Kamby Bolongo Mean River named one of 25 Important Books of the 2000s by HTML Giant

KBMR was named one of 25 Important Books of the decade by HTML Giant. And was a Page One selection of New & Noteworthy Books by Poets & Writers Magazine.

Monday, November 3, 2014

No News Today - Guest Post - Grace Campell

so much like in the story, if it was one, which it is, would be so bad it's funny.

in the story, the man who i met years ago surfaces from time to time.
in the story, he comes to my house, drunk, idling in the car he can’t afford, alongside the curb. in the story i tell him go away and in the story he goes away, then a few days later, he comes back.

but instead the story comes right up to my porch, 6'2" of inebriation and because I'm cast-iron i go out there, outside, go up to him, right up to that motherfucker and tell him go away.

i never fucked with this story but he thinks we're star-crossed lovers and i don't know why i forget this.

i'm telling you, it's some kind of biting sibilance, that moment the voice in your head tells you this is the story and shit is going down and it's not in your favor.

Grace Campbell was born, raised and educated in New York. She currently lives and works in Olympia, Washington.

Monday, August 4, 2014

No News Today - Guest Post - Erika Anderson

Slow in Your Slow World

One day your hand might reach
The heel that has fallen off your foot,
The plastic nude pump in the doorway
Looking as if it might walk in without you.

But for no
w your arm is suspended, a
Jeff Koons basketball in distilled water.
Your eyes are closed, but your cropped
Blond hair is gelled, you were ready
For the day, off to meet someone in your
Leopard print camisole and jean shorts.

We know you are a woman
Because in your ongoing forward bend—
The yoga pose of your afternoon—
Your thong rainbows out of your jeans,
Arcing over your ass, giving us symmetry,
If not beauty.

I wonder about these mean streets,
Why they haven’t taken you.
I wonder if someone will pick you
Up like a doll, and dust you off,
Take you somewhere near or far.

I wonder why I keep walking,
Why I don’t know what to say or do,
But who would I call and what would
They want? “There’s a woman nodding
on Broome,” I could say, but that’s not
news. Nothing’s ever news.   

Erika Anderson is a contributing editor for Guernica Magazine and teaches for the Sackett Street Writers' Workshop. Her writing has appeared in the New York Times, Creative Nonfiction, Buzzfeed Books, and has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize. She has an MFA from Vermont College of Fine Arts and lives in Brooklyn's Crown Heights, where she co-hosts the Renegade Reading Series for emerging writers. 

Friday, July 25, 2014

No News Today - Guest Post - Joe Sacksteder

Is it in you?

From what our sources tell us, it isn’t. Perhaps it once was, but it no longer is. Like most everyone who grew up in this country, we’re sure it has been in you at some point. We want to put it back into you.Try to revive the bluffs that loomed above the outfield fence at Talcott-Page, the baseball-swallowing darkness that pocked the sumac and crevasses, the sirens – even a gunshot once in a while – that reminded you that this was the bad part of Rockford. As if you could have forgotten. It was summer and it was baseball and you were young, but dusk and storm clouds and the earthy smell of lightless conduits was an encounter with the end of something, there at the beginning.

Take a sip of Riptide Rush. Put Fierce Grape into you. Try to trick your body into believing – just for a moment – that you are still an athlete. That you still have and still need it in you.

Joe Sacksteder is a PhD candidate at the University of Utah. Later this year, Punctum Records will release his album, as The Young Vish, of Werner Herzog sound poems.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

No News Today - Guest Post - Scott Cheshire

"Water of Life”

Kingsley Amis once said “the really amazing achievement of the Western hero” had nothing to do with sharp shooting, or horse wrangling, but was “the way he could stride into a saloon, call for whiskey, knock it back neat and warm in one and not so much as blink.” I get the romantic impulse. For as long as I can remember being a drinker, or wanting to be a drinker, whiskey was the goal. It was tough, dark, and graduated to, a drink earned, not for everyone, and somehow both worldly and provincial, handed down to sons from fathers all over the globe. Never mind that my father never touched the stuff. Clint Eastwood’s “Man with No Name” did in the Dollars Trilogy. And so did Gene Hackman’s “Popeye Doyle” in The French Connection II. “Scotch, right there, El Scotcho,” he says to a French barkeeper, while barely keeping his cool. Only just last year I tried to convince my wife that Popeye is a good strong name for a boy if we ever have children.

One Friday night, back when I was in my early twenties and working as a meat cutter in Duluth, Georgia, I had closed up shop, and shut the lights, when I heard a knock at the door. I looked up and saw one of our regulars, a man of about forty, which was just short of elderly to me at the time. I unlocked the door and told him we were closed. He asked if he could just get a few things. Please. I was newly moved out from my parents’ house (again), girlfriendless, and, frankly, I had little to do most evenings. I was about to say “sure,” when he said, “tell you what, I just bought some good Scotch, you ever have really good Scotch?” I was intrigued. I had not yet gotten past plastic bottle bourbon. He brought in a bottle of twenty-five-year-old Talisker. I grabbed two glasses from the sink. We upturned two empty five-gallon buckets, sat, and we sipped. It was like tasting the side of a hill: soil, grass, mineral. I’d never had anything like it in my life. He did not explain it to me. He did not condescend. He guessed the experience would speak for itself, and he was right. That was twenty years ago give or take.
- - -
A few random personal memories of whiskey:

1 – My first truly soul-bruising hangover during which I realize too much Jim Beam has the power to remove every last hope from your heart.

2 – Proudly bearing into my mother’s kitchen my first purchase of Maker’s Mark, telling her why it’s “special,” and her telling me that sort of spirit isn’t allowed in her home.

