Please Support the 5th Annual New York City Poetry Festival

Albert Robida’s Leaving the Opera in the Year 2000 (1902), courtesy of the Public Domain Review

The New York City Poetry Festival, now approaching its 5th year running, has become an important and much anticipated event for the poetry community of NYC. Hosted by The Poetry Society of New York, the festival gathers over 200 poets on Governor’s Island for readings and other poetry-related matters.

The festival is normally free for all who attend, including the vendors, poetry organizations, and general public. This is only possible due to the generous donations received from those who can afford to give them.

Unfortunately, there have been significantly less donations this year. And if the fundraising goal of $12,000 isn’t met by May 21st, this could result in the festival being notably scaled back. We therefore encourage all who are able to donate to do so. Please tell your friends and family as well.

To contribute to the the 5th annual New York City Poetry Festival, go to their Kickstarter.

You can also help spread the word through HeadTalker by allowing them to post to your Twitter, Facebook, or Tumblr on your behalf.

Randall Horton Featured in 2015 PEN World Voices Anthology

Carleton Watkins’ Among The Tree Tops Calaveras Grove (1829), courtesy of the Public Domain Review

We would like to congratulate Randall Horton on having an excerpt from Hook: A Memoir through Letters featured in the 2015 PEN World Voices Online Anthology. Hook is forthcoming from Augury Books in 2015. The PEN collection is comprised of prose, poetry, and dramatic writing from the participants of this year’s World Voices Festival. Among the other authors included are Nathalie Handal, Zoe Pilger, and Cormac James.

PEN’s World Voices Festival, running from May 4th to the 10th, celebrates literature from all over the globe. This year’s theme, On Africa, strives to make heard the voices of contemporary African artists.

The full PWV Anthology can be read online here. New writings are added weekly.

More on Randall Horton

Halina Duraj’s The Family Cannon Nominated for CLMP Firecracker Award

From E. Weiß’s Bilderatlas der Sternenwelt (1888), courtesy of the Public Domain Review

The Community of Literary Magazines and Presses (CLMP) released the nominees for their new Firecracker Awards. Inspired by the Firecracker Alternative Book Awards, CLMP’s awards strive to honor and support literary works from independent publishers and self-published writers.

The finalists are divided into six categories: creative nonfiction, fiction, poetry, young adult, graphic novels, and literary magazines. Among them is Augury author Halina Duraj for her book of short stories, The Family Cannon. Other finalists across categories include Jeffery Renard AllenMartha Baillie, Bonnie Friedman, Allen Crawford, and Ransom Riggs, as well as several literary magazines, including 6 x 6, A Public Space, and Mosaic. Tin House, Graywolf Press, Ahsahta Press, and Tender Buttons Press are all among the publishers that have titles shortlisted. The winners in each group will be announced on May 27th at powerHouse Arena in DUMBO.

To see the complete shortlists for the Firecracker Awards, view CLMP’s press release.

For more about Halina Duraj and The Family Cannon, click here.

Literary Hub Set To Launch April 8th

Utagawa Hiroshige’s The Fifty-three Stations of the Tōkaidō (1848), courtesy of the Public Domain Review

Literary Hub, a website which will gather literary content from across the internet and combine in one place, is set to launch on April 8th. Emily Firetog, the managing editor of the site, spoke to Augury about the new website and its goals.

Augury: How did you get involved with Lit Hub? Do you have a particular role within the organization?

Emily: There is a small daily team at Lit Hub: editor in chief Jonny Diamond, managing editor (me) and assistant editor Blair Beusman. We have a part time assistant editor Ben Philippe, six contributing editors (Roxane Gay, Alexander Chee, Rebecca Wolff, Adam Fitzgerald, Ashley Ford, and Oscar Villalon), and John Freeman is our executive editor/features editor.

A: What is Lit Hub’s mission? How does it see itself within the literary community?

E: Lit Hub is investing in the future of literary culture and its readers. It’s a site designed to be a destination for readers to discover the very best literary content on the web. Our partners include large publishers, small presses, university presses, print and digital journals, bookstores, and nonprofits, because we want to be inclusive, reflecting the reality of literary publishing today.

