Wednesday, March 25, 2015


How to make friends. Does anybody know? You hang out in the vicinity of others and trust to luck. You kick a pebble. The wind harries you thereafter; you suffer a windborne harry. Lesser hoodlums than you have achieved swifter triumphs in the quest for common fellowship. Vim, you have, and vigor; vim, you have, and vinegar. Someone invents beer. This helps. You walk toward a table where new acquaintances await your contribution to the daily topics—(1) Does everything suck or have we overlooked a key detail? (2) Just who the hell do people think they are? and (3) [censored]—that people bat-about in the ruckus of taverns. Only, you’re not in charge. The earth, in its subtle tectonic shifts, is in charge. The slope of the ill-paved concrete floor, is in charge. The rickety nature of the table, lacking some sort of basic buttress, is in charge. Internally, you blame these forces the moment your glass topples, heaving an impressive pond of house amber onto the seated figure of the fellow you know the least, Rod Smith. He’s cool; he lets it slide. The two of you get to be friends. The circle widens. He keeps talking about “Sonny” and “Bird”. (You say Sonny who? Sonny Criss, Sonny Stitt, Sonny Sharrock? because this aggravates him—there is Sonny and no greater Sonny!) He puts books into your hands and the hands of others. In time, he puts your books into the hands of others. He reads his nutty poems. He invites others to read their nutty poems. In time, you come to wildly believe in this nuttiness. You throw a pitcher of “American adjunct lager” onto a fellow sporting a suburban haircut in a billiards tavern, as Johnny Cash sings “Folsom Prison Blues” though a jukebox. The fellow topples off his barstool. You will not be friends with him! One night, Rod Smith drives you home, up hills, through a tough layer of ice and snow, while you’re shivering with the early stages of the flu. This is a car ride for which you will always be grateful. In time, you imitate Mike Tyson. (“Thnookid!”, you say.) In time, you imitate Theofanis Gekas (“MREAGH!” you say, after the missed penalty versus Costa Rica.) You now converse like “Up the Swans!” and “Roy Brown is the greatest jump musician” and “I think it’s gonna be Rory’s year on the links” and “I’d sure like to see Doug Lang and Tom Raworth give a reading.” You’re up on the roof of your building drinking a Heather Fuller Brewing Co. Ale out of mason jars with Rod Smith, A Righteous Fellow, but today let’s just say he’s one of the greatest poets the world will ever have the privilege to read, to hear, to appreciate. Do you know about this? He has a new book, TOUCHÉ, that you could order, dig, etc., fuff. Do you know about this? “Doot dew” goes the world. “Doot dew.”

Thursday, March 19, 2015


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Wednesday, March 11, 2015


A sawhorse in the past or a sea horse in the present. It’s rehearsal if you practice a play in advance, not another trip in a hearse, unless of course the play struggles. Hirsute, on the other hand, doesn’t refer to her outfit, it’s not her suit, or her strong suit, but she sure might wear the hair-shirt. All the boxers I don’t know—all the other breeds I don’t know—I can’t be debriefed on boxers. I can’t write a pugilist—I can’t write a to-do list—I can’t write an evangelist. Even Jell-O could sate an evangelical, or maybe the effect would be intangible: is there a tangelo, aye, in the punch? I can, you can, he she it cans, we canned, you canned, they canned heat, answers, tomatoes. Ghengis Khan Job, Ghengis Cannes Job, Ghengis Cannes Edison, Ghengis Khan Carne. The biblical hard luck case Jōb, okay? Okay. Biblical Jōb Description, Biblical Jōblessness, Biblical Hand Jōb, Biblical Book of Blow Jōb, the Biblical Book of Jōb Search. A hearse is a hearse of course of course unless it’s Mr. Dead.

