Archive for the ‘Faculty Posts’ Category

The Next Big Thing: Philip Brady

February 18, 2013

February 18, 2013

Philip Brady: “The Next Big Thing” Blog Hop

 “The Next Big Thing” is a blog hop in which authors around the world share what they’re working on by responding to ten questions. Wilkes faculty member Philip Brady responds to questions below. He was invited by Carol Moldaw, whose Next Big Thing post can be found here

 

Phil Brady

Phil Brady

What is your working title of your book?

To Banquet with the Worthy Ethiopians: a memoir of life before the alphabet.

Where did the idea come from for the book?

The phrase comes from Homer. It appears in both the Iliad and the Odyssey, and refers to the Gods’ habit of retreating from human affairs in times of crisis. But the idea for a long poem came in the Fall of 2010 after major heart surgery. The recuperation gave me months of time off from teaching and directing Etruscan Press and the YSU Poetry Center. Months off from real life of any kind, really. It also changed my relationship to my body. I was weak, dreamy. In many ways, I became a boy again. It was just like the endless afternoons I spent rocking in front of the hi fi listening to Irish music. I lived in Queens, and understood none of it. It was a way of sailing from the world—reveling in the higher nonsense; finding in rhythm a charm against time’s surge. Amidst the violent conflicts of boyhood, it was my way of banqueting with the Ethiopians. During the months recovering from surgery, sitting in my rocker in front of the fire, I felt again like that boy, rocking and chanting.  And when I reviewed the many pages of the prose memoir I’d been struggling to write, they seemed so….prolix; prosaic; so slow and dense and stolid. After having been, briefly, dead, who’d care about all that stuff?  And I remembered a summer in camp when I was twelve, trying and failing to read a prose translation of the Iliad by W.H.D. Rouse. Only now do I realize that it was the prose, not the story, that was difficult. And so I started to transpose my own prosy life into another key. 

What genre does your book fall under?

The book is composed from questions about genre. Are genres sets of conventions and practices? Are they traditions? Or do they emerge from various entwined impulses: to sing, to yarn, to explain, to remember, to marvel? Homer and the works that emerge from the oral tradition do all these things. To Banquet with the Worthy Ethiopians aspires to that condition. It’s a long poem, and a novel-in-verse, and a memoir-in-myth. Timothy Findley puts it best. “I didn’t know quite how to tell this story,” he writes, “until I realized that if I were Homer, I’d have recognized that it isn’t just the story of men and women, but of men and women and the gods to whom they are obedient, and told best through the evocation of icons. So what I must do is transpose this story, which is history, into another key, which is mythology.”

Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?

There have been great movies about the Iliad and Odyssey. Some of my favorites are Ulysees with Kirk Douglas, Troy with Brad Pitt (mentioned in my poem), and Brother Where Art Thou with George Clooney. And of course various adaptations abound.  But I remain an unrepentant John Wayne fan, pilgrim.

What is the synopsis of your book?

The tale takes place at the border between myth and time, between childhood and adulthood, between orality and literature. Following a heart attack, an aging ‘scrivener’ broods on a list folded in a copy of the Iliad. Item 265 reads simply, “Thersites,” a foot soldier whining to go home.  The scrivener recalls the summer he first encountered the Iliad. Though overwhelmed by W.H.D. Rouse’s turgid prose, he gleaned enough to realize that the Trojan War, with all its violence and intrigue, was being waged on a smaller scale at his summer camp.

To Banquet with the Worthy Ethiopians blends Homer’s discovery of the alphabet with a man’s recovery and a boy’s struggle to glimpse the adult world through the prism of an ancient epic. As the story is transposed from history into myth, it ripples from Ithaca to Queens, passing through a murder investigation, a hacked computer, an all-star poetry workshop, a plot to relocate Troy, and a committee charged with writing a sequel to the Iliad.  While it is fantastical and whimsical, this is a deeply serious story about the difficulty of nurturing our personal myths in a world bound in time.

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?

I’m sending it around to all the usual suspects. It won’t be self published, nor will it appear from Etruscan, where I am the Executive Director. But as a publisher, I hope to be in a good position to work with whomever decides to publish it.

How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?

Once I decided to write verse instead of prose, it came very quickly—eighteen chapters in as many months. In the beginning I was “translating” as much as writing—working from my own prose pony. I learned that the most telling difference between prose and poetry is pace. Verse moves at great speed, grounded only by a barely audible thrum. It illuminates without revealing—lightning flashing on a dark landscape.

What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?