A: What sorts of things does Lit Hub have planned for the future? (Do you envision any events or readings?)

E: We’re a website. We’re going to focus on bringing the best content to readers every day.

Federal Dust Holds Twelfth Poetry Reading

Robert Thornton’s Temple of Flora (1807), courtesy of the Public Domain Review

The Federal Dust Reading Series is holding its twelfth poetry reading on March 27th. Hosted by Matthew Zingg, the event will take place at Litmore in Baltimore, Maryland. Poets being featured during this event include Paige Taggart, Niina Pollari, Michael Morse, and Will Schutt.

Paige Taggart’s poems have been published by Augury friend Joe Pan‘s Brooklyn Arts Press. Joe Pan’s poetry collection is forthcoming from Augury in 2015.

Diana Spechler Starts "Going Off" Column for The New York Times

Ernst Haeckel’s Radiolaria (1862), courtesy of the Public Domain Review

Augury friend Diana Spechler has recently begun a weekly column for The New York Times’ Opinionator entitled “Going Off.” In this series, she recounts her experiences while coming off of the prescription medications she uses to treat depression, anxiety, and insomnia. Diana sat down with Augury assistant editor Nicolas Amara to talk about the new column.

Augury Books: What has the initial response to “Going Off” been like?

Diana Spechler: A lot of advice. A lot of people sharing their own stories. Some thank you notes. Some anger–that I’m not coming out as staunchly anti-meds or staunchly pro-meds. I love it. All of it. What’s clear to me from the response and what was clear to me before I started the column, is that in 2015 psychiatric medications are still a taboo; now that I’m writing about them in the New York Times, in this very candid way, people are dying to talk. For some reason, we’re supposed to hide our psychiatric disorders and treatments. We’re supposed to feel embarrassed about them. That’s silly. There’s this story a guy once told me, probably seven or eight years ago, that’s always stuck with me: He went out with a woman and was turned off because he found antidepressants in her medicine cabinet. He relayed this information to me to explain why he never called her again. I told him, “You have to be kidding.” For one thing, what was he doing in her medicine cabinet? For another thing, turned off by her medication–her efforts to be healthy and happy? Jeez. Tough crowd! Antidepressants are one of the most commonly prescribed drugs in America. Chances are, you know a lot of people on antidepressants and benzos and sleeping pills and mood stabilizers. Great. We’re all on drugs. Now let’s talk.

A: Did you ever feel nervous about running the column?

D: I was terrified before I started. Even after I started, I was terrified. I had a couple of bad days when the first piece ran. I felt so exposed. I felt like I was mooning the world. But it’s worth it for me to do this, to be as honest and open and straightforward as possible. It’s still scary, but now that I have this platform, I feel intense responsibility: I have a voice; I need to use it. I’m grateful to have public support through such a brutal process. Most people getting off their meds have one or two people to talk to, or they have no one. I’m extremely lucky and I never forget that.

A: Do you think the sort of writing you’re doing helps de-stigmatize depression?

D: That’s the idea. I don’t like any topics to be off-limits. I want to talk about everything. I want everyone to tell me everything, too. You know how people cover their ears and say, “TMI! TMI!”? There’s no such thing as TMI to me. If you’re insanely jealous of someone, or if you’ve stalked someone, or if you have a rash on your genitals, I totally want to know about it. I’m not above talking about my exes on a first date, either. We have all these pointless rules. It’s not hurting anyone if I talk about my period, if I talk about my panic attacks, if I talk about my medication. What are we, Puritans? I hope to help others feel less ashamed.

To read “Going Off,” click here.

More on Diana Spechler

Finalists For Lambda Literary Awards Announced

From Baude Cordier’s “Belle, bonne, sage” (1350-1400), courtesy of the Public Domain Review

The finalists for the 27th annual Lambda Literary Awards have been announced. The Lambda Literary Awards honor the best LBGTQ literature of the year in 24 categories, including fiction, poetry, and nonfiction. Among the nominees for 2015 is Augury friend Shelly Oria. Other noteworthy finalists include Ana Castillo, Tom Spanbauer, Danez Smith, Lenelle Moïse, and La JohnJoseph. The winners will be declared at the awards ceremony on Monday, June 1st in New York City.

