Buzzed Books #70: Pulse/Pulso: In Remembrance of Orlando

Buzzed Books #70 by Amy Watkins

Pulse/Pulso: In Remembrance of Orlando,

edited by Roy G. Guzmán and Miguel M. Morales

In the aftermath of tragedy, there’s poetry. I don’t know if that’s a universal truth, but it looks like one. Gregory Orr says that poetry exists at the threshold, which is why we feel compelled to write poems in moments of great emotional disturbance, when we’re pushed to our limits, forced to change or confront a hard truth. The Pulse nightclub shooting was a moment of incredible emotional disturbance for Orlando and LGBTQ and Latinx communities worldwide, and it’s no wonder poetry has been part of confronting and expressing shock, anger, sadness, fear, and defiance in the two years since. Pulse/Pulso: In Remembrance of Orlando (Damaged Goods, 2018), edited by Roy G. Guzmán and Miguel M. Morales, is one artifact of that emotional poetic work.


For anyone with even a tangential connection to Pulse, it’s likely to be a hard read. One poet quotes the text messages victims sent their loved ones that night. Another writes in the persona of a mother whose son is killed. Another quotes a family member who says, “They got what they deserved.” But it’s not all fear and sorrow. Many poets in the anthology write about the joys of community, sex and love, self-knowledge and acceptance. Others write defiantly about claiming their places in the world, including the world of poetry, and call out those who would silence their voices or appropriate their experience. Though the anthology is chapbook-sized (and priced), the slim volume took me almost a month to read; each poem carries such raw emotion that I could only read one or two at a time.

In the book’s foreword, the editors write, “We left the typical constraints and expectations of MFA workshops away from our selection process, and for that we are proud.” Some of the poems in the anthology are extremely polished, in the MFA workshop sense; others seem more visceral, less filtered. Some of the poets have significant publishing histories; others are newer to poetry or their accomplishments are in performance rather than page poetry. All of their perspectives are valuable, especially since this anthology serves as both art and artifact. A work of witness, such as this book is, has different requirements, a different job to do than the average anthology or journal issue.

In “Intruder (Home as A Fallacy),” June Beshea writes, “no, love does not protect us against bullets / all this dance and joy do not protect against destruction.” After the Pulse shooting, a mural went up in Orlando: rainbow stripes, 49 birds, Marvin Gaye’s face, and the words “Love conquers hate.” I appreciate the sentiment, but love won’t conquer hate if love is platitudes. If love conquers hate, it will be messy, sorrowing, angry, defiant love–love expressed in all these poems and small acts of kindness, in celebrations and protests, in voting for better political leaders and standing up to small and large-scale bullies. That love might eventually turn civilization toward a better future.

The proceeds from the sale of the anthology will be donated to QTPOC organizations.

Amy Watkins

Amy Watkins (Episodes 124161164192, and 209) grew up in the Central Florida scrub, surrounded by armadillos and palmetto brush and a big, loud, oddly religious family, a situation that’s produced generations of Southern writers. She married her high school sweetheart, had a baby girl and earned her MFA in poetry from Spalding University. She is the author of Milk & Water (Yellow Flag Press, 2014) and the art editor for Animal: A Beast of a Literary Magazine.


Pensive Prowler #23: Of Film and Book

Pensive Prowler #23 by Dmetri Kakmi

Of Film and Book

A friend recently asked me to take part in a 10-day movie challenge on Facebook.

In case you live under a rock, this is one of those dubious social media memes that spreads like a virus and infects any one with idle hands. They’re probably started by an algorithm that wants to figure how you think so that it can sell you more blu-rays.

The point of the game is simple. Every day for ten days you choose a movie that ‘has impacted’ you and present it without explanation. (I wager ten days is how long it takes for the algorithm to colonise your thought processes and behavioural patterns.)

Being a cinephile, I leaped on board, being aware all along of the spurious nature of such lists. Under different circumstances, or different states of inebriation, I’d probably pick a different lot of films. As a pedant, I also changed the irksome and inaccurate noun ‘impact’ to ‘affect’ on my posts because the verb more accurately describes the effect the following movies had on me when I saw them.

