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Amelia Gray reads at The Foundry on 9/9

The Foundry is our literary reading and education series, bringing a host of new voices, both emerging and well acclaimed, to our fair city. Our upcoming Foundry reading, on Saturday September 9th, features Skyler McCurine, Nicholas Bredie, Jac Jemc, and today’s spotlight, Amelia Gray.

The first real literary reading I remember attending was the esteemed Vermin on the Mount, four or five years ago. Amelia Gray read, and I’d never heard of her before. To people in the literary world that’s sort of ridiculous. And to anyone who has experienced Amelia at a reading, she is a force of nature. Inspired and a little awestruck, I bucked up some new writer courage and approached her afterwards, telling her she did great. I asked her if she had any work I could find online, and she (with her three-going-on-four books at the time) smiled, so nicely, and said, “Sure, yes I do.”

Amelia’s writing is always transformative: her characters, their worlds, and their objects often turn your understanding on end. And Isadora, Amelia Gray’s brand new novel (just out this summer from FSG), while unlike anything I’ve read from her before, maintains this, gorgeously so. Isadora delves into the life of the American dancer Isadora Duncan. It’s tragic, and weird, and darkly funny. She unsettles her readers, charms and endears them, makes them laugh, and then sort of pulls the rug out a little bit.

From an NPR review of Isadora:

Gray is a gutsy, utterly original writer, and this is the finest work she’s done so far. Isadora is a masterful portrait of one of America’s greatest artists, and it’s also a beautiful reflection on what it means to be suffocated by grief, but not quite willing to give up: “In order to understand the greatest joys of life, you must do more than open yourself to its greatest sorrows. You must invite it to join you in your home and beguile it to stay.”

Read the rest of the review at NPR.

If you don’t have a copy of Isadora yet, you can read a brand new Amelia Gray short flash fiction story, “The Hostage,” published this summer at The New Yorker.

“You’re not putting a dye pack in there, are you?” he asked.

The woman turned to look at him, and he was surprised to see that his question seemed to have wounded her. “I would never,” she said. “What would make you say that?”

“I’m sorry.” He tried to think about what would make him say it; he had seen a dye pack in a movie once and knew that it could explode and make a terrible mess. There was a lot that he didn’t know about robbing banks, and every moment was another opportunity to reveal his ignorance.

Read the rest at The New Yorker.

AMELIA GRAY is the author of five books, most recently Isadora (FSG). Her fiction and essays have appeared in The New Yorker, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Tin House, and VICE. She is winner of the NYPL Young Lion, of FC2’s Ronald Sukenick Innovative Fiction Prize, and a finalist for the PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction. She lives in Los Angeles.


We can’t wait for you to meet Amelia Gray and hear her read at The Foundry, this Saturday September 9th at The Rose in South Park (2219 30th Street). Amelia reads alongside Jac Jemc, Nicholas Bredie, and Skyler McCurine.

Doors at 7:00 PM
Readings start at 7:30 PM!

And join us for The Foundry’s associated master class, “Fooling Ourselves (Into Writing),” taught by Jac Jemc that afternoon from 2-4 PM. There are just a few spots left!


If you like what we do at So Say We All, please consider becoming a sustaining member for as little as $5 per month. Details here.


Julia Dixon Evans

Jac Jemc reads (and teaches!) in San Diego on 9/9

The Foundry is our literary reading and education series, bringing a host of new voices, both emerging and well acclaimed, to our fair city. Our upcoming reading, on Saturday September 9th, features Amelia Gray, Skyler McCurine, Emma Smith-Stevens, Nicholas Bredie, and today’s spotlight, Jac Jemc.

Jac, in addition to reading, will also teach a master class for us while she is in town. To register for “Fooling Ourselves (Into Writing),” 9/9 from 2-4 PM, click here. Don’t miss it.

So Say We All was lucky enough to publish Jac Jemc in Black Candies: See Through in 2013, So Say We All’s journal of literary horror. You can read her story, “Angles,” here, which is actually an excerpt of her newest novel, The Grip of ItHer writing is gorgeous and terrifying, gets under your skin quickly, and stays there.

Maybe I find a body and it’s hard as diamonds or maybe I find the body and it’s just a pile of soft bones and teeth or maybe it’s a body whose nails have screamed themselves free of absent fingers. What will a rat eat first?

Or maybe there’s no body and I just dream that there’s an answer to the low moaning we hear, and the stains that grow and shrink on our walls and bodies, and the secrets we uncover behind secrets.

Read more of “Angles,” an excerpt from The Grip of It, here.

Her book was just released to an impressive critical response earlier this August. You can read this fantastic review of The Grip of It at Electric Literature:

Jemc is telling us the story of the putrefaction of a relationship. This relationship is not clean-cut and bookended by dramatic flares — it festers, untended, a thriving hotbed for the things that break us down, cell by cell. It doesn’t choke, but lines the airway slowly, turning a once-healthy breath into the ragged pull from a plastic straw. “Bad behavior heralds ruin,” says Julie, when she is utterly convinced that the haunting must be her fault: she is unwilling to accept that malevolence exists for its own sake, but convinced it must be part of a puritanical order of punishment.

Read the full review here.

One of the things we love about Jac is how supportive she is in the literary world. Jac publishes a fascinating list of her literary rejections, which you can read (and obsess over) here.  Lifting the veil on the dark side of publishing makes us all feel a little less alone.

Here she is in conversation with Amber Sparks for The Fanzine.