For the complete list of finalists and their works, visit the Lambda Literary Awards website.

Suzanne Guillette on Perspective in Memoir

Suzanne Guillette. Photo by Wah-Ming Chang

A year ago this month, friend of Augury Suzanne Guillette (Much to Your Chagrin: A Memoir of Embarassment, Atria Books, 2009) published an essay on memoir in Tin House. Dealing with the roles of perspective and content, Guillette navigates personal experiences which help us to rethink whether or not plot needs to be “memoir-worthy.”

Though Rushdie and Auster may have gone on the record with other reasons for stepping out of the first-person memoir convention, other motivations were probably also at work: not only does crafted distance in memoir inure the writer against calls (internal and otherwise) of self-importance, but it also sets us further adrift in a dreamlike state, allowing the intersection of present consciousness with past events to be, indeed, a very trippy place.  Quieting the memoir-worthy debate, writers can go granular, entering a uniquely conjured, not to mention lived, world.”

We think this essay is worth a revisit. Read the rest of it here.

Bruce Covey on "What’s New in Poetry?"

Bruce Covey doing introductions at a “What’s New in Poetry?” reading

Bruce Covey, publisher and editor at Coconut Books, recently announced the closing of “What’s New in Poetry?,” a reading series organized by Covey at Emory University in Atlanta. The series ran for 12 years, co-hosted by Coconut Magazine’s senior editor, Gina Meyers, from 2011-2014, and brought over 300 new and emerging poets to students at the university. Covey recently shed some light on the beginning and end of an expansive venture in contemporary poetry.


Nick: What drove you to start ‘What’s New in Poetry?’

Bruce: At the time, I was teaching Creative Writing at Emory, and the Program brought only 1-2 poets per year to campus, all of whom were recognized and widely lauded figures.  More than once my students told me about the distance they felt from these readers–they couldn’t imagine what had to happen for them to get from point A (where they were at the moment) to point B (e.g., winning a Pulitzer Prize).  Also at the time there wasn’t much of an independent reading scene in Atlanta–a pretty established slam series, but not much else.  I wanted to start a series that focused on writers with 0-2 books that took place in the Emory residence halls–bringing poetry to the students on their own terms and in their own homes.  In addition to these younger writers, I wanted to feature more established small press and experimental writers, so students could be exposed to a wide range of aesthetics (the Creative Writing department as a whole tended to favor very traditional poets).  In every case, I asked writers to hang around after the readings just to talk with students.  Pretty soon after that, the series started to draw poets from the Atlanta community.  And not long after that our audience expanded to 70-100 per event.

N: Is there a reading that sticks out in your mind, for whatever reason, as remarkable? A particular poet? A moment?

B: Honestly, I really loved all of our readers and readings–I love poetry readings, and everyone has been wonderful.  But meeting Ron Padgett for the first time was wonderful.  He was one of the first two poets (along with Ted Berrigan) I’d read and liked (in high school).  It’s the most nervous I’d been before a reading, but Ron was incredibly nice and gave an incredible reading–totally humble and funny and powerful as his work always is.  But we’ve had a lot of terrific moments.

N: Do you think the closing of the series will be a blow to the poetry community at Emory? In Atlanta?

B: I guess so?  I mean, Atlanta has some great and relatively recent reading series that have already and will continue to bring awesome poets to town.  And I’m not sure how much we remained on Emory’s radar after I stopped teaching & after Harmony Neal and Molly Brodak left as fellows–even though the series took place on campus, we didn’t draw many students over the past two years.  The gap we leave is probably one of volume (we brought more than 70 readers last year) and the fact that we could pay each reader–something I was always proud of. That said, I’m not worried about poetry thriving in Atlanta–it will continue to do so, and I’ll still be around with Coconut and other things.


