Go Forth (Vol. 28)

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Go Forth is a series curated by Nicolle Elizabeth and Brandon Hobson that offers a look into the publishing industry and contemporary small-press literature. See more of the series.

There are many literary journals and publishing houses in the indie realm. This year’s Pushcart Prize had eight-thousand nominations from journals, which means that if each journal sends four nominations, that’s at least two-thousand journals that participate. And considering not every journal participates in the competition, that’s a lot of journals. Rescue Press is one of them.

We do these interviews because sometimes readers say, “I keep reading the same people and the same journals” and while we are very pro reading what one just plain likes, we are also very pro the outside guy. Also, I think it’s really important that people who want to participate can read and say, “Well that’s how that guy did it and maybe even so can I.” Believe in yourselves, and add positively to the craft of writing, ok?

Love, Nicolle Elizabeth

NICOLLE ELIZABETH: Hi Danny. What is Rescue Press?

DANIEL KHALASTSCHI: Hi Nicole! Rescue Press is an independent publisher of fiction, nonfiction, poetry, and hybrid texts. As our mission states, we are “a library of chaotic and investigative work,” and we aim to publish books that transform us. Together with my co-editor, the talented poet and essayist Caryl Pagel, we have spent the last five years seeking out manuscripts that haunt our brains completely. The collections, novellas, anthologies, experiments, and genre-bending projects we share with the world are not only books we emphatically believe in, but they are also books we feel showcase the wild possibilities of contemporary literature. With that, it’s important to note that both Caryl and I are writers and readers first. Even if I didn’t co-own/manage Rescue Press, I’d still want these beautiful books on my shelf. Is that a nerdy thing to say?

NE: Define haunt.

DK: Gladly. When I say we seek out manuscripts that “haunt” us I mean we look for books that refuse to leave us alone. In other words, Rescue Press produces books the reader can’t shake; the authors we work with shock, surprise, confuse, bewilder, entertain, and recalibrate us in astonishing ways, and that’s exactly what good literature should do. I mean, doesn’t that sound like a lovely kind of haunting? Who wouldn’t want ghosts like that in their lives?

NE: And what is Rescue Press’ manuscript acquisition process? i.e., do you seek out authors?

DK: That’s a great question. Though we continue to solicit work from writers we admire, we also publish manuscripts that come to us through our Open Prose reading period and our annual Black Box Poetry Prize. The Open Prose Series is edited by the phenomenal writers Zach Savich and Hilary Plum, and our goal is to support the wider discussion of contemporary literary prose. Submissions are open each year during the month of January, and the first book in the series (Anne Germanacos’s Tribute) was just released May 1st. The Black Box Poetry Prize is entering its fourth year, and writers can submit full-length poetry collections to the contest during the month of June (there’s no singular aesthetic here—we’re interested in all forms, styles, and voices). Past winners of the contest include Blueberry Morningsnow (Whale in the Woods), Todd Melicker (Rendezvous), and Bridgette Bates (whose debut collection will be released next fall). Oh, and I should mention that we are very excited to announce that this year’s Black Box Prize will be judged by Maggie Nelson. More information can be found here.

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"A reason to write again."

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Ben Hubbird Talks to Bry Webb

When Constantines emerged from Toronto in the mid-aughts, it signaled, in some small way, the return of brains and poetry to a testosterone-fuled heavy rock landscape. They came at precisely the right moment for a generation raised on pop-punk and hardcore, and Constantines found considerable success touring alongside similarly literate acts like the Weakerthans (both groups also shared a love of women’s curling, naming an album and a song after the sport’s championship, respectively). Constantines’ heaviness was belied by stylistic debts to artists like Bruce Springsteen, Leonard Cohen, and Tom Waits—due in part to the band’s frontman, Bry Webb. Webb’s vocals were smoky and blue collar and his lyrics often darkly sexy, strewn with cryptic references to political upheavel and new-agey ideologies. Live performances were intense, sweaty, and loud.

After a three-year musical hiatus, Webb returned sans band with a haunting and intensely personal 2011 solo album, Provider, that was reminiscent of releases from Bill Callahan and Nick Drake. Then last month—in the midst of a Constantines reunion—he released Free Will, a slightly more pop-savvy collection that’s full of gentle, meditative passages and occasional shards of biting humor. Both releases are compelling in large part for Webb’s patient, spellbinding vocal delivery.Ben Hubbird spoke to Webb just before Constantines’ first show in four years.

