December 03, 2012

Versal 10 Bakfiets nominations!

We are pleased to announced this year's Bakfiets Pushcart nominations from Versal 10:

Selections from Interface, Erin Costello
Audio Tour: The Paintings You Missed, Gerald Fleming
Who We Are Beneath the Glass, Roxane Gay
With Distinction(s), Dora Malech
Dear Mutated Gene in my Daughter’s DNA, Bill Neumire
The Garnet Cave, Bess Winter

Congratulations to the nominees! Maybe this year we get lucky!

October 24, 2012

Contributor Notes: Ben Merriman

Interviews and guest posts from the writers and artists of Versal 10. This week, we hear from Ben Merriman, whose story/stories "A Hard Place to Love" rock out starting on page 121. Ben's the fiction editor over at the Chicago Review and you can tumble with him here.

Have you been to Amsterdam? What did you do while you were here? If you've not been yet, what do you think you'd do in our fair town?

I have not yet been to Amsterdam, but I spend my time in most large cities the same way: visits to art museums and bookstores, followed by gossip or chatter with writers and artsy types.

What is the first creative thing you ever did?

This seems like an invitation to offer some kind of origin myth about my creative life, or retroactively square my early experiences with my current life, but in fact there is very little from my childhood that feels my own. I once compared the recollection of my own life to watching a poorly edited student film.

To say something dull that comes closer to answering the question: I began to make serious efforts at writing fiction in 2008, around the time I started graduate school.

What is the dumbest thing anyone has ever said to you about being a writer?

I am not sure anybody has yet said this to me so directly, but in conversations about writing I have often sensed that many people I have met want to be writers because they want to be personally loved for having written appealing words. This desire is not “dumb,” but it strikes me as quite possibly unhealthy: a writer may hope that people will love one's writing, though there is no assurance of this, but there is no reason why a reader should love a writer for what they write, and given that the best writers are so often unpleasant, or at least badly flawed, human beings, loving a great writer, by virtue of their being a great writer, could be a wounding and unsatisfactory kind of love, just as being loved for what one has done, rather than being loved for what one is, would certainly be a hollow kind of love, a mixture of tinny adulation and a fear, probably correct, that to continue being loved would require that one continue to earn it by new creative exertions. The psychic misery of celebrities demonstrates the basic pathology of this logic.

I hope that there may be a sincere and realistic impulse underneath this common unstated wish.  If “I want people to love me because I am a good writer” really means “I am smart and I want people to value this part of me,” then this could reduce to “I want to be in the company of people who value what I value.” Looking for intellectual peers seems to me like a good reason to write, and in fact not so different from what many of us are looking for when we read.

If you were an angle, what kind of angle would you be?


If you could meet a writer from the 15th, 16th, or 17th centuries, who would it be? And what would you talk about?

Marguerite of Navarre: I have ripped off a couple of stories from the Heptameron, itself substantially a ripoff, and Marguerite was famous in her own time as a refined and pleasant companion. I assume we would gossip.

Tell us something few people know about you.

I am probably the worst judge of what other people know about me; things that I take as common knowledge may be obscure, and things that I try to hide may be quite obvious. However, people who have only seen my name in literary magazines may not know that I am a sociologist, just as many acquaintances from my academic life don't know that I write fiction.

Other than Versal (which has clearly been awesome), what's one great place you've been published?

In general I have been very pleased by the places that have published my work, but one that stands out is The Lifted Brow, a bimonthly magazine published in Australia. As with Versal, publishing in The Brow has made me feel a little less provincial. More importantly, I am a great admirer of Australian literature, which, evolving in partial isolation, has become something very weird and singular, so I was flattered that Australians, or at least one Australian editor, would find my own writing worthwhile. I've been publishing there in a column, “Something Happens,” and I hope that my name will burrow itself down into Australian literary consciousness.

Why did you send work to Versal? Be honest.

I picked up a copy of Versal 9 at Printers' Ball in Chicago. My partner flipped through it and suggested that I could publish here. (In fact, said I could publish here “with no problem,” an estimation of my skill that is both kind and a good deal higher than my own estimation.) 

What has lasted you ten years?

Nothing so far, but my partner and I have been together for eight years. I feel sanguine about our chances of hitting a decade.

Tell us what you're working on right now.

I am revising a novella about reading Adorno's Aesthetic Theory, which I have titled Aesthetic Theory. If there happen to be any editors or publishers reading this, I would appreciate any help they could offer—I expect it will be rather difficult to get this work published.

I have recently gotten back to Chicago after a trip to China, so I expect I will soon be writing about my trip, if only for my friends, who are curious to hear about my time with bureaucrats, academic officials, and urban nouveaux riches. The highlight will be my account of the unsuccessful efforts of several provincial Party officials to get me drunk at a noontime banquet.

October 01, 2012

Contributor Notes: Lisa Annelouise Rentz

Interviews and guest posts from the writers and artists of Versal 10. Next up, a conversation with the wonderful Lisa Annelouise Rentz, whose story "Conrad's Hammer" can be found on page 91. Lisa's stories have been published most recently by the Oxford American, Liars' League London, the Not A Stitch gallery show in Philadelphia, and in a book from They Draw and Cook. She lives in South Carolina.

