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November 26, 2008

Slurping on the Shoulders of Giants

By J.C. Sirott

coffeenovel-cap.jpgTo submit to dislocate you must, of course, write. But what if you find yourself creatively blocked? This is an age-old writer's affliction and a blog post on its existence would be of little use to anyone. But what are some tactics that writers use to escape the dreaded block? Oh there are many exercises, prompts, visualization techniques, sure, but one of history's least heralded is also its most simple: coffee.

Take a man like Balzac. Fueled by innumerable cups of coffee, he wrote novel after novel, often working fifteen hour days. In his essay, "the pleasures and pains of coffee" Balzac noted that the warm drink "gives us the capacity to engage a little longer in the exercise of our intellects" and further, that under coffee's influence "ideas quick march into motion like battallions of a grand army." The father of realism was not the only one to depend on caffeine as a part of his writing routine.

Jean Paul Sartre was said to ingest all sorts of amphetamines during his writing days, but always needed a cup of coffee first. But who else? There is a novel, "Coffee With Poe", based on the historical fact of the great poet's love of the drink. And who can forget the Beatniks, Kerouc, Ginsberg and company, perhaps the literary movement most associated with coffee and responsible for the rise and atmosphere of a good many coffeehouses. Remember, the next time you take that sip of coffee before you sit down to write, you are slurping on the shoulders of giants.

November 16, 2008

dislocate/MFA Reading with Todd Boss

Mid November--it's getting colder, the sun's down before you leave work, and if you're like me, you're starting to feel some seasonal affective disorder about now. You know what's good for seasonal affective disorder? Poetry. Really, really good poetry.

As luck would have it, there's an opportunity for you to come hear some great poetry, and some great prose too. Todd Boss, awarding winning poet and Minnesota native, will be reading work to hold your early winter blues at bay. Todd is the author of On Marriage (Red Dragonfly Press) and yellowrocket (W.W. Norton and Co.) He'll be reading his poetry alongside MFA candidates Luke Pingel (poetry), Libby Edelson (fiction), Cory Newbiggen (nonfiction).

It's all happening this Tuesday, November 18th, in 150 Lind Hall on the University of Minnesota campus (east bank). The reading starts at 7pm, but come early to snack, chat, and buy copies of dislocate #4, our latest issue featuring the art of Brian Ness. Hope we'll see you there.

November 14, 2008

Please, Mr. Tweedy, give me something to chew on.

by Jim Novak

I share a small desk in the dank T.A. office with one of my very good friends. Both of us are in our third and final year of this lovely M.F.A. program so we are trying to assemble manuscripts, meet with students from the classes we teach, and read for classes we're taking, all in the same space that's about as big as a bucket seat in a nice conversion van. Our similarities go beyond books and writing and teaching; we are both a little messy. Some of the stuff on our desk include four dirty coffee mugs, seven AWP magazines, and a box of Kosher instant Mashed Potatoes. I'm not trying to make any enemies here, but once I found a greasy receipt for Chinese food stuck between two books. Despite all of the clutter, I like living with some else's mess and giving someone my mess back. This by no means is a weird Minnesotan passive-aggressive attempt to zing my deskmate. I truly like being in her mess because each day I find something different.

Today, I came across a book by Wilco lead singer Jeff Tweedy. Adult Head is a collection of poems that adds to the canon of poetry books written by aging rock stars. When I lived in Cleveland, Billy Corrigan, singer from the Smashing Pumpkins, came to town to read from his new book. The poems, let me put this nicely, were terrible. So thumbing through Tweedy's book I didn't expect much, and I wasn't given a lot from it. Lines like "an old man who just won't/ stand out of the way" (from "When I say My Heart," p. 6) do nothing for me. Please, Mr. Tweedy give me something to chew on. This got me thinking. Why, if I enjoy the lyrics so much, does the poetry fall so short below my expectations? Am I turning into a snob? Maybe. But, the words in Tweedy's book have no music to support them. Relying on two sensory experiences to help your art for twenty years can get you into some trouble. Without the drums, guitars, and bass, where do these words go? For me they don't belong in a book. I'm probably a bit bitter because I have nothing in print, and if I was known for something, let's say baseball, yeah, if I was a baseball player I would surely try to use my clout to publish my thoughts. So to this I say, keep going rock singers. Keep publishing your books of poetry without a sound track. Keep giving us your lyric notebook in book form so we can buy it and inhale it because we love your, oh that's right, music.