—Casey Jarman

I. COMING INTO THE WORLD

THE BELIEVER: So originally, with Constantines, you had this very congenial break-up. Did you feel like you had completed the thing that you set out to do?

BRY WEBB: I just think at the time it didn’t feel like we were getting any better at what we were doing—which is real harsh to say—but it just felt like we were spinning our wheels a little bit. There were a bunch of other things that I wanted to prioritize, and I think that was true for all of us. We’d been doing it for eleven years and we just started to feel like maybe there was more to life than the Constantines. When we stopped, we just sort of said, “you know, its an indefinite hiatus,” whatever that means. It was just our way of hopefully not looking like dorks when we decided we wanted to do it again. So I think we wanted to keep that possibility open, and here we are.

I don’t know if it was just feeling like “our work here is done.” It wasn’t really that definitive. It felt more like the moment you decide you need to move out of your family house, you know, your parents’ house. It was time for the next stage in my life, and for everyone that was true. And then everyone has done such amazing things since, in the four years, that it turns out it was the right idea, you know?

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“We need a fantasy in order to live in reality.”

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A Conversation with Shane Jones

I first came to Shane Jones’s work after having seen some of his writing online. For someone so interested in the lifestyles of other writers—someone who, as I discovered, discovered that Zadie Smith eats a prawn cocktail wrap for lunch—I was especially surprised to find how lucid and otherworldly his fiction can be. His novels, all of which are playful, enchant and disarm and make room for something very strange to happen under the surface. His latest book, Crystal Eaters, a meditation on death, and the illness and loss of parents, among other things, gave me the impression—as its page numbers counted down instead of up—that the book itself didn’t want to die.

I was going to speak with Shane Jones when he came to New York City to read from Crystal Eaters, but because we scheduled to meet at 8:30 in the morning, we didn’t meet, because it was 8:30 in the morning. We spoke over Gchat, and what follows is an unedited transcript.

—Hayden Bennett

I. RILKE AND DEATH VS. DOGS AND HEAVEN

THE BELIEVER: So let’s start with Rilke and death. Crystal Eaters made me think of this part of his novel: 

When I think back to my home, when there is no one left now, it always seems to me that things must have been different back then. Then, you know (or perhaps you sensed it) that you had your death inside you as a fruit has its core. The children had a small one in them and the grownups a large one. The women had it in their womb and the men in their chest. You had it, and that gave you a strange dignity and quiet pride.

SHANE JONES: Whoa, I’ve never read that before but it’s great and really hits a lot of points in Crystal Eaters. Could definitely use that as an opening to the book. I think we’re all carrying death inside us, it’s coming, it’s always looming. I’ve never been death obsessed before, but now that I’m older (34) and a father, I can’t quite shake the feeling. I both want to die and don’t want to die. Death is terrifying and beautiful, a final thing we can all do together.

BLVR: Well it’s interesting that the kid in the book was death-obsessed, not the parents. Or at least the dad, who won’t acknowledge it.

Rilke talks about dogs, too, and how they’re excited by the smell of death. And in Crystal Eaters Hundred (the dog) is a constant reminder of the system. I’ve always thought dogs—or pets—are kind of the first sense you get of death, and then your parents.

SJ: I always had pets growing up and we always had a family dog. Which also meant, being the oldest in the family, is that I saw every family dog die. One of the hardest was when I was 13 or 14 and after a long series of health failings our dog, Cocco, died and my mom, in a total emotional mess, asked me to carrying the dead dog to her bedroom. She didn’t want the Cocco lying there dead next to the vacuum cleaner, the vacuum cleaner acting as a kind of pillow. I remember that was the first time I really felt a dead body, and how odd and stiff and cold it was. I remember carrying Cocco’s dead body up the stairs. Also, being the oldest in my family, I was up first to get ready for school and found many dead cats who passed in the night. This is some bleak shit. I can still feel the weight from Cocco’s body in my arms.

BLVR: My dogs just disappeared. Someone always took them to get put to sleep without my knowing. I mean, I knew they were gone, but seeing the corpse is a completely different thing. I had the advantage of thinking they might show up again at some point. Which is kind of how you usually tell a kid about the death of a pet: “Henry went to Cambodia,” or something.

SJ: Adults trying to protect children from reality, right? And adults always trying to fill children with fantasy – the tooth fairy, Santa, make-believe games, etc. But kids are really smart, I think they know from an early age about death, this void and hole they are immediately traveling toward. Remy, in Crystal Eaters, tries to reverse death, which seems like a very noble, but childlike thing to do. Do you think there’s a dog heaven? All our dogs are waiting for us up there.

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