December 10, 2017 | Neel Mukherjee reviews Proxies in The Guardian
An excerpt: “Part of the joy in reading Blanchfield is experiencing the way his alchemical mind and style fuse disparate things, always unexpectedly, into gold. The style is a thing of wonder: dense; learned, cleaving towards the academic, without ever being Casaubon-dry; lyrical (we never forget that he is a poet); often joyously gnarled but always surprising. Only in this book will you find the image box – the live videofeed – of a gay dating website called manroulette described, with absolute literary scholarly accuracy, as a ‘font of eidetic fantasy.’ Proxies may well be a book like no other.” Read the entire article here.
November 16, 2017 | Proxies named a Book of the Year in The New Statesman
September 1, 2017 | Proxies in the Financial Times
The Picador UK edition of Proxies is making its way to review editors’ desks, and Houman Barekat published today this thoroughgoing review of the book in the Financial Times. He calls it “a rich and compelling personal account,” finds at its heart “a search for permanence in a life defined by transience,” and eloquently relates this to the “increasing casualisation of working life in the 21st century,” which results for many in “the perpetual deferral of happiness to some chimerical future point when everything has fallen into place.”
August 31, 2017 | Reviews of Proxies in the Times Literary Supplement and London Magazine
In a piece framed by choice excerpts from Montaigne, Lara Pawson has written a qualified recommendation of Proxies in the TLS, finding it “unusual” and “idiosyncratic,” “exhilarating” at passages, determining that book and author “evade clear categorization.” And, Michael Amherst, earlier this month, in a thoughtful review essay in The London Magazine, describes the book as “creative, meditative reflections that breach the standards of academic discourse,” finding in it “an implicit appeal to the kind of revolution within education that Paul Goodman called for in the 1960s.”
August 10 / Proxies named a Finalist for the 2017 PEN USA Book Award in Nonfiction
PEN Center USA announced today that Proxies is one of four finalists for their annual Literary Award in Creative Nonfiction. An honor to be selected for this distinction with Lily Hoang, Paul Kalanithi, and Kao Kalia Yang. Winners in all categories will be announced in September, and awards will be given in a ceremony at the PEN USA Literary Festival in late October.
August 7, 2017 / UK Edition of Proxies to Publish This Month
There are now finished books in Picador UK’s edition of Proxies. New cover, new trim size, new subtitle. The actual publication date is the 24th.
Speedway and Swan, the poetry and music radio show I created in 2015 with the programmers at KXCI and with the partnership of University of Arizona Center, has a new fulltime host, the resourceful and bracingly smart Susan Briante, who has been filling in for me since January. She invited me to guest host her new episode, which airs in Tucson tomorrow and which will be available online thereafter. All other 34 episodes are recorded and hosted there by the Poetry Center. Thanks to all the guests who have swiveled at the mics with me. Brenda Hillman, Corina Copp, Richard Siken, Srikanth Reddy, Chris Nealon, Ernesto Portillo, Annie Guthrie, Jane Miller, Mark Wunderlich, Joey Burns, Mathias Svalina, TC Tolbert, and many more. So long, Studio 2B and Studio not 2B, and Godspeed, Briante.
July 25, 2017 / Conferring & Communing
A few conferences upcoming this summer and fall have invited me into their lineups and onto their panels. Next week, on faculty at The Home School in Hudson, NY. Then, discussing the work of Hervé Guibert, écriture (beyond genre), and New Narrative writers, in Berkeley at Communal Presence in October. Then, in Wellington, New Zealand, I’ll be a presenter at Poetry and the Essay, a conference at Victoria University at Wellington. Looking forward to meeting all the writers and scholars involved.
July 17, 2017 / A Move to Moscow
I couldn’t be more delighted to be joining the faculty of the MFA Writing Program and Department of English at the University of Idaho, as Assistant Professor of Literary Nonfiction, beginning this fall. (Below, my ID ID.) John and I have moved operations to Moscow, Idaho, where the summer sunsets are around 9pm and the lavender is in bloom.
April 20, 2017 / New Reviews of Proxies and A Several World
Catching up with a month or so of recent review attention: In Lapham’s Quarterly, Samantha Hunt’s excellent essay on bodied intellection counterposes Proxies with Donald Trump. And there are new reviews by Nina Alvarez and Anna Hundert in Tupelo Quarterly and Electric Literature, respectively. Paul Scott Stanfield posted a brief review of A Several World on his terrific poetry criticism blog. The Volta has selected Proxies as a Best of 2016, and novelist Omar El Akkad discusses the book as one of his favorites in two new interviews:
“My British publisher sent me this collection of micro-essays over Christmas and I absolutely loved Blanchfield’s writing. [It] swings from deeply abstract and philosophical to direct and raw, from explorations of the poem and the self to recollections of growing up poor and gay in the South. It’s unlike anything else I’ve ever read.” —Omar El Akkad
March 14, 2017 / Proxies Named Lambda Literary Award Finalist in Gay Memoir & Biography
Lambda Literary has named Proxies one of its finalists in Gay Memoir/Biography. Important and accomplished books in the category abound; an honor to be considered with Garrard Conley, Cleve Jones, Augusten Burroughs, and others. Not to mention the bright lights and lodestars in other categories: Jacqueline Woodson, Sarah Schulman, Christina Crosby, Ocean Vuong, Garth Greenwell, Jos Charles, Vi Khi Nao, Leopoldine Core, Phillip B. Williams, and many others. Winners are announced June 12, 2017 at the Awards Ceremony in New York.
