Cabildo Quarterly online

New and used (mostly) fiction and poetry.

New Poetry from Anne Witty

The Way of Calligraphy

The testing of pens
must be my first work
today—which ones flow

with ink, which nibs leave
only faint scratches,
small hints on paper,

which wait to be cleaned
since the last words jammed
in dried-up channels.

Once words flooded in,
an unruly stream—
my pens now again

ready to channel
the imminent spate,
and meantime writing

practice is writing,
practice hand-­‐writing,
practice. Is writing.

Mirror Blues rev. 1/10/14 (syllabics version)

In morning’s harsh light, spring
unveils a stranger’s face.
Winter’s not worn well on
me; a slow erosion
of private cares runs off
the edges of my mouth.
Moments of happiness
stand etched in rays beside
my brows, petroglyphic
laughter now forgotten.

Failed concentration
furrows my forehead.
I never noticed that
vertical crease before,
nor did I ever know
what troubled
really means
until nervous chewing
chapped and blurred my lips,
twisting even at rest.

Those are the blues
under my eyes.

The Dragon’s Mouth, Yellowstone

     We hike to where the heart of earth
spews forth its heat, where colored lichen
clings to boiled spots where nothing else grows.
A bone, a horn, a skull lie crumbling,
half-swallowed by the molten mud.
from the edge, we listen spellbound
to Dragon’s rage bubbling on tongues
of water lashing up from hidden caverns.
and when the Dragon laughs,
we jump at its deep-throated chuckle.

      We peer through the sulfurous fumes
to witness this unpretty geology,
and here beside this stinking place,
as is our habit, we wave at the camera—
surprised, once home, to see our visit
verified in photographs untarnished
by the whiff of brimstone,
our smiles unshadowed by this glimpse
of fire, the viscous pulse of life
and death beneath our feet.

Anne Witty lives and writes in mid-coast Maine, where she recently completed an MFA in poetry. She works and plays as a museum curator, maritime historian, poet, musician, organic gardener, and sailor of vintage wooden boats. 

Reviews: “A Dream of Books #2” by DJ Frederick; “Spooky Plan” by Drew Kalbach

 A Dream of Books #2, by DJ Frederick

 The way it used to be is the way it still is, at least in the case of DJ Frederick. By ‘the way it used to be’ I mean a strong connection through shared interests, rather than a tertiary interest and ‘yeah, I (saw/read/heard) that’ about everything, every single thing. In this case, it’s literature that forges the connection in A Dream of Books #2: Frederick meets a co-conspirator at his job; they start a journal, and plan an event.

 Part of my fondness for this issue is its setting: the event itself happens at an old cinema I used to frequent in my hometown of Concord, New Hampshire. But beyond my familiarity with the locale,  there’s a lot to be fond of here: remember that the way that it used to be continues to be the way it is. Dejection, futility, hopelessness, a lack of real connection: whether digital or analogue, now or then, these things haunt us still, as DJ Frederick’s story will here – so familiar as to be universal, the false connection which Vonnegut called the granfaloon. The irony, of course, is that the connection to this tale may be thething that got him in trouble with his co-conspirator in the first place. Write him and find out.

 Frederick Moe 36 West Main St Warner NH 03278

Spooky Plan, by Drew Kalbach

 The reality of reviewing is that the longer something stays in the pile, the less chance it has of being reviewed. Drew Kalbach (who, in the interest in full disclosure, is a CQ contributor) sent his debut poetry anthology Spooky Plan to me months ago, and I put it in the pile.

 Life happened, as it does, and the pile grew, Spooky Plan’s life clock ticking. But unlike stuff that I didn’t get to, Drew’s book haunted me.

I couldn’t make heads or tails of a lot of the stuff contained herein. I had no frame of reference for the odd juxtapositions and spiky language spilled throughout. The easy thing, the copout, would be a sullen dismissal: simply and smugly say “hipster” and walk away. Because that’s the plan so often these days – anything that is outside of comfort, whether through obligations or age, is dismissed because there’s so much to judge, you know? There’s no center to speak of, and conversation reflects this.

