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What I Did Over the Summer, or Path Building for Writers

Photo on 9-8-14 at 9.00 AM A stone path catches a late-summer glance from my window. Cobbled and rustic with stones both uniform and rare, the walk is exponentially better than the sad ditch tamped before the door a few months ago.

I am in a pensive mood: summer splashes in a shallow pool as the pressures of teaching and writing mount like the elongated tusk of a carpenter ant whose shadow crawls across the sill in search of sugar and curtains.

I built that path out there beyond the window. It took a lot of hard work and precious stone handling, but I got through it. You might even say I enjoyed myself (minus one broken finger and innumerable scrapes and bruises). It was a project, an ordeal, and an experience so full its “lesson potential” could be described as nothing short of luxurious.

path under construction

They used to make us all write essays at the start of every new school year, taking account of our summers and ourselves. The point was that any full experience awaits a harvest.  Having passed from the luscious immediacy of real life into the vague interiors of memory, the things you did over the summer could yet be distilled into a spirit worth drinking. Writing and reflection. Together, they’re 100 proof. brick pathAt night, the path swallows moonshine. And nothing swills more noon sun than these granite appetites, brick-tongued pavers, shale-wavers, sand-cravers all!

Photo on 9-8-14 at 9.59 AM

The grass has grown less shy of its stone neighbors. Their woody toes curl in those cold sheets.  Lessons  about community pass from blades to edges, sharing veins.

In the beginning I sketched the design of the path onto paper. Then I etched that image into the earth one stone at a time, adjusting as I went, attending to every heavy stitch but ever mindful of the whole of my rough quilt.

These strategies are as familiar to me as the smell of gypsum in the cracks.

Here’s hoping the lesson withstands the experience, which is another name for weather after all, a clima, swollen (as all living and doing is in the end) with frost and heave.


Random Thoughts–TV Shows–and British Romanticism

Slide1I flipped through the pages of a magazine the other day. I know, how strange. Where did you find a magazine? What’s a magazine?

Well, it’s sort of like the internet but on paper and there’s a whole lot less of it. The packaging constraints associated with the “page” limit the pics and words that appear. But the interesting thing is that I may have had to expend more cognitive energy concentrating on the parts that I could see and less time dreaming with my clicker finger on the parts that I could not, clicking from one fickle mental chimera to another.

12 easy dinner items that taste amazing and take less than five minutes to prepare? Shoot. Why not images of the “biggest piece of candy in the world”? Apparently, it’s chocolate so big you can frigate on down the ocean in it. Now there’s a Goodship Lollipop I can get on board with.

Lord Alfred North Whitehead was probably a real bastard. I don’t know. Who knows? I didn’t know the man, but with a name like that you can just imagine.


Anyways, and with all possible assholery aside, some people have earned their reputations in history. Look into it. Some people seem to have actually deserved the attention. Maybe this guy does too. Gertrude Stein thought so and she did not impress easily. According to her reckoning, unvarnished genius could be found in herself, Picasso, Lord Whitehead, and maybe Hemingway…but only in that not-all-the-way sense typically reserved for flavor surveys of experimental foods, as in–would you say that you greatly enjoyed your serving of

soft curd beer sausage sorbet with hints of bacon and jicama?

Whitehead is the critic teachers were quoting when they told you that everything in Western culture is rooted in the past. I thought of that the other day in terms of TV shows. It’s kinda true.

Take any TV show and you can trace the basis of its appeal back to one of the main British Romantic writers. Why choose them? Because they’re so great? No greater than most canonical writers. Still, you’ve got to admit, the far-reaching impact of their views on what makes art good is much greater than most people’s memory of who they were.

Most people have no idea who John Keats is. But a whole lot of people see the world in just the way Keats taught us to in his odes and sonnets. Many of us believe that art is mainly powerless to alter events as huge as the French Revolution, let’s say, but somehow, we still believe in its magical powers. We believe art can make life worth living even in the face of our doomed condition as a species. Anyone who sees the world in this paradoxical way is looking through the lusciously ruby-tinted glasses of the greatest voluptuary that ever was, John Keats.

john-keatsTake it from John Keats, if you’re a political nihilist and getting nowhere, try wrapping your art in the enigma of hedonism. You’ll come off as a connoisseur of the beautiful. Others will admire you for your mettle. Clearly, you have harnessed an enviable quality. You continue to desire the beautiful amidst conditions that strike many others as consonant with the rapture. What’s the weather report? A touch of rain with possible hail and fire and brimstone. The apocalypse is a type of weather after all. I think Lord Whitehead thought that once. It was surely raining at the time.

While we’re on the subject of raining hellfire, take HBO’s The Leftovers, for example.


What classical British Romanticist does this show remind you of? A world defined by matters of heaven and hell. Polarities of innocence and viciousness. Visions and prophetic dreams. Graphically rich and vivid. Highly allegorical.


William Blake, of course.

How about Showtime’s Penny Dreadful?

ew-penny-dreadfulLasciviousness, deviance, reincarnation, the occult, demons, garish action, gaudy spectacle. Okay, here’s another one. Lord Byron. Mary Shelly too, but I can’t decide how seriously this show takes itself and if that makes it more or less Byronic.

