Blog

Carson Pytell is Alien Buddha Press’ Featured Artist for October 2020

ABP– Thank you for taking this interview, Carson. Early this past summer, Alien Buddha Press had the privilege of publishing your book First-Year. The collection now has a perfect 5-star rating on Amazon, and has sold quite well. What can you tell us about “First-Year”? What was the process of writing it like, and how do you feel about the book 4 months later?

CP- My pleasure, Red. Thanks for selecting me to be ABP’s Featured Artist for October.

  First-Year was not so much written as it was compiled. What I did cannot really be called a process, as when I began writing poetry last summer the idea of a book of my own was little more than a pipedream. Therefore, I did not compose any of the poems in the collection knowing they would someday be part of a book. They were written as individual pieces meant to stand on their own. There is no overarching theme, no narrative to be found, and the only chronological component of it is that I chose ‘Tracks’, the first poem I was lucky enough to have published, to also be the poem to start the collection.

  As for how I now feel about the book, I must say I’m content. Not all forty poems within are high-test, but I do believe there are a few gems in there. And I of course will always have a soft spot for it being my first collection. If ever I grow critical of my early work, I believe I will at least always get a chuckle out of the title being both a literal statement that the poems within represent my first year writing verse, and also a bit of a sleight against me – First-Year could be taken to mean sophomoric. A few pieces I am particularly proud of are ‘Tracks’, ‘Musician’ (which began its life as a short story) and ‘Keatonesque’. I’m a silent film buff and Hart Crane fan, so that last one was fun.

  The ratings and sales are nice – encouraging and validating. However, the most meaningful approval comes from oneself. All the stars and sales in the world mean nothing if I feel I’m not producing writing to my own satisfaction.

ABP- This year, you also came out with a book titled “Trail” via Guerrilla Genesis Press. What do you have to say about that book?

CP–  The twenty poems comprising “Trail” were written in a full out sprint lasting only a week. This is due in part to the subject matter being very accessible – family. Between those covers I have constructed a largely imagined history of two sides of a family, beginning with their roots in the old world and climaxing when they finally meet and produce something (someone) similar to myself. As I mention in the chapbook’s foreword, the ideal way to read the it is the same way one would read something akin to a Carver story; in one sitting and with an eye for symbolism and masked meaning.

ABP- Are there any other books you have written that you would like to mention?

CP- None yet complete, only one in the works – tentatively titled “Sketching” – which I intend to be both my first full-length and my first book including prose. Fifty poems and fifteen pieces of short fiction is the goal. Currently I am about halfway done and aim to begin editing it by the end of 2020.

ABP- What are you currently working on?

CP- I am compiling a chapbook dealing with the relationship between nature and art which I am calling “The Gold That Stays”. The poems have already been written, I’m only just now ordering and editing them so that they have some kind of flow.

ABP- Who are your biggest influences as a writer?

CP- Stylistically I’d like to say I have none. For a poet to develop their own voice is paramount. My favorite poets to read, however, range from the high modernists (Eliot, Stevens, Crane) to the confessionals (Sexton, Berryman) to the Beats (Snyder, Ginsberg, McClure) to the contemporary masters (Perchik, Kooser) and almost anything in between which I can get my hands on. My hope is that by reading a wide spectrum of poetry I will end up knowledgeable enough to employ the same techniques they did but wise enough to make the work my own overall.

ABP– What is the poetry scene like in Albany NY?

CP– Unfortunately, I wouldn’t know. There is some kind of scene out there (please visit AlbanyPoets.com) but I’m yet to be a part of it. Having type-1 diabetes, COVID has made it risky for me to go out in public anywhere people have gathered, like readings. Hopefully that will cool down sooner rather than later and I can feel safe reentering the world.

ABP- Thank you for taking the time to answer these questions, Carson. The floor is all yours. Is there anything you would like to say or announce here to our wordpress readers.

Also, could you share a sample of your writing?

CP- Again, my pleasure. I’m honored to have been chosen as October’s Featured Artist.