Have you been to Amsterdam? What did you do while you were here? If you've not been yet, what do you think you'd do in our fair town?

I have been to Amsterdam. I spent the summer in Germany after high school and we visited for just one day — my friend was still in school, so it was actually a field trip. We went to the Van Gogh Museum and the Rijks Museum, and walked all around town. This was 1988 — I remember the street bums and canals, finding an Indonesian shop that sold bags of krupuk, and hearing Creedence Clearwater Revival on the bus's muzak. Later I made sate sauce for everyone to go with the krupuk.

What is the first creative thing you ever did?

As an adult — when I was first dating my husband, I hand-drew a silly drivers license for him.

What is the dumbest thing anyone has ever said to you about being a writer?

Announcing "I'm a writer!" because they're in a critique group and keep a journal. I think most people are and can be and should be avocational writers — it's an important skill for daily life. For being a civilization. But at the same time, cool it with making "writer" into a title for a business card.

If you were an angle, what kind of angle would you be?

90 degrees all the way.

If you could meet a writer from the 15th, 16th or 17th centuries, who would it be? And what would you talk about?

Maria Sibylla Merian, she studied and documented insects by making beautiful drawings (which include writing, introductions, etc.) of the creatures and their habitats and predators and prey. I've only read up on her lightly, so if we met, I'd love it to be back in her 15th Century studio so she could show me around. She was German, so we might be able to chat. I'd like to hear how she financed and arranged her travels to South America, and how she stayed committed to her work. Show me the originals please, and let's see the notes too! I just googled her to refresh my memory-- and she eventually lived and died in Amsterdam, and according to wikipedia the city of Amsterdam sponsored her for a trip to Surinam! I have a newly finished story set in the near future with a character based on her. I learned about Merian from a friend, an accomplished nature artist and teacher. She's got a great out-of-print book that's a compilation of Merian's work.

Tell us something few people know about you.

I really like privacy.

Other than Versal (which has clearly been awesome), what's one great place you've been published?

Liars' League London, because it's London, and because their live reading-performances and e-audio files are a new format for me. Plus I don't know who else would have taken that piece about how Santa and Lillef (the future Mrs. Claus) met.

Why did you send work to Versal? Be honest.

Well I do judge a website by its cover, so I definitely approached Versal that way at first. And perhaps there was a suggested theme for issue 10 which I felt "Conrad's Hammer" suited. Either way, as I dig around looking for the right place for my work, I try to get a feel for the quality and editorial needs of the journal. Also, I like the low submission fee, it's very fair. I don't often submit to annual publications, out of impatience, but Versal appealed to me.

What has lasted you ten years?

Too much of some and too little of others.

Tell us what you're working on right now.

I'm working on a short story that's getting pretty long already. Like "Conrad's Hammer", it's set where I live now, more explicitly this time. It's about objects, antiques and heirlooms and art— the neat old stuff that's still around and how the current owners handle it all. Haves and have nots. The bad guy is a pastor, an Episcopalian priest. I tried to resist that, but it's true, I find a lot of religious people to be more harmful than good. It's also set at Christmas, and right now it looks like the end of the story will be a big Christmas bash, where I plan to kill off the pastor during the festivities.

September 23, 2012

For the Amdammers: local lit stuff

The English Bookshop's recent (and jam-packed) Meet & Mingle was a wonderful demonstration of how much literary energy there is in Amsterdam right now. It's a far cry from what I flew into 11 years ago. And like clockwork, this fall once again brings some new literary programming to town, so I thought I'd take a moment to highlight two programs that I'm especially excited about.

ART OF FICTION: The wonderful Nina Siegal (of Time Out Amsterdam fame) has put together a top-notch series on the art of fiction writing. Fictioners out there, you're not going to get a workshop much better than this in our buurt. Nina's not only got her own novel on the shelves, but she has also worked with some of the leading writers of our time. The four workshops can be taken as a whole or individually, and the price is CRAZY CHEAP. For more information, click here.

LITERARY WALKING TOUR: The English Bookshop is now hosting literary walking tours through this amazing city. Anyone who loves the printed word and wants to know more about the fascinating literary and cultural history of Amsterdam will love this new offering. And it's a great tip for your visiting family and friends! Complete details can be found here.

And as you probably know, or should know, The English Bookshop hosts an array of workshops and writing groups, from children's book writing to poetry critiques. Check out their site for details.

Keep an eye on this space, dear friends, because we also may, just may, have something new up our sleeve.

Happy writing, Amdam!

September 17, 2012

Submission call: Send your work to Versal 11!

Amsterdam's acclaimed literary & arts journal, Versal, is now reading for its 11th edition. Its editors are looking for excellent prose, poetry, art and the inbetween.

Guidelines and submissions here:

A $2 submission fee applies, or submit for free between October 1 and October 7, 2012.

For a close look at Versal's tastes, purchase the current no. 10 or a back issue: Pre-order Versal 11 when you submit and we’ll waive the submission fee.

The deadline for submissions to Versal 11 is January 15, 2013.

