This evening, my new chapbook, Letters From Room 27 of the Grand Midway Hotel was released by the lovely Blood Pudding Press
6 years ago my poetry mentor Michael Dennison invited me and a number of his other students to an event called Kerouac Fest at the Grand Midway Hotel in the town of Windber, Pennsylvania. My son was two months old at the time, and even tinier than the average newborn as he had been born two months prematurely. Nevertheless, I decided to go and take my little one with me, and every day I am glad that I did. In the years that have followed I have grown to love the Grand Midway Hotel and the amazing, beautiful, enchanting people who live there, who pass through, and who, like me, consider the hotel to be their second home.
Letters From Room 27 of the Grand Midway Hotel has taken me 5 years to write, and when I started I wasn't aware that I had. The title poem was the first poem I wrote, and it was originally 7 pages long. I wrote it in one sitting with a manual Smith Corona typewriter named Stewart and a bottle of ice wine in room 27 (which is now filmmaker, novelist, host, and beautiful friend Blair Murphy's office). I still have the typewriter, though the wine was gone in about an hour. The rest of the poems were all written with typewriters (though the alcohol content was more varied), and, at least in the case of the older ones, often after one too many viewings of Gothic.
This chapbook is ultimately a long love poem to the Grand Midway. It's creepy and dark and more than a little fucked up in places, but I'm okay with that. I am eternally grateful to Juliet Cook for the huge amount of work she has put into this chapbook. Blood Pudding Press is the press I envisioned putting out Letters From Room 27, and I know that I am extremely lucky for that to have happened. Below I've added the title poem as a teaser to the rest of the chapbook.
Letters from Room 27 of the Grand Midway Hotel
I know I’m not the only one who dreams
of watching all the boys who almost fucked me commit suicide, Claire says.
A bullet to the brain and it doesn’t matter if they finger-banged me,
laid in my bed, cock out and unmuzzled.
They had gunpowder fingers and she used to think she was water
to make them moist and useless for weeks,
but she cries for men who kiss her there in Pennsylvania’s belly,
mouths open, and think of New York.
She stays upstairs and drinks late harvest wine,
reads love letters not meant for her. She never gets letters.
She gets boxed wine, calloused feet, and panties covered in blood.
She gets spanked and smokes up in the monkey’s room
when flies pile on the windowsills in mustard gas heaps,
when she is soggy and her mouth is caving in.
After each sex act she turns back into a woman,
stiff-laced and dressed like a puritan. Ripped at the knees,
she calls herself Gorgeous when she is alone at night,
face buried in the pillow, holding her breath.
She drums herself to sleep,
draws her skin taught and slaps the stretch marks.
She would rather break her nails on typewriter keys
than make her legs a kickstand to hold up men
who cannot see the violin carved into the back of her skull.
They write her lines of poetry and they take off their pants.
They tell her they never have casual sex
in the same breath, and she is somehow undone.
She is the girl with her heels sliced off,
a closed fist and a four leaf clover
that blooms like her chest.
She has no secrets on her skin in a closet not her own.
She sits dumb and numb in the half-cold morning,
feels dirt in her hair, in every crease of her body.
Last night she collapsed in on herself, dried to a husk and crumbling.
she woke up cold, she slept cold, and this morning
she will cross the stream from hotel to metal graveyard,
baptize herself in sulfur and mud.
She will throw herself into the husks of train cars, and eat paint chips
that slough off the ceiling. She will break a window in every car.
She will show you just how afraid she is.
I think I grew old in one of the lifetimes I lived in my head.
If you want to read more, I've already linked a couple of times but will do so once more! Blood Pudding Press and Letters From Room 27 of the Grand Midway Hotel are on etsy. I absolutely encourage you to support the publisher, the lady Juliet. I will be visiting her briefly this weekend, so if you order a copy in the next few days I can personalize it!
Also, I have been even more lucky, because my dear friend Kevin Ross took photos with me at the Midway about a month ago, and has graciously printed (and then cut out by hand - bless him) small, delicious photos to slip into all of the chapbooks. They add another dimension to the chapbook that I am so very, very pleased with. The prize in the Crackerjack box, as Kevin put it.
Thank you to everyone who has supported, inspired, and encouraged me, this manuscript, and the hotel. I can't name everyone because I would be here all night (and I really should sleep at some point), but special special thanks to: Blair Murphy, Juliet Cook, Kevin Ross, Michael Dennison, Skot Jones, Mihnea Vasilescu, Adam Blai, Sarah Ireland, Crystal Hoffman, Dylan Fornoff, Deanna Dolges Kane, Martha and all the other ghosts, Manuel Ibarra, Stephanie Conrad, Joey Bertolasio, Damien Youth, and Kevin Bean. If it sounds like I am a silly, gushing girl, then I am. And I'm okay with that, too.