The final events in the series are listed on Facebook. A large portion of “What’s New in Poetry?” readings can be listened to and downloaded for free via iTunes. Links to this material and a full archive of the series’ past events can be found at the Emory Poetry Council webpage.

Also, Coconut Magazine’s submission period is currently open! Head over to their site for more details.

AUDIO: The Size Queens’ "Supermax," + The Band’s Process and Politics

“Supermax,” off of Save the Plant! by The Size Queens

The Size Queens, described by novelist Rick Moody (The Ice Stormas “the glam/poetry/lounge/rock and roll band from San Francisco” in The Rumpus, has recently released a new album, Save the Plant, which addresses “the shape of contemporary protest” and “the exultation and poignancy of revolutions, pointed and pointless,” according to their BandCamp site.

Our assistant editor Nicolas Amara recently had the pleasure to ask core members Adam Klein and Michael Mullen a few questions about the band’s musical process and philosophical disposition.


Nick: How did you approach writing Save the Plant? Did the politics of your work act as a frame before writing music, or did you write songs and then build the politics via lyrical content? (I guess this could also be approached as ‘”Which came first–the lyrics or the music; the ideologies or the sound?”)

Michael: “Save the Plant” was written the same way as all of The Size Queens’ records: We improvised it, me playing music and Adam pulling words from the air. Then we learned how to repeat what we’d improvised, fidgeted with it slightly, and then improvised it again during recording. I call it “dipping into the Idea Pool”. The song “Onomonokanamana” was recorded in one take by a band that had never played it all the way through before, not even once, and some of the lyrics made their first appearance during that performance. That’s an extreme but not unique case. So the politics don’t come first, they come simultaneously with the sound.

Adam : Michael and I have to work very quickly as I have been living overseas in Kabul for the past three and a half years and I don’t keep a place in San Francisco. Obviously, we don’t share the same politics, but I think we overlap quite a bit. Michael often understands my lyrics before I do. I had no idea that “Save the Plant!” would, or could, invoke Trayvon Martin, Edward Snowden, the Aum Shinrikyo cult, Indian Maoists, the Virginia Governor, and the Baader Meinhof Group. The broad umbrella—really only apparent after weeding down the songs–was that everyone on the record is making bad decisions or, perhaps not making decisions at all, but trying to circumnavigate power structures from the nuclear family, to the prison industrial complex, the surveillance state, to the more abstract conceptual apparatuses that keep us feeling powerless. “Supermax” speaks to this, I think. It’s clearly about the desire for safety, but also a son’s claustrophobia in the suburban world that his parents welcome, even becoming workers at the supermax prison. There’s something inscrutable in our desires for both safety and risk.

M: When it’s time to write, I try to provide music that will inspire Adam to express himself spontaneously (and by extension, me), in an atmosphere of great trust. We welcome the unconscious. We discuss what we’re doing, often in depth, but we don’t tidy it up in the interests of making linear sense. Size Queens records do sometimes start with an idea, but throwing out that idea can be part of our process. For example, at one point we were going to write a record about critical theory. We spent a lot of time on the phone laughing about song ideas (“Your phallocentric notions of hegemony never privilege my ass. WHAT ABOUT MY ASS?”). But when we finally sat down in the rehearsal space, we ended up writing Consumption Work: Tammy, Cybertariat, At The Aral Sea instead.

A: We wrote that album in one sitting and recorded piano and vocals in one take.

N: You have described this record as being about “everyone making bad attempts to circumvent the status quo.” Though they may ultimately fizzle out, do you think these figures and protests hold any political or intellectual merit? Which ones?

A: Well, insofar as the record starts with the song “Daughter”–about a girl who joins her trucker boyfriend on the road and ends up dead–I think the record connects individual, reactionary behavior with some highly considered and provocative (however misled) attempts at revolution. I read Ulrike Meinhof’s writings in Everybody Talks About the Weather…We Don’t. I found myself copying out sections of it, stunned by the work she produced during her incarceration; it’s so visceral and sad. I also read Murakami’s account of the Sarin gas survivors in Underground and for some reason, years later, found myself thinking of Aum Shinrikyo and what strange, senseless intoxications people are capable of. “Airport Sleepers” was written with Edward Snowden in mind, but actually, I was thinking of the Dubai airport where I’ve spent a great deal of time. I’m very sympathetic to the Weather Underground; they struggled to transform themselves while trying to transform society. I think the Binayak Sen case is incredibly important. He is an Indian doctor who works with the poor in India and was charged with sedition for engagement with the Maoists. A case of guilt by association, but more deeply, it suggests India’s war with its agrarian people. So, Save the Plant!  is suffused with stories that touch me deeply.

