By Scot Young
Barry Graham is a four-time National Tic-Tac-Toe Association (NTTTA) champion (1988, 1994, 2004,2006). He graduated from Eastern Michigan University with an MA in Creative Writing. While at EMU, he served as co-editor of their annual graduate student anthology, The 50/50, and was an assistant editor for Bathhouse Magazine. Barry currently teaches writing at Monroe County Community College and spends the off-season in the poker room at the Trump Taj Mahal in Atlantic City. He also teaches creative writing workshops as a Writer in Residence through Dzanc. His fiction, poetry, and mixed-media has appeared in the following publications Storyglossia, Hobart, Pindeldyboz, Wheelhouse, Thieves Jargon, elimae, Wigleaf, Monkeybicycle, Smokelong Quarterly, Cella’s Round Trip, and others.
His debut short-story collection, The National Virginity Pledge (Another Sky Press) is forthcoming in 2008. He is the 2008 recipient of the Jumpmettle Award for excellence in fiction and was recently nominated for the Pushcart Prize.
(Taken from dogzplot.com)
Review of: not a speck of light is showing
Barry Graham loves the sentence and loves to write and publish fiction aka micro fiction/flash fiction. This type of writing is a snapshot. It has rules, but the rules are quite often broken, body slammed and are defiant as a well written script from WWE. Is it prose poetry? Graham says no.
I believe it is like anything else: a fast car, a pretty woman, a good time–you know it when you see it. In his chap book not a speck of light is showing from the Achilles chapbook Series from DOGZPLOT he takes us on a ride from the ordinary into the peculiar. These are not your mama’s stories or the ones your high school English teacher assigned for summer reading. They are fresh and will make you think. They are life, death, sexy, raunchy and real life like crawling into bed with your shoes on. It will be the best $4.00 you have spent on a chap. The service is fast and besides being a cool writer and publisher of a kick ass mag, Barry is just a nice guy. Order it from the website. I did. You will become a fan.
Scot: Tell me about DOGZPLOT? How did it come into being?
Barry: I’m not really sure how it happened. It’s holy and mysterious like the cosmos and the endless cycle of life and death and rebirth. And to speak of it is blasphemy.
Scot: You publish fiction over poetry in print. Why the preference?
Barry: I’m in love with the form. 200 words or less micro fiction. Every word has to count, has to carry weight, not that that isn’t the case with poetry, I just love the prose form. I like sentences and sentence structures.
Scot: Since it is tough to make a living writing, what is your day job?
Barry: Ha. I teach writing.
Scot: What writers influenced/inspired you in the beginning?
Barry: I think people can learn a lot of things from Dr. Seuss. Hemingway. William Carlos Williams. Minimalism. Images.
Scot: Who do you read now?
Barry: I just finished reading Kyle Minor’s In the Devil’s Territory. Heather O’ Neill’s Lullabies for Little Criminals blew my fucking mind apart. Every sentence broke my heart. I like a lot of the stuff Dzanc is putting out right now. Stefan Kiesbye and Suzanne Burns both have short story collections coming out soon that I can’t wait to read. Yannick Murphy is bad ass. Peter Schwartz is working on a collection of prose poems that’s gonna force people to react physically and possibly rethink their spirituality, it’s that great. I loved Davy Rothbart’s The Lone Surfer of Montana, Kansas.
Scot: What do you see online publications developing in the future?
Barry: I may be wrong on this, or slightly ahead of the curve, but I think 2009 is gonna be a big year for returning to print. I think people want to hold books / objects in their hands and look at them, smell them, touch them. I think print on demand technologies are affordable and the quality is much improved, chapbooks are cheap to make. I see a big return to those types of printing. DOGZPLOT has branched out and started a small chapbook series: ACHILLES. Great things are on the way from lots of places: ML Press, Future Tense, Keyhole, Calamari, Hobart’s mini-book division – Short Flight / Long Drive. Misti Rainwater-Lites has some sexy publications I like a lot, the Instant Pussy series. All that to say I think the future is a grassroots return to cheap but aesthetically pleasing print.
Scot: As an editor/publisher, what are you looking for in a chap book manuscript?
Barry: I can’t put it in words, but when something blows my head apart, I’ll know it. Scrolling through the flash fiction archives can help you gain a sense of what we’re looking for. It’s all in the description, erratic. Precise, playful, dirty, beautiful, hopelessly optimistic, ugly, over-the-top writing. We have chapbooks / collections forthcoming from JA Tyler, Howie Good, Drew Kalbach, Sam Pink, Suzanne Burns, Elizabeth Ellen, Andrea Kneeland, Chelsea Martin, and Gregory Heaney. Those names can give you some idea of what we look for.
Scot: I noticed in your chap “not a speck of light is showing” you write from different viewpoints. Was this a challenge, writing from different perspectives?
Barry: I don’t think so. When I develop characters I don’t have any one person in mind. My characters are an accumulation of lots of folks from different places and times.
Scot: Do you have a writing routine?
Barry: No. I wish I was more disciplined. I write when I can.
Scot: Does place influence your writing?
Barry: Absolutely. I always imagine my stories happening in specific places. I’m not gonna name them all of course, but a few that come to mind are gambling towns like Atlantic City and Vegas, my hometown, Paradise, right in the heart of Pennsylvania Dutch Country, and Ypsilanti, Michigan, the place I spent the majority of my time as a teenager. I’ve lived in many many many different places and I draw from all of them, but the few I mentioned are close to my heart.
Scot: Is flash/micro fiction the new poetry?
Barry: No. It’s something different.
Scot: I have seen a lot of flash fiction that looks an awful lot like prose
poetry. What is the difference?
Barry: I get this a lot and I don’t really have an answer that’s satisfactory. I think there are lots of things I’ve published on the flash site that people would consider prose poetry. The lines are blurry and I think I like it that way. What’s the need for all these vague definitions?
Scot: What is next for Barry Graham?
Barry: I have a short story collection, The National Virginity Pledge, forthcoming from Another Sky Press in early February 09. I’m also working on a novel, Nothing or Next to Nothing (Atlantic City Blues), and a collection of collage / flash fiction.
I’m getting ready to move to Philly in a few months. Other than that, I’m not sure.
Scot: What question would you liked to be asked, but never have?
Barry: (from Monica Lewinsky): Would you mind sticking it in my ass first?
Scot: If you could sit down with a literary figure, who would it be and how would it go?
Barry: Man, this is a toughie. There are so many good people. Maybe I could pop in and warn Anne Frank the day before the Nazis found her. I could spoil it for Pip and tell him right away who his benefactor was. Tell Holden that life is beautiful and maybe he shouldn’t leave school. Convince Santiago he’s better off letting the marlin go. I’d let Huck know that Lincoln is only days from signing the Emancipation Proclamation. I could tell Eve not to bother, the apple doesn’t taste that fucking good. I’d do things like that, warn people, thus ruining all the great classics of literature, rendering them obsolete.
But I wouldn’t do any of this. I’d be the cliché. I’d drink wine with Jesus and weave me a whip and help him drive the merchants from the synagogue. I’d travel with him through Israel and try to get inside his heart and soul to learn and understand the way they worked, then try my best not to pussy out and deny him thrice like the rest of his disciples. If I lived, I’d weep.