A Man Escaped (Robert Bresson, 1956), Vertigo (Alfred Hitchcock, 1957), Le Samurai (Jean-Pierre Melville, 1967), Dersu Uzala (Akira Kurosawa, 1975), Carrie (Brian De Palma, 1976), In the Realm of the Senses (Nagisa Oshima, 1976), Suspiria (Dario Argento, 1977), Beau Travail (Claire Denis, 1999), In the Mood for Love (Wong Kar-wai, 2000), Holy Motors (Leos Carax, 2012).

It’s an eclectic list, one that perhaps self-consciously focuses on ‘foreign cinema’. (Foreign for whom?) For me, the list highlights ‘pure cinema’. That is to say films that rely heavily on vision and movement, rather than dialogue, for story telling. In other words, it’s a return to the medium’s elemental origins.

Half way through the ten-day challenge (which was no challenge at all), I had a revelation. I’m a writer, I thought. I ought to be putting together a list of books that affect me. And why don’t such memes circulate more often?

Probably because, I went on to tell myself, cinema is the primary art form of the last two centuries. Not jazz, as some claim. The novel features only for those who think they have a novel in them when it’s really only gas.

If I were to put together a list for a ten-day book challenge, what would I choose?

Weirdly, the list of films came easier than the list of books. A lot more thought went into choosing the books I will soon put before you, which tells me I’m probably more in tune with cinema than literature. Which, in turn, suggests two things:

1: I’m not cut out to be a writer. Or, more accurately…

2: So powerful and overwhelming is the influence of cinema on the popular imagination it has ‘impacted’ every other art form, which may account for why writing schools nowadays encourage students to write a novel as if they are writing a film script (short, sharp sentences and paragraphs, lots of dialogue, story beats that are more suited to cinematic story telling than the flow of a novel, and so on) and to have their eye on the holy grail of film adaptation.

In certain quarters, writing a novel for the sake of writing a novel is no longer enough. It must be ‘cinematic’ — think of the number of times a book reviewer positively cites a novel’s ‘cinematic qualities’. When was the last time a reviewer observed that so and so utilises ‘novelistic details’ in his or her film?

Or maybe I had a hard time putting together my ten best books list because the novel’s innate qualities reach deeper than film and we must therefore excavate the substrata to find the source?

In any case, here is the list of ten books that have affected me over the years. Keep in mind that under different circumstances, or under different states of inebriation, I’d probably pick a completely different lot films. I mean books.

The Arabian Nights, the Richard Burton translation, Metamorphoses, Ovid, To the Lighthouse, Virginia Woolf, The Song of the World, Jean Giono, The Violent Bear it Away, Flannery O’Connor, We Have Always Lived in the Castle, Shirley Jackson, Therese Raquin, Emile Zola, Tirra Lirra by the River, Jessica Anderson, The Tree of Man, Patrick White, The Complete Short Novels, Anton Chekhov.

Must I explain them to you as well? How tedious you are. Let me see…

In short, the first two contain stories I absorbed by osmosis as a boy. If you’re born on a Greek-Turkish island in the Aegean Sea you naturally imbibe not only the Greek myths of creation and transformation recounted in Ovid, but you also get a taste for tales of the djinn and desert sands. With her fifth novel Woolf captures lightening in a bottle and made me want to be a writer. In pure, simple language, Giono’s epic perfectly evokes man’s symbiosis with nature. The Americans O’Connor and Jackson are exemplars of the stylised novel. Both toss out the window every rule about novel writing and still manage to produce books that stand the test of time. Zola is ruthless in his forensics of mind and body. Anderson is melancholy, beguiling as she draws you into a hornet’s nest. White evokes a new mythology of becoming in a new, though hardly uninhabited, land. As for Chekhov, he’s there because he can do no wrong in my eyes.

Now go away and read them all before we next speak. You will be tested.


Dmetri Kakmi (Episode 158) is a writer and editor based in Melbourne, Australia. The memoir Mother Land was shortlisted for the New South Wales Premier’s Literary Awards in Australia; and is published in England and Turkey. His essays and short stories appear in anthologies and journals. You can find out more about him here.

Episode #332: A Craft Discussion of Stranger Than Fiction, with Vanessa Blakeslee!

Episode 332 of The Drunken Odyssey, your favorite podcast about creative writing and literature is available on iTunes, or right click here to download.

In this week’s episode, I talk with Vanessa Blakeslee about Chuck Palahniuk’s Stranger Than Fiction: True Stories.

Stranger Than FictionDamned by Chuck PalahniukSurvivorChoke

Episode 332 of The Drunken Odyssey, your favorite podcast about creative writing and literature is available on iTunes, or right click here to download.

