Good Luck Poem

it just happened, a bird
shit on me—so begins
the good luck streak
off in the distance
the cowgirl sings her
saddest song
but I am payday invincible
nothing will be wrong
every beer bottle that falls
does a somersault
slaps on its bottom, flat
there are not even suds
just more championship seasons
more blossoms, more meaning
sleep walk to a charmed life
not off a single rock knife cliff
furthermore get no shiners
no busted lips, no lies
other houses burn down
in the spring death night
cars explode, the world shakes
my tongue-sweat dogs
sprint off, get doomsday lost
a whistle, all it takes is a whistle
and my dogs come trotting back
usually I’m busy
falling down the stairs
laying there till morning
tonight I’ll climb to the top
of the sea green water tower
this town’s highest point
to toss my pennies
onto the sparking power lines
to make myself happy.

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Poem Written While Searching

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all this distance
the girls disappear
and out my window
fruit trees bloom
a TV through the wall
murmurs, 300 vanished
the first robin
has its nest broken
by random wind
on buzzbox AM radio
a man mentions again
that misplaced airplane
and through the fence
there is new green
on things thought gone
the leaning telephone pole
beside my sleeping car
has a xerox of Jane
missing since June
that night
finally it’s warm
the computer is off
I search the dryer
for my other sock.

The Dark Sunshine by Len Kuntz

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#1, this was a great book.

If this review was written in the style of the Dark Sunshine, it would be incredibly concise, dark (of course), expansive in use of both imagination and pulse. Instead, this review is going to amble along, crash into walls, smile too much. This review will have wasted words, The Dark Sunshine doesn’t have a wasted word, letter, even a wasted comma.

I feel good after completing Len Kuntz’s collection of pitch perfect flash fiction, like I just attended a workshop. It’s the kind of writing that reads like an instruction manual on ‘how to master brevity’, ‘how to flesh out entire worlds in the narrowest footprint possible’, ‘how to introduce a protagonist/antagonist you’ll never forget in the same space as a 120 character Twitter transmission.’

The collection seems prototypical, as Howie Good puts it in the blurb on the back of the book, “Len Kuntz’s flash fiction is everything flash fiction should aspire to be–surreal, macabre, humorous …”

He’s damn right about all that.

Dark Sunshine has a thread running down the middle: the tread an unease, a dysfunction, a mysterious problem–but it is not just between a man and a woman, or the children; it’s beyond the house and it’s domestic troubles, it’s the town too and the the strange neighbors, cops and therapists; there’s an existential crisis stretching over the entire globe, wrapping around this universe, and alternate universes, planes of existence. It’s all troubled.

Okay, before we get any farther with all the darkness, doom and warranted pessimism–I should tell you something, Len Kuntz is incredibly funny. His comedic timing is startling. These are jokes that we might be laughing at in self defense, but the good news is, Kuntz has mastered minimalism so well, we can’t be sure anyway if we’re the brunt of the joke. Often it’s society at large, the way we look at things wrong, the way we fail at loving each other.

The joy in this book lies in the simple things, the smallest factors, that somehow shine the brightest. It comes down to how fresh the characters are. They are very much alive on the page, reacting to their various situations, completely unpredictably.

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SPECIAL REPORT: How to Survive a Snowstorm

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There are many ways a snowstorm can potentially kill a person (usually from boredom). I’ve composed a check list for the novice winter survivalist. Be sure to make sure you have all these ducks in a row.

1. Bread and milk, so you can stare at them. I don’t eat that stuff either, but you’ll want ample bread and milk in case you’re snowed in so you can stare at it for some reason.

2. Red dye to make your snow man/woman (snow person?) look like it was butchered.

3. My Cousin Vinny on DVD or VHS in case it’s daytime (daytime TV is the worst) or in case it’s nighttime (Marissa Tomei is dead sexy)

4. Approx. 10 cases of various types of craft beer, per day, per person. Hint: you can fill your bathtub up with beer and keep the bathroom air conditioned (or open the window, dumbass) if your fridge is overloaded with all that milk you bought.

