Category Archives: Essays & Interviews

Left Turn Signal

When you run from a bee, you reduce its ability to sting you. Why are you running from bees? When a bee stings you, it dies. When it dies, it cannot sting a person who is allergic to bees. It is your responsibility to let the bee sting you. Sit in the bee garden and collect their small corpses in your lap. Let the bees sting you, you who are not allergic to bees. Just sit here in this garden, silently, and consider: is there a finite amount of sorrow in the world?

If you have truly let the bees sting you, you will feel pain, and you will feel it strongly. You will not feel catharsis. You will feel no reduction in guilt or shame. You will not feel closure. You will feel submerged in a deep sense of ambiguity. You will not be like a dog that cannot hold two conflicting viewpoints at once. You will be a wise dog. During your time in the bee garden, you will come to construct an operational definition of yourself.

America makes everything vulgar. It is a row of yelling houses. Confessions were once carried out in coffins in order to keep the flood of relief contained. In American bars and websites, you will come across neon signs flashing PLEASE TELL ME I CAN STOP HATING MYSELF. Well you can’t. Just sit there in the bee garden, quietly, and cry if you need to. Assume you’re always acting in bad faith. Do not be depressed, do not be happy. Suffer with intention. Convert to Christianity out of spite. Do something about yourself.

And yet every morning you awake from dreaming of a bee garden to find yourself inside of a mall where people are sleeping on yoga mats. They are screaming in their sleep. No matter how much golden light they pump into this mall, it is simply an aviary of shrieking birds. Your entire life will be conducted inside this mall. The ground is covered in shit. You drive around the mall aimlessly, forever. You keep your left turn signal on.

annotated blog posts by megan boyle

unpublished blog posts by megan boyle

Megan Boyle sent me this awesome annotated book. I can’t imagine reading it any other way. There are over 90 notes inside. Almost on every page. Some notes list the real names of people mentioned, what other blog posts or stories they appear in, and how they reacted to being written about. Other notes discuss editorial decisions, what Megan was thinking while writing something, and her favorite jokes nobody noticed.

I’m only going show a few of them. Send $15 to to get your own copy.

1. blog posts megan boyle 1

megan boyle drawing of electric cereal

I’m not very good at drawing things in perspective of other things/ distances/ etc. but I thought I’d try to show you a bucolic sunrise scene of spam, Homer Simpson and Electric Cereal playing a game w/ six cards, a donut, and a six-pack of Poland springs bottled water.

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Rape, condemnation, and literature: Alt Lit’s most shameful episode


—Your friend’s name is Stephen Tully Dierks, right?
—Yea, why?
—Because on Gawker he’s being accused of raping a young female writer.

This morning my husband woke me up with a piece of news that’s been terrible for our community. News that made my heart beat so fast, first out of confusion, then embarrassment, and later sadness.

Sophia Katz, a young Canadian poet, published an essay last Sunday on Medium in which she describes—in a calm, honest, and brilliant manner—her unpleasant sexual encounter with the American writer and editor Stephen Tully Dierks. The essay was widely shared through social media, and from the semi-private forums of Alt Lit Gossip to certain circles on Twitter, people began to express their statements of anger.

In her essay, Sophia Katz publicly explores how this situation is so unfortunately common in our society, this situation that the rest of us can so rarely bring ourselves to denounce with such strength. In We Don’t Have to Do Anything, Katz recounts the days she spent visiting New York some months ago, and how from the very first day, she felt pressured to have sex with Dierks. The account of every incident is precise and detailed: first the rejection, then the psychological struggle, the pressure, and much later the resignation.

Katz had gone to “the capital of Alt Lit” with the hope of meeting the writers she admired, and to find herself among them talking about books, making friends, and feeling like she belonged to one of the most inspiring literary movements of our time. She had accepted an offer from Dierks to stay at his apartment, but once she got there, she began to feel that his intentions were about more than just giving her a place to stay.

