Save The University of Akron Press

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Hey folks. I’ve been seeing some heartbreaking headlines posted all over social media regarding the University of Akron’s potential to close its book press and couldn’t help but to post an open letter to its top administrators: Scott Scarborough (President), Lawrence Burns (Vice President of Advancement), Mike Sherman (Senior Vice President, Provost & Chief Operating Officer), and Paul Herold (Secretary of the Board of Trustees). It’s posted below. If you feel inclined to learn more and see what you can do to help keep the book press in biz, visit the Save The University of Akron Press’ Facebook Page!

Dear Scott Scarborough, Lawrence Burns, Mike Sherman & Paul Herold––

I am writing with uniformed concern for the University of Akron’s book press, and I say uninformed because I am unaware of the school’s situation in full, and, though a bit speculative, I frankly believe media outlets suppress facts to produce more persuasive journalism. If, however, recent headlines are accurate regarding University of Akron’s plans to halt its book press funding, then I am obligated to ask: would you please consider other means to transpose the institution’s budget from deficit to reclamation?

Akron’s book press has been an essential contributor to the literary arts for thirty years, and its most notable effort, I’d argue, is the esteemed Akron Series in Poetry. On the one hand, through an entrepreneurial lens, I can see how one may justify considering poetry an expense worth omitting since, as a product, it has very little monetary value, and its supply trumps its demand. On the other hand, through an academic lens, there is a fundamental need to preserve and respect poetry since it cannot be forgotten the arts are precursors of the sciences, and if academia believes the arts have been exhausted to the extent of futility, then the academy is, in fact, blaspheming its own being.

The first and foremost duty of academia is to embrace and respect preexisting knowledge, to shelter it in order to promote research and discovery and/or creation of yet-to-exist knowledge. Poetry of the past must remain in the proverbial knowledge arsenal, and the poetry of contemporary thinkers that has yet to be written and/or published must remain in the academy’s diet for even more knowledge. The academy must stay hungry for knowledge and remember an appetite for profit belongs to the entrepreneur’s diet.

While I can respect the business component of university operations, I cannot say I fully understand it since I am a romantic with a fervent desire for academia to get reacquainted with its roots, or to at least aim effort toward doing so. There are valid reasons, I’m sure, that the academy has been pressed to take a more corporate approach to operations, but there has got to be a way to balance things and take a reformative approach rather than a transformative approach by remembering knowledge stockpiles as a result of synergy between multiple domains in both the sciences and the arts.

You claim to function as a polytechnic university––an admirable approach. Your website even defines it to an etymological level: Polytechnic = Polutekhnos, which is Polu (many) + tekhné (arts). By cutting the book press, it seems your approach will deflate to: Ligótera (fewer) + tekhné (arts). Please be kind to your reputation and maintain the purity of your polytechnic approach by preserving your book press.

Thank you,

J. Scott Bugher

Founder & Publisher

Split Lip Press & Magazine

www.splitlippress.com

www.splitlipmagazine.com

Katie Schmid Wins the Turnbuckle Chapbook Contest!

Katie Schmid Cigarettes Web

Photo by Aaron Ottis Photography

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Though Split Lip Press does not condone or promote smoking cigarettes, take a look at this pic of Katie Schmid, winning author of our Turnbuckle Chapbook Contest with her manuscript Forget Me / Hit Me / Let Me Drink Great Quantities of Clear, Evil Liquor. Such a cool photo, but even cooler, her book tentatively forthcoming sometime in late summer. Stand by for the official release date announcement.

Though a tough decision, our guest judge Meg Pokrass selected Katie’s manuscript as winner, finding it original and expansive in its entirety, and I concur. The collection is diversified with regards to both content and form. Her poetics are delicious, and she is astute in discerning the form that will serve a given poem best, ranging from those only in line, others broken in stanzas of different lengths, others with some long lines / some short lines, others as prose poems, some formatted with text aligned to the right or centered, and my favorite part, her series in the middle called “Daughter Psalms,” which are not individually titled pieces, just blocks of text unified by the series’ title placed mid-page on each page of the section. Another cool part is a series of prose poems titled “The Boys of the Midwest,” followed by a number as per the order they appear in. And, most importantly, the quality of her writing is masterful and striking––full of risk, balanced and tasteful shifts in diction choices, daring syntactical moves, and a touch of wit within otherwise dark, haunting poems––how, at times, such wit serves as a stepping stone to begin a lineage of rising tension as seen in “Some Brief Information About the Spartans”––

Boys pay tribute to Saint Jude: patron saint of dollar single cigarettes from the bar, patron saint of working a double at the granite factory, patron saint of watching the bitter candle of your father going to hell.

