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Author: Param Anand Singh

First We Take Brian Williams

Here’s what Brian Williams said when he cut in on The Rachel Maddow Show to break the news of Thursday night’s missile strike against a Syrian air base: “I am tempted to quote the great Leonard Cohen. ‘I am guided by the beauty of our weapons.’ And they are beautiful pictures of, of fearsome armaments.” The quote is from “First We Take Manhattan.” While the Leonard Cohen fans I know preferred a verse from “The Story of Isaac” (You who build the altars now to sacrifice these children, you must not do it anymore. A scheme is not a...

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Secret Famous Haiku Desk Part II: The Aftermath

As briefly as I am able: My sister’s boyfriend bought a desk used from a Four Seasons in Washington, D.C. As it turns out, Michael Stipe, Grant-Lee Phillips, Jim McKay, and Tom Gilroy had tagged the underside of the drawer with original haiku in 1995. That event kicked off a yearlong haiku project that spawned a website, a book, and many spin-off projects. I wrote about investigating the origins of the desk drawer with my sister—a police detective—and put out a call to get in touch with the authors in a post here on Real Pants in May 2016....

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It’s Weird to Try to Champion Poetry While Also Arguing That Songs Aren’t Literature

IF SONGS AREN’T LITERATURE—AND THEREFORE AREN’T POETRY—THEN WHAT EVEN IS POETRY? WHY ARE POETS OUT ON SOCIAL MEDIA TRYING TO LIMIT POETRY AS A MEDIUM? WHY WOULD POETS SEVER THEIR CONNECTION TO PRE-LITERATE AND NON-LITERATE TRADITIONS? WHEN DID THE BOOK BECOME CENTRAL TO THE DEFINITION OF LITERATURE, AND WHY ARE WE COMPLICIT? These questions are published here in all capitals because I don’t want answers. (By the way, lots of times people who have made war have won the Nobel Peace Prize—so Bob Dylan grabbing the literature one is by comparison not so offensive—even if you find it scandalous...

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Shannon Burns on “Blue Thing Feeling”

In this week’s Revisionings, the poet Shannon Burns shows the benefit of occasionally abandoning a poem’s candleness for the sake of a more universal thingness in the case of her poem “Blue Thing Feeling” from the recent and great Oosh Boosh (out now on 421 Atlanta). Here’s Burns:   .          .          .          .          . “Blue Thing Feeling” started out as a poem about blue candles called “Blue Candle Feeling.” I wrote it about an experience of being in the Yankee Candle Store in the...

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Michael, Jim, Tom, Grant: We Have Found Your Desk Drawer!

“In addition to the actual haiku, the entire missive itself carried important details: the matchbook the poem was written on, or the smell of the torn hotel stationery, or the coffee stain, or the postmark, even the choice of stamps. It was all part of the thrill.” —Tom Gilroy, The Haiku Year Haiku really happen. They observe moments and their objects. They become objects themselves, and generate new moments. Haiku happen when they are written. And they happen again when they are read. soon to die, yet no sign of it: a cicada’s cry —Basho I wouldn’t say it’s...

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Jensen Beach on “The Apartment”

In this Revisionings, Jensen Beach shows us how he used an editor’s note to transform a serviceable sentence into one that convey a complex of character motivations in his short story “The Apartment.” (You can read the published version for free at The New Yorker‘s website!)   .          .          .          .          . I started writing “The Apartment” in 2012. It’s part of my new book, Swallowed by the Cold.  Anna Stein, my agent, and I worked on the stories for a couple years before...

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Kyle Dargan on “Olympic Drive”

In this week’s Revisionings, Kyle Dargan shares the evolution of his poem “Olympic Drive” (published in February’s Poetry and available in-full online!) which—devastatingly—asks the reader to “imagine” reality as a dystopian sci-fi film pitch.  .          .          .          .          . This poem started out as a tweet—maybe the first four or so lines—after I’d been walking around Beverly Hills and the Miracle Mile region of Los Angeles. Someone responded to ask what it was excerpted from, and I said “nothing,” but I took that...

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Ripoffs & Revivals — Choosing a Book Font in the Cybernated Age, Part 1

Type has been around for a long time. When the first “modern” typeface was cut, Beethoven could hear (and the Words in this Parentheſis might have been ſet like ſo). As it happens, there are lots of great book fonts that precede digital typesetting. Bembo, Garamond, Caslon, Baskerville, Bodoni, and Electra are a few. And their digital revivals are still in common use—to mixed results. The problem is that typesetting ain’t what it used to be. In the days of physical type, each glyph was cut special for each point size. Forms were fudged accordingly—for the sake of legibility and...

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Ashley Farmer on “The Farmacist”

In this week’s Revisionings, Ashley Farmer shows us the small choices on which hung large aesthetic consequences in the editing of her novella, The Farmacist, available from Jellyfish Highway Press. .          .          .          .          . Drafting the pieces that comprise this book was like playing a game: many starts ended in failure, I got better with practice, and sometimes I just got lucky. Though it’s a short book comprised of short prose sections, the revision process took considerable time. What I thought about...

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Cheryl Quimba on “Scattered Trees Grow in Some Tundra”

This week, Cheryl Quimba offers us a view of the process behind “Scattered Trees Grow in Some Tundra,” the title poem of a chapbook currently available from Sunnyoutside Press.   .          .          .          .          . I first wrote the poem that came to be called “Scattered Trees Grow in Some Tundra” in 2009 as part of my MFA thesis. I had it in my head that I wanted to write a long poem. I was a big admirer of George Oppen, and I particularly...