I don’t usually know my characters before I write a book. I do the old “put-them-in-situations-and-see-how-they-react” test of their mettle. I might even venture to say I know them even less at the end of the book because of what you mention about how I’m sort of always living in that gap of what we think we know about another person but don’t. But that’s probably what makes a character seem more real and human, right? To have them do surprising, unexpected things that surprise both the other characters and the reader.

Read the full conversation here.

We hope you’ll come meet Jac, and take her class, when she’s in town! Jac Jemc reads alongside Amelia Gray, Emma Smith-Stevens, Nicholas Bredie, and Skyler McCurine at The Foundry Reading Series on Saturday, September 9th at 7 PM at The Rose in South Park.

Jac Jemc is the author of The Grip of It (FSG Originals). Her first novel, My Only Wife (Dzanc Books) was a finalist for the 2013 PEN/Robert W. Bingham Prize for Debut Fiction and winner of the Paula Anderson Book Award, and her collection of stories, A Different Bed Every Time (Dzanc Books) was named one of Amazon’s best story collections of 2014. She edits nonfiction for Hobart.

If you like what we do at So Say We All, a literary nonprofit and small press dedicated to helping people tell their stories, please consider becoming a sustaining member.

Nicholas Bredie reads at The Foundry on 9/9!

The Foundry is our literary reading series, featuring writers near and far, both established and emerging, fiction, nonfiction, poetry, anything. Our next reading is Saturday, September 9th at The Rose in South Park. Join us for readings by Amelia Gray, Jac Jemc, Emma Smith-Stevens, Skyler McCurine, and today’s feature, Nicholas Bredie.

Nicholas Bredie is the author of the novel Not Constantinople, from Dzanc Books, Summer 2017. With Joanna Howard, he is the translator of Frédéric Boyer’s novella Cows, published by Noemi Press. His writing has appeared in The Believer, The Los Angeles Review of Books, The Fairy Tale Review, LitHub, Puerto del Sol, Electric Literature and elsewhere. After living and working in Istanbul, Turkey, he is now in Los Angeles with his wife, Nora Lange.

You can read this excerpt from his novel, Not Constantinople, up at Literary Hub.

Not Constantinople is a rich, witty book that is equally as character-driven as it is place-driven as it is plot-driven.

Virginia’s hand found the neck of the Jack Daniel’s protruding from one of the sacks. Wielding the square bottle like a mace, she demanded that the strangers remove themselves. She was like the one animatron in a wax museum, sloshing the liquor in small but sincere strokes while everyone else froze.

“Isn’t that, like, an eighty-dollar bottle?” the man said, unperturbed. “Are you sure you want to waste it on me?”

Read the rest of the excerpt here.

Here is a delightful Electric Literature interview with Nick by Maureen Moore, a friend who had briefly lived with Nick and his wife, Nora, while they lived in Turkey. The idea of an “ex-pat novel” is rife with preconceived ideas and expectations, and perhaps even derision from a reader, and Nick manages to throw these expectations out of the window. While reading Not Constantinople, this excerpt often came to mind:

MM: Something that contributed to that unsettling feeling was seeing everything about the city written in its American English equivalent. I think I found that to be rare, finding these foreign names of places and things in English. Even one of Turkey’s most famous writers is referred to as Mr. Cotton. I’d love to hear it a little bit about this choice.

NB: I think it is connected to the idea of undermining or disenchanting. Having the names in plain English takes some of the exoticism out of them. There are some linguistic jokes in there too. For example Mr. Cotton’s neighborhood, Orhan Pamuk’s neighborhood, is Nişantaşı. He takes some care explaining the origin of that name in Istanbul, his memoir. It translates as “target stone,” because that was where the Ottomans set up their targets to practice archery and shooting. But Nişantaşı is also the Turkish word for “starch,” and it’s a kind of tony neighborhood, so I translated it as ‘The Starch.’

MM: For the reader, I also felt it further marked Fred and Virginia’s foreignness, as if they didn’t want to call those places by their Turkish names. It further separated them from the expected experience of the place.

NB: When we moved abroad, my uncle who was a foreign correspondent for a number of years said that the most important thing you can do is abandon analogy. To not try and compare, and make your experience fit some preconceived notions. How the characters behave and how they diverge ultimately in the book has to do with how they deal with their expectations of life abroad. In real life it is a situation of extremes: there is no family and no old friends and little language and a host of received notions about the place.

Read the full interview here.

We hope you’ll come join Nick at The Rose wine bar in South Park on Saturday, September 9th for The Foundry reading series. Nick will read alongside Jac Jemc, Amelia Gray, Skyler McCurine, and Emma Smith-Stevens. Stay tuned to learn more about the other readers as we approach the show!


We will also host a master class that afternoon, taught by Jac Jemc, called “Fooling Ourselves (Into Writing).” Work with a fantastic writer for a super bargain price! Scholarships available! For details, or to register, visit here. Spend the entire afternoon with your Foundry readers!


If you like what we do at So Say We All, please consider becoming a sustaining member for as little as $5 per month. Details here.

Our next Foundry reading series is September 9th!

Featuring Amelia Gray, Jac Jemc, Emma Smith-Stevens, Nicholas Bredie, and Skyler McCurine!

The Foundry is our literary reading series, featuring writers near and far, both established and emerging, fiction, nonfiction, poetry, anything. Our next reading is Saturday, September 9th at The Rose in South Park. Join us for readings by Amelia Gray, Jac Jemc, Emma Smith-Stevens, Nicholas Bredie, and Skyler McCurine.