The Curator of Schlock #241: Batman: Assault on Arkham

The Curator of Schlock #241 by Jeff Shuster

Batman: Assault on Arkham

More like Deadshot: Assault on Arkham

Welcome back to Batman Month here at The Museum of Schlock, a celebration of all things Batman. I’ve got a great idea for a Batman villain. His name is Mr. Murder. His main gimmick is that he murders people: little old grandmothers, schoolchildren, dog whisperers, personal trainers, you name it. And every time he would taunt Batman about how Batman doesn’t kill the bad guys by the Batman code: don’t kill the bad guy no matter how awful he is. And then Batman will cry as Mr. Murder gets sent to jail promising to break free and murder even more people. I’m going to turn it into a graphic narrative and get it adapted into the next big feature from Warner Bros. Ben Affleck will surely sign on.


Tonight’s cartoonI mean animated motion pictureis 2014’s Batman: Assault on Arkham from directors Jay Oliva and Ethan Spaulding. Don’t be expecting too much Batman in this movie. I know it may have Batman in the title, but he’s strictly a side character. This is okay, as there’s some cool stuff in this movie, namely Task Force X, also known as the Suicide Squad. It’s basically a team of incarcerated super villains who the US government employs for dangerous missions in exchange for reduced sentences. Amanda Waller (voiced by CCH Pounder) heads the secret government organization named ARGUS. The movie starts with her sending a black ops team to capture the Riddler at his hideout when Batman (voiced by Kevin Conroy) shows up, beats up the whole team, and rescues the Riddler. Waller gets annoyed and assembles the Suicide Squad.


We’ve got Deadshot (voiced by Neal McDonough), an international assassin, but he’s the father of a little girl that he wants to get back to so he’s not all bad. There’s KGBeast, a Soviet of some sort who kills people, Black Spider, a vigilante who only kills criminals, Killer Frost, a sexy femme fatale who can freeze people to death with her hands, King Shark, a scary anthropomorphic shark man that likes to eat humans and bathe in their blood, Captain Boomerang, some Aussie guy who can throw any object just like a boomerang, and Harley Quinn, the Joker’s ex-girlfriend who’s a bit unbalanced herself.

Amanda Waller wants them to sneak into Arkham Asylum and find some intelligence files the Riddler stole from ARGUS. All members of the Suicide Squad have explosive nanobots embedded in the back of their necks or some such nonsense. In other words, their heads will explode if they try to make a run for it or disobey a direct order. She makes an example of KGBeast when he tries to leave and his head promptly explodes. We like exploding heads here at The Museum of Schlock (Scanners forever!), so this movie gets a passing grade.


Meanwhile, Batman is trying to find the location of a dirty bomb the Joker plans to use on Gotham City which leads him to Arkham Asylum. Still, make no mistake, this is Deadshot’s movie. It’s odd having a villain as a protagonist in a Batman movie, but at least he’s not a violent psychopath like the inmates of Arkham Asylum and you’ll be rooting for him when he goes toe to toe with the Joker at the film’s climax. A solid effort from Warner Bros. animation.

Jeffrey Shuster 1

Photo by Leslie Salas

Jeffrey Shuster (episode 47episode 102episode 124episode 131, and episode 284) is an MFA graduate from the University of Central Florida.

Buzzed Books #69: Home After Dark

Buzzed Books #69 by Joshua Begley

David Small’s Home After Dark

We often forget that growing up is a terrifying process. As adults, looking at children, all we can see is the amazing vistas of possibility. A child has the potential to be anything, and when you’re long past childhood, that plethora of potentiality is alluring, almost intoxicating, and we sometimes wish we could go back to that time, before we became locked into who we are now.

That point of view is part truth and part romantic fantasizing. For many children, the future is a terrifying prospect. It’s the terror of the unknown, the terror of having too many choices. The terror of going against parents, friends, and society to forge a new and different path.

David Small Home After Dark

This terror permeates David Small’s Home After Dark (Liveright, 2018). Set in the 1950s, the graphic novel follows Russel, a thirteen-year-old boy. After his mother runs away with his father’s best friend, Russel and his father travel to California to forge a new life.

At first, the plan is to stay with his Aunt June in Pasadena. For reasons unknown, June refuses to let them stay when they finally arrive. She tells Russel’s father that there are no jobs in Southern California, and he should head north. They end up in a small town called Marshfield and end up renting a room with the Mahs, a Chinese immigrant family who own a restaurant in Little China Harbor.

