About Nick Gardner

Nick Gardner's writing comes directly from his hometown of Mansfield, Ohio. Small towns and working-class gruffness are always in the periphery with a focus on philosophical wandering and questioning the limits of language. He has his bachelors degree in English Literature from Ohio State University and is active in the Ohio poetry scene from Columbus to Cleveland. Previously, his writing has appeared in small presses (under 50 copies) by Cabin Floor Esoterica and is forthcoming in Asterism Literary Magazine.

Find Me At La Luna: A Review of “qPOC…&LMNOP”

qPOC…&LMNOP by Chico’s Brother
review by Nick Gardner

So often we find ourselves caught up in arguments of politics, discussing race and gender, citing articles we have read, or anecdotes we have been told without questioning our personal truths. As Chico’s Brother, Aurelio Villa Luna Diaz rejects this PC banter and academic discourse in favor of introspection in his new album “qPOC…&LMNOP” (available on Bandcamp). This series of songs replaces politics with heart, pushing grand narratives into the periphery in order to locate the personal narrative in the forefront.

Aurelio

It must be noted that Aurelio has not broken form from his previous album. Each song is derived from specific experiences. There is a vivid dream, a short history of his father and grandfather, a song for friend who passed away. Each track is personal, an internal struggle, but when converted to music and shared with the world, it becomes something we can all relate to.
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William Trent Pancoast and his Triptych for the Working Class

 – A Review by Nick Gardner

When reading about work, and by work I mean hard manual labor, and by this I mean hacking in the coal mines, servicing cars, running a factory press, and by this I mean coming home dirty, sore, and growing older only to find that the work has left lasting damage, a permanent stoop or carpal tunnel, arthritis — when reading about this type of work, and especially the near feudal system of industrial economics, I often cringe and scowl. But I can’t give up reading.

William Trent Pancoast tells real stories of real work. They are grungy, wild, and often violent. They are something anyone can relate to, with love and hate and characters who live and breath… but these stories can also be relentless. They sucker-punch you, knock you to the ground, and kick you till you can’t feel the kicks anymore, till the pain is finally replaced by outrage.

I decided to read William Trent Pancoast’s oeuvre in a week. I had read Wildcat before and much of his short fiction so I knew they would be quick reads, all but Crashing taking only a 4-5 hour stint. I moved through the books in the order that Pancoast presented them to me over the last couple years: Wildcat, Crashing, and most recently, The Road To Matewan. I wanted to see if there was something deeper that tied these varied stories together. What emerged was a new understanding of this subject of work.wildcat

First, I reread Wildcat, a story featuring a General Motors stamping plant as its protagonist. It is set in fictional Cranston, Ohio and proceeds as a series of short biographies and vignettes about the characters that work at the plant. As the reader learns the history of the factory through the lives of the workers, through PTSD, amputations, alcoholism, and the general alienation and disassociation of industrialization, there is also a sense of the factory as a whole, the people being only members of the factory body. If the machines are muscle, the laborers are the vital organs, performing specific functions to urge the factory on. The union serves as ligaments holding the workers together with the management, and the building houses them all. Through this series of symbiotic beings, the factory struggles, overworked by its general managers, CEOs, and the capitalistic structure in general to always produce more, to win a race with no definite finish line. Finally the workers give up and the factory topples. In GM’s death throes, the owners survive, jeering at an empty cement slab. Continue reading

Altered Eats Pre-Concert Dinner: When Swing Was King

I have a coworker who will never understand buying a ticket for five course meal. Especially when that meal includes uncooked cured meat, pickled cauliflower, and brandy cocktails with rosewater. He looks confused when I bring up Boudin Noir and spits out a chunk of his bologna sandwich when I describe how this specific sausage is made.

For those who cleave to steak ‘n’ potato or hamburger fare, the food that Altered Eats has prepared for the pre-concert dinner for When Swing Was King at the Renaissance Theatre may seem foreign or even just plain weird. But if you can get past the initial shock of the seemingly odd ingredients you will see that the Altered Eats team has crafted a menu that celebrates different attributes of many foreign cultures but also comes from your backyard. The result is a meal that tastes like nothing you’ve had before but also tastes a lot like home.

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The Night’s Menu

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Not Too Far Away by Omid Shekari

A review by Nick Gardner

The Pearl Conard Art Gallery at OSU Mansfield is empty on a Tuesday afternoon. The halls that rumbled with conversation and squeaked with damp sneaker friction are at rest and, after asking me to sign in at the door, the student watching over the gallery promptly puts on her headphones and digs into a book. I am alone to peruse this room.

