Below find, in order, one dispatch from Communal Presence, some news, and a pile of enthusiasms.
Last weekend I was in Berkeley for Communal Presence: New Narrative Writing Today, featuring the legends of New Narrative past and present: Bob Glück, Bruce Boone, Dodie Bellamy, Kevin Killian, Camille Roy, Renee Gladman, Dennis Cooper, Eileen Myles, Gabrielle Daniels, Matias Viegener, Roberto Bedoya, Rob Halpern, Gail Scott, yes yes and so on. Seeing all of these writers together in the same room was exhilarating and historical.
In the first plenary, devoted to Kevin and Dodie’s recent anthology Writers Who Love Too Much, Gabrielle, Matias, Roberto, Dennis, and Eileen each briefly shared their own histories and entanglements with New Narrative – how they found it, how it found them. Gabrielle, chronicling what she described as her “apprenticeship” with Bruce and Steve Abbott: “It was a time for my mind to be blown.” Roberto, on “being inside and outside of aesthetic ordering,” particularly as a writer of color: “in and out is a porous terrain of imagination.” Dennis: “Sometimes I was part of [New Narrative], like Kathy Acker, and sometimes we weren’t….now I’ve become lifelong friends with these writers.” Matias [I’m paraphrasing]: “all of us were thrown into these [given] families and then you get a choice, but so much randomness is involved…so many of the people here have become fixtures in my life, and it’s kind of miraculous.” Eileen: “I feel like I’m just hanging out with my teachers…in New York I had learned that you hung out with people who had what you wanted. Each of these guys had what I wanted and I happily took it.” Eileen on meeting Dennis: “We didn’t meet, our magazines met” (Eileen’s Dodgems meeting Dennis’s Little Caesar).
Later, Renee Gladman, in a panel called “New Enactments”: “To be in narrative now is to be in an already fractured state.” At the final marathon reading, she read a stunning piece that got cut out of Calamities; in it, she engaged with Gail Scott’s notion of “a community of sentences” to describe this whole moving architecture of interacting, communal language.
My panel was also a highlight! Sam Cohen and I organized “Bad Boundaries II: Ethics in New Narrative Writing” as a continuation of a panel we put on for the most recent &NOW Festival (2015 in Los Angeles). Maxe Crandall started it off with with a presentation on Poets Theater. “Why is Poets Theater ‘over,’” he asked, “when New Narrative is ongoing, ever-relevant?” He suggested that it may relate to a new cultural investment in the star system–“Poets Theater dies when the star system becomes real.” Three performances on Saturday revived Poets Theater works by Carla Harryman, Kevin Killian & Brian Kim Stefans, and Camille Roy; I trust Maxe (et al.) will keep the medium alive in new forms.
Our panel continued with Nikki Darling, whose paper made connections between New Narrative, magical realism, and experimental fiction as a whole, working to situate both Gloria Anzaldua and Lidia Yuknavitch within the tradition.
Then Sam and I read part of our chapbook in the works, which collects the two stories we each wrote about the other after our difficult breakup in 2015, and a conversation we’re calling “Processing: On Revision and Repair.” For the panel we read modified excerpts from that conversation, doing a kind of mutual overshare via public processing. The chapbook is an exercise in accountability and repair, and it’s a polarizing project: are we only poking at each other’s emotional leftovers, or are we working toward a new queer intimacy? We think the latter. Here we are with Stephen and Nikki post-panel.
Our panel competed with other good-looking panels, and there was much I missed overall. At the Saturday plenary, Rob Halpern and Camille Roy each read deeply affecting back-to-back pieces documenting care and grief for a lover’s gone body. And the opportunity to finally see OG New Narrativists Bob and Bruce read was a gift I don’t take for granted.
NEW OLD NAME NEWS
Presently going by both M. and Megan. For now I am liking holding onto my history in my name as I shift into a new embodiment.
I’ve got two books in the works and recently signed with Rachel Crawford at Wolf Literary Services, joining some of my favorite peer contemporaries: Tom Cho, Patty Yumi Cottrell, Sarah Gerard.
