A NEWER PERSON, SLIGHTLY OLDER

yesterday has changed us
or been changed by us
and the day before that
and the day before that
so we can never be repeated
even if we repeat ourselves endlessly
we are always new
trading older selves for newer duplications
a newer person, slightly older

THE DEEP SEA

A thousand meters below the surface of the ocean lies the deep sea.

The pressure in the deep sea is 300 times that of the pressure on land. There is almost nothing to eat down there. To conserve energy, many of the creatures that live in the deep sea have evolved methods of remaining motionless for weeks or months at a time, waiting suspended in the blind unlit nothing for a chance meal to float its way.

Sunlight can’t penetrate water beyond a thousand meters. The rest of the way goes on in total darkness, sometimes for miles and miles. It’s always been that way. The deep sea has never seen the sun, it doesn’t even know the sun exists. I don’t know why V. killed herself and it really bothers me sometimes, thinking about it. I wish that she hadn’t done that. The deep sea is full of volcanic mountains that spew poisonous sulfuric gases, and geysers that are hot enough to melt steel.

A constant shower of organic matter floats down from the upper waters and falls to the ocean floor. This is called Marine Snow. Marine Snow is the largest food source in the deep sea. Most Marine Snow is composed of pieces of dead animals, plankton, and fecal matter. I used to know a few people who sold crack. I’d be smoking a blunt or drinking a beer with them and out of nowhere a junkie would appear among us, holding their arms or picking their face, sniveling and desperate like junkies always are. One time a woman showed up wearing an expression on her face like she’d just clubbed her own child to death because somebody told her to. It was the most defeated look that I’d ever seen on another human being. It’s a war, this life, a war that defeats us all. In front of the woman and everybody else my friend said loudly “Anybody want their dick sucked?” and laughed and laughed and laughed as if life was a never ending carnival of pleasure.

Literature is supposed to be good for something, isn’t it? All this talking isn’t just for your own desperate little ego. Language isn’t some alien world unto itself. Language exists for humans. All this solitary work that eats a hole in your heart and burns your years away, isn’t it supposed to count for something beyond your own hollow amusement? Aren’t you supposed to be reaching people? 

Imagine that my hands are gripped around your shirt. My breath is on your face, my eyes are wide open, and I am shaking you as hard as I fucking can. Come back to the world. Don’t be dead. You once happy inhabitants of the windblown breathing world, you sweethearts of the sun, you moon-eyed moon gazers, come back. And beware. For even now, we are within the deep sea’s clutches.

MINI-REVIEWS OF SOME BOOKS I'VE READ THIS YEAR

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JANUARY



Entertainment Weekly edited by Matthew Donahoo & Lucas Simon Foster

This is an 88 page anthology of short stories and poems. 

The standout story for me was 'The Library Assistant' by David Fishkind. There are lots of stories about drinking and getting drunk, but only a few stories I've read that have actually made me feel drunk. This story gives me a claustrophobic despairing feeling, like when you drink so much that the world starts spinning. (excerpt)

Tao Lin has a very funny and emotional and kind of profound two page story that begins like this: 'I just had the most intense coconut opening experience of my life by far.' 

There's also a brand new Zachary German story...that was the main reason I initially bought it. I'm waiting on the next Zachary German book like I'm waiting on the next Jay Electronica album. I enjoyed this short story, it's a revised version of a story that he told on his podcast Shitty Youth. (excerpt)

There's a bunch of other cool stuff in here too, but for the sake of space I'll just mention those three pieces.



Don Quixote by Cervantes (translated by Charles Jarvis)

This is the second time I've read Don Quixote. This year I read it over a three month span, picking it up whenever I felt like it. 

Don Quixote is a character who read so many books that he went insane. I am a compulsive and obsessive reader, I've been that way for most of my life. This is the kind of life I want and choose to live, but I do get depressed about it sometimes. Maybe I've spent too much time with my nose stuck in a book. Maybe my life would be 'better' and healthier and more socially adjusted and successful if I had moderated my reading a little bit more. I start to wonder about what books have added to my life, and what they've taken away.

