February, 2013. Issue 40. With Faithful Respect to Jack McCarthy.
The Words Are Mourning Jack McCarthy
Our Review of What I Saw, a collection of poems by Jack McCarthy
by Katie Moore and John Hancock
Jack McCarthy, The Stand-up Poet, this man motivated many of us to take up the pen. He showed us that, no, poetry was NOT lame. In fact, poetry could make you ask questions, make you laugh; poetry could tell the rock hard truth...or lie lazily like a Summer evening. Jack McCarthy made poetry seem as good as sex, as common as breakfast, and more precious than gold. He wrote poetry for 30 years before he began performing for audiences, and he was so very fucking good at it. Go ahead and check YouTube if you don't believe us, we'll wait...
We never imagined that Jack would pass away before we reviewed What I Saw. His death doesn't change how much we loved the book--totally, completely, intensely. It doesn't diminish the way each word in the book seems to have been placed by fate. It doesn't, as sometimes happens when an artist dies, dull the brilliance of his imagery behind a biographical fog. But Jack's death does make us kind of crazy about telling you to buy this book. Buy several. Give them as gifts. Before, we would have said that you should love his work; now we say that you should cherish it, like literary treasure. Collect each of his books. Give them their own bookshelf, and read every word often.
What I Saw (EM Press 2012) is fantastic. Fucking fantastic. Each of these poems starts dozens of conversations, big raucous writer's conversations with passion and genius that get too loud and end in minor violence. This book kept us up at night. Sometimes the conversation is all in the reader's head, and in that way What I Saw reminded us that it is so good to think. And we're ashamed that we so easily forgot.
A lot of books ease you in, they're gently with you in the beginning. What I Saw is not one of those books, in fact the first poem in the collection The Accommodation: Adam's Recollection is our favorite. Once you begin reading this book you won't be able to stop until you've absorbed every word. And then you'll want to read it to people. From When the Cholesterol Catches Up With Me:
Lord, if there really is reincarnation, please, I'd rather not come back if I don't have to. Nothing else you might have planned for me can be as good as this one was. I feel like an old soul who got my dues paid up the first half of this lifetime. Since then it's been, as Raymond Carver put it, "all gravy."
The poems in What I Saw are about the atoms that make up the great matter of life. Jack McCarthy writes about sex, love, death, good conversations, laughing in the dark, being a person, making the journey, the quirks of it all. There is a great honesty in his work, no subject he couldn't touch with his wisdom or wit.
In addition to being an amazingly written masterwork, the book itself is beautiful. From binding, to paper quality, and especially font...we're impressed with the quality that comes with an EM Press title. Believe us, it means a lot when a book feels good to hold.
You need this book, for every single reason. Please do go buy it now from EM Press, and while you're there read their words for Jack McCarthy.
Jack McCarthy (May 23, 1939 - January 17, 2013)
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Learning the Hard Way
by R.P. Rodgers
I started to write screenplays in 2007. I'm eager to get on with my life as a writer for movies. So eager that I'll take any seemingly legit opportunity that I can either scare up or that finds me by whatever channel.
Last May one found me.
I got hooked up with a TV pilot writing gig by a contact from the world of stand-up comedy. It seemed promising but ended up as a total shit-storm.
I emailed a 30 Rock spec script to the producers and they liked it. We took a meeting. Two young people who had a mysterious third partner who was never available to meet. These were the “producers”. They had a legit director attached, a guy who has done a lot of Letterman and Conan segments. He was at the first meeting and his involvement was a big draw for me.
I wrote a 36 page pilot for a half-hour show based on their bible and they loved it. After that, I never heard back from them. About three months later I get a text saying the project is still on and they have a connection at Lionsgate who loved the project but was thinking of it as a 1-hour project for Showtime. Further, the concept had gained the interest of the actor John Turturro. Wow!
I expanded my 1/2 hour to a 1 hour, rethinking and rewriting to accomodate a new lead character. We met again and the vibe was, well, okay.
I hadn't seen the name director since that first meeting months before. At the next meeting I asked about him. I was eager to get feedback on my first script from an industry heavyweight. He was no longer on the project. The three “producers” had misled him about having funding. There was no money and the director didn't appreciate being lied to and having his time wasted so they had a big blow-up and director-man bolted. This crucial piece of information had been kept from me as I labored rewriting the 1 hour pilot AND an additional 10 page "teaser" script - which was now all they had money enough to film.
But, they still maintained that their connection to Lionsgate was legit and that casting and filming were going forward. I was extremely pissed and on the verge of telling these kids to fuck-off. That night I went to sleep, extremely bitter. In the morning I awoke with the thought, "maybe this is just par for the course. Maybe this is as good as it ever gets in show biz". I decided to see it through to the end - whatever would be the outcome.
I received a text that the casting and filming were scheduled for the following Friday evening.
They ran an ad on CRAIGSLIST!!! The ad stated "Major network sitcom casting this Friday" with a character breakout and followed by the phrase, "No compensation available." Even student films offer lunch and carfare.
Somebody at Craigslist must have been paying attention as the ad was flagged, and pulled, but not before getting a few dozen responses. So CASTING WENT FORWARD! WITH CRAIGSLIST RESPONDEES!!!
