Dan Magers scribes as if poet-ghost adrift thru dressing rooms backstage taking notes, capturing the moment in all its lovely eros and happiness and cause for alarm. Writing poems like these is just as good as starting a band when poems like songs flood the brain
Dan Magers, Partyknife, Birds, LLC, 2012.
"Magers scribes as if poet-ghost adrift thru dressing rooms backstage taking notes, capturing the moment in all its lovely eros and happiness and cause for alarm. Writing poems like these is just as good as starting a band when poems like songs flood the brain. I like your smile." —Thurston Moore
"Dan Magers writes some messed-up shit. I don’t really mean messed-up in the sense that it is jacked or bizarre, though he does manage to get poetically unorthodox shit like Cash Money Millionaires, Morrissey album counts, sexy Muppets, and weed and Paxil and Vicodin into scenes where you would not ordinarily expect them. I mean that in Dan Magers’ text the range of logic and approach to how we normally read and receive information is perverted, though in an alarmingly casual way. Like at first it seems you’re being spoken to in party conversation talk, then it seems maybe like you’re on Twitter, then suddenly you’re digging through one of Wittgenstein’s notebooks, then you’re reading a letter from someone you used to know. It swims together into a thing that’s singularly Magers. It's a lot like staring into those Magic Eye paintings at the mall, which I could never do, and so ended up just seeing all these flecks of color flexing against themselves, and all the mall voices weaving into that.
I’m reporting all this on the occasion that his debut book, Partyknife, just came out on Austin, Minneapolis, New York, and Raleigh-based independent press Birds, LLC. The book is shaped like a record sleeve and has six multicolored knives on the cover and on the back. Thurston Moore says, “Writing poems like these is just as good as starting a band,” which is apt because the book is stuffed with all these made-up bands and made-up artists and real bands and real artists all smudged together in this weird, wise, lazy stoner brain assemblage, the movement of which sneaks up on you. It’s cool when a book can access reality in a way that isn’t boring and then append that reality with made-up shit, I think. Partyknife does that in a way that feels fresh and sticky. Last time I saw Dan Magers he was wearing a copy of the book around his neck on a gold chain. It’s like that.
Another thing: dude is funny. And not in the way books try to be funny and aren’t funny really for what they are but because you know it is supposed to be—like here’s my funny scene involving shaving cream and tits. Instead, Partyknife is funny logically, in how it organizes its thoughts, surprising the first time and then impressive in a different way the second time. For all the wild shit crammed in here, all the beer and stoner metal and Lacan and art bros and quiet panic attacks, it gels and works machine-style. It makes me want to stare at shit with a blown-out smile on my face, which is good because that keeps happening when I read it." - Blake Butler
“Partyknife” exists as an amalgamation of unspecific bands relevant to that pre-famous, party-playing, hipster city scene. Yes, there is sex: “I ejaculate into a sock and give it to Chinese people to wash”. Yes, there is urinating: “Right now I have to pee. We are not in crisis mode yet, / but it infuses my every thought”. Yes, there is drinking: “I’m the Jesus of making out with girls drunk”; and drugs: “Adderall is doing such amazing work in me, / I have little time to figure it out”. And, of course, there are the writers: “There were three writers at a Christmas party / in Brooklyn, and they were talking about / another writer.”
It may be difficult for the reader to see through the appearances of sex, drugs, and Rock and Roll, but the background din of emotional toil that emanates from the poems’ more rewarding lines supplies the reader with an exceptional incentive: a remastered or remixed social fatalism that possesses hinted-at determination for self-preservation. Regarding the aftermath of love-lost at the heart of the volume, Magers writes, “Welling up in my hands are emotions, / and I awakened in her wake, / and I almost saw heaven then.” Conclusively determining whether the “heaven” is ironic or not broadens the poem’s reading by denying a clear reckoning of severity. And it’s something for which Magers should be thanked, for art shouldn’t be pandering, it should take risks, and only through close inspection should a work of art’s rewards be afforded those willing. The oscillating tonalities and dictions fashioned in Partyknife make for a beautifully complex work of emotion and relevance and take to task contemporary poetry’s uncertain direction. With so much weak irony and self-reference establishing poetry’s new foundations, Magers’s work demonstrates that there can be more if done so with a social intelligence and a deep understanding of poetry’s aesthetics.