Things seem to pick up when Russel’s father finds a job teaching English at San Quentin penitentiary (“Teaching Shakespeare to the inmates, huh?”). He gets a G.I. loan and buys a house, and Russel settles in as best he can into this new life. What follows is a tale of increasing quiet desperation as Russel’s father grows more and more bitter with his life and situation, and Russel struggles to discover who he is and what he wants out of life. The compelling and sad truth to this story is neither of them truly discover the answers to those questions.

Again, it all comes back to the future and the potential it holds. Russel’s father thought going west would allow for him to carve out a better future, but he was wrong. Instead of an uplifting Horatio Alger story of pulling himself up by his bootstraps, Russel’s father self-sabotages himself at every turn. The comic never puts us in his head, because it’s all from Russel’s point of view, but there’s a real sense of a man trapped in a world not of his making, but still of his own design. The scars of the past and the coping mechanisms of the present give way to a systematic dismantling of the future, and the greater tragedy here is that Russel might well be on the same path.

Tied into all of this is the question of masculinity. Russel—a frightened boy whose life gets upended time and time again—doesn’t fit the cultural script of 1950s masculinity, and because of that, he’s perpetually bullied and his sexuality questioned. He even experiences a homosexual encounter with the first friend he makes, and immediately shuns the friend afterward. I’d like to tell you that at the end Russel discovers who he is, what he wants, and learns to stand on his own two feet, but this isn’t that type of story. Home After Dark poses questions and doesn’t provide any easy answers, and it’s all the stronger for it. Like Russel, like his father, like his friends, you have to discover your own truth and your own path. No one can do that for you.

Home After Dark Detail

Small employs a loose artistic style to tell this tale—more cartoony than photorealistic. The style works for the story, because it fits the narrative and overall premise. For the most part, the backgrounds aren’t filled in, save for a few specific images to anchor the pages, and the minimalist style for the characters helps Small define them in as few lines as possible. Small also uses a great deal of negative space and plays around with the gutters depending upon the emotional context of the page. It’s a style that, at first blush, looks simple and perhaps a little unsophisticated, but it’s actually nothing of the sort. Every line has purpose in this piece, and it’s one of the aspects that makes this such a compelling work of fiction.

The back cover of this work features a quote from the legendary Jules Feiffer, who compares this work to The Lord of the Flies and Catcher in the Rye. While I can see that, I couldn’t help but think of The Outsiders more than those other two works. The main difference here is that I have no idea if Russel will “stay golden.” I’m not even sure that he was golden in the first place. I’d like to think so. I’d like to think that he goes on and finds himself, but that might just be wishful thinking on my part.

Joshiua Begley

Joshua Begley (Episode 284) teaches Creative Writing at Full Sail University. He has been published in Ghost Parachute, The Cut-Thru Review, and in the anthology Other Orlandos. He also writes reviews for The Fandom Post and Inside Pulse.

Episode 331: A Celebration of Jack Kerouac’s The Dharma Bums!

Episode 331 of The Drunken Odyssey, your favorite podcast about creative writing and literature is available on iTunes, or right click here to download.

In this week’s episode, I host a party in honor of the 60th anniversary of the publication go my favorite Jack Kerouac work, The Dharma Bums.

Dharma Bums John

John King, Ellie Mathews, and Steve Erwin. Photo by Marilyn Erwin.

Dharma Bums Josh Dull

Josh Dull by Steve Erwin.

Dharma Bums Bob Kealing Geoff Benge

Bob Kealing and Geoff Benge by Steve Erwin.

Dharma Bums Jared

Jared Silvia by by Steve Erwin.

Dharma Bums Karen Pricwe

Karen Priceby Steve Erwin.

Dharma Bums Ciera McElroy

Ciera McElroy by Steve Erwin.


Dharma Bums Drew Barth

Drew Barth by Steve Erwin.

Dharma Bums Erik Deckers

Erik Deckers by Steve Erwin.


If you live in Orlando, the city beautiful, considering a local trip to the top of Manhattan: Lin-Manuel Miranda’s In the Heights.


Alina Alcántara as Abuela Claudia in Orlando Shakespeare Theatre’s production of In the Heights. Photo by Tony Firriolo

Episode 331 of The Drunken Odyssey, your favorite podcast about creative writing and literature is available on iTunes, or right click here to download.

