“Hey!” said the frog.
“Okay!” said the frog.
“Today!” said the frog.
“Hooray!” said the frog.
“Tee-hee!” said the frog.
“Free to be!” said the frog.
“Jubilee!” said the frog.
“Wheeeee!” said the frog.
“Ai-yai!” said the frog.
“Firefly!” said the frog.
“In your eye!” said the frog.
“Oh my!” said the frog.
“Oh no!” said the frog.
“Dynamo!” said the frog.
“Gonna blow!” said the frog.
“Let’s go!” said the frog.
“In the stew!” said the frog.
“What to do!” said the frog.
“We’re through!” said the frog.
“Who knew!” said the frog.
Splurp, said the frog.
~ ~ ~
It’s called Mammal, published by Roof Books. How exciting is that? I consider it a collection of new and neglected works, meaning it has a good portion of quite recent stuff along with some classics that have never been published in book form. The new stuff often addresses fluidity of gender and self, both of which I experience, and don’t worry, there’s a lot of playfulness in there as well. And the classics? Those include greatest hits like “Mud Song”, “Bootism”, and “Poems for a Centralized Church”, among many others. You’re bound to find something that you’ll adore.
But don’t take my word for it. Kim Shuck says,
I avidly look forward to each new Richard Loranger book. They have a very distinctive poetic voice, and it is on full view in Mammal. Equally persuasive on the subject of butterflies, pronouns, or insomnia, Loranger takes us all on a wild ride through levels of understanding. “As long as we think we’re our bodies / we’re fucked,” Richard offers, and it would be ungrateful to disagree.
And here’s a little of what Roof Books has to say:
Mammal posits new ways of understanding ourselves in relationship to our own minds, others, and the natural world. Ever the juicy provocateur, Loranger challenges the reader to consider that “you’re not really you” and that the “I” might be “a mirrored room / we build around ourselves without a door.” This presents a unique nonbinary and trans* transgressive intransigence, exploding thresholds through a hybridized continuum of approaches inflected with post-Beat neoformalism, spoken word cadences, queer disruption, conceptual audacity, and raucous experimentation.
Most kind of you, Roof.
Plus amazing cover art by Tobias Brill. Thank you, Tobias!
I think this is my best collection to date, and certainly contains my broadest range of ideas, styles, and play. I’d be honored if you’d check it out. To read more about the book, click here or on the title above, and to order directly from Small Press distribution, click here.
Hirsute up and come along for the evolution.
~ ~ ~
In this frogpot we call America, we call Late Capitalism, we call civilization, it’s easy to be cynical. It’s the path of least resistance. “Dear god, look around us!” we cry (and should). We fling arms to the smoky skies, throw ourselves to pulverized earth. “How did we get here?” we croak in the silliest rhetorical self-denial ever. Meanwhile the Olympian corporations run roughshod over all things natural, indoctrination trumps the commonest of sense, and hubris really is the funniest word imaginable. “The inflation is terrible!” we moan, somehow believing that it’s the result of complex economic forces rather than the 1% leeching as much as possible from everyone else, to shore up the bunkers they’ve built against the catastrophe caused by their overproduction. The medical industry mistreats, maltreats, undertreats, injures, and pretty much everything but treats those whom it purportedly serves, then responds to their anguish and outrage with binding arbitration and messaging. Politics and organized sports provide a subtext for the artificial hierarchies of oppression and fuel mass conflict addiction. What isn’t there to be cynical about?
I’ll tell you what: waves. I don’t mean those bunches of water that we can hear crashing on the stony shore etc, though they are pleasant and yeah, they’re really a part of this as well. What I mean is: everything goes in waves. I think if you can step back a moment and set aside all of that entropy and particle-wave paradox physics shit, you might see what I mean. Waves are everywhere and often comforting because they repeat, they lull, but are also never quite the same, they tell a story, they move us forward in time. So whatever catastrophes await us sentient humans imbued with terror of the flesh, you can rest assured that there’ll be waves of all kinds and shapes and sizes afterward and afterward and afterward. “But wait!” you protest. “If we sentient humans imbued with terror of the flesh aren’t around to experience them, what good is that comfort anyway?” Are you kidding? First of all, what is sentience anyway? Do you know? Cause I don’t, but I’m pretty sure that sentience is in no way unique to what we call humans, even if our dumb egos tell us that it is. Sentience is all over the place. Look around you! I bet that somewhere there might even be a kinder, smarter sentience than what we’ve come up with. Or are you really just concerned that what we call humans might no longer be what we call here? Big deal! There’ll still be waves and sentience and stories and even terror of the flesh if you like. It’s all good. Maybe we just need to get over ourselves and honor a more ubiquitous frog.