September 03, 2012

Contributor Notes: Eric Magrane

This year we're posting "Contributor Notes": interviews and guest posts from the writers and artists of Versal 10. After a cucumber season hiatus, we're back with Tucson-based writer Eric Magrane, who recently visited the border wall between the US and Mexico and wrote about his experience there.

July 2012
(photos by Adela C. Licona)

Recently I visited the U.S./Mexico border wall on a scouting trip for a Border Wall Poetry Sounding. Glenn Weyant, sound-artist provocateur, has been playing the border wall as an instrument for six years and this is the first time that I joined him. Along with Wendy Burk and Adela Licona, we left Tucson before sunrise on a Sunday early in July, and drove the seventy miles to the border in Sasabe for our first stop.

As we traveled toward Sasabe, the border patrol presence was ubiquitous. We saw at least ten border patrol vehicles to every one non-border patrol vehicle, and the non-border patrol vehicles were likely off-duty border patrol agents. Clearly, this is big business.

The wall along this section of the border cuts through desert and grasslands and has a sublime presence. Stretching out across the rolling terrain, the wall continues to the border of the Tohono O’odham Nation and then abruptly stops. (This has sent many migrants through the T.O. nation, which extends over both sides of the current U.S./Mexico boundary.)

The wall is a manifestation of a geopolitical climate where the far-right state legislature of Arizona passes draconian and xenophobic laws such as SB 1070 (of which the U.S. Supreme Court recently struck down much, but left the “Show me Your Papers” provision intact), and a ban on Mexican-American studies complete with banned books (see one of our illustrious school board members discuss the Mexican-American studies ban on a piece from the Daily Show).

In the meantime, the number of deaths from border crossers trying to cross this terrain is staggering. As of the fourth week of July when I write this, the number of deaths since October 2011 stands at 94 (The humanitarian organization No More Deaths keeps a running tab on their website.) And the wall doesn’t just affect human migration; it keeps many other species from their natural crossings, threatening the biodiversity of the region.

With this backdrop, we are here to interact with the wall as something other than an embodiment of fear and divisiveness. Glenn describes it this way: “If it is accepted that the border wall can be repurposed as an instrument when played, then this symbol of fear and loathing is capable of producing beauty, encouraging listening, developing unity, engaging dialogue and presenting an alternative narrative.”

And now I’m thinking about lighthouses. In Megan Garr’s introduction to Versal Ten, she writes, “set at the boundary where sea and land converge, the lighthouse fixed itself in my young mind as my first metaphor, a personification of who I wanted to become and the site of where I thought the world’s honesty could be glanced.”

If we think of objects as metaphors and embodiments of ideas, the contrast between a lighthouse and a border wall couldn’t be more distinct. One is a beacon and the other is its opposite. What would it take to turn what divides us into something that brings us together? Or, in an object-oriented ontology, can we interact with this object and change it and how it thinks?

Along with Glenn’s musical equipment, we brought poetry along, some in the form of language on clear acrylic glass that could be reflected onto the wall. The language included the words “BRIDGE” and “MISERY” and the phrase “OPEN SESAME”. The video here shows the reflection of OPEN SESAME while Weyant and Burk play the wall.

What role does art have in the world? It may be solipsistic to think that playing the wall as an instrument and interacting with it as a location to practice poetics could be a form of alchemy and could shift deeply embedded social and geopolitical structures that are deleterious to our species and to the earth. However, I believe—and hope—that it may add to that “collective willpower of our humanity, of our art, and of our drive to protect both” that Garr also writes of in the Introduction to Versal Ten.

July 09, 2012

Contributor Notes: Renee Couture

This year we're posting "Contributor Notes": interviews and guest posts from the writers and artists of Versal 10. You may or may not know that Versal is closely linked to the mountain town of Missoula, Montana. Many of our contributors, past and present, also have ties to this "Paris of the West". This week we speak to artist Renee Couture, who has a show in Missoula this November.

Have you been to Amsterdam? What did you do while you were here? If you've not been yet, what do you think you'd do in our fair town? 

No, I’ve never been to Amsterdam. I’ve traveled a lot and lived abroad, and I love experiencing new places - people, architecture, food. I think I would do fine in town.

What is the first creative thing you ever did?

My father has this dough ball I made when I was perhaps five years old. I’d love to make a companion piece to it. It would be made from the same dough recipe, but it would be bigger. I would figure out the ratio between the size of the original dough ball to my weight as a five year old, and then use that same ratio and my current body weight to figure out the size of the new dough ball. I would make it look as similar as possible to the original.

What is the dumbest thing anyone has ever said to you about being an artist?
Someone said, “what a neat hobby you have.” (Shaking my head and sighing as I write that.)

If you were an angle, what kind of angle would you be?

An obtuse angle. Obtuse angles are nice and open. I try to be a nice, open person.

If you could meet a visual artist from the 15th, 16th or 17th centuries, who would it be? And what would you talk about?

“Anonymous” or “Unknown Artist”. There’s a lot great work out there by artist’s whose names are not known. I’m curious about those artists. Would the artist be coming to my time, or would I be going to his time? I think the time period might dictate some of the content of the conversation. I hope we would be conversing over bourbon on the rocks, though.

