Tyler Gobble on Austin, Texas
This week’s Scene Report comes from Tyler Gobble, editor-in-chief of NOO Journal, chapbook editor of Magic Helicopter Press, host of the Austin based reading series, Everything Is Bigger, and current poetry fellow in the Michener Center for Writers. After looking into all of these amazing things I’ve decided to hitch up my Tiny House and find a nice place to park in Austin for a bit.
. . . . .
Love and literary living zipped me down to Austin, Texas, from my beloved central Indiana eighteen months ago. In that short blast, I’ve been lucky enough to be engulfed (and blown away by) the amazing literary scene that’s blossoming in my new town. In honor of that, here’s my eighteen biggest wows (in some weird swirl of chronological order / yes yes I know it’s VERY poetry heavy) for the Austin lit scene.
- On the day I rolled into Austin, a reading series called Fun Party (what a name!) was hosting a Birds, LLC bash featuring Sampson Starkweather, Dan Magers, and Ana Božičević. Since then, Fun Party has presented our community with some of my favorite poets including Danniel Schoonebeek, Roger Reeves, Sommer Browning, and Jericho Brown, among many others.
- My first job in Austin was cataloging books for the now-year-old Malvern Books. Joe Bratcher, owner, and Becky Garcia, store manager, have provided THE place to snag independent press fiction and poetry books. Be sure to check out this warm space.
- The first literary event I popped my Gob skull into was the weekly (Tuesdays!) slam poetry open mic at the Spiderhouse Ballroom. Guided by Sam Sax, one of the best poetry spirits I’ve ever met, I’ve gained a new appreciation for the slam community, especially the supportive, diverse one here.
- Sam also brought his New Sh!t Show reading series to Austin. This series, time and again, brings together the various poetry communities that a vibrant town like Austin conjures—slam, small press, academic, etc. Two featured readers and an all-inclusive open mic, these events are always inspiring and beautiful beasts.
- The University of Texas has that weird distinction of having two MFA programs, The New Writers Project and the Michener Center for Writers. Sharing classes and faculty, these programs shine, together and separately, with their incredible students—Sax, Kelly Luce, Layne Ransom, Vincent Scarpa, Taisia Kitaiskaia, Taylor Jacob Pate, and Blake Lee Pate, a few of the many wonderful folks in the programs in the short while I’ve been around.
- Blake Lee and Taylor Jacob Pate have revealed themselves to be important literary citizens in town. Together, they provide awesome, regular reading with their online lit magazine and chapbook press, Smoking Glue Gun. Also, big thanks for making the summer less sweltering with their cool house reading series, SUNCHILD, which hosted amazing visiting folks like Graham Foust, Rosa Alcala, Ji Yoon Lee, and Darren C. Demaree, alongside top local folks.
- Fernando Flores is one of my favorite writers around these parts, his book of stories, Death to the Bullshit Artists of South Texas, Vol. 1, being one of my favorite collections last year. Oh, and swing by Malvern Books and ask Fernando for one of his stellar recommendations.
- The first bookstore I ever visited in Austin was Book Woman. For nearly 20 years now, it has been doing the good work as Austin’s feminist bookstore, run by passionate, well-respected folks.
- Every year at the end of October, authors from all over the world mosey to downtown Austin for the massive Texas Book Festival. My favorite part of the Book Fest is the Lit Crawl, organized by the incomparable Jill Meyers, featuring several timeslots of readings hosted by local series and presses and ending in, guess what, a BIG PARTY.
- Everything Is Bigger is, well it’s my baby, my reading series. Started a year, EIB attempts to be a mingling ground for the university-affiliated writers, the local writing folks, and pals who typically don’t hit up readings. With wacky bios and Goodwill treasures raffle give-aways alongside the featured readers (a local, an MFAer, and a visitor, ideally), I’m proud to say EIB has been a well-attended, lively series for a year now.
- Constantly discovering new presses and journals in these parts:
- Strange Object (Lit Crawl shout-out’s Jill Meyers runs this / newest release: a good collab book of stories called Our Secret Life in the Movies by Mike McGriff and J.M. Tyree)
- Host Publications (long-time press of Malvern owner Joe Bratcher / focused on translations / special nod to After-Dinner Declarations by Nicanor Parra, trans. by Dave Oliphant)
- Write Bloody (big shout-out for This Way To The Sugar, Hieu Minh Nguyen’s excellent debut)
- Birds, LLC (so stoked for Monica McClure’s full-length Tender Data)
- The Austin Review (Vincent Scarpa’s story “Be Yourselves” in issue 2 was one of the best stories I read this year)
- Smoking Glue Gun (see Pate shout-out)
- Front Porch Journal (great journal from TX State’s MFA program)
- Bat City Review (UT’s lit mag / also hosts a great reading series featuring local and MFA writers at Cherrywood Coffeehouse)
- It seems Lisa Olstein’s addition to the faculty at UT two years has amped up the culture of the poetry community here. Hosting readings and lectures at the university and Malvern Books, already with such folks as Timothy Donnelly, Cecily Parks, Peter Gizzi, Erin Belieu, and Tomas Q. Morin, Lisa is a necessary piece of this poetry puzzle.
- There are so many wonderful writerly people floating around town that I haven’t mentioned yet: Ben Kopel, Timothy Willis Sanders, Stephanie Goehring, Ana Carrete, Mike Bushnell, Ray Shea, Austin Kleon, Logan Fry, Cindy St. John, Laurie Saurborn Young, Ebony Stewart, Tatiana Ryckman, Jon Michael Frank, Deb Olin Unferth, Carrie Fountain, Dean Young, Elizabeth McCracken, Tomas Q. Morin, Nick Courtright, Josh Denslow, and on and on (sorry for the good folks I left out / this was a pure skull dump).
- Very lucky to have Texas State and their good literary endeavors only a half-hour south. We get to poach on their good reading series, which, just in the time I’ve been here, has featured or will soon host Amy Hempel, Heather Christle, Sherman Alexie, Fanny Howe, and more.
- Farewell Books is about all the arts, carrying new and used books in everything from film to poetry, architecture to comics. Located on the cool Cesar Chavez Avenue, you can snag a book or two in between stops at the Vera Cruz All-Natural taco truck and Cenote for some stellar brews (coffee or beer).
- Caroline Gormley’s very infrequent shit luck readings gets the nod here because of a two-readings-in-a-week home run last spring, bringing us the likes of Monica McClure, Timothy Donnelly, Lisa Olstein, Ji Yoon Lee, and more in a skip of time. Here’s hoping this will spark another great-great streak.
- Just opened in UT’s main library, the Poetry Center cradles an amazing selection of non-circulating poetry books in a cozy space for both events and casual use. Student or not, this is a rad spot to plop down for some poem time.
- Probably my favorite literary adventure in Austin, Badgerdog is getting kiddos stoked about creative writing, hosting summer camps and in-school workshops for kids from elementary school through high school. Hiring publishing writers in the community to teach these courses, Badgerdog is the real-deal.
Welp, it’s not everything of course, but those are my eighteen favorite pieces of this Austin literary scene. Honored to be a part of this scene, and thank you to Scott and all the folks at Real Pants for asking me to do this here Austin scene round-up.