Jac Jemc will also teach an accompanying Master Class earlier that day, “Fooling Yourself Into Writing.” Details here.

THE FOUNDRY: A READING SERIES
SATURDAY, SEPT 9th
THE ROSE
Doors: 7:00 PM
Readings: 7:30 PM
$5 suggested donation

The Rose (21+) serves beer, wine, and food. Come for dinner! https://www.therosewinebar.com/menus

Here’s a little bit about our readers:

AMELIA GRAY is the author of five books, most recently Isadora (FSG). Her fiction and essays have appeared in The New Yorker, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Tin House, and VICE. She is winner of the NYPL Young Lion, of FC2’s Ronald Sukenick Innovative Fiction Prize, and a finalist for the PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction. She writes for television and lives in Los Angeles.

JAC JEMC is the author of THE GRIP OF IT forthcoming from FSG Originals, MY ONLY WIFE and A DIFFERENT BED EVERY TIME. She has been the recipient of two Illinois Arts Council Professional Development Grants, and was named as one of 25 Writers to Watch by the Guild Literary Complex and one of New City’s Lit 50 in Chicago. She teaches English and Creative Writing and currently serves as a web nonfiction editor for Hobart.

EMMA SMITH-STEVENS is the author of a novel, THE AUSTRALIAN (Dzanc Books), and a short story collection, GREYHOUNDS (Dzanc Books), forthcoming in early 2018. She currently serves as fiction editor of The Mondegreen and lives in New York.

SKYLER McCURINE is a personal stylist, public speaker, VAMP producer, writer, and founder of Le Red Balloon. She has performed with TEDx, and received an SD Business Journal “Emerging Generation Award” and a recent invitation to attend the Forbes Under 30 Summit as Swiss Luxury watch brand’ Baume & Mercier’s guest of distinction. She was a finalist for the 2016 Forbes 30 Under 30 list in the social entrepreneurship category. She is a native San Diegan.

NICHOLAS BREDIE is the author of the novel NOT CONSTANTINOPLE, forthcoming from Dzanc Books, Spring 2017. With Joanna Howard, he is the co-translator of Frédéric Boyer’s novella COWS, published by Noemi Press, Summer 2014. His writing has appeared in The Believer, The Brooklyn Rail, The Fairy Tale Review, Opium, Puerto del Sol, and elsewhere. He is a doctoral fellow in the Creative Writing and Literature Program at USC.


If you like what we do at So Say We All, please consider becoming a supporting member for as little as $5 per month:www.sosayweallonline.com/membership

“Fooling Ourselves (Into Writing)”: A So Say We All Master Class with Jac Jemc!

Announcing a new Foundry reading series Master Class! On September 9th, Jac Jemc will teach “Fooling Ourselves (Into Writing),” a two hour workshop and master class.

Feeling stumped or stagnant? Have an idea, but don’t know where to start? Not a “writing from ideas” kind of writer? In this workshop we’ll explore ways of tricking ourselves into writing. We’ll create language banks, dig up gluts of memory, and then hunt for the narrative hiding in these resources. We’ll also look at writers who have developed unique methods of generating work and mimic these efforts at spinning raw material into stories.
Saturday, September 9th
2:00 – 4:00 PM
Mission Hills United Methodist Church
4044 Lark St, San Diego, CA 92103
tuition:
$35 general
$30 members
scholarships available
SIGN UP NOW!
Two Scholarship Types Available
Scholarship application deadline: August 27th
(Scholarship notification: September 1st)
Jac Jemc is author of the brand new novel The Grip of It (FSG 2017), and will be reading with us that evening at 7 PM at The Foundry (at The Rose Wine Bar in South Park), alongside Amelia Gray, Skyler McCurine, Emma Smith-Stevens, and Nicholas Bredie. Jac lives in Chicago, and is also author of My Only Wife and A Different Bed Every Time. She has been the recipient of two Illinois Arts Council Professional Development Grants, and was named as one of 25 Writers to Watch by the Guild Literary Complex and one of New City’s Lit 50 in Chicago. She teaches English and Creative Writing and currently serves as a web nonfiction editor for Hobart.

If you like what we do at So Say We All, a literary nonprofit, please consider becoming a sustaining member for as little as $5 per month. Details here.

Kali Wallace reads at The Foundry this Saturday!

The Foundry is our literary reading series, and this Saturday’s show features readings from Kali Wallace, Hari Alluri, Elizabeth Marro, Steph Cha, and Matt Young. We jam pack these readings (just for you!) with our favorite established and emerging writers from near and far, with a nice spread of genre and form.

Kali Wallace is the author of the YA novel Shallow Graves and the forthcoming book The Memory Tree. Her writing is stunningly gorgeous, weird, cool, and exciting. She flips the idea of genre or age-level on end. Sometimes Shallow Grave felt like reading a powerful, scientific lyrical essay on grief, cults, and the stars… plus undead teens and exciting mystery and gore!

Kali has a PhD in geophysics, and that wonder and fascination with the natural world is as strong in her writing as her ability to weave the unnatural world, too.

I didn’t know I was waking up until it had already happened.

The birds started dying after midnight. The first people to notice were the early morning birders out before dawn, armed with their notebooks and binoculars, wrapped in scarves and puffy down coats against the surprise cold. They saw their blue jays and orioles and herons all struck dead on their migration north.