 And Drew knows all this. The splices and juxtapositions and outright weirdness are the norm now: things with no connectivity are forced to interact in odd ways which are indicative of the era, but in some ways indicative of none. Take ‘Planchette,’ the series of poems based around non-sequitor graffiti from Pompeii. Like spam selling us penis pills regardless of gender or notifications breaking conversation, the juxtaposition makes no sense – but becomes its own kind. And that, I think, is what Drew’s getting at here: a reflection of the times, funhouse though it is, which will rise from them, from categorization and context, to creep in and grow. That’s the plan: the way we’re haunted by all this, this lack and excess, can’t escape it, even as we’re buried alive by it. It’s spooky.

(Gobbet Press)

Michael T. Fournier/


Three Rooms Press book release party: me,  Ron Dakron and Richard Katrovas, 10/20 at Le Poisson Rouge. Get psyched!


Three Rooms Press book release party: me,  Ron Dakron and Richard Katrovas, 10/20 at Le Poisson Rouge. Get psyched!

Review: “Breadcrumb Trail” – a film about Slint by Lance Bangs

What’s your damage?

                The artistic process is a driven one, and often, the driver is some trauma. The particular driver of Slint — the legendary Louisville quartet that spawned as many bands as it did hyphenated attempts at finding a genre to explain its particular brand of precise, lurching, brainy, mathy rock (or is it post-rock? See, there’s one) – has been a matter of speculation since their largely posthumous rise to prominence. Their albums’ stark imagery and minimal information added an air of mystery to the band’s already singular aura.

                Touch and Go Records is set to rerelease “Spiderland,” Slint’s most well-known and –revered album, and with it release “Breadcrumb Trail,” a documentary by filmmaker Lance Bangs which seeks to flesh out the band’s story. It’s from a fan’s perspective that Bangs provides a frame: he’s a guy who, like many of us, kinda stumbled onto the band’s work, reached the same dead informational end, and started seeking out the few-and-far-between, almost apocryphal performances by ex-members (going so far as to geek out on camera when he bumps into one of them at a Louisville party). This framework is endearing – this dude is one of us! – and effective, as the film backtracks to the early and mid-eighties, when drummer Britt Walford and guitarist Brian McMahon, both at the tender age of eleven, start a hardcore band called Languid and Flaccid and play shows with older, more established Louisville hardcore bands, who are roundly amazed that this band of kids too little to lug their own gear into the club can hang. From there, we learn about future Slinters joining the various permutations of Squirrel Bait, and marvel as eventual Slint guitarist David Pajo’s band Maurice manages to network to Glenn Danzig and tour with his post-Misfits outfit Samhain.   

                As “Breadcrumb Trail” unfolds, Bangs’ directoral choices effectively straddle the line of Slint’s intention:  Britt Walford’s charming parents, on a couch above the basement that served as the band’s practice space, calmly but proudly discuss the hours the band spent perfecting every sonic detail of the handful of songs they wrote. This attention to detail adds fuel to aura of mystique that has typified discussions of Slint. But even as the band practices their time changes, they hand-draw J-cards for self-recorded cassettes of themselves taking noisy shits.

                Slint records their debut LP “Tweez” with Steve Albini – a recording which contains sonic choices that alienate bassist Ethan Buckler, leading to his departure. Both Buckler (who later recorded decidedly more light-hearted fare as King Kong) and Albini are forthright in their respective discussion of the recording process and their mindsets at the time. In fact, all of the film’s interviewees are articulate and down-to-earth, though seeing a skinny Jason Noble and a typically jovial Jon Cook, both of the Louisville powerhouse Rodan, both unfortunately deceased since their interviews, adds a somber note. (And the requisite Ian MacKaye cameo, describing something as “insane,” can be checked off the list, as well.)

                After “Tweez,” and during the band’s college years, they reconvene to record “Spiderland,” their creepy watershed. If there’s a criticism to be made about the film, it’s the level of detail in which each of the album’s six songs are dissected. With that said, the Spiderland discussion ultimately works: the level of attention and detail lavished on the album by a variety of narrators serves to illuminate both sides of the solemn/goofy dichotomy – and to pull viewers unfamiliar with “Spiderland” into the album with enough background to somehow transcend the music itself.

                On the brink of Slint’s first European tour, intended to promote the Touch and Go release of Spiderland, the band breaks up. For years, the rumors swirling around the band had some member, or members, going insane during the recording process. It’s nothing quite so dramatic. Bangs briefly and tastefully describes the incident which proves to be the clean break in the band’s spine. In thinking back to the film, this part of it is most remarkable. In the story of a band – any band – there are always little things which later prove to ripple out into larger tremors, complete with aftershocks. Lance Bangs, as shown in his first-person introduction, is a fan, with all the sentimentality and geekery that comes packed into the word. But he doesn’t dwell, and he doesn’t overemote: with a light touch, he gives viewers everything they need to reconstruct Slint’s breakup from both the trauma side and the other side. It’s a wonderfully deft, wonderfully real way to begin the wrap-up of Slint’s narrative, one befitting the legacy of the band itself.