There is an air to Dan Magers’s first collection that many will relate to but few will have experienced. The subject matter shouldn’t be read superficially, which would exclude the deep intelligence throughout the lyrics. New apogees of anxiety, excess, loss, and nihilism are pursued in Partyknife, conveyed artfully by the author for the sake of Art’s—and by proxy, society’s—vitality. What threads the superficial abstracts together is a very particular desire. By the laws of nature, society and the individual are in a constant struggle or desire against disorder; the universe dwindles to the endgame of entropy, and nothing can be done to stop it. In the twentieth-century, Beckett, Camus, Sartre, Artaud, et al explored what that endgame might look like when experienced from within its vacuum, a kind of cenophobia. Their art not only tackled it as subject matter but as parameters for aesthetics, regardless the attempts made to wiggle away from Aristotle’s edicts without falling into the nothingness of Dadaism. It can be done and done successfully as they proved, yet their successes also proved nihilism difficult to refashion in new generations, and society has yet to see the nihilism—in subject and aesthetics—exemplified by mid-twentieth century artists. The nihilism of Partyknife may be translated as a deepening angst relative to the new century for all intents, and in rupturing the gentle balance between order and disorder. The art of Partyknife exemplifies an aesthetically complete and humanly flawed persona lowered into the limbo where, “Everything I hated has become my life now. / By which I mean how happy I am.”
The persona in these poems owns its (his) existential illiteracy, which is to say Magers’s control over the tone and poetic line is consistent and dramatic, and a great imbalance persists not in the poetry itself, but as a byproduct within the persona’s temporary inability to reconcile his changing self with the pace of the life he’s living. Juxtaposing high lyricism with relative confessionalism, the poems feel at once free flowing but exceedingly crafted and tonally never fall by way of melodrama, unless it is a self-pitying of the persona’s choosing: “I don’t want to be remembered / except as what the worst person thought of me then.” Thus, the nature of tone in contemporary poetry, what Carl Phillips has deemed a “prevailing age of cool irony where we deny we even have woundable feelings”, as one may interpret in Magers’s poetry actually ascribes a hoodwinked seriousness about the milieu of drinking, mixtapes, and hooking-up. It should be of little surprise that certain subject matter rarely yields great works of art, and Magers’s tackling of what may be considered off-limits content—material too pedestrian or too “low-brow”, stuff that’s already been rendered by the likes of the New York School—belies such assumptions because he is able to create a stark motivation for the content’s exploration. These are not only objective correlatives; this is also reality.
Bidart—by way of Catallus (“I hate and I love”)—is the contemporary master of versifying contradiction in one single breath: “Wanting to cease to feel—; / …my romance with Orgasm” and continues overtly: “the NO which is YES, the YES which is NO.” Whether under the influence of Bidart and other contemporaries, or the shifting attention patterns of the writers, many poets now depend too much on the grammatical construct of abrupt contradiction, which comes across as lethargic associative logic or the non sequitor. Much of the overreliance or overuse is the product of poems’ lack of apparent crafting; the usage runs the risk of feeling slapdash or too insular. But like Bidart’s, the non sequitor in Magers’s poems is validated by the strength of his poetic line, which rummages through the diction to manifest highly rhythmic meters:
Checking every LES building’s door
to smuggle in for some rooftop drinking.
Rob, will you be my dad?
I’ve lived in New Orleans, I’ve KNOWN vampires.
If I leapt back, do you think I could fly?
New Year’s Eve fireworks…an uphill run along the campus,
the dorm way out above, the frozen lake below.
Hip-checking girls along 3rd Avenue,
and I laughed at your rape jokes until I got the hiccups;
asked by paramedics what my name is
in a bagel place, tiny as shit, busy as fuck.