February 24, 2017 / “Coming Up with Guy Davenport” in Oxford American
My essay on the work and career of scholar and high modernist Guy Davenport is published in the Spring 2017 issue of the Oxford American, which marks the magazine’s 25th anniversary. An honor to be published alongside Kiese Laymon, Jesmyn Ward, Chris Offutt, Beth Ann Fennelly, and Safiya Sinclair. Ever try turning in an essay two months late at three times the requested length? Special thanks to the editors.
Also, I’m glad to be serving as one of three judges for the Oxford American’s inaugural Jeff Baskin Writers Fellowship, to support the writing of a debut book of literary nonfiction.
January 4, 2017 / Teaching at Iowa Writers’ Workshop Spring 2017
Change of scenery. Living in Iowa City until the end of May, and teaching as Visiting Faculty at The Iowa Writers’ Workshop for the Spring semester.
December 16, 2016 / Jonathan Lethem on Proxies in BOMB Magazine
“Everyone ought to read Brian Blanchfield’s Proxies immediately. The book is an astounding sequence of essays in the form of exercises in which Blanchfield’s voice uncovers its own discomfort to the point of total anxiety, only to back away, then have another go at the problem from another angle. It raises extraordinary issues of trauma and memory and time, while arousing provocative ideas about our relationship to the “automatic knowledge” provided by the Internet and what it might mean to turn away from the screen. It will change you.” —Jonathan Lethem, BOMB
December 15, 2016 / Best of 2016, Tin House, Esquire, The Portland Mercury, The Millions
It’s an honor to have several writers and editors remember Proxies as a standout book of 2016. Esquire names it one of the 25 best books of the year. Rob Spillman includes it as his “Very Best of 2016” in Tin House, Chloe Caldwell in her “A Year of Reading” in The Millions, and Sara Jaffe singles it out as her favorite book of the year in The Portland Mercury, where she writes:
I loved Proxies by Brian Blanchfield. Subtitled ‘Essays Near Knowing,’ each begins with an ostensible topic (tumbleweed, foot washing, frottage) and continues with a wide-ranging, associative investigation that refuses to end until Blanchfield has found a site of his own vulnerability to mine. The self, however, is not an end point—it’s an entry to considering what it means to be a person in a body in the world.” –Sara Jaffe, The Portland Mercury
December 5, 2016 / Best of 2016, Publishers Weekly & Entropy
Proxies has been selected by Entropy as one of its standout nonfiction books of the year, and by Garth Greenwell as his book of the year. Nice to see it mentioned in bloggers‘ and booksellers’ and publishing professionals’ year’s-best lists, too.
In Publishers Weekly, Greenwell writes, “I read this book with amazement, with writerly envy, with real and deepening wonder. And also with gratitude, especially in an election year in which a very loud and nearly inescapable public discourse has seemed determined to make genuine thinking—thinking that entertains ambiguity, ambivalence, doubt, those human virtues—impossible. Like his great models, Montaigne and Barthes, Blanchfield tries to clear a space for thinking that’s free of the destructive aggression of intellectual or pseudo-intellectual or entirely unintellectual sparring that has made such a despairful mockery of democratic process this year. And so this is a book we very urgently need. Avoiding the usual measures of mastery, disavowing the need to be right, these essays model a better way of thinking—which is to say, of being human.”
November 18, 2016 / Nonfiction, Truth, Trump, and Jim Crow
An interview I gave to Puerto del Sol editor Emily Alexander began before the election and concluded after election results. Good questions, honest answers, gets real toward the end. Also raw is this innovative review of Proxies by Evan Lavender-Smith in HTMLGiant. And Speedway & Swan is thirty episodes old. This one we recorded the morning after the Election.
October 22, 2016 / Kenyon Review Review of Proxies
From Erik Anderson’s extraordinarily thoughtful piece in the Kenyon Review: “If you’re interested in what a writer might mean by the movement ‘from needing to know where I stood to wanting to stand on what I knew,’ then this is the essay collection for you….Proxies may indeed be braver than Blanchfield, as he claims in that prefatory note, but the person for whom these essays stand in is someone I’m happy, to paraphrase one of the book’s refrains, to have discovered as though having remembered. Sometimes you don’t know what you’re looking for until you find it, in other words. For me, this was it.” —Erik Anderson, Kenyon Review
September 25, 2016 / Proxies in the Queer Press & more
With the end of summer came a few new reviews of Proxies, in The Bay Area Reporter and Lambda Literary, and a year’s-best recognition by BookRiot. In the Fall I’m reading from the book in cities including Baltimore, New York, Brooklyn, Las Cruces, and San Diego.