Tell us something few people know about you.

I hate parsnips. I really want to like parsnips, but I just don’t. I want to like them because they make me think of the book about Banicula, the vampire bunny. I loved that book.

Other than Versal (which has clearly been awesome), what's one great place you've been published?

Versal is the first place I’ve been published. I hope to find other opportunities similar to Versal.

Why did you send work to Versal? Be honest.

One of my friends had work in Versal a couple years ago. I bought the publication and really enjoyed it. I also wanted to “get my work out there” and I thought this would be great opportunity to have my work along side that of other great artists and writers. Plus I love that Versal’s format is the square.

What has lasted you ten years?

I have a pair of hiking boots I bought before leaving for Peace Corps in 2001. I still have the boots; I keep replacing the insoles. Now that I write this, I feel like I really need to go hiking more, that clearly I don’t hike enough because the boots are still in good shape.

Tell us what you're working on right now.

I’m working on some conceptual photographs and sculptures that focus on bio-regional ethics for an exhibit I have in November at the Brink Gallery in Missoula, MT.

July 03, 2012

Fans! You're probably not seeing our posts on Facebook anymore.

By now you've probably heard that Facebook has made some changes to its page posting policies. In a nutshell, you're not seeing most of what pages post anymore. Why? Because pages now have to pay to ensure our content gets out to our fans. If we don't do that, we're lucky if 100 of our 1500 fans see our posts.

Before I opine about this new state of affairs, I want to share with you what I've read about reversing its effects. A simple first step is this:

1. Go to the Versal page
2. Under the cover photo on the right-hand side, click the "Liked" button
3. Check "Show in news feed" if it's not already

This will help, but if you can spare the time, set up an "interests list" that combines all of your favorite pages. This will really ensure you see exactly what you want to see -- not what Facebook wants you to see. Instructions can be found in this PDF here.

Though most of the burden here is on you, the "fan", there are things that we, the "page", can also do. And we're doing them. I'm a not-so-closet geek and follow Lifehacker and the like, so I'm educating myself. My goal? To optimize our use of social media so that we're interacting with you, our community. Feel free to feedback in the comments. We're always excited to hear from you.

As to my opinion about Facebook's latest move? It's douchey, but not surprising. Facebook is a business model, not a public park; if we didn't know that going in, then we weren't paying attention. Maybe Facebook becomes a house of advertisers, and maybe some people will enjoy spending their days liking Pepsi, Dior, and the occasional yet vague political outcry.

As for Versal? We'll continue to work to interact with you however we can. Join our e-newsletter to keep a monthly tab on us, or add this blog feed to your burner.

Meanwhile, check out ed Anna Arov in this photo series by Jaap van de Klomp: Face - Book

June 27, 2012

Page 127

Working with my hands thrills me immensely, apart from writing it’s the only activity that fully absorbs all my attention. The blank page in Versal ten was the perfect surface, both provocative and limiting. Using a needle, sand paper, sealing wax and hair from various specimens, including human, I set out to make my forty circles.

The day we were to gather at Megan and Shayna’s apartment, I sifted forensically through shelves and boxes in my atelier. I collect. My collection of stuff includes paper, rubber stamps, sewing kits, perfume samples, feathers, fur bits, bones and teeth, small porcelain or plastic figurines and body parts, pressed flowers, pigment, tiny cadavers, hair, etc.. I am emotionally attached to all the objects, so using them in a piece of art is a journey of loss that can only be justified by urgency.  

The blank page in Versal ten provided that urgency. I scraped its surface, stitched human and dog hair to it, burned sealing wax, glued bits of plastic, bits of cloth, bits of fur to it. Working for eight hours straight, I became familiar and intimate with page 127 and all my anxiety of irreparably marking a page in a brand new Versal, disappeared.

I developed a system, using some materials in a row, developing each circle over a few copies. My circle making station was a range of tools, consisting of matches, a leather bound vintage sewing kit complete with tiny spools of yarn, tailor scissors, glue and tape, plus all the materials. As the day progressed it became impossible to navigate through the production line that Megan and Shayna’s living room had turned into, all of us spread out with a stack of unopened golden Versals at our side. The collective energy in that room was glowing and things were done to a journal, things were done to Versal ten. If I put my forty circles next to each other they would form a narrative, but now scattered around the globe they are archival units of a collection and community.

June 20, 2012

Contributor Notes: Brandon Shimoda

This year we'll be posting "Contributor Notes": interviews and guest posts from the writers and artists of Versal 10. This week's installment features Brandon Shimoda, a poet whose crossings with Versal start (and persist) deep in the Rocky valleys of Montana.

Have you been to Amsterdam? What did you do while you were here? If you've not been yet, what do you think you'd do in our fair town?

