Sunday, March 22, 2009

rad poetry #3: for colin bassett


Sometimes it feels like being in a gigantic room and being only one person.
by Chelsea Martin

for Colin Bassett

I’m on the toilet right now. Or I was when I thought of writing that.
I’m on the phone waiting for Colin Bassett to say something.

I’m trying to make him yell at me about how it isn’t possible to write a French song if you only know two French words and have no background in music and one of the words is croissant.

I think I’m at a point in my life.

All day I thought about what my roommate said.
About our cat purring loudly while watching her clean the litter box.

Someone came over and passed out in my bed after calling me depressed, after calling me lazy, after questioning my morals, after storing some frozen meals in my freezer, after arriving very late with what seemed to be absolutely no intention of having sex with me.

If this is what I’m supposed to be writing about, then good, I feel better.

If I have a yeast infection it’s probably because of a number of things.

What I look for in a relationship is feeling good all the time. But I’ll settle for feeling bad all the time.

But maybe I should only use the word relationship if I’m saying it sarcastically.

Friday, March 20, 2009

rad poetry #2: for nikolai stephanovich



for Nikolai Stephanovich

Your heart is five to eight pounds and fits inside of life,
which will mostly be an evil pancake and a game of
tattoos you don't want, but sometimes good things
too: everybody on a bus laughing together at night,
towels just warm, dumping rock salt into homemade
ice cream, the scroll button on your mouse,
drinking coffee in the shower, then drinking coffee
together with your favorite naked person at the time,
who will be a girl or a guy or a gluttony of sympathetic
polymers. Any one of these is fine. Ask your dad,
he's from California. Nik, be careful who you take a
nickname from. It's like they'll always have a hand
under your shirt. Names are secret fingers. Watch this:
yellowjacket, artichoke, huckleberry, marzipan.
Show up a minute late with a really awesome
story of what happened on the way. Listen in your
head before you say things out loud, try to know
reactions before people drop them but don't try
too hard, which is the same advice as "Don't use
speakerphone, ever." When you take someone's
picture, show them. When you kiss someone's
neck, tell them a secret. If you do it right,
God will show up when you're mid-blink,
like a fire that is also a window, like a trial by
snow, and you will want to close your eyes if
whispered to by one, and take your eyes and
heave them into the ocean for someone
else, which will feel both melodramatic and
perfect. Everything you feel will also be a way
to hold on. Social groups will always have that
one friend. There will be things you save to tell
someone that you'll never get to tell at all.
Fear is what happens when you sing too quietly.
One night you will go unexpectedly swimming,
then you won't need this poem anymore.
That's when to title me and dunk your mouth
and spit straight up so the water lands on your
face. Tell who you're with "Look, a face!" and then
give your face to that person as hard as you can.

rad poetry #1: for barry graham



for Barry Graham

There's nothing wrong with being quietly astonished.
Feta baked right into the bread, the woman who steals
chalk with her thumb, cute girls in wheelchairs and
librarians at the disco. Barry, you're an emperor of
cheese and a Mickey D's apologist, which is great,
like my roommate bought these jeans off EBay,
but they didn't fit her, so she gave them to me.
Little cares whether you do, but it's hard to shrug
authentically, the world moving in bengal tigers and
hyperthyroids, like one person will demand you shave
and someone else will break a shot glass in your sink.
But weather is the opposite of history. And/or
March is great for seeing people you met in a bar
fight and thinking: Wait, I sort of punched that guy,
they look nice, I wonder where they got that
sweater, isn't it too hot for sweaters, what terrific
wind, maybe I will say hello and we can reach in
to graffiti exclamation marks and emoticons over
our memories. Maybe this will be the day I finally like
metal music because it's so nice out and I can't
think of the reasons why it's so tricky to just like
everything. There must be some. I think I ate them.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

NOÖ Loves Everyone #5: Bryan Coffelt

Bryan Coffelt is a mystery to me. This interview made him a little less mysterious, but not too much less mysterious. I know that Bryan Coffelt has had work appear in NOÖ, among other places, though that was before my time. Bryan Coffelt is part of a contingent of people from/in the Northwest making written word art; this is exciting to me because of manifest destiny. I associate Bryan Coffelt with Alex Burford, and sometimes I confuse them to be the other. Bryan Coffelt runs a blog called Lunchtime For Bears, and he also coedits Rain Fade, an online literary journal.

