Living Material

Trigger warning: abuse

With its variance, trauma defies useful metaphor, but I think of it in terms of wood. Wood carries warmth. It was alive. It was one of the first things we understood how to use for ourselves, a strong substance that cracks and scars in a way fundamentally different from the rust and dents metal acquires.

Outside my childhood bedroom grew a Chanticleer pear, a tree with no function besides ornament. It fruited hard green berries that I secretly hoped would elongate and round. As a simulation of something actually useful, much like the tree itself, I picked the fruit as a child. It was my favorite tree, a constant shadowy presence on my bedroom wall.

In my junior year of high school, I heard a crack during a snowstorm and saw one of the pear tree’s thick arcing branches tumble into our yard. In the next three years it would drop more branches, with high winds, with ice. If the tree had ever decided to tip backwards, it would shatter the window above my bed. We were told it was rotting away, and the branches that looked so healthy, that I had grasped and pulled myself onto, were destined to keep falling.

When my mother decided to have it cut down, I hauled away the smaller branches for weeks, tying them into bundles under the hot sun. She never removed the remaining third of the stump, and it sits well under the window now, trying desperately to regrow the branches it lost, branches destined to weaken and fall.

I can no longer remember why, when I was 12, my mother threw piles of my clothes from that same window while I stood watching her and shivering. If I was to learn a lesson, it wasn’t effective, but it’s one of the first times I realized that I was being abused in some way. Some of the clothes caught the branches of the tree as they fell. Dutifully I gathered the piles of clothes, hoping to make a warm nest for myself in which to spend the night, although she eventually unlocked the door and let me back in.

My point is, I am not without trauma, although mine often feel like long cons rather than specific incidents. I often suspect I am rotting from the inside out and have not found a way yet to stop the inevitable dropping of branches. But I count myself lucky to be gifted with an unshakeable sense of security—I knew as I gathered those clothes off the sidewalk that I did not deserve what had happened. Yes, I am lucky, but my other point is that all trauma is not debilitating, and that is where my imagination runs out. My trauma is not, although it might have been for someone else. I realize that I am somewhat unique, and I have nothing but respect and sympathy for those who have different reactions.

To imagine what a trigger is I have to revert to useless, personal metaphor. My current apartment has a wood floor the color of honey, battered and scraped through generations of poor maintenance and questionable furniture. By the bed one nail sticks up enough that I’ve caught my foot several times. A trigger for me is merely a painful spot—for others it releases a cavalcade.

I’ve never looked at trigger warnings from a writer’s perspective—a writer’s responsibility is to tell their own truth no matter who’s listening. And I do think the dilemma trigger warnings pose—helpful or restrictive—is a problem unique to presentation, otherwise an audience can self-select. The debate inspired is vicious, and often spans beyond merely, “should Ovid’s poem require a trigger warning?” into an indictment of an entire generation of college students who are too weak and too distracted by thoughts of trauma to actually learn. Even the sympathetic ones worry that students will become narrowed by their avoidance or that “trigger warning” is a self-fulfilling prophecy.

This week I hosted an open mic about gender, sexuality and feminism, which I had never done this before. When my co-host and I selected artists rather than leaving the evening up to chance, we never considered offering a trigger warning. This seems weird in retrospect—while we knew what would happen, the audience didn’t, and we certainly don’t know what triggers an audience member might have.

But with the unexpected nature of the open mic, I feel the need to give a trigger warning, general and all-purpose. I just want everyone to know they have the option of acknowledging that they feel unsafe. I want to say I don’t want anyone to get hurt, but sometimes we get hurt, sometimes we get triggered.  Yet it’s the response that defines the situation, not the situation itself. 

More so than we need to debate their right to acknowledgement, I think we need to wonder why an entire generation of college students may feel traumatized. I also think we need to trust an individual’s ability to recognize how they feel in the moment or after and to self-select for the right reasons. Nor should material or opinions should be policed or checked to make a political point, because that is a separate agenda entirely from acknowledging trauma. Trauma is not a weapon, nor should the response to its confession be outrage.

Because I have limits to my own imagination, I still think we need trigger warnings. I want them to be there for the people who need them, whose heartwood has splintered and might never scar over, and to acknowledge that I could be, and might yet be, one of them.