Here’s a photograph of me and my sister in the Netherlands, somewhere on the outskirts of Amsterdam. We’re standing on a road narrowing onto a levee before a row of windmills alongside a body of water. It doesn’t seem like anything is in bloom, but mud, grass wet and dry at once, sky white with heat, but it is cool—I’m wearing my Yankees jacket, my sister her white sweater, buttoned at the top. The photograph is from the early 1980s. We were living then in Overijse, outside Brussels, in Belgium. This is where my memories begin. Splitting my head open on the school bus. A neighbor girl with curly blond hair I loved and had a tea party with. A house with thirty cats. Hair and bees in amber light. A rectal thermometer. Horse chestnuts. A piece of chocolate on a roof. A pile of sugar on a counter. My father making green eggs and ham. A stuffed bear in a cardboard egg. Falling in love with my sister’s friends. My sister having to wipe me. Falling asleep beneath paintings. Reading The Fox and the Hound with my mother. We visited Amsterdam. I don’t remember the visit, or what we did. If I were to visit now, I would find Megan Garr and Shayna Schapp and with them have a long, disorganized meal, plates stacked atop plates, or none, but with a vinyl record skipping in the other room. Plus, I have always wanted to see Van Gogh’s Wheatfield with Crows (1890).

What is the first creative thing you ever did?

I took everyone’s shoes—off their feet, or from where they were scattered around the house—and placed them in a circle, toe-to-heel, interspersed with blocks of wood light dashes cut off a 2x4, on the navy blue carpet in the basement. Then I laid in the middle of the circle of wood and shoes, on my stomach, my arms at my sides, one cheek to the floor, and fell asleep.

What is the dumbest thing anyone has ever said to you about being a writer?

About ME being a writer or about THEM being a writer? I’m sure plenty of people have let slip dull, ignorant, ill-formed, ill-informed, judgmental and/or preposterous things about being a writer—including and especially ME! Though I’m not sure anyone has ever said anything DUMB. Looking at the word now, I’m reminded of DUMBO and DUMP, which makes me think of an elephant taking a shit.

If you were an angle, what kind of angle would you be?

There’s a poet here in Tucson, Arizona—where I live—named Renee Angle. I don’t know her very well, or at all, but I’ve always been interested in her work and what she does, and I suppose it is not totally impossible that we are twelfth, thirteenth or even fourteenth cousins, which, if true, would make me genetically something of an Angle already.

If you could meet a writer from the 15th, 16th or 17th centuries, who would it be? And what would you talk about?

One of the many left out of history—the poet whose work was lost or burned or thrown away by force or spite; the one who died early, or dispelled their young self in the old; the one who was ahead of his or her time, or centuries behind, still catching up, or resigned to being dragged under, as like a pack of leaves under limbs raking water, dragging with her, or him, the generative detritus of what had been abandoned in the past by bad assumption. We would talk about music, and I would say, Listen, we’ve figured a way to catch it, to hold it! And then we would listen to what had happened since. I would start with, for example, Akron/Family: Please Lord give me strength to be nobody…

Tell us something few people know about you.

From 1996 to 1998 I recorded hundreds of songs under the name Cactus Cooler. Singing and guitar with some piano and drums. The first handful I recorded shortly after my grandfather died. I had a malfunctioning tape recorder from Salvation Army and in the basement of the house I grew up in recorded six or seven songs after Thanksgiving dinner. After that, I could not stop. I dropped out of college, cleaned houses, lived with a recovering alcoholic and his daughter, spent time in a hospital, took a Greyhound bus cross-country and back with two friends, delivered food to shut-ins in San Francisco’s Tenderloin, and listened to and recorded music. Recently, a friend I have known since we were four years old, digitized the original songs. I have been archiving them slowly here: The Collected Songs of Cactus Cooler. I have only recently thought this might be where the material evidence of my life as a poet begins. I played a show in Saratoga Springs, broke four strings on my guitar and ran out into the street. It was snowing, night, and the sky was pink. Yes, it most certainly is.

Other than Versal (which has clearly been awesome), what's one great place you've been published?

We Are So Happy To Know Something, made by Stephanie Anderson and MC Hyland. I love them both. Together they’ve made three volumes, all brilliant and beautiful, embodying the love and care they’ve brought to the occasion and space of each and poetry. I can feel the conversations they’ve carried on. Some of my favorite poets—Phil Cordelli, Dot Devota, Amanda Nadelberg, Alice Notley—appeared in the first two issues, so I sent poems for the third. They published five, all of which I wrote in Japan. “Published” seems here an inexact, near-bloodless word, as it does with such dwellings as Versal or Cannibal or Poor Claudia or Filter or Muthafucka, and so on, all of which feel predicated on the present terms of life, lives—of those involved, who see first and through to what needs to be made in that present, the moment—the life, the lives, coming out.

Why did you send work to Versal? Be honest.

My friend Nabil Kashyap had a poem in Versal 6. I read it, and the issue, while eating freshly fried doughnuts on the sidewalk outside Left Bank, an anarchist collective bookstore in Seattle. I love Nabil, his writing and his mind, and trust all three implicitly. We went to school together in Missoula, Montana. Some of Sawako Nakayasu’s Takashi Hiraide translations were also in the issue. I was convinced on the spot, and sent poems shortly after. I did not know that the editor had also once lived in Missoula. I had a poem in Versal 8, and was especially happy to discover the issue’s cover art was by the artist Kerri Rosenstein, another friend from Missoula. We were once next-door neighbors. One day, while taking out the garbage—I had to walk past the windows of the other ground-floor apartment, Kerri’s, to get to the cans in the alley—I noticed a dark-haired girl standing at a large work table, working very intently on something: a drawing, I thought, from the way she was standing, and regarding what it was she was working on. After tossing my garbage in the can, I went around to the other side of the building and knocked on the dark-haired girl’s door. She answered and I said, Hi, I was just wondering what you were doing …

What has lasted you ten years?