5. Puzzles. Get a 100,000 piece puzzle. Spread the pieces all over the house. Hide some between couch cushions, make it extra difficult for yourself. Get a blind fold too. This jigsaw puzzle is all you’ll have if the power goes out.

6. Snow shovel. That’s self explanatory. You’ll need that to lop off your snow man’s head. Pool up the red dye next to the severed snow head. It’ll look cool.

7. Your weight in coffee grinds.

8. One of those hot dog beany things that were popular in the early 80s, to keep the breeze from blowing under your door.

9. Calvin and Hobbes anthologies. Stock up now, I’m telling you. It’s gonna snow.

10. Swim suits, beach umbrellas, surf gear: it’s all on sale. Why wait till prices go up? Plus, it looks funny when you’re covering your dead snowmen in red dye, while wearing your swim suit.

I hope that helps you with this winter weather we’re all suffering from, and makes your ‘snowed in experience’ a little more bare-able. I’m probably lounging in a bathtub full of beer right now.

Why I Like My Record Player

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All morning I’ve been sitting here listening to the Rolling Stones album, Let it Bleed. I mean, I’ve been doing other things besides just sitting here. Mostly, writing stuff: an article a website wanted on what creative non-fiction is, and a couple poems I’m finishing up for my collection Everything Neon. But I haven’t gotten very far away from my desk. And that’s because of two things, a) it’s snowing like a mofo outside, and b) I love my desk, and the things within arm’s reach of it.

A quick note on the desk: It came from the trash in 2006. It’s made out of the cheapest particle board junk. It’s nothing fancy at all, it’s warped and all nicked up from a billion coffee cup spills. The best thing about my desk? Without stretching I can reach my record player.

I could sit here forever, and maybe I will sit here forever. When You Can’t Always Get What You Want ends and side A of Let it Bleed stops spinning, I just reach over and flip it to side B, and Midnight Rambler comes on. There’s something perfect for me about vinyl records, this shitty desk, this cup of coffee, it all adds up so nicely.

Why vinyl records? Here’s why:

1. The sides are quick, twenty minutes or so.

A) when the record stops, I can start it again back at the beginning and re-listen to that 20 minute chunk again.

B) I like the meditative qualities of that. After listening to the same side of a record long enough, I feel lost in it.

C) It was very important as a recording artist how you opened and closed each side of the record. The sequencing of the tracks made a huge difference. That was lost once CDs became the norm.

2. I like the way records sound. A record sounds the same way that snow looks when it falls. And sound the same way jumping into a like off a tire swing feels.

3. I can hunt out cheap vinyls for a dollar or two at flea markets or on the sidewalks of New York City.

4. Digital music is fine, but I like the limitations of vinyl.
A) An album/a record used to be put together with as much care a novel. Think circa 1967-1984 thereabouts.
B) The 40 minute mark for me is enough
C) I don’t want an infinite playlist. I want an artists attempt at ‘assembling a finite track listing that reflects exactly where they are, in that exact year.’ No better example of this done well than Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon.

5. I like the stack of them, and the way they look under the bookcase (which is also of course within arms reach. Gotta keep the bookcase close to the desk.)
A) The album artwork used to be so beautiful.
B) It was a tangible object. I like tangible objects. I don’t like the idea of paperback books floating in a cloud. I don’t like the idea of a vinyl floating in a cloud either.
C) I can flip through them when Let It Bleed ends for the tenth time and I can say, “Ah, I feel like putting Nilsson Schmilsson on, or I feel like putting David Bowie Low on, and really mean it. Physcially take the thing out of the paper sleeve, set it on the turn table, drop the needle. I get simple joy out of that. We exist in a digital world, but every time I can ‘not click on something’ I’m going for it.