Liz Baudler writes for Newcity and the Windy City Times, and co-hosts Sappho's Salon at Women and Children First Bookstore. She spends far too much time reading things on the internet and not enough time doing dishes. Find more of her work at 

The Infernal Logic of Being Charlie Hebdo

On January 7th, I stayed home sick from work, napping in fitful sore-throated bursts. When I opened Facebook, I saw an NPR headline that said something like: SHOTS FIRED AT FRENCH NEWSPAPER OFFICE. I remember this because I am not usually home sick and I have sad fascinations with both tragedy and journalism. I had never heard of the newspaper. Throughout the day, the profile pics of my writer friends merged into a mysterious phrase “JE SUIS CHARLIE”. I understood that the staff of Charlie Hebdo had died for their words and ideas because someone else was not OK with them, and that was not OK with me. I clicked a button and a JE SUIS CHARLIE post appeared on my wall.

Within 24 hours, that message was negated. I AM NOT CHARLIE, the feeds of my writer friends proclaimed, the same friends who live-tweeted the live-tweets of Ferguson and Baltimore. And now I was intrigued enough to read the piece in Paper Bird. OK, there was more than intrigue on my part. I was worried that I might have committed some terrible social justice faux pas, because the majority of my friends are liberal, and sometimes my worldview is myopic and sometimes I don’t get that my experiences are not the only valid ones. I am not someone who gets incensed often by issues of social justice. I wish things could be different and occasionally I say so, but that is often the extent of my participation.

Scott Long nicely placed Charlie Hebdo in a cultural context of generation of anti-Islamist thought and general French xenophobia.  When I finished reading, I felt partially educated, yet unmoved to agree. In fact, I felt two things: that the article’s interpretation of JE SUIS CHARLIE was deliberately literal and that there were still twelve people lying dead in their office. And that this turnaround time on ignoring the second fact was far too soon (and that the phrase “then the terrorists win” is obnoxious in any context).

To me, the arbiters of socially conscious were capitalizing on the Charlie Hebdo deaths to point out the obvious: these men drew Islamophobic, racist cartoons. I understood the cartoons were likely insulting and offensive. I judged no news outlet for declining reprints, knowing they feared not only a backlash against the work’s insensitivity, but potentially violence against themselves.

But if you wanted to make your point,I thought, you should have said all this when they were alive. Louder. To me, the whole social justice universe had proved itself morally bankrupt and devoid of empathy. And now satire itself, the form that Charlie Hebdo’s art took—a form of writing dear to my absurd contrarian little heart—was being deemed by its very nature problematic.

I hate the word problematic. I know why it exists; not everything is wholly bad or good. Well-intentioned yet ill-informed statements litter the world.  Unknowingly saying something problematic is akin to wearing your favorite jacket and feeling sexy while forgetting there’s a giant rip in the arm. But saying something is problematic—the word feels slithering, unctuous. People who see the rip seem to be gloating about it rather than pointing it out calmly or offering you their jacket instead.

I think some satire is bad. I think the Onion using a misogynistic slur to joke about an eight-year-old Black actress is so off it doesn’t deserve the term satire, and I think South Park is more offensive than funny. And I think that maybe my standards for satire might be a little wonky and high-minded and maybe Charlie Hebdo isn’t included in them either, but I think satire can be employed  thoughtfully and effectively.

So I sat feeling deeply infuriated but conflicted. I knew why I was angry but I felt wrong for being angry and now, four months later, one of the world’s preeminent writing organizations has created a firestorm because they focused on the tragedy and not the controversy. PEN made a decision to honor the Charlie Hebdo victims at their annual gala.

And here’s where things get even murkier for me: despite being angry with the world’s response to Charlie Hebdo’s content rather than the slaughter of its staff, I’m not angry at Francine Prose, Teju Cole, Peter Carey, and the other writers for declining to participate in an event honoring them. But I’m very, very confused as to why other people are angry. Presumably, the six writers who didn’t want to honor the publication felt that way from the instant the deaths were confirmed. They did not want to celebrate those whose work they felt “valoriz[ed] selectively offensive material”. But suddenly, that objection is no longer valid currency. Suddenly the Hebdo men are heroes once again, like we forgot that we were angry, that we had our moment of waving our hands wildly over what they did wrong, that we remembered finally that no matter what they did wrong they did not deserve to die instead of paying that lip service in the first paragraphs of blog posts.

