John Michael Brantingham's Blog (16)

The Top Ten Mystery Shows Ever Ever Ever

Let me start here: I expect you to disagree with me. I expect you to argue.

I also expect that there are those out there who are rolling their eyes, thinking that I should be talking about books, not television. But the thing is, when television is done well, I love it, and television has done mystery, crime, suspense, and spy thrillers well, especially well in the last ten years.…


Added by John Michael Brantingham on March 31, 2013 at 8:46am — 6 Comments

Ten Ducks and a Poet

            My friend Scott once said that bad poets get into language poetry so they can just write the word “duck” on a piece of paper ten times and be done with it.

            I don’t know if that’s necessarily true, but it feels like it.

            By way of explaining, language poetry is a movement that started with poets like Gertrude Stein and took off in the 1970s and emphasizes the way words work together instead of…


Added by John Michael Brantingham on November 28, 2012 at 6:00am — No Comments

Sam Shepard and the Close Talker

I had just finished giving a reading in Long Beach a couple of months ago and was standing a little apart from everyone. It was a hot room, and I’d been wearing a suit and speaking for a long hour, and I think people were giving me a comfortable distance because I am a sweater in the best of times. In the worst, I’m a stick of butter on a hot day.


“So you work at Mt. SAC?” someone said behind me.


I turned to find a close…


Added by John Michael Brantingham on November 21, 2012 at 6:00am — 2 Comments

New Magazines

            Despite the fact that I post on blogs, I’m kind of a Luddite, but I have to say I love what technology is doing for our local writing communities.

            It used to be that if someone without a lot of money put out a small magazine, the result they would have terrible production (which was kind of charming) and not a lot of people would know about them. I loved small magazines. It was fun to be one of the few people who read The Chiron Review or The Small…


Added by John Michael Brantingham on November 14, 2012 at 6:00am — No Comments

In My Head, I Can Still Hear the Drums

               Last year, I opened for Officer Problem, a punk band at Pizza Supreme on Nogales in West Covina. I’m a poet, and I’m used to a certain kind of audience, which isn’t exactly refined or entirely quiet, but I’m not running punk shows, after all. And the audiences for punk bands don’t exactly expect poets. They’re all sensitive people, I’m sure, but no one goes to a punk show expecting a large, middle-aged, bearded poet. Too bad. They got me.

               But it was a…


Added by John Michael Brantingham on November 7, 2012 at 6:00am — No Comments

Blessings, Bullets, and Bad Bad Men

            I like Westerns that are really just updated stories of knights or samurais. A lot of the old Spaghetti Westerns were those kinds of stories. Clint Eastwood’s man with no name in A Fist Full of Dollars was such a hero. He rides into town in the first act to see injustice, and by the end, he has vanquished the evil. I’m not giving anything away here. Everyone knows it’s going to happen. So many of those cowboys riding about in fiction are really just knights, and I love…


Added by John Michael Brantingham on October 28, 2012 at 6:00am — No Comments

Local Kid Makes Great

About a year ago, Michael Torres, one of my favorite students, came to my office and told me that he wasn’t going to be transferring for at least a year. It was a kick in the teeth. He’d been accepted to UCR’s creative writing program, which is a tremendously good program, and as a community college professor, my great joy is to see students transfer to places like that.


The problem was that he hadn’t finished the last math class he’d need to transfer. It’s a common problem…


Added by John Michael Brantingham on October 21, 2012 at 6:00am — No Comments

A Case of Home Town Blues

            W. S. Gager’s A Case of Hometown Blues follows Mitch Malone, award winning journalist, as he returns to the chaos and evil of the Michigan town where he grew up. Malone is a success out in the larger world, but when he comes home, he – like the rest of us – reverts back to the social status he had when he was in high school. And like for most of us, that’s not good.

            While he’s dealing with this reversion, he also has to deal with the murder of his old…


Added by John Michael Brantingham on October 14, 2012 at 5:30am — No Comments

Teacher at Point Blank

Neil Webb had been my teacher and my colleague. He was used and eventually discarded by an educational system permeated by the belief that all teachers should be heroic, obedient, and utterly dedicated to their jobs and students every day of their work-lives, often at the expense of their personal lives. But this “perfect teacher” fantasy does not make allowances for imperfection or dissatisfaction. And asking a teacher to perform in this way ignores the passions and ambivalences that draw…


Added by John Michael Brantingham on September 28, 2012 at 5:30am — No Comments

In Pursuit of Poetry -- Postmark Atlantis

Anyone who has met Paul Tayyar, a local poet and author of the books Scenes from a Good Life and Everyday Magic, likes him. It’s impossible not to. There is a genuine kindness and caring that comes through for anyone talking to him that I don’t know that I’ve ever seen…


Added by John Michael Brantingham on September 7, 2012 at 5:30am — No Comments

OTP Blogs

I'm proud to be mentioned on Oak Tree Press's blog. A Friday round up includes all of their author's latest blogs. Interviews with Lawrence Block, Alafair Burke, Chris Grabenstein, and Sunny Frazier and one author is asking for insomnia cures.

Added by John Michael Brantingham on September 5, 2012 at 6:27am — No Comments

Long Beach Poetry

Last night, I went to this month’s After the Carnival reading in Long Beach. It was the book launch for Michael Buckley’s new short story collection, Miniature Men, from World Parade Books. Tonight, I’ll be…


Added by John Michael Brantingham on August 28, 2012 at 5:30am — No Comments

Notes from Los Angeles

Last night, I drove to Beyond Baroque, a literary mecca in Venice, to see Ara Shirinyan speak. Ara teaches with me at Mt. SAC, and he writes poetry. Lately, he has been writing found poems almost exclusively.


Found poets are people who find their poetry in other people’s writing. They find a phrase or even paragraph and turn it into poetic form as a way to observe the world. It sounds like a short cut to writing – possibly even…


Added by John Michael Brantingham on August 21, 2012 at 5:30am — No Comments

Doonan's intense American Caliphate!

Years ago, I dropped out of a Ph.D. program in literature at UCR for a number of reasons. I was working towards a dissertation on Rex Stout, but I realized that this wasn’t the world for me. I can’t remember why I thought I should get a Ph.D. in the first place. I already had an MFA in fiction. Maybe it had something to do with wanting to get a job.
Anyway, I do remember why I dropped out. There were about ten reasons, but one of them was that I love literature. But as much as I…

Added by John Michael Brantingham on August 16, 2012 at 5:01am — No Comments

Group Dynamics

            This is going to sound quaint or trite or maudlin or something, but sometimes it shocks me how much talent there is in my little part of the world. I suppose that talent exists many places, but I see it all the time in my students and my friends. Someone writes a poem and I see the world in a new and shocking way, and I see new stylistic writing choices as well. It all changes my writing for the better more so than any other kind of reading.

            I’m a zealot when…


Added by John Michael Brantingham on August 14, 2012 at 5:30am — No Comments

My Life on an Egg Timer

Let me start with an admission: I'm a workaholic.

Anyone who knows me knows that much about me.

If you're not a workaholic, then you don't know what down time can be like for us. My paycheck says that I'm a community college professor, and my hours during the school year are pretty regimented. That's not a bad thing. I always know where I'm supposed to be and what I'm supposed to be doing on a minute by minute basis, and I can fit in my passions -- writing and now…


Added by John Michael Brantingham on July 16, 2012 at 5:09am — No Comments

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