Jerry Kelley Discusses William Blake at WordSpace Salon

William Blake attracts us for many reasons. He is an iconoclast, raging at the powers that be. His observations on the human condition seem prescient of modern psychology. He seems sexually modern, a spirit free of traditional restraints. He is a defender of the poor and an indefatigable opponent of privilege and authority. His is a plea for imagination and spirituality in a materialistic age.

He is a gifted lyricist, a sharp satirist, and a creator of profoundly symbolic and dense prophetic poetry. He is a strong visual artist in addition to being a poet, equally well known in the visual arts community and in the literary community. Each of his poems was produced as a complete work of art reminiscent of a medieval illuminated manuscript.

Adding to the romance, his work was virtually ignored in his own time, and he was thought to be at the least extremely eccentric, if not outright mad. Yet he has continued to inspire some of our best known poets and artists, from Rossetti to Yeats to Alan Ginsburg, as well as rock bands from the Doors to U2. His poem “Jerusalem” has become the national hymn of GB.

For these and other reasons Blake typically has been considered an anomaly, standing outside of and separate from the mainstream tradition of English letters. Whether viewed as a defender of Emotion and Imagination in the face of Rationalist Materialism or even as an arcane Hermeneutic scholar, Blake has resisted categorization and seems to stand outside the contexts of his own era.

Now however, in the last 20 years or so, scholarly efforts have created a historical context for Blake as a man of the 18th century, who echoed and reinvented many of his contemporaries’ voices from within the forgotten underclasses of English society.

From within this historical context Blake’s individual genius shines forth with renewed energy.

Mr. Kelley’s presentation includes numerous slides of Blake’s graphic images.

The discussion begins Thursday, November 29, at 7 PM. Come to the WordSpace headquarters at 415 North Tyler. Admission: FREE to members, $10 to others.


Matt Bondurant, a professor of creative writing at the University of Texas, Dallas, is the author of

Matt Bondurant at his Hollywood premiere

three novels. The Third Translation (2006), The Wettest County in the World (2009), and The Night Swimmer (2012). I have read only The Wettest County, and to do so I had to overcome my natural inclination to avoid novels promoted as “Based on a True Story.” But Bondurant had one hell of a true story to base his novel on. HIs family were active Kentucky moonshiners during Prohibition, and the Bondurant Boys were known as both smart business men and people you just didn’t want to mess with. My favorite moment in the story involved on of the Bondurants who, after having his throat slashed in a speakeasy parking lot, pinches the wound together and survives a several mile drive over country roads to the nearest hospital. These were tough people. Matt also manages to work in author Sherwood Anderson as a character, a man out of his depths in the Kentucky hill country and struggling to re-establish his fading career as a significant American author. (In this past year, Wettest County was turned into the film Lawless with an impressive cast including Gary Oldham, Shia LeBeouf, and Jessica Chastain, NIck Cave wrote the screenplay and John Hillcoat, maker of The Road and The Proposition, directed.

Scene from Lawless

The Night Swimmer racked up good reviews, including this particularly evocative one from Bookpage,

“When Bondurant explores what it is like to push yourself to the brink, whether with physical activity, drugs and alcohol, or lust, he captures an intensity of experience the reader won’t soon forget.”
Learn more about Matt on his webpage.
His reading is November 15 at 7 PM. Since the event is in a private home, WordSpace asks that your RSVP for the location at either or 214-838-3554. Admission is free for WordSpace members and $10 for non members.


“Science Fiction is idea porn.” Neal Stephenson

Off World, the science fiction reading group sponsored by WordSpace, will hold its second session on Tuesday, November 13, at the WordSpace world headquarters, 415 North Tyler Street, Dallas, Texas 75208.

Author Neal Stephenson remains our topic of discussion, and I am certain that in the month that has passed since our initial meeting all participants have read at least one of his 1000 page novels.

Or not.

Some Offworlders have already read several of his books, some of us are reading them now, and other attendees have as much as said they have no intention of reading one but want to come back for the conversation and the pizza.

Yes, pizza.

Last month, along with Phillip Washington’s introduction to Stephenson, we watched a short video of Neal reflecting on why Americans have lost the ability to “think big;” we ranked film adaptations of Philip K Dick novels from best to worst; we got off on the role of architecture in science fiction; and, we said mostly disparaging things about the Santiago Calatrava bridge and the Trinity River Project. It was fun.

So don’t stay away because you think you will be “behind” on anything. On Tuesday, November 13, those who have read or are in the midst of reading Stephenson will have a chance to weigh in on what they are reading . So far my favorite quote from Snow Crash:

Hiro puts his head in his hands…”This Snow Crash thing– is it a virus, a drug, or a religion?”

Juanita shrugs. “What’s the difference?”

And we encourage attendees to read this interview Neal Stephenson gave the website Slashdot in 2004. (Slashdot appears to be a website aimed at serious computer geeks which may account for its being one of the ugliest sites I’ve encountered since 1997.) But conversation will be wide-ranging, lively, and over by 9:00 PM. And it is free.

Here is the video we watched last month





We like it when our friends do well.

Miroslav Penkov, Assistant Prorfessor of Creative Writing at the University of North Texas, has done very well indeed. He is this year’s recipient of the BBC Interntational Short Story Award for his story “East of the West” from his anthology of the same title.The award carries with it a hefty British sterling 15,000. (Sorry, I don’t know how to make the symbol on this blog program.)  That’s real money.

Miro, who read at a WordSpace Salon in March, 2012, is no stranger to awards and recognition. He was born in Bulgaria in 1982 and attended the first English language high school in Sofia. In 2001 he came to the United States and attended the University of Arkansas. I suppose culture shock is good for aspiring writers. He earned an MFA in Creative Writing after receiving his B.A. in Psychology. HIs earliest short stories appeared in many anthologies, including Best American Short Stories 2008. He won a Eudora Welty Award and in this past year was included in the PEN/O’Henry anthology. 

“East of the West” was the unanimous choice of the BBC panel of judges. In writing about the award, committe chair Michele Roberts said

‘The judges were unanimous in their choice of Miro’s story ‘East of the West’, as the winner, as it so ambitiously and successfully united personal and political life, joining inner and outer worlds through its deployment of different kinds of realism: social and magical and folkloric. The narrator’s voice is unforgettable, his bleak vision redeemed by a strength of feeling that is unusual and unfashionable in modern fiction.’


Your can read more about the BBC International Short Story Award here 

A reading of Miro’s prizewinning story has been taken off the BBC radio site, but you can read his story “Makedonija” online at And of course his book East of the West is available at all finer book stores in hardback, paperback, and electronic formats.

Congratulations again to Miroslav Penkov, HIs reading at the WordSpace Salon was one of the most enjoyable evenings we have had in the past year. We wish him the best of luck and continued success.