Dear god, the escalation: a gritty denotation of the Saint Jude figure.

And then how she manages to personify her narrators and characters with such a high degree of verisimilitude. It fascinates me, like this passage in “Letter to the Midwest”––

I too, am afraid that I can never escape:

these cracked sidewalks, the empty storefronts

like raw wounds, the fair weather drunks

who lie in doorframes with their abandoned

bodies in a puddle of vomit. And me:

I wake to find myself scuffed, badly bruised,

like a peach your thumb could sink into

with the lightest touch.

Beautifully tragic in my opinion.

So, that’s the skinny on our winner Katie Schmid, but let’s give props to those contestants who wound up finalists:

In the Valley of the Sun by Gleah Powers

The Prophetic Western by Meredith McDonough

11:58 by Ann Stewart McBee

PERSONA: Noun, Feminine, Singular by Carolyn Moore

Sleepstart by Heikki Huotari

Stranger Underneath by Trish Hopkinson

American Spirits by Jackson Burgess

Take Me Home by Sarah Levine

Tiger Laughs When You Push by Ruth Lehrer

Velocity by Martha Clarkson

Winter & Construction: Michigan Stories by Matthew Fogarty

Rock n Roll, Split Lip fans. We appreciate your support and look forward to bringing you Katie’s book Forget Me / Hit Me / Let Me Drink Great Quantities of Clear, Evil Liquor this coming summer.

 

 

 

 

 

Stop Reading Books About How To Write A Book!

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by J. Scott Bugher

I am a writer and have the standard bookshelf dedicated to instructional books, most of which would be more useful as fire kindling or maybe origami practice, depending on the weight of the paper. Most instructional books are titled like outrageous promises found in Cosmopolitan or Men’s Health magazines: “Guaranteed Multiple Orgasms” or “Get Ripped Abs in Seven Days.”

Here’s the skinny. If you want to be edified in the craft of fiction, read Janet Burroway. If memoir is your thing, check out Natalie Goldberg. Like poetry? Then read work by other poets and write your own. Poetry instructional books will just make you hate poetry and life in general.

Now, if you want to be the most fantastical badass of a novelist, be super careful about today’s instructional books. Go old school first and read John Gardner’s book, On Becoming a Novelist, and maybe Henry Miller’s On Writing. In my opinion, I’d cut it out with the novel tutorial books after those guys. If you insist on getting that How to Write and Publish Your First Novel in Two Weeks book written by some guy who published a recalled romance novel in 1987, then practice some discernment.

I’m not going to identify the book I recently read about writing novels, but I’ll call it You Just Wasted Twenty Dollars by Stephen McBlowChunks.

The book begins with character development and advises to make them larger-than-life since, as the author generalizes, larger-than-life characters powerfully attract us. Okay, so this book might offer good advice to a writer planning on developing yet another asshole character with super-powers. Fair enough. But I have to ask: what’s so wrong with characters we can identify with, characters who are lonely and hang out in record shops or characters who think about tying shoes while riding an escalator? I’m lonely, I like record stores, I have random thoughts often (most recently, a thought of my cat inventing new batteries for Proctor and Gamble). So why should I give a shit about a larger-than-life character who can travel through time, shoot fire from their eyes and lick their own elbow?

We then move on to the “Personal Stakes” chapter, and stakes can make a story interesting, but goddammit–– This book advises everything to result in nuclear war. How would Nick Hornby make things worse for the record shop guys in High Fidelity? Give them each a terminal illness? Make them all heroin addicts? Have the mafia chase after them? Feed them a diet of badger shit and vinegar? And Nicholson Baker’s guy on the escalator in The Mezzanine? Would the book be better if the lead character was sodomized by Mr. T on his way up the escalator?