September 19, 2016 / Picador to publish UK edition of Proxies
It’s official. Picador UK will publish Proxies in the summer of 2017. The book will come out in paperback, preceded by an e-book edition. Picador has an amazing team of editors and publicists and designers, and the arrangement couldn’t be better for the next life of Proxies.
August 17, 2016 / Esquire Best Books of 2016
“The premise of this autobiographical essay collection is simple: Blanchfield writes from memory alone, without consulting any outside resources to fact check. As the author explains, ‘I wrote these essays with the internet off.’ The result is unlike anything written before. The 24 single topic essays in Proxies are short and focused (topics range from owls to housesitting to frottage), but every single one leads to a more personal revelation or a wider point about the author’s life or the greater world. The conclusions of his writings feel organic and authentic, and the 20+ pages of corrections at the end of the book only validate how powerful writing from memory and relying only upon what’s inside your own brain can be.” –Maris Kreizman, Esquire
July 21, 2016 / TED
Proxies is among the books TED Speakers recommend as their current favorites. Oscar Schwartz, an Australian writer and scientist researching artificial intelligence writes of Proxies, “This book, more than anything, is an examination of an alternative method of knowledge production — ‘How do I come to know something?’ — one that takes accuracy and inaccuracy, memory and misremembering, shame and truth and misdirection all as equally valid points of departure.”
July 16, 2016 / Hyperallergic Review and Best-Thus-Far Lists
Mary-Kim Arnold has written a review of Proxies for Hyperallergic. Janice Lee recommends the book as “required reading” at Entropy. And it has been selected by Powell’s Books in its Midyear Roundup of the year’s best and by Volume 1 Brooklyn for the year’s best Nonfiction thus far. Recommended too in the Australian podcast The Rereaders.
July 9, 2016 / Proxies Makes The Guardian’s Best Books for the Summer List
Twice. Olivia Laing has it in her tote bag, likes the essays on sex, and is “hot for more” [blush], and Garth Greenwell writes:
“I’m not sure how to describe Brian Blanchfield’s Proxies: Essays Near Knowing (Nightboat), a collection of idiosyncratic, candid, devastating essays, except to say that it’s the most brilliant book I’ve read in years. Anyone who has been amazed (and rightly so) by Maggie Nelson’s The Argonauts (Melville House) should read this book posthaste.”
July 5, 2016 / Review of Proxies in Bookforum
“The breathtaking excellence of Proxies, poet Brian Blanchfield’s first collection of personal essays, is an urgent reminder of how shortsighted it would be to take identity politics as the sole measure of value in queer writing. Blanchfield—who is white, male, and gay—does not treat these contours of his life as extraordinary in themselves. He attends instead to the subtlest registers of misfit between a queer self and its world—and with such sensitivity, he provides a startlingly detailed map to a territory we only thought we knew well. Again and again, he finds unexpected grace in grim circumstances: growing up gay in working class North Carolina, struggling to find his vocation in heady millennial New York, reckoning with the diminished economic prospects of the writer’s life.”
June 24, 2016 / Oxford American Interview
Fiction writer Jamie Quatro interviewed me about Proxies for The Oxford American: A Magazine of the South. We talk about child preachers, Man Roulette, James Baldwin, key intersections in Tucson, skin culture, and everyday animism.
June 17, 2016 / Proxies In Second Printing
Proxies has gone back to press for a second print run, and ships today. It is also now available as an E-book. Thanks to booksellers in Portland, San Francisco, New York, and elsewhere, who are featuring the book as a Staff Pick. I’m honored, too, that the book enters into Sean Kelly’s meditation in The Monthly (in Australia) on the aftermath of the Orlando massacre, queer life in Australia, and the history of the freedom to congregate. Too, a nice capsule review from Public Books, which selects the book as a Best-of-2016 pick:
In 1658, Sir Thomas Browne declared, “Tis time to observe Occurrences and let nothing remarkable escape us.” With Proxies, poet Brian Blanchfield has assembled a collection of essays that are as expansive in their intellectual reach as they are profoundly committed to sounding the tender archive of memory’s embodied afterlife. “Permitting shame, error, and guilt,” Blanchfield’s essays take up owls and abstraction, foot-washing and frottage, and provide us with a vital and vibrant map of the thrill and the pain of contemporary life. To read Proxies is to be pulled along by a mind in the vertiginous thrall of wandering, “ready to be any thing, in the extasie of being ever.”