To be fair, no one may be sure of how many voices spoke on either side at any point. And knowledge gives us power to change our minds. But I want to know why my anger over Charlie Hebdo feels so inappropriate and simmers in contradictory splotches, and all I can really think about is how the situation was made for some sort of satire, that someone needed to point out its incongruence or else we would never learn from it. And how satire is not a tool for one group of people to attack another, but a tool to illustrate hypocrisy and interrogate beliefs, whether for an individual or a group. And that need will never, ever go away. 


Liz Baudler writes for Newcity and the Windy City Times, and co-hosts Sappho's Salon at Women and Children First Bookstore. She spends far too much time reading things on the internet and not enough time doing dishes. Find more of her work at 

Why the new Harper Lee novel should raise your eyebrows

I don’t know if I first heard the news from the girl I RA’d with in college or the editor from The New Yorker. I was already late for work, unwilling to tear myself from my Twitter feed while I scrolled in my bed. The whole internet disappeared under an avalanche of literary celebration. Harper Lee will release her “long lost” novel Go Set a Watchman in July from HarperCollins. My immediate thought: “What if it’s bad?” My second thought: “This doesn’t seem quite right.”

My skepticism was quickly backed up by a barrage of articles. Jezebel quickly ran an effective eyebrow raise: “Be suspicious of the new Harper Lee novel.” (Gawker also ran an excellent accountof the maybe-unauthorized Harper Lee biography—and lawyer Tonja Carter’s shady involvement—over the summer.)


Here are the facts:

-Alice Lee, Harper's sister and lawyer (who she described as her personal Atticus) died last November.

-The “discoverer” of the novel is Lee’s lawyer, Tonja Carter. Under Carter's previous guidance, Lee signed over To Kill a Mockingbird’s copyright to agent Samuel Pinkus--a decision she later reversed, going on to sue Pinkus. 

-Lee suffered a stroke in 2007, and may not be of sound mind. Before her death, Alice warned that Lee "will sign anything put before her." 

-All quotes and press releases are fielded through Carter, meaning we haven’t heard Lee speak for herself. (And given her intensely private nature, we probably won’t.)


Pair this all with Lee’s notoriously privacy, diligent effort to stay in control of her own work (suing local for selling Mockingbird merchandise as recently as 2013), and has previous statements that no more writing should be published before her death. 

Watchman is a sequel to Mockingbird—though Lee actually wrote it before. My main beef is with the phrasing of “lost manuscript.” The idea conjures up a Da Vinci Code-style quest, a scroll abandoned in the catacombs, waiting to be discovered and freed by some heroic, Indiana Jones-esque publisher. Lawyer Carter “discovered” the manuscript, but hasn’t given any details about where it was hiding all these years. And HarperCollins is not a kindly old bookseller with Lee's best interests at heart. This is about capitalism in a struggling print industry. They want a best-seller--and Watchman is guaranteed. 

Harper Lee did not entirely forget the novel she wrote before Mockingbird. She didn’t bury her manuscript in a time capsule and suffer a bout of amnesia. There’s a possibility the manuscript itself was somehow lost—caught in a slush pile or relegated to a publisher’s bottom drawer. But the simplest, quickest logic behind Watchman being “lost” is this: Harper Lee did not want it to be published before her death.

Atticus Finch himself said, “Best way to clear the air is to have it all out in the open.” Unfortunately, that’s not likely to happen here.


Megan Kirby lives and writes in Chicago. She’s a regular books correspondent with The Chicago Tribune’s Printers Row Journal, and she also works as a publicity assistant at Curbside Splendor Publishing.

Notes on Uselessness

James Tadd Adcox's debut novel Does Not Love was released this fall by Curbside Splendor.  ACM is pleased to host Adcox on his blog tour, and now, without further ado: 


Notes on Uselessness




For the last several years I have been attending a Quaker worship service each week. Here’s how it works: You go into a room with some other people. There are a lot of seats more or less in a circle. You sit down, and you’re quiet. You can close your eyes if you want. You don’t have to, but most people do. You wait. Sometimes the whole hour goes like that, with everyone waiting in silence. Sometimes, before the hour is over, someone stands and says something. There are no ministers in Quaker worship, or rather, everyone is potentially a minister. You are only supposed to stand up and speak if you feel compelled to do so by God, or the divine, or what-have-you (Quakers don’t all necessarily agree on the terms here). After someone stands and speaks and sits back down, there’s quiet again, and maybe in a little while someone else will feel compelled to speak, or maybe they won’t, and the rest of the hour will pass in silence.

            I have never stood. I have never felt compelled to. I’m not sure what that would feel like, to be compelled. The best description I’ve heard is that you stand and speak when it becomes more painful not to speak than it would be to speak. That seems like a pretty good guideline.

            All of which is to say that last night, I was reading a book about the history of silence in religion, and I thought about what it would be like, to apply Quaker principles to writing. To sit in quiet, or rather stillness, until I felt compelled to write something. To wait patiently, without anxiety, not worrying whether I write anything at all. Why write something if it’s not worth writing? If it doesn’t need to be written? Why write unless it’s more painful not to write than it would be to write?




But then something in me rebels against this idea. The writing I’m concerned about primarily is fiction and poetry, which is to say, art. I am not sure what art is, if it is not superfluous. In fact, the more I consider the question, the more it appears to me that what is worthwhile about art is how honestly, flagrantly, superfluous it is. How simple art is in its superfluousness.

            Almost everything we find around us is useful, a means. We are taught to think of things in terms of means. We ask, what’s the return on investment? We ask, is that quantifiable? We ask, how many clicks, how much screen time? And of course art can be useful: it can be used to sell detergent or to convey a certain message. But that doesn’t exhaust art, and in fact doesn’t really get at what art is, at all. There is something fundamental to art that is wholly outside of whatever uses it might be put to.

            I read a book several years ago about PR. The book’s thesis was that PR is necessary because consumers are too savvy to be swayed by advertising any more. The book said that advertising is now an art form. What it meant by this was that advertising is no longer necessary. Candles, the book said, were once necessary as a form of light. Now we have electric light, so candles have become aesthetic: people use them when they want to be “romantic.” You might say that likewise, painting was once necessary, because it was the only way we had to know what people looked like after they were dead; the photograph made painting into an art form, or at any rate made it nothing other than an art form.

            The book’s point was that advertising is now useless, just like candles are useless now, and paintings are useless. As things become useless they pass into the realm of art. But art isn’t restricted to technologies or mediums that have been superseded. Obviously a photograph can be art. But it is art to the degree that it is useless.

            On some level, art is a refusal of usefulness. A refusal to be useful, or to accept that usefulness is the only yardstick of value. Every work of art engages in this to some degree. Even those works of art with a message are not wholly reducible to their message; some part of them holds out, refuses to be message and nothing more.




What is this superfluousness of art, that constitutes its refusal? Because its refusal and its superfluousness are the same. What value or importance can superfluousness have? As should be obvious from what we have already said, this cannot be a value based on use.

            I would assert that this superfluousness or refusal is what moves art from the category of ordinary objects into the category of objects capable of being loved. In this refusal, once put into interaction with an audience or a reader, art acquires a seeming subjectivity of its own. There is a sense we get, of course, that a work of art has certain opinions, or expresses certain views on the world, but that is not quite what I mean. Beyond whatever opinions it may express, a work of art seems to have a white-hot core of being that we cannot reduce to a set of propositions or uses. This is its refusal.

            Love is premised on an inability to view the beloved as a means. To whatever degree we view the beloved as a means, we do not love him, or her, or it. The contrary holds as well: to whatever degree we value the beloved but are incapable of seeing him, her, it, as a means, to just that degree do we love.

            It is possible, when one is in love with another, that one is nonetheless engaged in a relationship of exchange. The theologian Rienhold Neibuhr posits that in any reciprocal loving relationship, an exchange is always taking place, one that must in a healthy relationship be more-or-less equal. However, the lovers cannot be aware of this; they cannot, say, keep a tally of what one has done and what the other has done, and make sure that it evens out—to do this would destroy the relationship of love, would make it something quite different. It would transform the beloved, for each, into a means. Quantification, the sort of exact quantification that does not admit of superfluousness or refusal, is the enemy of love. Something must remain unquantified for love to exist.

            Of course something—the vast majority of things, in fact—always remains unquantified. This is not a question of the pettiness of love. It is a question of the pettiness of ourselves.



(Cover of Does Not Love by Jame Tadd Adcox, image courtesy of Curbside Splendor)




It has been pointed out before that the relationship of love is at once universal and wholly, concretely particular. The object of one’s love seems to have some sort of absolute necessity, such that, for the lover, it can be difficult to imagine a life of any sort without the beloved. And yet the beloved is individual, particular in time and space, and so cannot possibly be necessary in the way that the lover imagines. More to the point: while there is a feeling of absolute necessity to the love once it has occurred, it is wholly contingent before it occurs. The experience of love creates its own necessity.

            Prior to the experience of love, the beloved has no importance, it would not matter to the lover whether the beloved never existed; once love has occurred, the thought that the beloved might never have existed, or that the beloved might one day no longer exist, seems impossible and impossibly painful. Imagine asking someone who is not in love about love: “Love” might be important to them, which is to say that it might be important to them that they be in love with someone, at some point in the future; but imagine asking them if it is important to them that, at some future point, they be in love with this person, in particular? How could it possibly matter to a person who is not in love what particular person they will later be in love with? How could it even matter to them (assuming they have not yet met their future beloved) whether such-and-such unknown person had existed? Perhaps the would-be lover would offer a pragmatic response, along the lines of, “Oh, yes, he (or she) would be a good match, we come from similar backgrounds, have similar beliefs about the world”—the would-be lover might, as many of us do, even have a list of qualities in mind to describe the sort of person they would like to one day be in love with—but such pragmatic considerations miss the point. Until the lover loves, the beloved does not matter, the beloved as beloved is wholly contingent. Once the lover loves, the opposite is true: reality becomes impossible to imagine without the beloved.

            In this the lover’s attitude towards the beloved is much the same as one’s attitude towards one’s own life: non-existence, for the living, is at once impossible, and yet, somehow, an impossibility that registers as painful.




Art is a thing that creates its own necessity. Before the book Moby Dick existed it did not matter whether the book Moby Dick ever would have existed: once it has existed (if you prefer: once it has been read) it is impossible to imagine existence without it.

            The reader, of course, is free to select another book or work of art to substitute, if he or she does not find Moby Dick particularly compelling. The point is that the world got on perfectly fine without Crime and Punishment or Hamlet or Ran, and would continue to do so had they never come into being; yet now, for certain of us, the world is unimaginable without them.

            Notice the difference between such books and Origin of Species, or Principitia Mathematica. These are books that made certain changes in the world, changes that we can point to. Perhaps the full impact of such books cannot be known, their changes resounding, spreading throughout society; but in broad outline we can say, “Well, Origin of Species introduced the theory of evolution, which has fundamentally changed our understanding of biology, has changed how scientists go about investigating the world, and so on”; or “Principitia Mathematica helped to develop modern concepts of logic, without which, among other things, the computer might not have existed.” It even seems likely that, as some historians believe, such ideas these are the product of their time, overdetermined by a variety of historical factors, rather than the product of any individual. Certainly it’s the case that the theory of evolution would have come into being with or without Darwin; Alfred Russel Wallace had written his own account of the theory, contemporary with Darwin’s, and Darwin had to rush his own account into print to receive credit for it. If this is true, it only further supports the case that such books have a necessity that comes from outside themselves.

            What changes does a Moby Dick make in the world? What changes does Crime and Punishment? Some minor changes, certainly, as any object in the world changes it in some way; but what changes can you point to that explain the feeling we get, when we encounter a great work of art, that the world ought not exist without it?




I have just received in the mail Matthea Harvey’s new book, If the Tabloids Are True What Are You? and already I am beginning to have difficulty imagining a world that could exist without this book. Such a world seems slightly, ever so slightly, unjust. Yesterday I did not feel this way; yesterday I did not yet know that If the Tabloids Are True What Are You? existed, or rather, I knew it existed as a name of a book but I did not know the book itself. Today I am ever so slightly in love with this book, which is to say, the idea of its possible nonexistence has become ever so slightly unimaginable. 



James Tadd Adcox is the author of a novel, Does Not Love, and a collection of stories, The Map of the System of Human Knowledge. He lives in Chicago.

Notes from Ben Marcus at Chicago Humanities Festival

Richard ford 

Ann Beatty 


Militarism bw realism n experimentalism


The Age of Wire and String

Authoritative voice, seductive, gives impression of being true (believability)

Rewriting encyclopedia entries

Imaginatively 'reading' - read first few words write-read the rest 

Words change their (symbolic) meaning over time to become...paradoxical 




Provoked hostility


Make words unstable - wary of being too word-gamey


Stream of consciousness of psychosis says ny times


Make English a foreign language


Slang in a hundred years


Things couldn't just exist, they had to be sourced (harvesting tree -> door). Concern w materiality. 


