Sunday, December 22, 2013

Every time you hear a politician say "clean coal", translate that in your head to "hillbilly blood".

Friday, November 1, 2013

Jacob Rakovan’s The Devil’s Radio broadcasts the elegies of so many, in a voice that lies down with them in their graves, touches their bones, and knows their stories. Cast against a backdrop of Appalachia in exile, Rakovan’s collection of poems mines the dark veins of life, love, and death.
1st Printing: Small Doggies Press 2013.
ISBN: 978-0-9848744-4-6
Small Doggies Press Trade Paperback Edition, October 2013
Edited by: Carrie Seitzinger
Cover Design by: Matty Byloos
Cover Layout by: Olivia Croom
Interior Layout by: Olivia Croom
Type set in Celestia.
90 pages.
Distribution: Small Press Distribution.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

The Next Big Thing

The lovely Rachel McKibbens has tagged me in this thingamajig. I learned a long time ago to do pretty much exactly what she tells me to if I know what's best for me so here it is, albeit late as all get out:

What is your working title of your book (or story)?
I have two that I am working on, currently. One is The Devil's Radio, which has managed to be a finalist for the Linda Bruckheimer series in Kentucky literature, and the Gell
but has, as yet, not found a home. The other is my NEA funded project, which has the working title of Dark Hollow: An Appalachian History in Verse, but I am sure I will change that, as that title sounds pretentious as hell.

Where did the idea come from for the book?
The ever-growing piles of poems that were not in a book, that inter-related gave birth to The Devil's Radio, which started as a culling from a much more terrible book called The Broken Heads of Saints that is now pretty much safely dead. The history is pretty much what it says on the can, although calling it history is pretty generous. More of a collection around the central theme of what it is to be an Appalachian, how untenable it is to stay, or to go, to live with a homeland that you can never return to, to live in exile, and to be the last culture where they sell your teeth as a gag in a vending machine. Expect poems about Moonbeam Mcswine, and guns, and giant, monstrous, mutated catfish the size of volkswagen buses and absolutely true family history of murder, baloney knives and hair grease.

What genre does your book fall under?  Poetry, I hope.

Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition? ...Harry Dean Stanton and Brad Dourif can play everyone except the women...probably most of the women too.

What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?  Hillbilly book learnin' and witchery

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency? (if this applies - otherwise, make up another question to answer!)
I hope someone wants this damn thing already.Agents tend to avoid poetry like it's catching, so I am assuming maybe a merciful small press will be interested in us making a lot of no money together.

How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript My whole damn life.

What other books would you compare this story to within your genre? IreneMcKinney's work, Diane Gilliam Fisher's work, the Spoon River Anthology, Murder ballads, Jack Tales, Grimm's and Borges, with a healthy sprinkling of T.S. Eliot and Anne Sexton...sounds like a godawful mess, doesn't it?

Who or what inspired you to write this book? Probably Thomas Merton can be blamed. And that time my cousins fed me whiskey when I was four. All the chemicals in the river.

What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest? I don't know..If I haven't sold you yet, it seems unlikely that I will pull you in with some sparkling fact.  I guess Jethro Bodine will probably put in an appearance, somewhere along the line.

Friday, December 21, 2012


The thieves of children are velvet tongue'd, bright
as tigers, sticky sweet. These doctors with
terrible wings, blacker than a crawlspace, their teeth
white as cherry flowers, lemon-drop sour
stones and string, pocket knives, candy and toys

They say, "come away past the hedge, streetlights are
dropping light", they smile with stained lips curling.
Their eyes are bone and marble white, cave blind.
Their hands softly furred, cracked nails dirt black rind
This one's throat is a well, a car's locked trunk.

They sing, all cancer and milk, copper, lead
and unctuous charm, gravestone teeth in neat rows.
There is no one death, but deaths and deaths and
myriad deaths so thick and numberless
they blot the moon with the shadow of birds.

Each day the doors of the houses open
Something hangs beneath the sidewalk, waiting
Something stands at the red light, in the wood
An armada of boats in black crepe wait.
Their impatient ferrymen play at dice

Let us make a bargain, old bony death.
You may rend me from my bones like paper
Let my cadaver come to its red end.
Pass over these bright and laughing ones that
crowd my house, the ones who do not know.

Written on the occasion of Terry Thompson's suicide, Zanesville OH

I am of this place,
and when I release my bestiary
it will be a king of rats that crawls from my gut,
a tangle of tales and black eyes
 a cloud of blowflies,
to sing in the eaves of my final room
a possum hissing wrath, a black bear

save this  sad, mute ape, who will shed my skin
at the last like a salvation army suit
and carry your name into the canopy of the trees

you grieved the nineteen tigers, the lion chasing horses
the wolf, the bear, the storm of animals
and how I love you for that
to love the sharp teeth let loose in the mown lawns
the hungry bear in the pantry
to hate the safety of bullets
the black stain of a beastless road
to love the wolf and hate the keeper's skin