The Curator of Schlock #240: Batman: Under the Red Hood


The Curator of Schlock #240 by Jeff Shuster

Batman: Under the Red Hood

They killed Robin! How could they do that?

Batman Day may be September 15th, but it’s Batman Month here at The Museum of Schlock. I will be dressed as my favorite Batman villain, the Sewer King, a kind of evil version of Fagin from Oliver! Consider yourself at home! Consider yourself one of the family! We’ve taken to you so strong! It’s clear we’re going to get along—I’m sorry. I break out into song whenever I think of Oliver! Where was I? Something about Batman?

Under the Red Hood poster

Tonight’s feature is 2010’s Batman: Under the Red Hood from director Brandon Vietti. It’s a cartoon as are the other Batman movies we’re featuring this month so if you were hoping for my input on that Batman Killing Superman movie, you’ll have to check back at another time. And while Batman: Under the Red Hood doesn’t feature Batman killing Superman, it does begin with the Joker (voiced by John DiMaggio) beating Robin to death with a crowbar.


This was inspired by that Death in the Family storyline back in the 80s. I remember that being a thing back in the day. How dare they kill off Robin? Then you find out it wasn’t Dick Grayson they killed off, but Jason Todd and nobody really liked Jason Todd, or so I’ve heard. I didn’t read comics growing up. I was too busy watching good American television like Diff’rent Strokes and Mr. Belvedere.

Ten years pass and Gotham is as much a cesspool as it’s always been. A man known as the Black Mask (voiced by Wade Williams) is running organized crime in Gotham City. He looks like a guy who had a Halloween mask super glued to his face in what I assume was a fraternity prank gone wrong. Black Mask controls the drug trade until another masked man shows up on the scene, the Red Hood (voiced by Jensen Ackles).


He offers the drug peddlers a deal. Work for the Red Hood instead of the Black Mask and give him forty percent. They just can’t sell drugs to schoolchildren. In exchange, he’ll offer them protection from the Black Mask and the Batman.

Batman (voiced by Bruce Greenwood) is teamed up with Nightwing (voiced by Neil Patrick Harris), the first Robin, Dick Grayson, not the second Robin, Jason Todd, who got murdered by the Joker at the start of the movie. I think some of Red Hood’s goons were stealing a killer robot from the Black Mask who was trying to smuggle it out of the country. Batman and Nightwing destroy the robot, start questioning the goons, but the goons get shot and killed by the Red Hood. As the turf war between the Red Hood and Black Mask escalates, Batman keeps investigating the mysterious Red Hood having a few altercations with him along the way. He seems to know a bit about Batman. He even calls him Bruce. Hmmmmmmmmm…

Later in the movie, Black Mask gets so desperate that he breaks the Joker out of Arkham Asylum to take care of the Red Hood for him.


That’s never a good idea, and Black Mask knows this, but what choice does he have? It all comes to a head, but I’m not going to give away the twist ending. Tune in next week—same Bat-time, same Bat-channel!

Jeffrey Shuster 3

Photo by Leslie Salas.

Jeffrey Shuster (episode 47episode 102episode 124episode 131, and episode 284) is an MFA graduate from the University of Central Florida.

Buzzed Books #68: Selected Poems (1950-2012)

Buzzed Books #68 by Freesia McKee

Adrienne Rich’s Selected Poems: 1950-2012

When I was a 19-year-old gender studies major, I took my first poetry class. Writing my first burgeoning poems, I tried to connect my lived experiences to what I was learning about feminism. Mid-semester, I had an individual conference with the professor. He asked me if I had heard of Adrienne Rich. You might like her work.

Nearly a decade later, Rich’s work remains, for me, essential reading. Her poetry has taught me that the new ideas may require new poetic forms; the old forms may no longer accommodate the poet. New poems may also require a new approach to setting, pronoun usage, and levels of abstraction.

Adrienne Rich Selected Poems

Rich’s 62 years of poetry are a tour de force. This month, Norton issued Adrienne Rich, Selected Poems: 1950-2012, selected by Albert Gelpi, Barbara Charlesworth Gelpi, and Brett C. Miller. Reading Selected Poems provides a useful outline of the 25 books of poetry published in Rich’s lifetime.