About  the record player:

It was cheap. I got it as a gift from my sister in California. She paid about $75 for it. It’s a Crosley suitcase travel record player. Green. It has a side speaker that came built into the thing. You cannot upgrade the speaker. You cannot plug fancy-ass Bose speakers into it to make the sound rich and beautiful. It is what it is. And that’s what I love most about it.
Everyday for the last year, I’ve sat at this desk and written for at least half an hour and I’ve done it with that record player spinning, wobbling, hissing and popping.

I’m reminded of being a teenager again. I’ve fallen in love deeply with music again. It’s always been there, I’ve always been a fan and have always had a very large collection of music. But there’s something different now. It’s attached itself in a way to my writing. This space that I’ve created here, this desk—bookcases flanking it on both sides: a 1/2 size bookcase to my immediate right with the record table on top next to my bronze golden eagle lamp, countless books stuffed and piled underneath on the shelves, the bottom shelf reserved for about 100 of my favorite records … this is a nice spot to work.

There’s a chair facing perpendicular to the desk where Spout comes in and sits with me, we drink coffee or beer and talk, and play records real low. The radiator is next to the chair, so we’re always warm sitting here on snowy days like today, and in the summer this room is cool enough that we can just open up the window that lets out onto the fire escape and things are nice.

The records bleed into the writing too. I’m working on a novella about a boy and girl who get caught up in a cross-country spree killing. I’m wrapping up a book called Teenager, and beginning to send it around to see if some presses are interested in it. A big influence on the book is the movie Badlands, but just as importantly, the album Bat Out of Hell by Meatloaf and the Bruce Springsteen record Nebraska. 

I’m interested in simple repetition and how that translates, day in and day out to become art. There’s no three things I know that are better joined than this desk, this record player and this writing.

Almost time for a new needle.

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BEWARE: Creative Writing Tips Ahead

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I’m not much of a ‘taking advice’ guy (but I’m trying Ringo, I’m trying real hard.) And also: YOU SHOULDNT TAKE ADVICE FROM ME. I thought I’d write a little about some of things that I do with writing, as an effort to keep things moving. (As if the internet didn’t give you enough questionably fucked up advice.)

2013 was a really productive year for me, with the publication of Tollbooth, writing a novel called F-250, and a poetry collection Everything Neon (both titles coming soon). 2014 is looking good too.

Here’s a bunch of ignorable tips. Some may actually do more good than harm. But, hey, what the fuck, you gotta listen to some idiot, why not me?

Make more time for whatever creative project you’ve got going

a) I write on my lunch and coffee breaks at work. Sometimes this involves pushing ear plugs in extra deep because I work in an industrial hellhole.

b) the end of the work day, I generally sit at my ‘desk’ for an extra twenty minutes rather than fight the traffic out of the parking lot (200 people all leave at the same time.)

Clearing out space consistently day in day out for twenty minutes of writing/creative work is where the good stuff happens.

c) me and my wife got rid of our TV a couple years ago. Now we talk more, read more and make more art. We still sit and drink on the same couch, now we just do it with the radio on instead of junk TV. Helped immensely with creative output.

d) Saturday and Sunday morning, I wake up a little early and work on a writing project for a little bit before waking my wife up. I put a record on. I drink a couple cups of coffee. It’s nice. Try it.

Commit to write everyday. Even if it’s just 300 words.

a) that’ll take you about 20 minutes. Anybody has twenty minutes.

b) if you don’t have 20 minutes, quit something else that sucks.

c) I suggest quitting anything that involves things like: mowing your lawn, painting the exterior of stuff, raking leaves, wrapping gifts.

d) can’t commit to 20 minutes? Fuck it. Do 5.

e) can’t commit to 300 words. Okay, write ONE word a day. ONE FUCKING WORD. That’ll take 10 seconds. Commit to that. By the end of your life, you’ll probably have a good book done. (Studies show I’m full of shit.)

Get a critique partner/partners

a) having your work proofread helps you.

b) proofreading others work also helps you.

c) you can learn a lot from someone better than you.

d) you can learn just as much from someone who isn’t as far along as you. Don’t shy away from helping someone out, being a mentor. It’ll surprise you how much you can learn about your own work by helping someone else with theirs.

