about mark flanigan

Cincinnati native Mark Flanigan has been writing and performing for over 14 years....Works from his collections Wrong-Way Poems For One-Way Streets, Not Necessarily God Stories and Next to Nothing have appeared in a variety of independent publications and, along with his performances, have garnered critical acclaim. He has also co-written a screenplay (“Midway,” with Brian Keizer), edited a literary publication (omnibscure) and worked to develop, produce and curate various gallery shows and performance readings -- notably, VOLK/c.s.p.i. and Intermedia Series readings at the Contemporary Arts Center and the Weston art gallery. Flanigan’s monthly column, “Exiled on Main Street,” appeared for over three years, first in x-ray, and upon his resignation there, at semantikon.com. Performances of his can be found on “the Volk/c.s.p.i. spoken word series CD (2001),” which he co-produced, and on the CD “One Night Only" (2002).   To learn more about his work, read his blog, review some of the works mentioned above, and listen to additional audio tracks:

Visit markflanigan.com

flanigan audio
mark flanigan exiled from archives

October 2007: The Dance

June 2007: Cake
May 2007: Special Edition "Light Travel" Mark Flanigan and Steve Proctor
April 2007: Zero Hour
March 2007: Prelude to a Kiss-Off
Jan 2007: State Of The Disunion Address 
Nov 2006: Youngblood
Oct 2006: How I Spent My Summer Vacation
exiled on main street archives

About Artist:

Exiled from Main Street 3: Going UP!
                    -for Coleen (1970-2005)

      The poster mocks me from out of the corner of one eye. It’s for a show that’s already happened, this past Christmas to be precise, and yet it still sits there, mocking me just the same. I don’t have to read it, I know what it says there at the top in bold:


     I didn’t make the poster myself, but truth be known I did supply the above line. The one that mocks me even now.
     Coleen Tracey died less than two weeks ago, suddenly, of an aneurysm. She was thirty-four years old.
     I didn’t know it while she was alive, but Coleen had devoted most of her days fighting for what some would call “liberal” causes, as her obituary pointed out. “Liberal” sometimes being synonymous with “sane,” her resume was littered with underdogs such as Planned Parenthood and Stonewall Cincinnati, among others.
     But like I said, I didn’t know as much while she was alive. It makes sense, though. Seeing as she appreciated my column.
     An acquaintance for sometime, I first met her at one or another of the St. Patrick’s Day Parades. Would see her every year up until I quit attending such things, right around the time they refused to let the gays march, probably. We rarely saw each other after that but I’d be reminded of her every now and then, if only because I had the good fortune of working with her father, Jerry, for the last ten years or so.
      And once I started publishing in a local paper, Coleen would send kudos my way via her dad when she liked a particular piece....On one occasion, she even had him ask on her behalf if Jessica returned with my change? I answered the way I always did at that point: Jerry, tell her that’s only half the story....If she really wants to know, have her send a S.A.S.E. like everybody else....He, of course, not having any idea what the hell we were talking about.
     The truly crazy thing being this: the very morning I decided to continue that particular story, I happened to check my email to find that she had found me here online, that she in fact had sent me her first letter. The end read, “....On Jessica, of course I know the story is only-half-told, but I was getting impatient waiting for some resolution and wondering if I had missed the next installment of the story. Anyway, I’m guessing she may have issued you an in-store credit instead of a refund....All good if the merchandise is nice.”
     It was magic, I tell you. To find someone still thinking about a story that I had started more than a year ago, abandoned, and just that morning had picked up!
     That email energized me in such a way that I could continue with renewed confidence. It was an effect that, by all accounts, wasn’t reserved solely for me. And Coleen passed away two weeks ago, inexplicably. The tote board now reads 99 as my fans die faster than they are being born....
     But just how many were or are on board at any one time has always been something of a moot point to me. Having written for more than a decade mostly for an audience of one—you know the guy, maybe—any audience at all naturally becomes regarded as a blessing, sure. All the same, some months I can still here the pin drop and as the calendar page falls to the floor I find that I’ve yet to come off the mat. A future audience, then, is always assumed.
     What day is it? What year? Does time travel really exist?
     The answer is: of course. For some, anyway. So in the end I never paid no mind to the fact that the only person who acknowledged my writing last month was a homeless woman who happened to also have lengthy conversations with her sweater from time to time. I was writing a book, friends, one chapter at a time, uncertain of how it was going to end, only sure that it would.
     Which it did. Wonderfully, in my estimation. Earlier than I thought it might, which is to say probably just in time. And once me and the dust had settled, I spent a night reading the pieces in order and thought, well, it’s on....Time to throw them together and test the waters. A decade ago, I had made a similarly bold assessment of my literary prowess and as a result spent a couple of years sending out manuscripts left and right, to little avail. Most of them having returned with a simple statement that unsolicited manuscripts were not being read at this time.
     I wouldn’t make the same mistake. I’d find myself an agent first.
     So, I went out and bought one of those books that exist primarily to make writers even more broke, and read each profile with care. Made a list all of those that presented themselves with any amount of verve and also were interested in taking on the rare author in search of his or her first book. And when finished I found that I had paired the initial list of over a thousand down to a cool thirty-two.
     Thirty-two packages, then. Thirty-two copies of Exiled On Main Street, for starters. But I also wanted to show my versatility, you know, so I cobbled together the best poems and stories I could find and sent that as well. Thirty-two copies of And To Think All That Time I Thought My Heart Here, then, too. Not to mention the screenplay, I had to send that, if only because there’s actually a market for such things. I got loose one night, shit a cover letter, and found myself hung over the next morning at the post office looking like Santa Claus without a sleigh....
     Once there I had a recollection: It was ’91 or ’92 and I was living in Los Angeles, writing full-time and as a result sending out submissions to anyone that, basically, had a mail box. I had a trip planned to San Francisco, to see my girlfriend who still lived at home, and before leaving I made a point to send out as many submissions as I could afford. They were there waiting for me too, when I returned to Los Angeles after being dumped, all of them. I opened them one by one, rejection following rejection so rapidly and informally that, by the end, I couldn’t help but laugh and assure myself, Hell, I must be doing something right after all.
     Standing there in line at the post office, I realized for the first time just what a luxury that had been. To get it all out of the way in one fell swoop like that! Really, to think how many soiled days I had avoided! The sad fact of the matter being that, at the moment, I couldn’t really afford to go anywhere anytime soon and, besides, I had run out of vacation time at work. My solution?: I reached deeper into my pocket and told the clerk I’d need a post office box to go along with my postage. I reasoned I’d wait a month before checking the damn thing, that’s all.
     A good idea, I thought, at least for the first week or two. Not long after, though, temptation grabbed me. I mean, man, your salvation may very well be just collecting dust not more than a few miles away! You could be famous already and be the only one not in the know! Part of me just had to find out, I’d even catch myself circling the post office every now and then, for no good reason, but I never went in.
     My month up, I returned home after having retrieved my mail and counted the number of envelopes, stopping at twenty-four. Poured myself a drink before sitting down. Sighed. Opened the first carefully, but each one after with less and less ceremony. They all said similar things: Does not fit our immediate needs. Not just now. We are full. My heart started to race as the unopened pile continued to shrink.