The integrity of this poem’s cohesion is not only in the indirect rhythm but in how the poem’s context is established by the italicized lines, which act to emulate the shaky foundation of reality and perception. The image of fireworks, exploding in the sky as the observer runs, is at the poem’s heart; the moment in the poem at which the poem pivots and descends into memory and contingent thinking. Something about the experience of drunkenly walking a late and bustling New York City has evoked the past. Then, the writing erupts back into the sensual world, which is jarring and sudden and uncomfortably physical, much like the writing itself. Equilibrium is refused the narrator as well as the reader. Caesuras are manipulated to better offset a smooth reading. At these abrupt pauses, the poem sidesteps, only to sidestep again in subsequent clauses, both pushing and pulling the reader away from and into its world. In a nutshell, this tactic should always be the purpose of the non sequitor, and it’s employed masterfully over and over and in varying degrees in Partyknife. Earlier in the book, the persona is with a girl he’s “fucking” and she’s introducing him to her friends:
I have no idea what these kids are talking about.
Lacan and baby food.
Disequilibrium is manifested in the content of the characters’ speech. Magers creates the purpose for his aesthetic, and his aesthetic creates his purpose for his voice. Like the Cubists, the aesthetic principles must adhere to the changing perceptions of a fracturing world in some attempt to overlay order about the chaos. It all culminates in Partyknife in a moment of wayward Hegelian dialectic, the persona reaching for a defining meaning inherent in such schizophrenic unbalancing:
And when does I’m doing it for experience
become the experience itself?
I take all of it, and I really can’t have any of it.
From nothing to something to nothing is a soul.
And everything else is matter.
It takes intelligence and bravery to infuse such audacious lyrics with a bedridden existential anxiety and to have it mean something as a work of art, ultimately. The antipodal natures of lyricism and super-contemporary idioms (crass language, internet-speak, for example) may not mix well for every reader, but the authenticity of voice and emotional resonance hold the poems in Partyknife together inventively. They are in that Goldilocks Zone—not too poetic, not too coarse; not too coy, not too fearless. Rosanna Warren wrote of Melville, “perhaps it is in meeting one’s native sorrow that one ultimately wrests one’s own being into shape.” It’s the shaping into being that can be translated into art. To this notion should be added Hayden’s ars poetica: “All art is pain / suffered and outlived.” For however much the content may appear to detract from the overall arc of Magers’s ars poetica, the voice he has created acts as a perfect counterbalance to the anxious self-appraisals and literal screamings which cycle through the persona’s experiences on a minute-to-minute basis. The unnamed Everyman of Partyknife lives a life of few, if any, heroics, and he is only human, at this particular moment in this particular age. Magers’s work deftly embodies the time in which it is written and at the same time refracts the collective cynicism of a well-worn society aloof and indifferent to its own inability to question the complexities of ontology, and maybe even indifferent collectively to the great utility of art. Not only is Magers capable of questioning such complexities without moralizing or denouncing, he is capable of answering them with the “being-into-shape” of Partyknife, which is the endurance of the art and artist in the face of the transitory, of fragile history—personal or otherwise.
Lucid dreams and near-death experiences
become so serious. A night
I wanted changed will have forgotten
how to, leaving only that I wanted something else." - The Aviary
"I tried to sneak PARTYKNIFE into a movie I had it in my bag but it was too loud, they made me leave. I threw it down on the ground and yelled DOMINO MOTHERFUCKER and every kid there handed over their money, they were pissed. I stood outside your window holding up PARTYKNIFE like a boombox. I carved John Cusak out of soap; PARTYKNIFING the flakes into the bin. Before PARTYKNIFE velvet was just velvet, now it’s fucking CRUSHED. Some guy was looking at me outside the Porn Emporium so I PARTYKNIFED him right in the fucking eye. He took hours to die.
Reviews aren’t supposed to mimic their subject. There is something kind of shady and callow about attempting to perform a text. Like, it’s a script but I’m this here great fucking actor, you know? And that has to be appreciated. PARYKNIFE’s a house but what I want is for you to be all “love what you did with the place.” (I want you to purr and I want you do it in the 1960’s). Acting out the text says the reviewer [this guy] wishes to borrow some dilute version of the verve and intelligence of the text itself. As if for a really hot date, and the book’s just this jacket lying around. You won’t mind (right?).
