Speed Dating with a Literary Twist


Chances are you’re dating. At the least, you know someone who is—perhaps someone who regales you with stories from OKC and Tinder dates gone terribly wrong. But a computer-mediated quest for love isn’t your only option. Speed dating, enter stage left.

Defined as “an event at which each participant converses individually with all the prospective partners for a few minutes in order to select those with whom dates are desired,” speed dating has been around since the late 90s. These highly-structured events allow singles to learn about each other beyond the loud, anxiety-inducing bar scene that often seems to be our only hope of finding love.

Lancaster, PA has not been immune to this “round-robin” style dating system—last month, the connectors and community mavens of Lancaster Transplant presented “Ask Me: A Night of Awkward Speed Dating.” Approximately 30 singles gathered at the Fulton Street Arts Cooperative to meet, mingle, and rotate through fifteen unique stations. Couples were challenged to remove a bra and belt from a fashion dummy using only one hand. They washed dishes side by side at an industrial art sink to simulate domestic chores. At the blind contour drawing station, couples drew while looking at one another, without lifting their pencils from the paper and without looking down at their drawings.

And if you’re wondering why we’re writing about a speed dating event on a website geared towards the literary world, it’s because The Triangle was right there in the mix. At station 15 we helped couples learn about each other by creating collaborative list poems. A list poem is exactly what it sounds like—a poem made up of a list. Using randomly selected prompts, couples worked together to do some creative brainstorming on lists like: things you could contribute to society if we lived in a post-apocalyptic world; odd traditions/rituals that may be exclusive to your family; new Yankee Candle scents; things you have (or have had) in your pocket; and songs and movies that were formative during your adolescence.

Witnessing couples working together (we sat at the table to facilitate) was an interesting experience. In addition to being able to tell which pairs immediately clickedand which were hilariously awkwardwe watched couples learn beyond what our prompts asked for. What style of handwriting does he have? Does she take over the paper and call all the shots? Does he listen? Do they swap their shared worksheet back and forth or negotiate a scribe at the beginning of the activity? Who can spell?

The resulting list poems blew our minds. It was proof that creativity lives in all of us, no matter if we identify as poets, accountants, bartenders, or tantric educators. Thank you to Lancaster Transplant for inviting us to participate in this awesome event, thank you to Fulton Street Arts Cooperative for the space, and thank you most of all to all of the singles who came out last month to write poems and get real, real awkward. We hope you enjoyed it as much as we did.

The poems below were written by speed dating participants, with The Triangle adding titles, line breaks, and punctuation. Although in some cases we may have removed words, we did not add any words to the pieces.

Drawers: What Are They Good For? Absolutely Nothing.
A List Poem by Shalom and Drew

My drawer is full of batteries,
100 Q-tips from a broken box,
flashlights with nothing to shine on,
pennies and nickles
because no parking meter accepts them
family photos that didn’t make the fridge.

Tribe Name Has-No-Friends
A List Poem by Stephen and Marija

My family has a tribe name
and every Christmas we get together,
arm wrestle, get drunk, play Catan,
throw the game at each other
we celebrate the next coming apocalypse.

We Met At Jackie’s Party
A List Poem by James and Drea

app that makes your smartphone dumb
app that invents other apps
app that expells baby strollers from the market
app that is a pocket knife
app that prints money
app that turns down the volume on your neighbors
app that brews beer
app that pitches a tent

Do You Like Snakes?
A List Poem by Jenny and John

I was held hostage by a possum.
A camel licked my face.
Squirrels are the bane of my existence,
my father has a farm,
a goat named Jenny chased me down.
I accidentally picked up a snake,
a tiny snake
found its way into my desk.
I went swimming with dolphins.
In NC roaches
count as animals.

Been There/Done That
A List Poem by Mike and Joce

Mini pony hamster spaceship (the meaning of life—the greatest story ever told) Sean Hennesy a banana dental floss (an important speech) drugs more drugs phone number of someone you don’t like pager # of said drug dealer (the world’s information).