  Only because I’ve been given the floor to do so, I’d like to plug a few things – one service and two poets. The service in question is called The Submission Wizard. It is a submission system in which you submit a form detailing your style, influences and goals in writing then receive detailed suggestions for where your poetry or fiction could find a home. There are three tiers of service. The first, for a measly $3, recommends 3 possible homes. The second, for $5, offers 5. And the third, for $25, is an expedited response of 3 possible homes for you to do some research on then 10 more once you look them up and return with any impressions on what you liked or didn’t like about them. For full details (including additional services for small fees) please visit the website: thesubmissionwizard.com.

  Now to the poets. The first, Zebulon Huset, actually runs The Submission Wizard along with a magazine of his own, Coastal Shelf, and a writing prompt blog called Notebooking Daily over at blogspot. Not only is he a fine poet himself (please see his wonderful piece ‘When Someone Suggested Mushrooms on the Pizza’ in The Southern Review for a taste) but also a very kind and helpful man. He and I have been in communication for only a short time, but in that time I have learned more about the potentials for and machinations of poetry than I ever remember learning in school. For more information on him and his writing please give the name a Google search, you won’t be disappointed.

  The second poet, and a personal hero of mine, is named Simon Perchik. Mr. Perchik has been actively publishing for more than seventy years and is, in my opinion, the most shamefully unsung poet of the mid-20th and early-21st centuries. Though his book ‘Hands Collected: Selected Poems 1949-1999’ was longlisted for the National Book Award and he has appeared in all the biggest names in literary journals (The New Yorker, Partisan Review and Poetry Magazine are only a few) still he is relatively unknown. This is a travesty. Not only is his verse unique in that it is entirely non-narrative, imagistic and felt more than understood, but his procedure to create his art is too. Rather than beginning with an idea, a pen and paper, he uses books of photography. Going one by one, he establishes an idea from each photo then confronts it with another, utterly disparate notion, thus imbueing all his work with a feeling of tension and duality.

  Again, as with Zebulon, Mr. Perchik and I have been in limited contact. At 96 years old (still writing and publishing every single day) he responded to an e-mail I sent him out of the blue asking for his autograph on a first edition of his first collection. Not only did he agree to doing so, he even sent me a little note saying he “very much enjoyed” the poem below, which I could not help but to send him for his opinion:

Redemption

Life, the iredeemer.

No wonder there’s a God; not unlike there’s hate

and always a dollar in St. Anthony’s change for a cigarette

from the Pakistani or Indian bodega kept up by a family

who kneels just the same to different names, and praises

the canonized coin in their jars writ with wishes

that God won’t stop depositing dimes or even quarters

for some beatific order; smoke, family, like love.

What cans to be had.

Once more, thank you, Red, for choosing me to be Alien Buddha’s Press’ Featured Artist this month. To everyone who has stuck around and read this far, please do check out First-Year and Trail, my instagram page: @carsonpytell, as well as my occasionally updated blog: carsonpytell.wordpress.com.

SPOTLIGHT: ‘Not Sorry’ by Vicki Iorio

Die on Mars

In the steam of a Hampton’s night,

when humidity clings like a silk slip to the windshield

I joy ride Elon’s Tesla.

The roads at the end of Suffolk County

are not paper doll flat

but curved like a witch’s spine

and the Tesla hugs them in a midnight tango.

Someday the Boring Company, will build tunnels—

a silent boring and only Teslas will be licensed

to motor the underground and pop up in Connecticut.

There will be extra lanes and traffic

jams will not be allowed— car Camelot.

But for now,

with the stars in Space X as my navigators

I only drive when most of the world

sleeps. It is not the man in the wolf moon

that romances me but the faceless

astronaut in a musky red Tesla

grooving to dead David Bowie

on his way to Mars.

Bobsie Showed Me How to Insert a Tampax

Her father was the head of psychiatry at Pilgrim State

he approved lobotomies while he ordered lunch

She shouted out directions to me

through the closed bathroom door

When the tampax slid in, and stayed in place

it was a summer vacation victory

Never again did I have to smell dried blood

in my kotexed soaked underwear

Bobsie was a college girl

the next summer she came home with a baby

She never told me how she got that baby

but she did show me how to insert a thermometer

to measure ovulation

My first birth control

Sorry, Not Sorry

Define muscle memory—

Expect a beating

List the things in your medicine cabinet:

Advil, betadine cream, peroxide

ace bandages, Xanax.