I mean, you haven’t even read the book so if I swagger around with some dark wig and a mega-fuck-me vibe you might think it’s mine, you’d have no idea I just raided Dan Magers’ closet (“this is not very PARTYKNIFE” he whispered before I taped his mouth shut and threw him down the basement stairs). Or you might have some idea but still, you’d think this Russel guy’s got some moxie, it’s at least a little bit him, this review is in fact kind of a thing itself, it’s a thing. As opposed to a mere layer of varnish on the thing itself. Maybe it’s normal to want that but that doesn’t make it right. Reviews should tell us (I mean, to the best of their ability) what the book is. It’s not “is this a good book.” It’s “what is this book, what is its nature.” Leaving the choice of good/bad up to the reader. I don’t really have access to the good/bad part of your head, we haven’t met and even if we did you probably wouldn’t want me rummaging around in there [haven’t washed my hands sine 1983].
Ok, so what IS the book? It’s really good, is the first thing. If you’re looking for a simple yes/no, well, there it is. I mean, even though I think it’s trashy to say so, there it is. YOU WANTED A RECOMMENDATION OK: buy this book. If You Want A Hit. Buy it. Buy the shit out of it. You should give it to the coat check girl and you should fuck her. You should build a pillow fort out of this book. You should replace cocaine with this book. (Jk keep doing cocaine). “Crying is just nature’s way of saying you’re wrong.”
PARTYKNIFE SPEAK “Awash in Tamaki’s beauty / I am the Burger King of crying right now.” From the poem “Black dudes always know when you’re high.” An irreverent book, a punched ticked book, a book that is a narrative that has also expired (faceless party kids faceless days emptying their faces of all expression). A poem about gifts (“A green number six Billiard ball, / perfectly halved”, “a toy robot”) concludes “a gift is not a gift unless you miss it.” It’s a sad book, then, a sad punk rock book. It’s a tender book. It’s an imperfect book—there are plenty of lines that fall flat (“we got addicted to snorting 9/11 dust / and listened to the feel good hits of Generation X”). Yet those failures— those misses—seem to contribute to the overall feel of the book, a certain grasping after the incomplete wanting to both have it and for it be something other than what it is, viz. incomplete, possibly mutilated. There was a time. There was a place. That is the theme of the book. Written in broken neon. “ALL BANDS ARE ABOUT HOW NEUROTIC WE ARE. / AND NOT HAVING FUN. / WHICH IS WHAT THE EIGHTIES WERE ABOUT.” A loud book, a book at maximum volume.
If you’re doing it with that girl right now,
then this message means jackshit, but probably
you’re not—probably she’s like, “where’s the beer?”
and you’re like, “I don’t got any,”
but we’ve got the beer right here.
Endless parties but here’s the catch—they’re always ending. “We partied during the war years, and his face melted off.” Why not. A loving address to a Coors 40 “....gone/ but your ghost lives on inside of me / infusing all my actions / with what you always dreamed for me to accomplish.” But like, don’t confuse this with Less Than Zero style nihilism—there’s always a sneaky sense of kung-fu cool pervading. Sad maybe but this is sad with style (“gleeful haywire” v. Berryman). “The punk kid in the punk house laughs at the paint he wipes on my new shirt, / but I am an insane god.” It’s a surprising book, endlessly inventive and strange, like a puppet show or a graphic novel, something small, something vast.
You may have noticed btw that I am failing in my stated intentions to say WHAT this book is. I’m just slapping adjectives onto it like I’m the king of slapping Lisa Frank stickers on someone’s arm then punching 'em kind of hard. And I am that. This isn’t because I want to fail. It’s just, I can’t convey this book. It’s elusive. What is the heart of it? “Occasionally the center of attention / brings into focus a girl who loves erasing.” No? “Kneeling at the altar of the merely beautiful.” NO???? “”Exclamation points, no matter how many, / cannot say what all caps articulates from my soul.” “Only some of this will affect you,” Magers tells us. But I was affected by all of it. OK. “Now My Band Will Fuck You.”
You must so fucking sick of me at this point (I started out there but you’re there now, what up?). But this is the book that spurs you to speak as it. This Is The book. You didn’t know what you wanted to be and now you do. “Sexy like a Muppet, / guzzling Diet Cokes like I was Bill Clinton.” Glitter stuck in our eyes like we only look at fancy shit. I threw a PARTYKNIFE in a walk-in freezer, even the confetti hurt. THESE AND OTHER ACTIVITIES theseandvariousenvies. Try and recall the last book you wanted to take up as a lifestyle. Try and recall in particular, the last book of poetry that you wanted to become. It made me feel good. When’s the last time poetry made you feel good? Not distant and admiring, not the literary equivalent of the Met. When was the last time you read a book of poetry that hit you cinema hard? That left you pointing frantically at the screen, a la Velvet Goldmine, saying that’s me.