[…] The frost melted away before noon, and the birds kept dying. On the news a scientist insisted the freak cold snap had nothing to do with it, never mind that it was the middle of June and Illinois was ready for summer.

The last birds died just before midnight, and I came back.

–from Shallow Graves by Kali Wallace

Kali’s work is powerful and gorgeous, but that’s not to say her writing isn’t also cutting and funny. Is this a San Diego subtweet? Possible.

I was expecting somebody like Mr. Willow, with his have-you-accepted-Jesus-as-your-savior hair and warm smile, but the man in the doorway looked like he had reached the age of thirty without realizing he wasn’t a frat boy anymore. No Steelers jersey, but he had blond hair in gelled spikes, a T-shirt advertising a craft beer, baggy cargo shorts, and a tattoo of a sunburst on his right calf.

–from Shallow Graves by Kali Wallace

Join Kali on Saturday at 7 PM at Public Square Coffee House, who’ll read from her forthcoming book, The Memory Trees, “about a mysterious family legacy, the bonds of sisterhood, and the strange and powerful ways we are shaped by the places we call home.” It’s an evocative story of the inheritance of women, place, and grief.


If you like what we do at So Say We All, a literary nonprofit, please consider becoming a supporting member!

Steph Cha reads at The Foundry on June 10th!

The Foundry is our literary reading series, and our next show is this Saturday, June 10th, at 7 PM at Public Square Coffee House in La Mesa.

The Foundry is equal parts performance and… immersive bookstore. Come hear some fantastic readings, and spruce up your summer reading list. We can’t wait to introduce you to your next favorite writer(s). Saturday’s show features Matt Young, Kali Wallace, Elizabeth Marro, Hari Alluri, and Steph Cha.

Steph Cha is a writer living in Los Angeles. She is author of the Juniper Song novels: Follow Her Home, Beware Beware, and Dead Soon Enough. She is a freelance book reviewer and food writer for the Los Angeles Times.

Dead Soon Enough is the latest installment in the Juniper Song series, and a breeze to slip into, despite not having read the first two novels. Song is a delight. She’s weird, hardworking, kind, and brilliant, but also is quite troubled and a tiny bit troubling herself. Cha’s writing is intelligent, vicious, exciting, and lovely, and redefines the idea of LA Noir.

“Come on, let’s get some tacos or something. We’re at a nightclub with a metal detector, and people are staring at us.”

We walked over to a stand called Tacos Mexico. It was five minutes away, on Broadway, by the renovated Ace Hotel. The street was littered and a homeless man shouted at us as we walked by, his face distorted by anger that had little to do with us. Broadway was gentrifying in strange, random heaves, but it wasn’t the prettiest part of downtown to walk in at night. It wasn’t the safest part either, but I’d dealt with worse demons than the poor and schizophrenic.

–from Dead Soon Enough by Steph Cha

Her books are dark page turners, but also have a strong sense of place, a chilling look at race and feminism, and some killer one-liners.

“Were there no Armenian writers left?”

“I wouldn’t say that. For one thing, tragedy begets writers. You take a whole population and put them through some shit, a few of them will find a voice. Outrage has a way of getting through, even coarsely.”

“Is that what Nora’s writing is about? Outrage?”

“Outrage, pride. Two sides of the same coin when you’ve been victimized.”

–from Dead Soon Enough by Steph Cha

And yes, there’s excitement and fights!

The shock of it almost dropped me. In my short career as a private investigator, I’d been grabbed, dragged, and held at gunpoint. I’d even been knocked out with a blow to the back of my head. But I’d never been confronted with anything as straightforward and openly violent as a hand to the face.

The pain was stunning, bright and magnificent–it filled my whole head, from the ringing in my skull to the pulse in my lip to the tear in my cheek, where one jeweled finger had made first contact. My hands shot up to my face to assess the damage. The fingers at my cheek came away wet with blood.

–from Dead Soon Enough by Steph Cha

Join Steph Cha, alongside Kali Wallace, Hari Alluri, Matt Young, and Elizabeth Marro, this Saturday, June 10th, at 7:00 PM at Public Square Coffee House in La Mesa. There’ll be lots of books for sale, coffee, beer, wine, handcrafted pizza, and cheese boards! [heart emoji] [fire emoji]


If you like what we do at So Say We All, please consider becoming a supporting member for as little as $5 per month. Special discounts on shows, master classes, and advance previews! And the fiery warm glow in your heart you’ll get from sustaining us.

Elizabeth Marro reads at The Foundry on June 10th!

The Foundry is our literary reading series, featuring established and emerging writers, fiction, poetry, nonfiction, anything, from near and far. Our next event is Saturday, June 10th at 7:00 PM at Public Square Coffee House in La Mesa, featuring readings from Hari Alluri, Matt Young, Steph Cha, Kali Wallace, and Elizabeth Marro.

San Diego novelist Elizabeth Marro is a tremendous force of literary citizenship. Betsy, as we know her, is a tireless advocate for the arts in San Diego, for veteran literature, and for women writers in particular. Her debut novel, Casualties was honored as a finalist (before it was even published!) for a San Diego Book Association Unpublished Novel prize, and again this year, is nominated in the regular category as a finalist in its published state. Betsy’s writing is evocative, often lovely, sometimes witty, and sometimes devastatingly harsh.

At some point in may no longer be possible to start over. Ruth has worried about this before, but on the morning after her son’s nineteenth birthday, she feels cold with the certainty of it. There will be a time when Robbie is too old to recover lost ground, when all his mistakes have calcified into a mass so large and impenetrable that neither one of them can break through.