“I am writing. Can you spare me ten years?” Pablo Neruda said this to Clarice Lispector in 1969.

Tell us what you're working on right now.

I’m still arranging shit on the floor. Now: my books—face-up, open, beneath a ceiling fan so that when the fan is turned high the pages of the books begin to flutter, reminding me of the condemned (malaria) house on the mountain in Belize where I spent a night with my friends Kristen and Ted, twelve years ago. The floor was covered two-inches thick with dead butterflies, and there was constantly the sound of dog’s pissing in dead grass. A family had been murdered there. The father turned out to be the murderer. The family’s clothes were still in the wardrobe and a hairbrush was resting on the bed. We drank water straight from the faucets in the bathroom. I will be living for a month this summer in southern Taiwan with the poets Dot Devota, Molly McDonald and Zachary Schomburg. We will be teaching writing to middle and high school students. The work will consist of recording the days, as it always is, the work, so the atlas can be added to—on the wall, the walls growing higher seeming thicker, so when they finally touch where we are, that is it. Also: I’m co-editing, with my friend, the poet and critic Thom Donovan, a retrospective collection of poetry and prose by Etel Adnan, due to be published by Nightboat in 2013. And also, little-by-little, I am writing a book of non-fiction about my grandfather. I don’t know really what is working …

June 17, 2012

Brain Cookies 44

I might be jumping on the band-wagon here, but whatever. I loved the Wire, and here is a great profile from Maxim. SO SUE ME.

I'm very, very late–but happy birthday Prince. I'll play your records all night.

The nation's poets have something to say.

Unacceptable behavior. 

We are all MacGuyver now. Maybe one of my favorite essays at the moment.

June 08, 2012

Sell us out

There's a lot to like about the new issue of Versal. And we're not afraid of hyperbolizing about it:

1. A contributor list that'll make Norton Anthologies weep
2. Art so fine, gallery walls the world over are bowing in ecstasy
3. The handmade "750 Circles" project by each Versal editor, the first of its kind
4. It's gold, people. GOLD.
5. Your coffee table will never look back after Versal lies on it
6. This vette trailer
7. The fact that it's only 14.95 (that's Euros and Dollars, folks. Apple styley)

Sell us out. We really won't mind. And you'll love every page.

June 04, 2012

Contributor Notes: Roxane Gay

This year we'll be posting "Contributor Notes": interviews and guest posts from the writers and artists of Versal 10. First up, the winner of the 2012 AWP/Journal Porn edition of the Literary Death Match, and really she requires no introduction, the magnificent Roxane Gay.

Have you been to Amsterdam? What did you do while you were here? If you've not been yet, what do you think you'd do in our fair town?

I have not. I’d likely sit in a café and drink coffee and read and at night, well, they don’t call me Roxane for nothing.

What is the first creative thing you ever did?

A diaper was involved.

What is the dumbest thing anyone has ever said to you about being a writer?

“So, what do you do for work?”

If you were an angle, what kind of angle would you be?

I would be an acute angle because I like the word acute.

If you could meet a writer from the 15th, 16th or 17th centuries, who would it be? And what would you talk about?

They had writers back then? I’d love to meet Elizabeth Bury, a diarist from the 17th century. She was a blogger well before blogs became de rigeur.

Tell us something few people know about you.

My mother did not allow me to play with Barbie dolls as a little girl. She thought the dolls sent a terrible message. I did get a Barbie Dream House. My brothers and I used it as a G.I. Joe base.

Other than Versal (which has clearly been awesome), what's one great place you've been published?


Why did you send work to Versal? Be honest.

I love the idea of an internationally focused literary magazine and it’s well designed. Looks matter.

What has lasted you ten years?

The ugly green file cabinet in my home office.

Tell us what you're working on right now.

I am revising my first novel, working on a second novel, and thinking about an essay collection.


Roxane Gay lives and writes in the American Midwest. Her short story "Who We Are Beneath the Glass" can be found in Versal 10.

Among the 168 pages of this anniversary edition are four riddles from Ish Klein, a conversation between Michael Martone and Matthew Baker, and a series of "photodrawings" from Irish artist Garrett Phelan. Versal 10 also includes new works from Cody-Rose Clevidence, Erin Costello, Tamar de Kemp, Roxane Gay, James Grinwis, Dora Malech, Ben Merriman, Rusty Morrison, Brandon Shimoda, and many others.

Versal 10 is now available online and at select bookshops around the world.

June 03, 2012

Brain Cookies 43: Kid Rock

Love this scathing review of everything Kid Rock over on Gawker. I didn't even realize this muppet was still making music. Thank you, Europe.

Hol Crap: The GZA has just finished his new album about particle physics.

