Harsh Realm: My 1990s

My Store (for signed copies) | Indolent Books | Amazon

Harsh Realm: My 1990s, just out from Brooklyn-based Indolent Books, collects poems that center on the decade of fax machines and grunge through the lens of a speaker coming to terms with young adulthood and trying to make their way as a writer in New York City.

Excerpts and press

  • Ben Tanzer reviews Harsh Realm: My 1990s in LitReactor: “a terribly moving mixtape journey through that no longer quite so recent decade, the music of the time, heavy metal and punk especially, New York City, another pretty great American City, and Philadelphia, certainly underappreciated, the poetry scene, parenthood, and all of which is presented with an unavoidable darkness if not outright sadness.”
  • “Daniel Nester’s Playlist for His Poetry Collection ‘Harsh Realm’,” at Largehearted Boy, December 1, 2022
  • “It’s Raining Spiders in Brazil,” featured on Verse Daily, November 2, 2022.
  • “Intersections of Style and Intentionality: Retconning the Harsh Realm of the 1990s with Daniel Nester,” an interview with poet and musician Chris Stroffolino on his Thing, October 21, 2022.
  • “I Met Liz Phair Once,” Poems from Daniel Nester’s new 90s collection, Harsh Realm. Appears in Oldster, Sari Botton’s Substack publication. Includes a short introduction to the book as well as three poems: “I met Liz Phair once,” as well as two other poems: “Künstlerroman, 1996” and “Wednesdays, 1997-1999”
  • Liz Phair read “I met Liz Phair once,” and enjoyed its ‘quality nostalgia’!
  • “The death of college rock: September 5, 1995”; “On Realizing Poison’s ‘Every Rose Has Its Thorn’ Has the Same Chords as the Replacements’ ‘Here Comes a Regular’,” Electric Literature’s The Commuter
  • “Poem Written at Pete’s Candy Store Ending with a Line from Madonna”; “Nostalgia Ain’t What It Used to Be”; and “Pompous Symmetry,” American Poetry Review
  • “Lower Broadway Wednesdays, 1997-1999”; “Künstlerroman, 1996,” Tribes, A Gathering of the Tribes
  • This Podcast Will Change Your Life, Episode Three Hundred and Four with Daniel Nester
  • “[I can’t even say punk was important, even as it happened,]”; “Hello, Dolly”; “On the Meeting of Frank O’Hara and David Lee Roth”; “Debate Outside Four-Faced Liar, 2003”; “This Is Not a List Poem,” Court Green
  • “to the heckler at my first poetry reading, 1994,” Failbetter
  • “Future Days”“Minutes Overheard from The Vagueness Society Holiday Party,” Matter Monthly
  • “Heavy metal did not die in ’91,” The Daily Drunk
  • “Week One Introductions, 1997,” Rejection Letters
  • “Nineties Catchphrease Cento Sonnet,” Unlost
  • “Gethsemane,” The Good Men Project
  • “Lines composed after being told by a poet I should ‘go out in nature more often and look at chipmunks’”; “Placed into The Abyss: After Pavement’s ‘Cut Your Hair,’” The Daily Drunk
  • “A List of Famous People I Saw in New York City, c. 1994-2001,” The Daily Drunk “The Failed Saratoga Colonic Fable,” Bennington Review
  • “Looks That Kill,” The Hopkins Review
  • “The Art of Prose (With Digressions),” Unbroken
  • “Rig Rundown”; “That Twat with Jazz Hands Won’t Stop Dancing”; “Sentences on The Poem and Other Sentences”; “The Plan Shifted with a Ferocious Snap VI,” Word For/Word
  • “Road House Monologue,” FreezeRay Poetry
  • Saratoga Living‘s 2022 “Holiday Book List”

Advance praise

Daniel Nester’s Harsh Realm is a masterpiece of poetic time travel that lets us breathe differently, breathe into a time that has no beginning or middle or end; time that is an orb of music and emotion and language and heartbeat and that comes out of an unquenchable desire to love. Daniel Nester is working at his highest poetic powers in these poems.—Matthew Lippman, from the foreword