Sunday, December 16, 2012


The night I set the chair on fire, they sent two fire trucks, and three cop cars. The cops came up as I was watching it burn, and they did not even try to take my beer from me, or the gas can, which was probably a good idea. The flame was a two-story high column of orange light and stinking black smoke from the burning foam rubber, and the greasy sixties floral skin of the thing was polyester, at least in part. The gasoline exploded when the flame hit it, and the boom had made my neighbors report an explosion, their weirdly sculpted bushes lit with sunset and hell -light. The chair had a name, was the throne of our underground court, beside the washing machine, the sump pump hole, the empty whiskey bottles, the Black Sabbath and Misfits records, the black indoor/outdoor carpet,the windows used as doors, covered in stolen flags, the chair of office soaked in bong water and gas station wine, in boilermakers and cheap gin. I had been hounded, as I was going away to school, off to seek my fortune in the wide wide world, to "get rid of that ugly piece of trash that you dragged into my house" before I let the door hit me on the ass, by my mother, through a thick slurred fog of sleeping pills. The beers were stolen from the vegetable crisper, old Milwaukee tall boys held by a plastic ring, and the gas was meant for a battered lawn mower that was seldom used.( In our last place, we had let the grass grow till it rippled like wheat,heavy with seeds and when the law came and informed us it would have to be cut, I cut it with a sickle and let it dry in the sun before I bagged it, and then cut it twice, That yard would have burned down the block, but this one was kept passable by contract with HUD.) The iron railings were kept painted, inside and out and the avocado-green stove and oven worked as per the fair housing act, but the fireplace was boarded over (,fire too dangerous in the hands of the poor) and we had no hatchet, so I determined it was to be a viking funeral for my youth, for my chair, and dragged it drunkenly up the stairs, while her stupor held, while my sisters slept, and in the middle of the walk, I placed it, soaked it down with five gallons of gas and led a thin thread of fuel, fuse style, up the walk and set it roaring up to the level of the second floor windows, and sang, until the sirens started.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Hilt's Law

The bones cast in the field like seed corn,
grow nothing, grow briars in the boarded gas stations
brown stalks ready for the fire.
You do not hear our song,
earth thick in our throats, benzene and chromium
cadmium and arsenic
shuttered stores,the hosts of dead in cold-mill towns
the day that does not come though prayed for.

The trains of coal and corpses, the price of power
though wires are stretched like a mandolin on our bones
though the saints bob above us like car-lot balloons
You do not hear our singing.
In electric light the bubble gum machine is full of teeth
the babies' bottles with a slow sweet poison
the air is thick with cancer and the rain with
teeth,without flowers, without cease.

This dream of sleep, in hunter's orange
over oil-black in cups, in the hollows under eyes
the unborn sun in the darkest river, the hollow hills
the unsong of un-place, Bloody Harlan, Centralia
the blessed fly over in air conditioned comfort.

Let the bone-fire of your city burn 'till your shadow stains the bricks
Let the dark come spilling from the mine thick as mollasses
Let the end come if it is coming,
Let the rich hang from their ankles,
washtub full of black blood.
You do not hear.

Let the hills and stones fall on us and cover us
Let those curse us who curse the day, who are skillfull
the smelters of iron, and armaments, the hilltop removers.

Though we are dying, though we breath black dust
and blue powder, spit liquor and blood
the black drink, the earth's secret breath
though we are toothless, though we are blind
we hear this:

Steady trundle of the train under storm clouds
loaded down with malediction,
the radio tower's Babel-bleat to heaven
with the black stone, with the dead for burning
song of electric light, and sleeplessness.

Weariest river at the end of all things
We follow you into the earth.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012


"" ""

FY 2013 Grant Awards: NEA Literature Fellowships:
Creative Writing (Poetry)

Beduya, Jose Perez
Ithaca, NY

Bird Greenberg, Miriam
Berkeley, CA

Blake, Sarah
Havertown, PA

Brimhall, Traci
Kalamazoo, MI

Browne, Jenny
San Antonio, TX

Buffam, Suzanne
Chicago, IL

Chen, Ken
Brooklyn, NY

Chernoff, Maxine
Mill Valley, CA

Corral, Eduardo C.
Rego Park, NY

Coutley, Lisa Fay
Salt Lake City, UT

Day, Meg
Salt Lake City, UT

Elkins, Ansel
Greensboro, NC

Essbaum, Jill Alexander
Austin, TX

Flood, Reginald L.
Quaker Hill, CT

Gorham, Sarah
Prospect, KY

Hart, Pamela
South Salem, NY

Hoahwah, Sy
Benton, AR

Hughey, Elizabeth
Birmingham, AL

Kryah, Joshua
Las Vegas, NV

Laurentiis, Rickey
St Louis, MO

Mangold, Sarah
Edmonds, WA

McCadden, Kerrin
Plainfield, VT

McCrae, Shane
Iowa City, IA

Metres, Philip
University Heigh, OH

Muench, Simone
Chicago, IL

Murillo, John
Brooklyn, NY

Rakovan, Jacob
Rochester, NY

Reddy, Srikanth
Chicago, IL

Reeves, Roger W.
Chicago, IL

Richardson, James
Princeton, NJ

Richardson, Rachel
Greensboro, NC

Rigsbee, David
Raleigh, NC

Riley, Atsuro
San Francisco, CA

Seay, Allison
Midlothian, VA

Sharif, Solmaz
Los Angeles, CA

Shaw, B. T.
Portland, OR

Teitman, Ryan
Berkeley, CA

Vap, Sarah
Santa Monica, CA

York, Jake Adam
Denver, CO

Zucker, Rachel
New York, NY

« Return to index

Recent Grants

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Reposted from Sarabande Website:

We are pleased to announce the 2012 Linda Bruckheimer Series in Kentucky Literature selection: (Untitled), stories by Arna Bontemps Hemenway. The collection will appear in the summer of 2014. We will definitely have a title before publication date!
Arna grew up in the Mount Vernon neighborhood of Lexington, Kentucky. His fiction has appeared in The Missouri Review, The Seattle Review, Meridian Literary Review, Bat City Review, and They Magazine. He received a B.A. from the University of Iowa and an M.F.A. in Fiction from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop. He’s been the recipient of the Peter Taylor Scholarship for Fiction from the Sewanee Writers’ Conference, as well as the Truman Capote Fellowship and John C. Schupes Fellowship for Fiction Writing while at Iowa, where he now teaches.
The finalists chosen (and they were very fine finalists) included:
Light in Darkness, by Jeremy Byars
Poems from a Poet’s Daughter, by Morgan Eklund
Through a Tunnel You Are Leaving, by Jessica Farquhar
Big Bad, by Gary Leising
A Terrifying Brush with Optimism, by Brian Leung
Galaxies that Might be You, by Pamela Johnson Parker
The Devil’s Radio, by Jacob Rakovan
Manglevine: Collected Stories, by Dominic Russ
Gazelle in the House, by Lisa Williams
A Little Luck, by Jeff Worley
Click this link to download a print friendly version of the 2012 Bruckheimer Series press release.

Monday, April 30, 2012

30 of 30 Elegy for Joyce Mcginnis

It was a funeral year,and a terrible church.
the preacher had an altar call in the middle of the service
as though this was the ideal time, to hammer us
with that threadbare, impoverished faith, worn carpet on the altar
a pair of yard-sale plaster praying hands atop a speaker,
a paint-on-velvet Jesus, and I was young enough to be embarassed

By the Appalachian wailing in the funeral home,
the collapsing and being escorted outside, the coffee can of cigarette butts
the beige shirts and colorful ties, the kentucky drawl of the preacher
I have never felt more northern, more Catholic, more outside
than that room, the women red-faced, collapsing
My own calm in the face of their grief.

You were born again, but I knew your stories,
the woman shot through the barstool
Red's blood clot and the bullet that cured him,
Your prison time the family secret
knew of your bike, your studded belt that spelled your name
your racist dolls, dirty books, knew the cackle of your laugh
your smoking cigarettes with an oxygen mask,
planted lillies in your lawn. Stared at the Mack truck tabletop lighters
the apple-head dolls, turned over  the plaster frogs with human genitals
near your stagnant birdbath, knew the smell of your backyard goat
a picture of a man with elephantisis, carrying his balls in a wheel barrel:
But you did not know me, called me "Chuck", called me "Chad",
Called me "Neva's Baby" when I was fifteen,
though you had embroidered names on my cousin's woolen jackets
always more interested in your own stories.
My mother and her sisters were charmed by you,
like mice by a snake, they needed the your gaze
even if you only saw your own reflection in their eyes
the children that you left, again and again
that gaggle of garrulous sisters at your dying bed
who did not seem to notice that you did not love them.
who dutifully ate the 7-up cake, the ham left warming for them
that you never bothered to wait for their arrival to eat
on the holidays we drove across two states to your home and car dealership
to eat your leftovers, to slip off and read the black books upstairs, to steal whiskey from your bar,to spin until we fell

When you died this was my inheritance, a rack of pipes that no one smoked
a set of books in black covers, with pentagrams on the back. a collection of stories
of a woman that I never knew, a memory of the sting of stolen whiskey.

29 of 30 Elegy for Rich Weiss

We rode the freight trains into town
jumping off when they picked up speed
and sliding down the rock embankments.
A sign on a post, covered in rust, bulletholes
advertised a long-closed window and siding company
"Exteriors of time" Fields of corn and wheat,
a go-kart track, the weird sculptures of Mini Golf
under fluorescent lights,a dingy arcade where metal bands
played in the gravel parking lot, a whirling pit over the gravel.

Rich was older, had better weed,
drank stolen airplane bottles of "cocktail" and "martini"
with us, hopped cemetary fences, showed us how to make a pipe
from tin foil and a pen, from soda cans and apples.
Rich, on Dilaudid, or Codeine, or Valium and Whiskey,
alone, a drunk, stumbling scarecrow
( or asleep on the tracks, depending on who was telling)
was hit by the Burlington Northern,
and his heart stopped.

The paramedics jump-started him,
and Rich came back, Electric Lazarus
with cinematic tales of a white light, of voices
of being spat back into the world,
which he would tell while we huffed gas,
drank Everclear, shook with stolen speed
I do not recall the method of his second death.