M: The Size Queens have great sympathy for all of those bad attempts. “Magic Blimp” portrays a bunch of doomed attempts at transcendence, through drugs, spirituality, shopping, ANYTHING! For the end of the song, we instructed Danny Pearson, who was drumming, to imitate a 14-year-old boy, unable to play, but who’s trying to be Keith Moon. In other words, we’re representing people who are gleefully pushing themselves beyond their capacities. “Freedom sex is in your mind!” And we sympathize with them, because, hey, let’s kick out the jams!

A: Danny got so into playing that 14-year-old kid that he fell off the drum stool. You can hear it!

M: The problem in politics is that you can end up as a Maoist sniper “sitting in a tree” or a homegrown terrorist bombing a florist shop (“tears for those bouquets”). Perhaps there’s wisdom in your theory; it’s just that the world doesn’t allow untrammeled expression of it. It gets distorted; it gets perverted. And unfortunately, any theory worth its salt can justify the silliness or sordidness or violence of the actions it produces. I think Adam and I would agree that there is much merit in these attempts to subvert the status quo. We’re the veterans of demonstrations and acts of civil disobedience ourselves. But proceed with caution. Don’t be seduced into thinking that if you hurl a bomb, Gerhart Richter will use you as a subject for his art as he did Ulrike Meinhof. And if you pass out in front of a nightclub, don’t expect not to be kicked into the gutter.

N: In your opinion, is the futility of these attempts at “revolution” a direct result of the prison-industrial complex?

A: That’s a great question. I think, with the Black Panther Party and the Weather Underground wiped out, whatever we assumed was the American “left” moved to the center. I hate to say it, but it’s on the right wing of the spectrum where you really see a radical agenda, a desire to overthrow the government (though always couched in the idea that we’re somehow getting back to the constitution and the second amendment.) I think the left in America and elsewhere has become quite diffuse, not because it lacks ideas, but because, rather than being reactionary, it is trying to sort out the complex machinations of late capitalist consolidation, the mass disenfranchisement of the electorate, and the impact of technologies (surveillance, Wikileaks, the NSA leaks, drones, etc.) that are really redrawing our ideas of public/private, of what is conflict and what is humanitarian intervention, the impact of so much consumption of goods and information at our fingertips. What is certain is that the prison industrial complex, like the military industrial complex, are massive usurpations of potential revolutionary and creative energies. This feels like a hijacked period of history to me. There’s an unconsumed universe of potentially radical actions that may be within reach. Such is our collective tragedy.

M: I don’t see the U.S. or Europe as places where revolution is impossible or inevitably unsuccessful. But if it comes in the near future, I’m afraid it’s not going to be people like us who foment it. The left has no grand theory to unite it, something that Tony Kushner has been lamenting in his plays for years. And the right in the U.S. apparently doesn’t need one. They have guns, xenophobia, bigotry and “the Constitution” as a fetish. In Europe, too, the right seems much more poised for unpleasantness than the left. I just read Nancy Mitford’s comic novel Wigs on the Green (1934) in which she attempts to satirize fascism, something that members of her own family were very involved in. But history made the joke unfunny, and the book was out of print for many years. In the case of “Supermax”, what the prison-industrial complex really makes impossible is safety. Even if you’re working for the penitentiary, as the parents in this song end up doing, you can’t protect your children from the violence inherent in such a system.

N: Adam, does any of your work with The Size Queens tie in with your own writing and editorial work? Michael, does work with The Size Queens influence your other musical output?