Friday, March 6, 2015


Nearly two years ago, I met some friends at the pub to watch little Swansea City host big-money Manchester United in the opening match of the 2013-14 season. The Swans, still fairly new to the rugged Premier League, dropped the fixture, 1-4, and right afterwards, I took the subway out to see my parents; I’d been dressed in my beloved Michu centenary home kit. My mother picked me up at Glenmont station. “That’s a nice shirt”, she remarked. “It’s not a shirt, mom. It’s a kit”, I said. “You put it together?” she wondered. I shook my head. “No. It came from Thailand.” To be fair, a “kit” includes the entire footballing getup, but I’m hardly going to the pub clad in shorts, shin guards, and boots. I love my mom. She turned right onto Connecticut Avenue. “So they put it together in Thailand”, she said.

To make my life easier, I do not own the following kits (both home and away, unless otherwise noted): Rutger Hauer Appreciation Day kit, Breakdance kit, Contract with America kit, Ethnic Festival home kit, Mongoose kit, Great Horned Owl kit, Reversible kit, Alias kit, Wrinkle Free home kit, Hockey Bro kit, Fugitive kit, Bubonic Plague Historical Reenactment away kit, Joke Store Beard away kit, Hookah kit, Marriage kit, Formal kit, Religious Worship home kit, All U Can Eat Buffet & Apres Ski kit, Amphibious kit, and High Fructose Corn Syrup kit. Thank goodness. Because how could you find anything at all if you had to sort through all those kits?

Some days ago, I found myself rummaging through all the kits I do own—specifically, my Jogging kit, Hiking kit, Second Interview away kit, Corporate Nostalgia away kit, Supervisor away kit, American kit, Airport away kit, Tourist away kit, Hoodlum away kit, Short-sleeved Under kit, Third Date home kit (which could always lead to wearing the Birthday home kit), Pub away kit, Pajama home kit, and Housework home kit. There it was, finally: I’d located my No. 8 Jonjo Shelvey away kit, in its Adidas Climacool black and red splendor, a single Premier League lion loitering in the lowest dip of the 8. First, I donned a fine long-sleeved Under kit, then the Shelvey kit, then I made for my neighborhood pub.


My friend, Alex Mejia, greeted me at the pub, where he works as a bartender. He likes Swansea City, too, and at the beginning of the current season, I gave him my beloved Michu centenary home kit. Alex indicated that several Manchester United fans were sitting at the bar. Everyone could see the Swansea crest: an away swan. I should note that the same two clubs—Swansea and Man U—met to open the 2014-15 season (back in August) but that time, Swansea won, in Manchester, 1-2. Heavy snow fell outside the pub. I’d stomped through the snow, to celebrate, because Swansea had defeated Man U yet again, earlier in the day, twice in the same season, a first in the team’s history. Shelvey had been Man of the Match. I showed the Man U supporters “Shelvey” on my kit. O, how they howled.

My name is Dan Gutstein. I wear the Jonjo Shelvey away kit since I wish to honor the tempestuous genius, No. 8, who plays midfield for Swansea City, the greatest little football club in the world. Up the Swans!

Cultural Affairs Week Editorial Schedule

March 2: Crows & Owls

Thursday, March 5, 2015


Good morning! Could you do me a favor? Let’s everybody place his sporty sunglasses on the back of his neck, as if the back of the neck had pupils (that required shade.) Thank you. I can observe quite brightly that everyone wore the company-issue salmon polo. Later on, it’ll be Middle Management!, on the loose!, at the coffee urn! (The selfies will be classic.) (I hope you charged your phones.) Sometimes we feel like deer, don’t we?, clipping out of the woods to gaze at the lumbering train as it staggers toward the destination. Deer and train; this is a useful dichotomy. The train—kind of like American commerce. It’s a deer-watch-train economy. (Granted, with some local variation.) We could call each customer “the little ceiling” or we could envision the whole sha-bang as “subsistence level consumerism.” The sheer amount of going concerns that orbit “the little ceiling of a subsistence-level consumer” and you, Middle Management!, will you, too, orbit? Don’t answer. Thank you. It gets so you can’t have a thought about the arts without yearning for a sandwich. The Dutch master, Peter Paul Rubens, for example: the extravagant mythology or (to be honest) a few hot corned beefs on rye, a few Reubens. You didn’t hear this from me, but that continental breakfast looked dangerous; “incontinental breakfast” sounds more like it. Anyone here an Arsenal supporter? (Don’t answer that question.) Anyone here a Walloon? (Don’t answer.) These are rhetorical questions. Where was I? Oh, yes. The Triumph of the Arts. Well, not recently! Do you dig-dug? Rock songs: GAH!: Rock songs. The arena rock wafting (GAH!) as you entered this training facility?  I think of it as an old black turd with white edges, kind of like a charcoal briquette, rotting in the weeds. I threw that Journey song—“Don’t Stop Believing”—into Google Translate and it returned a photograph of a whitening dark turd in Paris, 4th arrondissement, near the Louvre. Anyone here have high cholesterol? This time you may respond (a show of hands.) Thank you, and you, and you, too. Yes, this information, senior management did ask me to report. High cholesterol, naughty naughty. (Ehhhhh. Siiiiike.) I’m not really the speaker. I’m not really from this company. And by the looks of things, I’m about to get chased in . . . three, two, one!

Cultural Affairs Week Editorial Schedule

March 2: Crows & Owls
March 5: Corporate Strategist Speaks to Middle Management
March 6: Kits

Wednesday, March 4, 2015


Like most writers who wish to publish new writing, I spend considerable energy submitting unsolicited poems and stories through online submission managers, and to a lesser extent, the snail mail. In the old days, of course, writers would send all their submissions through the post office: a buck or two for the big envelope plus a single stamp for the SASE. Lately, a number of highly-visible literary journals have begun to require reading fees, typically $3.00 a pop, for online (slush pile) submissions. The journals defend this practice by reminding us writers that we’d spend just as much on postage; many indicate that the reading fees help them to defray the administrative costs of producing the periodical. I don’t wish to dispute either of these explanations, but at the same time, journals cannot demonstrate that they’ve actually considered the submission. They cannot demonstrate that they’ve provided a service (evaluating the submission) for the fee ($3.00) they require to accompany the writer’s creative work. At least by paying postage in the old days, I knew that the U.S. Postal Service had delivered the submission, and later, delivered the response; the post office had provided a service. If the journal didn’t choose to appraise my writing, that didn’t matter, because the journal didn’t profit from my correspondence. Similarly, if I upload an electronic submission for free, the magazine can choose to reject it outright, since it doesn’t profit from my interest in becoming a contributor. Unfortunately, these fee-for-submission literary magazines may have entered fraudulent terrain. Who’s to say they don’t delete poems and stories, while pocketing the money? If they receive several thousand submissions, then they may profit considerably without exerting much more effort than clicking a mouse. I would imagine that many thoughtful writers (as well as those who lack the means to submit) are offended by this practice and aren’t participating in the fee-for-reading environment. This would potentially shrink the population of viable writers contacting a given magazine, and to me, reinforce the sense that fee-for-reading journals solicit most of their published material on the dollars of those willing to pay the toll. In order to squash this perception, a journal should offer personal feedback to any author who’s submitted $3.00 along with a sample of writing. There must be incontrovertible proof that editors have dedicated time and consideration. Otherwise, more and more journals slither into gunk, junk, murk, mud, slime, grime, oil-spill, habitat-wreck, flight-of-species, blight-of-planet.