Some of the books that have influenced me are Christopher Logue’s War Music,  Zachary Mason’s The Lost Books of the Odyssey,  David Malouf’s Ransom, Margaret Atwood’s The Penelopiad, Alfred Lord’s The Singer of Tales, Julian James The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bi-Cameral Mind, Eric Havelock’s Preface to Plato, H.L.Hix’s As Much As, If Not More Than, William Heyen’s Crazy Horse in Stillness, Walter Ong’s Orality and Literacy, Leonard Schlain’s The Alphabet vs. the Goddess, and Jonathan Shay’s Achilles in Vietnam and Odysseus in America.

Who or what inspired you to write this book?

I didn’t write the book. I composed it. The writing part is merely transcription, which I need to do because my memory isn’t strong enough to hold it all in. But now I have it. I compose and am composed, as I walk, or drive, or shower, or am pulled into the dark tube of an MRI.

What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?

The book aspires to turn readers into listeners. In the spirit of the oral tradition which provides its impetus, a performance of the entire work is being filmed at Youngstown State University. Clips from this rendition can be found at

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I1-Ve8aiRjk&feature=youtu.be….

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W0qGmacdSSo

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s2eyIuEqQOY

***

Philip Brady is a poet, instructor, and publisher. Learn more at his website: www.philipbrady.com.

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special post: Why Mailer Matters

January 25, 2012

“Why Mailer Matters: Three Reasons”  

By J. Michael Lennon, authorized biographer and Professor Emeritus, Wilkes University

Presented at the Mailer-Jones Conference, Harry Ransom Center, University of Texas-Austin, November 10, 2011 

 

1.     Mailer was the key innovator in the new wave of participatory journalism that took place in the in the late 1950s and early 1960s. He argued that there were no immutable boundaries, no lines drawn in heaven, between the genres, and demonstrated this by drilling holes through all the watertight compartments dividing them. Mailer once described himself as “a Nijinsky of ambivalence,” and he was able to deploy the warring parts of his psyche as both actor and observer, protagonist and witness, and thus achieve the enviable status Walt Whitman described as “being in and out of the game, watching and wondering”—and doing. The consummate artistic control he exercised over his persona enabled him, in The Armies of the Night (1968) and succeeding works, to shift from The Beast to The Ruminant with ease, jumping from one to the other like circus acrobats leaping from one horse to another and then back again. Thus, he was able to avail himself of the techniques and powers of journalism, historical narrative, biography, autobiography, and the novel—always the master form for him because of its tendency to engulf and ingest other forms. I would add, however, that it was the idea of the novel, and its aspiration to range wide yet dive deep, that inspired and allowed him plunder and reshape the other forms. His actual novelistic achievements, while brilliant, sit in the second row behind his successes in the polemical essay and several kinds of nonfiction narrative, including one often passed over too quickly—biography. As Richard Poirier once wrote, Mailer was Melville without Moby-Dick, George Eliot without Middlemarch, and Mark Twain without Huckleberry Finn. But with The Armies of the Night and The Executioner’s Song (1979), he has his Walden and his Crime and Punishment.    

2.      Mailer was the most important public intellectual in the American literary world for over 30 years, and along with other figures such as William Buckley, Saul Bellow, Gore Vidal and Susan Sontag, helped establish the creative writer as important a commentator as politicians, pundits and professors. Mailer presented his ideas and commentary on modern politics and culture in every major media venue, save the Internet, and he even dabbled there in his final years. No American writer going back to Mark Twain mastered the modes of communicating with a variety of audiences for as long or as well as Mailer. He wrote for every sort of magazine and journal, underground and aboveground—Partisan Review, Parade, Esquire, Playboy, Way Out, Fuck You: A Magazine of the Arts, Dissent, Life, Look, Village Voice, Nugget, the NYRB and the New Yorker—over 100 different periodicals. He appeared on every major talk show, and many obscure ones. People saw him with Charlie Rose and Dick Cavett, and heard him at 2 a.m. on a local radio show in Nevada. He spoke at most of the major universities in the country, making hundreds of appearances; he was on symposia and panels in a variety of venues. One of his wives said he would go the opening of an envelope. He could be counted on to present his point of view on the controversy du jour in a letter to the editor—hundreds—an essay, interview, live broadcast or a book. He was the cultural spokesperson for a generation, probably two, and was our hero, our man out on a limb talking a blue streak, fulminating against technology, pollution and plastic, worrying about our fragile democracy, and taking on all comers. No American writer—Christopher Hitchens (another Left Conservative) might be the closest—has yet come close to replacing him.  