Not for the first time, her assistant reminds her that she may be making too much of things.

(from Casualties, by Elizabeth Marro)

Casualities was reviewed last year by San Diego Citybeat, calling it a “tremendous debut.”

Ruth’s son, Robbie, returns from Iraq a changed man. Haunted by the things he witnessed “over there,” namely the deaths of his comrades in arms, Robbie struggles to adjust to being back in the United States. He only has a few months left before his enlistment is up and he doesn’t know what to do. He enlisted in the Marines to turn his life around, but also to avoid being sucked into the trajectory that his mother was planning for him: school, work, a normal life. Now he no longer knows what any of that even means. How can he go back to “normal” when he feels anything but?

“He didn’t know who or what he was when he enlisted. He just knew what he wasn’t.”

– See more at: http://sdcitybeat.com/culture/the-floating-library/battle-waged-home-front/#sthash.JNIVvchc.dpuf

You can read the first chapter of Casualties on the Amazon “Look Inside” feature here: https://www.amazon.com/Casualties-Elizabeth-Marro/dp/0425283461

And come listen to her read at this weekend’s Foundry reading series, Saturday June 10th at 7 PM at Public Square Coffee in La Mesa, alongside Hari Alluri, Steph Cha, Kali Wallace, and Matt Young.

Elizabeth (Betsy) Marro is the author of Casualties, a novel about a single mother and defense executive who loses her son just when she thought he was home safe from his final deployment. Now she must face some difficult truths about her past, her choices, the war, and her son. A former journalist and recovering pharmaceutical executive, Betsy Marro’s work has appeared in such online and print publications as LiteraryMama.com, The San Diego Reader, and on her blog at elizabethmarro.com. Originally from the “North Country” region of New Hampshire, she now lives in San Diego where she is working on her next novel, short fiction, and essays.  Casualties, published in February 2016 by the Berkley imprint of Penguin Random House, is her first novel.


If you like what we do at So Say We All, a literary nonprofit, please consider becoming a supporting member for as little as $5 per month. Thank you!

Hari Alluri reads at The Foundry on June 10th: Two Poems

The Foundry is our literary reading series, bringing you the work of established and emerging writers, from near and far. Our next reading, on Saturday, June 10th at Public Square Coffee House in La Mesa, features Matt Young, Kali Wallace, Steph Cha, Elizabeth Marro, and San Diego poet Hari Alluri. Today we are super proud to introduce you to Hari and publish two of his poems here, below.

Hari Alluri, author of the brand new book of poetry, The Flayed City (Kaya Press, 2017), is a dynamic and genuine writer whose work defines a world so specific in its detail, but somehow almost viscerally relatable. His performances are stunning: fun, heartfelt, and powerful. We love Hari: he’s an incredible mentor, supporter, and visionary in the arts, literary, and poetry scenes in San Diego.

Hari Alluri is the author of The Flayed City (Kaya Press, 2017) and the chapbook The Promise of Rust(Mouthfeel Press, 2016). An award-winning poet, educator, and teaching artist, his work appears widely in anthologies, journals and online venues, including poemeleon, Split This Rock, Sundog Lit, and The Margins. He is a founding editor at Locked Horn Press, where he has co-edited two anthologies, Gendered & Written: Forums on Poetics and Read America(s): An Anthology. He holds an MFA from San Diego State University and has received VONA/Voices and Las Dos Brujas fellowships and a National Film Board of Canada grant. Hari immigrated to Vancouver, Coast Salish territories at age twelve and currently serves as editor of pacific Review in San Diego, Kumeyaay land.

To get to know Hari a little better, here’s an interview from KPBS’s Midday Edition earlier this year: http://www.kpbs.org/news/2017/mar/28/san-diego-poet-explores-immigration-flayed-city/

And, finally, we are honored to print two of Hari’s poems here, both of which appear in The Flayed City: “A Declaration, Love,” and “[At the edge of drought…]”


A Declaration, Love

It is nothing
to be surrounded by fallen prayers—this is city.
I ash on shimmers. They no more implicate my day than dogs
who sniff for the piss of other dogs.

Perhaps that’s what prayers do. Regardless
of the city, their barks at muted streets
halfway up a fence, shifting
like migrants. Is the lie, “Here’s a person?”

Is the part to believe, “We love?” Like a cut
jungle burns to city, we ash
on shimmers. Prayers
swallow the revelation of you. You, a refugee, pray

to stay. Mumble toward your final words
in a detainment center slash library. I and thousands
check out books, exit casual
past your wall. You noose your sheets rather than be sent. Sniffing

at me for the dog piss of this city, as if it sniffs
your final words, a dog. I describe
to make things easier. My prayer is the dog I shoo
on broom-filled nights. It feels good,

old shoe, it feels: these nights under
the safety of a visa, a good that never held
your name. I do not sing: singing changes out my eyes.
You’re dead, so it’s nothing

if I slit your throat—prayer.
Cowl my face
in your blood. My silence halfway
up the nose of a sniffing dog. That jealous dog,
it bares its teeth in every passing prayer.


[At the edge of drought…]

At the edge of drought, a turtle learns silence from the hands who built this city, the ones whose names weren’t given to streets.

What comes after this will be gentle, with churning, with trolleys. It’s easy to overlook the seaside debris as you dismantle a crab.

We cannot shut out the dust moving across our shared vision. If you notice constant there are fossils in every breath.