Rich’s work seeks to map out constellations of memories and forgettings. Many of the poems in this collection deal with the concept of time: personal time, national time, global time, times of gender and sexual identity, racial time, and dream time. She writes, “This place is alive with the dead and with the living/I have never been alone here.”

As a writer committed to questioning her own assumptions, Rich unsurprisingly also discusses the unreliability of memory. In “Eastern War Time (1989-1990),” she writes, “Memory says:       Want to do right? Don’t count on me.” Memory is a well of information and meaning, but relying on it can hurt us by distorting reality.

In the late 50s, Rich began annotating each poem with the year she wrote it, a practice she continued for the rest of her life. These annotations provide the poems with context, and when we understand the details of Rich’s life, the subject matter of abstract poems becomes clearer.

The eldest child of two sisters, Rich grew up in Baltimore, where she was first homeschooled and then attended private schools in the 1930s and 1940s. Her parents encouraged her intellect, but in some ways, she was a token “smart girl,” trained to please and impress her mentors.

After high school, Rich attended Radcliffe (women weren’t allowed to go to Harvard) and won the prestigious Yale Younger Poets Prize in her early 20s. The poetry she wrote and the life she described in this period is carved and molded, reflecting an early 20thcentury architecture. The feminist themes are nascent, and would be until her anger bled through the page in her third book Snapshots of a daughter-in-law.

Rich had three sons in her 20s. Motherhood was a role that politicized her. In the selections from her 1969 book Leaflets, we see Rich’s feminist resolve continue to galvanize. The last lines of “On Edges (1969)” read, “I’d rather/taste blood, yours or mine, flowing/from a sudden slash, than cut all day/with blunt scissors on dotted lines/like the teacher told me.” These sentiments are a far cry from her poems written in the early 50s. For example, take these lines from “At a Bach Concert”: “Form is the ultimate gift that love can offer—/The vital union of necessity.”

Readers of Selected Poemswill notice the ways in which Rich later politicized form. Her poems lengthen and become more experimental as time progresses, much in the way that memory itself stretches and folds into layers. Rich began writing sectioned, numbered poems, some of them skipping numbers or presenting them non-chronologically. Part of this departure from convention is connected to greater acceptance of artistic experimentation over the 20thcentury, but I think Rich also discovered that form is an elastic tool to convey difficult ideas.

Rich’s marriage to Alfred Conrad, a Harvard professor of economics, dissolved in the late 60s. In the early 70s, she came out as a lesbian. This period of Rich’s work marks a shift in course, a move away from imitations of the white male “canon” to a passionate engagement in intertexual feminist conversation. Echoes of Judy Grahn, Audre Lorde, and other feminist geniuses reverberate through Rich’s work.

Like many in the feminist renaissance of the 1970s, Rich reached back, pulling history’s timeline arm-length by arm-length into the present. “Did you think I was talking about my life?/I was trying to drive a tradition up against a wall,” Rich writes in Ghazals (Homage to Ghalib).

Language can be a dangerous terrain, especially for those working at the margins. To be a language worker can mean constantly questioning what we think we know. However, some jobs have physical dangers, and while I think Rich would be the first to point out how many writers have been blacklisted and disappeared even in our own country, she would also point out the privilege of the writer’s safe perch at her desk.

Rich lived a life that in some ways, society didn’t have language for. She was the daughter of a Jewish father and a Protestant mother, a lesbian who was also a mother, a partner in a committed interracial relationship, a woman intellectual. Of her family’s suppression of their Jewish identity, Rich wrote about feeling “split at the root.” As Rich wrote in “XIX” of “Twenty-One Love Poems (1974-1976),” “two women together is work/nothing in civilization has made simple.”

I bring up these examples to highlight how Rich’s poetry measures proximity. Sometimes she uses the currency of memory, sometimes identity. I think that one of Rich’s lifelong critical questions was how someone could besomething, but deny their proximity to it. Even if the denial of identity is done for survival, it is a certain kind of lie. The thinking around this question concerns trauma, safety, and “the truths we are salvaging from/the splitting-open of our lives.”

Rich considered this question from the other side as well, the side of privilege: why do artists supposedly committed to truth telling not involve themselves in real activism? Why do white feminists deny our culpability in white supremacy? How do Americans grapple with the painful truths of nationalistic violence, both here and abroad?