1) Can you talk about your history with poetry? How did you get started?

I guess I really started writing poetry about 5 years ago. I got lucky and ended up living in Ashland, OR with a shit load of other really good poets/friends. Some of these include: Mike Young, Alex Burford, K. Silem Mohammad, Willie Ziebell and Jess Rowan. There are a shit load more, too. Being around these gifted people and sharing theories and poetics has had a huge impact on my poetry and perception of language in general.

2) Your poem "But What Happened to We the Astronauts?" in NOÖ [one] struck me with its odd pairings of things: "clean socks, dirty pockets" and "pepper and iron filings" are two that stand out when I read it. Both of these twist something from the first of the pair: the 'ah' sound in socks gets another syllable, and the rather standard combination of salt and pepper is given a new flavor; both are effects that I really enjoyed. Can you talk a little bit about how some of those pairings came about?

Yeah, that was the first poem I ever published anywhere. I remember being really depressed or something and driving home from work one day feeling like I was looking out the visor of an astronaut's helmet, even though I didn't have an astronaut's helmet on. It was kind of scary. I was like 19 and experimenting with what I thought were "surreal images." I didn't have an inkling of a poetics at that point in my life (and now, maybe I have an "inkling"). As far as the pairings go, I guess they were just kind of a result of trying to pair things in a "surreal" way to create some kind of weird dissonance.

3) Recommend for us some recent faves: poems, books, literary magazines, poets, etc.

I'm pretty fond of all the people who come to our ad hoc poetry readings in Ashland. Willie Ziebell, Jess Rowan, Tara Crist, Lacey Hunter, Jennifer Garcia, Alex Burford, K. Silem Mohammad -- all great poets and friends. Alex and Jess have a new issue of Barnaby Jones that I'm dying to get my hands on. The cover is a dolphin with the head of a bear.

4) Give us some news on current projects or publications.

I'm currently co-editing an online journal of fiction, poetry, and visual art called Rain Fade with my friend and roommate Willie Ziebell. It's still in its infancy, though we've had a pretty good response so far. Anyone interested should send us good writing.

I've been writing pretty frequently but not submitting. I don't really know why.

5) Where do you see your writing in five years? It's okay if you don't think like this. Be as fantastical as you'd like.

Ideally I'd like to have a book published. Maybe a novella or book of poetry. I'd love to be approached by a small press to publish some stuff. I guess I need to submit more things in order to get famous enough for that to happen. Or "network" more. Whatever.

6) Mike Young taught twelve year olds last summer. How would you explain poetry to someone half that age, a six year old?

I would tell them to make a list of all the different ways they could say giraffe without saying giraffe and play homophonic word games with them -- I think that would be a great way to get a 6 year old excited about language. I think stuff like that really helps young people develop an "ear" for language.

7) What are your interests beyond poetry?

I love pretentious films and I'm a music snob. I also can't stop reading gadget/tech blogs. Programming languages fascinate me, though I'll probably never devote any real time to them. I also like making lots of feedback come out of my guitar amp. And lately, playing drums.

8) Word association game with words from the textbook that I'm currently using in my freshman composition class, Writing Arguments: A Rhetoric with Readings by Ramage, Bean, and Johnson. Say whatever comes to mind:

Rudimentary = Condom
Issued = Meal
Promise = Keepsies
Subscription = Bathtub
Lightbulb = Carry on
Core = Motor

Friday, March 13, 2009


AWP was awesome. Thanks and greetings to friends old and new in Chicago: on the train, in the roast beef, under the helicopter blades.

We are getting ready for [10], and we need your help. Please read about RAD POETRY, our new fundraiser.

We are launching the fundraiser with a generous donation from Chris Alba that brought us 6% toward our goal, and we will have his video poem up soon.

We're trying to raise half the printing costs, and we'll keep you updated as to the % of our goal in the sidebar.

Thanks for your help and for reading NOÖ! Stay tuned for news about [10]: it's major hot, an asteroid with great hair.