3.      Mailer was the most important chronicler of and commentator on the major events and figures of American life during the last half of the twentieth century. He had daring ideas and insights on the great events and phenomena of the period: the Depression and World War II, McCarthyism and the Hollywood blacklist, the Cold War, Black Power, the sexual revolution, Vietnam and civil disobedience, the Women’s Liberation Movement, technology and the space program, prize fights and political conventions (he covered six), and some of the most loved and hated persons of the 20th century: Muhammad Ali and Marilyn Monroe, Hemingway, Castro, Nixon, Gary Gilmore, Lee Harvey Oswald, Madonna, Jackie Kennedy, Picasso and Henry Miller, and at the end of his life, Adolph Hitler. The most important figure was John. F. Kennedy. No event in American history reverberated as long and hard for Mailer as Kennedy’s assassination. It was either the focus or the backdrop for eight of his books, from The Presidential Papers (1963) to Oswald’s Tale (1995). He owned two sets of the 26-volume Warren Commission Report, and was obsessed by the causes and effects of J.F.K.’s death and legacy. The Time of Our Time (1998), his 1300-page, one-volume anthology organized by the date of the events chronicled therein, is one of the few narrative works that can stand comparison to John Dos Passos’s chronicle of the first half of the 20th century, U.S.A. We would not know what America was about for a long stretch of years after WWII, not as well as we do, were it not for Mailer’s words. 

In sum: Perhaps no career in American literature has been as brilliant, varied, controversial, public, productive, lengthy and misunderstood. 

[Note: the phrase “out on a limb talking a blue streak,” or something close to it, is borrowed from a review read long ago, and not since located. Thanks to the reviewer, wherever he is ensconced.]

*****

Thank you to J. Michael Lennon for contributing this guest post. Guest posts are welcome! Email lori.may1@wilkes.edu if you would like to submit a post for the Wilkes creative writing community.

advisory board member Thom Ward: new book

September 28, 2011

Thom Ward, Advisory Board member of the Wilkes Creative Writing MA/MFA programs, has a new poetry book available from Accents Publishing. Etcetera’s Mistress, with original cover art by acclaimed artist DeLoss McGraw, follows Ward’s previous publications Small Boat with Oars of Different Size, The Matter of the Casket and Various Orbits.

What Other Poets Say About Etcetera’s Mistress

“Reading Thom Ward is to enter a brilliant and restless imagination – sometimes poignant, sometimes crazy-with-a-purpose, but always with a deep lucidity in the logic of its illogic. His poems remind me how much we need language and how much the language needs us.”

– Thomas Lux

“On Thom Ward’s diagram of the day, no line, border, or boundary exists between dark and light sides. They overlay one another with rich and haunting texture. His navigational map, his poetic GPS, locates a landscape full of brilliantly wry and tender intelligences.”

– Naomi Shihab Nye

“Waxing or waning, the moon’s aloft in Thom Ward’s stunning new prose poems, jingling sonnets, and philosophical forays, with Ward dangling from the same moon like a lovely Shakespearean fool. Here he swings nightly, panting and sweating in his night sweats and sweatpants, and caroling across the chasms of loneliness, kicking around the stars. Who better than Ward to help us love?”

– Alan Michael Parker

From Etcetera’s Mistress –

‘Actually, However’

He fell, and fell hard, like his heart was a mob informant and she

the East River. Actually, he was a mob informant, the only

way to advance his stalled career on the squad. She, however,

was not the East River but the black leather, blue-eyed mistress

of Butch the Barracuda. Few salt water fish in the East River;

however, there were plenty of decomposing informants, even he

knew that, knew her mouth was moist as a June strawberry,

cartons shipped from the docks along with the guns and the crack.

Actually, he had never kissed her, though he knew how succulent

she would taste, especially at night, along the shore of the East River;

however, at the card table in the back of the warehouse, he called

Butch by his Christian name, instantly blowing his cover, the cold

bullet finding his brain, and he now finding himself sinking in the

East River, which he always knew had never, actually, been her.

 

Details and Ordering 

Format: Softcover, 6″ x 9″

ISBN: 978-1-936628-03-2

Price: $10.00

Order directly from Accents Publishing

Buy or Review it on Amazon.com 

 

About the Author

Thom Ward is sole proprietor of Thom Ward’s Poetry Editing and Proofreading Services (thombward@gmail.com). Ward’s poetry collections include Small Boat with Oars of Different Size (Carnegie Mellon University Press, 2000) and Various Orbits (Carnegie Mellon, 2004). Ward’s poetry chapbook, Tumblekid, winner of the 1998 Devil’s Millhopper poetry contest, was published by the University of South Carolina-Aiken in 2000. His collection of prose poems, The Matter of the Casket, was published by CustomWords in 2007. Ward teaches creative writing workshops at high schools and colleges around the country, tutors individual poetry students, and edits poetry manuscripts. He is a faculty and advisory board member at Wilkes University’s Graduate Creative Writing program in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania. Thom Ward lives in western New York with his girlfriend Jennifer and their cat Phantom.