June 15, 2016 / The Rumpus on Proxies, and More
Michael Sheehan has written an eloquent and thorough review of Proxies for The Rumpus, which is also this week running an interview about the book, which I did with Ryan Krull. A mention in The Millions. Novelist Garth Greenwell, in an interview on The Other Stories, chats about Proxies and Roland Barthes. Also, this review in the British online journal minor literature(s), and a thoughtful blog essay here about endnotes, correctives and errata in my work and the “interventionist translation” work of Jen Hofer.
June 6, 2016 / Essay in Full Stop
Full Stop Quarterly publishes today the final essay in Proxies, “On the Near Term, Permitting Shame, Error, and Guilt, Myself the Single Source.” In which I inadvertently meet my porn crush, lose my piddling adjunct teaching position, and reconsider self-preservation in the context of queerness.
May 24, 2016 / Review of Proxies in Music & Literature
Rosie Clarke has written an engaging, critical review essay on Proxies and the psychology of memoir for Music & Literature. Also, Cole Cohen recommends the book on Entropy and Alexander Chee, on the podcast So Many Damn Books.
May 21, 2016 / Interview on KBOO’s Between the Covers
The excellent and insightful reader and radio host David Naimon interviewed me last month for his podcast and radio show Between the Covers. It airs today, and the podcast version is 74 minutes long! We talk containment, “pseudodoxia epidemica,” the ethics of narrative and autobiography, the leave in billiards, and Maggie Nelson, Hilton Als, and practitioners of free intellection in essaying now.
May 5, 2016 / Proxies and Tangents
Outside of recent book reviews, a few interesting and beautiful things have emerged this week that make unlikely mention or special use of Proxies. An intelligent (and digressive) essay on digression, “The Point of Tangency,” by Elisa Gabbert is published in The Smart Set. An exploratory interview with Kansas City teaching-pastor Isaac Anderson, up at Sermonsmith, a podcast on sermon preparation, is interested in epistemology, truth, and transparency. And artist Jesse Aron Green gives a critical talk on Mapplethorpe at LACMA this week that he’s calling “Where the Sun Don’t Shine, or, On A**holes, Permitting Shame, Error and Guilt, Myself the Single Source.”
May 2, 2016 / Last Night of Proxies Tour
Athens, Georgia. This makes 21 readings, in 16 cities, over six weeks. I’ve met many lovely people and reunited with plenty more lovely still after all these years. Best hotel bathtub: Providence. Easiest public transit: Minneapolis. Cutest guys: St. Louis. Most edible: Portland. Friendliest foliage: Philadelphia. Coming home, Tucson.
April 28, 2016 / Largehearted Boy Essay-Playlist and Speedway & Swan Ep 20
A special pleasure to be asked to write a Book Notes column for Largehearted Boy. This twelve-point essay, with accompanying playlist, makes a kind of score or soundtrack for Proxies, my book of essays. From Tom T. Hall to J. Hines & The Boys, from Tsegue-Maryam Guebrou to Broken Social Scene to Dolly Parton. Pairings of music and literature get some attention, too, from the Academy of American Poets, which helps the University of Arizona Poetry Center, KXCI, and me celebrate twenty episodes now of Speedway and Swan. Revisit all the episodes (co hosts Brenda Hillman, Srikanth Reddy, TC Tolbert, Farid Matuk, Chris Nealon, Jane Miller, Joey Burns, & more) at the Poetry Center site and look out for the podcast launch soon.
April 27, 206 / Review of Proxies in Full Stop
Full Stop has run a beautifully written review by Nathan Goldman that considers Proxies in a long lineage of skepticism and writers who prefer thinking to knowing. He writes: “Our 21st century constructions of ourselves are perilously entangled with the facts to which we have access. I don’t know half as much as I know how to find out, by knowing the phrase to Google or the Twitter timeline to scroll. In a cultural milieu that relies on our knowing only vaguely, since our access to reliable knowledge feels so secure, Blanchfield’s courting of error becomes a brave and radical attempt to rethink the self. Proxies relies on ventured truths over familiarity with vague regions of the knowable unknown…”
April 13, 2016 / Review of Proxies in Flavorwire
An interesting essay in Flavorwire by Jonathon Sturgeon compares Proxies with Ben Lerner’s novel 10:04 and Maggie Nelson’s book The Argonauts, speculating about what poets have brought (speculation, for one thing) to contemporary intellection in prose.
April 9, 2016 / Proxies in the World
April 6, 2016 / Review in LA Review of Books and The New York Times coverage of the Whiting Award
On the eve of its pub date, Proxies gets a sensitive and thoughtful review by Scott Nadelson in the Los Angeles Review of Books. Nadelson compares the essays’ methodology to MFK Fisher’s, writing, “What I admire most about Blanchfield’s analytical framing — what I’m identifying as his formal misdirection — is that he never uses it simply to be coy or to manipulate. Rather, it seems to arise out of a deep humility in the face of complex emotion, a diffidence that relies on the intellect to prepare both writer and reader for the soul- and body-baring disclosures to follow.”