Don Quixote is a bittersweet kind of hero. He's a comically delusional old man who thinks he is one of the world's great heroes, although he winds up getting humiliated and beaten up and laughed out of town half the time. He is essentially homeless and destitute. Especially in Book One, he is a pathetic character, a warning against the dangers of keeping your head too high in the clouds.

Despite all that, Don Quixote actually does become one of world's great heroes. He has a steadfast idealism, an earnestness, and a chivalric code that he lives for completely. He is not a practical human being, he is a human who dreams himself into a legend. By Book Two, he is known all throughout Spain. He has traveled all over the country and had a hundred fantastic adventures. He knows things that ordinary people will never know. And he completely doesn't give a fuck what other people think of him. He is brave and wild. I love this book like a family member. (excerpt)





Poems and Fragments by Sappho (translated by Stanley Lombardo)

Sappho was a Geek poet who lived 2500 years ago. In her time, and for hundreds of years later, she was considered one of the great poets of her culture. Most of what she wrote is now lost--scholars say that only 10% of her poetry has survived--enough to fill a 65 page book. 

Most of what has survived through the millennias are just fragments of poems, and reading her poetry is like looking at ruins--small glimpses of genius, small glimpses at a world that has long vanished. 

A lot of Sappho's poems are about all-or-nothing love, the kind of love that makes you go crazy and shine like a star. Her works have been torn to ribbons by time, and yet the intense passion of her words can still reach through even all that, and touch you. (excerpt) (excerpt) (excerpt) (excerpt) (excerpt) (excerpt) (excerpt)




The Pillow Book by Sei Shonagon (translated by Meredith McKenney)

The usual description of this book goes something like 'it's like a thousand year old blog'--but that really is what it's like. I kept thinking about Megan Boyle the whole time I was reading it. 

The Pillow Book is the diary of a 10th century Japanese lady of the court. But it's more like a blog, not a diary. Diaries are private, and it's clear that The Pillow Book is written for an audience, although it is a very small and specialized audience, aka other members of the court. 

Throughout the book Shonagon tells stories and gossip, describes her days and weeks, and gives the reader long lists of things.

Some of her lists include:
+Things That People Despise
+Things That Give a Pathetic Impression
+Rare Things
+Awkward Things
+Boring Things
+Things That Should Not Be Seen By Firelight
+Things That Are Unpleasant To Hear

+Things That Should Be Large

And on and on and on, for 400 plus pages. Some parts are boring and some are interesting. Most are interesting. She seems like the type of person I would enjoy having as a friend. And she lived a thousand years ago, which is pretty cool. (excerpt) (excerpt)



FEBRUARY



I feel like when Denis Johnson is at his best he's pretty much untouchable, and he's at his best for a lot of this novel. It's about a burnt-out, suicidal man who gets stranded in a small Cape Cod resort town. The plot is difficult to sum up neatly, but it includes working as a private investigator, transvestites, and conspiracy theories. 

It's a funny book and it's surprising. Like most Denis Johnson books, the prose is top notch. There's an atmosphere of religious apocalypse woven through the whole thing, and ultimately I think of it as a religious book in the weirdest possible way. I think Jesus' Son is my favorite Denis Johnson book, then Angels, and then this one. (excerpt)





The End of Night: Searching For Natural Darkness In an Age of Artificial Light by Paul Bogard

This is a non-fiction book about light pollution. I wanted to read a book about this subject because in The Pillow Book, Shonagon spends so much time rapturously describing moonlight, fireflies, lanterns, embers, coals, and stars--it made me realize that her understanding of night is fundamentally different from mine. When night comes around, all I need to do is turn on a few switches (or a few screens) and my life is once again swallowed up in light.

Bogard talks about the history of public lighting, starting with the great European capitals, and he talks about the advent of electric light. Most of the book is focused on light pollution in the United States. US cities have had public lighting for some time, but most of the US remained in the dark well into the 1930s, when FDR created the Rural Electrification Administration. 