Taught since age 21


What is the end of the bible 


Make more drama by leaving things out 


Writing back at what ur reading 


Choosing most disagreeable, least interesting genre/form and working in that


Character thinking thru all his responsibilities 

Lydia Davis - documents of thot


Francis Ponge - "we can only write what we've already read" 

Read nonliterary txts


Anxiety is entertaining, relatable, a natural mode of writing, concentrate it to pt of unbearability 


Cognitive surveillance - the kinds of criminals we'd be 


All possible permutations of punctuation for the same txt 


John Hawkes n Robert Coover dinner parties (faculty at Brown) 


An Unexpected Encounter with Tony Fitzpatrick

By miscommunication I ended up at the Poetry Foundation. I didn't realize this until twenty minutes into my visit. I had perused Tony Fitzpatrick's collage-print-drawings of birds, on exhibition until August 31 . Each specimen distinct and yet of its species. I sat down to read/write wondering what was taking the ppl I was supposed to meet so long. More ppl came. None were who I was expecting.


(Bird for the Daughters of Juarez by Tony Fitzpatrick 2011)

Across from me, a man sat down with a small book of poems. Within minutes a woman came up and introduced herself. He sounded gruff when he asked her to repeat her name. They were maybe acquaintances. She spoke of her most brilliant student to date. They talked of Chicago. Both were trying to get out. Both sobered up here. He was from here but began his career in New York. He wrote on politics mostly. She was from New York. She was moving to Guatemala. The man remarked that it was a great destination for bird watching. She excitedly remarked what a coincidence. That she had recently purchased every book there was to own on bird watching in Guatemala. I thought of Jonathan Franzen. She promised to give him a copy. In return he'd give her an etching. She insisted no and he insisted yes. They exchanged contact info. His email was Tony Fitzpatrick something at something dot com. I nose-laughed at the coincidence. 

Go see this exhibition while you can!  You just might see Fitzpatrick himself.  

If you can't make it.  Check out this multimedia presentation: listen to Fitzpatrick read poems for each art-bird.  



Connor Goodwin can't stop.  His work as appeared or is forthcoming in HTMLGIANT, Chronopolis, and Sliced Bread.  He tweets and blogs.  


Children’s Books Not Actually for Children At All


The fantasy genre (as well as the sub genres of Magical Realism, Southern Gothic lit, and anything classified as wonderfully weird à laLovecraft or Murakami) has consistently enthralled both children and adults alike. My love of the genre can be traced back to my elementary school days, when we threw a Harry Potter sleepover for all the girls in our third grade class (I have included a photograph below; I am the goob on the far left).

Yet even now this love of the magical and the fantastic remains, I muse, as I battle my boyfriend Mylo in a chopstick swordfight at a sushi restaurant. And it got me thinking why fantastical books are so appealing, even to those that have entered the responsibilities of their adult lives (or to ostensibly immature twenty-year-olds that still watch cartoons, like myself). Books with fantastical elements allow you to face and ponder the Big Stuff in a not-so-big way, which wouldn’t be as easy to do in the realm of the real. They offer a new way to look at the present world, in a world that isn’t.

I put together a few magical books that blur the line between kid and adult. I hope you enjoy them, regardless of your age.


Watership Down by Richard Adams

A classic novel about a group of talking rabbits on an adventure to secure a new home. The prose is oddly lyrical and has a high vocabulary level for a children’s novel. Adams weaves mythology, heroism, and exile in a manner that is both insightful and lighthearted.


Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones

The book that inspired one of my favorite animated Hayao Miyazaki films by the same name. Wizards, spells, a castle that traverses the landscape, a 17-year-old girl transformed into an old woman— Wynne-Jones balances quirky, heartening magic with a darker blend of fantasy that comes very close to nightmare.


Kafka on the Shore by Haruki Murakami

Not a children’s novel, but it seemed fitting to include it, as the book involves talking cats, fish falling from the sky, and events that are so brilliantly weird you find yourself wanting to believe in them anyway.


Extra links/ further reading:

 Lemony Snicket’s children’s poetry selections that are not for children:

Edward Gorey’s The Gashlycrumb Tinies: A Very Gorey Alphabet Book



Meredith Maltby is from Glen Ellyn, Illinois and is a rising junior at Tulane University. She studies English and Linguistics, and is on the Tulane women's tennis team. She is the poetry editor for the Tulane Review and an avid reader/ writer of poetry and fiction. 