A year after the non-apocalypse.

The death of Timothy Leary.

June 01, 2012

Brain Cookies 42

Check out the amazing nature photography over on But Does it Float.

Hold crap. A weird video from Harmony Korine and the Black Keys.

A great post over on Destination out about The Jazz Composer's Orchestra. Free MP3s ya'll!

How Texas inflicts bad textbooks on unformed youths.

Jim Romenesko collects proofreading errors on his Pinterest page.

Stream the new Liars album in its entirety. They're in Holland next week! Their live show is a force to be reckoned with.

The rise of logical punctuation.

May 28, 2012

Brain Cookies 41: Racism

Oh Lordy!

Here's a great essay about Jewish blackface from WW1 to WW2. I received the link from this compelling trajectory of Sascha Baron Cohen's racism.

Speaking of Cohen, this essay is also pretty good.  

The Awl continues to serve it up: Free to be Straight White Males. Seriously good. 

Coffee and colonialism

The Spear

May 23, 2012

Brain Cookies 40

As you all may already know, today is the Versal launch. Please come join us at Bo Cinq if you are in Amsterdam, NL. 

If you want to hear a preview of some of the journal, listen to my interview on Red Light Radio's Kimchi show.

May 22, 2012

Versal One. Versal Ten.

Versal One.

Versal Ten. 

Brain Cookies 39: Personal

This one gets personal folks. First, I'll be appearing on Red Light Radio from 5 to 6pm today talking about the Versal 10 launch happening tomorrow here in Amsterdam. You can stream the episode at the Red Light Radio website

Second, I was sent this profile of my grandfather last night and I'd love to share it with you if I might be bold. He was a WWII Marine, and a brave and decorated one at that. You can read the profile here

OK, now onto the usual link roundup: 

AbeBooks has a nice collection of minimalist cover designs

The excellent 50 Watts blog has a collection of minimalist poster designs. 

Ring of fire eclipse

May 20, 2012

Brain Cookies 38: Graphics

From the Brooklyn Street Art blog. Photo copyright James Rojo.

This new magazine Suit up or Die is one amazing digital document.

Cool limited edition playing cards.

The Richard Avedon collection. Lots of rich white guys there.

From a ten-year editor, part 4: Occupy the slush pile

“I guess what I was inquiring was if you take solicited submissions from authors outside the slush pile. For all my lit mag publications in the next year prior to my launch, we've done the discussions between me, my agent, and editors. that's [sic] how most authors (new or established) do it.”

“I don’t know you, but I do feel old enough to take the liberty (or, if you prefer, to be so cheeky) of sending you a press release setting out my recent job as a writer. It’s up to you to decide what to do with: asking me an excerpt, a free ebook copy or putting this press release in your ‘archive’ (aka wastepaper basket).”

There’s a tumblr for weird letters to lit mag editors, right?

I recently spoke to two creative writing classes at the University of Amsterdam. We spoke about Versal, submitting to literary journals, the writing process, and editing a mag. I was mostly coherent I think; class started at something like 9am and I was delirious from getting up so early (yeah, ok).

When I have a chance to speak about these things I love, I often find my way towards opinions or conclusions that I’ve long had but never quite directly articulated. Thanks to the sharp questions from the students or my early rise from bed or their professor Jane Lewty’s acute promptings, or all of the above, we had important and insightful discussions in both classes. There were three things we spoke about that stuck out to me, that I’d like to share here. Call them things I’ve learned along the way.

The first is: being a “writer”. I’ve forgotten what it feels like to actually believe that writerly fame is possible. I’ve met too many writers now and read too many works to have a grasp of what that really means anymore. And I told the students that. I boomed something and waved my arms: “There are seven billion people on this planet. No one’s going to be famous anymore. All you've got is inspiration, that little ego inside of you, and god.”

The second: being a woman writer. The “little ego inside of you” is important. Obviously for everyone, that we for-lack-of-a-better-word embrace our drive and talent and look the world square in the eyes. But in all my ten years of editing Versal, only ONE woman has ever contacted me outright and asked me to publish her (cf. first quote at the start of this post). All of the others have been men. I don’t know them, they don’t know me, but they are sure of themselves and they tell me this. I don’t agree with the tactic of course — theirs is an extreme approach. But as I’ve grown into my role as Versal’s editor, as well as into my own poetry, I have cultured an ego enough to steel me through. Through what? Not rejection letters, that's not really a big deal. But standing on stage after the booming voices of men. But taking my place at the microphone during panels. But writing things like this post. But writing at all.

The third: being part of your community. And here is where we are all humbled. I suggested to the students that, given the chance, they should seek out community whether online, among themselves, or in the canal belt of Amsterdam. They didn’t necessarily have to get involved and organize, but they could. They could also just attend events. Become a part. And one day even join a lit mag team. I suggested they not try to start one, unless they really saw a need (in an interview with Roxane Gay not too long ago we spoke about the over-proliferation of lit mags, esp. in the US). But rather bring their talents and energies and passions to a project that is already underway — because funding isn’t great no matter where you go now, and lit mags and lit orgs in general could really use the help.