We Want to Do His Work Justice

April 20, 2011

This week’s post is from author and Wilkes Faculty Member, Kaylie Jones.  Kaylie, daughter of American writer James Jones, has recently embarked on a journey to release her father’s manuscript From Here to Eternity, uncensored.  The way the great writer intended it to be.  In this personal reflection, Kaylie talks about her father’s vision for the book, and his incredible insight into the human condition.

Jamie, James Jones, and Kaylie

This is the table in the house our parents rented in Skiathos, Greece, where our dad told us the story of THE ILIAD for the first time.  He explained, to our great surprise, that Achilles was gay and Patrocles was his lover, and that was why Achilles got so angry when Patrocles was killed. I wrote about this in my memoir, LIES MY MOTHER NEVER TOLD ME. My brother and I thought he was making it up.

Our father was 24 years old in 1943, when he decided he wasn’t going to fight anymore. He was disgusted and enraged by the army’s red-tape bureaucracyby the fact that when the wounded soldiers came home from the war, they were treated badly and without respect. He went AWOL several times, until they threw him in the stockade. When asked by an army psychiatrist why he was acting this way, he said he’d killed an emaciated Japanese soldier in hand-to-hand combat on Guadalcanal and he never intended to kill anyone ever again. If that made him crazy, then so be it. The army finally discharged him as unfit for duty in 1944, and gave him a pension. When FROM HERE TO ETERNITY was published in 1951, the army took his pension away, because they decided that anyone who could write a book couldn’t be all that crazy.

We have the letters he wrote to his editor at Scribner, Burroughs Mitchell, fighting and arguing to keep every f-word and c-word; every reference to homosexual sex; every scene of masturbation, in FROM HERE TO ETERNITY – and more often than not, he was overruled. What he cared about was depicting the reality of life in the pre-war army. The US Postal Service would not ship the book if it contained “prurient” language or scenes. His response to his editor was: “The things we change in this book for propriety’s sake will in five years, or ten years, come in someone else’s book anyway, that may not be as good as this one, and then we will kick ourselves for not having done it, and we will not have been first with this … and we will wonder why we thought we couldn’t do it. Writing has to keep evolving into deeper honesty, like everything else, and you cannot stand on past precedent or theory, and still evolve … You know there is nothing salacious in this book as well as I do. therefore, whatever changes you want made along that line will be made for propriety, and propriety is a very inconstant thing.”

My brother and I have wanted to publish an uncensored, unexpurgated version of the original manuscript for a long time, and Open Road Media‘s enthusiasm and energy for the project matched ours. Over the last few days this new edition has gotten a good deal of attention in the press — in The New York Times; on BBC News; and Perez Hilton‘s site.

My father believed that there has been and will be homosexual sex in the armed forces since armies have existed, which means, pretty much since men figured out how to band together and club each other on the head. He didn’t think it was a big deal and wanted people to be open and honest about it. He also believed that who a person likes to sleep with is hardly the point when you are lying in a foxhole with the enemy advancing upon you; what matters is if the person will stay cool and focused under fire. He didn’t see much progress in this area in his life time.

There are also sections of a novel of his that never was published, a first attempt, that we are going to release to the world. It is called TO THE END OF THE WAR. His scenes of the home front in 1943 are unlike anything else I’ve ever read. The soldiers, recovering from their wounds in a Memphis army hospital, are steeling themselves to be shipped back out overseas. They all know they’re being sent to England to prepare for the invasion of Normandy. They also know they don’t stand a chance of surviving this time. Some of their wounds are very serious, but the army doesn’t give them a break. And they are changed, psychically broken in some fundamental way. They can’t sleep at night, and would rather be back in the jungle with their old outfits, but their old outfits don’t exist anymore. They’ve kept track of everyone, and everyone is KIA, MIA, or transferred. The civilian population likes its heroes, just as long the heroes don’t act out, or talk too much, or need too much attention. So the soldiers learn to put on fronts, to wear the mask the world wants them to wear. My dad understood so much about human nature at such an early age, I can hardly believe it. There is only one writer I can think of who got this and took it a step further – Tim O’Brien, in THE THINGS THEY CARRIED. In his book, it’s the narrator who puts on the fronts, who lies, who tricks us, the readers, all in order to show us that there is no way in hell we, as civilians, will ever understand war.