                “Breadcrumb Trail” is screening around the world. Go see it:      

April 4-6 - Missoula, MT at The Roxy Theater

April 6 - Dallas, TX at the Texas Theatre
(Skype Q & A w/Lance)

April 6 - London, UK at Institute of Contemporary Arts

April 7 - Brighton, Dukes at Komedia

April 7 - Austin, TX at Alamo Draft House - the Ritz

April 7 & 8 - Nashville, TN at the Belcourt Theatre

April 13 - Louisville, KY at Dreamland Film Center

April 14 - Louisville, KY at Headliners Music Hall
(w/Lance and Slint band members)

April 15 - Portland, ME at Space Gallery
(Skype Q&A w/Lance)

April 15 - Phoenix, AZ at FilmBar

April 16 - Chicago, IL at Music Box Theatre with Lance Bangs and Slint band members

April 16 - Lexington, KY at Farish Theater

April 16 - Columbus, OH at Gateway Film Center

April 16 - Kansas City, MO at Alamo Drafthouse Mainstreet

April 19 - Pittsburgh, PA at The Hollywood Dormont

April 30 - Cambridge, MA at the Brattle Theatre

May 22 - Memphis, TN at Memphis Brooks Museum of Art

May 13 - Derby, UK at Derby Film Festival

June 11 in Minneapolis

Michael T. Fournier

New poetry: Liam Swanson

The First Murderer

He will come to you
thrice-tongued and
bird-named and point

and say, I know you.
He will have horses
for friends. He will

be an idiot. You will
run forever and even
eventually win. You

will fishhead. You will
walk and lie down slowly.
Blood bashed out of you

fishhead, boat. He will
come for you and will
have friends. You will

dream of very insincere
men who nevertheless
lead planets to war.


After the bombardment,
the man told us to praise

our war and we all clapped
and hooted. We regurgitated

the pellets of one another. We
went back to college. It didn’t

seem so bad, in the cafeteria
with friends and with pepsi.

The killing was indiscriminate.
Some people ran out of missiles

and had to go back to base
for more. They said, Goddammit.

They fought in the sky in whirligig
helicopters; how could they stay up?

And we normal down
below, drink pepsi and hum.

Some even hungover
from the night before.

bio: Liam Swanson graduated from the University of Pittsburgh. His
poetry has appeared in Ophelia Street, Allegheny Review, Three Rivers
Review, and Sonora Review. Hear him read at

New poetry: Sara Emily Kuntz

Black River

Lying in the bathtub with the water on so it never
gets cold, this is where my thoughts go –
bridges, rivers, the sea, the bathtub in a pinch.
I didn’t watch It’s a Wonderful Life this year and have
my cry when the pharmacist boxes
his bad ear. My laugh when he piles on the coconut,
even though she hates coconut,
and she whispers in that same bad ear
that she loves him. And the ending, when he finds
Zuzu’s petals.
The water is constant. But the bathtub is too small for me
to fully immerse.
So I toss and turn, shift and adjust getting every patch of skin
slick with warm-wet-love.
Even rolling onto my stomach – cheek resting
on quickly cooling porcelain,
arms at my side like a strange fish, tail
fin feet in the air touching the wall,
brushing against
the on/off handle.
My ass a barren island, my head a jungle
thick with red-brown vines that trail into the murky sea.
If someone walked in on me
they would probably think that I was dead
and scream. If the bank inspector came for me
would I get an angel too? A pocket full of petals?
A swim in a cold black river?

Eight of Cups

I would get this funny déjà vu in the kitchen
with you: your neck bent, shoulders down, as you sliced
a tomato, or washed out a coffee mug. Your back
like the poor wanderer on the Eight of Cups, familiar.

As a child I’d watch my grandpa hunched over the grill
on the tarmac driveway, or at the sink washing the dishes
after dessert. He told me that cold water dissolves
dairy better than hot, cleans the ice cream bowls faster.