New notices and preview-anticipations of the book are also up at Vol 1 Brooklyn and Lit Hub. And in the April 7 edition of The New York Times, two other Whiting Award winners and I are interviewed for an article by Sarah Lyall about the psychology of periodic insolvency and a new wave in writers’ grants.
March 30, 2016 / Review of Proxies in The New York Times and an interview at Essay Daily
In The New York Times Arts section John Williams reviews and recommends Proxies in his Newly Released column. Also this week, an interview on Essay Daily that Jill Talbot conducted. A pleasure to consider lifewriting, essaying, and “personalia” with her.
March 25, 2016 / Interview on KCRW’s Bookworm with Michael Silverblatt
A real honor and a huge pleasure: I was interviewed last week in the Santa Monica studios of KCRW by Michael Silverblatt, for an episode of his show Bookworm. We talk about sex, queer community, solidarity and economic precarity–and also tumbleweed chandeliers. The show airs on March 31, 2016, and is available here.
March 23, 2016 / 2016 Whiting Award in Nonfiction
Proxies and my recent work in nonfiction has received this phenomenal recognition from The Writing Foundation. The ceremony, at the New York Historical Society, and the company I am keeping among this year’s amazing class of recipients and those of years past, are a great honor. Really humbled by the judges’ beautiful citation:
“The quiet but searing vulnerability in Brian Blanchfield’s writing is as wide and trembling as the wingspan of his otherness. He writes with a beguiling sagaciousness that made me bow my head so many times that I lost count. These are essays about honesty and the revelation of self in which shame and guilt are dissected and anything extraneous scrubbed away. Each sentence is a live wire. Diverse, maybe mismatched styles, genres and topics accrue to great and moving effect, a profound whole made from an unlikely assemblage of parts. He appears to be forging a new genre before your very eyes.”
March 18, 2016 / Proxies U.S. Book Tour Begins: 21 Readings, 15 Cities
Beginning in San Francisco and ending in Athens, Georgia, I’m reading from Proxies at Bookstores, in Bars, at Universities, at Music Festivals, and on the Air. The tour include stops also in Oakland, New York, Los Angeles, Seattle, Iowa City, St. Louis, Ann Arbor, Chicago, Minneapolis, Providence, Baltimore, Philadelphia, Asheville, and Durham, North Carolina. I’m reading with phenomenal writers, many of them flat-out heroes of mine: Dodie Bellamy, Garth Greenwell, Ed Pavlic, Claudia Rankine, Chris Nealon, Cole Swensen, Dawn Lundy Martin, Lucy Corin, CA Conrad, Alli Warren, Fenton Johnson, Sandra Simonds, and more. Full details are here.
February 22, 2016 / Starred Review of Proxies in Publishers Weekly
“The 25 essays in this collection from poet Blanchfield (A Several World) are small, highly polished jewels that together form an intricate mosaic. Giving himself the project of following a thought to its uncomfortable edges, in each entry Blanchfield picks a subject—foot washing, authorship, owls—and examines it from several angles until the connection between metaphysical principle and lived experience suddenly crystallizes, often producing an analogy as surprising as it is lovely. Blanchfield will typically betray a glimpse of erudition—a reference to cult cinema, Greek tragedy, or Noam Chomsky—alongside raw confession, balancing ‘a poetics of impersonality’ with ‘disinhibited autobiography.’ Thus, the billiards term ‘leave’ proves connected to his father’s departure, a meditation on ingénues extends to his experience of 9/11, and the story of a dog bite becomes the story of his coming out. The themes of secrets and concealment pervade the collection, as does a ‘spellbound trade in vulnerability and openheartedness’ conjured by Blanchfield’s prose style, with its catch-and-release rhythm—sometimes lyrical, sometimes barbed. The concluding essay ‘Correction,’ which fills in or corrects details for the other selections, offers its own tribute to the processes by which we construct meaning—the real subject of this elegant and astonishing book.” (Apr.) —Publishers Weekly
February 16, 2016 / Correction. published as an e-chapbook by Essay Press
The twenty-four essays in my forthcoming book, Proxies, observe a constraint: the total suppression of recourse to authoritative sources. About tumbleweed, housesitting, Br’er Rabbit, peripersonal space, Man Roulette, the understory, dossiers, et cetera, I write from what I know, estimate, remember and misremember. It’s for that reason the book concludes with a rolling endnote titled “Correction.,” in which, fact after nonsequitur fact, my errors are redressed. The ninety-eight correctives now live their own independent life, a sort of afterlife, after the reckoning, as a chapbook with Essay Press. My thanks to Andy Fitch for his editorial hand and to Jesse Aron Green, who lent for use on the cover an image from his 2008 piece Ärztliche Zimmergymnastik.
