The only war that matters is the war against the imagination.
—Diane di Prima
I’m Robert van Vliet. I grew up in the Twin Cities and spent many years living in lots of other places. 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 St Paul, for good.
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.
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 waaay back when people still bought things using land-line telephones and glossy four-color catalogs printed on paper and bound with staples.)
I lean back, as the evening darkens and comes on.
A chicken hawk floats over, looking for home.
I have wasted my life.
My debut chapbook, This Folded Path, was published in September, 2023, from above/ground press. Also, my first book of poetry, Vessels, is forthcoming from Unsolicited Press in 2024. Details? Go here!
You can find a list of poems I’ve published online here.
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 find some outtakes and fragments here)
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, that is, until May of 2022, when I moved, upending all my daily routines for the first time in years. I still haven’t quite settled back into a regular routine…)
I am also a peripheral member of the Poetry Blogging Network.
The interior life is often stupid.
My last name is two words: van and Vliet. The “van” is always lower case (like the French and Spanish de, for example, or the German von). If my name starts a sentence, however, the “van” can be capitalized.
“Vliet” is pronounced like fleet but with a V. (In the original Dutch, it is pronounced more or less exactly like fleet, with an F. So early immigrants to the U.S. would, very likely, have had their names transcribed as Fleet or Van Fleet.)
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 lots of books and I’ve even managed to read a few 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 like a million books, your TBR pile is an overflowing shelf — and you’re thinking of reading that thing again? Really? Yeah, well: I think those last hundred pages are actually starting to make sense. Or maybe that’s just the Stockholm Syndrome kicking in…)
I made the wrong mistakes.
Since the late ’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 an 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. When I write on my Mac, I use either Scrivener, Bear, or iA Writer, depending on the project. 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, but 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.
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.
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, but mostly through the excellent MarsEdit.
For more information about the analog tools I’m using at any given time, see this page.
A man sets himself the task of drawing the world. As the years pass, he fills the empty space with images of provinces and kingdoms, mountains, bays, ships, islands, fish, houses, instruments, stars, horses, and people. Just before he dies, he discovers that the patient labyrinth of lines traces the image of his own face.
—Jorge Luis Borges