Inhuman Swill : Poetry

The Acolyte by Nancy Hightower
On Friday, January 29, I'm very excited to be reading with the amazing writer, poet, and critic Nancy Hightower at Bluestockings on Manhattan's Lower East Side.

Admission is free! Please come out and join us, bring your friends, buy some books, get them signed, and tag along with us afterward for libations nearby! All the details are below.


REBEL PILGRIMAGES
A Reading with William Shunn & Nancy Hightower

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Grand motherfucker

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My apologies if you've already seen this. Months ago—way back in March, as a matter of fact—I conceived of a poem that would incorporate hiphop-style rhymes with science fiction storytelling and would be called (as I knew even then) "Grand Motherfucker." I would write the poem sometime over the spring or summer, then perform it at the September 4th science fiction edition of Tuesday Funk.

I made a few notes, but somehow I managed to not start working on the poem in earnest until late in the morning of, er, September 4th. I worked furiously for the next few hours, finally suturing up the last rhymes at around 5:30 pm. The show began at 7:30.

Better late than never! Here's how the poem went over last Tuesday night. Or perhaps how it went down. I hope you like it.

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Some poems

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Some poems come all in a burst,
Flaring in the brain nearly complete,
Nearly perfect.

Should the mind mistrust them,
These gifts, seek the flaw,
probe for holes?

Twist the knife in their bellies
Until they holler uncle,
Change their tune?

Or are they sparrows, breathing
Mysteries that can only fly again
If left untouched?

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We had a wonderful, marvelous edition of Tuesday Funk last night. There were five strong readers who engaged and captivated the audience with their words, and there was the regular Poem by Bill feature. I read "Four Road Trips" to kick off the second half of the show, and it went over well enough that I was really excited to put the video online. Unfortunately, Houston, we had a problem.

The way I record these shows is pretty basic, and usually works really well. I mount my iPhone on a little tripod, set the tripod on top of the amp, and point the lens at the microphone. I let the phone record straight through each half of the show, only touching it to adjust for the height of each new reader. Later that night or the next morning, I take the two long video files and chop them up into individual readings.

Well, last night when I downloaded the video files from my phone and opened them up for editing. The first file was fine, but the second...

The second file starts with me stepping to the microphone to introduce the second half of the show and read my poem, all while speaking in a woman's voice. Wait, a woman's voice? Yes, to be specific, in the voice of Lauryn Allison Lewis, the reader who followed me at the mike. Somehow the video file became corrupted and shifted the soundtrack forward by nine minutes and forty-four seconds. The audio of my reading was completely lost. The final 9:44 of the video, during Margie Skelly's reading, is silent.

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When worlds collide

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tf-postcard-2011-06.jpg
Since 2006, I've spent a week almost every summer at a workshop for novel writers—either Blue Heaven or a spinoff based on its organizing principles. And since fall of last year, I have co-produced and co-hosted a monthly reading series called Tuesday Funk at a Belgian beer bar on the north side of Chicago.

I'm pleased to announce that these two worlds will soon collide! I'm spending the next week at the Wellspring Workshop in Lake Geneva, WI, organized by Brad Beaulieu, but for one night only the group of us will be roadtripping back to Chicago to invade Tuesday Funk for a "Science Fiction Sextuple Feature."

This special edition of Tuesday Funk convenes Tuesday, June 21, 2011, 7:30 pm, in the upstairs lounge at Hopleaf, 5148 N. Clark St., Chicago. Arrive early, stake out a table in the upper room, and grab a beer from John at the cash-only bar. We start seating at 7:00 pm and no earlier. Admission is free, but you must be 21 or older.

Our readers will include Brenda Cooper, Sarah K. Castle, Holly McDowell, Gregory A. Wilson, Vincent Jorgensen, and Kelly Swails, not to mention, as usual, a Poem By Bill. We hope to see you there!

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The heavy lifting

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A poem that made me smile most broadly today is "Moving Day" by Ron Koertge. Read it—it won't take you very long.

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I finally made it back home yesterday to my lovely wife and fuzzy dog after eight days away at the Blue Heaven workshop. I'm delighted to be home but nostalgic for the workshop. It was an extraordinarily helpful, intense, and fun week, maybe even moreso than last year. I don't want to be a namedropper, so I'm not going list all the terrific skiffy writers who attended. Suffice it to say that the week was professionally and personally rewarding, filled with learning, insight, humor, collegiality, friendship, food, beer, free Stormclouds, animal heads, turkey vultures, TNT explosions, Totally Outrageous Behavior, quips that can never be repeated without someone choking almost to death, and Old Gregg. My novel Silvertide was critiqued by two sharp readers who restored my confidence in it, and I hope I served as useful a function to the three embarrassingly talented scribes whose novels I critiqued in full (or nearly so).

Too many good times to recount them all, or even to pick a handful. I leave you with my entry in the Blue Heaven 2007 Raunchy Limerick Challenge, posed by a fellow workshopper who shall remain nameless, for reasons that will remain unstated. The challenge was to compose a limerick employing the words pump, rump, and Cockney.

Down at the Village Pump

A barmaid of bonny sweet rump
Set empty beers down with a thump.
    "Don' just sit and watch me,"
    Said this comely Cockney.
"You want some, get back 'ere and pump."

It's good to be home.

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The truth about monsters

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A wonderful poem about monsters by Patrick O'Leary.

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William Shunn

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