A brief recap of the past several weeks’ publications, at home and abroad.
“Dummy” was written during a fellowship with the I-Park Foundation in December, 2012. “Pretty” was written during a fellowship with the Hewnoaks Artists Colony in July, 2013.
Overwhelming is the only word to describe these past few vernal weeks. A lot of this emotional ride is not worth going into. But maybe this pithy list can sum up what the May of 2016 had in store.
These three bullet points do not even come close to demonstrating the depth and stagger of my joy and gratitude. I love all of these stories. From haunted farmlands to the inscrutable middle of our continent. I’m very proud to have them out there in the world, continuing to have lives beyond my knowledge.
April proved to be a month of repetitions. As noted below, “Preserved“—the documentary essay I wrote as a student at the Salt Institute for Documentary Studies—had a well-received second life in the (figurative) pages of Redux. Meanwhile, while working with my former professor at Salt to edit an even older essay (which will get its ten-year anniversary reprinting in this coming fall’s issue of Fusion), my newest collection of short stories, the pocket-sized edition Cream River, went into its second printing, this time in the able hands of Pilot Editions. And before May coolly ushered itself in, my flash story “Skidder & Draw“—originally published in Portland Monthly—was republished by the consistently supportive editorship of Matter Press. All of which lend to an oddly comforting mindset, to know that these stories continue to live lives of their own, even after I (in at least once particular instance) have forgotten the stories ever existed at all.
All of which makes me wonder: what other stories have I forgotten about, have neglected? What should I double-back to examine again? What deserves a closer look?
Sometimes you work months and years to perfect a story, only to have it published by a magazine or journal that closes up shop within a year of printing your piece. My essay “Preserved” was one such lost story. But thanks to Redux—a journal dedicated to keeping alive stories that have gone out of regular print circulation—my short documentary about heritage and its loss gets a second chance at life.
Preservation can mean finding something precious from someone else’s forgotten life, then saving it forever under glass. It can mean replacing a structure’s every crossbeam and post until nothing original remains but its idea. Preserving can save for some what others might see as a roadblock in the way of progress, and it can also be a way of saving jelly in a jar.
Preservation can mean paying attention to your surroundings.
Preservation can be an act of memory.
“Preserved” originally appeared as “Preservation with Clapboard Gaps” in the final issue of Salt.
This past February, I had the honor of being invited to a press screening of River of Fundament, the new cinematic opera/operatic film by Matthew Barney and Jonathan Bepler. After the screening—and a couple days to digest the spectacle—I sat down with Jenna Crowder of The Chart to discuss the film. That conversation (edited for coherence) is now available in the March issue of The Chart.
“You become a part of the universe as a whole. So if you’re going to talk about that, you need to acknowledge that sex is a big part of existence. And just the same way that there’s all these different cultures represented, you can’t talk about universal rebirth and only have white guys in America. You miss your own point in doing that. It has to be multicultural. It has to be from the most beautiful compositions and beautiful parts of nature to people covered in shit licking each other’s assholes. You can’t have one without the other.”
River of Fundament will be screening at the Portland Museum of Art, April 1st-3rd.
Just maintaining my record of releasing book trailers months and months too late….
ONE OF THESE DAYS, the new record by long-inactive art-sound project Old Fat God, is now live and available for streaming, free download, as well as a bundle-purchase with its companion pieces, the story collection CREAM RIVER and the album WHISKEY DICK.
In the introduction to the CREAM RIVER/WHISKEY DICK split, there is a joke about how the sequencing of the book’s stories and the album’s songs might be manipulated in such a way as to achieve a WIZARD OF OZ/DARK SIDE OF THE MOON sort of syncopation. To a degree, ONE OF THESE DAYS takes the joke seriously.
Originally premiering as part of a food-based performance installation curated by Genevieve Johnson at the 2015 Sacred + Profane in Portland, Maine, ONE OF THESE DAYS is an expressionistic reinterpretation of Blind Pelican’s WHISKEY DICK. All verbal elements and instrumentation have been distorted beyond all definitive recognition, reduced to their most rarefied ideals. This is how the songs should feel when you cannot hear the songs.
ONE OF THESE DAYS can be experienced as a stand-alone album. It can also be played in tandem with Blind Pelican’s WHISKEY DICK to achieve an experience unique and separate from either constituent part. It makes a steadfast companion to CREAM RIVER as well.
Praise for CREAM RIVER
“I believe Doug Milliken has a firm grasp of life’s little traumas. He takes his chunk of loving meat and hangs it from a butcher’s hook on display for the world to read.”
—from the foreword by Ben Trickey, singer/songwriter
“Cream River [...] is still on my mind, as if its characters were hanging around in the dark shadows of my consciousness. [...] I was blown away by “Color Wheel.” I also loved how the stories had a series of sometimes evident and sometimes subterranean connections that became especially intriguing as the cycle approached its end. I highly recommend reading Cream River.”
—Jonathan Weisberg, The Stoneslide Corrective
"I loved every story, every word."
—Erin Sprinkle, singer/songwriter
Praise for TO SLEEP AS ANIMALS
“[...] it is impossible not to be the weird kid in Milliken's Reno. To Sleep as Animals is a mystery about characters succumbing to their spaces, how such a rugged landscape sustains so many strange and dangerous lives.”
“A disturbance of a very specific flavor [...] Milliken's writing is urgent yet finely considered—a literate pleasure.”
—Carl Skoggard, translator of Walter Benjamin's Berlin Childhood circa 1900.
“A distinctive and often vertiginously frightening psychological landscape [...] bracingly disturbing.”
—Megan Grumbling, author of Persephone in the Late Anthropocene.
Praise for BRAND NEW MOON
“These stories [...] glow with some sort of holy light, as if every moment were magic, like footage of your family picnic on super 8.”
—The Portland Phoenix
“Seriously the funniest thing I have ever read. I was laughing so much that [my wife] yelled at me. Probably because she was sleeping. And it was 2 AM.”
—Derek Kimball, Last House Productions
Praise for WHITE HORSES
“Douglas W. Milliken takes his time unveiling the savoring of the moment in a narrative of extremely gracious intimacy. The dignified personal. Expert surreal grounded prose. Pragmatic poetics that serve the whole. This man is a master of simile. And it never gets old because the associations are always complex and unexpected. Worked accuracy but seamlessly so. Wow throughout the heartbreaking sensuality. Its core a felled forest of need. The title story, ‘White Horses,’ cannot be improved, which is another way of saying it is perfect.”
—Melody Sumner Carnahan, co-founder of Burning Books.