Look, it’s not the most important book I’ve read in the last five years. Maybe not even the most talented. But it’s the one that gave me the most pleasure, without guilt or complication. I’d forgotten that poetry could do that. That it could provide pure pleasure. We’ve ceded that territory, wrongly, to the escapism of fiction. Perhaps I haven’t engaged with the ideas here, the content beneath the apparent: but my relationship to this book is teen dream, first love, never over it, I am the fucking genie of it. I have tried to be true to that. And perhaps in my response you’ll be able to understand what could cause such a response, perhaps you can negative space this, based upon my stabs at meaning making and: make it whole.
This feels so good. Slap me if I fall asleep,
She says you’ve been sleeping this whole time.
Like a teenager again.
Dust motes exploding off her hair.
And I woke up in a wheelchair." - Russel Swensen
"Partyknife, the debut book of poems by Dan Magers published on June 5, has drawn attention not only from the usual lit mag crowd, but also from places far rarer for poetry collections, such as Vice Magazine and a blurb from Sonic Youth maestro and indie tastemaker Thurston Moore, who declared: “Writing poems like these is just as good as starting a band.” Magers is co-founder and co-editor of Sink Review, an online poetry journal, and founder and editor of Immaculate Disciples Press, a handmade chapbook press focused on poetry and visual arts collaborations. He grew up in Kansas City, MO and now lives in Brooklyn. Gina Myers first met him at The New School, where they both were pursuing degrees in creative writing. They recently caught up over e-mail to discuss Partyknife, his contradictory feelings about coolness, the awesomeness of T-Rex, and how he really feels about Billy Collins.
Partyknife appears to be a series of poems written from the perspective of a single persona. How would you describe the protagonist of the book, and where would you say you came up with him?
- The poems that eventually became Partyknife started happening in September 2009 on an Amtrak train. I had my laptop and was culling through hundreds of pages of Microsoft Word documents that I call “sketchbooks” (which is where I had been drafting poems or writing out notes and ideas over the course of five years). I started pulling out my favorite lines and quotes of failed poems or just random notes and lines that seemed really awesome to me and started collaging them together into poems that were about the size of sonnets (but not sonnets). I realized that the lines I was pulling were less “poemy,” more like “everyday language”– funny/sad/angry lines and ideas I had written down at work or things overheard or spoken to me by friends.
I don’t think I was very conscious of creating a persona for a long time, probably until after the book was accepted for publication by Birds, LLC and I started getting edits back. I felt like I was just writing poems using a “lyric ‘I’” that was and wasn’t about me. Since I was collaging together new lines with lines that were five years old, it did not feel like I was writing about myself, even when writing about things I had really done or said. I was conscious of how closely both poetry readers and non-poetry readers alike associate a lyric “I” with the author, and I played with that sometimes. Frederick Seidel’s poetry does this, and I was reading a lot of him several years ago though I might have exhausted whatever it was that inspired me in his writing, because I haven’t really returned to his work.
One of the first responses about the book after it published was from a friend of a friend, whom I’ve never met, and who does not read poetry. After she flipped through my book and read a poem, she remarked to my friend, “It would be interesting to know what the author’s relationship is to ‘coolness’.” This really struck me, since if I was asked, I don’t think I would be able to account for my feelings about coolness in a satisfying way. I think my contradictory feelings about coolness acted very much as an organizing force in creating the poems.
Can you explain your “contradictory feelings about coolness”?
- I think all I mean is that the book is very much infused with my experience living in Brooklyn during my 20s. You are constantly surrounded by coolness where I live, surrounded by people who are trying to be cool, but are also disparaging coolness. I do this, and I am totally uncool. One also realizes that these concerns are profoundly unimportant, and yet they can take over how you see the world. This might be related to the sometimes detached or aloof tone of parts of the book that some readers have noticed.
I actually have not really thought about this idea of coolness until after the book came out. I don’t think through why I’m writing what I’m writing. So while it is at once probably a generating force of the book, talking about it seems very new to me and probably needs to be developed more.
