Photo: Forever People pages (artist: Jack Kirby), Raygun Lounge, Seattle
Selected Flash Fictions
Vostok vs. Belmont Waccamaw
Missing Person Burrow Press Review
“The Song I Sing and the Book I Read”: Becoming Italian-American Italian Americana, Winter 2018.
From the essay: “To discourage me from identifying as Italian, Betty told me that I looked like her side of the family, expressed repugnance for certain foods (aglio olio in particular—this from someone who cheerfully served up dinners of pigs’ feet or pigs’ knuckles), and otherwise implied that ‘Italians’ were coarse or vulgar. Trivial quarrels had estranged her from her husband’s family, so for several crucial years, I didn’t see them at all. But regardless of these factors, I didn’t feel Polish either—especially when she and my grandmother vanished into their common tongue, sharing secrets that shut out Carmine and myself.” [Featured Poet essay, Italian Americana, Winter 2018]
My Father’s Music Our Roots Are Deep with Passion: Creative Nonfiction Collects New Essays by Italian-American Writers. Eds. Lee Gutkind & Joanna Clapps Herman. Other Press Finalist, Pirate’s Alley Faulkner Society essay award; finalist, Laura Pizer Prize in Creative Nonfiction. (Also available at JSTOR here.)
From the essay: “But my father didn’t have a choice (or ‘cherce,’ he would have said: this dated form of a Brooklyn accent followed him throughout his life). Years before, on Humboldt Street, in his childhood single-family row house, his mother shut off the radio as everyone sat down to make music, command of their instruments uncertain but their enthusiasm strong. Their father, James, worked as a solderer for Worksman’s Cycles of Ozone Park, building the Good Humor Ice Cream tricycles that rattled over New York’s streets. The household he supported wasn’t exactly prosperous but still included the upright piano around which so many families gathered. Was it music they made, or noise, wrong notes and forgotten bridges common? What were the moments, locked in memory, to which they alone had access, siblings joined by experience, tradition, blood?”
Paul Is Dead, and We’re All Listening: Rumor and Revelation, 1969 Second runner-up for the Pirate’s Alley Faulkner Society essay award; originally appeared in the issue 2 of the late, lamented webzine Die Cast Garden (re-posted at jmww).
From the essay: “To play the game of Paul Is Dead, you didn’t need a board. You only needed the Beatles’ albums, a turntable that worked, and a willingness to listen with dread and exhilaration—dread at Paul’s sad fate, exhilaration you’d helped expose it. Oddly, the Beatles’ seamlessness—that blending of identity first crucial to their success, later an outmoded burden—encouraged the spread of rumor….For listeners who wondered which lines were written by John or Paul, who marveled at how each track was layered, it was not that far a leap to suppose Paul wasn’t involved at all, or to believe the surviving Beatles could devise some elaborate hoax that relied on studio trickery and their collective authorship. With a young President reduced to the decade’s presiding ghost, with the murders of his brother and Martin Luther King, to name only a few, who, we wondered, would be next?…It seemed less reasonable to ask, ‘Why hadn’t someone killed a Beatle?’ than to assume some tragedy already had.”
Walt Whitman’s Finches Crab Orchard Review John Guyon Literary Nonfiction Prize. (At the link, click to page view 194-195 on the tool bar below the text. You can also click to download the entire issue free.)
From the essay: “I couldn’t know that night I was about to meet my sister, though I wouldn’t know her as such for six more years. Indeed, I wouldn’t find out till then I wasn’t a Balbo at all but a child, through various subterfuges, never even adopted, a legal loose end that still dangles to this day. That night, my father Carmine turned onto Prospect Avenue in a neighborhood where all the streets had been named for streets in Brooklyn, to ensure that, in my childhood, I would get to meet my sister. In mere months, we’d move to Brentwood so Kim and I could become friends and so the women raising us could find some comfort in each other.”
Selected Reviews and Critical Prose
Ned Balbo on Andrew Hudgins’ “Mary Magdalene’s Left Foot” An entry in Michael Theune and Kim Addonizio’s Voltage Poetry project.
Parnassus in Sight: a review of The Fly in the Ointment: poems by Barrymore Ashe, Joseph Harrison, Frank Hart, Vironique, Stephen Wallace. Edited and with a preface by J.H. Hobson (Syllabic Press) An essay-review that successfully evades the question, “Why is Joseph Harrison the only poet in this collection whom anyone’s ever heard of?”
The Two Dana Gioias [essay/review of Pity the Beautiful] Originally appeared in Italian Americana 30.2 (2012): 227-31.
Review of It was a terrible cloud at twilight by Alessandra Lynch (Pleiades Press). Scroll to page 1L in the American Book Review PDF.
From 1999-2009, I published poetry reviews in most issues of Antioch Review, sometimes more than one in the same issue. If you have access to JSTOR, you might click on 2000s here to have a look at them. Authors covered include Camille Dungy, Peter Everwine, Dana Gioia, Edward Hirsch, Josephine Jacobsen, Galway Kinnell, Phillis Levin, April Lindner, J. D. McClatchy, Wayne Miller, Albert Murray, Kevin Prufer, et al.