Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Lauren Howton interviews Abraham Smith over at The McNeese Review - his new book is out from Action Books

Abraham Smith

Interview with Abraham Smith
by Lauren Howton

Abraham Smith hails from Ladysmith, Wisconsin, a neck of the woods he returns to every summer to chop wood and make hay. He has four books via Action Books: Ashagalomancy (2015), Only Jesus Could Icefish in Summer (2014), Hank (2010), and Whim Man Mammon (2007). With Shelly Taylor, he edited Hick Poetics (Lost Roads Press, 2015), an anthology of contemporary rural American poetry. He’s been the recipient of fellowships from the Fine Arts Work Center, Provincetown, MA, and the Alabama State Council on the Arts. He teaches at the University of Alabama.

LI wanted to ask if you could talk about the title of your newest poetry collection, Ashagalomancy. How did the title come to you and how does it relate to what you’re doing with poetry in the book?

A: at first, the title was pretty default: IN THE OLD DAYS. ashagalomancy arrived in my life one internetly wayward day. not sure just what i was looking up. but, i saw that word: ashagalomancy. i saw it and i felt it. it seemed to tap at my shoulder in the ways that old men in northern wisconsin tap maple trees. it means divination via animal bones. which was a perfect taxidermy to the book i’d created. as i had prophesied creation myths for my favorite/totemic animals, well, i found that ashagalomancy was a perfect dovetail. 

LAre there certain themes you find yourself revisiting in your poetry?

A: yes. animal life. vegetable life. i try to ride via sound in poems that liminal space where vulnerability and potency hinge. 

LWhat is your writing process like? Is there anything (day/space/drink/shirt/chair) that aids your productivity or creativity?

A: i make a particular motion with my hands on the keyboard. it’s not rote for me, writing isn’t. it’s ritual. i tend to be mostly a diurnal writer. some days i’ll revise a lot. some days i’ll add more sound here or there. motion begets emotion for me. so sometimes i’m guided back to poetry wordings by a walk or jog. mostly my creative process ends in the late morning most days. sometimes i’ll fiddle in the afternoons but morning is largely my expansive time. 

LI know that you spend the academic year in Tuscaloosa and your summers in Wisconsin, how does this change in place influence your writing? If you start a piece in one state, are you able to finish it in the other? 

A: i don’t work in pieces. i work with great big bolts of fabric of sound. so the whole thing is always ongoing. i celebrate ongoingness. and regionalism. the provincial gaze is actually expansive not myopic. it’s interesting i am always writing at home on the farm in the summer but most of that doesn’t survive. what i take in there incubates and grows while i am back down south. so i write through rusk and taylor county up north but those spaces see their fruition here in tuscaloosa. i guess i am all the time agape up there and i let fly that farm life more vividly most vividly while here in the south. 

LReading your poetry on page and attending a reading are two very different experiences, especially since you have such a distinctive style. I wonder if you could describe your reading style and maybe the importance of hearing poetry read aloud. Are there things that text can’t convey?

A: yes there are things text can’t convey. but we all must in our way embrace the rhetorical triangle. i try to care for my silent audience on the silent page. my performance process is also ritualized. i recognize performance as a going away. as a spiritual practice. as my best and most actualized self but as an enactment of selflessness. nevertheless there was a process. just as there is a process in meditation for example. and that performance process for me was an early on endeavoring to practice the craft of persona. to take on aspects of others’ performance stylings. to mask myself in order to allow myself ultimate egress. via greg brown. via chris whitley. via townes van zandt. 

LHow has teaching influenced your writing? Positive/negative?

A: i teach like a talk and i talk like i write. so i think of teaching as the unveiling of my ardor for sound. we read thoreau yesterday. so many of those arrowing firebrand thoughts of his have saved lives and i love to commune with students over writing like thoreau’s: pure emergency; a chanticleer at the inner ear. 

Lauren Howton is from Birmingham, Alabama. She is an MFA candidate at McNeese State University and the social media coordinator for The McNeese Review.