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An Interview w/ Laura Marie Marciano & Monica McClure of Gemstone Readings

Since February, Gemstone Readings has become known for hosting events featuring writers such as Bunny Rogers, Mike Bushnell, Lucy K Shaw, and Cassandra Gillig. Last Friday, they had a media launch for their new website and poetry videos featuring the work of Kate Durbin, Natalie Chin, and Stacey Teague. Below are some questions I sent to Laura Marie Marciano and Monica McClure about the work they are doing at Gemstone and about the video reading of McClure’s poem “Petocha”.

When did you first conceive of the idea for Gemstone Readings? What was the inspiration for starting it?

Laura Marie Marciano: I guess that is a hard question to answer.

I think I was feeling a sense of frustration with the types of readings that were happening—they seemed to be lacking some kind of magic and inclusion.  It was the same thing and the same people and the same venue.  It was winter and it was real cold. I was thinking about the Olympics since they were about to start. I thought we needed some mystical sort of reading to happen so that people would feel alive again. So I organized this “Reading for Oksana”, (the Ukrainian figure skater from the 90s) to be held in the basement of Unnameable Books around the themes of cold hearts and sadness. And I had Bunny Rogers sing. And the heat wasn’t working so people had their coats on. And Ben Fama read. And it just made sense.

Then I wanted to keep going. And I wanted to make sure more people were included that hadn’t been before, specifically female identified. And I wanted to bring in my background of performance art and media art. I sort of wanted it to be like the Babysitters Club only for poetry—if that makes sense. So it was always there, I guess, and then it happened.

Monica McClure: I came to know of Gemstones when Laura created the “Last Petal On A Dying Rose” (as I think it was also called) reading for Bunny. I’d been thinking about Bunny’s Sister Unn installation for this essay I was writing about immortality online. Eternal love and longing encapsulated in digital icons played a part in my thinking about it. My partner, Ben Fama, read as well. I remember liking the 90’s kitsch of Oksana. For me, the Olympics will always be Oksana, Tanya Harding, Nancy Kerrigan, and the Magnificent Seven US Gymnastics team. Everyone on the reading was young. It’s important to stay in tune with what young people are doing. Laura’s poems felt very kindred to my poems in Mood Swing. They were investigating a vexed femininity, both fabulated and actually experienced.

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What My Family Thinks Of Your Book I Love

In which, on a recent summer visit to my hometown of Kendall, NY (population 2,700), I ask various members of my family what they think about some of my favorite books. Each book’s cover was examined, and in some cases, books were opened midway and skimmed.

hill_williamHill William by Scott McClanahan

Brother (28, three beers): “This looks so boring.”

Mother (60): “This looks like something I would never want to read. I like nonfiction. I like Dickens. I feel if I tried to read this, I wouldn’t be able to understand it.”

green girl kate zambreno coverGreen Girl by Kate Zambreno

Brother (28): “Looks ridiculously French and prissy as fuck.”

Mother (60): “The cover reminds me of a girl that’s on drugs or who has a weird addiction or obsession.”

Mother (60): “I wouldn’t read this either because I feel that this is a story about every single thing… she’s not just one thing, she’s fifteen things.”

Mother (60): “ Also, it’s too cluttered. Not the cover, the whole book.”

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You spend your life collecting the words that become your vocabulary. The words have associations that are specific to you. They are attached to sensations that you sometimes look back on, sometimes forget, sometimes crave, but that always exist in the palimpsest of your memory. Some of these words have cultural importance. Love and all the weight of its utterance is a big one. Its presence can be bright, like a million unexpected lightbulbs turning on all at once and illuminating a sweet lumbering beast you didn’t see before. It can also be deeply soothing, like the sun going down for the first time in 4 months in Norway. Maybe you love many people and one day you take out 20 dollars in small change and give money to every person who asks it of you on the street. You walk down every street in the city, burning with love.