Bogard focuses a lot of attention on Las Vegas, where the brightest light in the world exists (at the top of the Luxor Pyramid--a light so bright that it has created its own mini-ecosystem of birds and bats that feast on the giant numbers of insects it attracts). The lights of Las Vegas bleed into the desert and into national parks that are hundreds of miles away.

There are several national parks in the US where you can still see the night sky fully exposed. Bogard's description of these places make me depressed, because I've never seen the sky like that. On clear nights, the Milky Way is so bright that it casts a shadow. With the naked eye, you can see a distance of 2.2 million light years into outer space. That's something I'd like to see before I die. I felt very informed by this book, I learned a lot.





The Essential Anatomy of Melancholy by Robert Burton

The edition I read was an abridged version that was around 300 pages. The full book is close to 1300 pages.

This book has some of the longest sentences I've read, and some of most tortured and extravagant syntax I've read. That's awesome because it makes the book so weird and different from everything else. Burton's prose has a lot of strange moves and I'm glad I read it, but it was also a pretty frustrating book for me to spend time with. 

I was more attracted to the content, which is just as strange and goes all over the place. I did read an abridged version, but based on what I know about the book it seems like most of it just meanders all over the place, from subject to subject and anecdote to anecdote. It's supposed to be about 'melancholy' but it ends up being about everything. The best way to describe the book is that it's an encyclopedia of European civilization.

It's a funny book...it doesn't read like Tao Lin, but the whole time I was reading it I kept thinking wouldn't it be awesome if one day Tao Lin ended up writing a gigantic rambling 2,000 page book like this. This book reminds me somewhat of the long sentences in Taipei, where every tiny nuance gets qualified, and the qualification gets further parsed into several more qualifications which get dissected down into molecule and atom levels of nuance until they finally resolve themselves in a kind of blurry shrug. (excerpt)





Bipolar Cowboy by Noah Cicero

I love the trailer for Bipolar Cowboy, which features several readings from the book. I love the trailer so much that I'm gonna post it below so you can watch it immediately:




The poems in this book are an interesting amalgam of Buddhist koans and conversational speech. I thought the poems were very sweet and melancholy and earnest, without being cheesy. 
The poems are very personal and specific to the author Noah Cicero, but they're also preoccupied with philosophy and trying to make sense of human experience on a grand scale.

The book reminded me a lot of a Japanese phrase: 'mono no aware.' It doesn't have an exact translation in english but wikipedia says it means 'the pathos of things.' It describes the feeling you get when you contemplate the transience and ephemerality of existence, that all things eventually die and change, nothing stays as it is. It is a sad feeling, but it's also a beautiful feeling. Like the sudden blooming and sudden death of the cherry blossoms every year, life is intense and fleeting and full of cycles of death and renewal.


I really appreciated how accessible and honest and emotional the writing was. I wish more poetry collections were like this book. (excerpt)




Binary Star by Sarah Gerard

This is a short novel about a toxic, co-dependent relationship. The main character struggles with anorexia and her boyfriend is an alcoholic asshole. I felt sympathy for the main character, and I felt almost none for her boyfriend. He's an asshole.

I felt like this book gave me the best insight I've read so far into the mind of someone with severe body dysphoria and anorexia. The descriptions of the wooziness and heart-racing that accompanies going without food were very vivid and actually made me feel physically bad sometimes, they gave me low level anxiety, and I mean that in a very complimentary way. The sense of self-hatred that the main character constantly feels is intense and palpable. She is living in a personal hell. 

I also didn't know about binary star systems before I read this book, and I felt like Gerard did a good job of teaching me about them. The writing is short, clipped, immersive, and page-turning. I think I read the whole book in one sitting. (excerpt)

MINECRAFT MUSIC

I like to write when everything is quiet and still—midnight to 5am is best, an apocalyptic wasteland is even better, the surface of the moon would be ideal—but like everyone, I have to work with what I have. When reality gets noisy, you have to either drown it out or drown inside it. Lately I’ve been playing Minecraft music. 