I’d been working on a Best-of-2016 (yes, 2016!) type post that got sidetracked repeatedly by national and world events. Now I’ve turned it into an early Best of 2017(+), and I have beaten you all. Here are some (mostly) recently published books that have delighted and devastated me the past, oh, year or so.
Myriam Gurba, Mean Gurba’s first memoir is officially out in a week or two; I’ve got a review forthcoming in 4Columns, so more TK. But for now: the links Gurba makes here between her own experiences of sexual assault and a much broader rape culture that pervades everything have new timeliness in connection with the Weinstein fallout and the #metoo movement. If you know Gurba’s work at all, you’ll be expecting clever, crass humor and Mean has it in spades: the book is both devastating and devastatingly funny.
This Saturday, July 16th, I am co-coordinating the Madison edition of International Wuthering Heights Day. This will be one of my last activities in Madison before I move on to New York at the end of the month. Come out if you are in town! Wear red!
Yes, I will be at this year’s AWP Conference! Find me here:
AWP Offsite Event: Embawdied Lit: A Drag Reading Sequel
w/Vidhu Aggarwal, Kazim Ali, Derrick Austin, Jessica Rae Bergamino, Wo Chan aka Pearl Harbor, Tom Cho, Elliot DeLine, Kim Yideum, M Kitchell, Rickey Laurentiis, Ji Yoon Lee, Megan Milks, Sade Martha Mary Murphy, Roberto F. Santiago, JD Scott, Loma aka Christopher Soto, Vanessa Angelica Villarreal
Thursday, March 31 | 7:30-10 pm
The LASH | 117 Winston St | Los Angeles
Panel: Coming of Age Queer
w/Amber Dawn, Tom Cho, Mecca Jamilah Sullivan, and Tim Jones-Yelvington
Friday, April 1 | 1:30-2:45 pm
Room 410 | LA Convention Center | Los Angeles
Bennington Review & Black Warrior Review Launch Party and Reading
w/Kaveh Akbar, Rick Barot, Jericho Brown, Cynthia Cruz, Dorothea Lasky, Michael Martone, Sandra Simonds, Safiya Sinclair, Ursula Villarreal-Moura, Mark Baumer, MRB Chelko, Ansley Clark, Patty Yumi Cottrell, Kat Finch, Kendra Fortmeyer, Shamala Gallagher, and Megan Milks
Friday, April 1 | 6-8pm
R Bar | Los Angeles
Hop on Pop: Trans & GQ Poetry Reading
w/Ari Banias, Ching-In Chen, Christopher Soto (aka Loma), D’Lo, Emerson Whitney, Ely Shipley, H. Melt, Jenny Johnson, Jordan Rice, Jos Charles, Joshua Jennifer Espinoza, Joy Ladin, Max Wolf Valerio, Megan Milks, Oliver Bendorf, Ryka Aoki, Samuel Ace, Stephen Boyer, Stephen Ira, TC Tolbert, Trace Peterson, and Wo Chan
Friday, April 1 | 7:30-10 pm
Pop-Hop Books & Curio | 5002 York Blvd | Los Angeles
The Account & Memorious Offsite Reading
w/Stanley Plumly, David Baker, Lee Ann Roripaugh, Derrick Austin, Hadara Bar-Nadav, and Jennifer Pashley
Saturday, April 2 | 4-6 pm
Mandrake Bar| 2692 S La Cienega Blvd | Los Angeles
ALL OF US WITCHES: Nat. Brut & The Spectacle Offsite Event
w/readings by Tom Cho, Amber Dawn, Jayy Dodd, Joshua Jennifer Espinoza, Carribean Fragoza, Morgan Jerkins, Ginger Ko, Sueyeun Juliette Lee, and Kayla E & Meghan Lamb / with music by Xina Xurner
Saturday, April 2 | 9:30-11pm
MaRS Gallery | 649 S. Anderson St | Los Angeles