“All I’ve ever done is sing along,” writes Daniel Nester in Harsh Realm. Equal parts music ethnography, punk protest, and homage to the New York School, this ingenious collection takes us on a rollicking tour of the “layered decade” of the 90s to present day with poems that refuse nostalgia and ironic detachment to deliver up the real miracle: an anthem with the power to save.—Virginia Konchan

Daniel Nester’s Harsh Realm is a mixtape of poems weirdly paired with songs of the time, like playing TLC’s “Waterfalls” on repeat while waiting for the results of his first AIDS test. Nester describes with love the shifting trends in 90s music, and exploring that emerging sense of self, part young poser, part earnest observer of the New York City poetry punk scenes. From the fall of the Berlin Wall to an Irish bar in the West Village, Nester details with humor and vulnerability his own emergence into adulthood. Word to your mother.—Tracey Knapp

Shader: 99 Notes on Car Washes, Making Out in Church, Grief, and Other Unlearnable Subjects

My Store | Bookshop | AmazonBarnes & NobleSmall Press Distribution | Powells

In 2013, Daniel Nester’s estranged father died penniless and alone in a small apartment in Tucson. The news brought back a flood of memories about Mike Nester, an enigmatic truck driver with a genius IQ, who influenced Daniel’s worldview with conspiracy theories, philosophy books, and something called “The Nester Curse.”

Told in short chapters, Shader: 99 Notes on Car Washes, Making Out in Church, Grief, and Other Unlearnable Subjects is a semi-comic coming-of-age story of a music-obsessed Catholic boy who searches for a new identity outside of Maple Shade, N.J., a blue-collar town straight out of a Bruce Springsteen song and where Martin Luther King, Jr. was once thrown out of a bar at gunpoint. The town’s rough-and-tumble inhabitants, called Shaders, don’t suffer record nerds like Daniel gladly, and eventually punk rock and poetry saves his life.

A story of redemption and working through grief, Shader tells the story of what it means to leave a place that never leaves you.

Excerpts and press

Shader affectingly explores youthful pain without retroactive adult resentments of the sort that can curdle into self-pity. Wit is the author’s default instead.—Philadelphia Inquirer

Shader’s biggest impact upon us is how utterly relatable it is. The experiences with finding oneself amidst an environment that seems stifling and rich with characters all at once is well-worn literary territory that Nester manages to make seem completely new…and familiar to our own experiences.—Philebrity

Praise for Shader

A 2016 Firecracker Award Finalist! A Small Press Distribution best-seller! A Flavorwire staff pick!

Nester takes us on the ride of his life, and we uncover pieces of ourselves along the way…an engaging read.—Billy Squier, singer/songwriter

My God! What would we do without Daniel Nester’s irreverence, obsessions and bizarre and wonderful charm. The book you hold in your hands is fantastic.—Darcey Steinke, author of Sister Golden Hair and Easter Everywhere

Shader is that rare book that manages to be hilarious, poetic, insightful, and compulsively readable all at the same time. Daniel Nester has the gifts to turn a time, a town, into both a dream and a place that feels like home, with some of the most potent characters I can think of in recent literature. I couldn’t put it down.—Paul Lisicky, author of The Narrow Door and Famous Builder

If you’re feeling lost…you better find somebody
And if you’re looking for truth…don’t tell lies
—Billy Squier, “The Pursuit of Happiness”

The Incredible Sestina Anthology

Amazon | Write Bloody | Powell’s | Bookshop

The sestina is one of the world’s oldest literary forms. It’s also one of the most tricked-out and wacky: six words appear at the end of 39 lines over the course of six, six-line stanzas and a three-line finale. Since it was invented 700 years ago, people keep writing them.

Why? Because of the challenge it presents poets to experiment with a six-pack of words and a spiral-based secret code hidden inside.

For this incredible anthology, poet and editor Daniel Nester has brought together more than 100 sestinas. Here, in all their glory, are poets from all schools and stripes who have taken the sestina challenge, from Sherman Alexie to Louis Zukofsky and everywhere in between:

  • sestina classics from John Ashbery, Elizabeth Bishop, Ezra Pound, Anthony Hecht, Donald Justice, and Marilyn Hacker
  • modern masterpieces from David Lehman, Patricia Smith, James Cummins, Sandra Beasley, Quincy Troupe and Anne Waldman
  • double sestinas from Denise Duhamel, Ernest Hilbert and Star Black
  • Matt Madden and Casey Camp’s comics sestina
  • Florence Cassen Mayers’s minimalist takes
  • Jonah Winter’s world-famous “Bob” sestina
  • selections from Nester’s picks as sestinas editor at McSweeney’s Internet Tendency, from Rick Moody, David Trinidad, Rachel Shukert, Alfred Corn and Steve Almond
  • and much, much more!