I think Oliver Mol was the one who told me that he listens to Minecraft music while writing. Did he? That time we drove around Austin all night because we had nowhere to sleep. I think he told me that. I think that’s where I got it from. Shouts out Oliver.


I like Minecraft music. It’s peaceful, repetitive, and there aren’t any lyrics. The music was designed to accompany marathon sessions of gaming, to help gamers zone out while they patiently build voluminous digital worlds. I can loop a three or four minute track and listen to it for hours on end. If I turn it up loud enough, I can’t even hear myself typing.


 



No, I take it back—what would be even better than the surface of the moon is floating through outer space. That would be the truly ideal writing environment. 

And I would have no eyes to watch the stars—the sight of which, I’m sure, would only distract me. And no body either, with all its demanding hunger pains and heartbeats and needs to piss and shit and masturbate and breathe. Just a self contained brain floating through the universe like a lifeless asteroid. Nice. Just smooth cosmic sailing. I think I would get a lot of writing done that way. 


I wonder what I would write about? They say that you should write about what you know.


I’d write about life on earth, I guess. Being a human being, maybe. How wind feels on your skin, and what it's like to do mdma and run around with firecrackers in your hands. Perhaps. And staying up all night with the whole star spotted universe revolving through your mind, listening to Minecraft music. I guess that’s what I’d write about.


One thing that sucks about outer space is you can’t smoke weed out there, because there’s no oxygen. (Plus no weed.) I just remembered that. Man, fuck outer space.

LIKE EXHALING A LUNG OF SMOKE, MY WORD-TRANSFIGURED HEART WOULD EASE OUT INTO THE ATMOSPHERE

The city outside was noisy, but all I could hear was the sizzle of slow burning cigarette paper and my own mumbling heart.  And the good book says: I will take away the stony heart and give to you a heart of flesh.  But I was tired of that too soft heart of mine.  That wet twitching heart, fuck you.  All it did was give me a bunch of feelings.  I didn’t want it anymore.  I wanted to get stoned.  

I peeled off my sticky socks and wiggled my toes.  I wanted to hold the hot smoke in my chest until my chest rose like a balloon, carrying me into the sky.  I smoked the joint until it was nothing but a thin little roach, and then I put it out.

Well here I am again, I thought.  Hanging in the thin air.

My mind was lit up like a pinball machine.  For a stoned moment I felt like I could say the world’s most beautiful thing.  And the good poet says: it shall come as naturally as leaves to the tree.  Like exhaling a lung of smoke, I would simply open my mouth and my word-transfigured heart would ease out into the atmosphere.

MY LIFE SO FAR

The only things I cared about was reading books and getting stoned.  If I had a choice between blue skies and Babel, I would pick Isaak every time.  I kept a joint in my cigarette pack for every inappropriate occasion.  There wasn’t the slightest interest in me to keep my feet on the ground. I wanted no association with reality. The only way I wanted to see life was through a pair of bloodshot eyes, or in the reflection of a white page.  The outside world was a ghost to me.  The only realities I considered worth knowing were the ones I dreamed up inside my skull, and I was dreaming all the time.

I LIKE BIG GIRLS

It really annoys me when I see these certain writers, men and women, go on and on and on about how great skinny girls are. Skinny girls are fine – I don’t want to praise one type by shitting on another – but I like big girls better.

I like girls that when you press into their bodies you feel the warm flesh pressing back. I like big thighs and big breasts and big chubby kisses that make you forget where you’re standing. I like a belly. Bellies are really cute. I like to hold a girl in my arms and feel the fullness of all they have to give. I like to hold a girl in my arms and touch curves. I like to hold a girl in my arms and feel them breathing.


A woman isn’t made of bones and nails, she’s made of soft skin and meat and waters and fats. She’s made of a warmth that you long to keep near you. She’s made of lips that wet your skin with each heavy kiss. She’s made of big thoughts and big destinies and big impressions and a big blinding fire in her eyes that melts the shards of ice in your heart, until your grin starts to drool.

