25 January 2014


Here is my list:

—Chicago: While I will always love San Francisco, it never felt like a home to me. I missed thunderstorms and hockey. The sound of the el and snowstorms. While I still need to find my poetry community here, I’m excited to start teaching college and continuing to write poems in spite of the negative degree temperatures.

Paul Celan: 70 Poems: The last time that this book was printed was in 2002. The fact that someone can now pick up a book of Celan’s outside of The Meridian is remarkable. This is just a reprint of some of Celan’s poems, but most of Celan’s work has been out of print for years now. This hopefully signals more intention from publishers to reproduce or reprint his work. Michael was gracious enough to lend me his out of print copies of Celan’s poems, and I used them to produce some bootleg selections from those books for Norma Cole’s class last spring. I hope everyone gets a chance to read his complete work someday.

Adventure Time, Cartoon Network: This is by far my favorite show on television right now. This show gets to the root of so many things that reverberate in the core of our human selves. Within the space of six seasons, they’ve dealt with moving on from the death of a parent, the importance of consent, puberty, the creative muse and the unintended consequences of regret. I urge everyone to give this show a chance, if you haven’t jumped on board yet. I think you will love it.

—Helping Aaron Shurin move: A couple classmates and I helped the wonderful poet Aaron Shurin move out of his apartment this year. The whole experience, while physically taxing at times, was something I’ll never forget. In appreciation of our help, he gave us about twenty boxes of books that wouldn’t fit in his new place. I’ve got a ton of small press chapbooks and projects that I plan on starting to review. Along with all of the books, he gave us his teaching materials. All of this added up to the emphatic period at the end of my San Francisco sentence. I left with so much from all my teachers, and I couldn’t imagine it happening any differently.

—Vincent Van Gogh’s Undergrowth with Two Figures: This painting is absolutely haunting. The part that gets me is the male figure looking straight towards the point of view. Here it is for those interested: http://tinyurl.com/msfazad
Lorine Niedecker’s Collected Works: I finally gave in and bought this expensive book. This was my best purchase of 2013. There is no comparison for Lorine Niedecker. She is the most precise image builder I’ve had the pleasure to read.

Beulah: An old San Francisco staple of the ‘90s, my roommate introduced them to me this year by saying that they might have the best name for a song ever, “If We Can Land a Man on the Moon, Surely I Can Win Your Heart.” I don’t disagree.

John Martin’s use of light: The light in this painting, especially the way the characters in the left-hand side glow, left an impression on me when I saw it in Connecticut that has been hard to shake off: http://tinyurl.com/k2yfua6

—Yumi Sakugawa: I don’t know what to say about Yumi’s comics. I’m blown away by her storytelling and poetry in such a small amount of space. If you want to feel something, but you don’t exactly know what it is you’re feeling or why, but it’s good and you like it, you can find her work on The Rumpus. This one is especially close to my heart: http://therumpus.net/2013/03/saturday-rumpus-comic-imposter-moon/

The Sandman series by Neil Gaiman: Another one of those must reads that I stubbornly put off way too long. It made me appreciate how much emotion and myth can be conveyed over the length of a comic book. I haven’t cared about a character like Dream in a long time. It actually spurred me into reading more novels, the long game that I was largely avoiding over the past few years in grad school.

Bitterzoet Magazine: Starting my first literary magazine with my dedicated co-editor Pattie Flint was an unexpected surprise this year. Publishing amazing work by up and coming poets and writers is a reward worth the challenge. I’ve been extremely happy with how we’re responding to our submitters and how our book designs are turning out.

—Reading novels: If I’m being absolutely honest, I don’t think I’ve read a novel since Nick Hornby’s Fever Pitch, a very selfish read because of my interest in Arsenal Football Club. This was probably three years ago now. After finishing grad school in August, I found the time to start reading novels while on the exercise bike at my local gym. My first foray into novels was Blood Meridian by Cormac McCarthy. Clearly not compelled to stop reading devastating books, I moved on to House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski. I finished 2013 reading If On A Winter’s Night A Traveler by Italo Calvino. It was like returning to my childhood. The first time in a long time that I was reading for the fun of it. I hope I can keep it up.

“The Battle of Hampton Roads” by Titus Andronicus: This song is an appeal, a challenge, a call to arms, a confession, and a scoff of disgust in a thirteen minute epic over marching drums and screaming guitars. Punk lives with Titus Andronicus. The enemy is everywhere.

—“For Grace, After a Party” by Frank O’Hara:
You do not always know what I am feeling.
Last night in the warm spring air while I was
blazing my tirade against someone who doesn't
me, it was love for you that set me

and isn't it odd? for in rooms full of
strangers my most tender feelings
writhe and
bear the fruit of screaming. Put out your hand,
isn't there
an ashtray, suddenly, there? beside
the bed? And someone you love enters the room
and says wouldn't
you like the eggs a little

different today?
And when they arrive they are
just plain scrambled eggs and the warm weather
is holding.

A few quick mentions that made 2013 better: Martha Marcy May Marlene, Cabin in the Woods, Aaron Ramsey, Earl Sweatshirt, seeing The Postal Service at the Greek, the Stanley Cup, Madeleine, Sufjan Stevens, AWP, Thom Yorke giving advice to teenage girls, Gravity Falls, “Swimming Pools” by Kendrick Lamar, Pokémon, Greg Proops, Ugly Duckling Presse, Building Stories by Chris Ware, Bluets by Maggie Nelson, Wednesday night trivia, Atoms For Peace, Cole Swensen, Purity Ring, Berlin, Saddle Creek Records in Omaha, Frank Ocean, Michigan, Bob’s Burgers, Matt Smith, “Civilian” by Wye Oak, Jenny Lewis, Nightboat Books, Jiordan, Will, and the Welcome to Nightvale podcasts.

Wes Solether received his M.F.A. at the University of San Francisco. He teaches near Chicago and works as the co-founder/co-editor of Bitterzoet Magazine. He has recently been published in ditch, Vector Press, Epigraph and Counterexample Poetics.

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