February 14, 2016 / Proxies at the Printer
With admiration and gratitude for Mary Austin Speaker and her cover and book design, and with thanks to the book‘s earliest readers: Claudia Rankine, Maggie Nelson, Wayne Koestenbaum, and Dan Beachy-Quick. Pub date: April 7, 2016. Nightboat Books.
February 6, 2016 / Essays published in new issues of StoryQuarterly and Oar
Two essays from Proxies—“On the Ingénue” and “On the Leave”—are included in the new issues of StoryQuarterly and Oar, venerable literary magazine run now out of Rutgers-Camden and fine and edgy letterpress journal handmade in Oakland, respectively. Keeping good company here with Kevin Killian, Rebecca Gaydos, Jenny Boully, and Garth Greenwell. Greenwell, incidentally, includes Proxies among the books he loves in “A Year in Queer Reading” on Towleroad.
January 25, 2016 / Ander Monson on Proxies in BOMB’s Spring Book Preview
“Brian Blanchfield’s new book Proxies: Essays Near Knowing comes out from Nightboat books in April, and is something you’re going to want to read. Blanchfield’s best known as a poet, and though poetry shows up here as a subject, this isn’t a poet’s essay collection, meaning that these aren’t hyperlyric half-prose essays shot with the poetry cannon: this is a book of excellent prose written by someone born to write exactly this. The guiding constraint of Proxies is that while writing it Blanchfield refused to consult authoritative sources. This results in some dodgy autobiography, as he admits, but first, let’s all say it together: all autobiography is dodgy autobiography. Memory is a source and a hazard. Blanchfield’s decision to work from memory gives these essays a contingent feel. These are high-wire acts that are a ton of fun to read. Here’s what I think I know, they say; watch me try to make something of it. And they know very many things indeed. A few of the subjects covered include housesitting, plastic surgery, tumbleweed, shame, abandonment, Man Roulette, footwashing, proprioception, frottage, and dossiers. This last piece, one of the best in the book, appeared in BOMB, and should give you a good sense of the intellect that Blanchfield brings to bear in each essay. It’s a deft one, performing close readings of cultural phenomena and tracking—with great, even heroic care—minor and major emotional transactions and tendencies. The result is a book of dynamic, thoughtful, and flat-out moving essays. These proxies are short but extremely sticky. They stuck with me. I’m carrying them with me as I write this sentence. I think you’re going to want to get sticky too.” –Ander Monson, BOMB
December 17, 2015 / “The Understory” in The Offing
The Offing has published in its You Are Here section an essay, “On the Understory,” from Proxies. Among other things, it’s about aerial vantage, “good ole boy” obscurantism, the agency of mapping, and the positional sense of an “us down here.” In loving memory, Irene Lawson Overby (1928-2014).
December 8, 2015 / Essay in BOMB Magazine
The Winter 2015-16 issue of BOMB features in its First Proof insert an essay from Proxies. “On Dossiers…” is about the annual double dealing and vagaries of academic job search and hiring committee practices and about the file on myself I inadvertently found, which changed the way I saw my 28-year relationship with my late stepfather. Proxies, now in galleys, publishes April 1.
November 24, 2015 / Correction. forthcoming as a prose chapbook with Essay Press
The Essay Press’s EP Series of e-chapbooks is publishing Correction. in January 2016. The EP Series publishes extended-play excerpts of longer developing work–by Wayne Koestenbaum, Cole Swensen, Dan Beachy-Quick, among others. When Correction. is not living an independent life as a chapbook, it is also know as “Correction.,” the 98-item rolling endnote that concludes my book Proxies: Essays near knowing. Fact after non sequitur fact controverting the errors I make in the essays on my own authority.
October 15, 2015 / Essay in Harper’s
An abridged version of my essay “On Frottage” appears in the Readings section of the November 2015 issue of Harper’s Magazine. Among other things it’s about coming of age during the AIDS crisis, the damaged mechanism of queer tutelage in the midNineties, and the erotic compulsion to ditch the script. The fuller version, about twice as long, is one of twenty-four essays included in Proxies, due out April 1.
September 30, 2015 / Proxies entering production, to be published April 1, 2016
Proxies, a collection of essays–part cultural close reading, part dicey autobiography–forthcoming from Nightboat Books, now has a birthday, and a face. The cover design is by Mary Austin Speaker. “On Reset,” an essay from the book published yesterday at PEN America, along with a short interview about Proxies and A Several World, among other things.
August 28, 2015 / Guest Editing the PEN Poetry Series for 2015-2016
Along with poets Dawn Lundy-Martin and TC Tolbert, I will be a guest editor of the PEN Poetry Series for a year beginning in September. The PEN Poetry Series, a publication of the PEN American Center, is now in year four of featuring a short folio of new work by a single poet each week. Some extraordinary work has appeared first here. Watch that space. We start in September.