Likewise, you give away words as gifts to people. “Hey man”s you have many of. They are like pennies. If you drop one here and there it’s whatever. Sometimes you even throw them away in a careless sweep along with other trash like “doing good” and “see ya”. After a particularly hairy sweep, no more small talk, you think. Only communicate the big things. After days of silence and feeling cold underneath sweaters, you learn that you, like most other people, don’t have that many 100 dollar bills to give. You jangle your pennies more cheerfully.

Coveted words are framed and affixed to the walls of your vocabulary. You wouldn’t just call anyone your mother. You wouldn’t just call anyone your girlfriend, but maybe you would, if you’re still burning with love. You’re intense that way. You wouldn’t just describe any experience as being transformative, unless you for real turned from a bald egg into a spiny echidna. You look back at that experience and wonder if that egg was even alive, much less you. You wouldn’t just describe any person as being beautiful, because that word is not meant to describe people. That word is reserved for the gradient of blue to green that a dense forest turns at dusk on a silent cliff, a color the Japanese conceptually call ao.

So you’ve built this pretty gorgeous vocabulary edifice thing that you live in at all times. Sometimes you add a brick here and there and try to say the word lmao out loud. The sound of your voice lays across your face like a projection and activates when you speak. Every time you speak, you are aware of chinks appearing in the edifice and people peering through them at some unpleasantly murky part of you. The structure teeters for a second and restabilizes. You jangle your pennies nervously. You age slowly. You fall in love with someone when you are 70. You say to her “I wish I could have met you sooner,” to mean “Do you think I am a bluish gradient in a dense forest at dusk?” when actually she means that you are the tiny turbulent eddies of milk in coffee. Plaque is building up on the walls of your arteries. You die first, and vacate the premises of your vocabulary understanding that you have never communicated anything other than animalic scents.

Beach Sloth enters the mind of Theo Thimo


A lot of people enjoy asking artists about their influences, what inspires them to make that art, and how they see their art evolving. The assumption being that a reader actually cares about that sort of stuff. What readers do not know about assuming things is they make an ass out of you and me. Maybe those readers are so well read they never would have thought about a cliché, yet clichés are all around and prevalent in modern day society. I sat down to ask Theo Thimo some questions. Some of them actually deal with a piece of writing. Many of them were totally random things I thought up and thought “Hey maybe Theo Thimo could answer this is in a funny way”.

1. Theo Thimo, a lot of your work explores the space between the digital and real. In your most recent work you discuss these friends wondering about you from a far. How does it feel to be so close to your fans (via the Internet) yet so far (via the distance lifestyle)?

thank u so much and great great question, i have so much respect for u and for electric cereal, what a great publication and I’m so proud to be a part of it and also i am so proud to be getting asked questions by beach sloth because i have so much respect for him and I’m good too, thank you.

2. What is the first memory you ever had of a lawn mower?

i saw a conceptual art piece that was just like, a lawn mower when i was like 7

i think my earliest lawnmower memory maybe involves an earwig tho

3. Is excessive online consumption a necessary evil in order to accurately connect with people or is it hanging out in real life that is a necessary evil in order to make a living?

excessive online consumption isn’t evil and it’s good actually and great and people should be using the internet more than they probably are, and i need be constantly chatting with people on fb/throughout the day on my phone, it feels rly good to feel connected w/ all ur friends and i highly recommend it to everyone, its good

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Mira Gonzalez has a conversation with
Andrew Duncan Worthington

My friend Andrew Duncan Worthington mailed me an advanced review copy of his first novel ‘Walls’ on May 11th, 2014, along with a $5 check to pay me back for a gin and tonic I bought him when I was visiting New York the previous month. He asked me for a blurb to put on the back of the book. I obliged after reading the novel and enjoying it, but then I realized that writing blurbs is a terrifying nightmare and I suddenly felt completely incapable of writing one. Anyways, here are the blurbs I ended up writing:

If you feel positively about even one of these things: sex, drugs, happiness, the laughter of small children, bacon, cashmere, any disney movie, efforts to reverse global warming, adorable animals, then you will LOVE Walls by Andrew Duncan Worthington.