Define apology—

Body, I am sorry for the damage done,

the bruise tattoos, the broken things

that cannot be fixed.

Mea Culpa, I beat my chest

savaged by bites and burns.

Do you like being a martyr?

The question my therapist asks me.

Sometimes I stain her checks with my blood.

How do you plead?

Innocent in the court of popular opinion.

Define muscle memory—

My hands remember what to do with a gun.

What I Am Thankful For

Thank you for not killing me. Black and blue turns a rainbow of gangrenous greens.

And thank me for not killing you. A house without a gun does not a crime scene make.

Thank movie theaters and their darkness—cinematic religion; the popcorn, my communion

wafers and thanks to my car, a safe spot for screaming. Thank the makers of Xanax and thank Death for taking you sooner than later.

She stuffed

      the insurance check in the front pocket of her tight jeans,

took the car that didn’t melt, that was hot, but started.

She scooped up her daughter and her daughter’s bunny—

charred on one side, black and pink.

The house is the burning end of a cigarette. She floors

 the ignition, the night smells of fire. She does not believe

 she will ever lose that smell, it has nested in her hair,

 her nostrils, her sinus, even her daughter smells like fire.

The insurance check is a fire in her pocket.

She has never seen that much money in a check

made out to her. He is coming around tomorrow to reclaim

the check. She will shower after she puts one hundred miles

between her and her destruction. She will stop driving

when she quits smoking, dye her hair and her daughter’s

pink like the bunny.

Waiting for my Xanax Script to be Filled

Parked in the CVS lot

in unairconditioned July

I fold into the steering wheel and scream

A priest appears at my window

asks if I’m alright

yes, I’m good

I sit up and put my hands at ten and two

He disappears into a cloud

and I start keening

but this time with the radio on

He would have bought me bottled water

a pack of chewing gum

rode shotgun without a seat belt

prayed for my lost soul

if I had unloaded my shit to him

A for effort Padre

you trusted my good

answer

I forgive you for believing me

To Matzah

You are to eat matzah

-Exodus 12:18

Biblical broadsheet —

unleavened flat piece of dough lacking the pride of rising,

humble puckered squares nourish this non-religious life.

Cottage cheese and cling peaches on your flat skin

(my mother eats this religiously for lunch) the only food

I keep down after a ride on the virus roller coaster.

No matzah brie for I-matzah purist-shredded mozzarella,

generic tomato sauce slathered on your body, toaster-oven

baked, after school comfort.

My lover places a matzah

with cheese and pepperoni on my belly après sex

he declares himself a Portnoy without complaint.

Egg Matzah, exclusive to Passover should only be eaten

by the elderly, the infirm and children. With a childish glee

I hoard this eggy hardness and eat it year-round.

Once in a California supermarket

I asked a bagger where I could find matzah,

he told me they don’t carry Jew food.

I am preparing for the day

when matzah will be shaped into communion

wafers, hidden in catacombs swallowed fast.

SPOTLIGHT: Caffeine vs. Olanzapine, The new feature length poetry book by Bud Ogden

Not many poets play with rhyme nowadays. Whether they see it as restraining or old-fashioned, most poets prefer some form of free verse. But Bud Ogden doesn’t seem interested in keeping with trends nor is he attempting to stick to tradition. Ogden’s poetry employs rhyme in a unique manner; mixing up rhyme schemes with complete disregard for what’s considered “proper.” There’s something very alternative, almost rebellious in Ogden’s unique, personal, and vulnerable poetry. If you’re looking for an ordinary book of poetry, look elsewhere.