Attend a reading, meet other writers in person.

a) if you listen to non-professional writers read their work aloud, a few things become aparent. Particularly, the way language comes across.

b) if you read your work aloud, you’ll have the benefit of getting a reaction or non-reaction from the audience. It’s always possible to do a rewrite from the things you’ll learn.

c) a lot of them read in funny squeaky voices. That’s enjoyable.

Read a wide variety of books.

Whatever you’re stuck in a rut reading now, branch out and try something different. Variety is beauty. Join Goodreads. There’s tons of great reviews and write ups there.

a) I’m reading a book of fiction each week. (Slender novels are usually my go-to)

b) reading a poetry collection/chapbook a week too. I read the poetry in the bathroom. When I take a leak I read a poem. Before you know it, you’ll be ready for another back of the toilet poetry book.

c) I don’t read anything on writing or craft. But that’s probably because I’m a dumbass. Maybe you should? Who knows.

Talk to writers in person. Over beer. Try it, don’t deny it. Wine and other alcohol works too.

a) pick funny writers. Even if their work is serious.

b) don’t err towards good looking writers. Ugly ones are more fun.

c) happy hour is best since chances are, you will all be broke.

Use these words less

a) that
b) had
c) it
d) suddenly
e) and
f) all words in general.

Get Good at Twitter

To be a better editor. Brevity is beauty. I suck at it still but used to be worse. I started a Twitter account to force myself to get better at writing in 140 characters.

a) improves sentence structure big time.

b) learn what words are truly unnecessary.

c) becoming more economical makes your work more pleasing to read.

Use Print On Demand as a Way to Print Out Your Proof Copies.

Even if it’s just a chapbook of 10 poems, make a book, that’s the goal right? Lay the book out, start thinking about the work as a real book. Not just loose leaf paper.

a) I use createspace.
b) I make a proof copy of a paperback novel
c) order it, ship to my house
d) I don’t approve the proof.
e) costs $3
f) can keep editing it by hand and making a new proof copy as long as I want.

That’s just some stuff that I’ve gotten into doing. Will it help you? Fuck no, it might even hurt.

But, 2013 was a pretty preductive year for me. Hopefully some of this stuff helps you be more productive too. Or more important, enjoy the process of making stuff. That’s the real reason to do it. Because you enjoy the fuck out of it.

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CALL FOR SUBMISSIONS, UNKNOWN PRESS ANTHOLOGY: ‘TOO MUCH’ about Excess

Destructive press layers
Unknown Press is putting together a new anthology,
print and ebook.
Send creative non-fiction, fiction, poetry, flash, interviews to:

toomuchsubmissions@gmail.com

We’re looking for writing that finds it’s own way in under 5000 words. Creative non-fiction is preferred, ie. true stories that happened to you. But, we’re open to other forms. Try us.

Send as many submissions as you’d like, just keep it under 5000 words. For example, an essay at 2500 and a short story at 2000 words is perfectly fine. Wanna send 4 pieces of flash at 500 words a piece? Feel free. Please attach the sub. to the email as a word doc.

Theme:
The topic ‘Too Much’: humorous, strange, bizarre, touching, poignant. We’re looking for stories, essays, poems that touch on the most extreme experience you’ve had with drugs, alcohol, sex, any and all addictions to things considered good or known to be bad, whether that’s the internet, video games, a job, a relationship, a personal goal, even writing itself. Bring the weird. Bring the surprising and enlightening. Bring the falling over and seeing stars.

passed out

Too Much will be edited by Chuck Howe and Bud Smith for Unknown Press. Submissions are open from 1/5/13 until 3/1/13, pub. date is estimated around July 4th, 2014.

Payment will include one contributor copy of the paperback book, mailed to you. One free ebook version of the anthology. A discount code will be given to all contributors so they can purchase copies for themselves ‘at cost’.

Art direction and layout will be held in conjunction with the Uno Kudo crew, lead by its art director Erin McParland. So, this will surely be a beautiful book. A POD book, but done right. See examples of our other anthology ‘First Time’ to get a feel for our aesthetic and overall presentation.