I CAN IDENTIFY WITH THAT HALF-SQUASHED COCKROACH ON THE FLOOR

The silent struggle of a half-squashed insect on its back: brainless legs clawing the air. 

Supposedly insects don’t think or feel anything, so I shouldn’t feel guilty for stomping one half to death and watching it twitch for awhile. Supposedly the cockroach knows no unbearable moment of surprise, no sudden passage from life to death, no terror. So I guess it’s pretty stupid of me to feel sad once its legs stop moving.

JOHN KEATS

When Keats was 8, his father fell off a horse and cracked his skull and died. 

When Keats was 14, his mother caught tuberculosis and hacked her lungs out and died.

When Keats was 23, his brother caught tuberculosis and all his insides turned to black suffering and he died.

When Keats was 25, he caught tuberculosis. One of the last things he said was: ‘I shall die easy, don’t be frightened.’

PERSISTENCE

It took me many years to gain the strength and endurance to fuck mountains. I started masturbating with small bags of charcoal and slowly worked up from there.

I LIKE TO ENTHUSIASTICALLY POINT MY FINGERS AT IMAGINARY PEOPLE WHEN I DANCE TO RAP ALONE IN MY BEDROOM

The finger pointing thing is peculiar to rap music for me. For whatever reason, I don’t do it with other genres. Sometimes when I point fingers I put my thumbs out too, so my hands turn into guns. Then I’m enthusiastically shooting bullets. A really good song to enthusiastically point fingers to is Worst Behavior by Drake. In particular I like the part where he says ‘They used to never want to hear us! Remember? Motherfuckers never loved us!’ That’s when I’m pointing fingers the hardest. 

SUNSET POEM

Sweetheart soon this world will turn from day to dim to dark, and all this love will be a long extinguished flame. That touch, that clinging heat no more. Solid bodies the living wore now dissolved to whirls of unremembered atoms. Your warm hand I once held on the neon Ferris wheel now turned to every other nothing, gone like a parking lot carnival.

If I repeat myself it is because it isn’t easy moving on. I should try to be more like the sinking sun, steady in my regretless departure. I should let this day fade on its own terms & gladly accept the night with sleep in my eyes.

For many times before I have felt myself half in love with easeful death, like Keats said. I have read the dead and dying poets and like Lorca I have seen the crocodile’s patient gaze, half vanished in the water. I have driven down the highway stoned in no good direction. I have looked into coffins and felt their peace. I have stared up at the night sky and wondered where it ends.


But it’s hard to think of all that we must give away. 

IF I EVER START A BLACK METAL BAND

I’m gonna call it ‘Hallucinations About Slurping Up A Bowl of Extremely Thin Dicks.’


Copyright 2015, Chris Dankland.  

ART

One of my favorite things Walt Whitman said was:

See, projected through time, 
For me an audience interminable. 

With firm and regular step they wend, they never stop, 
Successions of men, Americanos, a hundred millions. 

This is from a middle-aged guy who was selling his self-published poetry book door to door in Brooklyn, and ghost-writing his own reviews. I think it’s wonderful that Whitman was full of so much delusion. For me an audience interminable! From the very beginning he was convinced that his poetry would live forever. I think if Whitman had gone his whole life through without a single reader, he’d still die believing that. 

And why shouldn’t anyone believe, and why shouldn’t anyone write as if to a hundred million beating hearts? If it doesn’t come true and you get forgotten like all the rest, big deal. That’s what happens to everyone anyway, if you stretch the timeline out far enough. (And you don’t even have to stretch it far.) There is an incredible kind of hope involved with making art. You send something into the world and no one can say what will happen to it, or where it will go.

