The other week I flew out to Detroit and helped Third Man Records celebrate the grand opening of their brand new record pressing facility in the Cass Corridor. The party was historic, on many levels. Lucky for me, Adrianne Mathiowetz was there to capture some special moments ...
I spent a fantastic weekend in Detroit attending the Third Man Records Grand Opening for their new record pressing plant (more on that amazing experience in a future post), only to return to a fantastic review of my book over at The Kenyon Review:
Like a cinematographer building a film entirely on the muzzy images of extreme close-up shots, Stucky has vanished scenes and subjects to build a suspense of mood. He pulls from Eastern religious texts, mysticism, and the occult, and casts dirty, hallucinatory images onto graceful lines about love, resulting in a collection that is empathetic, nuanced, and wild.
It's wonderful to see reviews still coming out on my book, but even more so when I read one that took its time digging into not just the gestures in the lines but the influences behind them. Though I don't know her personally, I feel lucky to have had a critic as caring as Jenn Mar pickup my collection and write about it.
Lately I’ve been writing ten ideas down each morning as a daily exercise. Each day I choose a theme for these ideas to help me focus. One day the theme might be 10 ways to improve publicity for Black Ocean; another day the theme might be 10 features I want in a dream home. Today I wrote down 10 relatively small things I can do during the Trump presidency to help alleviate suffering and make the world a better place. You’ll notice that there is an emphasis on taking care of oneself, the importance of which I’ve learned during two decades of activism, volunteer work, and social enterprise. Outrage may get you off your couch and into the streets but compassion and care will get you through the next 4 years. Social change isn’t a sprint; it’s a marathon. I’ll see you out there.
Get involved with an organization that actively seeks to help others, which also feels exciting to be involved in (for me, this is The Awesome Foundation). If I can’t get excited by the work, then I won’t do the work.
Perform a daily kindness for a stranger — preferably one most adversely affected by the ugliest elements of Trump’s platform, meaning: people of color, immigrants, jews, muslims, people who identify as queer or non-binary, and women. Generosity and kindness is a powerful antidote for hatred and pain, and simply offering someone my seat on a train ennobles my world.
Perform a daily act of care for a loved one. My family — chosen or biological — is my center. When I take care of them I make myself stronger.
Perform a daily act of self-care that is relaxing. Work is tiring and rest is important. Eat comfort foods when I need them; allow myself to veg out or take a break; self-medicate if I can do so in moderation; don’t feel guilty about guilty pleasures when I’m also devoting myself to do good in the world.
Perform a daily act of self-care that is generative. Every day I try to read for 45 minutes, get at least 30 minutes of exercise, and meditate for 15 minutes. Doing this improves my emotional state, makes me feel calm, and provides a sense of fulfilment on mental, physical, and spiritual levels. Creative acts also make me feel this way, as does simply going for a long walk without purpose or destination. Here and here are some other great ideas.
Be engaged with local politics and be vocal with your support of progressive local representatives; they need to feel my appreciation and enthusiasm during their long fight.
Engage with people on social media less, and more in person.
Ask friends who are working for progressive organizations how I can help them — either personally through an act of care, or with professional / volunteer assistance. Then perform that help.
Be vigilant of suffering, and offer without ego what is asked for in order to relieve that suffering. But also work to separate suffering from fear. Fear is a form of suffering generated by the anticipation of suffering, and often just leads to more suffering. Fear is the mind killer.
When I become angry, take a break until anger is replaced by compassion. Anger is how we got here.
Over the past few days I've been reading this hard-to-find transcript of a conversation that Nikki Giovanni and James Baldwin had back in 1973. The dialogue is so layered with leaping brilliance and powerful observations that it feels like a crystalline oasis in the desert of media static. The conversation beautifully highlights the differences of perspective between Baldwin and Giovanni, in both their gendered and generational experience (at the time Giovanni was 28 and Baldwin 49). The conversation also happens to contain the best thinking I've read on the current racial problems in the United States, even though it took place over 40 years ago ... But what I want to post today is this clip from Baldwin talking about the value of writing. Over the past 2 years I've noticed a number of artists, including myself, questioning the value of creating art in a time that is so rife with "real world" suffering. My justification, and explanation, for carrying on has always revolved around what I consider the ontological value of good writing--and the fissures art creates in the consciousness when, even if just for a moment, we experience a more vital way of operating in the world, and through that moment then seek out more extreme and enlightened modes of existence. In the excerpt below, Baldwin says something similar, but is of course infinitely more eloquent than I am. I've been returning to it again and again ...
"The very first thing a writer has to face is that he cannot be told what to write. You know, nobody asked me to be a writer; I chose it. Well, since I’m a man I have to assume I chose it; perhaps in fact, I didn’t choose it. But in any case, the one thing you have to do is try to tell the truth. And what everyone overlooks is that in order to do it—when the book comes out it may hurt you—but in order for me to do it, it had to hurt me first. I can only tell you about yourself as much as I can face about myself. And this has happened to everybody who’s tried to live. You go through life for a long time thinking, No one has ever suffered the way I’ve suffered, my God, my God. And then you realize— You read something or you hear something, and you realize that your suffering does not isolate you; your suffering is your bridge. Many people have suffered before you, many people are suffering around you and always will, and all you can do is bring, hopefully, a little light into that suffering. Enough light so that the person who is suffering can begin to comprehend his suffering and begin to live with it and begin to change it, change the situation. We don’t change anything; all we can do is invest people with the morale to change it for themselves."
This year, after a decade of publishing other people’s books I finally had my own full-length debut come out and was fortunate enough to dedicate many of my days and nights to traveling and performing the work–across almost 30 cities, and a few countries. It has truly been a lifelong dream come true, and tonight I’m filled with love and gratitude to everyone who joined me on that journey. Whether you came to one of my shows, invited me to perform, helped produce an event, toured with me, performed with me, promoted a show, played music at one of the shows, bought my book, read my book, reviewed my book, gave me a bed to sleep in / a couch to sleep on / or a meal to eat, or just patiently supported me as I dropped a lot of other things to focus on my book for an entire year, you became part of the realization of that lifelong dream. Thank You.
Korean magazine, Munjang, has an interview with me up online this week–along with a review of my new book. If you speak Korean check it out. An English language version of this article is also forthcoming in Entropy Magazine.
September is upon us, which means it’s time to stop playing your fiddle and start hoarding books for the long winter ahead. All the hip-lit buzz seems to be around Purity this week, but here are some new (non-poetry) books which weren’t written by Jonathan Franzen that I’m looking forward to digging into as I mull my cider and toast my pumpkin seeds:
Hunger Makes Me a Modern Girl: A Memoir by Carrie Brownstein
The Story of My Teeth by Valeria Luiselli, trans. Christina MacSweeney
Tram 83 by Fiston Mwanza Mujila
Negroland: A Memoir by Margo Jefferson
M Train by Patti Smith
The Complete Stories by Clarice Lispector, trans. Katrina Dodson
**Token white male author (not shown):
Eyes: Novellas and Stories by William Gass
Third Man Books has declared today (7/21/2015) Frank Stanford Day. In honor of this day, there’s a sale on all Third Man Records merchandise, and free Stanford buttons for your leather rock n roll jacket. Get 10% off your entire order at with the purchase of ANY Third Man Books title (including mine)!
Go to http://thirdmanstore.com to fill up your shopping basket.