Thank you for your time and energy. Muchas gracias.

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50 Steps To Writing a Poem

1. Get born

2. Breath some air

3. Once they give you a crayon, start drawing on everything

4. When they take your crayons away, make shapes with your peas and carrots or whatever

5. Laugh at everything

6. Stare at the sun

7. go underwater with your eyes open

8. listen to the dog’s heart for hours

9. listen to the cat’s heart for a split
second before it runs away

10. learn some of the alphabet

11. notice that things don’t always float

12. ride a BMX or something through weird trails.

13. learn a few numbers

14. when they mention the moon, remember that it is a) made of cheese, b) somewhere we never went

15. don’t get a haircut

16. get in a fist fight on the school bus with whoever will have you

17. fall out of a tree and break something.

18. kiss other humans

19. learn the rest of the alphabet

20. drink some water

21. go to a funeral in a Hawaiian shirt if they’ll let you.

22. try to levitate. just try. you never know.

23. lose some teeth

24. get some new teeth

25. play music everywhere all the time underneath everything

26. dream about neon death without pain

27. eat fire for lunch

28. graduate grammar school

29. carve things into dead wood

30. spell out S.O.S. in chicken bones

31. rhyme everything with orange

32. watch Goonies again

33. read books about anything but books

34. spit off a watertower onto the high tension powerlines.

35. do a backflip off a tire swing into a silver lake

36. go to the prom with a cardboard cut out of yourself

37. don’t go to college yet

38. drive around aimlessly through America

39. yell into caves

40. find a nice graveyard and make sure your tombstone isn’t there

41. go to college

42. Look for drugs

43. If you can’t find any, start selling drugs there

44. Invest your drug money in a nice suit

45. Also get a notebook

46. And a pen

47. write a poem

48. do you like it?

49. ok, you made it, you made a poem.

50. You’re done. You win.

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Book Giveaway for Tollbooth

I set up a book giveaway for my novel Tollbooth, out from Piscataway House. The giveaway will last 30 days, enter to win with the click of a god dang button. We’re giving away 5 signed paperback copies. I hope that you win one.

Check out the contest here

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If you’re not sure what’s up with Tollbooth, read here

Other comments, question? Hit me up down below. Also: wanna know more about having your own contests? Leave a comment.

First Time: an anthology about lost virginity

Last week, the First Time anthology was released. It’s my first attempt at gathering together some of my favorite underground writers to weigh in on a collective topic. As it turns out, First Time, just so happened to be about how 48 or so writers lost their virginities. Wild, hilarious stuff. Pretty punk rock too, I might add. Judging by how fun it was to do, I’m excited about a call for submissions for another anthology that’s soon to be announced.(Too Much: about the time you got too fucked up)

All together, I am really happy with how the First Time collection came out. It’s the first release by Unknown Press, which is going to be where I release future anthologies and books by peeps that I really respect. The cover was designed by the always super talented Rae Buleri. I did a lot of the artwork inside the book myself, some of the art was public domain sketches of nature (Like the GIANT snake that accompanies Nicole Adam’s stand out story “Baby Size Arm”)

Some contributors include, Gus Sanchez, Aaron Dietz, Robert Vaughan, Meg Tuite, Lynn Alexander, Heather Dorn, Ashley Perez, Allie Marini-Batts, Alex Reed, William Seward Bonnie, Wolf Carsens, John Yamrus …

It was a great project and its available now on Amazon as a print title and coming soon as a Kindle title once the formatting gets completed.

———-

Coming next month, from Unknown Press, Chuck Howe’s collection of short stories “If I Had Wings These Windmills Would be Dead” will be released. Keep an eye out for that.

In the meantime, you should give First Time a look, but be warned, it’s pretty raunchy stuff and will make you laugh out loud. Trust me, I’ve seen it happen.

Check it out here

Soon there will be some readings and radio appearances for First Time. I’ll keep you in the loop.

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