August 7, 2015 / Anthologies!
Galleys are in for The Unprofessionals: New American Writing from The Paris Review, which includes a poem of mine. It’s published by Penguin Books in November of this year. Before then, Dream Closet, an anthology of queer writing about childhood and spacial imagination, edited by Matthew Burgess, is being published by Secretary Press and includes an essay from my next book, Proxies. And, a selection of poems from my two books will be included in the new edition of American Poets in the 21st Century, edited by Claudia Rankine and Michael Dowdy, forthcoming next year from Wesleyan UP.
June 23, 2015 / Snapshot of the Desk and Poems on the Air
June 9, 2015 / A Several World Goes Into Second Printing
now, with James Laughlin Award citation.
May 15, 2015 / The Launch of Speedway and Swan: the Poetry Show, on KXCI 91.3FM Tucson: Sunday May 17th, 4pm
Speedway and Swan, a labor of love for the last few months, is a fortnightly hour-long free-format radio program that presents contemporary poetry against a context of variously compatible and offbeat musical selections. Pulling from the exceptional libraries of the University of Arizona Poetry Center and KXCI Community Radio, I host and build each show with a rotating guest co-host who brings poetry from his or her personal canon to intermix with the freshest work from the “new shelves.” The first episode is co-hosted by poet Jane Miller. (The May 31 episode I’m with writer, musician and noise scholar John Melillo.) Check it out streaming live on KXCI every other Sunday at 4pm Arizona Nonstandard Time or (soon) archived and listenable anytime at the Poetry Center at http://poetry.arizona.edu.
April 14, 2015 / 2015-16 George A. and Eliza Gardner Howard Foundation Fellowship in Poetry
Along with Anna Moschovakis and Andrew Zawacki, I am a recipient of this year’s Howard Fellowship, in poetry. An early mid-career recognition and significant support toward a next book. An honor and a huge boost. The full list of recipients (in fiction and philosophy, too) is here.
January 13, 2015 / Review by Zach Savich in The Iowa Review
Zach Savich’s beautifully written and attentive review of A Several World appears in The Iowa Review this month. The book is also the January selection for The Poetry Foundation Library’s monthly book discussion group in Chicago.
November 28, 2014 / The New Brick and The Force of What’s Possible
A few nice things just out. In the new issue with other prose by the great late Patrick Leigh Fermor and by Alice Munro, Ben Lerner, and Russell Banks, I have a onesheet essay, “On Minutes,” in Brick. A different kind of essay, a polemic on paratexts and Marjorie Perloff, is in the new anthology The Force of What’s Possible, edited by Lily Hoang and Josh Wilkinson. Too, a nice new live interview with Margaree Little featured on the Warren Wilson College MFA program site. And, finally, in Galatea Resurrects, a thoughtful review essay by Patrick James Dunagan, about A Several World as well as new books by Elizabeth Arnold, Jennifer Moxley, and Hoa Nguyen.
October 17, 2014 / American Poets Prizes ceremony
Thank you for this, Academy of American Poets.
October 2, 2014 / Lambda Literary Review, PSA Feature, and Interview Up
Three nice things. Lambda Literary has published a review of A Several World. Poetry Society of America asked me to write a bit about “The City State,” a poem from the book. And Christopher Nelson interviewed me for his Green Linden Press.
September 16, 2014 / A Several World Is Longlisted for the National Book Award in Poetry
A Several World is included among the ten books of poetry in final consideration for the 2014 National Book Award. (Typing that sentence makes it no less strange.) Five finalists are announced on October 15 and then a winner is named on November 19. The honor is the company I’m keeping.
August 26, 2014 / A Several World Receives the James Laughlin Poetry Award
The Academy of American Poets has awarded its 2014 James Laughlin Award to A Several World. The prize “recognizes a superior second book of poetry by an American poet.” This year’s judges were Lee Ann Brown, Tina Chang, and C. S. Giscombe. In his citation, Giscombe writes the following:
Robert Herrick wrote, “Here we are all by day; by night we’re hurl’d / By dreams each one into a several world.” Where Herrick’s several is implicitly separate, Brian Blanchfield’s book examines and contests commonality. That is, A Several World unsettles the world–all and several alike–by reading its associations and memberships with an unnerving exactingness. And, for all that, it’s a very finely-ranging travelogue, though not in the usual senses: “Consider the milieu durance,” Blanchfield invites as the book sets sail, and then responds, in the next line, to his own invitation, “Way out there now.”
A giant honor. None greater. The awards ceremony is in New York the final night of the Academy’s Poets Forum, October 17, 2014, at the New School.