When I first read Partyknife, I felt a little like I was in on it, having lived in Brooklyn and witnessed that hipster party nightlife scene in my 20s too, but I feel like it captures something people anywhere can grasp or identify with. Through either the writing or editorial processes, did you give much thought to who your ideal audience would be?
One of the most gratifying things that happened when the book came out was how many people would contact me, both writers and non-writers, and say that reading the book made them want to write poetry, or write something. I’m really excited the book inspires that kind of response in people. When I say the book is about coolness, I don’t think that means it’s exclusive. I’ve mentioned coolness, but the book is also about unrequited love and coming to an understanding that your dreams will not come true. It’s those things that everybody relates to.
Besides Frederick Seidel, what other writers or artists influenced Partyknife or you in general?
- There are really too many to name. I really love Denis Johnson’s short story collection Jesus’s Son. Whereas Seidel I’ve not picked up in a few years, I am regularly reading through the Johnson book, and even though it’s such a short book, the writing in it is a constant source of inspiration. For a few years after I first moved to New York in 2003, I probably thought about John Ashbery’s poetry on a daily basis. Three Poems is my favorite. Though now I get a sense that I’m constantly trying to write away from him, which probably reflects the impact he’s had on my reading and writing. When I look back at the book specifically, I notice influences by John Berryman and Ted Berrigan, but these didn’t really register when I was writing.
One important non-writing influence is my childhood friend Matt Bollinger’s visual art. With regards to the book, I especially think to Matt’s work that appeared in his first New York City show:. I think the images depicting a band and implying a love triangle really resonated with me, and I ran with them in my own direction.
I also deeply love listening to music, which is one of my favorite things. The speaker in the poems is a struggling-to-failed musician, and I think it has surprised a couple people to learn that I do not play or write music. I’ve only wanted to be a writer. But I listen to music everyday.
With the chapbook press you edit, Immaculate Disciples Press, there is a focus on collaboration between writers and artists. What do you find interesting about that collaboration/why is it important to you?
- I’m interested in collaboration between writers and artists in particular because, just in a practical sense, a collaborator usually has skills, abilities, or experiences that I don’t have. If both of us are using our own abilities on a project, the sum will be greater than the parts. We do not publish a lot – usually one or two chapbooks per year. My partner in Immaculate Disciples is Matt – and since we’ve known each other so long and have a good idea of each other’s aesthetic interests and trust each other’s judgements, we’ve published several successful chapbooks. Lately Steven Karl, my co-editor at Sink Review, has come on as guest editor to choose chapbook projects and produce them. We also get help from other artist friends or people who want to hang out and help collate printed pages or bind the chapbooks together. All this collaboration across genres also opens new perspectives in what is possible in writing.
How does being an editor affect your writing? I know through conversations we’ve had outside of this interview that you credit Sam Starkweather and the other editors at Birds, LLC with really helping shape the book. Has either that experience or your work at Sink Review shaped how you approach your own writing or the writing of others?
- I think that being an editor of an online literary magazine has shaped my reading more than my writing, though of course those things are intertwined. Running an online poetry journal and writing and editing poetry book reviews (things I also do for Sink) are really good ways to become familiar with the many different facets of contemporary poetry. It is also cool to be able to have a platform to feature poetry you are excited about or book reviews of books that deserve more attention. The poets we publish generally have 0-2 books out, and so it is also gratifying to get to follow talented poets who we’ve helped to introduce to an audience.
What music have you been listening to lately?
- I don’t listen to as much new music as I used to, something I always get mildly insecure about. One album I’ve been listening to over and over lately is T-Rex’s The Slider. I will play the album on my commute to work, and then again on the way home. Then sometimes again at home. The album is not really that hard or that heavy, but it really rocks and is sexy as hell. I was playing it while hanging out with a friend, who remarked that I seem to most like the slow jams on the album – “Mystic Lady,” “Spaceball Ricochet,” “Ballrooms of Mars.” Also “Metal Guru” is like one of the best opening songs of any album.
Are you currently working on any new projects or have upcoming readings or publications?
- Since I spent so long writing Partyknife, I’m pretty content to not get immediately involved in new writing projects, and to rather just write to teach myself new ways of making poems without thinking much about publishing them. My day job is in book publishing, so I’m familiar with how author-driven book promotion is. So right now I think my main focus is on getting the word out about Partyknife. I feel like that will be my focus for the rest of the year. Probably the best way to keep track of me is to follow me on twitter or friend me on Facebook.