I attended the casting session, which was like being in a bad comedy about , well, casting a movie off of Craigslist. Imagine the worst community theater actors that ever appeared in your hometown production of The Music Man. Many of these people couldn't speak English, some were downright thuggish.
They were hacks, hams, amateurs and yet still more professional than the ‘producer’ who sat filming their performances with his iPhone. Most of them refused to sign a release as they feared the whole sorry mess would end up on YouTube.
I felt so bad about the whole thing that any slight thrill I might have received from seeing my words performed couldn’t mitigate the feeling that I had just been a party to a terrible hoax.
Weeks passed. I’d figured that I’d never hear from the ‘producers’ again; that even they had to finally realize what a sham the whole thing was. And just as the anger and resentment were beginning to finally fade, I get an email letting me know me that a "rough cut" is now up on YouTube. Would I look at it and see whether I though it was ready to be shown to Lionsgate?
There were two versions. The first was terrible. The second was terrible and 25 seconds longer. They had simply had all the "actors" IMPROV it. Didn't use a single word of what I had written. I guess that was a blessing.
The moral of this story? There are three.
First - Know who you are getting into bed with.
Second - Make sure you have protection.
Third - Make sure the money is in place first.
All good advice for either a screenwriter, or a prostitute. And as I was willing to be the latter in my attempt to be the former, I’ve got no one to blame but myself.
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Rich Kids and Red Hands
by Norton LoomerIt was a calm and uneventful hour in the classroom, which meant it was anything but normal. As I lectured and the students quietly took notes, their literature texts open beside their notebooks, I felt an uneasy air about the room. I looked around to see if the students felt it as well, and their uncomfortable posture suggested they did. We were all waiting for something to happen. Things were going too well. There was far too much learning going on.
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...and now for a brief selection of things we say while reading submissions, building the issues, and taking smoke breaks.
"I hate poems about love. Kinda. Except this one." - Katie Moore
"The narrator slaughters this for me. I hate him. I want him to die. Second thought, I don’t care about this narrator. It doesn’t matter to me whether the narrator lives or dies. This is something that should be kept private and not shared. For the reader’s sake." - Jon Thrower
"Fuck Cummings for becoming an excuse to not punctuate." - John Hancock
"YES! Sentimental without excessive sentimentality. Realism that’s real." - Jon Thrower
"Did this guy really use 'I could care less' in the first fucking paragraph? Jesus. It doesnt really take much time to ADD A FUCKING N APOSTROPHE T!" - Katie Moore
"Dammit, this poem is all about happiness and shit, unfortunately it's also great." - John Hancock
"I don’t feel like I’m in a more hateful mood than I usually would be, but this is not the first one I’ve read from the current list of subs that I really, honestly hate." - Jon Thrower
"You want a who?" -Katie Moore, when the basic rules of the English language have all been leeched out of her delicate quivery soul.
"Prose poetry just isn't for me, man. I don't know what to do with it. Bah." - John Hancock
"This is great. One of the things I want fiction to do is talk about what it's like to be a fucking human. And this does that. Painful, shameful, sad, but real." - Jon Thrower
"Fuck! I wish this poem was my poem." - Katie Moore
"Get this. Here is her submission info: "I'm sending a story called '*****', which I hope you will consider for publication in Boston Review. This is a simultaneous submission." AAAAAHHHHH!!!!! I should say no immediately and let her learn the lesson, but because I am a dumbshit and like black metal, which helps me exercise frustrations in a peaceful and private way, I will read. . ." - Jon Thrower
"When a poem makes me escape to the bathroom for some personal time with my vagina, and it's not even a poem about sex...that is a good fucking poem!" - Katie Moore
"I put this in the maybe pile. It's not very good, but it was really difficult to write." - John Hancock
"So, I have reached the point where I'm clicking and pasting in my sleep. I have this theory that clicking and pasting contributes to mental illness. Maybe it can't CAUSE the problem, but I think maybe it could activate a dormant issue and exascerbate the inevitable. I...can't...stop...the...clicking..." - Katie Moore
"FUCK THIS MOUSE BUTTON!" - Katie Moore
"The characters here are so pointless I would only say yes if they all died, but even that would be too much, so I’d probably (even then) say no." - Jon Thrower
"Am I about to take a half submission and leave out the part after the middle where it started to suck?" - John Hancock
"Wow, we have a lot of readers in Russia..." - Katie Moore
"Really? A submission in Comic Sans? Ha!" - Jon Thrower
"I can't handle the karma of sending these rejection letters. It hurts me. I need to drink now." - Katie Moore
"A cat story to follow a dog story. As I read, I wonder what I did in my life to deserve this. 33 pages of stupidity. I don't believe in Karma, but this has me second-guessing that time I kicked the sleeping guy in the head." - Jon Thrower
"Google this person, they sound hot." - John Hancock
"This rhymes too much." - Katie Moore
"Wow. Lovely. The question, the question, the question, followed by an analysis of the approach, of the desire, of the method and the operation thereof. And then bang. Well done." - Jon Thrower
"Wow, I'm late." - Katie Moore
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