Acknowledgments:

The poems are excerpted from The Flayed City (Kaya Press, 2017). Reprinted by permission.

An earlier version of “A Declaration, Love” first appears in TAYO.


Don’t miss Hari Alluri, alongside Matt Young, Steph Cha, Elizabeth Marro, and Kali Wallace, on Saturday, June 10th at Public Square Coffee House in La Mesa (8278 La Mesa Blvd).


If you like what we do at So Say We All, please consider becoming a sustaining member for as little as $5 per month.

An Interview with the Foundry’s Matt Young

The Foundry is our literary reading series, and the next show is Saturday, June 10th at 7 PM at Public Square Coffee House in La Mesa, featuring readings from Steph Cha, Hari Alluri, Elizabeth Marro, Kali Wallace, and today’s interviewee, Matt Young.

Matt Young, who we first got to know when we published his story in Incoming: Veteran Writers on Returning Home last year, and is the author of the forthcoming memoir Eat The Apple“Fractured Flashes: Writing The Very Short Narrative Essay.” (Enroll now!) (Bloomsbury, 2018). He’s a college writing instructor in Washington State and will join us to read on June 10th, as well as teach a master class on flash narrative non-fiction writing.

So Say We All’s production director and Foundry host Julia Dixon Evans recently had a chance to ask Matt a few questions.

JULIA DIXON EVANS: Hi Matt! Thanks for agreeing to speak with me. And thanks for agreeing to come out to San Diego to read and teach.

MATT YOUNG: Hey Julia, of course. I’m a bit nervous coming back to Southern California. It’s a bit like returning to the scene of a crime.

JDE: So when’s the last time you’ve been here? The subtext there is WHAT DID YOU DO?

MY: I think the last time I was there was 2011 to visit my old battalion after they got back from Afghanistan? It’s hard to remember if that tells you anything. I do remember getting sunburned so badly that one of my friends had to give me prescription painkillers.

JDE: You have recently put out some fantastic short narrative nonfiction, but you also have a book-length memoir on the way (Eat The Apple, Bloomsbury, 2018). What is gained in going short when writing narrative nonfiction? What is lost?

MY: I found flash because I was trying to figure out a way to tell a huge story with a lot of different narrative threads. Flash gave me a way to explore those threads without worrying too much about narrative continuity. The whole thing is held together thematically and chronologically with some recurring characters sprinkled throughout, but ultimately the stories are fairly disconnected and most of them can stand alone. They each pack an emotional little jab to the solar plexus in some way, which I think is common to the flash genre. You often give up context for lyricism in flash, but that’s the kind of writing I love, so I guess I don’t see it as giving up much. Brian Oliu has said, “I write to devastate.” I love that. I think that’s what you gain from the flash form, a tiny drop of devastation.

JDE: One of my favorite pieces of your recent work is “Fata Morgana,” which is a stunning, unexpected look at death, family, nostalgia, and creepy medical stuff. I love the way this is fragmented into headed sections, but has an incredibly strong narrative. I equally love and am baffled by the section headings. Tell us about those? 

MY: Thank you, that’s really kind. I don’t know what I can say about those. I guess when I started the piece it was called “Ichthyology” (which later became a section title) and it wasn’t a modular story at all. I started writing it right after my wife and I returned home from the memorial and I was still feeling really raw, and I remember having a thought while I was trying to work and instead of pulling out a notebook or opening a new document I just wrote that thought directly in the document where I was working on “Ichthyology” and it ended up becoming the “Oversight” section. The form just kind of chose itself.

Oversight
A placard on the interpretive center wall reads, Beware! Deserts might look empty, but they’re full of things that kill! More placards on the wall below show gila monsters and mountain lions and coyotes—which can kill in packs when they’re desperate. In the foreground of the placards is a poster board covered in pictures of my grandfather. Next to the poster board is a computer monitor playing a slideshow of photographs of him and our family on a loop. There is no placard on the wall of the interpretive center showing the pancreatic cancer that killed him—though neither is there a placard of a rattlesnake.

(excerpted from Matt Young’s “Fata Morgana, appearing in Split Lip Magazine, 2017)

JDE: “Fata Morgana” is a relatively short piece — 1700 words (I counted) — but this is your thing, the very short essay, often referred to as flash nonfiction. I know I have a default, a word count that I always seem to end up near, and I assume most other writers are the same. But I also have a dream word count, an aim. I’m wondering if pieces like “Fata Morgana” and your other short works fall into either of those categories: short because you seem to have no choice, the length chooses you, or short because you work at it and try to get a story to be particularly short? 

MY: Yeah, like I mentioned “Fata Morgana” started out as something totally different. It was going to be longer. It was going to be more about my grandfather, his life, fly fishing, our relationship, grief. And then I think my grief got in the way of that and I let it. Sometimes though I do try to work into flash, I think it’s a good way to sharpen your prose.