God, and the whole antagonist thing: the villain, the bad guy, the boogieman. The word “villain” makes me want to Google how to tie a noose. Every book on writing tells the practicing writer to include a villain. Hornby. Where’s your Lex Luthor at? Baker. You forgot to include a man-eating zombie-attacker-thingy. Okay, I’ll cap it on the villain rant.

You know what? I’ll cap it on everything. Long blog posts bore me to death, and if you’re still reading, you’re probably over it. I think I am, too. I was about to discuss plot and all the terrible things you can do to it according to this Write a Best-Seller in a Weekend book, but I think I’m done.

Ed Harkness on Richard Hugo & the MFA Controversy

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Ed Harkness was selected by Michael Meyerhofer as runner-up in Split Lip’s 2014 UpperCut Chapbook Awards. His new chapbook, Ice Children, to be published by Split Lip Press, is set for release on November 21, 2014. In this quick essay, Harkness talks about his first encounter with poet Richard Hugo and his time studying with him at the University of Montana. Though, in the spirit of Hugo, Harkness is an artist above academic, his essay concludes with Harkness’ defense for the MFA. Find out more about Harkness at www.edharkness.com.

My Time with Richard Hugo by Ed Harkness

I first met Richard Hugo not in Missoula, where he taught at the University of Montana (UM), but rather in Seattle in 1970. He’d come to teach a summer poetry class at the University of Washington, where I was just eking out my BA in English. The precise moment I felt the arc of my life change was when I heard Hugo read on a sweltering August afternoon in Savery Hall. The boom and crack of his voice (“You might come here Sunday on a whim. / Say your life broke down.”) gave me a chill in the overheated auditorium. I had no idea poetry could sound like that: hard, loud, clear and fierce, like a jackhammer in the hands of a musician. I resolved that I’d follow this man anywhere. And that’s what I did.

Robert Wrigley, a poet I much admire and whose work has also appeared in Split Lip Magazine, shares with me a lucky distinction. We both studied with Richard Hugo at the UM way back in the 1970s. I can’t speak for Bob, though I doubt he’d disagree, but my connection to Hugo for those two years in the MFA program were life-changing. I’ve tried many times to explain to others—and mostly failed—what it was about Hugo that made him such a remarkable teacher and mentor. After all, those of us who got to study with Dick were doubly blessed to be students of his colleague and friend, Madeline DeFrees, a wonderful poet in her own right, and, like Hugo, a gifted and nurturing guide for us young writers.

Here, then, is one more effort to say what it was about Hugo that drew many of us to him.

His laugh.

Despite what might seem to be the grim and sometimes glum tone of his poems, Hugo was really funny, in class and out. He loved funnymen like Jack Benny and Groucho Marx and could quote freely from Marx Brothers films like Duck Soup. The line I remember Dick repeating (more than once) is Groucho’s exhortation to his men during a comically absurd battle scene, made, as always, at the expense of the stuffy society woman played by Margaret Dumont, Groucho’s hapless foil in many Marx Brothers films: “Remember,” Hugo said, in his bad imitation of Groucho, “you’re fighting for this woman’s honor, which is probably more than she ever did!” Hugo would explode with his bellowing laugh, and the roar was so loud that it frightened some of us rather serious graduate student into laughing along with him. In turn, if someone in class said something funny, or quoted from the same movie, Dick would roar even louder.

More than once Hugo told me that had he not become a poet and English professor, he would have liked to be a comedy writer. His love of jokes and funny lines from movies and poems kept everyone loose. One line I remember that he claimed came from a student in a class he taught in Seattle went like this: “By the shores of Lake Sammamish [near Seattle], I sat eating a ham sandwich.” He’d pause to let the ridiculous line sink in, then his booming laugh would rattle the classroom windows. We loved it, just as we loved his awful off-color limericks.

Hugo, the academic outsider.