No matter what subject matter she dealt with, Rich committed herself to the heavy lifting required of feminists. Her focus on memory and history didn’t cement her in time. It did the opposite. Rich visioned and revisioned her opinions whenever she learned more. As she wrote in “Sources (1980)”, Rich’s work calls herself and each of us to become “the woman with a mission, not to win prizes/but to change the laws of history.”

McKee head shot

Freesia McKee is author of the chapbook How Distant the City (Headmistress Press, 2017). Her words have appeared in cream city reviewThe Feminist WirePainted Bride QuarterlyGertrudeHuffington Post, and Sundress Press’s anthology Political Punch: Contemporary Poems on the Politics of Identity. Freesia lives in North Miami.

Episode 330: Kurt Vonnegut Roundtable!


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Episode 330 of The Drunken Odyssey, your favorite podcast about creative writing and literature is available on iTunes, or right click here to download.

In this week’s episode, I am joined by Chris Lafave, Erik Deckers, and David James Poissant for a discussion of Kurt Vonnegut.

Vonnegut 2


The Sirens of Titan.jpgSlaughterhouse FiveCats CradleBreakfast of ChampionsA Man Without a Country.jpg


When in Indianapolis, visit the Kurt Vonnegut Museum and Library.

Vonnegut Library

If you are in Orlando, that is, the City Beautiful, this Wednesday, come celebrate the 60th anniversary of The Dharma Bums at the house where Jack wrote it.

Dharma Bums Celebration

Here is our On the Road show from last year.

Episode 330 of The Drunken Odyssey, your favorite podcast about creative writing and literature is available on iTunes, or right click here to download.

The Curator of Schlock #239: The Shallows



The Curator of Schlock #239 by Jeff Shuster

The Shallows

Have shark, will travel.

I’m not a beach person. I don’t like the beach. Do I need to put it another way? Being a red head means that the sun is an enemy. I don’t tan. I turn into a lobster. And then there’s the water. Why do people like to go in the water? It’s salty. That salt stings the eyes. And then we have all of the living things swimming around in there. Ever been stung by a jellyfish? Well I have! Twice! That’s two times too many.


Tonight’s movie is 2016’s The Shallows from director Jaurne Collet-Serra. It stars Blake Lively as a surfer/medical student named Nancy Adams. The movie begins with her hitching a ride with a man named Carlos who knows the location of a secluded beach in Baja California. He drops her off and refuses to accept any money for the ride because it was on the way back to his house. Carlos is just a nice guy, but when Nancy asks him what the beach is named, he refuses to tell her. Nancy’s mother had recently died from cancer, and this beach was an important part of her mother’s youth. Nancy wants to reconnect with her mother by surfing some perfect waves on this beautiful beach.

Blake Lively

She meets a couple of surfer dudes. They seem nice enough, but they also refuse to tell her the name of the beach. It’s at this point that I’m wondering what’s going on. What happened at this beach? Is this where La Llorona drowned her children? The surfer dudes leave and Nancy becomes aware of a presence in the water. It’s a school of dolphins! How fun? She decides to surf back to shore. Nancy notices the floating dead carcass of a humpback whale in the distance. Suddenly, a great white shark knocks her off her surfboard!

La Llorona

I’d take La Lllorona over a great white any day of the week unless, of course, I’m one of La Llorona’s kids. Then I I’m screwed either way. The shark bites Nancy’s leg. She manages to wriggle free and swim her way over to the rotting carcass of the humpback whale. The great white charges the dead whale at ramming speed, knocking poor Nancy back into the water. She manages to swim over to a large rock poking through the surface, scraping her foot on some stinging coral along the way. Nancy isn’t have a good day.


She makes friends with a wounded seagull, which she names Steven. She manages to suture up the horrible gash in her leg with her earrings or some hooks. I don’t remember. The scene made me queasy. Later, Nancy notices a drunken man asleep on the shore. She yells at him, waking him up. She asks him to grab her cell phone and call for help. He rummages through her bag, pocketing her cell phone for himself. He then sees her fancy surfboard out in the water, another item for the pawnshop. The great white chomps him in half. I could go on, but I think I’ve explained enough of the dire stakes to y’all. Hey, Nancy named the seagull, Steven. Steven Seagull! Do you get it? Ha! Thus ends Sharks & Stalkers Month here at The Museum of Schlock.

Jeffrey Shuster 1

Photo by Leslie Salas

Jeffrey Shuster (episode 47episode 102episode 124episode 131, and episode 284) is an MFA graduate from the University of Central Florida.