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http://www.nytimes.com/2014/04/06/books/review/shotgun-lovesongs-by-nickolas-butler.html

 

Many, many thanks to Brent McDonald for filming this beautiful little short.  Also, infinite gratitude to the best publicist in the world, Dori Weintraub.

Courtesy of Macknick. What I admire about this performance is a total commitment to the performance, the art. Just brilliant.

The Light Fandango

Already suffering winter, the driveway snowed in and iced over, the light so low in the sky. Haven’t seen the buffalo in a week or more and come Saturday I’ll help butcher one for my freezer, which makes me sad. When every crack in the house hisses with more cold, the windows cold to the touch, machines don’t want to run. It was a day to go talk to the pastor, to return again and again to the Thermos, to stare out the window, to feed the birds. To count winter’s months on your fingers, like a sentence, and think, Five more, how could this be? And yet, in nine more days we’ll be allotted that much more light, as if it – light – were a ration that could be placed in a box. – NB

Ioway or Bust

One year left. In a scant five days I’ll be back down to Ioway. Am I excited? In some ways. I’m ready for the structure of my teaching and learning, ready for the deadlines of Workshop and for the peculiar atmosphere of Ioway City where all my friends and colleagues are all interested in literature and poetry, all trying to figure things out. I’m not excited about another year away from Regina and Henry. Or another year of driving six hundred miles a week. I feel very fortunate that I never had any accdients last year and I’m hoping that my luck holds out for another year.

I’ve had some great weekends of late. Visited my Grandpa in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula and was able to spend some quality time with him and also my brother Alex. We took a sauna, had a nice bonfire, took some good walks, and observed more birds than I can remember in recent years. Just this last weekend we returned to Eau Claire and met my uncles there for a tour of the Leinenkugal’s brewery. Also had a nice dinner with my Mom and Dad.

I’m presently reading Josh Weil’s “The New Valley.” It is such a stupendously beautiful book that I read it with equal parts envy and wonder. His style is akin to a young Cormac McCarthy, with elements of Breece DJ Pancake thrown in for good measure. The blurbs on the jacket of the book are the kinds of compliments that any young writer would kill for. Here’s to hoping that my debut book is even half as well received – if and when it comes out.

Which reminds me… In recent months I’ve become reticent to talk about my upcoming publications either on this blog or through Facebook, but I guess I’m doing a disservice to the very publications that believe in my work by neglecting to mention them. In that spirit: the newest issue of “Ploughshares” features my first published short story entitled “Apples” which is loosely based on someone in my life that many of you who might read the story will recognize. I also have a poem forthcoming in the journal “Alimentum” and another short story appearing on “The Kenyon Review Online.” I’m excited about all of these publications and thankful to their editors and readers.

With or Without Me

On Saturday night Regina was fortunate enough to attend the U2 concert at TCF Stadium. Her ticket was in a luxury box with great food and easy parking and she experienced the concert with other attorneys from her firm. It was a stormy night in the Twin Cities and despite the rain U2 played a two and half hour set in a steady downpour. Regina said the show was incredible, that the band sounded fantastic, their use of technology was astounding, the stage was great – she came back from the show fairly glowing. I was/am happy for her. Would I like to have gone too? Would I potentially injure another human being for such tickets? Would I sell a lung or perhaps agree to have a toe amputated for the pleasure of seeing U2? To all the above questions I whole-heartedly say, YES. Yes. Yes, yes, yes. NO!!!

But Saturday was great, really. It was great. Allow me to give you a little report:

Regina left the house at about 5:15pm. I set Henry in his chair at the kitchen table and served him a bowl of honey-flavored yogurt. I then turned my back on him to perform other household chores. When I looked back at him, perhaps only moments later, he was lathering his hair and face with white yogurt, apparently under the presumption that yogurt has “lotion-like” therapeutic value. I cleaned him off with a rag but needless to say, there was still yogurt everywhere. We went into the bathroom to take a bath together.

Henry has been doing very well of late with his potty-training. He has been peeing in the toilet about 2-3 times a day. But Saturday night was the first attempt at a trained poop. He sat on his orange duck-themed potty/stool and I sat on our toilet and we watched each other attempt to move our bowels. After some time had elapsed, he said, “Dad. Poop.”

I glanced in his toilet. There to see a nugget of feces not unlike what I would expect from a rabbit. And yet, I was elated. This was success, very clearly. We high-fived and then I moved him into the bath-tub for our daily shower/bath, or what I grew up calling “a shath.” Again, I turned my back on him for no less than twenty seconds. When I looked back at him he was saying, “Daddy. Big poop.”

I looked at the bottom of the bathtub, near his feet where a giant log of crap sat deterioting in the shower water. “No problem,” I said to him. “Next time sit on the toilet longer.”

While Regina was watching Bono and The Edge prance around TCF in the rain, I picked up a fecal brick with my bare hand and tossed it into the toilet. Then we washed up.

This, is fatherhood.