August 8, 2014 / Reading and Recommendations
The University of Arizona Poetry Center has featured me as the first author in their series, Bookmarked, in which writers provide an annotated bibliography of the reading that most influences their present work. Gave me the chance to think in paragraphs about the books behind my forthcoming collection of essays, Onesheets. More thoughts on good reading are here, my recent review of Mark Wunderlich’s The Earth Avails in Hyperallergic; and, now published, the beautiful object that is kathryn pringle’s sensational Temper and Felicity Are Lovers, the winner of Lost Roads Press’s Besmilr Brigham Award, which I co-judged with Arda Collins. Available here.
July 21, 2014 / Publishers Weekly review of A Several World
“…an impressive collection that walks a tightrope between two traditions. [Blanchfield’s] lithe, rhythmically irreducible free verse seems to champion the beauty of language above all else, as a hypermodern voice wants to chat about life in our disorienting century….The book’s crescendo is a sequence in which the self is both formed and deformed by authority, time, and alienation and the very language that composes poetry is bookended and bullied by the voices of those around us. With his complex phrasing, gentleness and wit…Blanchfield’s poetry proves to be a rewarding read.” Publishers Weekly, July, 21, 2014.
May 6, 2014 / Essay, Interview, & Poems Up & A Several World on shelves
An interview for National Poetry Month is up on Entropy, an essay from Onesheets is in the new issue of NoMorePotlucks, and poems in the new H_ngm_n are live. It’s a pleasure (home now from the tour) to report sightings of A Several World on bookshelves in select stores across the country. The book, officially distributed by UPNE, was nonetheless on the March and April poetry bestseller lists for Small Press Distribution. Here it claims its slender place between Blake and Blanco, in Powell’s, Portland.
March 22, 2014 / Month-Long A Several World Tour Begins: Pacific Coast, Mountain West, & New York City Dates
The rollout of A Several World is under way, and I am giving fourteen readings through the month of April, including in Los Angeles, San Diego, Tucson, San Francisco, Berkeley, Davis, Portland, Missoula, Boise, Salt Lake, New York City, and Brooklyn. I’m thrilled to be reading along the way with amazing writers: Matias Viegener, Rosa Alcalá, Paul Ebenkamp, Kevin Killian, Laura Moriarty, George Albon, Standard Schaefer, KMA Sullivan, Alice Bolin, Chris Salerno, Jen Bervin, Farnoosh Fathi, Todd Colby, and Eileen Myles. Seriously? Seriously. All details are here.
February 21, 2014 / A Several World to Be Released at AWP Conference / Seattle, Feb 27-Mar 1
Nightboat Books will have copies of A Several World for sale at the AWP Conference Bookfair, tables O30 and O31. I am giving two off-site readings from the book: Thursday night the 27th at Arundel Books, with Nightboat authors Laura Moriarty, Gracie Leavitt, and Brandon Som, and Saturday Night the 1st as part of The Other Queer Reading, at The Lobby Bar in Capitol Hill, with Eileen Myles, Rachel Levitsky, Richard Siken, Dawn Lundy Martin, Stephen Motika, & others. I’m also sitting in and signing books at the Nightboat table Friday afternoon the 28th, Noon to 2. The book officially publishes March 15.
December 6, 2013 / The History of Ideas, 1973-2012 is Published. Code name: Sporkchap13
My chapbook of poetry–suite of conceptual idylls, scenes from an epistemology–is published in a handsome pocket hardback chipboard edition by Spork Press, where the final step of birthing literature is softening its edges with an industrial sander. Thanks to Drew Burk and Richard Siken for making it happen and to Andrew Shuta for the vixen, woodpile and cashgrab in his original cover art. Available for purchase here.
October 28, 2013 / Onesheets to Be Published by Nightboat Books in 2015
It’s official. My first book of prose, a collection of essays, (working title: Onesheets) is projected for publication by Nightboat Books in the Fall of 2015. The project is a collection of short, nonacademic, unresearched, disinhibited single-subject essays, equal parts cultural semiotics and dicey autobiography. Several of the essays have been published in magazines this year. Thanks to those editors and to Nightboat, dreamboat vessel that is first publishing A Several World in late February 2014.
August 31, 2013 / Oracle Retreat for Writers, A 3-Day Creative Writing Intensive, C.O.D. Ranch, Oracle, AZ, November 7-10
With writers Karen Brennan and Beth Alvarado, I am guest faculty at the first annual Oracle Retreat for Writers this November. The coursework will be generative, the community will be lively and supportive, and the San Pedro valley will be inspiring. Register by October 15th.
May 22, 2013 / The History of Ideas, 1973-2012 to be published, as a chapbook, by Spork Press early Fall 2013
Tucson-based, DIY independent publisher Spork Press is publishing The History of Ideas, 1973-2012, a suite of conceptual idylls–or, if you prefer, scenes from an epistemology.
May 1, 2013 / A Several World to be published by Nightboat Books in Spring 2014
Contracts are signed, and a publication date is set. A Several World, my second full-length book of poetry, is being published by the extraordinary independent publisher Nightboat Books, in early Spring 2014.