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Monica McClure on “Tender Data”

The poems in Monica McClure’s first full-length book, Tender Data (Birds LLC, 2015), speak in a polytonal voice that constantly transmutes confessions into boasts and vulnerability into power. In this Revisionings, the author offers a glimpse of her holistic approach to the editing process:   .          .          .          .          . First of all, I must cast my credibility into doubt by saying that I have no memory of revising Tender Data, at least not in terms of line edits, creative breakthroughs, timelines, or agonizing,...

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Anne Boyer on “Garments Against Women”

Anne Boyer’s Garments Against Women (Ahsahta Press, 2015) is filled with prose as lyrical as it is engaged. And it topped SPD’s bestseller list for three separate months accordingly. In this week’s Revisionings, Boyer reveals a deleted passage from the book and considers the task of revising a manuscript of uncertain genre.   .          .          .          .          . Garments Against Women is a book about what isn’t, so most of what I have to say about revising it has to do with what could...

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Kenneth Patchen the ‘Blathering’ ‘Creep’ vs. Allen Ginsberg the ‘Irresponsible Mountebank’

This makes me one of the dumb-dumbs who Allen Ginsberg seems to have been so annoyed with: When I finally read Kenneth Patchen’s poetry and heard his jazz recordings a few years ago, I saw it all as an anticipation of Ginsberg et al., more proximate than Walt Whitman or William Blake. “Let us have madness openly, O men Of my generation. Let us follow The footsteps of this slaughtered age: See it trail across Time’s dim land Into the closed house of eternity With the noise that dying has, With the face that dead things wear— not ever...

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Timmy Reed on “School Spirit Was/Is for Suckers”

Watch Baltimore’s Timmy Reed turn a short story into a chapter of a novel by changing basically one thing. The explanation is followed by the full text of both versions. Here’s Timmy:   .          .          .          .          . “School Spirit Was for Suckers” is the third chapter, written in past tense, of my new short novel, The Ghosts That Surrounded Them, the rest of which is also in past tense and out now from Dig That Book, Co. But the chapter started out as a stand-alone story in the present tense, published at Everyday Genius and republished in the Wigleaf Top 50 (Very) Short Fictions of 2014. There were no other real revisions to the chapter, even when I was writing it as a short story and had no idea it would become the third chapter of a novel—or the second chapter either, which it almost was. The thing just kind of plopped out whole, full of ghosts and children and stroking and a knight in shining, hollow armor. But then I decided to change the tense. Why’d I do that? This is not a simple question to answer at all. There are many reasons: some interrelated, others apparently random, some easy for me to articulate, others not so much. For one thing, the...

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Amelia Gray on “Labyrinth”

This week in Revisionings, Amelia Gray takes us through the editing process behind her story “Labyrinth,” which was published in The New Yorker in February (and which can be read in its entirety here). Gray also gave us permission to post the images of one page from her marked-up draft.   .          .          .          .          . John McElwee and I edited the piece over the course of one week, exchanging about 60 emails back and forth with full drafts, small line changes, and fact...

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I Went to AWP and You Won’t Believe What Happened Next

I’ve got to publish this now before it gets old. At the AWP conference, everything is pregnant—if not pregnant, then immediately postpartum—timely, anyway. The typical slowness of writing and publishing vanishes into a state of emergency. And now I’m beginning to feel the stale adrenaline. So here we go. Quick! I felt very, very behind the eight ball getting ready for AWP. I didn’t tweet or post responsibly to let anyone know I would be there. I was editing, printing, cutting, stapling right until the very last moment—talking homeschooling with a stranger at Staples’ Self-Service Copy Center with my...

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Revision as Katha: Five Translations of Sikhism’s Mūl Mantr

 Mūl Mantr (“root mantra”) is a short composition by Guru Nanak (1469-1539), the first Sikh Guru. It opens Sri Guru Granth Sahib, the Sikh scripture (and 11th and eternal Guru). It’s a telegraphic list of adjectives and nouns followed by a couplet,* and it is very hard to translate. Beyond the twin risks of gross inaccuracy and unintelligibility, there is a deeper issue. Ambiguity is a feature, not a liability, of Mūl Mantr. A common way for Sikhs to engage with the poetry of their Gurus is to listen to expansive discourses on it, called katha. Katha of Mūl Mantr...

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Madeline ffitch on “The Private Fight”

I’m very happy that Madeline ffitch agreed to expose the process behind a piece of fiction in her new book Valparaiso, Round the Horn (out now from Publishing Genius) for the benefit—and to the great joy—of all. Her fiction is loaded with je ne sais quoi—dense and knotty but also generous—durable—delighting in the abundance of ideas as much as the little strangenesses of human communication. Or that’s what I see there, anyway. Here’s the point, here’s Madeline:   .          .          .          .          .   Excerpt...

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Lola B. Pierson’s “Office Ladies”

This is our first Revisionings to look at a piece of drama! Lola B. Pierson is a crucial member Baltimore’s grassroots theater scene, both as a writer-director and as the founder of Baltimore’s insanely popular Ten Minute Play Festival. Here’s Lola:  .          .          .          .          . These are two drafts from Office Ladies, which is a show I wrote and directed several years ago. It feels slightly embarrassing to present the second draft as the finished draft, but I’ll just call it the...

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I Make a Big Deal of It, “It” Being the Poem

A recent back-and-forth (conducted here) on sense and nonsense and charlatanry in poetry got me thinking about one of my favorite poems. I only heard it once 10 years ago, and I’ve never seen it printed, so I’m doing my best here, and also the lineations are mine: Birds pick at the stones in the driveway— I make a big deal of it. It was recited by a professor at Purchase College. I was taking Creative Writing for Non-Majors, and we were reading a Robert Creeley poem or something, and the professor was saying something about how sexy Creeley...

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