With comments from contributors that take us “Behind the Sestina,” The Incredible Sestina Anthology is a greatest hits collection of this incredible form.

Incredible Sestina Press

“I’m just going to say it: The Incredible Sestina Anthology is incredible. Here the sestina, “formerly dismissed as nonsense,” emerges as a tour de force form that, crafted well, can handle comedy and tragedy, obsession and indecency, and, of course, the sacred and the profane. The Incredible Sestina Anthologyhas everything, and by “everything,” I mean sestinas.”—Saara Myrene Raappana, American Book Review

How to Be Inappropriate

Amazon | Powell’s | Barnes & Noble | iTunes

My fourth book is a collection of humorous nonfiction, and was published in 2010. Perhaps you’re looking for an objective description of the book?

An objective description of the book

Dry, offbeat, and mostly profane, this debut collection of humorous nonfiction glorifies all things inappropriate and TMI.

Arguments, lists, barstool rants, queries, pedantic footnotes, play scripts, commonplace miscellany, profiles, and overly revealing memoirettes, How to Be Inappropriate adds up to the portrait of a twenty-something-become-thirty-something, bachelor-become husband, boy-man-about-town who bumbles through life obsessed with one thing: extreme impropriety.

In How to Be Inappropriate, Daniel Nester determines the boundary of acceptable behavior—mostly by disregarding it. As a here-to-cut-a-hipster-swathe-through-the-city man, he looks for love with a Williamsburg abstract painter who has had her feet licked for money. As a teacher, he tries out curse words with Chinese students in ESL classes. Along the way, Nester provides a short cultural history of mooning and attempts to cast a spell on a neighbor who fails to curb his dog. He befriends exiled video-game king Todd Rogers, and reimagines Terry Gross’s Fresh Air conversation with—and invents a robot version of—Kiss bassist Gene Simmons.

No matter which misadventure catches your eye, How to Be Inappropriate will make you appreciate that someone else has experienced these embarrassing sides of life so that you won’t have to.

What have smart people with a sense of humor said about the book?

What smart people with a sense of humor said about the book

“[A] deeply funny new collection of booger-flecked nonfiction”—Time Out New York

A “deeply funny new collection of booger-flecked nonfiction…While all of these lowbrow reflections are amusing, it’s when Nester is semiserious that he’s at his best….As a whole, How to Be Inappropriate reads like a coming-of-age tale in which adulthood arrives with a refreshingly juvenile mind-set.”—Time Out New York

“His stories are, as the title suggests, inappropriate, and they often engender squeamishness, discomfort, and laughter. But they are fresh and, at times, touching, qualities that make this an enjoyable read…Recommended for readers who enjoy memoirs and essays.”—Library Journal

What other smart people wrote

“Daniel Nester is a stone-cold genius.Clever, lyrical, inappropriate in all the right ways—I’d rather read him than just about anyone right now.”—Darin Strauss, author of More Than It Hurts You

“If there was Nobel Prize for Achievement in Inappropriateness, Daniel Nester would be Laureate of the Universe. Until then, he’ll have settle for having written this shockingly innovative stunner of a book. Nester brings his irreverent, elegiac sensibility to subjects ranging from the essence of literary truth to the enduring mystery of flatulence, managing in the bargain to highlight the bleak hilarity of human existence—which, when you think about it, is the most inappropriate thing of all.”—Rachel Shukert, author of Have You No Shame?

“Daniel Nester’s essays are haunted by a Victorian perversity. His writing exhibits a kind of Tourette syndrome in which the author continuously abases himself and revels in his own shortcomings. It’s a painful kind of comedy leavened by gentle good humor and wonder.”—Thomas Beller, author of The Sleep-Over Artist and How To Be a Man

What smart people said in reviews or interviews

  • Virginia Konchan’s review in the May 2010 issue of Rain Taxi
  • “Dryly hilarious” says The Chronogram
  • “Me Talk Inappropriate One Day,” Jill Dearman’s interview with me, at the Barnes & Noble Book Club site
  • “[M]y choice for humorous essay collection of the year, starring a writer unafraid to put himself in tawdry, humiliating positions to be able to personally describe them and the feelings created by them.”—Chris Estey, Three Imaginary Girls, “Great Reads of 2009”
  • “Daniel Nester is the rarest of humorous essayists: he’s actually funny. He also happens to be a fine poet, and a keen authority on popular music, and his writing in How to Be Inappropriate radiates the kind of intelligence and insight that inspires a reader to conduct his own self-examination vis-a-vis inappropriateness.”—Steve Caratzas, NewPages
  • “Daniel Nester is the kind of writer who looks at his book as an opportunity to be honest with you, and hopefully make you laugh. Which I did.”—Emily Nonko, from her interview on Bomb magazine’s website
  • “In How to Be Inappropriate, Daniel Nester collects many of his clever essays in one of the year’s funniest books. If you have been reading Nester’s pieces at The Daily Beast, you know how funny he can be, especially when casting his discerning eye towards pop culture.”—Largehearted Boy‘s intro to Book Notes
  • Interview with Rigoberto Gonzalez at Critical Mass, the National Book Critics Circle blog
  • Interview with Kathy Ritchie in Smith Magazine‘s Memoirville books blog
  • “Nester’s essays are hilarious in their approach to as specific a theme as inappropriateness, and they come highly recommended.”—Bookslut’s John Zuarino’s intro to Indie Heartthrob interview
  • “Too much information” should be the tagline for this debut collection of humorous nonfiction pieces from Daniel Nester…Told through a series of essays, lists, rants, play scripts, and profiles, this part-memoir, part-random collection of nonsense is an entertaining look at defying the conventions of appropriate behavior.”—The Daily Beast, Hot Reads listing
  • From R.D. Pohl’s Buffalo News ArtsBeat: “In the relatively new literary subgenre called “creative nonfiction” (like “flash fiction,” an invention of the college-based creative writing industry in the same way that “Sweetest Day” is an invention of the confectioner’s industry), Nester is the reigning court jester.  His “essays” combine James Thurber’s mild mannered escapist fantasies with Hunter S. Thompson’s closely observed grotesquery and pharmaceutically-assisted abandon.  He’s got a Norman Mailer sized id without the baggage of Mailer’s self-aggrandizing belligerence.  But, in truth, his lineage can be traced back much further.  Reading through the elaborate prologues to each of the pieces in How to be Inappropriate, one hears distant echoes of the great narrative embellishers of ages past: François Rabelais in Gargantua and Pantagruel, Laurence Sterne in Tristram Shandy, even the great Miguel de Cervantes in Don Quixote itself.”
  • From Library Journal: Former McSweeney’s editor Nester (English, Coll. of Saint Rose), whose writing has appeared in The Best Creative Nonfiction, The Best American Poetry, and Poets & Writers, presents his debut collection of humorous nonfiction, amassing 41 years’ worth of experience in nonconformity. His stories are, as the title suggests, inappropriate, and they often engender squeamishness, discomfort, and laughter. But they are fresh and, at times, touching, qualities that make this an enjoyable read. Subjects include teaching curse words to Chinese ESL students, reimagining a Terry Gross NPR interview of Gene Simmons by substituting Gene Simmons with an AI computer, a collection of references to flatulence in English poesy, the history of mooning, and out-of-context comments he made as a college professor in order to clarify and expand upon his students’ writing. Nester includes photographs, illustrations, and a time line of his inappropriate acts from birth to the present. VERDICT Recommended for readers who enjoy memoirs and essays.”—Mark Alan Williams, Library of Congress, Washington, DC
  • “This guy is intelligent and funny, and so is his book.”—Rod Lott, Bookgasm
  • Interview with Sage Cohen at Writing the Life Poetic Zine
  • “Throughout the book, Nester has a self-deprecating charm that makes his writing seem like he’s just hanging out with you, telling you a good story. Whether it’s recounting the time he moved in next door to an ex-girlfriend while living in New York (“The Puerto Rican Lockhorns Reunion”) or detailing his adventures in self-tanning (“Yes I Tan”) Nester is funny, but never mean. Indeed, even when he could go for the jugular in two of the finest pieces in the book, he instead remains an observer, allowing the laughs to emerge from his subject’s behavior rather than any snarky remark he could have come up with.”—Scott Malchus, Popdose

The History of My World Tonight

My Store | Amazon | AbeBooks | BlazeVox

My first book of poems from 2006. Here’s a review in Boog City by Scott Glassman.

