Was Ours delves deep into the history of New Orleans and the Gulf Coast, and tells the history of African-American beaches and resorts on Lake Pontchartrain and the Mississippi Gulf Coast. In particular, the book traces the human and environmental history of Lake Pontchartrain’s southern shore over the course of the 20th century, and looks at how the struggle for outdoor leisure and recreational space became an important element of the larger civil rights movement in New Orleans. This definitely sounds interesting for those of us old enough to remember Lincoln Beach.

& Sunday at 3 p.m. at the Maple Leaf Bar Reading Series. Followed by an open mic.

& On Sunday evening at 7 p.m. Spoken Word New Orleans presents Speak Easy Sundays Poetry at the Club Caribbean 2441 Bayou Road. Cover. Visit their website for updates on other spoken words and visiting artists all around town.

& 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. repeating Sundays at Noon. She features interviews with authors of local and national interest.

& On Tuesday at 6 p.m. Octavia hosts a presentation and signing with John McCusker celebrating the launch of his new biography, CREOLE TROMBONE: Kid Ory and the Early Years of Jazz, a book that is going to wind up on my shelves for sure. “Drawing on oral history and Ory’s unpublished autobiography, Creole Trombone is a story that is told in large measure by Ory himself. The author reveals Ory’s personality to the reader and shares remarkable stories of incredible innovations of the jazz pioneer. The book also features unpublished Ory compositions, photographs, and a selected discography of his most significant recordings.”

& Maple Street’s downtown book club at the Healing Center , which meets the second Tuesday of every month, is reading David Mitchell’s Cloud Atlas. They will be discussing it Tuesday at 7 p.m. Newcomers are welcome!

& On Wednesday Maple Street Uptown presents Philip Meric at 6 p.m. to discuss The Fortress of New Orleans, compiled by Evans-Graves Engineers, Inc. Please join us for a wine and cheese reception before the presentation. The Fortress of New Orleans: A Photographic Tour of the Largest Civil Works Program in U.S. History serves as a visual record of representative parts and pieces of the Hurricane and Storm Damage Risk Reduction System, a true flood and surge defense system comprised of traditional earthen levees and floodwalls as well as state-of-the-art flood-control components that are viewed as engineering marvels.

Sea of Tranquility October 2, 2012

Posted by The Typist in cryptical envelopment, New Orleans, The Narrative, The Odd, The Typist, Toulouse Street.
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You lie in the tub reading the new book of poems and think: there is no ink black enough for this man’s words. This is not the tonic you require but you read on with the compulsive satisfaction of a cigarette, trading time for the the pleasurable release of smoke. You glance at the medicine cabinet and try to remember when the half becomes the whole, the moon white promised antidote to enveloping darkness. You lay the bleak but beautiful book aside and sink into the amniotic warmth, listen to the random minor notes of the solar lantern wind chime, a perhaps unwise impulse purchase of a man on the cusp of unemployment but the tones are soothing, the intermittence dissolving time in a minor key.

You wash, dry and dress and carry the book into the living room and contemplate: the yielding couch, the book of dark poems, the evaporation of the droplets left on the tile floor into an afternoon. Perhaps a nap, but no: the book commands your attention, the poems’ ability to turn darkness into light. There is magic in such pages and you would have it, more than a cigarette or your forgotten lunch. On the back patio the wind chimes count the time without regard for your presence, the infinite series of moments that constitute eternity, your own as insignificant as the higher iterations of pi.

When it grows dark you will retire to the patio, the book complete and consider the grammatical formula for the transmutation of darkness into light. The chimes will sound, and the frosted globe will glow—a personal moon—with its bit of stolen sunlight. You will search for the Sea of Tranquility in its soft illumination, imagine the boot tracks of your youth frozen there forever and your own transience will dissolve, the sum of your moments coalescing into something: these words perhaps. You think: I will forget these words before I can write them down, and will put the invisible manuscript where no one can see.

October 1, 2012

Posted by The Typist in cryptical envelopment, Dancing Bear, New Orleans, Toulouse Street.
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“. . . I am going to put a shield of beauty
over the face of the earth to protect us.”

— Sun Rha

Off to Room 107 on Broad to resolve my son’s unpaid moving violation (not my fault, but somehow I made the online payment and get to go and settle it). I am harboring a Wanted Man for the time being.

Then off to the downtown tower, hair freshly cut and braid tight and hidden behind my collar, to spend the next couple of days with the bossmens.

I will come home with my Shield of Beauty or on it.