Sunday, December 20, 2015

end of the year nostalgia

this one is not a new song but it got me through this year when i needed it.

this got me by in new orleans.  i listened to it often.  between classes in my office.  all the time, really.  i always play music at the beginning of every class--just 5-7 mins of music.  i still play this on days now when struggling.  only my fav students get it, that it's a day that i need this one song.

this can help you get out of town.

this can light a fire under your ass.

this is forever the reckoner.

leveler.  forever.

best.  about his papa.

rouch and i only vote on country music at the end of the year.  we are still two country girls.  endless are the bad songs.  endless. there are few favs.  this is mine from this year.

Saturday, December 19, 2015


Hick Poetics, Shelly Taylor & Abraham Smith, ed.
Publisher: Lost Roads Press
2015, 390 pages, paperback, $25
A TITLE LIKE Hick Poetics is sure to catch attention. Whether it is a hobby reader browsing the shelves at Barnes & Noble or someone interested in pastoral American poetry shopping for Frank Stanford books online, who notices the anthology in a recommended list—the title will evoke the same allured intrigue in both readers. The title works similarly to Camille T. Dungy’s anthology Black Nature, which compiled historically overlooked nature poetry by African-American poets, announcing a collection of literature mostly ignored by academia, to get readers and scholars to reconsider the manner in which poetry is thought about and studied.
Readers expecting cowboy poems full of G-dropped gerunds and Jeff Foxworthy colloquialisms will be disappointed as the anthology re-imagines the conventional understanding of the term hick and brings it proudly into a poetic consciousness. While there are two or three poems mentioning ranches and rodeos, that’s about as close to a conventional conception of hick as it gets. Instead of featuring work by horse breakers and NASCAR fans, Hick Poetics is actually comprised of a richly diverse assemblage of contemporary American poets. Among its forty poets, notably included is work by Pulitzer winner Yusef Komunyakaa and current Poet Laureate Juan Felipe Herrera. While this will probably baffle readers, as Komunyakaa and Herrera are writers we wouldn’t traditionally call hicks, that’s exactly the point.
In her introduction, Shelly Taylor, co-editor of the anthology with Abraham Smith, states that they intended the word hick as “a powerful rib-jab reclamation of power…taking back this idea of the pastoral.” Hick Poetics is subtitled An Anthology of Contemporary Rural American Poetry. Evident by the use of the words hick and rural is an insistence not to label or limit the anthology as just nature poetry. Rather, choosing to emphasize the people who inhabit a pastoral America and their intimate relationship with the sprawling rustic landscapes. Because of this, essentially, Hick Poetics is an anthology of ecopoetics, which is a burgeoning field that manifested from nature poetry and continues to expand understandings into the more sophisticated realms of environmental and ecological poetry. Although the anthology doesn’t self-identify as ecopoetical because it lacks an ecologically-biased motive, Hick Poetics is still a generous new offering into ecopoetics’ blossoming canon as it presents further language and ideas for us to think not only about nature poetry, but about poetry itself.
While featuring a number of recognizable and acclaimed poets, Hick Poetics also introduces readers to a group of overlooked and emerging poets they otherwise may never have encountered. Among this group of new poets is Greg Alan Brownderville. The author of two collections,Gust and Deep Down in the Delta, Brownderville was born and raised in Pumpkin Bend, Arkansas, which he jokingly describes as “a real place in the Mississippi Delta… with some people living in it.”
His poem “Walkin’ in Memphis” takes an ecopoetical stance with its natural vs. unnatural theme. After wandering into a gallery which sold metal bottle-trees, Brownderville, who may or may not be the speaker, follows:
I walked out
and stopped below a disfigured
real tree
Brownderville creates the distinction between artifice, the metal bottle-trees, and the natural, the “disfigured real tree,” with the adjective “real.” Though this distinction is narratively necessary, as a poetic move, it’s redundant. Yet Brownderville takes advantage of this redundancy. Emphasizing the realness of a tree carries heavy ecological sentiment, lambasting the artificiality of a world where the authenticity of a tree has to be clarified. The line break following “disfigured” calls attention to the imperfection of nature, but Brownderville doesn’t bemoan this disfigurement; rather, because the speaker has found solace under the tree, he indicates our need for the natural world.
“Walkin’ in Memphis,” as the title indicates, is sort of an ekphrastic poem, which seeks to define personal identity by reimagining elements from Marc Cohn’s 1991 smash-hit song “Walking in Memphis.” Cohn’s song begins by framing the singer’s identity within the context of music history: “Put on my blue suede shoes and I boarded the plane. Touched down in the land of the Delta Blues.” Brownderville begins without any context, other than location, to frame his identity:
Woke up this morning
in Memphis, no memories to my name
of my name or how I got here.
Where Cohn gives us “pouring rain,” Brownderville gives us “shushing rain.” Where Cohn said, “I was walking with my feet ten feet off Beale,” Brownderville describes Beale Street as “a silver river you could drown in.” Cohn’s song discusses the lore of music history, then, because of the commercial success of the song, gives Cohn a place within that history; Brownderville never arrives at such a place, concluding “And nobody / on this earth knows who I am.”
Ashley Capps is a graduate of the Iowa Writer’s Workshop currently working as an animal rights advocate. Her debut collection, Mistaking the Sea for Green Fields, which was selected by Gerald Stern for the Akron Poetry Prize, is full of captivatingly shocking and beautiful poems. Her work is composed of a hauntingly visceral urgency, mixing several themes at once, and predominantly features animal imagery. Included in Hick Poetics is her sequential poem “Kindly,” which attacks the reader relentlessly with a blend of both unsettling and poignant moments. The second section begins with a bold, matter-of-fact statement, then leaps into an objective correlative depicting tangible vulnerability, rapidly expanding into an abstract and spiritual vulnerability:
Love is an emergency
that slips like a deer
from the wound of Christ
to land on the water
without bitterness
in a glister of accident
Capps has an envious knack for the simile and for surprise. She closes the second section with an unexpected and unnerving revelation, describing love, with another objective correlative, as:
the kind of suicide mission
where you’re not even free
after you’ve died
like how
when you hang yourself
in prison
they cuff you
before they cut you
Ultimately, Hick Poetics is an opening experience. Selecting well-established and successful poets along with emerging and relatively unknown poets is an inclusive gesture. Many of the poets are new, some have not yet published their second collection, while others are well into their poetry careers with multiple titles to their name, but their work has gone largely overlooked. Hick Poetics brings their names and their work into the same conversation as their more recognizable counterparts. Brownderville and Capps are just two of the many poets readers will likely encounter for the first time in Hick Poetics. Other poets are Nathan Hauke, Adrian Kien, Lisa D. Chavez, Danielle Pafunda, and T.C. Tolbert, to name a few. This is Hick Poetics’ greatest charm: sharing new poets, new poetry, and new ideas. The goal of any anthology should be to give readers what Hick Poetics gives its readers—discovery.
—Zach Groesbeck