I never knew when he was joking.
You texted me two photos of your face. Beard updates from
three thousand miles as the dimple in your chin
gradually disappears again. In the upper left above your head

hangs an old dutch hex of two unicorns,
watching like the dual-phased moon that hangs
over the wanderer as he leaves behind his cups,
heads for the mountain. Your girlfriend feels threatened.

Wants you to cut out all contact with me.
I’m washing my ice cream bowl in cold water
and I want to ask you if what my grandpa said was true,
but the sad moon says hush and the wanderer keeps walking.

Sara Emily Kuntz has a degree in writing from the University of Pittsburgh and is an MFA candidate at Carlow University.  As an enterprising copy shop employee she self-published ten single poem mini-books, as well as a small run chapbook.  Sara lives in Brooklyn with a big grey cat. Look for more of her work in a forthcoming print issue of Cabildo Quarterly.

Cabildo Quarterly #6 available now!

Just in time for tomorrow’s reading is Cabildo Quarterly issue #6, early spring 2014. With new poetry by Bruce Pratt, David Lawton, Karyn Lye-Neilsen, Kathleen Ellis and Leonore Hildebrandt, and new fiction by Jeffrey Schroeck.

Available for free in and around Belchertown and Pittsburgh, and/or from Issuu and .pdfcast.

Pitching the 33 1/3 series: a last minute guide.

Since my book on the Minutemen’s album “Double Nickels on the Dime” was published in 2007, I’ve always known when it was pitch season for the 33 1/3 series because friends – and friends of friends, and complete strangers – have written to me asking for help and advice. This year’s deadline is fast approaching, and with it the number of emails has grown. I figured it couldn’t hurt to make a post about the process. So:

Your book needs to sell. The pitch process is wrapped in romance, to the point, sometimes, of distraction – I can’t think of another group of people more sentimental than music fans. We’re all the way we are because our lives were changed, somehow, by some album or band. (For me, it was the Sex Pistols.) It makes perfect sense, then, to try and pay back whatever debts we feel we incurred through writing about that band or album.

A lot of the pitches that I read never get beyond this point, though. Certainly there’s something to be said for simple appreciation, but there needs to be a hook. I don’t think that “(album) is seminal” or “(album) is underappreciated” or even “(album) is a product of a certain time and place” do the job, because pretty much any record you can think of is a product of a certain time or place, and is either seminal, underappreciated, or both. You need to have a better reason than these. Take a look around the ‘net at some pitches which were accepted – and pitches that weren’t. You’ll see these themes emerge and repeat.

The romance of it all –“I get to write about my favorite record!” –sometimes obscures the fact that you’re pitching a book idea to Bloomsbury Press.  Publishing is a business. The bottom line is the bottom line. I remain convinced that the stories around some of my favorite records would be compelling ones.  But no matter how well I wrote about, say, the systemic decay of New England mill towns, and how these monuments to a bygone era infiltrate the psyche of young residents and leach slowly into the creative process, who’s really going to buy a book about New Hampshire emo math metal giants Stricken for Catherine? Their friends and family, certainly, but that’s all of like eighty people. Consider the line between cult and seminal. Are the Embarrassment well-known enough to warrant a look? The Raincoats? The Slits? I don’t know the answer, or where to find the line. Consider your album in the grand scheme – and do so honestly – when pitching, because you’re asking Bloomsbury to invest in your assessment thereof.

I know talking about business torpedoes any and all romance, but you need to figure out why your book will sell. What hook will push it past the boundaries of ‘for fans of the band’? Why should money be invested in your idea?

Start now. Like today. The parameters of the pitch process, what with their samples and outlines, are more involved than they used to be, and allow authors a head start. But if you’re serious, you won’t rest on your laurels, waiting to hear back. The writing process inevitably takes way more time than you think it will, no matter how seasoned you are.

Even if you’re not writing during the wait, you should be doing legwork: gathering materials, developing contacts. It’s not a requirement to have access to the band you’re writing about, but it never hurts.

Transcribing any kind of interview will always take longer than you think it will, too.

If your pitch doesn’t get accepted, you can likely still have your work published someplace else, be it in print or online. This can only help your future prospects.

Add something to the conversation. Up above, I mentioned the Sex Pistols as The Band Who Did It For Me. Their absence in the series is, at first glance, very conspicuous. But after that first glance it makes sense.

I used to spend my lunch periods in the library of Concord High School, looking through microfilm for any fragment of information on the band. That’s how it used to be, pre-internet – I didn’t have the cash to buy the imported books about them, and I wanted to know all I could, so I was left to my own devices. In the 20+ years since then, there have been umpteen books about the Sex Pistols, magazine articles, films. And they’re all available easily online.

