DC, Miami, etc.

Hey all — I haven’t posted in a while because the Buffalo & Ithaca trip wore me out & I sunk into my next novel to recover. But I’m surfacing again, and soon (along with my trusty compañero A. Golaski) to read in Washington DC on a bill with really awesome writers Maureen Thorson and Sherrie Flick for the Barrelhouse series at The Black Squirrel (info to the right). I’m excited to hang out in DC again w/ Maureen & Jeff (& all of you who brave the tepid air to where the air is posey-light and full of resonante song) and to walk around without a sweater for a bit.

For those of you in or near Oxford Ohio, please know that I’ll be reading for Miami University — my benefactors — the Tuesday prior (again, details to the right) & I would love to see as many friends as I can.

Meanwhile, in news of the world, the new issue of Open Letters Monthly is out featuring beautiful new poetry and art by Sarah Goldstein (whose new Fables will be appearing from Tarpaulin Sky sometime this spring) and fantastic essays about such diversions as George Elliot’s secret heart, James Franco’s soul, and The Battle of the Somme.

What else? Well I had a nice conversation with the Cornell Daily Sun, I’ve been reading and loving Lance Olsen’s new novel Calendar of Regrets (at Steve Donoghue’s always-wise suggestion), Jeff tells me they’ve just found a dinosaur skull in a church in Milan; oh, and just the other day I forgot one of my best friends’ birthdays … Happy Birthday Kevin! No forgiveness!

more soon …

President Obama at Prarie Lights Books


Come tomorrow 9am I’ll be airbound for Iowa City and Prairie Lights (for a reading to later be broadcast — I think — here), then St. Olaf College, then Minneapolis, then Milwaukee. I’ll report in full when I return; until then, there are a couple of solipsistic links I’ve been meaning to share:

  • Dan Green wrote a really thoughtful essay on the use of dialogue in Under the Small Lights at his excellent Reading Experience 2.0
  • My review of Michael Lewis’ ghastly story The Big Short is live at this month’s Open Letters: The Bestseller Issue
  • The Crisis, an old poem with a new proofread, is included in Michael Schiavo’s new PDF project The Equalizer. Download & forward!
  • President Obama at Prarie Lights Books

    President Obama at Prarie Lights Books

    they got mist up there

    Mist coming in on the way into Portland Maine last night for a reading with Adam Golaski at Longfellow books — I love Portland, and I love coming over that low, winding bridge with the whole Harbor in front of me. The crowd came for Color Plates (new to the world this week) and it was a pleasure to see Adam’s work getting the attention it’s earned. Before last night, all I knew about Longfellow Books was that they were located in Portland and that their PR guy had been wounded playing extreme frisbee, (ergo, they a little late in formally adding me to the online bill). What I further and pleasurably learned last night is that if Longfellow Books aren’t the good guys, then I haven’t got a clue who is. Chris Bowe, the store’s owner, couldn’t have been warmer in his welcome: he’d read both of or books and provided us with real nice introductions and generous exhortations to read certain passages, he gave us great baked goods (baked, reportedly, but one of the world’s foremost experts in clowns and clown culture). After the audience had gone, Adam and I poked around the bookstore and Chris browsed his own store along with us, talking about this and that book, then flat out gifting us with a couple of his favorites. In the course of about an hour’s total conversation, both Adam and I came away with the serious impression that Longfellow cares concretely about books and their writers and that their money and their mouth exist at the same exact coordinate points. Please pay them a visit when you’re in Portland and treat yourself to a book — these guys are wonderful.

    There was a heavy fog in the downtown that night and it made all the shoplights and the headlights dreamy.  So we walked in the mist, talking about our lives lately and about mid-Genesis’ “Mama” and we talked-up old books (Adam’s into The Mahabharata lately and I’ve been reading Ciaran Carson’s wiseass translation of The Inferno). Every teenage kid in Maine must have been drinking in the Old Port, and when the bars let out at one there was a strikebreak-sized line of cops waiting for them at the end of Wharf Street; they would have seemed ominous if the light hadn’t made them seem unreal. Toughs aside, I like Portland: the old folks come out to artsy readings and young punks turn out for the John Haberle (not pictured). I like how cranky everyone is and I like the smell of the ocean everywhere, of course.


    Thanks to everyone for a really nice reading on Thursday: Evan for hosting us, Ben for handing me his scrawled & thoughtful “Corinna said no double bed / the thing about the frame she said // we’re gonna be late I said / Julie stuttered,” George for his new mustache, Melissa for raising a toast, Kara for the gorgonzola-stuffed bacon-wrapped fig, Adam for post-hoc coverage (Adam read very well — Green is starting to bang and bellow in his prose), the Regal Beagle for the Balvenie 12, and Elisa for all & everything & the rest.

    After the reading, E. & I had the pleasure of traveling west for an evening with our friends Josh & Sarah. After dinner, we lay outside out their back lawn to see if there was any of the meteor shower left. We saw one meteor but the sky out there in South Hadley is fantastic of itself: clear, with only a few wisps of clouds — they looked like belts of stars themselves in the dark. Earlier, Josh showed us some of Sarah’s latest pictures on his iphone. The above and the below are haunting and complex and are both made by her. Please do yourself the favor of checking out a lot more here, and reading some of her fables-so-strange-they-are-poems here. What Kelly Link can’t do in 40 pages, Sarah can do in under one, and better.

    On Sunday, Elisa drove home while I read from the Francis Parkman and de las Casas I picked up at Troubadour. Happily, crowning a real good time, once I got home I turned on my computer to find I’d been reviewed by Adam Gallari in the newest Collagist:

    John Cotter’s debut Under the Small Lights is a wonderfully scathing and esoteric book that attempts to map the failed ambition of a close group of friends whose incestuous and competing desires ultimately lead to their catastrophic downfalls. [ … ] His universe is populated by men and women who both know and love each other so deeply that they are only capable of causing each other great pain, and Cotter skillfully navigates their unknown realms of friendship and love.

    A Long Shot

    As Brookline Patch notes I’ll be reading with Adam Golaski at the Brookline Booksmith this Thursday at 7pm and I’m really, really happy I’ll be doing so. Adam & I are kicking off a big tour with this reading — a country-wide tour embarked upon not all at once by bit by bit, over weekends and odd weeks throughout the rest of this year and the beginning of next. We’re still nailing down different dates, so see the list at the constant right of this site for the sure best and please keep checking back for new additions; and if you’ve got a stop to suggest or a surefire venue good lord man let us know. I would love to see as many of you as I can and to spot you all a drink once you’re there.

    Also worth talking a little about: Under the Small Lights received a beautiful short review in the new installment of New Pages’ regular review series by the excellent poet and publisher Dan Magers. Dan writes:

    [Under the Small Lights] has many marks of a poet: a deft feel for spoken language and the ability to create vivid scenes through language. The very structure of the book – with short, often very short, chapters – has less of the expansiveness of prose, and more the concise cognitive breath of poetry.

    Not long ago I sat across from a good friend in my apartment and argued (ice clinking) about whether I could still consider myself someone who writes poetry if I haven’t written more than half a dozen poems in the last year. Well, take that (above), Chris.

    Final life-note for now: I took my English class out to Harvard Yard the other day so I could fish for random native speakers for my class to practice on (in this case, to practice the future tense) and one of my students (“Jimmi” is his American name) took some pictures of teacher John & class at work. Here’s the best: