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Just out in Chicken Soup for the Soul’s The Power of Forgiveness: “Flag Waving for Beginners.”


A couple months I got an email, subject line “Your Writing in Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Power of Forgiveness.” It said my writing was being considered for inclusion in an upcoming anthology. I didn’t recognize the title, but figured it might have been the thing I wrote about the flag my sister gave to me after our father’s ashes had been scattered at sea.

It was, and I liked the new title as well. And now it’s out. The Chicken Soup people sent me 10 copies of the book and a check–a check!–for $200. If only every anthology could do that for their writers.

Anyway, order your copy 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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Bohemian chastity.

British boy band Boyzone performing a Queen medley, c. 2010-2011.

Is this the real life? Is this just fantasy?

Music streaming service Spotify recently conducted a study that found, among other things, that one in three people could name a song that was “better than sex.” Topping the list? “Bohemian Rhapsody,” the British rock band Queen’s mock-opera opus, released in 1975 and now a singing competition staple for melismatics everywhere.

Spotify’s Science Behind the Song Study, conducted by Daniel Müllensiefen, a music psychologist at Goldsmiths, University of London, asked 2,000 people ages 18 to 91 in Great Britian about music and sex. The best music to get in the mood or for a romantic dinner? Marvin Gaye and Barry White. To flirt on the dance floor? Abba’s “Dancing Queen.” During the dirty deed? Anything from the Dirty Dancing soundtrack. Out of the 20 songs considered “better than sex,” four are by Queen. Thunderbolt and lightning! This leads me to a couple of my own conclusions:

1. Queen fans are all too eager to volunteer for studies.
2. Queen fans in the United Kingdom need to get out more.
3. Sex isn’t that big of a deal for English people, at least after hearing “Bohemian Rhapsody” hundreds of times.

As a lifelong Queenologist, I’m often asked to issue my opinion whenever the band enters the public consciousness. I relish this role of Queen griot in my social media village, fielding GIFs, lipdubs, and parodies. Hey, what do you think about surviving members of Queen play at the London Olympics closing ceremonies? Touching, I say. And Sacha Baron Coen portraying the late Freddie Mercury in an upcoming biopic? Intriguing, I will reply.

But better than sex? Some folks would rather scaramouche and do the fandango than do the nasty?

The notion isn’t so far-fetched. For years, I found myself in the Bohemian Rhapsody-is-better-than-sex camp. Granted, those years also coincided with my not yet experiencing sex, but still. Songs that made the better-than-sex list, head researcher Müllensiefen said, can all be considered “epic masterpieces.” “Bohemian Rhapsody” certainly qualifies as epic: six-minutes that begin a capella, moves into ballad, guitar solo, mock opera, headbanging and ends with a gong. Its narrator confesses to his mama he’s “just killed a man,” perhaps goes on trial and escapes, then resigns to his fate. The opera section mentions Beelzebub and Bismallah and Galileo and Figaro. By the end, all that’s missing is a cigarette and a sandwich.

Taken this way, the iconic scene from Wayne’s World where five dudes bang their heads in Pacer could be seen as the Brokeback Mountain of car sing-alongs.

In the U.K., where Queen rank second to the Beatles, they take their Bohemian Rhapsody seriously. In a 2004 BBC special on the song, producers gathered English dons in the Oxford Union to parse the lyric’s meaning.

“We’ve got aching and more or less sexual sensations going on,” one don says with a straight face. “And indeed the structure of the lyrics trace a kind of sexual rhythm, I think. And it ends up not in some nihilistic position, but simply in a state of careless, indifferent post-coital exhaustion.”

Writing about sex, Martin Mull once famously said, is like dancing about architecture. Comparing music to sex is like comparing shaking hands to video games, or haircuts to Malcolm Gladwell, or Twitter to stuffed animals.

“Marvin Gaye is key to success when it comes to seducing a partner in the bedroom,” Angela Watts from Spotify said in their release, “and if you don’t have a partner, we can highly recommend Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody!”

What the lonelyhearts want from their sex-surrogate playlists, I fear, embody what made them lonely in the first place: unreasonable, epic expectations. Music has always been central to lovers everywhere. Maybe we should advocate a strict three-minute limit for celibate Spotify users.

Do they have cookies for that?

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I’m the featured literary human at Albany Public Library’s Fall Book and Author Event on November 17.

So I’m presenting and reading for the Friends of  Albany Public Library on Saturday, November 17. If you’re around, for $20 you get “good food” luncheon, then I’ll read some new and old work and talk a bit about being an author, Roland Barthes be damned. Details below. The reading itself is free. Here’s the flyer in pdf form, suitable for framing.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Friends of Albany Public Library’s Fall Book & Author Event

Daniel Nester, Assoc. Professor of English at the College of St. Rose. Head of the MFA program & Frequency North. Poet, essayist & editor. Downstairs Lounge, University Club, 141 Washington Avenue, Albany, 1:15 PM. Free and open to the public 12pm Luncheon Buffet University Club, 141 Washington Avenue Good Food for $20.00

Checks payable to the Friends of Albany Public Library may be sent to the Friends of Albany Public Library, 161 Washington Avenue, Albany, 12210. Reservations by Tuesday, November 13, 2012. For more information, please contact Paul Hacker,

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