New Music Reviews on The Skinny: Kendrick Lamar, BadBadNotGood, Gorillaz, Beach Fossils

I’ve had the chance to review some solid albums recently. All have appeared in The Skinny.

From my review of Kendrick Lamar’s DAMN.:

The themes are familiar from earlier efforts – but this is more obviously an effort, a struggle. Appropriately then, he laconically raps on YAH., ‘I’m a Israelite, don’t call me black no mo’.’ He’s mining a deep vein – many African American artists have appropriated Old Testament narratives to describe their social and political experience. Here, though, Lamar really is Israel: “he who struggles with God.”

From my review of BadBadNotGood’s contribution to the Late Night Tales project:

You may spend a lifetime searching record store new acquisitions bins; once you find voices like these, you don’t let them get too far away. BadBadNotGood have packed more than a dozen little viruses into this disk, and once you hear it, you’ll be spreading the ill, too.

From my review of Gorillaz’ Humanz:

There will be work to do, yes, and failures – but there will also always be another party to plan, and it turns out that’s a more important task than we realised. Humanz, then, is what we need right now: an interruption, a challenge, an unfamiliar encounter, a good party – a message of hope that doesn’t seem naive.

From my review of Beach Fossils’ Somersault:

Many of the songs seem to soar – self-awareness at cruising altitude – but there’s also a groundedness to the album, a sense that at least one member’s classic Adidas are never too far from the Brooklyn pavements – in no small part because of an understated but pervasive politicality. This is the band’s best yet.

 

 

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Foundlings Chapbook Contest and Artist Residency at Hotel Henry

English-language poets of all styles have an opportunity to win an artist’s residency at Hotel Henry in Buffalo, N.Y., where they will collaborate with a guest illustrator on a limited release chapbook of their poems, to be published through Foundlings Press, a Buffalo-based literary arts organization, in early 2018.

Foundlings Press welcomes submissions for its first annual chapbook competition. Submissions will close on October 1, and editors will announce the winner at the end of that month. The editorial staff will accept and review poetry of any style and subject matter. Poets must pay a $3 entry fee before submitting work; but all who submit will receive a complimentary digital download of Foundlings Magazine Vol. 3. All proceeds will directly fund the production and promotion of the winning chapbook. Interested parties can find further information on http://www.FoundlingsMagazine.com, or contact the editorial staff directly.

The winning poet will enjoy an artist’s residency at Hotel Henry, the boutique hotel, urban resort, and conference center in the Richardson Olmsted Complex, one of Buffalo’s landmarks and architectural treasures. There, from November 17-19, 2017, the poet will collaborate with guest illustrator and designer Stephen Fitzmaurice on a final manuscript of the chapbook, making full use of the center’s facilities and inspiring grounds. Foundlings Press will publish the chapbook in January 2018, with a launch party and reading back at Hotel Henry.

 

About Stephen Fitzmaurice:

Born in Buffalo and residing in Philadelphia, Stephen Fitzmaurice’s skills include illustration, graphic and industrial design, video and photography, and downhill skateboarding. Fitzmaurice graduated from The University of the Arts and has freelanced for Valkyrie Truck Company, Emgee Events, Community Boards and Bikes, and many other events and manufacturing companies. He now works as a graphic designer for Fuji Bikes.

http://www.sfitzmauricedesign.com/

 

About Hotel Henry:

Hotel Henry Urban Resort Conference Center is an innovative 88 room full-service hotel and conference center with modern purpose, designed to fuse with the architectural legacy of the National Historic Landmark Richardson Olmsted Campus. Throughout the building, Hotel Henry’s uncommon spaces invite guests to explore, gather and tuck away in the unique character of Richardson’s masterpiece. Interior and exterior spaces invite guests to find their own corner and make their own experience. This is the distinct Hotel Henry experience.

