Saturday, February 21, 2015

Ekphrastic Fantastic

The Bride's Descent by Philip C. Curtis
(Phoenix Art Museum)
Friend and fellow poet Julie E. Bloemeke alerted me to  a fantastic collaboration between Four Chambers Press and the Phoenix Art Museum in Arizona. The press – which publishes a literary magazine and chapbooks – sent out a call for poetry and prose in response to pieces of art at the museum. Right up my alley!

Julie flew out to Phoenix and spent a few days at the Phoenix Art Museum looking at specific works she wanted to respond to in her poems. She came home excited and already well underway with her drafts for three different poems. Unfortunately, I wasn't able to go to Phoenix, but I was already familiar with one of the artists that Julie was raving about – surrealist painter Philip C. Curtis.

At the eleventh hour I decided to write a poem in response to Curtis' haunting "The Bride's Descent." As you can see above, the image is arresting. Curtis' has a touch of Magritte about his work, which I also love, and the The Bride conjured up all sorts of imagery: Kill Bill and The Bride Wore Black, chessboards, funeral parlors, the choice of whether to turn right or left at the bottom of the stairs. Ultimately, the poem I wrote and submitted the day before the deadline is called "Turn Left." I was absolutely thrilled when Four Chambers accepted the poem for the chapbook collaboration, Poetry and Prose for The Phoenix Art Museum.

In typical synchronistic fashion, Julie responded to another piece of Curtis' work, "Wait by the Station," which was also accepted for publication.

Sadly, I won't be able to attend the launch party and reading for the chapbook at the Phoenix Art Museum because of my schedule and commitments, but I love that Four Chambers has embarked on this kind of collaborative project with the museum. There should be more of this. Much more.

Ekphrastic poetry has been much on my mind as I continue my series of poems about women in film, so this acceptance for the new chapbook is just another link in the chain of my future work.

Thank you Four Chambers, Phoenix Art Museum and Julie!

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

A quick update on "Leaving Paris"

For those who don't follow me on social media, I've been burning the midnight oil finishing up the third novel in The Venus Trilogy. Leaving Paris is about a week away from going to my editor before being submitted to Sibling Rivalry Press for further editing and production.

I began red-lining a printed copy of the manuscript the weekend after Christmas. I'm about a dozen pages away from completing those corrections, which also included several small rewrites and expanding on various scenes. The manuscript is now two pages longer because of those additions.

This weekend, I'll be adding two of Martin's poems and inserting a couple of dream sequences that offer clues to the big mystery that is revealed – and solved – at the end of the book.

Martin and Irène's journey is coming to a close, but there is a very good chance that Diane and her detective husband, Bernard Sullivan, might show up in a book of their own one day. A proper mystery in the Nick and Nora Charles vein, but with a lot more profanity and name-calling. That's a little spoiler for y'all.

More soon!

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Beyond Je Suis Charlie

It's been difficult watching the horrific terrorist attacks unfold in Paris this past week. The offices of satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo are in the 11th arrondissement, just a few streets away from rue Rampon and Place de la Republique, which is the central setting of the Venus Trilogy of novels. The 11th is "my" neighborhood in Paris since I first checked into what is now the Le General Hotel on rue Rampon nearly 20 years ago. There has also been an eerie similarity between some of this week's events and what takes place in Leaving Paris. It's made me rethink some of the scenes I've written, the dialogue from certain characters, the way the political atmosphere in Paris sets the mood for this final book.  I'm also a journalist, so the massacre of the Charlie Hebdo staff strikes close to home. Like many, I have asked why young men (and an increasing number of women) have turned to such violence? Here are a few thoughts.

In Paris, one trip to the banlieue outside the city and you will see the economic desperation, the class divide, the "us and them" writ large. With no job or education prospects, the so-called "wealth gap" has become a canyon. Terrorist groups promise more than virgins and wealth in martyrdom: there is fellowship for the alienated, a perverse call to right injustice, and because of the Internet, video games and portrayals in mass media, it looks cool. There's a reason all the ISIS videos look like slick video games and Hollywood film trailers. You don't have to travel to a training camp in Syria – although many are – but can become radicalized in your bedroom when what's outside appears hopeless. The hopeless are easily indoctrinated into radicalized religious sects who promise power, respect and glory.

We also cannot continue to believe the old conservative canard "They hate us because we're free." America and Europe have been undermining nations, killing untold numbers of civilians, occupying, weaponizing and dehumanizing on a global scale for centuries. That also leads to radicalization, whether we like to admit it or not.