Ichthyology

At the memorial service, held in a regional park interpretive center, I read a placard that informs me the Sonoran Desert is the most biodiverse desert in the world. I think about how the night before, my family gathered in the middle of that desert at a sushi restaurant in a strip mall. Another placard tells me there are thirty species of fish endemic to the Sonoran—suckers, shiners, pupfish, chub, trout, catfish, more. I wonder if my grandfather ever caught any of those native fish with the fly gear he gave me two years ago. I wonder if he tied any of the flies himself. Then I wonder if I’ve already lost some to poorly tied knots or overhead foliage. I think of a large trout that broke my line a month back swimming somewhere in tributary river in Eastern Washington with a piece of my grandfather stuck in its jaw. I tell myself that’s where he’d rather be anyway. Don’t handle them too much, Grandson, catch and release, he wrote in a note that came with the gear. In his younger years he would’ve built a throne from their skeletons and not thought twice. He wrote, I haven’t trusted my legs against the river for a long time. None of the fish we ate at the restaurant were native—they were all caught, bashed over the head with a club, gutted, filleted, and shipped to what used to be a primordial ocean to be unceremoniously masticated in a mix of saliva and cheap beer.

(excerpted from Matt Young’s “Fata Morgana, appearing in Split Lip Magazine, 2017)

JDE: Your upcoming class with us on June 10th, “Fractured Flashes: Writing The Very Short Narrative Essay,” seems to focus on the idea of fracture. Structure, content. What draws you to this concept? What sort of things does fractured writing challenge? Or what kind of things do writers or readers alike need to be untaught to swallow something fragmented?

MY: I write a lot about memory and I also blur the line significantly between fiction and nonfiction in my writing, which I think—or at least hope—gets the reader to consider the subjective nature of memory and truth. I was really nervous when I started writing about my experience. I thought, What will the guys I served with think? Do they remember this the same way? Will they call me a liar if they don’t? I even started questioning my own recollections. Fractured narratives tend to have this effect—they obfuscate and gray the black and white, they make us question everything. That tends to upset what we’ve been taught about truth. But I think it’s important to remember that truth and fact are very different. Truth is subjective. I think that’s something we’re all getting a pretty rough lesson in right about now.

JDE: You’re a veteran, and an active contributor to the newest bloom of veteran literature finally making its way into the hands of readers. Though “Fata Morgana” makes no mention of it. Do you feel a responsibility to have your work periodically check back in, and re-establish your place as a veteran writer?

MY: No, I don’t. I don’t know that I want to be defined in that way. Is that pretentious? Should I just give in to that designation? Anyway, I read very little veteran or war writing while writing the book. Dispatches by Michael Herr, In Pharaoh’s Army by Tobias Wolff, and Jarhead by Anthony Swofford—nothing from the Forever Wars. I do think war has leached into our cultural groundwater, but I think to continually look inward at that thing you lose what’s going on in the periphery, forget that life is happening outside of those other places. It makes us look into a mirror instead of out a window. Measuring ourselves against already published narratives can be really damaging, can make us feel like our experiences aren’t worth writing about because we see them as different or less than those that have been published. They of course can be useful in some ways, but I say look outward as much as you can. Expand horizons. Go read speculative fiction or poetry. Maybe it will help you create something different, you know?

JDE: What does it mean to you to be a veteran writer not explicitly writing about the things the civilian world accepts in a piece of veteran writing?

MY: I guess it means I’m just another writer, but I’m okay with that.

JDE: The writing you do that is explicitly ensconced in being a veteran is also somewhat irreverent, though I know that word is thrown around a lot. More simply put, you tend to zoom in on one element, one scorn, one moment, one thing to cope with. What drives this sort of writing?

MY: Self-loathing? Haha. I feel like the thing I zoom in on a lot of the time are my own shortcomings. Most of the things I write that have to do with my service use the war or the Marines as forward narrative momentum—background. Otherwise I’m usually poking fun at myself or trying to figure out why I acted the way I did, which maybe might help someone else.

JDE: Your book, Eat The Apple, is forthcoming next year. First of all, tell me about that title. 

MY: It’s a Marine Corps saying: Eat the apple. Fuck the Corps. It’s not exactly a term of endearment. It’s a nod to the impermanence of an enlistment.

JDE: Did you set out to write a book-length work? Or did you start writing with the intention of it being a shorter piece, and then just couldn’t stop? Or something else?

MY: I started out not wanting to write it at all. I’d tried writing fiction and nonfiction about my experience and it just wasn’t good—it felt indulgent and overly dramatic, and also like I was trying to tout this experience I thought of at the time as unique. Something that gave me specialized knowledge that elevated me above people who hadn’t served in some way. It felt wrong. So I went to my grad program selling my faculty on writing weird speculative stories set in the Midwest. I wasn’t super proud of the work I was doing, but it wasn’t that bad. Then for a graduate student reading I wanted to try something new so I sat down and popped out four really short vignettes about being in the Marines. They all had different voices, were written in different perspectives, they were funny and tragic and they got a good reception. I tried to call it a fluke for a couple months, but I kept going back to them, and then that summer they all just kind of poured out of me. I probably wrote two hundred pages and ended up with over a hundred usable pages and then kept developing those and creating new stories over the next year. I ended up with a thesis length manuscript, graduated, and then spent the next year finishing the book.

JDE: Do you draw inspiration from different sources for different end products? Who are some of your big go-to writers?

MY: I watch a lot of movies and television. I read a lot of speculative fiction and poetry. I borrowed forms from medical evaluations and diagrams, multiple choice tests, military publications. Some writers I’m really into right now are Claire Vaye Watkins, Brian Oliu, Elena Passarello, Chris McCormick, Brit Bennett, Chris Bachelder, Viet Thanh Nguyen, Ben Loory, lots of others. The thing that probably inspired the book the most was Maxine Hong Kingston’s The Woman Warrior, which I’d read during undergrad, but came back to and keep coming back to.