Cultural Affairs Week Editorial Schedule

March 2: Crows & Owls
March 4: Literary Magazines That Charge for Slush Pile Submissions
March 6: Kits

Tuesday, March 3, 2015


I am ready to report that my most recent durable dietary change—eating organic mushrooms—has made “a difference” in my life. I don’t even know what to call them, white mushrooms, basic mushrooms, simple mushrooms, bland mushrooms, little mushrooms?, but I purchase said fungus in a plastic-wrap container at the organic food store, squeezing one of the assemblage through the plastic in the sake of outcomes assessment. If nice and plump, a good outcome, then I place container in basket. They’re always nice and plump. Mostly, I just cut a few mushrooms (raw) into The Daily Salad. Why didn’t I eat a mushroom earlier in life? Perhaps I fretted over its silly appearance, or I worried that it would taste like paste, or maybe I figured that friends would poke me with accusations. Now hear this, smart aleck: I’m not talking about a “shroom”, the mystical, elusive medication that ostensibly matures beneath a cow-pattie, whole bags of which have failed to enlighten a single thrill-seeker. No, I’m not talking about a “shroom”, but a plain legume that has bestowed upon me what I will call “a difference.” First, before I describe “a difference”, I must insert some science. Namely, I have made no other durable changes in dietary endeavors of late, my intake otherwise continuing to involve the basic food groups: fine stouts and ales, The Daily Salad, coffee, snacks, and protein. Thus, the addition of a mushroom must be the cause of “a difference.” O, rubbery toadstool! O, noteworthy contribution! O, neutral texture! But I digress. I am, in a word, better. This is “a difference”. Sure, it could be a phase, this betterment, it could be an error in accountancy, it could be an intoxication borne of a sudden enthusiasm, but it’s not. I am—in a word—better. Sitting there, during Rockford Files reruns a few weeks ago, I had to ask myself: What accounts for this smoother existence, if not the mushroom? In a world where television and doctors insist that you must have a moderate-to-severe pre-illness, and you probably don’t (believe me) you probably don’t suffer from a moderate-to-severe pre-illness, I am here to say, as a fellow who felt fine to begin with, why not institute a trial mushroom regimen? The organic mushroom, my friends, contains a respectable loveliness inside every little cap, O yes.

Cultural Affairs Week Editorial Schedule

March 2: Crows & Owls
March 3: I Eat Mushrooms!
March 6: Kits

Monday, March 2, 2015


The crow can count, we’ve heard of birds gifted with mathematics, the crow can count. “One, two, three owls”, it counts, except in corvine monosyllabic, not English. It lets the entire village know, “One, two, three owls”, its shrieks-and-cacks worse than those of any doomsayer, any ruddy stumblebum, any witch stirring any cauldron in the vicinity of any petrified shrubbery. I hear, you hear, we hear; the one, two, three owls hear the crow’s actuarial deductions. The mother owl spreads her wings so wide, she resembles a blanket of owl, a shocking feathery shroud that will, one day, envelop an entire tree full of crows in a Middle Ages swoop so feral and exacting, the crow community will, one day, lament the owl-action in mournful ethnic dirges as somber as the southern sun embalming the tintypes of vellum clouds. (We speak of American crows, great horned owls.) For now, though, the owl must impress the growing ruckus of crows with its tomfoolery attack, beak clacking with the violence of its imagination. The other owls aren’t owls yet, but owlets, white fluffy youngsters who clash heads owing to uncertain footing in their country of air, their sturdy aerie, their dizzying altitude. The crows cackle in the upward-climbing false lightning of a bare tulip poplar, then blow toward the elliptical promises of a compass point, the steam or smoke punched from a solitary chimney. How noise recedes, how the crows assimilate, how the owls stamp down their outrage. In their ensuing vigilance, the owls may enter the luxury of ideas. They think “I am commodity”; they think “What is commodity?” They have simple demands. A wading bird they would like to eat, a rodent they would like to eat, and they do demand, and they will eat, for there is a fourth owl, a father who hunts in the shadow-play of receding fears and quiet plumage. In a few weeks, the one, two, three owls will disembark from the nest, three wrenches of big-talon fabric winging toward a set of (a population of) improvisations. I will see this; you will see; we will see; and as for the crow, the crow can count. No more owls in the aerie, it will note. The danger no longer constrained to a domicile, but three drops of dye (four, to be exact) that strictly color the minutes and seconds of the impulse to covet any direction, whatsoever.

Cultural Affairs Week Editorial Schedule

March 2: Crows & Owls
March 6: Kits