In 2014, I’m not sure there’s any need for another book about the Sex Pistols, any more than there’s a need for another book about, say, the Beatles. What more can be said about them at this point?

Consider this as you pitch. Up above, I mentioned an invisible line of importance. The line extends in the other direction, as well. Bands and artists who have been written about to death might have audiences, but because they’ve been so extensively researched and discussed, finding a new angle might be a challenge.

Scott Tennent’s book about Slint’s “Spiderland” is a fanstatic example: prior to its publication, the band’s history was largely a thing of rumor and innuendo. Tennent’s book is well-researched and –sourced, and does a great job not only putting the band’s work into context, but establishing a timeline and history for its release and subsequent impact.  Touch and Go’s imminent deluxe re-release of the album, and Lance Bangs’ forthcoming documentary film on the band will continue the conversation.

Money should not be a motivating factor? Most potential authors haven’t been concerned about the monetary aspect of pitching the series. A few have, though. Let me tell you straight: there are way better way to make money than writing a book about an album. Don’t get me wrong here: the opportunities I have been afforded have been worth more than any advance, and I’m extremely grateful for them. Just don’t fall into the trap of thinking book sales = $. The royalty rate is 10% of net, which is around $1.50 per book – unless the sellers get volume discount (think Amazon and their ilk here), at which point it goes down to 50% of 10% of net.

My book was published in 2007, and is solidly in the middle of the League Table, which ranks all the entries in the series by sales. I expect my advance to be paid off sometime in 2017, if the current rate of sales continues. 

Bloomsbury has changed the way authors get paid: advances are no longer offered (except under special circumstances). This means you’ll get checks after your book is published, rather than waiting, as I am, to sell enough books to pay down what you owe. If you have a steady job, this shouldn’t be a problem; it might be if you work on spec or freelance for a living.

Avoid the spectacle. When I pitched the series it was because I saw a hole in it I thought I could fill. I had no idea that there was a level of spectacle that accompanied the process: I simply wrote to then-editor David Barker, asked how to submit an idea, and followed his guidelines.

There’s hype on the series blog, what with its lists of proposals, shortlists, and (especially) commenters. Thank goodness I had no idea these things existed: it’s nerve-wracking enough to pitch without considering all the other people who have also submitted. Hell, the sheer volume of proposals is enough to stagger, to say nothing of finding out that multiple people have pitched your band/album . No good will come of obsessing after you’ve finally submitted: if anything, the endless feedback loop will make it harder. Dip in at your own risk.

Have fun. Seriously, what could be better than researching and writing on your favorite record? Don’t stress out about it too much. Have a good time. Hopefully things will work out. If they don’t…

Nothing personal. If you don’t get accepted, move on. Pitch again next time, either with the same proposal or with another one. You will know the process, which will make the next time easier.

I hope all this helps. If you have questions I haven’t addressed, or comments, feel free. Good luck!

Michael T. Fournier

New work: Rooze


(link to image here)

Another Casualty of War

There are no men 
standing by the fireplace, no rats 
racing across the ceiling, no enemy 
invading the house or the yard.
It is the illness, they tell me;
the illness, I tell my mother 
until she can barely stand 
the sound of the word, until 
neither of us can speak 
it again. It has taken him 
from her, ripped him from me, 
from reality. He awakens, 
screaming go for cover! 
searching for his shotgun, 
while mom whispers into the phone, 
begging my brother: come quick,
he has a knife.

By the time his son arrives,
my father is asleep again.
We can all pretend 
it’s peaceful; still
his legs keep running.



it is always the curves, the swerve along ess, the choice to follow road, not head into the Strait; decide (always a millisecond of space between gas and brake): straight ahead (eyes lock forward through rails and woods), crash down cliffs and settle into estuaries or rivers that turn around beds (but by then you’d be at your end); a choice — single straight mark dotted by death; body tense and determined betrayed by a thought of road beyond curve, a question that forces the foot gently left


Rooze works across multiple medias and genres and often spills one onto the other. As someone who lives predominantly in liminal spaces — in borderlands and hybrid identities — she is drawn to creative works that also occupy those spaces, works that do not fit neatly into the expectations of genre. Her ongoing exploration of liminal texts can be found at and her weekly Field Notes on writing can be read at