In demeanor, Hugo was the opposite of the stereotype of the erudite scholar standing before the lectern. In fact, I never recall him lecturing. He just talked poetry. Sometimes he’d even poke fun at his colleagues in the UM English department, mocking their slightly formal speech. “At an English meeting the other night,” Dick once told us in class, “a guy next to me looked at his watch and actually said, ‘Considering the lateness of the hour…’ Jesus Christ, why not just say ‘It’s getting late’?” It was Hugo’s way of reminding us of the divide between “us” and “them,” the flakey creative writers and the more serious-minded academics and their pompous way of saying things.

The truth is that Hugo knew more than we ever would about poetic technique and could, if the mood struck him or the moment seemed right, recite whole poems by Roethke or Yeats or Bogan by way of illustrating a point about rhythm or the gunshot-like power of single-syllable words (“…Stumbling upon the blood-dark track once more…” from Yeats’ poem “Hound Voice”). Often, in commenting on a student workshop draft, Dick would go so deep inside the poem it was as if he knew more about what was going than its author did. But his comments were usually less interpretive and more about the mechanics of the poem, its syntax, diction and rhythm, or the “stance” the poem projected. “The words are fine,” he’d say of a student poem, “but there’s no stance.” He’d then add, “If your poem doesn’t have a stance, make one up, the weirder the better.”

In his writing workshops, he wasn’t big on theory but rather stressed the practical matters of writing poems, including such mundane issues of whether to use pen or pencil and what kind of notebooks to buy (pencils only, #2; hard-backed notebooks with green-lined paper, as he recommends in the chapter “Nuts and Bolts” in his classic book of essays on writing, The Triggering Town).

But Hugo also understood the complicated psychology of being a writer, and many of us loved to listen to him explain to us what it was we were doing, and why, since some of us (me) didn’t have a clue. Hugo offered much-needed “reasons” that justified our efforts at trying to be poets, a main one being the need to assert, in our poems, that our lives mattered, even when the world said otherwise. These justifications were both illuminating and comforting and can be summed up by things he said in class and later wrote in The Triggering Town: “You owe reality nothing and the truth about your feelings everything,” “Never let facts get in the way of the imagination,” “To write a poem you must have a streak of arrogance—not in real life I hope. In real life try to be nice.” He encouraged us to be fearless, to risk being melodramatic, even sentimental in our poems—edging up to the line between sentiment and sentimentality, but not crossing the line. “All great art,” he’d say, “has an element of schmaltz or corn.” He’d challenge us to “write off the subject.” That last phrase, made famous in The Triggering Town, may be Hugo’s most subversive idea about the creative process. It was his way of saying “Stop making sense!” What he asked was that we teach ourselves, to discover, in the act of writing, our own voices and ways of sounding, and to give at least as much attention to the music of words as to their meanings.

Hugo as mentor and friend.

During my time (early ‘70s) at the UM, Hugo lived alone, having divorced his first wife some years earlier. In that span of several years before he met and married Ripley Schemm in 1974, Dick sought out social connections, first by spending much time at local bars, where he became a regular, and later, when he stopped drinking, looked for companionship from his graduate students and teaching colleagues, male and female, to go out to dinner or to a movie, or on the weekend go fishing at one of the many lakes and reservoirs near Missoula, or go on a drive to one small Montana town or other. One such drive inspired what may be Hugo’s best-known and most powerful poems, “Degrees of Gray in Phillipsburg.”

One afternoon Dick asked if I’d like to accompany him on a drive up to the Flathead Reservation north of Missoula. Of course I said yes. The aim of this drive, Hugo told me, was to deliver a copy of his just-released book, The Lady in Kicking Horse Resevoir, to Victor Charlo, a Salish elder and poet. One of the poems in the book was dedicated to Charlo. In fact, Dick dedicated at least half of the poems in that book to specific individuals—friends—and titled two sections of the book tellingly: “Montana With Friends,” and “Touring With Friends.”

Another time Hugo took me fishing to that very reservoir, Kicking Horse, a subject I wrote about in detail in a reminiscence I published in Fine Madness (Vol. 2, #1) shortly after Dick’s death in 1982, titled “‘Someday I plan to Visit Everyone I Love’: Remembering Dick.”

