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A special deal if you buy The Incredible Sestina Anthology now!


You knew this post was coming, didn’t you? The holiday shopping season is ramping up, and I’ve got my final grades in, and there’s a book to pimp.

Well, guess what? Here it goes. Fasten your seatbelts; it’s going to be a bumpy blog post.

This book, The Incredible Sestina Anthology? It’s beautiful. Over 300 pages. No one has named it yet, but it’s the best poetry anthology to come out in 2013. It has a good chunk of canonical sestinas from American poets, as well as some super-dynamite contemporary poets’ sestinas. It lists for $25 dollars.

For the poet-friend in your life, or the creative type who is looking for a new form for their work, or general inspiration, this is the book to get them this year. Buy it for your doorman or the precocious teenager. Wherever you buy it, be it Powell’s, Amazon, an indie store, or from the publisher, Write Bloody Publishing, the recipient will not be disappointed.

It slices. It dices. It juliennes. It spirals. It sestina-fies anything you put inside of it.

butwait2That’s right. There’s more. If you send me a photo of you with the book before you wrap it up for a present–or perhaps you’re buying it for yourself, some selfish retail therapy; either way, it’s good–and I’ll write you a poem. And not just any poem–I will write you a crappy sestina. That’s right–I will craft you a rushed, crappy sestina, inspired in part by the photo you send and whatever else is going on in my brain. The turnaround time will be 24 hours from the time you send me the photo to danielnester at gmail. I’ll mail you a hand-written sestina as well as a digital copy.

This offer expires on December 20, because by then I will be so overwhelmed writing crappy sestinas, I will need a break.

If you’ve read this far you must really want to get the book. So get it! Buy multiple fucking copies! And get your Incredible Sestina Anthology and crappy sestina today!

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Follow and help with my “Double Clap Single Clap” Spotify list.

I love songs that use the double-clap single-clap. You know, that thing? Sometimes it’s used in the whole song, other times it’s in the bridge or the intro or outro.

No matter where it is, I love it.

So I started making a Spotify list to help put them all in one spot. The Cars’ “My Best Friend’s Girl.” Hall and Oates’ “Private Eyes.” J. Geils’ “Centerfold.” The Kingsmen’s “Louie Louie.” Sometimes it’s down in the mix, other times right in the hook.

There are limitations to Spotify, of course–no Beatles or Led Zeppelin–but what I have there, with the help of record nerds and Facebook friends is pretty good. Do you know others? Help a Double Clap Single Clap brother out. And follow along as we add songs.



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Stuff I’m doing at the #AWP13 Conference in Boston.


The annual overwhelming overload of writerly writerness, or AWP, is upon us. It’s in Boston, and I’ll be there minding a table, taking part in readings, and trying to stay sane while doing same.

Here’s a list.

Every Day: The Table-Minding. I’ll be minding the table of The College of Saint Rose MFA in Creative Writing Program.

Our table number will be G9 in the AWP bookfair. Stop by!

Wednesday, March 6, 5:30-10:30pm
Festival of Language at Dillon’s in Boston (next to the Hyne’s convention center). Three 90-minute sessions. There will be a cash and carry bar. I’m kicking off the third set at 9pm. Facebook event page.
Thursday, March 7, 7pm
Reading to celebrate Old Flame: The First Ten Years of 32 PoemsMcGreevey’s, 911 Boylston Street, Boston, MA 02111. Event held in the Player’s Lounge. Facebook event page.

Friday, March 8, 12pm-1pm
Make sure you get your copy of Coming Close: Forty Essays on Philip Levine, which will be available at the University of Iowa Press tables (E1 and E2) at the AWP Bookfair. Co-editors Mari L’Esperance and Tomas Q. Morin will be signing books. I’ll be there admiring copies as well.

Saturday, March 9, 4:30pm
Hating Your Writing: A Love Story (AWP panel)

4:30pm A panel! An actual panel! During the last period on the last day!

Hating Your Writing: A Love Story (AWP panel); Room 305 in the John B. Hynes Veterans Memorial Convention Center in Boston, MassachusettsFacebook event page; with Richard Bausch, Molly Peacock, Daniel Nester, and Adrian Matejka, and moderated by Melissa Stein.

We’ve all been through it: we write the last euphoric word of our draft, but by the next morning, somehow brilliance has plummeted to dross. Are such literary mood swings a destructive deterrent, or a natural part of the creative process? Can periods of avoidance and dejection actually lead to breakthroughs and better writing? Five award-winning poets and prose writers weigh in on the ups, downs, and ups of creative endeavor and share insights, strategies, and tools they’ve gained along the way.

Saturday, March 9

Write Bloody’s AWP All Star Super Ridiculous Super Reading!