Thursday, December 17, 2015

grades in, adventure time! sonoita + patagonia to visit uncle

the one and only jim harrison at the wagon wheel in mid-dec patagonia

new books, sweet gifts


just a girl and her truck

mmmmmmhhhhhhhhmmmmmmm i got them moonroofs

late nov - dec



About this project

Horse Less Press is officially in its tween years, publishing poetry and hybrid genre texts. We have an online literary journal, and we publish hand-made chapbooks and perfect-bound full-length books. We are a feminist press and we are a queer press and we are dedicated to improving our diversity and widening our community. This year we doubled our editorial staff and expanded our plans for 2016: we will publish seven full-length books--titles by Jessica Comola, Phil Estes, Kate Schapira, John Colasacco, Stephanie Anderson, Serena Chopra, and Lara Montes-- and a minimum of 12 chapbooks, including titles by Christine Bettis, Daniela Olszewska, Cassandra de Alba, Lauren Brazeal, and Davy Knittle, as well as publishing a weekly online journal and a twice-monthly reviews and interviews page. Our editors are poets and writers and students and instructors and people working several jobs who receive no outside funding to support the press; we use our own time and money to make this happen, because it's something we believe in. Your pre-orders and subscriptions help keep us going.

Risks and challenges

Poetry is always risky, but we have been making chapbooks and full-length books for almost 12 years and don't anticipate any particular challenges in completing these projects; we just need your collaboration!

Friday, December 4, 2015