Do you have any words of advice regarding author-driven promotion?
- By the time you get a finished copy of your book, you likely will have already spent months, if not years, thinking about it, and it feels like a great time to collapse at the finish line. However, once you get the book, it almost feels to me like a halfway point. No one is going to know more about your book than you, and no one will be more excited about your book than you, which is why it’s important for an author to be front and center. For writers or anyone really, this can feel awkward, having to not only talk about your work (and yourself), but to do so in a way that makes people want to seek out and pay money for your book. It takes a lot of confidence and energy, and will take time away from writing or other things you want to do.
My first chapbook was self-published, so I think it’s something I’ve known for a long time and am comfortable with. But it’s not much different in major publishing houses – they might have more resources at hand (maybe), but a big publishing house with thousands of authors will expect new authors to already have a sense of their audience and to then market to them endlessly.
I’m making it sound laborious, but it really is one of the most gratifying things in the world to have someone you don’t know come up to you at a reading or email you later on and tell you how much your work affected them. I mean, I think that’s why a lot of people become writers. If you can just focus on making these kinds of connections on this scale, you will be much more productive than fretting about how you will sell hundreds of copies of books to people you’ve never met.
Can you tell me how you really feel about Billy Collins?
Ha, poor Billy Collins. I don’t hate him. He can get thousands of dollars to spend an hour reading poetry to a room of Bank of America executives, but I don’t hate him.
I guess it can seem odd for me to talk about how the book is not meant to exclude an audience beyond poets, and then have a book trailer burning a copy of a book by the one poet non-poets might know. Still, we were thinking of what book would serve as the best prop for our book trailer, and when I saw both the cover and title, my first thought was, “yeah let’s set this on fire.” As Jim Behrle said, “If you wrote a book called The Trouble with Poetry, you might be the trouble with poetry.” - Interview by Gina Myers
Three Poems from Partyknife
The idea of smoking pot to regulate my life is unraveling,
so I need to make a necessary improvement.
I am a nationally-known public speaker.
Sexy like a Muppet,
guzzling Diet Cokes like I was Bill Clinton,
my blankness is the blankness of Reagan.
Then I became hungry like a fat person.
In preparation for Fucktime,
I threw my bedding in the dryer
that was defective and everything burned.
My friend Rob said it smelled like skin.
You know what it was?
It was the beginning of tomorrow.
And today is all your life will ever be.
I’ve seen everything that’s funny on the internet.
Rockstar of masturbation and hot dog violence.
I serve everything I get.
What comes in is entered out of pity.
Oh my god, it’s happening!
Thinking about the history of death metal,
I realized I know nothing about death metal
and had a panic attack.
I tried to mouth off to some people,
and they just took it.
What a wimpy Halloween.
Even though I’m hanging out with white people,
it’s turning out pretty well.
Why would I pee on the bath mat? The toilet is right there.
I tried to start a rumor that Cecilia’s career would stall
because she was epileptic, and when she would perform in discos,
she will have seizures.
It’s as if the wind just dies away,
but this is not the masochistic work of man. It is nature within man.
Eventually she transforms into a tree and it is beautiful.
That’s the power of skin.
And when I die, I’ll just be dead.
Dan Magers, WHITE-COLLAR WORKER: I AM A DESTINY, H_NGM_N
"There’s a new chapbook online at H_NGM_N — Dan Magers’s White-Collar Worker: I Am a Destiny. This one is definitely worth a longer look (and at free, it’s way underpriced). Magers is paying attention to life and giving us not the best sentences to describe it, but the one-liners that best highlight everything else (like, “Someone is having a lot of trouble/in the bathroom.” or “I’m bleeding from the nose. It’s not broken.”) Even if you aren’t — as Magers seems to be — paying attention to arty music and its culture (“The amps are the band. The dudes are the roadies.”) and ramming around with collegiate drunkards (“I have no idea what these kids are talking about./Lacan and baby food.”) you’ll see there’s lots to laugh at and more to find marvelous. I read it quickly and found my reading to be informed by Magers’s early reflection:
Meaning contains a glancing similarity
to what is happening to me." - Adam Robinson