Saturday, October 5, 2013

Vouched Interview

I had a little interview go up the other day on the Vouched site to help promote a reading I'm doing with them in Atlanta on Friday. The link's here if you want to check it out.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Ore Derve Poem

I had a poem go up in the web journal Everyday Genius the other day. The link is here if you want to see.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Madness, Rack, Honey

I wrote up a book I really like -- Madness, Rack, and Honey, by Mary Ruefle -- for Fanzine today. It's not really a review. More like an appreciation.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Turning the Novel on Its Head

I had an essay go up at 3:AM magazine a few days ago about a book I really love: Ben Lerner's Leaving the Atocha Station. My essay is mostly a grad school thought experiment, but maybe you'll find it of interest. It's here.

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Reading Audio

I read some poems Sunday night in Atlanta and Pop Up Radio recorded it as well provided the music. The audio is here. I begin at about the 1 hour, 30 minute mark and read for only about six or seven minutes or so. The other readers are Jimmy Lo, Amy Pursifull, Laura Carter, and Scott Daughtridge.

Monday, July 1, 2013

Empathy in the Age of Trolls

I did an interview with an author I like named Travis Nichols last week that went up on the Atlanta-based arts and culture site Fanzine today. The book's funny -- it's told from the perspective an internet troll who is writing in the comments thread of a culinary site called Nichols is also a poet, and the book has that compressed, precise feel. The interview's here if you want to give it a read.

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Podcast Interview Thingie

If you're tired of hearing my voice by now, that is totally understandable, but if not there's an interview podcast thingie I did a couple weeks ago up on the WonderRoot site. It runs about fifteen minutes long (I read after for another couple) during which we discuss my writing process, the lit scenes of Atlanta vs. Seattle, self-publishing, etc. It's here.

Friday, June 28, 2013

Near Boats

Apologies for the shameless self-promotion (I only seem to update this blog with announcements about my published work these days), but I have an audio poem up at Literary Local, an Atlanta-based literary site. I'm reading a poem called "Near Boats." If you feel like listening, it's here. (There's a goofy picture of me too.)

Monday, June 24, 2013

Grief, A Beautiful Place to Visit

An essay I wrote last year about grief is up at The Good Men Project. I'm glad to finally see it in "print." It's here.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

What Kind of Person Are You?

I have a new essay up on The Nervous Breakdown about race, creative writing programs, and the importance of imagining across racial boundaries.

In related news, this video is really funny:

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Ten Books

Over the last year or so I have read a lot of books. There have been a relative few, however, that I loved unequivocally, that have stayed with me, informing the way I view the world and operate within it. They are:

Leaving the Atocha Station by Ben Lerner
Open City by Teju Cole
The Ask by Sam Lipsyte
On Beauty by Zadie Smith
Hard Rain Falling by Don Carpenter
Notes from No Man's Land by Eula Biss
Magic Hours by Tom Bissell
Bluets by Maggie Nelson
The Art of Cruelty by Maggie Nelson
The Gift by Lewis Hyde

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Besotted With Music

This is exciting: Sherman Alexie has agreed to blurb my little self-published book of poems!

His quote: "Alex Gallo-Brown’s poems are the sad and beautiful tales of a lost son, lost father and, yes, lost generation. But these poems are fun and smart. Flooded with imagery and besotted with music. I love them."

Monday, March 25, 2013


The Healing Center in Seattle, a grieving community my mom has been a part of since my dad died in October of 2007, was kind enough to invite me to give a reading next month (it's happening Saturday, April 27th). They've posted a version of the introduction to The Language of Grief on their blog in anticipation. It's here if you want to take a look.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Story Chairs

Well, this is pretty awesome. One of my poems ("Where our fathers are") was included as part of Tina Hoggatt's "Story Chairs" project, opening soon at the Jack Straw New Media Gallery in Seattle. The idea, from what I understand, is that gallery-goers will be invited to sit in one of two chairs, which will in turn play an audio recording. When the visitor stands, the audio ceases; when they sit, a new piece begins. There are 32 pieces of writing in all. Mine is one of them. (You can actually listen to a writer named Will Rose read my poem on this website. Do it. It's a trip.)

Needless to say, I am very excited about this. For all you Seattle people, there's an opening on Wednesday, March 27th, from 5:30-8 pm. I won't be able to be there, living as I do in Atlanta these days, but I hope some of you will serve as my proxy.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Pizza Delivery Poem

I have a "new" poem (I wrote it years ago) up at Loose Change, a literary magazine produced by the great Atlanta arts non-profit WonderRoot. The issue's here if you want to take a look.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Atlanta Reading

Last December, I read at a coffee shop with four other poets and fiction writers as part of an event sponsored by New South, the literary magazine of Georgia State. The video has been made available on YouTube; I thought I'd share it. I'm the first reader, from about the two minute mark to the twelve. Enjoy.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Review: Zone One

In Colson Whitehead’s Zone One, a plague has descended onto the world, rendering a sizable proportion of its population “undead.” The undead are divided into two categories, “skels,” rabid, ferocious, dangerous to the living, and “stragglers,” infected but benign, frozen into the same environments and positions they occupied in life, non-threatening to survivors. The novel takes place over the course of three short days; our protagonist, Mark Spitz—not his real name; an appellation whose provenance we discover only near novel’s end—is a “sweeper,” one of a voluntary team assigned to rid Zone One, an area which encompasses Manhattan, of the skels and stragglers the initial military operation missed or left behind. There is very little plot in the novel; instead, extended digressions—digressions on top of digressions—fill in the back story of who Spitz was before the plague hit, what happened to him on his “Last Night" (the night the zombies descended), and what he did during the “interregnum” (the period between the descension of the zombies and the resurgence of civilization).