A: Yes, without a doubt. We wrote Appetite for Redaction when I was in the midst of working on the anthology, The Gifts of the State: New Afghan Writing. The video for the song, Afghan Star premiered on Electric Literature with a short piece of writing that I later developed into a piece for Fiction International. I’m currently working on a piece of writing to accompany the video for Spinning World. So yes, there’s constant interpenetration of mediums. When Michael and I operated as an earlier incarnation, Roman Evening, we wrote a soundtrack for my novel Tiny Ladies. Dzanc books will be adding it to their rEprint series with the sound files, and that is really gratifying. When that book originally came out, we had to clumsily attach a CD to the book with a rubber band. This will be a much more seamless integration.

M: Prior to the advent of The Size Queens, I was actually writing some political songs myself. But ever since our first record Is It In Yet?, I’ve let Adam Klein be the lyricist of my political discontent. He’s really so good at it. And I’ve been freed to go in other directions — write love songs, immerse myself in songwriters like Hoagy Carmichael and Jimmy Van Heusen, set poems by John Ashbery or Ezra Pound to music. I don’t think my own songwriting would be so sensitive and focused if my writing with The Size Queens weren’t so acerbic and free-wheeling.


Check out some bios and outside links below. “Supermax,” from Save the Plant!, is streamable above!

Adam Klein received his MFA from The New School in 2009 and was an Assistant Professor of English at The American University of Afghanistan until december 2013. Dzanc Books published his anthology: “The Gifts Of The State: New Afghan Writing” at the end of 2013. He is the author of High Risk’s Lambda Book Award-nominee, “The Medicine Burns” and Serpent’s Tail published his novel, “Tiny Ladies” in 2003. “A Hardship Post” appeared January 2012 in “Fourteen Hills” and was nominated for a Pushcart Prize. Recently, he has published in the “New York Times At War Blogs” and an essay, “The Unnameable Poor In India and Bangladesh” in openDemocracy. He is also the author of the artist monograph, “Jerome: After the Pageant,” and the singer/ songwriter for the band, “The Size Queens.” His work has appeared in “Bomb,” “Best American Gay Fiction” (Little, Brown), “Men on Men 5” (Penguin/ Plume), MIT’s “Performance Art Journal;” “San Francisco Camerawork;” “Essays & Fictions;” “Educe;” and other journals and websites. His interdisciplinary piece, “Appetite for Redaction” was featured on the November 2011 “Electric Literature” blog and The Size Queens’ Valentine’s Day video diptych, “Old Skin” premiered on the Ninth Letter blog site. His most recent song cycle/ video “Consumption Work: Tammy, Cybertariat, At The Aral Sea” was premiered on Election Day, November 6th 2012 here.

Michael Mullen is a prolific songwriter and active musician based in San Francisco.  His longtime collaboration with novelist and songwriter Adam Klein has produced nine records so far, seven with The Size Queens.  He has released his own songs under the name Pocket Shelley (“Small Illuminations in a Darkening Sky”, 2006), and has nearly completed a new record, “Pocket Shelley’s Golden Treasury of Well-Thumbed Poems, Volume 1.”  He contributed keyboards and arrangements to John Murry’s “The Graceless Age”, one of Metacritic’s top-rated albums of 2013, and toured Great Britain and Ireland with Murry twice in 2013.  With Murry, he has performed on BBC2, BBC Scotland, BBC Ulster and Bob Weir’s “Weir Here” radio show.  He contributed keyboards to Carlos Forster’s “Disasters” which is being released by Acuarela in December 2014, and has been a session player on many other recordings.  He has performed with, among others, Carlos Forster, Danny Pearson (American Music Club), Hannah Marcus, Terese Taylor, and in Annie Bacon’s “Folk Opera”.  He wrote a Master’s thesis on Daniel Defoe in U.C. Berkeley’s English Department (somebody had to do it), and is currently writing “Late Night Lonesome,” a play with music.


Read Moody’s full article, “Swinging Modern Sounds #50: The Big 5-0!,” over at The Rumpus‘s site.

Check out Augury editor Kate Angus’ recent interview with Klein about The Gifts of the State for The Awl.

Listen to more of The Size Queens’ music here.