About this space:

  • a commonplace book
  • miscellaneous and needlessly prolix bloviations
  • ancient posts dredged from several old and otherwise mothballed blogs dating back to 2001–2006
  • and some other pages that could, under peculiar circumstances, prove vaguely interesting to someone or other

This site is powered by the delightful Blot because Wordpress can fuck off.
My microblog can be found next door at (fleeting).

Email me, if you are so moved, at hello at letterspace.org

About this blogger:

I suppose you want all that David Copperfield crap, too? Okay then.

I’m Robert van Vliet. I grew up in Saint Paul and, at one time or another, I’ve lived in Santa Fe, Salt Lake City, New York City, and Portland, Oregon. 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 soon 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 Noughts. 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 not just because I’m an introvert, but also because I originally intended the whole blogging thing to be a lark; a psuedonym let me take it exactly as seriously as it deserved — namely, not at all. But 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.

Subsequently, and rather inadvertently, I published some poems under that pseudonym, online and in an anthology devoted to the then-new Hay(na)ku form. A few poems have also appeared under my own name, both online (here and here) and in some fugitive and long vanished print magazines, as well as a few self-published chapbooks, back in the 90s.

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 Skylarking, Suzanne Vega’s first album, Sting’s Dream of the Blue Turtles, Peter Gabriel’s melt, and Coltrane’s Live at Birdland.)

I own about three thousand books and I’ve even managed to read some of them. (Speaking of which, 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…)

I use only Macintosh portables, but I’ve been disappointed by recent iterations of the MacBook Pro, so I’m sticking with my late-2011 13″ model. The first things I install on every new Mac are Quicksilver, 1Password, and Cocktail. When I write on my Mac or iOS device, I either use Scrivener, Bear, or iA Writer.

But 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.

Zebra Sarasas are virtually the only pens I use. They are vastly superior to, say, Pilot G2s. Darker lines, almost instant dry on virtually every type of paper I’ve tried them on. Are you left-handed? You need to use these pens. I may love Sarasas, but I prefer pencils — Blackwings (but only the ones with the 602 cores) or General’s Cedar Pointe, Pacific, or Goddess pencils. But honestly, I’ll use any ballpoint lying around, because life’s too short.

Keep cool, but care.