~ ~ ~
Note that the adage of the frogpot – i.e., if you put a frog in a pot of boiling water, it’ll jump right out, while if you place it in cold water and heat it up, it’ll boil to death – has fallen somewhat out of use and in fact has been proven incorrect by science. (I shudder to wonder how.) Nonetheless it remains an established metaphor for the human tendency to deny encroaching disaster, and besides, I’d already written much of this post when I found that out, so this caveat will have to do. That practice is even suggested by some usage guides. A good place to start for more info on this is the article at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Boiling_frog.
~ ~ ~
UPCOMING EVENTS :: First on Saturday, September 23 I’ll be hosting a book party for the authors of Last Laugh Productions in Live Oak Park in Berkeley. On the bill: Steve Arntson, Johanna Ely, Maria Rosales (up from Baha!), Jan Dederick, and Paul Corman-Roberts & Pasha De Saix reading the work of Vampyre Mike Kassel. Plus an afternoon under a great shady oak tree with refreshment and hot-off-the-presses books and an open mic! What more could you ask for? :: Then in October I’ll have a little East Coast book tour for a certain above-mentioned new book, with stops in Cambridge on Oct 4 for an open mic, a feature in Woodstock on Oct 7 (yes that Woodstock), a brief appearance at the Maintenant 17 book party in NYC on Oct 19, a full-on book launch at the Segue Reading Series in New York on October 21 (be there), and a feature with Lonely Christopher in Philadelphia on Oct 27. Not enough for you? Well it’s just gonna have to do. :: Deets as always on the Events page.
~ ~ ~
Here I am trying to survive when someone taps on my window. Frickin’ first floor flats. I go over to look and there’s an ordinary-seeming fellow standing a few feet back waving his hands and smiling. I decide he looks non-threatening so I open the sash and say, “Yes?”
“Good afternoon,” he says. “Sorry to bother, but I was just wondering if you’ve made it in the world.”
“Made what?” I ask, puzzled.
“Not what, it!” he insists. “Have you made it in the world.”
Then I realize that behind him there’s an entire Greek chorus lining the curb, masks and all. “We hope you made it,” they sing-chant.
I stand a moment dumbstruck, then rally. “What it?” I retort, taking up the theme.
They emit a sigh of collective exasperation, like a muted mumble in sotto voce.
The man steps forward again, almost imploring. “It,” he says, “that you make, you know, in the world.”
I draw another blank.
“Like Mary Tyler Moore!” he says, coaxing.
“Oh!” I exclaim, getting it.
As if to celebrate, the chorus breaks into the very melody: “We hope you make it in the world…” Now I am feeling a little threatened.
“Thank you, I’ll be sure to do that,” I say, waving them on, pulling back inside and closing the sash. I go back to trying to survive, wondering if I should look up the word “it” in the dictionary.
~ ~ ~
DIVERTISSEMENT :: Back in May I was at a release party for Fourteen Hills, the annual journal out of SF State that I had a piece in, and for a little fundraising they had a raffle. I threw in ten bucks, unaware that that was more than they had in the pot altogether. Ended up winning a few things in the raffle that I gave away, and the grand prize, which I didn’t and which was two tickets to an escape room. I jumped up and down yelling, “Will it be like the movie? Will I have to crawl through air vents chased by fireballs?” (Escape Room is a pretty awesome thriller from a few years ago about, go figure, a deadly escape room.) Well I finally got around to going last month, and there weren’t any fireballs but it was pretty fun. Went to Escape Oakland with friends Ruth, Jen, and Bunza (paid a little extra for additional peops). They have four different rooms, which are each basically a set of puzzles of different sorts in which you solve a mystery and figure out how to get out of the room. For you readers who are claustrophobic (and I’ve been at times myself), it actually doesn’t induce that since you’re watched on cameras the whole time, can interact with them (like asking for clues), and they can open the doors instantly at any time. And the puzzles were really quite absorbing. We did The Bunker, which consisted of two fairly small rooms – you had to figure out how to open the door between them for half the game. The premise was that a scientist was found dead in the woods nearby, and he’d been living in this bunker for a long time doing research. You have an hour to uncover what killed him and how to get out before his rogue AI kills you. (AI will kill us all eventually, of course, but in this game you’re allowed to beat it.) There were different kinds of puzzles as well – a few combination locks you needed to find the numbers for, electronics you have to figure out how to turn on, locked cabinets to be opened, a computer that needs a password, and even some purely physical puzzles like figuring out where to place objects or how to move them in unusual ways. We beat it barely in time, with help from a few clues, but we were all first-timers and I bet if any of us did it again we’d have an easier time of it (maybe). I totally enjoyed it, and recommend it to anyone who isn’t a scaredy-cat.
~ ~ ~
I wake to September with grit and a grim grin. Why grim? Because I’m not ready to relent. When I am, I’ll let you know. Why grit? Because I feel it in my bones and joints; because my blood is spiced with it; because my feet still grip the earth. And why grin? Because I smell sassafras and oak leaves; because the year has no starting point; because it’s a great survival strategy. Give me a chill afternoon with changing light. Let me hear blowing leaves and the birds of dusk. Give me a cup of tea and quietude and I’ll stand where I am and sing.