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.
—Herman Melville

I lean back, as the evening darkens and comes on.
A chicken hawk floats over, looking for home.
I have wasted my life.
—James Wright

The interior life is often stupid.
—Annie Dillard

About this Space:

  • an (extremely) intermittent commonplace book
  • a warehouse for miscellaneous and needlessly prolix bloviations
  • a storage shed for ancient posts dredged from several old and otherwise mothballed blogs dating from roughly 2003 to around 2006 or 2007
  • and several other pages that could, under peculiar circumstances, prove vaguely interesting to someone or other

My microblog can be found next door at (fleeting).

This site is powered by the delightful Blot. Because it’s just a collection of folders and files in your Dropbox account (or Github if that’s your bag), you can manage your blog simply by using any text editor of your choosing; in my case, that’s Byword on my Mac and 1Writer on my iOS devices. The template is a very lightly modified version of the Default.

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. At one time or another, I’ve lived in Santa Fe, Salt Lake City, NYC, and PDX. 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 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 Aughts. 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 pseudonym 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: online (here, here, here) and here; 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 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 nearly three thousand books and I’ve even managed to read some 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 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…)

Since the mid ’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 recent iterations of the MacBook Pro, so I clung to my late-2011 13″ model like Ishmael to the coffin. But Apple finally announced a recall program for their atrociously fail-prone butterfly keyboards, so I recently upgraded to a 13″ Retina MacBook Air.

The first things I install on every new Mac are Quicksilver, Alfred, 1Password, and Cocktail. Depending on the project, when I write on my Mac, I use either Scrivener, Bear, or Byword (and sometimes iA Writer). And on my iOS devices, it’s Bear, Byword, 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, 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, and the fastest instant-dry on virtually every type of paper I’ve tried. Are you left-handed? Then you need to use these pens. I may love Sarasas, but I prefer pencils — Blackwings (especially the ones with the 602 or Natural cores) or General’s Cedar Pointe, Pacific, or Goddess pencils. But honestly, most of the time I use any ballpoint lying around, because life’s too short.

About the Tags:

Here’s a running list, in no particular order, of the tags here at AFC. Not every post is tagged (yet), but if it has a tag, it’s probably one of these:

Keep cool, but care.