Tag Archives: notre dame

Kristen Eliason’s ‘Yours,’


Just a quick post to give whatever minor signal boost I can about this stunning chapbook. I had the pleasure of hearing Kristen Eliason read pieces from this series a few years ago at Notre Dame where she was the 2008 Sparks Fellowship winner. She’s a powerful reader and the poems are complete knockouts. It made me so happy to finally see them in print, and this chapbook from Dancing Girl Press is more than worth your dollars. Somber, quiet, introspective, heartbreaking, and very funny.

‘Yours,’ is available HERE

Review: ‘Ruins’, by Jeff Clark

RuinsRuins by Jeff Clark
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I’ve been after this incredible chapbook for years, ever since Jeff Clark and his wife (the very talented poet Christine Hume) came to speak and give readings at Notre Dame while I was an MFA student there. By pure chance, Jeff Clark’s ‘Music and Suicides’ had been, years and years earlier, the first book of poetry I ever bought. It was strange and lovely to me how this bit of happenstance had come full circle. I was happy to share this little story with Jeff as I had him sign my copy. I was even more happy to hear him read from ‘Ruins’ — he and his wife are both stunning readers, very different in their performative styles but genuine and moving.

I fell in love with ‘Ruins’ that night, and though Jeff had several copies on hand to sell (a bit ahead of actual publication, shh) I was sad and frustrated to be without the money to grab it up at the time. Luckily several copies from Turtle Point Press are still available and I grabbed one up quickly. Jeff’s reputation as a book designer is apparent in the physicality of it — one of the only hardback chapbooks I think I’ve ever seen — the poems bookended by stark black-and-white photos, and the chapbook also contains a translation of Louis Aragon’s poem ‘Poem to Cry in Ruins’.

The work here is genuine and incredible, sparse personal poems that are deeply charged with remembering and nostalgia, loneliness and anger. Nearly every poem is looking to the past with a refusal to let go and frustration with the self that keeps refusing. Memory is a constant pull throughout, centered often on a grotesque and sad father figure that the speaker dwells on heavily with a mix of contempt and longing that speaks to the hold that the father still has, despite the intensely unpleasant portrait offered.

This small book is dark and thunderous, ironically doing the most work in its more quiet moments, where the storms of the past and present both remain as echoes and ringing in the ears. There’s such raw and rigorous longing for connection in the present and lamentations of the broken past that every line stings and reaches out and goes numb and starts again. The cohesion of all these effects is haunting, and leaves a surprisingly large impact for such a small book. If you can still find a copy floating about, buy it immediately.

‘Refuse Disciples’

You eat well and transcribe
You shit quickly in the morning
You only slander in self-defense
You manufacture affection
You get up, shower, and check your messages
You network, correspond, advance
You write preening, disposable statements
You wash come off quickly
You drink bottled water and monitor headlines
You check your money and messages
In sorrow you’re seductive, in catastrophe a fascist
You think precisely what you’ve read

View all my reviews

Reading: Oct. 6

Just a quick self-plug that I’ll be once again part of Notre Dame’s Creative Writing Reading Series at Lula’s Cafe in South Bend on Wednesday, October 6th at 8pm along with Amy Marie Thomas (poetry) and Ruth Martini (prose).

Bring yourself, bring a friend, bring money for the fine and hospitable people of Lula’s Cafe.

More information on this and other readings can be found on the ND Creative Writing website (recently redesigned!)

Upcoming Events This Week: Not to Miss!

On Wednesday, March 4th, Lily Hoang will be giving a reading from her new novel, Changing, which I reviewed in my last post. The reading is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. at the Hammes Bookstore on the University of Notre Dame campus. The book is very good and Lily is a wonderful reader, so this certainly isn’t one to miss. You find information on all of Notre Dame’s upcoming Creative Writing events here.