And here are the blurbs

“With the publication of The History of My World Tonight, Daniel Nester has proven that he’s an absolute master of what he does; and what he does is dazzle us repeatedly with his elegant, prickly, and wickedly penetrating poems. Reading him is not unlike the greatness of discovering an eagle in a gift bag on your way home from a party: it’s not just great, it’s super freaky great.”—Todd Colby

“In The History of My World Tonight, Daniel Nester re-envisions The Beach Boys, The Brady Bunch, and the Bible. He takes on the Munchkins, Montale, Monet, and masturbation. But that’s just the beginning. In these intimate confessional and experimental poems, Nester delivers a complex psyche along with deadpan social commentary. This is an engagingly funny and tender book.”—Denise Duhamel

“We have in Daniel Nester a poet who speaks the language of the common man and woman—well, that is, assuming the common man and woman were gifted with an uncommonly over-the-top sense of humor and an entirely personal sense of what Being a Poet Means to Me. Nester’s working it out here, and it’s a good thing too. Somebody, in this Age of Various Pretentious Schools of Poetry, needs to cut through the shit and clarify why anyone would want to read or write poems at this point in history. And Nester, with his well-documented pop culture leanings and his not-so-well-documented soul-searching, is just the man for the job.”—Jonah Winter

God Save My Queen: A Tribute

My Store | Amazon | AbeBooks

God Save My Queen II: The Show Must Go On

My Store | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Bookshop | AbeBooks

My first two books are collections of experimental essay, memoir, prose poem, and music history on my life-long obsession with the rock band Queen. Throughout these two volumes, I write one piece, or riff, to coincide with every song ever released by the band, plus selected solo work. These books, published by the super awesome Soft Skull Press, garnered reviews in publications, both large and small.

Here are the champions, my friends

“These two books are absolutely fantastic … raises the profile of obsessive record collectors from nerd to artiste while simultaneously creating a genre of poetry where a new word for ultra-nerd needs to be created to describe the authorship. The first volume features one short poem for every track on every major Queen LP. As the book explores sexuality, humanity and vulnerability the lyrical text confusingly shifts from Nester’s personal biography to the exploits of Mercury and May in a haze of poetics where it doesn’t matter what or who he’s talking about. … To bring this point home the second volume is a track by track series of poems covering obscure Queen albums, solo work and hidden CD tracks, thus, even the fellow fans who were able to recall every Queen track and perhaps relate them to the poems in book one is left headscratching by this volume. These books are as beautiful as fat bottomed girls on bicycles.”—Roctober

  • “Nester’s method considers a serious fan’s bliss impeccably … Nester’s best poems consider the homosexual allure of the band’s late singer, Freddie Mercury, describing Mercury’s gestures, phrasing and lifestyle with aplomb…vainglorious pomposity…”—Ken Tucker, The New York Times Book Review
  • “I have to say: Nester NAILS it. Those of us who have been there … will most appreciate Nester’s two books.”—David Barringer, Word Riot
  • “I have to say: Nester NAILS it. Those of us who have been there … will most appreciate Nester’s two books.”—Gabriel Welsch, small spiral notebook
  • “I wonder what hardcore Queen fans will think of this … I hope they like it as much as I did.”—The Pursuit of Happiness’s Moe Berg, from a roundtable discussion in Bookninja with Peter Darbyshire and George Murray
  • “[A] book that both transcends genre and includes enough true, sometimes painfully honest, emotion to touch any reader.”—Peter Conners, Double Room
  • “Makes telling linkages … The effect is not to exhaust his subject, but to increase its mystery and thereby its magic.”—Tom Nissley, The Stranger
  • Review by Henry Yu in MAXIMUMROCKNROLL