Here, then, was another way that Hugo was, for many, unlike any teacher they’d ever had. He removed the artificial wall between his role as professor and personal friend. You’d attend his class, and that Saturday he’d invite you to go with him to the local park and watch a fast-pitch softball game. Even after he remarried, Dick and Ripley maintained friendships with his students and writer friends, inviting them to barbeques at their house on Wylie Street in Missoula.

***

University writing programs, like the MFA program at the University of Montana, sometimes come under attack for producing a kind of standardized, homogenized poetry, characterized—according to the critics—by an arch cleverness, blandness and a lack of emotional punch. I don’t buy that sweeping claim, but I’ll save that debate for another day. For those who like to talk about all that “bad” contemporary MFA poetry, go find a book called A Heap O’ Livin,’ by Edgar Guest, a wildly popular American poet of the 1920s, decades before the invention of the MFA degree, and see if you can read Guest without gagging. My experience as a student in the UM MFA program, where I got to know and learn from Richard Hugo and Madeline DeFrees, and from other writing teachers as well, including the novelist and short story writer Bill Kittredge, was a two-year treasure I wouldn’t trade for the world.

An Interview with Kristina Marie Darling

4 Books Published in One Month? Unheard of.

4 Books Publishedin One Month? Unheard of.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’ve been a fan of Kristina Marie Darling for a couple of years ever since poet David Tomaloff turned me onto her work. As a writer who favors short fiction by folks like Richard Yates and Raymond Carver, and poetry by folks like Stephen Dobyns and Richard Hugo, it’s kind of surprising I’m a fan of Darling’s approach to writing. It was weird. She sent me a review copy of Brushes with, and though intimidated by its cerebral nature, I dug in. I mean, I really, really dug in. Her work makes me want to read closely and critically, something I’d rather not do with most poetry. Whatever she’s doing, and despite my poor interpretations of her material, it’s working in her favor. She’s on fire, too! 17 published books with 3 more forthcoming. Let’s ask a couple of questions and see what’s up with her.

So, congratulations on your newest three books! When can we expect their release? What can you tell us about each title?

First, thank you for the kind words about my work! Although I’m excited about all three of these new releases, I’m especially thrilled about the publication of Scorched Altar: Selected Poems and Stories 2007-2014. The book includes excerpts of my previous collections, which include Night Songs, Compendium, The Body is a Little Gilded Cage, Petrarchan, Vow, and more. Scorched Altar is available from BlazeVOX Books and can be purchased here.

I’m also delighted about the publication of my flash fiction collection, The Arctic Circle, which is available from BlazeVOX Books too. The collection includes linked stories about a woman who gets married to the man of her dreams… only to find that his first wife was found frozen inside the house. A short excerpt from the manuscript is online at Tupelo Quarterly. Get your copy of the book here.

Lastly, I’m so happy to see my collection of astronomy poems in print. The Sun & the Moon is available from BlazeVOX Books, and invokes the astronomical clock as its central metaphor. As the book unfolds, a marriage between astral bodies crumbles, and the constellations become into ghosts, their dresses covered in ice. The book is available here. It’s worth purchasing even if only for Noah Saterstrom’s beautiful cover art.

I hope you’ll check out any or all of these new books!

I’ve seen several different sides of your writing. I mean, you’ve done straight narrative like the lovely “Self Portrait, Evicted.” Erasures as found in some of your books. Then you do footnotes, glossaries and whatnot like “A History of Transcendence.” Now I’ve been hearing about all sorts of hybrid work you’re putting out. Tell us. Why do you seem to be interested in everything poetically possible? How do you afford your voice to so many different writing methodologies?

That’s a great question. For me, each book is its own idea, its own concept, so it usually calls for a style that’s different from the ways I’ve written before. This is good because it keeps me from getting too comfortable in any one way of writing. The poems I’m the happiest with usually feels like a process of discovery while I’m writing them. I have no idea where the poem, the idea, or the style of writing will take me. Because each book is its own idea, though, that means that the prospect of starting a new project is very intimidating. But once I do, watch out! That project usually takes over my life until it’s finished.