The Community Church of Boston 565 Boylston St. (A 7-minute walk from Hynes Convention Center!) $7, $5 Students and Veterans

Never before have this many Write Bloody authors been in one geographic location. We are pulling out each and every stop to put on a live literature event to be remembered for years to come. But let’s not get nostalgic for the present JUST YET! Join your hosts Derrick Brown and Cristin O’Keefe Aptowicz for a high-stakes evening of poems, music, heartbreak, and (almost) TOO many hard-wrought good times.

Featuring: Anis Mojgani! Mindy Nettifee! Derrick Brown! Jeanann Verlee! Jon Sands! Cristin O’Keefe-Aptowicz! Buddy Wakefield! Taylor Mali! Lauren Zuniga! Laura Yes Yes! Jade Sylvan! Victor Infante! Lea Deschenes! Elaina Ellis! Jeremy Radin! Daniel McGinn! Daniel Nester! Megan Falley! Miles Walser! w/ special musical guest Gracious Calamity! & on the keyboard, Mr. Adam Falkner!

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My 16-bar rap challenge.

We all rapped 16 bars in my Poetry in Performance class tonight. It’s a new assignment, and since they were all nervous I wrote and performed as well. The directions were to write 16 bars, or lines, or 8 rhyming couplets, to the instrumental track of “Nuthin’ But a G Thang” by Dr. Dre and Snoop Dogg. The students all came with their rhymes and took a turn on the mike. It was evident they practiced, and they did great.

It’s a super way to learn how to compress and elongate lines of poems for performance, as well as being fearless as a performer. I am, however, kind of sick of the ‘G Thang’ groove, at least for now.

Lyrics follow.


It’s my classroom so I ask your attention

Preaching mothafuckas like a Baptist convention.

Droppin’ funky lessons make the sucka teachers mumble

When I’m on the mic, sucka profs they all crumble.

Try and get close, your brain’ll get smacked

My mothafuckin knowledge cause an asthma attack.

That’s ‘cause I never slip my lesson plans,

Got a Honda-full of handouts to help the short attention spans.

My class is democratic, sporadic, Hippocratic,

Aristocratic, never bureaucratic–

Yeah, and ya’ don’t stop

I told you I’m like Rick Roll when I rock

tweed jacket elbow patches but not stodgy

Never gonna mack it with a dodgy pedagogy

Drinkin’ Bacardi like a Wall Street investor

My name is Prof. D and the last name is Nester


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Kentucky Prophet perform’s “Now I Know,” Daniel Nester-themed battle rap from two sources.

Partial screen shot from Rap Rebirth website.

At long last, I present the Daniel Nester battle rap, “Now You Know” performed by Kentucky Prophet, with lyrics from Richard Allen and Jesse from Rap Rebirth.

The backstory to this track goes like this. Back in April, I wrote about a post at We Who Are About To Die about a story in The Awl, which tells the story of Jesse Kramer’s startup company Rap Rebirth, which provides “custom hip hop lyrics.”

You can shell out $24.99 for a “custom 16-bar sample,” which sounded like fun. So I did. In the add ask about “expectations” (see right), sort of a design brief. I asked for a “battle rap.” Self-referential and stuff. Here’s part of what I wrote:

If you could integrate my name somehow (Daniel Nester), mention I am a professor, a writer, a husband and father of two little girls, and otherwise include as much profanity as you can, that would be great. PS Oh, and I am strictly LL and Tribe and PE. Just FYI.

In the comments box, fellow writer and occasional We Who Are About To Die blogger Richard Allen wrote, “Although I think $25 is much too cheap for a 16-bar verse, I would write you one for free, Dan.”

So he did.

The Rap Rebirth lyrics came, then Richard’s, complete with guide vocal.  I had 32 lines of battle rap lyrics. But I can’t rap. I lack flow.

A couple days later, I tweeted how I would like to find and MC to make this shit come alive. Writer Erin Keane mentioned her friend Kentucky Prophet, and after checking out his stuff and emailing back and forth he seemed to be a perfect candidate. I sent him my Queen books.

A couple weeks later in may mailbox comes an mp3 file entitled “Now You Know.”

“You will find a neat bit of sampling on this song,” he wrote. “You’ll know it when you hear it.”

Of course I did. They sampled and sped-up a snippet of Freddie Mercury singing “now I know” from Queen’s “The Prophet’s Song,” from A Night At The Opera.

His friend Russell Brooks helped him produce this. “I should mention that I took a minor amount of liberty with the verses in order to make them fit the meter and tempo of the song. I would say I got it about 95% accurate.”

Hearing one’s own custom-written and -rapped hip hop anthem has many layers and signifiers and signified, I’m not sure how to unpack it at this point. All I know is, I rule Albany.

I  might be pushing my luck on the work-for-free-front, but a video for this would be pretty cool. We’ll see.