I liked two things about this novel. The first was Whitehead’s unusual vocabulary, which read, to borrow words from one uncharitable reviewer, as if the author had “just discovered how to use a thesaurus.” This sounds like a criticism, and indeed it is, but as tortured and unnecessary much of the language was, it did succeed in teaching me new vocab. For example, “subcutaneous” means under the skin, “exsanguinated” means bloodless, “instertitial” means in between—and those were just the few I bothered to write down!

Seriously, though, I thought the language was impressive in one way and entirely superfluous in another, serving mostly to obscure the story, the imaginative landscape Whitehead presumably wants us to enter, and to blur whatever social critique he intended to deliver. It made me wonder if Whitehead, the Macarthur Genius and renowned literary novelist, felt some insecurity about working in the genre form and, as a result, tortured his novel into a soulless, exsanguinated(!), near-meaningless thing. Every time I came across a sentence like, “The citizens were programmed by the vista-less city to utter such things at the correct triggers, so diminished were they from crippled horizons,” or “The skateboarder posing on the filigreed manhole cover at the bottom of his favorite declivity," I felt my eyes glaze over, zombie-like, as Whitehead’s narrative ground to a halt.

I did legitimately like one thing about the novel, though, which was its temporal positioning of the narrative in relation to the apocalypse. I haven’t read many post-apocalyptic novels, or even seen very many post-apocalyptic movies or TV shows, but my sense of the archetypal zombie narrative is that it takes place just at that moment when the plague or meteor or aliens have begun to descend: that defamiliarizing moment when civilization begins to slip into the abyss. The freshest thing about Whitehead’s take, for me, was that the novel opens not at the moment of collapse but during the period of revival. “The superstructure”—a Marxist term for the large institutions that govern society which Whitehead employs several times—was initially decimated but, at novel’s beginning, is beginning to reconstitute itself. “Buzzwords had returned,” Whitehead writes, “and what greater proof of the rejuvenation of the world, the return of Eden, then a new buzzword emerging from the dirt to tilt its petal to the Zeitgeist.” In a similar vein, the mandarins holed up in Buffalo are in the process of “rebranding survival…some of them hard at work crafting the new language.” And perhaps most interesting (although it takes 230 pages to get there), Whitehead has his protagonist, Spitz, wonder whether “the old bigotries [would] be reborn as well…if they could bring back paperwork, Mark Spitz thought, they could certainly reanimate prejudice.” For me, these moments of insight were the most interesting, and, incidentally, the most literary aspect of the novel. If the generic post-apocalyptic narrative is interested in what happens after the meteor falls, this book, in its better moments, is interested in what happens after civilization begins to put itself back together.

The biggest problem for me, I think, was simply that the social critique—ostensibly the reason such a thing as a “literary zombie novel” exists in the first place—was alternately lacking, obvious, or simply lame. At various points, Whitehead lampoons consumerism (“The acquisitive debit-card swipers and the easily swayed”), gambling addiction (“It should be noted that the slots maintained their sturdy population of glassy-eyed defectives, the protohumans with their sleepless claws”), and misogyny (“In the time before the flood, Mark Spitz had a habit of making his girlfriends into things that were less than human”). But we already think of slot machine addicts, mall rats, and misogynists as zombies, or at the very least despicable. To insert these observations into a zombie novel seems to me, somehow, redundant. Certainly it is not fresh or illuminating. Various other observations about post-apocalyptic New York fall flat, as well. “New York City in death was very much like New York City in life. It was hard to get a cab, for example.” Hardee har har. “Obviously sightseeing had taken a hit in the last few years." Yes, obviously. “It was Mark Spitz’s first glimpse of Manhattan since the coming of the plague, and he thought to himself, by God, it’s been taken over by tourists." Tourists as zombies. Huh. Never thought of that one before.

The best moments of social critique come when events in the novel echo real-life historical events—that is, when the narrative begins to take the shape of allegory. “The rich tended to escape,” Whitehead writes, while “a larger percentage of the poor tended to stay, shoving layaway bureaus and media consoles up against doors.” Here, there are clear echoes of the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, and the force of the fictional universe takes on new power, it seems to me, when tethered to real-world circumstances. Similarly, when Whitehead nods to global warming—“the other, less flamboyant, more deliberate ruination altering the planet’s climate had been under way for more than a hundred years”—he succeeds in inducing a chill in the reader, who can’t help but regard his constructed universe with fresh eyes.

Ultimately, however, these moments of light are few and far between. The combination of turgid prose, overstacked observation, and uninspired social critique results in a very bad book—the kind produced by a mid-career novelist who can line sentences up fluidly and has a strong command of the English language but is not sure, precisely, what he wants to say.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Herbert's Search

So I had a goofy little short fiction piece go up on The Nervous Breakdown today. It makes fun, in hopefully a light and loving way, of Trader Joe's, the Apple store, organic restaurants -- basically the entirety of the urban hipster lifestyle. If you get a kick out of it, please pass it along via your various social media outlets.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

PT Anderson and Elliot Smith

Well, this is a treat. One of my favorite musicians, Elliot Smith, being filmed by one of my favorite filmmakers, Paul Thomas Anderson, way back in 2000. Enjoy.