     Yes, my heart started to race, indeed. Only to come to a complete halt upon opening another and immediately recognizing it as something other than a form letter. I scanned the heading: from the offices of Chilton, Allen & Associates. Read further to find out that they were no less than “intrigued” by the prospect of representing a young, fledgling artist such as myself! To hell with the fact that I wasn’t exactly young anymore! I read on. Really, the only other thing they wanted at this point was a headshot. I asked around to find out what exactly that meant, had one made (Thanks, Brad!), and sent it promptly.
     The waiting game again, then. This time, though, my shoulders felt a bit lighter as I went about my day, my mood matching accordingly. I didn’t even mind so much being at the warehouse, the job I had pretty much worked since, oh, that time I was in California writing full-time. I didn’t mind it at all, seeing as my days were all but numbered there, it seemed.
     A premonition that was only bulwarked by the arrival of their response. An invitation to call was issued, followed by the question: “Do you by any chance ever find yourself in the New York area? Chilton, Allen & Associates generally prefer to meet their artists before representing them,” they explained.
     My elation was unprecedented. I yawped and hollered as I stood up and did a strange Indian/Thanksgiving Dance around the table, falling onto the couch a full five minutes later.
     It would have to be over a weekend. I jumped online and took the first reasonable fare I could find. Then I looked up Chilton, Allen & Associates in order to check their credentials. Found that the lion’s share of their stable were young, on their way up with but a title or two in print, a fact that simply made sense as any reasonable person would have to agree I wasn’t quite there yet my damn self. Modest publishing houses mostly, to be sure, but I kept looking and started to realize I was in fact familiar with some of their writers. Christ! They even represented Chuck Klosterman at one point! I was sold, as far as I was concerned. Chilton, Allen & Associates here I come!
     That night I couldn’t sleep. Nothing new there, except for whatever was to blame this time around. What is that brewing in there? I thought. Flanigan, do I detect optimism? Well, I never....
     That night I couldn’t sleep but found myself awake before noon anyway. Started that day with a phone call. Introduced myself to the receptionist as calmly as I could. Was put through to a one Michael Hunt, the guy (I soon found out) that had been assigned to me.
     “What a great name for a literary agent!” I remarked eagerly. “Hunt? I mean, c’mon!”
     Perhaps a bit too eagerly, in hindsight. As the abbreviated guffaw that followed on his end betrayed the possibility that he had heard that one before. I decided to ride in the backseat with my trap tightly shut. Things, no surprise, picking up almost instantly.
     The upshot?: The invitation was no mere delusion on my behalf. When could we do it?
     I mentioned the ticket I had purchased the night prior, another gaffe on my part apparently. “You really should have called first,” he advised while leafing through what must have been a planner. “That Friday’s actually not very good for me” is all he said by way of explanation.
     "No sweat, I’ll just change the date,” I volleyed. “You tell me when.”
     “Well, let’s see,” Hunt fell silent for what seemed like months....“Yeah, it seems I’m pretty much booked throughout February, but it looks like I could make some time on the last day of January. It’s a Monday, can you make that work?”
     The last word couldn’t have possibly been better chosen. Couldn’t have run through me any more potently. Work, for fuck’s sake. My instinct was to say hang it, I’ll be there. But I knew better. Knew that not more than two weeks past I had begged and pleaded to take my last remaining week of next year’s vacation Christmas week in order to ready myself for my annual “Exiled” show, the holidays being without fail the busiest time. No one, not even the owners, get days off then. I did, though, but only after selling my soul for it.
     “I can’t,” I confessed while wincing. “I work nights, as you may already know, Sunday through Thursday. That’s why I was hoping for a Friday,” I explained.
     He didn’t say anything at first. Just kind of clucked his tongue while turning pages back and forth. “O-kay, I can probably squeeze you in that Friday, February the 4th, between three and four o’clock.”
     "Perfect,” I answered. “See you then, thanks.”
     “Your welcome, Mr. Flanigan,” the man said before quickly hanging up. I stood there with the phone in my hand, dumbfounded. There with the phone in my hand as I could feel my elation turn to fear, my hand the phone my body suddenly shaking with the force of it. Standing there, my knuckles white, convulsing.
     It was happening. Everything was falling into place. And, as such, I didn’t know what to do with myself. My gig had always been fighting bravely but without victory. All of a sudden I wasn’t even sure I wanted the responsibility. Shit, I’d probably have to quit my job even. No way of keeping it and writing everyday, not really. Nor, then, the $17,000 car the company had just bought me either. I put the phone down and caressed the roll of flesh that had recently settled in just above my waistline, thinking about raman noodles while my resolve shook. Literally.
     I would remain in such a state the remainder of the day. Questions that I had never stopped to ponder because of their sheer improbability rushing to the fore.... What if I didn’t have it in me, not truly? To do it everyday and for a living! Eventually, man, you know they’re going to want a novel! Did you think of that? You even mentioned in your cover letter that you were at work on one, didn’t you? Tell me, when was the last time you actually even read what you had so far, let alone wrote any of it!
     Yes, I would remain like that most of the day. That is, until I walked into the door at work and was immediately confronted by the fact that over half of the license plate stickers that had been put on the fleet the night before had fallen off and couldn’t be found. A job that I myself had been entrusted with. One that would have to be done again now and at quite a cost to the company. What’s more, half of the tractors and trailers were tooling around town with expired tags until the lost ones could be replaced, no telling how many tickets would be issued before all was said and done....
     New York here I come, thankfully! You bet your sweat ass. Anything had to be better than this!
     Once home first thing I did was change the date of my flight. Then I pulled out the novel I hadn’t touched in six years. Figured if I could write five more chapters before leaving it would be better than nothing. I’d give Hunt a taste of what I was capable of!
     That was three weeks ago. And now I find myself typing frantically on my company-financed laptop as I await the captain’s announcement that we will be landing any moment in New York City....Having only finished a few more chapters of the novel, and this little thing here. All of which will be in tow for my interview that’s set to happen, well, something like four hours from now....
     Rest assured, I’ll keep you posted. Whether it arrives sooner or later hinging largely, of course, on how things go.

February 4, 2005
10:54 A.M.