What I didn’t understand when I started Versal at the green age of 23 is that a literary journal is in and of itself a community — not just a mechanism of that community. What bugs me about the writers who email us and tell us how great they are and ask us to publish them is that 100% of the time they have not bought Versal, attended any Versal events, or even seemed to have perused our website. They are asking to be made part of the community without joining the community. Without building the relationships that are really what drive this. They feel owed, and maybe they are, but I’m not the purseholder. 

As I’ve seen Versal grow these last ten years, and as I’ve grown, I’ve become increasingly thankful of the community it has given me. And in turn, Versal continues to be my contribution back, my way to be a part. And the more that I’ve worked to be a part, the more I’ve enjoyed some of the trappings of being a writer. I’ll never be Ezra-Pound famous, I’ll probably hang out in the slush pile most of my life, but I’ll really enjoy all of this anyway.

May 18, 2012

Brain Cookies 37: Comics

A comic about Tesla

Thanks to the Bibliokept blog for this scan. Click this link to see it large. 

The book publishing flowchart from Weldonowen. Click this link to see it large. 

May 17, 2012

Brain Cookies 36

A video about John Baldessari narrated by Tom Waits. 

The home of furniture designer Sérgio Rodriguez

John Waters hitchhiking.

Lee Scratch Perry Guinness ads.  

May 16, 2012

Brain Cookies 35

What actors use to get "high".

Anna Arov, one of our wonderful poetry editors, sent this my way. Plastic eating fungi!

Quantum teleportation over sixty miles!

Silly photos of serious writers. Thanks to Her Royal Majesty for the link.

Theo Altenberg

Niels Shoe Meulman

May 10, 2012

Brain Cookies 33

Obama killed it.

In other news:

A student left in DEA confinement and forgotten has to do some pretty nerve wracking stuff to stay alive.

A great interview with Cadence Weapon. I saw him in London a couple years ago and it was one of the best gigs I've even been to.

Our friends at Her Royal Majesty release their new issue tomorrow. You can join the party in Paris, Berlin, New York, London, Toronto and Montreal, or you can order the issue here.

From a ten-year editor, part 3: The funny thing about timing

Leadership is stunning and weighted and breathlessly vulnerable. In the ten years leading this mag, I have learned many lessons, crossed many lines, risked friendships and futures, and stretched far beyond what I thought was possible. So in the lead-up to Versal's 10-year anniversary and tenth edition, I would like to share some of what it's been like to be Versal's editor, stories that intersect, inevitably, with the larger conversations out there around editing, writing, publishing, women, and inclusion.

Part 3: The funny thing about timing 

This is going to be a short one, y'all. My parents just arrived in town, the first of many May extravaganzas that will culminate in the firecracker launch of Versal 10. It turns out that Pilot Books is also nearly done with my chapbook and it, too, will be released this month. Since I'm also turning 33 on May 16 (so is Daniel!), I've run out of days in the month to celebrate. 

All and all at once!

By and large a luxury problem, yeah.

Just make me a halo I can wear around all month? Thanks. 
I also have this song in my head all of the time: 

May 09, 2012

Brain Cookies 32

A little piece of art from Mowgli Omari.

Mugs with climbing holds. Megan and I want these for our birthday.
Joshua Dildine with thanks to the Lion Skeleton blog. 


May 07, 2012

Brain Cookies 31

Roman emperor deaths–now ranked for entertainment.

Also from the Awl, a profile of Roman Mars, host of one of my favorite radio shows 99% Invisible.

How dogs use humans as tools.

A nice New Yorker essay about Game of Thrones, which I have yet to see.

Design against prison.

Finally, I married a Mad Man.

May 05, 2012

Brain Cookies 30

Adam Yauch A.K.A. MCA is no longer with us. Also, you should read the letter MCA wrote to the NYTimes under the pseudonym of Nathanial Hornblower about his video Ch-ch-Check it Out. 

A little history of Cinco de Mayo.

Nikolai Alekseev is the first man convicted under St. Petersburg anti-homosexuality laws. Nothing changes.

The photography of Genevieve Naylor.

May 01, 2012

Brain Cookies 28

Yesterday I missed posting the "daily" links because it was the Queen's birthday, and to celebrate, I sold things on the street and drank lots of beer. These brain cookies are for sobering recovery.

A documentary on Norman Mailer's run for NYC mayor.

Check out these cool paintings of Sci-Fi spaceships.

Two posts on the Occupy Movement. First is a short piece by Noam Chomsky on the movement, and the second a report from the Gawker on early morning May Day raids of protester homes.

John Peel's record collection.

Photography from Stanley Kubrick.

April 29, 2012

Brain Cookies 27

We've had a glut of David Foster Wallace links here, but I'm posting this because think it deserves note: Hatchette Audio is release a 56+ hour audio book of  Infinite Jest. The footnotes are not (!?) included (which doesn't make any sense, since major plot revelations are made there). Also, the humorless reading by the voice actor bores me to tears. AWAY WITH YOU AUDIO BOOKS!

David Simon is blogging.

The Secret Art of Dr. Seuss.

Czech Secret Police street photography.

This article about hipster racism is pretty spot on.