JDE: As you wrote your memoir, what other things were you doing? Not just what books you were reading, but big things like where were you in life? And also small things like if you remember a movie or an album or a friendship from that time.

MY: A lot. When I started, it was 2013 and I had just moved to Ohio from Oregon. We were listening to a lot of Wilco during the cross-country drive. My wife and I had gotten married in June of 2013 and then we moved in early August. I was working towards my MA. My wife was getting her second Master’s degree. It was my first year teaching—building syllabi, instructing, assessing. I saw Twelve Years A Slave in a snowstorm in some town in Ohio. There were eight people in the theater, one guy walked out during the scene when Patsey gets whipped. I used to meet a buddy of mine who was in the composition and rhetoric program every week to have breakfast and watch the newest episode from the first season of True Detective.

JDE: I could get behind that for breakfast. 

MY: In the middle of my first year of grad school I found my biological family. Then I contacted them about a week before my wife and I went to Thailand for our delayed honeymoon. Then we drove out to Massachusetts to meet them when we got back—they had gotten back together some time after putting me up for adoption and nine years later had another kid, and another, and another. So I got to meet my biological mom, dad, two brothers, and sister. It was wild. I think those emotions made it into the book. We’re close now—me and the bio family—we stay in touch, I visit whenever I can. We’re going out there in July actually. My brother just graduated college and my sister just graduated high school. My middle brother is thinking about joining the Marines. That was one hell of a digression. Sorry—it’s hard to bring that up and not go into some kind of detail.

JDE: No, I think this is exactly what I meant, how could you even separate the writing process from what you were going through at that time? The big, emotionally draining stuff, but also yeah, True Detective for breakfast.

MY: Oh! I spent most of that summer and fall writing to Slothrust’s album Of Course You Do—great lyrics, vocals, and guitar. The week before my thesis defense I ran my first marathon in Cincinnati—the training for the marathon really helped me tap into some weird places and also helped with memory recovery. When I graduated from my Master’s program in 2015 my wife got a job in Washington State, so we moved again. I was accepted to a couple writer’s residencies with Words After War and Carey Institute’s Logan Nonfiction Program. I worked third shift at UPS when I returned from those through the winter then started adjuncting at a couple community colleges. The writing of the book was really like a three-year process. I’m still running through final edits right now. So I guess it’s verging onto four years.

JDE: Have you always been a writer? Or is this something that you discovered after you served in the military?

MY: Like capital W Writer? I wrote a bit in high school for our literary magazine. I was a burnout and a wannabe punk and I wrote shitty articles about why pot should be legal. I didn’t really start writing with the intent to publish until after the Marines in college. Though I did write a really shitty novella during my third deployment to Iraq. I wrote it as a serial to the woman who’s now my wife to try and impress her—I can’t explain my thought process at all in that regard. But we’re married now. So I guess I did something right?

JDE: Does it even matter when people find writing? Or is it something that you notice in other writing?

MY: No. I think people come to writing at different times. I do think some people are naturally predisposed to writing (just like some people are predisposed to addiction or athleticism), but I also think it can be learned and cultivated and lost.

JDE: I like that. Where do you fall with writing?

MY: I’ve always loved to read, which piqued my interest in writing when I was young, but I don’t know if I have natural writing talent. I’ve always been happy making stuff up or imagining things, scenarios, people.  I think what I have is a natural enthusiasm for writing, and a desire to get good at it — I like making people feel things. I’ve been privileged enough to work with some great teachers and mentors in the past eight years who’ve fostered that enthusiasm and desire and have helped me make that brain-to-page connection. I feel really lucky thinking about that.

JDE: What are you working on now?

MY: I just got done building some raised garden beds. I just finished a draft of an essay about John Carpenter’s The Thing. I’m going through the first pass of the memoir. I’m teaching. I just ran a half marathon, and I’m training for the Marine Corps Marathon in October. I’m hoping to do some fly fishing and work on my roll cast at some point this summer.

JDE: I had to google roll cast which I’m not afraid to admit. Thank you so much, and we can’t wait to have you read to us at The Foundry

MY: Thank you, and me too! I’m looking forward to meeting you all in person.

For some more of Matt’s writing, check out “A New Species of Yucca,” at Tin House.

So when we find the leg, we think we might be delusional from any number of things. But the leg is there and we think we can hear one another’s thoughts about the leg: Where’d this fucking leg come from? Why’s it in the middle of the desert? Whose leg is it? It’s not mine. Is it mine? I bet whoever’s it is probably misses it. Is it wearing pants? Think there are cigarettes in the pocket? It is wearing pants. Linen, maybe silk—this could be a rich leg.

(from “A New Species of Yucca” by Matt Young. Read more at Tin House.)

Catch Matt Young, along with Hari Alluri, Kali Wallace, Elizabeth Marro, and Steph Cha, Saturday, June 10th at 7 PM at Public Square Coffee in La Mesa. And don’t forget to enroll in Matt’s class that morning!


Matt Young is a Marine Corps infantry veteran, teacher, editor, and writer. His work can be found in Incoming: Veteran Writers On Coming Home, CONSEQUENCE magazine, Split Lip, Word Riot, Tin House, River Teeth, and many others. He teaches composition, literature, and creative writing at Centralia College in Washington State. He is the author of Eat the Apple (Bloomsbury 2018), a multi-genre flash nonfiction war memoir about his three combat deployments to Iraq between 2005 and 2009. Find out more at www.mattyoungauthor.com or follow him on Twitter @young_em_see.


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