Omid Shekari is a young Iranian artist who has lived through the terror and war in the Middle East. He states that his “work has been focusing toward representing people’s relationships and reactions to events.” He says, “instead of being specific, I try to make some stories, which globally talk about these feelings that repeat during the human history.”

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Standing in the entryway I am confronted by two large paintings in acrylics, both in dull colors. On the right is a convocation, a raincoated politician type with arms raised in benediction speaking to a stone-faced crowd who look on, somewhere past the speaker, somewhere off the canvas. On the left, a donkey on a palanquin standing proud is carried by haggard-looking men with legs left incomplete or rather fading into the paint that drips at the bottom of the canvas off the edge.

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We Stand With Standing Rock

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In late July, the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers stating their concern that a pipeline slated to be built encroached upon ancestral lands.


It’s a five dollar donation to get in the doors of the Standing Rock Solidarity Benefit show, to be enveloped in the warmth, the glow, the murmur of conversations cut frequently by loud laughter. It looks like someone’s family reunion with folding chairs and cheap plastic table cloths, a buffet set-up with six donated Two Cousin’s Gut Buster pizzas and cheap booze. As the place slowly fills with people, the room becomes a beacon in the cold night, a bright light in a row of dim buildings, a convention of friends new and old, setting the stage for solidarity.


September 4th, Dakota Access begins clearing ground for the pipeline, bulldozing over sacred sites and burials. Protesters are attacked by dogs and pepper sprayed.


It took just under two weeks for Aurelio Villa Luna Diaz, Mark Sebastian Jordan, Kathy Fetzer-Goodwin to bring this event into the public eye, being touted in the local papers and drawing over a hundred contributors and participants. It even received threats, though none came to fruition. The K.E. McCarthy building was donated as a space for the show and by door time, all money spent on food, drink, and entrance would be sent to the Oceti Sakowin Camp.

Mark Jordan opens the show as MC and performer and along with Jason Kauffman, Lucas Hargis, and Nate Weiland presents a spoken word piece (Pronouncement: An Invocation for the Standing Rock Benefit Concert). He repeats the question: “who speaks?” over the murmur of the settling audience and we listen, and finally erupt into applause on his final call-to-arms, that “We speak!”

This becomes the theme of the show, the different voices no longer silenced, but calling for an end to injustice. This is a shout for self-expression and for claiming a space in the land.

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The Brown Sound: An Unbridled Culture

by Nick Gardner

“Unbridled.” Aurelio has used this word quite a few times in our conversations and he always lets it linger. It rolls off the tongue like wild horses in empty green pastures or drinking deep, cool water in wild-west arroyos. It is a word that opens a door, opens an entire building. It breaks down barriers. It is a word best defined by a feeling. It is what The Brown Sound is all about.

At Castle David one expects to see ghosts. On the corner of Sturges Avenue and 1st Street the mid 1800s Victorian Style house, turned thrift store, sits with strobe lights going off in the windows. The feel is more house party than public show and friends stand in groups sipping beer and talking fervently about music, art, and sex. Nick Harris, picks up a guitar and sings his new song for a couple of his friends. Conversation stops and all attention goes to this guitarist. He is white. He is not on the bill, but it’s the kind of place where no one would keep good music from happening. His song brings attentive silence followed by loud hoots and applause.

Jerry Lang — There is a disembodiment that comes from his soliloquy

Jerry Lang takes the stage which consists of little more than an amp, a mic, and a PA in the corner of the main room. This is his first official performance, but he looks calm. The lights are dim and people line the walls and doorways or sit in antique chairs in the corners. Jerry begins to play his first song and the music is both haunting and alive. The reverb-heavy acoustic guitar embodies the bold regret and loneliness of the lyrics. His tenor voice blurs some words in the amplified distortion, but the emotion of the song is indisputable and ubiquitous. It is not your average singer/songwriter lamentation of lost love and alcoholism. This is no Elliot Smith or Conor Oberst, no David Bazaan. Though the lyrics may lead you toward this strain of thought, they bear an enlightened tone. The lyrics evoke Bill Burroughs, Allen Ginsburg, and Rimbaud. There is a disembodiment that comes from his soliloquy. It is personal enough to make it almost awkward, but through that tone and the words we all feel his redemption. His sorrows embracing our sorrows and coming to new terms with meaning versus meaninglessness. It’s difficult to say too much about Jerry Lang’s music in more concrete terms. It is a feeling and it is poetry. Continue reading