In other news I can’t sleep at all and have been working on my novel in longhand, which prevents me from wasting time on the Internet. I’m still working my way through Louise Erdrich’s The Bingo Palace and looking forward to Moby-Dick, which I will be studying in the fall (a James Galvin led seminar – Yes!)

To Be Two

This summer has flown by. Even with the withering heat and humidity, the days seem to race by. Everything has been easy and fluid – no forced sorties down to Ioway. No grading papers. No requisite workshop letter-writing. No emails to answer from students. Just pleasant mornings with Henry. Cereal and milk and oatmeal and peanut-butter toast (pop-up). Long neighborhood walks to playgrounds or trips to the pool. Lunches in downtown Minneapolis with Regina. Weekends in Eau Claire. Things are idyllic.

Today my friend Marcus Burke called and he asked whether or not I was dreading the return to Iowa. “Dread” is a strong word. There aren’t many times in your adult life when you get the opportunity to return to school. To meet new friends, learn from great professors, and have all the access to great writing resources that we have at Iowa. And I do miss my friends and my routine down there. But I think the driving will be more difficult this year. The novelty of it (driving) will be gone, and that scares me. I never felt tired behind the wheel last year and I was lucky with the road conditions. By all rights, I should have slid into the ditch about a half dozen different trips – but I never did. I’ve never had a speeding ticket or an accident, and I feel like I’ve been fortunate with those odds too. Above all, I’m looking forward to my next workshop, and pressure to produce on a regular basis. I’m looking forward to reading my friends’ newest works.

The headline of this post is “To Be Two.” Henry celebrated his second birthday in style with pile of loot, some cupcakes, pizza, and a trip to the Children’s Museum in Saint Paul. It was a great day. And I’m pleased to report that as each day passes, he seems to be more and more of a boy. Eagerly listening to books being read, joking, teasing, curious about the world, playing, speaking more, and just generally honing who he seems to be. How miraculous! As a little family, I can’t say that we’ve ever been happier.

Presently reading Louise Erdrich’s “The Bingo Palace.” Just finished John Grisham’s “The Testament.”

Summer Half Gone

It feels that way – that pretty soon I’ll be back on Highway 35 heading down to Ioway. In truth, I still have a little less than two months here in Minnesota with Regina and Henry, but I am astonished at quickly the time has flown by. And I haven’t been as effective as I might’ve liked when it comes to my novel, blogging, or exercise. But I am trying. Today for example I worked on the novel quite a bit, took several walks with Henry, ran errands, and posted two letters to friends. So I’m not being lazy exactly.

I never wanted this blog to be meaningless, or necessarily disposable. I never wanted to feel that I HAD to write/blog something every day. Because the truth is that I don’t have something meaningful to say every day. Nor does something eventful happen to me every day. I have tried to maintain this blog in the hopes of staying in touch with family and friends. And also in a way as a kind of tool for talking about The Workshop, my writing, my successes and failures. I need to keep doing that I think. This blog doesn’t take up that much of my time.

Rather than write you a novella about my summer, here is a bulleted list of significant happenings:
1. Lacerated the hell out of my right shin. Took about 25-45 stitches. Hard to say exactly how many because the ER docs (really cool guys) didn’t count the stitches they had to sew deep inside my leg to bring the tissue together that was closest to the exposed bone. Right now I have a very ugly 5 inch long U-shaped scar that doesn’t want to heal quickly at all.
2. Reading. So far this summer I’ve read about eight books. In some ways, this has gotten in the way of my own writing. But reading for me is also now about learning, and I need to read in order to push my own craft. In particular, I’d like to promote: Dean Bakopoulos’ new book “My American Unhappiness”, James Alan McPherson’s “Elbow Room”, Thomas McGuane’s “Ninety-Two in the Shade”, and Wells Towers’ “Everything Ravaged, Everything Burned.” Three of the four books are by my teachers/mentors/friends. Go read those books.
3. Henry has a second birthday soon. He is gaining more language with every day and continues to grow and thrive. He is a joy to be around and every day I am cognizant of how fortunate I am to have this summer with him.
4. Writing. In the coming months I’ll likely have two short stories published in major journals and one poem in a journal called “Alimentum”, which is a publication dedicated to food writing. I’m very proud of these publications. I think I’m getting very close to my goals. At this point, I’m praying to find a good agent who cares about my work and is aggressive. If I can find that person, I’m pretty sure that I’m about two to years away from dropping several books. So pray for me, or send good vibrations, or whatever. I need the support.
5. Travel. We’re traveling mostly in the Midwest, but so far we’ve seen the Swans in Ashland, Iowa City, and several times we’ve visited Eau Claire. We just need to visit the Walters family and my Grandpa, and then I’ll be satsified. Mike and Hilary: if you still read this blog, I haven’t forgotten your trips up here. I feel guilty as hell. We’ll get down there and when we do, we’ll have some stellar coffee and a few bottles of wine too.

Okay. Enough for now. Hopefully Regina and I will be in a canoe this weekend. At least for one day.

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