With a publication history of now 20 books and a CV that contends with the length of the old testament, how do you manage to get it all done? The writing, the revising, the editing, the submission process, reaching out for reviews, et cetera.

I get asked that question a lot, and the answer is always the same: I don’t have a one-year old baby. I have a one-year old nephew. If I were a parent, I think my priorities would be much different, and poetry would take a back seat. But for now, I can have fun with my adorable nephew and still write tons of poems.

While on the subject of publishing, how would you advise one who is trying to get their first book published if they approached you about it? The literary world is like the porn industry. A lot of people want in, but most don’t get to play. That sounds harsh, but I think it’s fair to say. Dunno. Anyway, I’d love your thoughts regarding getting a publisher to pick up one’s manuscript. I’m asking “for a friend.” 🙂

It’s good to publish in magazines that are attached to small presses. Like Thrush Journal and Thrush Press. Or Prick of the Spindle and Aqueous Books. Or BlazeVOX Journal and BlazeVOX Books. Or Anemone Sidecar and Ravenna Press. And Wicked Alice and Dancing Girl press for the ladies. The list goes on and on. But it’s always great to test the waters with a magazine submission, then build a relationship with the editors, and later approach them with a manuscript. At least, that’s how it worked for me. I was a contributor to the Gold Wake Press E-Chaps Series for years, and when the editors started a print series, they graciously agreed to take a look at my project.

Now that you have all of those books, are in the process of earning your Ph.D. in poetics, and get a billion search results when Googling your name, what’s next for KMD?

Gainful employment, hopefully. I’m finishing up school, traveling, and getting ready to apply for jobs. I’m hoping to find something that’s a mix of teaching and editing, but I’m open to many different possibilities: curriculum development, arts management, higher education administration, or just about anything else that involves books.

One last question. A fun one. Would you ever consider writing a mainstream or young adult novel? I’m asking since your career reminds me of Julianna Baggott’s, who has 18 published books of poetry, commercial novels and children’s books. Is that a realm you think you’ll ever enter? I heard there’s money in it. Imagine it–– “Footnotes to Hunger Games,” a trilogy by Kristina Marie Darling.

First: Thank you for the flattering comparison! I love Julianna Baggott’s work. Second: You are a mind reader! I’m working on a novel about a woman who’s in love but can’t speak. It’s called Frances the Mute. Because I never really stopped being a teenager, I have a feeling that the book is something teenage girls would really love. Hopefully once I get a working draft in order, anything will be possible.

Love & Sundries by Nicholas Reading is Now Available!

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Split Lip Press is super excited to bring you Love & Sundries by poet Nicholas Reading. The book haunts, bites and sometimes breaks bone. If you dig visual and observant, narrative poetry, then this chapbook is for you. According to Keith Montesano, author of Ghost Lights and Scoring the Silent Film, Reading writes in “the hard-bitten spirit of Richard Hugo,” that the poems “tether themselves to hope amidst the elegiac emptiness of miles of flat land and peripheral characters who turn out to mean much more…”

Reading is a solid portrait of Split Lip’s aesthetic: poems full of grit and hurt that can, at times, get a little weird in the best way possible. Check out the sample below, and pardon the double-spacing we have no control over. YOUR BIRTHDAY SAYS FORGET YOU is one of our favorites. Once it’s one of your favorites, you can buy it HERE. Pick up a copy and support the poet.

Find out more about Reading at his WEBSITE. He’s a pretty big deal. Just ask him.

 

YOUR BIRTHDAY SAYS FORGET YOU

 

Maybe you found a street you didn’t know of

before. Maybe you were drunk and didn’t remember.

 

I hope the street said, Hello. And I expect you said

the same. And the lined streets reminded you of age

 

and that time when you were younger and shot

pigeons out of the sky with acuity. Complements

 

came by the bushel. Some said you were the best shot

since Liberty Valance. Look it up. Find a horse.

 

Treks we take are epic. A sunrise when we aren’t ready.

A moon when we’re just getting started. And sometimes

 

we’ll find a moment to be still. A nice creek to scramble in.

A very dark morning in Siberia. Really, nothing makes sense.

 

What life do we remember? I suggest to forget the memories

and create a future again and again and again tomorrow.