When terrorists attacked on Sept. 11, America's response was to go to war in Iraq and Afghanistan. It has gotten us nowhere. Bombing civilizations to dust is a temporary fix (or no fix at all in Iraq's case) and only leads to more hopelessness, a sense of injustice, a call to radicalize. After every terror attack, there is a rush by conservative talking heads to paint all Muslims as would-be terrorists. There is an almost willful disregard of the differences in culture and psychology that also lead to terrorism.

The global solidarity with France this week has been amazing to watch, especially today's march and rally in Paris where a million people turned out. All religions and beliefs marched in unity – Christians, Muslims, Jews, atheists. Once the rallies end and the #JuSuisCharlie hashtag fades from Twitter, there must be a turn to action and, hopefully, a hard look at the root causes that makes young men and women take up guns and detonate bombs. We must continue to condemn terrorism and its causes, reject fear and the twisting of religion and politics at the expense of humanity.

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

2014: Looking back at a better year

2013 was truly a sucky year. An "annus horribilis" as Queen Liz would say. While my writing career was flying high with the publication and accolades for Render, my personal life was a mess. I lost my father and grandmother in a span of seven months, there was work upheaval as the magazine I edit was sold, which scuppered my planned month-long sabbatical in London. I was happy to see the calendar roll over to 2014, sensing it would be a much better year. And it most certainly was.

Of course, the highlight of this year was traveling to London to see Kate Bush perform in her Before the Dawn residency. Having been a fan for 30 years, I never thought I would get to see her live, but in September my dream came true. I also had the chance to see many of my friends, visit Derek Jarman's Prospect Cottage at Dungeness, see the Virginia Woolf exhibit at the National Portrait Gallery, read from Render at the Polari series at Southbank Centre and write the last chapter of my novel, Leaving Paris.

Speaking of Leaving Paris, it's complete now and the editing process is underway. I spent most of the year trying to keep the third novel in The Venus Trilogy on track after veering wildly from my outline. That experimentation yielded some interesting scenes and ideas, many of which wound up staying in the book, but also required extensive rewriting. Still, I'm slightly ahead of schedule and after I complete my edit, I'll turn the book over to my longtime personal editor Kathy Dean in mid-January. An early 2016 release date is planned from Sibling Rivalry Press, so stay tuned as we prepare to promote the entire trilogy.

As for poetry, the biggest thrill was having Render chosen for the American Library Association's 2014 Over the Rainbow List. It was quite an honor and I shared the award with some other fantastic poets and writers. I also had poetry published in Animal and Flycatcher, and the editors kindly thought my work was worthy of Pushcart Prize nominations. My poetry also appeared in some fantastic anthologies including Drawn To Marvel: Poems from the Comic Books and Electronic Corpse: Poems from a Digital Salon. I also had the pleasure of editing and writing the forward for On Occasion: Four Poets, One Year by Karen Head, Blake Leland, JC Reilly and Bob Wood.

Other highlights of the year: the eBook version of my Slow To Burn chapbook was issued; I somehow managed to attain 5,000 Twitter followers; I attended the Rainbow Book Fair in New York City; and my spoken word album, HalfLife Crisis, became available on Spotify.

2015 will be all about completing Leaving Paris and gearing up for its publication in 2016, as well as a reissue of my first poetry collection, Better To Travel, in the autumn. I'm headed back to New York, Los Angeles, London and Paris in the new year and excited to see where else my writing will unexpectedly take me.

A few other favorites: The film Only Lovers Left Alive starring my spirit animal, Tilda Swinton; the ongoing love of London Grammar's album If You Wait, and Donna Tartt's brilliant novel, The Goldfinch.

Happy New Year and may this be an "annus mirabilis" for us all.

Friday, December 26, 2014

Get "Kiss Shot" eBook for free!

As a Christmas present to all of you who have stuck with Modern Confessional, my eBook of short stories, Kiss Shot, is available for free download until Dec. 29 at Amazon and

All four stories are set in the fictional town of Cottonwood, Georgia and are a taste of a much bigger project to come. In "How Fanny Got Her House," a devoted maid recalls the hijinks surrounding her employer's death from a brain tumor, while a teenage boy comes to terms with his sexuality during an unexpected game of pool in the title story, "Kiss Shot." A woman escaping an abusive relationship arrives in New Orleans during a rain storm and wanders into the famed "Clover Grill" on Bourbon Street, and "I Got A Name" follows the trials and tribulations of an overweight woman looking for love at a community theater company.


Collin Kelley: Modern Confessional

Welcome to Collin Kelley: Modern Confessional, the website for poet, novelist, playwright and journalist Collin Kelley.