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Stephanie Barber Talks with Laura Van den Berg

Over at BOMB Magazine, Laura Van den Berg interviewed Stephanie Barber about her new book, All the People (Ink Press 2015), which is a collection of short, prosey portraits of dozens of fictitious-but-real humans. It’s a beautifully produced book—the cover is nicely printed onto cereal boxes and the binding is hand-sewn  In the interview, Laura prompts Stephanie to talk about the thinking behind her varied types of work like writing a haiku everyday on Facebook, or the time she installed her studio for a month inside the Baltimore Museum of Art.

Stephanie Barber talks about the what:

But also, as regards media, I feel very strongly that I am simply making pieces of art. I don’t think a painting is a poem, or a film is a song, but I do think they can be received and created and considered as simply emotional or philosophical offerings made somehow sensorially manifest. I like the Buddhist word ayatana, which includes the mind as a sense organ.

and also how that works in her new book, specifically:

I’m also interested in using a sort of generic vernacular, particularly when what I am writing about is potentially too precious or heavy. There’s a desire to balance the depth of the concept with a light—or degraded?—handling. Mostly I was thinking about how something is being said as “the portrait,” not what is being said.

Read that interview here. Also check out Stephanie’s brilliant photo essays at Art21—and right here you can buy her DVD of films or her sensational YouTube book, Night Moves.

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Review of Well-Dressed Bear at The Small Press Book Review

Screen Shot 2015-08-19 at 5.00.22 PMAt the Small Press Book Review, Melissa Reddish has put together a thoughtful look at Jarod Roselló’s graphic novel, The Well-Dressed Bear Will (Never) Be Found. Her review centers on current events—responses to the shooting of Cecil the lion in contrast to the shooting of unarmed people of color (she goes on to reference Trayvon Martin and his hoodie, as some characters in Roselló’s book wear hoodies)—and how through that we seek connection. She points to the ringing telephone and how it’s always the wrong number. In summarizing WDB structure, she says:

There are two parallel narratives in The Well-Dressed Bear Will (Never) Be Found: the text, which tells the story of a persistent wrong number, and the artwork, which tells the story of the Well-Dressed Bear’s persecution.  Although seemingly separate, they occasionally merge within the artwork.  The wrong number that rings, again and again, evokes Murakami while the menacing streets filled with hooded figures and helicopters beaming searchlights evoke a kind of noir/sci-fi mystery.

Read the review and then don’t forget to order your copy of The Well-Dressed Bear using the coupon BEAR-Y CHEAP for 33% off.

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WORDS: music by David Smooke

The first couple pages of the story

Composer David Smooke has written a musical monodrama (Wikipedia’d it) based on a story from WORDS by Andy Devine by Michael Kimball. It will be performed in Baltimore on September 8, as a collaboration with Margaret Rorison. The piece will feature vocalists and woodwinds.

From the Facebook invitation:

The September 8 concert will feature the world premiere of Baltimore composer David Smooke’s “A Baby Bigger Grows Than Up Was,” an hour-long monodrama on a text by Baltimore writer Michael Kimball (from the book “Words” published under the name Andy Devine), with visuals by Baltimore filmmaker Margaret Rorison. In this alphabetized tale, the relative stress created by repeating individual words as many as 443 times allows us to perceive elements of an underlying narrative structure while the repetition of words forces us to perceive them as sonic events. Within this unusual organization, we find intimations of more traditional stories that might possibly provide expressive foundations for our listening experience. What at first appears to be an abstract series of words eventually reveals itself as a beautiful, emotionally charged story. The narrator gradually develops a sense of self, growing up with a doting mother and a nearly absent father.

I can’t imagine a better description of what the book does, or a better medium to capture this effect.

Years ago, when Words was released, “Andy Devine” went on tour to dozens of cities across the country by having other people perform as if they were Andy Devine himself. I got to see Smooke perform as Devine in Baltimore, and his presentation was skillful and musical … and funny. I’m excited to see the final project, years in the making, in concert.

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Meet Jarod Roselló in AWP’s Spotlight

JarodRoselloJarod Roselló, author and artist of The Well-Dressed Bear Will (Never) Be Found (coming out soon! Preorder it here), is featured on AWP’s website this month. It’s a cool interview about reading habits and his writing and teaching. “Part of the joy of reading,” says Jarod, “comes in entering into dialogue with a book. I want to be affected by a book, of course, but I want to answer back as well. So, I need to write in a book.” Why not read the whole interview how about?


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Eat, Knucklehead Featured at Hopes&Fears

Thanks to Kristen Felicetti for featuring Eat, Knucklehead! for summer reading over at Hopes&Fears, a very beautiful new culture website. Her description of the book is wonderful, and it ends, “This book should also appeal to those who understand that cooking can truly be a performance, or an act of creative expression, just like any other art.” Spot on. Order Eat, Knucklehead! right here.

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Sprezzatura Reviews Roundup

Poetry! Available now!


Add it to Goodreads!

Top 10 Poetry Books of 2014 — Baltimore City Paper
Best Books of 2014 — Amy Lawless, The Volta
Cutty Spot Favorite Things Encountered in 2014


Mike Young’s bristling new book is about love and fear and money. How do we know our feelings and feel our knowledge? It’s about stupid contemporary immune systems and being left to our own devices. If you’re on a bus or plane, you’ll be happy to hear there are a lot of those. Rollerblading, Lord Byron’s clubbed foot, pyramids, falafels, bridges, trains, buses, nightshade, mustard, tattoo, antlers, innovation, nerves, guilt, blood, strawberry cops, conclusive gameshows, moody strangers, and “the yes that keeps watch / over and under my breath.”


“Young has some vaudeville in him, some Harmony Korine-like want for entertainment in the everyday, but perhaps the best thing about his work is the way that it seems like an insanely huge sponge made out of eyes and ears, vacuuming up the moments that most often disappear, and cobbling together monologues that carry their aphorisms in the same arm as their jokes … I’ll even go so far as to say Mike Young is the Dante of post-boredom.”  Blake Butler @ VICE Continue reading Sprezzatura Reviews Roundup

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Bookslut on Valparaiso, Round the Horn


At Bookslut, Brian Nicholson offers a thoughtful take on a variety of angles in Valparaiso, Round the Horn, our latest book. He traces a number of lines through the book, starting with Madeline’s work in a punk theatre troupe, and how this relates to her writing. He says, “what seems most retained from the work she did then, over any thematic overlap, is a sense of physicality.” To me this hits the nail on the head. While editing the book with Madeline, and working on the cover design, something that Madeline came back to again and again is how active her stories are.

Referencing her work against fracking, Nicholson also talks about nature in her work, saying, “Placing the environment in a position of paramount importance then diminishes the place of human endeavor relative to the rest of the world. She seeks equanimity with animals.”

He discusses the moral code of the book, gender identification, feminism (“Her sense of feminist forebears” he notes, “manifests in that whenever she details an action, like a character slaughtering an animal, it feels like something that might have precedent in Laura Ingalls Wilder.”), finally, narrowing that broad look at humanity to Madeline’s perspective as a writer:

In animals, we see as noble what might be negative traits in humans, and as ffitch makes her myths in defense of all that we could lose, she sees in these endangered creatures all the virtue humans perhaps too easily forsake for civilization’s short-term comforts. In her stories there are likewise present joys of storytelling the way we experienced it as children, that perhaps have been unlearned through lives spent receiving lessons learned by writers in their workshops.

Read the whole essay at Bookslut, and order your copy of the book right here.