On Thursday, March 5th, the immensely talented poet Ashley Capps will be reading, I believe, from her book Mistaking the Sea for Green Fields. The reading is scheduled for 7 p.m. in the 3rd-floor “Bridge” of Wiekamp Hall on the campus of IU South Bend. A book signing and reception are to follow. I can honestly say this is one of the better books of poetry I’ve read recently, and couldn’t be more excited to have Ashley come for the reading.

Afterward, a more informal group ‘thing’ shall be had as all are welcome to follow to The Oaken Bucket, a very short distance from the IU South Bend campus. Be sure to keep your eye on the IU South Bend Creative Writing blog for further details and future announcements.

Both readings are free and open to the public.

Also, if anyone is interested I’ve got a couple people interested in going to see Slumdog Millionaire at the Debartolo Performing Arts Center on the Notre Dame campus on Saturday. They have showings at 6:30 and 9:30 p.m. If you’re interested leave me a comment or an e-mail — anyone is welcome to join us. I believe tickets are only $3 for all students. The Debartolo website has a ton of information on other events going on right now.

If I manage to finish reading Watchmen by Saturday then I’ll probably try and go see that well; again, if you’re interesting in coming along, let me know!

Notre Dame


I received a call earlier this afternoon informing me that I have been accepted into Notre Dame’s MFA program!

Not really sure what to say, I’m still pretty much speechless and sure that at any moment they’re going to call back and say, ‘No, sorry, we meant to call the other Ryan Smith.”

It’s incredible that they’ve responded this early, but I was told that the selections committee all made identical initial picks, so that was pretty much that.

As sentimental as it may be, I do have to mention that today marks the anniversary of Jake’s death, which is a large reason that February is often a ‘bad month’ for me (the snow certainly doesn’t help). That the call came on today of all days means a great deal to me.


Well I’m sure my thousands and thousands of adoring fans are anxious waiting to hear how my day went, right?

Actually, overall, the experience was quite good. I’m still relatively sick, but the lady supervising the testing center was extremely amicable, pointing me to the center’s Kleenex that I was welcome to take in with me and even offered me a couple of cough drops from her own purse. Hard to complain about service like that!

The test was pretty much exactly what I expected, and I did about as well as I expected to do. I was done in a little under 2.5 hours, so don’t let the 4-hour full-length time scare you away; keep in mind I did the math portion in roughly 12 minutes (out of 40 I think).

One practice test I took that was adaptive and simulated the look and feel of the GRE scored me at both 620 and 600 the two times I took it (in regards the verbal section, AKA the only section that matters for me) and they were dead on, as I ended up with a verbal score of 610.  Not spectacular, but not too shabby either. It should keep my application from getting weeded out right out of the gate, even at Notre Dame.

My math score….well. Suffice it to say it confirms my belief that I probably ‘do math’ at about a 7th grade level, but was also quite high considering I answered (mostly) at random, and I’m not kidding.

I managed to get to bed at around 1am, which probably sounds late but is actually extremely early for me, and didn’t have much trouble getting up at 7am to get to the testing center by 9. I’m feeling mostly better physically.

So, there’s the update. I wish I could say the hardest part was over but I’m still facing the logistical nightmare of organizing all ‘the other stuff’ – letters of recommendation, statement of purpose letters, getting my writing sample edited with (hopefully) my best stuff, etc. The worst part honestly is getting all the money together to pay for everything. It’s going to be about $45 for 5 official transcripts from IUSB, and about $235 in application fees if I end-up applying to all four schools I’m aiming at, which are: Notre Dame, IU Bloomington, Purdue (who has an MFA program, who knew? It’s the 6th best funded in the country, too. WTF?) and The School of the Art Institute of Chicago, which is even more expensive than Notre Dame (thank God ND waives tuition for its MFA program!).

The SAIC is the most expensive in terms of application fees ($80, ouch!) so they may not make the cut, mostly because I’m not sure I have a considerable shot at it, and even if they accepted me I have no idea how I’d afford tuition, much less living in Chicago. They suckered me in with beautiful, high-quality mailed materials that are full of gorgeous artwork and very impressive writing from their graduate students. I can’t help but apply. Their propaganda has worked!