Here are the lyrics I presented to Mr. Prophet all those weeks ago.

Richard Allen’s lyrics

It’s motherfucking Nester from the woods of Jersey.
When I do a reading, better reimburse me.
Freddie Mercury? Own every LP.
Penning many poems like my name was H.D.

My goddamn students are overjoyed
To take my classes and to avoid
A professional curriculum, and then annoyed
To graduate and be unemployed.

But it’s still my objective each semester
To touch more kids than a child molester.
Though I don’t play. GPA? Don’t tempt me.
The name is Nester, but the threat’s not empty.

I got a wife and I reproduce
So I blow a lot of dough on apple juice
And disposable diapers. When the kids get hyper,
It’s time out, bitches. I’m a time out sniper.

But my rhymes stay tighter than a lit mag stiffing a writer
Out of two bucks. I do not give two fucks.
Criticize my op-ed? Fuckers, you can drop dead.
That’s my policy. I run Albany.

Rap Revival Lyrics (i.e., the $24.99 one)

Check it motherfuckers sucker bloggers call me sire
Finger fucking words til the day that I retire
Higher than ya lame brained self-inflated ego
Spitting acid rain while you tryna take a free throw

A crazy rap animal, a cannibal of brilliance
A lazier Scorsese with mechanical resilience
Ill since A Tribe played it live on Arsenio
Married dad of two spittin’ game at a skinny hoe

Name’s Professor Nester, I chronicle my own life
Sharp as a rusty fork cutting through a butter knife
Much to your chagrin I win, I’ve never heard of sin
Potent as a pickled fart, you farting in the wind

Inappropriate on opiates with Opie drinking goat’s milk
Shitting on your sofa without an ounce of guilt
Silk smooth, I move like a tampon in the Red Sea
Coffee with Gaddafi, and Ill Kim brought the lychee

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Coming Close: Forty Essays on Philip Levine, coming out May 2013.

Really excited to be a part of this book project. I’ve been thinking a lot about how I became a writer and a poet, people who inspired me, teachers who really affected me. Philip Levine is one of those people. I wrote an essay over sabbatical called ” “An Apprentice’s Tale” that will appear in this collection.

Here are the details:

Coming Close: Forty Essays on Philip Levine Edited by Mari L’Esperance and Tomás Q. Morín Prairie Lights Books, 2013.

Contributors: Aaron Belz, Ciaran Berry, Paula Bohince, Shane Book, B. H. Boston, Xochiquetzal Candelaria, Colin Cheney, Michael Clifton, Michael Collier, Nicole Cooley, Kate Daniels, Blas Manuel de Luna, Kathy Fagan, Andrew Feld, Nick Flynn, Edward Hirsch, Sandra Hoben, Ishion Hutchinson, Lawson Fusao Inada, Dorianne Laux, Joseph O. Legaspi, Mark Levine, Larry Levis, Ada Limón, Elline Lipkin, Jane Mead, Dante Micheaux, Malena Mörling, John Murillo, Daniel Nester, Sharon Olds, January Gill O’Neil, Greg Pape, Kathleen Peirce, Sam Pereira, Jeffrey Skinner, Tom Sleigh, David St. John, Brian Turner, Robert Wrigley

University of Iowa Press | Amazon | Powell’s | Barnes and Noble

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More questions from a college student I answered just now about God Save My Queen.

I just have a few questions about 2 of your poems, “The Loser in the End” and “Another One Bites the Dust.” What are they about? What were you thinking or feeling when you wrote them?

I can’t say with certainty what I was thinking while writing and revising and editing these pieces, other than was was re-listening to each Queen song really closely and taking notes. If the note-taking language took on some other quality—lyrical, sound or sense, rhythm—then I kept it, and worked on its placement. The pieces are prose, but I tried to stick with a 3-3-1 one typographical line. At first I just liked how it looked. It was like two three-line stanzas along with what I called, at least to myself, a “heroic singlet,” which I saw a send-off from one piece to the next. God it’s been so long I’ve thought about all this. Almost 10 years!

Here’s Loser in the End, along with my commentary.

Image and opposite, the family.

The album cover has a “black” and a “white” side. You’re too young to have experienced vinyl as the main music format, but Queen II has a black-and-white scheme to it. I thought about how images have negatives, op

Freddie Mercury and Todd Rundgren, c. 1976.

posite, and how DNA strands produce opposite, family genetics. I’m not a biology major, but it was what I remembered from, like, high school along with some medical reporting I was doing at the time.

The rumbling.

The song was written and sung by Roger Taylor, the band’s drummer, and it’s almost a cliche in any band’s repertoire that, when the drummer’s song is included, it would be drum-heavy. I’m thinking of “Moby Dick,” an instrumental Led Zeppelin tune that’s a showcase for the late John Bonham’s drumming. Continue reading

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