“I’ve always been interested in death and destruction — call it an early diet of horror fiction. But over the years I’ve become more aware of decay, the slow and steady side of impermanence. Decay doesn’t make for flashy conflict, but in some ways it’s more interesting.”
The stories in Don’t Ask Me to Spell It Out, Robert James Russell’s new chapbook out this month from WhiskeyPaper Press, follow a narrator perpetually on the verge. Over the course of 12 interlinked vignettes we see him come of age and stumble, get up and brush it off, always moving toward a greater understanding of what it means to be a son, a friend, a lover, a man. Russell is a quintessentially midwestern writer, and those who attended the recent Voices of the Middle West literary festival in Ann Arbor may remember him as a critical force in that conference—he helped bring in Stuart Dybek as the keynote speaker and organized panels featuring writers such Alissa Nutting and Laura Kasischke.
by Nathan Go
Over coffee and pan de guava, I talked to Chelsea about her chapbook, the writing process, art and porn, living in Brooklyn, and direct sentences. I transcribed the interview, and—for a little bit of creative fun—allowed her to rearrange the answers, edit them in her writing style, and omit my questions, with the condition that the result should be closer to the heart of our discussion rather than further from it.
by Ann Marie Thornburg
In “Chasing The Ancient Murrelet Taylor writes of a bird’s death “in a place / it doesn’t belong, where it can’t find / the right food or a mate, but where I find it, following / clear directions on the internet.” As birdwatcher and poet, Taylor seeks out his subjects, and often finds them on margins, which is not to say that he looks in these places for self-aggrandizing recoveries. Subjects are everywhere, struggling and thriving, and good poets are receptive to accidental encounters and simultaneously, continue seeking. The entire book, laced through with nimble drawings by Melanie Boyle, takes us through landscapes and across borders familiar to Taylor’s readers, but continually, book after book, wrought anew: the commingling of the wild, the natural, and the domestic worlds; strange, shimmering encounters that are not stripped of their secrets. These brief poems let the light in. They know when their maps-of-language have taken us to openings, windows.