Hotel Henry’s Urban Resort Neighborhood offers a cosmopolitan Buffalo adventure that begins within steps of the hotel grounds. Situated amongst 42 acres within the city of Buffalo’s cultural corridor, the Urban Resort Conference Center is surrounded by parks, lake, museums, and connected to the fun and curious Elmwood Village. The Urban Resort Neighborhood is a borderless destination.

Henry Hobson Richardson, who is one of “The Recognized Trinity of American Architecture,” constructed this Richardson Romanesque-style campus of buildings more than 140 years ago. America’s landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted, who designed Central Park in New York City, as well as Buffalo’s beautiful park system, designed the grounds and gardens throughout the campus alongside architect and landscape designer Calvert Vaux.

Hotel Henry is the first phase and 1/3 of the redevelopment of the Richardson Olmsted Campus. Alongside and intertwined with the urban resort hotel and conference center will be the Buffalo Architecture Center. Future phases of renovation and landscape improvements are continuing and will be directed by the Hotel Henry’s neighbor, the Richardson Center Corporation.

https://www.hotelhenry.com/

 

About Foundlings Press:

Officially launched in May 2016 with the release of its first semiannual magazine, Foundlings Press has gone on to publish three magazine volumes containing poetry from emerging and established artists, including Don Berger, Jason Irwin, Noah Falck, Justin Karcher, Lytton Smith, George Guida, Gerry LaFemina, and George Wallace. The Press has established a reputation for carefully crafted publications that play with language and imagery, including “found” text and images, provoking their materials into radical dialogues. The Press has welcomed visiting poets to Buffalo, helped to bring Buffalo poets to towns and college campuses throughout Western New York, and orchestrated other events, including 2016’s “Whistle Stop” tour of political poetry, with appearances in Rochester, Fredonia, Syracuse, and Toronto on the nights of the televised American presidential election debates. The inaugural chapbook competition and residency marks Foundlings’ transition from a magazine into a press, scheduled to release several other books in 2018.
http://www.foundlingsmagazine.com/

Foundlings Vol. III Available in Stores and Online

Foundlings Vol. III launched on a bright day June, and poets and readers packed Nietzsche’s, a venerable Allentown bar and music venue for the party. The other editors and I were very happy to host visiting poets George Guida and Gerry LaFemina, who grabbed a righteous lunch with us at Gabriel’s Gate before heading over the party to perform.

Foundlings Vol. III also featured beloved writers from Buffalo and beyond, including Gerry Crinnin, Nathanael Stolte, George Wallace, and Joey Nicoletti. This volume also holds the honor of being poet Lilly Perry’s first ever publication. Pick up a copy and read her powerful poem “What We Make.”

You can buy the book from our Gumroad store or find it in Buffalo’s Talking Leaves or Ro Homeshop.

On Shakespeare’s Bigotry: An Open Letter

On Tuesday, 13 June 2017, I opened up the Buffalo News to find a perplexing letter to the editor. Someone named Gerhard Falk was calling for an end to the “literary correctness” that kept Shakespeare on our bookshelves and in our syllabi. Gerhard Falk wanted us to “ignore Shakespeare.”

This was absurd. You cannot, of course, “ignore” a force and a legacy that has shaped our culture, shaped our language, and shaped our understanding of ourselves. On top of that, Falk’s charge was a silly, tired one, something high school English teachers address as a prelude to a discussion of historical context and the importance of an author’s intentions to the value of a work of literature: namely, that Shakespeare is bigoted, and specifically anti-Semitic.

Gerhard Falk, I discovered, is a long-time Buffalo State sociology professor, and a survivor of the Holocaust.  The full text of his letter is below:

Recently I read “Hitler” by Joachim Fest. Evidently Adolf Hitler considered “The Merchant of Venice” by William Shakespeare his favorite play because it maligns the Jewish people in the most disgusting manner, thereby undoubtedly contributing to the mass murder of the European Jews.

The recent bombings in London and several other such atrocities in England and in the United States demonstrate that there is enough hatred in the world so that we need not teach our children by means of Shakespeare’s bigotry that religious hate is legitimate.