Seven Innovative Chicago Magazines on Electric Literature

Our fiction editor, Matt Rowan, wrote a piece for Electric Literature about seven Chicago literary magazines: 

1. Artifice Magazine

"Adcox and Silverman saw an opening to publish first-rate surrealist and absurdist stories that seemed to have fewer places (at the time, at least) to be published."


2. Another Chicago Magazine

"Having showcased the work of folks like Charles Bukowski, a young David Sedaris, Brigit Pegeen Kelly, Steve Almond, Patrick Somerville, Samantha Irby, Amelia Gray, and on and on, ACM has undoubtedly earned its indie cred."


3. MAKE Magazine

"The layout of the publication is alone something to behold. Dodson said that a few years ago they upgraded MAKE’s paper stock and added color ink with the idea that 'each issue is an art object, as well as a format to distribute art, and the design of each issue is as carefully considered as each poem or story.'"


4. Knee-Jerk Magazine

"I was first personally acquainted with Knee-Jerk at a release party for their Offline Vol. 1 issue way back in early 2011. It featured rising (and established) Chicago literary stars like Lindsay Hunter, Jacob Knabb, Katherine Rooney and Michael Czyzniejewski, to name a few."


5. Skydeer Helpking

"Sara Woods and Jeannette Gomes have collaborated on this project for just about a year now, which is especially interested in publishing female poets and / or queer poets and / or poets of color."


6. Anobium

"Anobium Vol. 1 (summer 2011) begins with a “Letter From the Editor” — Mary J. Levine — who is, in fact, not a real person (and this then seems like something a publication whose name literally translates to “lifeless” would do)."


7. Poetry Magazine

"Poetry Magazine, meanwhile, has been around much longer than the foundation, arguably a Highlander among other literary magazines that focus almost exclusively on poetry (as their name suggests)."


Go read it now and get educated on the many facets of Chicago's strong literary tradition, alive and well.   



Connor Goodwin can't stop.  You can follow him @condorgoodwing.  His fiction and poetry has appeared in Chronopolis.  View more of his work at

Ken Baumann Rant

July 7 around 6pm Ken Baumann announced on twitter that he was going to go on a rant about "survival, culture, and greatness."  I stayed for the whole thing, refreshed over a dozen times, often prematurely.  Its only a few lines.  I included a small excerpt below.  Go read it for yourself on his tumblr.  He should rant more.  


Let’s assume that culture won’t prevent our species from killing itself.

This removes from culture the moral imperative to create a utopia.

Once this imperative is gone, what does culture busy itself with?

I sometimes think of great novels as impossibly accurate spiritual diagnoses.

Great novels grant you meaning, order, confusion, and a hollow feeling. All at once.



Connor Goodwin can't stop.  You can follow him @condorgoodwing.  His fiction and poetry has appeared in Chronopolis.  View more of his work at


Printer's Ball

Printer's Ball happened last weekend.  For those of you who don't know, Printer's Ball is annual celebration of literary culture and printmaking.  This was its 10th year and my first year attending.  I had gone to Printer's Row earlier this year and was admittedly a little disappointed.  Not so much by the events going on there, but the crowd.  This crowd seemed more writerly.  I should mention that at Printer’s Row I was shamelessly handing out flyers with some of my work and links to more work.  I designed the flyer the night before when I couldn’t sleep and made 50 copies the morning of.  I got the idea from Michael J Seidlinger, founder of Civil Coping Mechanisms press.  He said something, I believe in his Otherppl podcast, along the lines of why bother paying for a stand when I could just walk around handing out shit.  Smart move.  I'd recommend the same to any small press, magazine, writer, whoever.  

The flier.  I logged everything I ate and drank for nearly 4 months.  This is a less-detailed version I made fit in the corresponding dates of my planner.


I handed these out to middle-aged folk in sandals who gave polite mumbles or said I should eat less PB n J.  Printer's Ball would've been much better for this.  There were workshops on all sorts of technical skills hosted by Spudnik Press Cooperative, readings from the Next Objectivists, free ice cream, DJs, and only a bit of a storm.  When the storm came everyone shuffled inside toward a reading from someone I can't remember the name of and who I couldn't really hear, but the language I picked up on was apocalyptic (crucified, ash, iron, scorched, etc.).  It felt appropriate.  Then the rain cleared up and I left along with most everyone else.  


Connor Goodwin can't stop.  You can follow him @condorgoodwing.  His fiction and poetry has appeared in Chronopolis.  View more of his work at