Okay. How about Jersey Shore? Easy, peasy, Dopey, Sneezy. What gives it away is the world structured according to self-disclosure, a self-documentarian spirit of autobiography, a constant search for pleasure by the sea side in nature, an emphasis on the voice and ways of the most common types, the roughest sorts of people. Wordsworth. That’s Wordsworth all day.

If you can think of the show in terms of its bare essentials then you can look up the branches of its Romantic family tree to see whence it springs.

Oh, and for those of you still wondering about the show crafted in the mold of Keats. The Grecian Urn on TV is to be found in Animal Planet’s Too Cute. Tune in and see. But beware: it’s stock full of sensuality that verges on kitsch, the whole precious tangle of it so razor edged it’ll cute you to death.


Hi Friend, I ARE the 1 Admiring your Page COntenT Xcellence!

Screen Shot 2014-09-01 at 9.55.47 AM




Wouldn’t it be lovely if there actually were a person behind those infernal spambot messages of vague encouragement? How perfect would the world be if some poor schmuck lived and breathed using such gawd-awful phrasings as the above? Most posts are barely interesting, but yours interests me to forebear. What? That doesn’t make sense? Then allow me to be more clear Dear Friend. My one in HIS name. Beloved One.

This is what it comes down to.

Please don’t take what is to come in the wrong way.

Don’t be offended.


Most blogs containing boring facts of informative. But yours is best for organization of facts and informative. I will be returning here often for you information blog.


A Real Human Being (Seriously!; a.k.a. NOT-A-BOT)

I’m so sure.

Machines can do a lot of things. Giving something a supersonic turn? Sure. Giving great compliments? Not so much! That requires a different turning skill. That means giving language a turn so precise even The Byrds would miss it. We’re talking finesse, baby, way outside the standard ambit of a machine’s stupid capacity of capacitors and incapacitated encomium. Yep.

So, no I’m not buying it that this person really liked my site–or even exists!

Hi to every one, the contents existing att this
site are in fact remarkable for people knowledge, well, keep up
the nice work fellows.

NOOO! So stop playing with my heart GOOGLETECH500. Stop it, now. For I am no machine.

My content is no laughing matter to me.

The occasional blip and bleep notwithstanding.


sara biggs chaney

Featured Image -- 2052

Originally posted on smoking glue gun:

from “Girls, Beasts”*

sbchaney2sbchaney3*These poems are inspired by Russian photographer Katerina Plotnikova’s series of self portraits with real animals, and the photographs’ symbolic association with the famous Cluny tapestries.

Sara Biggs Chaney received her Ph.D. in English in 2008 and currently teaches first-year writing in Dartmouth’s Institute for Writing and Rhetoric. Her first chapbook, Precipice Fruit, was released by ELJ Publications in October, 2013 and her second chapbook, Ann Coulter’s Letter to the Young Poets, is forthcoming from dancing girl press this summer. Sara’s poems have recently appeared in Word Riot, PANK, inter/rupture, Dr. T.J. Eckleburg Review and other places. Her poem, “Badminton,” was a finalist for Best of the Net, 2013. You can catch up with Sara at her blog:

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New Essay

Had an essay published today in Michigan Quarterly Review on a new vase, a butter churn, made by slave potter and poet Dave the Potter.


Fur Pockets



My prose poem “Fur Pockets” reprinted in Eunoia Review

Originally posted on Eunoia Review:

Once, after the mouse exploded the cat’s eyeballs and fricasseed its tail on a spit in hell, cartoons moralized senselessly. Orco was wrong because he lied says He-Man. Look both ways before you cross says the marine toting an unmounted M60 machine gun. They wanted us clean.

So different from those hippies in the painted van who never went to school, changed clothes, or said boo about a parent, who chased that gigantic wraith throughout the castle thinking their dog could talk and Velma ordinary. She discovers the wraith inside. Little Mr. McGillicuddy on stilts would have gotten away with it if it weren’t for you stoned kids and that dog in drag.

So different from the prehistoric illogic of engines. The foot-propelled cars and the cave men who drive them. There’s clearly a rumbly, motory noise—what’s it for? Air conditioning? A cop pulls them over. What do you think…

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Night Visitor

Originally posted on The Citron Review:

by Michael Chaney

There’s asphalt in the curtains. It silts the pillows of the couch Sid knows too well and powders the rug by the door he cannot get his wheels across. That screen door should be sifting summer, a baleen sieve of sun. But the federal stimulus has come round to Sid’s neighborhood. Now men must the road all day and have been for weeks. Since before the accident.

Asphalt brings company. Depression is a shy girl who waits by the stairs or lingers over the kitchen sink, Sid’s bath. She won’t come in and introduce herself. Sid’s not sure if he wants her to.

His crutches stand guard beside the couch. For the first time he notices their circular notches where the interior shaft locks into place. They look like phases of the moon on an almanac. Only these have height numbers next to each moon. His tell a lie that takes two inches away from him.

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