Saturday, February 28, 2009

Ben the MacDowell Knife Throwing Champion

And me as paparazza

Here is Ben Stroud. He is a colony fellow with a story soon to be published in One Story. It is not easy to throw a knife. Ben did really badly in the practice round. And if you have ever thrown a knife, you know it is not easy. We empathized. Bobby, the drummer, played a drumroll on a Maxwell House coffee can (the website of which company has a picture of a typewriter on its home page). So, comes the first real round. Ben gets all four knives in, including the butcher knife. Everyone made sounds of surprise and excitement. Everyone rushed around Ben. People pushed Ben against the wall. They made him stand next to the target. They took pictures with whatever recording devices they had on hand. They were voracious. I was one of them. Ben was the champion. I was a paparazza for one minute.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Willing Participants

Knife Throwing at MacDowell

I threw knives last night. Plain knives like you would find in a kitchen. I wasn’t alone. I was the last. There were about sixteen that went before me. When I held the blade I thought it would be impossible not to cut myself. You have to hold it from the tip with the blade turned toward the left, if you are a righty.
I spent a long time looking at the four knives lined up. You have to hold it delicately and think of it as being something light like a paper plane or a dart. You must forget that it is a heavy metal object that is used sometimes for killing. At first I did not realize this and I threw it a the target and it hit the target and fell with a thud and a clatter. But then I thought of it as a gentle object and it slid into the black silouette backed by foamboard. I thought I should not separate myself from the knife. I would stand holding a knife as if I knew what to do with it. But I was curious if I would have a sense for what to do with it when I held it. I felt that I would have a sense. That it would somehow be natural. It was so satisfying when it went in and stayed lodged there. When the second went in, it was more satisfying. When another did not go in it was very unsatisfying. And I had to do it over and over until another went in. We all agreed that it was the danger that made this experience more satisfying than most. Knife throwing provided by artist Joel Kyack.

Film about Joel Kyack to come...

Friday, February 20, 2009

Looking Ahead

HTML GIANT put up a nice post regarding Gigantic. The corresponding picture was the first image that came up for "gigantic."

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Tao Lin Meets Malcolm Gladwell

And Gets Some Answers

I, and all the editors of Gigantic, was thrilled by Malcolm Gladwell's answers to Tao Lin's questions. I interviewed Tao on the subject of genius, immortal hampsters and Malcolm Gladwell. And then Tao asked Gladwell some questions. The questions are surprising. The answers are surprising. In April, they will be made known and will no longer be a surprise.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Fire and Picnic Basket

First Day: I tried to build a fire in my studio, but hadn't opened the flue. Studio filled up with black smoke. Ran through the woods. John came and opened the flue. The fire had already burned itself out by then, the only thing having caught fire being the bunched up balls of newspaper. Luckily I don't even know how to start a proper fire. John calls me Firestarter.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

What She Said


Some sentences and fragments that Diane Williams said in a workshop I took with her recently at the Mercantile Library:

- natural characteristics of great human speech
- analyze the poetic content of your most successful sentences
- boredom is a suspicious emotion
- eh, eh, eh
- think of some remembered language from your childhood
- eee, eee, eee
- authentic hearts on the page
- yes, there is such a thing as genius (me: I wanted to grill her on this point, but DW seemed not amenable to grilling)
- puh, puh, puh
- you want to smear yourself on the page
- genuine artifice
- all that it is is words on a page
- to feel cold and detached doesn't imply failure
- what you say under your breath
- tuh, tuh, tuh
I hope my time adds up to something valuable

Books recommended by Diane Williams: Emerson's essays, in particular "the poet"; Sharon Olds, in particular "the father"; a travel guide of Romania; Barry Hannah, in particular "water liars"; Harold Brodkey, in particular "his son, in his arms, in light, aloft"; Robert Alter (translator of biblical literature); Irish folk-tales.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

How It Will Be

It Will Be Like This

So I'm heading off, on Monday, to an artist's colony in New Hampshire and a friend and very talented writer/musician, Brett, suggested I journal each day before I get there as though I was there, and then journal each day when I'm there, and then compare the two.

This is a great idea, but I have failed to do this. However, I do have one image of what I'll be doing on at least one day when I get there. On day 17 or so, or perhaps day 23, thereabouts. I will harness the inimitable former poet laureate and Pulitzer prize winner Charles Simic and get him to come to the colony for an interview for Gigantic. I will have befriended a filmmaker by this point and the filmmaker will help me record this on film so that we not only have a transcript of his interview but a film. The film will take the form of a documentary and it will be fantastic, though I have no filming or editing skills at this point. I have a super-8 camera. One quality of the film will be grainy black and white images of the inimitable Charles Simic.

The inimitable Charles Simic will come to the colony and everyone in the dining hall will be shocked and awed by the presence of the inimitable Charles Simic. They will talk in quiet tones and will wonder how I, a nobody, was able to harness the inimitable Charle Simic and bring him to their quiet abode, though granted there will be no short supply of 'somebodies' in the dining hall. I will have all the people in the dining hall sign hand-scrawled releases so that when this film gets wide-released (as all films about poets do) we will not get sued.

Then the inimitable Charles Simic and I, along with my friend Mark Bowen, a very gifted poet who will also be in New Hampshire, will walk in the woods, which will be covered in snow. I will film the inimitable Charles Simic's feet as they walk through the woods, for about five minutes. No one will speak. All we will hear is the sound of the inimitable Charles Simic's feet, walking. Then we, Mark and I, will engage him on various subjects such as living through war, being stolen by gypsies and three-legged dogs. The interview will, at first, be stilted and filled with awkward silences. And the inimitable Charles Simic will wonder why he ever agreed to do this. But eventually, we will all begin to loosen up and chat about topics that we had not prepared to talk about and he will even be entertained by us and regale us with stories of his childhood. By the end, we will have solicited at least one or two smiles from the stolid poet, known for hunkering down for long stretches of silence with nothing but Holderlin, and at least one profound moment of thought in which we will close in on his face in order for the viewer to see better the inimitable Charles Simic in a profound moment of thought.