After I read “The Merchant of Venice,” I read all of his plays and discovered that his 16th century works are so remote from present day interests that it is unfortunate that “literary correctness” requires us all to pretend that Shakespeare was anything better than an antiquated bore.

There is some great literature in this world that is far more supportive of our democratic values than Shakespeare’s hate-mongering. Surely our English teachers know that and would do all of us a favor if they had the courage to ignore Shakespeare in favor of all the great American literature that our children evidently never see.

Gerhard understands the power of bigotry in a way that I never will. Still, he was wrong about Shakespeare, and wrong about the value of literature generally. I had to turn this letter to the editor into a conversation. I spent a Sunday afternoon drafting the following in longhand, and posted it to Gerhard’s address.

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One editor’s tips for writers submitting to journals, lit mags, and zines

There are “rules” for sending your work to literary magazines, and they don’t usually appear in submission guidelines.

Foundlings Vol. 3 will be out in just about two months. We’re very excited about this, but we can’t share any information about the contents just yet. Submissions closed at the end of March, and we’ve been reviewing them since then. It’s a humbling thing to see an inbox full of so much stirring work from so many writers, friends and strangers both, and a difficult task to pick just a few poems to include in each volume of the magazine. Being an editor, or any kind of curator, forces you to examine your own gut reactions to writing, and to articulate your artistic beliefs and preferences to yourself, to the other editors who share in this work, and eventually to the writers who’ve submitted. (At least, we try — more on that further down.)

I don’t submit my own work to magazines as often as I used to (and some day soon I hope to explain why), but I still devote a lot of postage every year to SASEs. My file of rejections — digital and physical — continues to swell steadily, at a greater annual rate of growth than any of my financial investments.

Now, though, a full year and a half since the other Foundlings editors and I decided to start our project, and after three rounds of submissions, I’m starting to think like an editor. I’ve begun to recognize the most common sins hopeful writers commit during the submissions process. And, lest you misunderstand me, I’m not about to dish on unsavory side of the Foundlings Gmail inbox. We do see some faux pas; some writers make us uncomfortable, and some are unpardonably swinish and rude. But the vast majority are awesome.

This isn’t about our submissions. Instead, I think, the act of editing now three volumes of poetry, and all the ways that’s drawn me into sharing more and more pints and conversations with other writers and editors, have made me more aware of the peccadilloes and travesties writers so frequently commit in their pursuit of publication. For most of the rules below, I could provide a counterexample from my own catalog of bad habits and regrets.

So, read on for a few tips all hopeful writers would do well to remember when submitting their work to lit mags and zines.

1. Be the Wayne Gretzky of letters. Or at least the Happy Gilmore.

While many have debated both the attribution and the mathematical accuracy of The Great One’s famous assertion that “You miss 100 percent of the shots you don’t take,” even the most cynical cannot deflect this slapshot of an aphorism. I’ve heard many writers explain why they haven’t submitted to such-and-such a magazine, and their reasons are usually pretty similar: “I don’t know if they’ll like me,” or “I’m not sure if I’m ready yet,” or “They only publish people with MFAs/cool names.”

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All of these things might be true. Editors might not like you. You might not be ready yet. And entire magazine staffs might have really idiotic and lame conscious or unconscious biases. But you should probably submit anyway. Take that shot.

In most cases, the excuses I’ve listed above are code for “I’m not a serious writer.” So, maybe you aren’t. That doesn’t mean you’ll never be a serious writer. The change could come when you decide that you have to be great, that you are great, and that other people will love you for it. Not all the people who feel that way are, great, of course. But the people who feel that way are more likely to keep writing and keep submitting until they do write good work; more likely to submit that good work; and more likely to see their good work in print.

There are only two reasons that should ever stop you from licking that stamp. One, don’t submit if you know in the blue flame of your writerly heart that you’d be mortified to see some flawed or unfinished work in print. For the second reason, keep reading.

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