Ada Wofford
—Author of I Remember Learning How to Dive



NORTH-AMERICAN DAYDREAM

lined-up productivity

scorching scent of hazy pine

we’ll end up in the same place

better to prolong the time

they’ll divide and conquer too

suits and ties and shiny shoes

they start hate and spread it through

future made from screams and nukes

seeming, planned longevity

green enough to let me think

composing before arrival

hitting as soon as we blink

KANGAROO MIC CHECK

he focused on the outer shell

believed the lies he told himself

tricked and convinced all he could

punking his own neighborhood

dancing through a phony sea

entertain hypocrisy

changing views are just a test

to see which lies will work the best

STRAWBERRY, RASBERRY, ORANGE AND VANILLA

thinning blood and clogging veins

blinding senses once again

corporations have a pull

eyes still itching from the wool

so advanced, fully aware

just another numb to care

all to grasp another taste

in the end, another waste

WHAT CELLS REMAIN

I wanted to explain to you now

but then I forgot what it was

I wanted to describe to you how

but it fluttered out with a buzz

the senses pick up the omnipresent

there used to be a feeling and theme

the numb is a ritual-like dependent

where paint and composure build a dream

as beautiful as you inspire

as echoing as your words reach

the flickering of my own fire

the hypocrisy of what we teach

SOLAR DIP

down you go, angle perfected

targeting my residence

beautiful and deadly weapon

confirming no evidence

a brief and dimming time period

the same one every day

when sweaty bodies pass out

a new form every way

now you know, reason detected

lighting up all arrogance

euphoric and praised murderer

sizzling my existence

DERAIL THE DONKEY

before the sun was in my eyes

it magnified my eyelid’s choice

a burger spilled into the fries

with irritated foreign voice

an act of distant barricades

to breach the position of fate

with ostriches that outrun dogs

and dripping forms of sweaty hate

some belch to praise the later shows

some sneak into a land of gold

they fornicate and pick their nose

and lack the soul that should be sold

when open sores absorb the blood

the length of you is well-distorted

as veins and flesh endure a flood

the false content will be reported

a vicious bond that begs for more

is stuffed with an enormous cock

the explanation for this theme

is just a form of writer’s block

WRITER’S BLOCK chapter 967

the nugget tasted great

dipped in green sauce

we chug it pasted fate

flipped in scene moss

SPOTLIGHT: Carbon Footprint, the new chapbook from Donny Winter

Goth Night at a Gay Club

Rap slaps my ears

in whimsical club-smoke

while I watch you wrap

your legs around him like scissors.

A lemon slice hangs on an empty glass

before it shatters beneath them.

Chain necklaces clink and knot together

as Edward Cullen doppelgangers make out

beneath nuclear blast strobe lights.

The dance floor booms under footfalls

like a thunderstorm, while its black light

electricity keeps us all aglow, and I,

the moth in a field of butterflies, am

willingly swallowed by their bodies

to keep this eyeliner a solid charcoal.

Ex-Marine

Every day, you come in and touch me,

hands on thighs,

breath on neck,

half-wit compliments.

You joke that I get more action from

your advances than anything I’ve ever

gotten from a man.

If only you knew what I’ve “gotten.”

Your eyes glare behind leers when you’re with friends—

You hate gays, but you’re okay with touching them.

Yes, I hate that I blush when you put

your patriot eyes on me.

You find ways to get what you want

from the half-plucked gay, picked the wrong way.

You strut in, get your cup of coffee,

flit around me—a deceptive wasp

hunting for undeserved nectar.

I hide behind coffee pots and pastry racks,

hoping you’ll just leave.

Then you ask,

“How’s my buddy?”

Your strong arms embrace me —

whether to hug or ruin, I don’t know.

I yearn for customers to come in when you

hold me for more than ten seconds,

but I’m there alone.

This isn’t a hug anymore.

I move, then get pulled back—fingers through belt-loops.

                        Am I blushing?

[De]compress

It’s subtle how it develops,

the way old soil bloats beneath our feet

like an overfilled water balloon.

We make plans to deflate ourselves by

any means necessary because we’ve

lost the will to fill the extra space 

we think we consume.

Mirrors are reality checks where 

phantoms laugh at how we don’t

fit in the frame, so, we don some black

and act like photo editors:

crop the top to blend our bulks

into backgrounds where it’s safe with

no attention drawn.

We conveniently justify what we do:

skip meals to save money,

take laxatives to cleanse ourselves

of this gravitic density,

exist as slaves to exercise equipment because

our bodies are planets in decaying orbits,

but at least we’re smaller when we evaporate.