I FEEL DEEPLY UNINTERESTED IN ARTISTS THAT HAVE STOPPED TRYING TO LOVE THIS WORLD

I don’t mind reading hateful writers every now and then. Hatred is exciting and it can be funny too. Hatred goes together with love, like light and shadow. Nobody likes to deal with somebody else’s temper tantrum, but there’s a special kind of beauty to an uncontrolled and uncontrollable hatred like that. I like the wildness of it. Have you ever seen a little kid throw a temper tantrum? The contortions and desperate outrages that attend a 4 year old’s tantrum, holy shit. They’re fascinating. It’s like watching a building burn.

Of course, seriousness demands that we admit how poisonous hatred is, and cruel, and hopelessly moronic too. By the end of his life, Celine was publishing 600 page rants complaining about his neighbors and doctors and literary agents. I feel embarrassed for him – this brilliant writer reduced to such a toothless, myopic crank, a cartoonish shell of what he used to be.

But anybody with half a brain already knows this. Everybody knows that you learn more from one unrestrained second of genuine love than you do from decades of studious, well-crafted hate. Or at least we're supposed to know this...the lesson seems lost on a significant portion of the population. Maybe I just spend too much time online.

Last week I stayed up all night writing and when I looked out the window and saw the sky beginning to change colors, I drove to a nearby park with a big man-made hill in the center. Houston is one of the flattest cities I know. If you look out of even a 4th story window, you can practically look down on the entire city at once. Even from the top of that little park hill, I could see everything in every direction. I sat on a bench and watched the sun come up. It was beautiful.


People feel so entitled sometimes – people demand so much that they get disappointed when they don't get it, and the disappointment turns to hate. Some writers say ‘I have high standards’ as if that’s a justifiable excuse for why they treat others poorly and shit on everything they see. That’s how a child acts, demanding fairness in a world that everyone can clearly see doesn’t work that way. Isn’t it enough that the sun rises every morning and the earth is still green, and you have another day.

BASED GOD CONCERT

When I saw Lil B play a show in Houston, about halfway through he took a good look at the crowd and said: “We got a lotta thugs and a lotta nerds in the building” and I knew that he was talking about me because I’m a thug and I look like a thug and I act like one and that's my reputation and it always has been.

THE STORY OF THE EYE

A sentimental memory that I keep close to my heart is the time in high school I had to go to some stupid church event on a Friday night, so in silent protest I sat in the back row the whole time and read The Story of the Eye by Georges Bataille.

The Story of the Eye is a French novel about two teenagers that love to have all kinds of freaky violent sex with each other. The novel ends with the two teenagers attacking a priest. First they make the priest drink urine from the holy chalice while the girl jerks him off. Then after he cums, they strangle the priest to death and have sex with his corpse. Then they cut out one of his eyeballs and the girl sticks it up her ass. It’s a great novel, one of the best.

After the service was over, an older lady came over to me and asked me what I was reading. I told her it was a French novel. She said 'That's so cute, I love to see young people reading'

A SHORT STORY ABOUT ME, CHRIS DANKLAND

Chris Dankland took a giant bong hit and instantly felt his molecules dissolve in a warm rush. He exhaled all the smoke in his lungs and then he exhaled his lungs themselves, which had also turned into smoke. He watched his legs shrivel up like the Wicked Witch as he exhaled them too. His gaping mouth spewed white smoke like an old time train. He exhaled his torso, his chest, and then his arms and shoulders. Soon he was just a head on the floor...and then he exhaled his head too. He saw a nearby open window and slithered outside, into the wind. Next stop: stratosphere.

TYBG

One of my favorite Lil B quotes is:

"I feel like a successful dad on an island getaway." 

To be a pretty bitch AND a successful dad, at the same time...this is the goal we strive for, this is the beautiful dream.

SLIM WHITMAN



when my life is through
and the angels ask me to recall
the thrill of them all
then i will tell them
i remember you

I HAVEN'T SPOKEN TO ANOTHER HUMAN IN 3 DAYS

I finally broke my silence when I walked down to the corner store to buy a 20oz bottle of Sprite. The guy who took my money asked if I wanted a bag and I said:

No thanks.