3 – Hearing burly punk rock journeyman Mike Watt boom out “drink that bourbon right straight down” on his second solo record, Contemplating the Engine Room, even further instilling in me the silly conflation of bourbon and manhood. (Not Mr. Watt’s fault. All mine.)

4 – Stumbling onto John le CarrĂ©’s novel The Night Manager (not too long after my Talisker epiphany), in which former soldier-turned-hotel manager Jonathan Pine and various players involved in a clandestine sale of black market weapons all “sip” on Scotch, and “take pulls” of Scotch, and “need large” Scotches in the middle of the night, and in the middle of the day, which forever changes my perception of booze, mixing my dreams of being a writer with the drinking of Scotch. This is followed by about ten years of foolish and ill-informed booze snobbery.

5 – Meeting my lovely wife—girlfriend, then—and spending our first summer afternoons romantically lazing on her porch in Atlanta, amidst occasional gunfire and the maddening singsong bells of a neighborhood ice cream truck that secretly sold drugs, until one day the driver was arrested and the truck was left for pillaging, but nevertheless we were lazing and drinking mint juleps. This returns me to bourbon.

6 – At some point I start writing a novel, although I don’t think it’s a novel at the time, just a really long story, a story about what is to grow up in America, so deeply steeped in its complicated Christian religious legacy, and what it means to divorce yourself from that (even while that’s pretty much impossible to do), except after six years of hard work I do not know how to end the book. And then one day I happen to read about the early American use of Bellarmine jars (also called witch jars, or beardman jars) on the 18th century American frontier, occult black pottery filled aged urine (!), animal hair, pages of biblical scripture, and crosses, all used as a charm against bad luck—and used by Christians. And, lo, that urine was aged in barrels, just like my favorite Kentucky bourbon, and I knew somewhere in that strangely mixed image and idea lay the ending of my novel.
- - -
Last year, I went to the doctor for my year forty physical, which thanks to recent studies no longer involves the probing one might fear (all that now happens at fifty). Liver: good. Heart: like a horse. Lungs: of a much younger man (I run and do not smoke). But my blood was in very bad shape, it turns out, my triglycerides through the roof, near the level of pancreatic shutdown. The doctor said it might be genetic, but he gave me a list: increase your exercise (no problem, there, recovering from a broken ankle, and so I’m anxious to get back to running); decrease your animal fat intake, and thus decrease your own fat (hopefully the running will help); drink red wine only; and no more whiskey. Please.

For the first time in my life I really did listen to my doctor because, well, I’m no longer feeling invincible (even as I write this, my ankle aches; the back does, too), and because I don’t romanticize, not anymore. All things must pass. Even me.

I should also say I’ve not given up whiskey for good. I have it once a week, usually on a Saturday night, at home, on the sofa, wife beside me, pug in lap, but this week I’ll likely have more. Because my book is now out in the world. And because there is something lovely and uplifting about having your brother, or a friend, or a peer pass you an unbidden celebratory tumbler. But next week I’ll return to my long daily walks, and whiskey-less nights with the wife. Although, maybe I’ll mix it up with a delicate whiskey cocktail, post-book birth week, in the new “now” of my “newish” life, and sit quietly with her, satisfied with a single and perfect pretty sazerac, at The Penrose Bar, my favorite local for an afternoon sip. Rye, neat, and a mere mist of absinthe, garnished with a bent lemon peel, as the barkeeper says in a shameless brogue that whiskey is Gaelic for “water of life,” and Kate and I talk yet again about having kids, or maybe not having kids, and do we stay in New York, or do we leave, and what to do with our next forty years.      

Scott Cheshire earned his MFA from Hunter College. He teaches writing at the Sackett Street Writers' Workshop, and his work has been published in Slice, AGNI, Guernica, and the Picador anthology The Book of Men. He is the author of High as the Horses' Bridles (Henry Holt), and lives in New York City.

Friday, June 27, 2014

No News Today - Guest Post - Lauren Becker

Life People

Some of us were sitting around playing this game where you make up definitions of obscure words and the others vote on which definition is right, and this guy kept winning because his definitions always sounded like they might be true. He hated the game anyways. He wouldn’t say why.

I asked what game he wanted to play. He said Life. Did I remember Life? I did. I remembered those little cars with holes to plug in people as you moved around the board. I always had too many people in my car and ended up putting new ones in sideways or sitting up in uncomfortable positions.

I was there for trying to kill myself. He wouldn’t say, but his disappointment seemed familiar. We played; I abandoned my people in the car and his ran off the side of the long table where we ate. He left his people scattered on the floor. A nurse came in and asked who caused the mess. We told her this girl, Paula, who was way crazier than we were, did it while we were trying to play. We were doing origami by then. He presented the nurse with a tiny box. She traded him for a little plastic cup of pills and a paper one filled with water.

We turned to the page in the origami book that showed how to make cups. His was purple and mine was going to be yellow, but mine was purple, too. We put water in our cups, willing them to hold. For a few seconds, it looked like we were drinking grape juice from beautiful china. They crumpled under the weight of water. He collected mine and put both in the trash.

He asked me if I wanted to play another game. I picked up the deck of cards – the one with none missing – and dealt us hands of blackjack, kings showing for both. It was almost time for dinner. We would set aside the cards to eat overcooked meatloaf with french fries and wilted green salads with low-fat Ranch. The others started coming in with trays. I shuffled our cards back into the deck and knelt to pick up his Life people, putting them in the car, upright or sideways, facing in a direction we had forgotten.

Lauren Becker is editor of Corium Magazine. Her book of short fiction, If I Would Leave Myself Behind, was released by Curbside Splendor last week. This story is included in the book.She is a brand new resident of Austin, Texas and has the boots to prove it.