Mary Sue

On nights lit by laptop light,

word-documents were paper shields

swallowing me, protection from bullies at school.

Tokusatsu sinews glued my bones together,

the wreckage of the math-class monster’s rampage.

For years, my Godzilla-fingers plodded across lettered cities,

key-clicks became crowd-roars when I saved Tokyo—and finally

they noticed me and gave me Mothra-wings.

I found ways to drive them away; the beasts always fled—

those that remained were the monsters in my head.

Today, sculpted stories are rubber suits I wear as

I’m an anomalous monster in an angst-filled city,

a fierce warrior on paper because I was always bigger in Tokyo.

Fingers

You walk in,

head held high—

solar eyes dawn

in a crowd of casual college kids.

Muscle-knuckles interlaced,

warm flesh-nets bandage half-healed wounds

as you smile and wave,

a spirited nod.

Your hand must feel strong

when embraced with his—

palms pressed together

like vines braced against trees.

Fingers clasped—

sway back and forth like playground swings.

Eyes focus, heads turn—

nods of praise

in awe of the two-man parade.

“In these dark times, especially for the marginalized, Donny Winter’s debut poetry collection, Carbon Footprint, is a godsend. While the book is a compilation of several individual pieces, one could argue that it reads like the narrative of a protagonist’s struggles related to his identity. Filled with outstanding images, many of which are tied to the natural world, the book introduces readers to the buried anecdotes that haunt the speaker, the details of how he comes to terms with who he is, and finally, how he rises above the “bones” that he has finally excavated. This poetic journey is ultimately a story of triumph. It is a book, a beacon, not just for the LGBTQ+ community, but for all decent people who are desperate to find the light that will guide them through what seems like a never-ending tunnel of despair. Simply put, Carbon Footprint is the hope we need.”

– Jared Morningstar, Author of American Fries: Poems and Stories

SPOTLIGHT: Mindy Levokove’s Mount Eden Avenue

Wonderful, short unexpected poems fill Mindy Levokove’s new collection. Readers will welcome her generosity and her talent.

-Esther Cohen
Author of Book Doctor

Mindy Levokove’s poetry strikes the reader as so natural and spontaneous that the worlds she evokes “sing to the trees,” sing through the trees. Her Mount Eden Avenue branches out to touch “orange sky,” Avenue A and “brown tears,” transforming all with magical, surreal strokes. Levokove’s concise poems show large imagination and empathy, whether referencing a basket of fruit, Hiroshima or morsels. She meditates wonderfully on the subtleties of weather and light. Her wordplay dances through this collection and into the heart.

–Austin Alexis,
author of Privacy Issues

Mount Eden Avenue – part 1

Mount Eden Avenue

is over the top

where she is forgetting

the breakfast of champions

deserted in the sky

to become a can of worms

here’s the fish tank

when she meant

to go to the beach

she is frozen

she is also forgetting

the drum roll

where you go

bring us

with you

with your words

we want to

join you

where you go

Grand Canyon

O, orange depression!

the wind and I

race you like

fools

summer drum song

come under my wing

i’ll pull you sleeping

to skyward boat

that swims over under

every bearded cloud

dipped in deep

open circular sky

falling through space through time

for Nate

i carry you on the bus

you under my arm

in your storm

painting: gas station (Circuit City)

for Bob Heman

light spill

red-eyed car

yellow guide

idle

planets moons dots

circle

gas station  

circuit city

trapped fish

acquired fish

in a glass box

with water

my cats want to eat you

and i love the song

the air makes when it

cycles through your

home.

(goldfish, koi, and plecostomus)

sky

you hold me, you hold us, you fold me, you fly us

pearl cloud kissed!

lace, tulle, gauze, filigree fine

surround and cradle with divine

blue—because you gaze

with constant adoration at the magic sea.

Oh, sky! (you hold us!)

how do we not notice you?

flap on

manna mo anna

ashes

we’re (ashes) here

all fall

where are the posies?

crashing through the grass

comes the great hunter

you left your portmanteau

behind you