I’m Robert van Vliet. I grew up in Saint Paul. At one time or another, I’ve lived in Santa Fe, Salt Lake City, NYC, and PDX. For most of that time, I felt like George Bailey if he had managed to get out of Bedford Falls. Stickers on my suitcase, stamps in my passport. But eventually I discovered to my surprise and dismay that to be happy, I need four sharply delineated seasons — especially if two of them are seemingly endless and absurdly brutal in their extremes. So I have returned to the Twin Cities, for good.
Over the years, I have been, among other things, a typographer, a tutor & substitute teacher for middle school & high school, a singer/songwriter, and a repair technician for Macintosh portable computers. Oh, and I was also a customer service representative way back when people still bought things using telephones and glossy four-color catalogs printed on paper and bound with staples. A writer’s résumé.
I was a poetry blogger for a while during the Aughts. It was fun while it lasted, but I never want to hear the words “Flarf” or “School of Quietude” ever, ever again. I chose to blog pseudonymously partly because I’m an introvert, but mostly because I originally intended the whole blogging thing to be a lark. A pseudonym allowed me take it exactly as seriously as it deserved — namely, not at all. Also, even then, there was something about online “communities” that made me want to keep it all at arm’s length. It just seemed like a smart thing to do, long before the trolls began slouching en masse towards the comments sections to be born. But to live, apparently, is to war with trolls. Fine. After all, there’s more of us than of them.
I have also published a few poems under my own name — in some fugitive and long-vanished print magazines and in a flurry of self-published chapbooks, back in the ’90s; and, more recently, at a number of online magazines.
I participated in Thomas Whyte’s ongoing Poetry Mini Interviews, which appeared in five parts over the course of five weeks in March and April of 2021: one, two, three, four, and five. You can read about my typical writing day here, at My (Small Press) Writing Day, curated by the hardest working man in poetry, rob mclennan. (Typical, at least, until May of 2022, when I moved and upended all my daily routines for the first time in years…)
Speaking of names: I am not related to Captain Beefheart but I love his music, especially Trout Mask Replica (of course) and Doc at the Radar Station. (And I have a soft spot for Mirror Man, which was one of the first really influential LPs I bought during high school — along with XTC’s English Settlement, Suzanne Vega’s first album, Robyn Hitchcock’s Globe of Frogs, Peter Gabriel’s melt, and Coltrane’s Live at Birdland.)
I own nearly three thousand books and I’ve even managed to read some of them. (I would definitely not blame you if, upon learning that I’ve read Gravity’s Rainbow eight times (so far), your reaction was to back away with an expression of mild horror. You have three thousand books, and you’re thinking about reading that thing again? Really? Yeah, well: those last hundred pages are actually starting to make sense — but maybe that’s just the Stockholm Syndrome kicking in…)
Since the mid ’80s — aside from some wretched day jobs, and a dark period in 1996–98 — I have only used Macintosh computers, and almost exclusively portables. I was disappointed by the iterations of the Macintosh portables after about 2012, so I clung to my late-2011 13″ model like Ishmael to the coffin. Then Apple finally announced a recall program for their atrociously fail-prone butterfly keyboards, so I upgraded to a 13″ Retina MacBook Air. It served me in a very blandly annoying way for several years, but I recently traded it in for a new M1 14″ MacBook Pro. Absolutely the best Macintosh I’ve ever used.
The first things I install on every new Mac are Quicksilver, 1Password, and Cocktail. Depending on the project, when I write on my Mac, I use either Scrivener, Bear, or iA Writer. And on my iOS devices, it’s Bear and 1Writer. But almost everything starts in Drafts (especially now that full actions support has come to the Mac OS version…).
That said, I’d rather use paper notebooks and journals. You probably should, too. Not only do they lack intrusive ads, and will not track you, they also don’t require batteries. And I promise that you’ll think better, you’ll own all your own content, and they pose an almost insurmountable challenge to online hackers.
I tend to use woodcased pencils — especially General’s Cedar Pointe, Pacific, or Goddess pencils (as well as a refreshed supply of my beloved FaberCastell American 2.5). But the rest of the time I use any ballpoint lying around, because life’s too short.
About this Website
My blog, (fleeting), is hosted and powered by the eponymous Micro.blog, which is a community of blogs stitched together by a timeline that allows for posts and comments. I manage its content partly through the web interface, partly through the capable native apps for Mac and iOS, and partly through the excellent MarsEdit.
For more information about the analog tools I’m using at any given time, see this page.
Email me, if you are so moved, at hello at letterspace org.
Keep Ithaka always in your mind.
Arriving there is what you’re destined for.
But don’t hurry the journey at all.
Better if it lasts for years,
so you’re old by the time you reach the island,
wealthy with all you’ve gained on the way,
not expecting Ithaka to make you rich.
The only war that matters is the war against the imagination.
— Diane di Prima
Let us boldly contemn all imitation, though it comes to us graceful and fragrant as the morning; and foster all originality, though, at first, it be as crabbed and ugly as our own pine knots.
— Herman Melville
I made the wrong mistakes.
— Thelonious Monk
I lean back, as the evening darkens and comes on.
A chicken hawk floats over, looking for home.
I have wasted my life.
— James Wright
The interior life is often stupid.
— Annie Dillard