I once heard a story about Andrew Duncan Worthington secretly putting orange juice in guacamole because he thought it would taste good, but then the guacamole just tasted like orange juice and it was bad. He didn’t do anything like that with this book.

One time I bought Andrew Duncan Worthington a drink, then I moved across the country and he mailed me a $5 check to cover the cost of the drink, which was $8.

One time Andrew Duncan Worthington brought blood sausage to a rooftop barbecue and I ate it because I felt bad that nobody else was eating it.

Andrew Duncan Worthington looks a lot like Dermot Mulroney, who is an actor that I didn’t know about at all until someone told me Andrew Duncan Worthington looks like him.

An engrossing book and one that is often difficult to swallow, emotionally. Ultimately redemptive, uplifting, great characterization. Well done. -An Amazon customer review for Freedom by Jonathan Franzen

Ultimately, none of my blurbs were used to promote Andrew’s book. Which I think was a really smart decision on behalf of Andrew and/or his publisher.

After all my blurbs were rejected, I offered to interview Andrew instead. It took us ~1.5 months and 52 emails before we finally sat down and had a Gchat conversation. Which, by the way, has nothing to do with Andrew, who is very reliable. It is entirely due to me constantly forgetting to respond to his emails for multiple weeks.

The following is my conversation with Andrew Duncan Worthington, author of Walls, which is available now via Civil Coping Mechanisms.

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Proust: A Shallow Fellow

proust-swan's-wayWhen commentators weigh in on the work of Marcel Proust they usually reveal more about their own biases and preoccupations than they do about the French novelist and essayist.

Samuel Beckett started the trend in 1930 with an essay ‘Proust’ which, while ostensibly about the not-long-deceased Frenchman (Proust died in 1922), is actually more of a manifesto about the perils of habit and the way it can retard ones artistic development. These were definitely the concerns of Beckett himself, who was still alive, after all, and looking towards the future, wondering if a change of environment (perhaps some better friends or a new writing desk) could refresh his outlook. There is a memorable passage where Beckett says that ‘[h]abit is the ballast that chains the dog to his vomit’.

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Nothing can destroy purity

nothing can destroy purity

Death is the mother of the universe!
Allen Ginsberg

One. Oporto (June 2014, with a brief stop in Lisbon)

If I look at a gray sky filled with gray seagulls I can not talk about pain.
I’ve had nightmares about cats, nightmares about fingers.
I’ve dreamt about ripping off my own skin to sleep better.
Sad readings are essential meanwhile you and I laugh and you were just about to do it on the inside, why didn’t you

The gray seagulls. The river.
I’ve come to eat fish and drink filthy wine. Listen, there are fat foreigners and sparrows, there is agua dulce and then suddenly an ocean. Will we go to the beach? Will we be scared of eating the fish with long bones? Will we be blamed for eating them mercilessly, inside taverns, where the rain can’t lash at us anymore?

Emoji of an anchor.
And emoji of a heart pumping cold beer on the bed of a tower filled with flowers.
All these images exist because every one of these throbs exists.

It has been days since I last heard the mermaids.
They’re away somewhere, trying to calm themselves.
Afraid of us who eat away at the ocean like greedy birds.

Two. Return to Barcelona (June ends)

Think about Naomi.
Imagine a world where every mother is dead.
Who would be left. Who of us would be left behind,
the sterile cats with tricolor fur,
the men with pale shriveled dicks,
the newborn doves?


Think: emoji of a seagull defecating from a certain height—perhaps from a church, or an unlit lamp amid the Oporto night—over my head, now wet and viscous, how gross, I say, how fucking gross.

Think: emoji of my face filled with joy that my belly yearns to be a mother but you don’t.

You don’t.

We are so happy. We don’t laugh much. We dance amid sardines and cream cakes.
We drink too much.

Think: that an orphan poet is not a poet but an artifact loaded with hot gunpowder.

Here we are all sterile.
Here we are all alive.


Translated from the Spanish by Luis Silva