Friday, March 15, 2013


It is my great honor to host my friend Jon-Michael Frank's answers to The Next Big Thing. Jon-Michael, take it away!

The Next Big Thing

It’s been a great honor to be tagged by Chris Tonelli for the Next Big Thing. So as he says, “a greeting / is a consolation; / each introduction, / a loss,” here we go!

What is the working title of the book?

The Wheelbarrow Oms.

Where did the idea come from for the book?

The book was initially conceived to be some sort of metaphysical detective story where two characters were trying to find each other not knowing that they were, in fact, the same character. A headache, I know. Happy that I didn’t have to write that book, I wrote a book about sadness instead. What I ended up with was an ontological detective story about my life, and myself, with the occasional tree and/or bird.

What genre does your book fall under?


What actors would you choose to play the part of your characters in a movie rendition?

Ever seen that movie Harvey? I’d want the actor that played Harvey to play all of my characters, except myself, who I could see being played by Wilson, that volleyball that quelled Tom Hanks’ loneliness in Cast Away. If Harvey is unavailable to play the characters, then any pookah will do, for the characters are, in a lot of ways, already pookahs themselves; characters such as Time, Life, Her (the lover of the book), Thom Williams (a death in the book), The Idiot (the genius of the book). And if Wilson won’t do for me, then maybe Yorick’s skull Hamlet holds when he’s thinking about the great beyond.

What is the one sentence synopsis of your book?

It’s the attempt to evince narrative from an illiterate heart.

How long did it take you to write the first draft of the manuscript?

It took, in some ways, a year, in some ways, twenty-eight.

Who or what inspired you to write this book?

The death of the great Thom Williams, who took many idle years of my life when he introduced me to Masaoka Shiki’s inexorable haiku, “the body of a dog / thrown away / in the winter river.” Then there were these summer nights when I would drive along the docks of the Delaware River after getting off of work at “The Penthouse Club” listening to “Pain In My Heart” by Otis Redding and think about how to write a poem that I truly belonged in. And finally, moving to Austin, TX and reading about the concept of negative space and feeling homesick afterwards.

What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?

There’s a character called “We” in it, that character is you. And there’s a brief appearance of an avocado.

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?

TBD. Currently looking for a publisher.

My tagged writers are:

Dan Boehl

Gentris L. Jointe

Karina van Berkum

Tuesday, March 5, 2013


Alexis Orgera, amazing poet and blogger and teacher and all-around great person, tagged me to participate in The Next Big Thing interview. Thanks Alexis!

What is the working title of the book?

I have a chapbook titled CITY OF TOMORROW being published by Greying Ghost Press sometime in the coming year. I have a full-length I’m calling ITHACAS that I’m submitting to contests and open reading periods currently.

Where did the idea come from for the book?

CITY OF TOMORROW: My grandfather, urban planning, and Oklahoma City. Like so many other cities, Oklahoma City got swept up in the 60s and 70s by the Urban Renewal craze and even went so far as to hire I.M. Pei to draw up a master plan for redeveloping downtown.. At that point downtown OKC had many great old buildings and true density.

Downtown OKC in the 1960s.

But the pull of the suburbs had begun and downtown had lost its luster. The City used imminent domain to seize property from owners and in the mid-70s went on a demolition spree in order to prepare the city for the “City of Tomorrow” that would be built in the old one’s place. Hundreds and hundreds of buildings were razed, but it could have been worse: the areas in red below were originally slated to be demolished.

Sadly the city’s economy went to hell in the early 1980s in the wake of the oil bust and the FDIC bank crisis, which began with the collapse of OKC’s Penn Square Bank, and so I.M. Pei’s vision for the City of Tomorrow never became a reality.

During this time, amazingly, given how conservative the city is, Baptist Medical Center in OKC was quietly performing gender reassignment surgeries at its Gender Identity Foundation. My grandfather was one of the doctors who performed these surgeries. Eventually, the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma learned what was going on and, after a three-month investigation, voted 54-2 to ban the surgical procedure at the hospital.

I started doing some research about my grandfather around the time my second son was born and realized that the controversial vote to shut down the Gender Identity Foundation occurred two days before the demolition of the Biltmore Hotel, an iconic 26-story skyscraper. At the time it was the tallest steel-reinforced building ever to be demolished by explosive charges.

Biltmore Hotel Demolition.
Photo by Paul B. Southerland, from Daily Oklahoman archive.

 Gus woke up a lot during the night and I spent a lot of time rocking him back to sleep. It was during this time that I got the idea to write a novel about a character undergoing a gender transition at the same time that the city was undergoing a transition of its own and the hospital was deciding the fate of the Gender Identity Foundation. I never wrote the novel but I did write a long poem.

ITHACAS: Traveling to look for something, not finding it there, coming home to find that home has changed, embarking on a journey of introspection. The idea for the title came from Cavafy’s poem of the same name.

What genre does your book fall under?


What actors would you choose to play the part of your characters in a movie rendition?

CITY OF TOMORROW: David Bowie in 1977 would be the lead character. The doctor figure would be David Bowie in 2013. And the jazz musician would be Danny Glover.

ITHACAS: I would make my acting debut.

What is the one sentence synopsis of your book?

Instead of a synopsis, I’ll quote a representative line from the books.

CITY OF TOMORROW: “death and rebirth are constantly fighting /on some cosmic plain that half-resembles that barren field.”

ITHACAS: “Always becoming / nothing.”

How long did it take you to write the first draft of the manuscript?

CITY OF TOMORROW: I wrote and revised it in January 2013 but had been thinking about it for two years.

ITHACAS: I wrote the poems between 2006-2012 but spent the last half of 2012 revising, editing, working on arrangement, etc.

Who or what inspired you to write this book?

CITY OF TOMORROW: See long-winded answer above.

ITHACAS: Louise Gluck, Alain de Botton, Facebook, and walking to work sometimes.

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?

Greying Ghost Press is publishing CITY OF TOMORROW. Who knows about ITHACAS.

To keep this chain interview going, I tag the following excellent writers:

Hollister Hovey

Amanda O’Connor

Jarrod Annis

Matt Miller

Mary Graham Walker

Friday, March 1, 2013

Some Updates

Some updates. Some of these updates are long overdue, some are recent. Updates.

Some poems appeared in various places in the past year or so.

Thanks to Amanda O'Connor for publishing Autocollaboration w/ Personal Digital Assistant in Love Among the Ruins.

Thanks to Rob McDonald and Roberto Montes for publishing Tuscany and Spoleto in Sixth Finch. Thanks again to Rob and Roberto for nominating Tuscany for a Pushcart Prize.

Thanks to Scott Gregory for publishing Cargo and Commute in This Land Press.

Thanks to Kathleen Rooney and Elisa Gabbert for choosing to discuss Buenos Aires on HTML Giant's awesome Friends Read Friends' Poems series.

Some poems are forthcoming.

Thanks to Gale Marie Thompson for selecting my poem Siena to appear in the forthcoming Jellyfish Magazine.

Thanks to Carl Annarummo and Greying Ghost Press for choosing to publish my new chapbook City of Tomorrow sometime in the coming year.

Thanks to Alexis Orgera for tagging me to participate in the Next Big Thing interview. I'll be posting my answers to this blog either this weekend or early next week.