The Worst Things That Have Ever Happened
A List Poem by Dylan and Rachel

Iowa, rural
I lived in a barrack in Texas.
I lived in the middle of nowhere Kansas,
I had by 21st birthday in Denver, CO,
I lived in a BIG house in Bolivia,
I lived on a bridge for a year.
I would like to live in the Swiss Alps.
I would like to retire to a log cabin.

Sexual Positions
A List Poem by Tony and Stacey

Sam Smith
Stepbrothers movie
Tellus 360
Virginia Beach
Portland, Maine

What Daniel Radcliffe Smells Like
A List Poem by Jay and Brittany

Avocado, mint julep,
Harry Potter, sweaty armpits, acrylic paint,
bathwater pre-baby,
petunia, moldy roses, bachelor sink,
lovers quarrel, make-up sex,
locker room, gym sock,
depression, defeat, sad day.




BUT IS IT LIT? // Cherry: The Touring Guideline & Book

IMG_0623 Cherry: The Touring Guideline & Book

March 2014
103 pages
Perfect-bound, soft color cover, black and white text
Free with a subscription to The Best Mail On Planet Earth

Hunter is a person. But, he’s more than that. He’s an illustrator, a cartoonist, a visual performance artist, a life-lover, a prankster, and a friend of the U.S. postal service. For $25.00 a month, you can get a unique piece of his art shipped to your house. In January I received a rotating star-chart, which gives fictional constellations with etymological descriptions. In May I opened a box to find a scallop-shell which, when opened, contained a tiny flash drive with 30 live-recorded songs, all written and recorded in public spaces. Back in March I got a little book simply titled “Cherry.”

Cherry is a book full of important boating lore and instruction. It consists of advice, insight, and observations about certain water-borne phenomena. Seemingly conceived and written on the boat itself, amid a world of inspiration, Hunter has penned a charming, laugh-out-loud funny, and (at times) whimsically deep, probing manual for new boaters. Here are some specific points about the book:

1. It’s beautiful and easy to read. The soft matte cover is delicate and fun to touch. The image is of Hunter’s new dinghy, “Cherry,” which wraps around from the front, to the spine and back cover. The boat, and the water it rests on, look like tranquil places to be. the cover sets a comfortable mood for the reader, who may encounter the book with no idea what to expect beyond a good time. The title text is not a font, but scrawled by the author’s own hand and photocopied, so as to give the entire thing a very personal and off-the-cuff sensibility.

2. It’s funny, in a borderline-absurd way. For example, one chapter (each chapter is two facing pages) is called “Jetskiers: Parenting Gone Bad,” in which the author explains: “Jetskiers are born to parents who (and perhaps no fault to them) forgot to tell their kids about other life on the planet. They like it rough, fast, and in your face. Ages 16-45.” A few words later, the chapter ends with a grim, hilarious frankness, accompanied by a crude sketch of a gravestone, with the message: “Many Jetskiers die.”

3. It is charming and awkward. In a chapter called “Floating Sticks,” Hunter shares an illustration of a floating stick, a cross-section of a floating stick, and a Freudian, Icebergesque depiction of the “unseen stick” that lies below what you see on the surface. His jokes are often oblique, and sometimes take either a moment or two of figuring, or a simplification of the mind that makes you feel dumb in happy, innocent way.


4. It is deep and coyly wise. In a chapter simply titled “Where are the palm trees going?” Hunter explains that this particular tree simply “…intends to speak with the god-lady…slang for the night-sky.” As a reader, it is hard to feel like the words weren’t meant for you. It is hard to not feel like a tree growing towards something greater than trees. “Anyway, up they go,” he writes.

5. The illustrations are childlike, more-than-sketchy, and a perfect compliment to the scrawled smartness of Hunter’s concise words.

Hunter’s funny, charming art builds a childlike wonderment for the world and how it works. But, is it lit? You may just have to sign up for The Best Mail on Planet Earth and begin receiving his monthly gifts yourself. Let us know what you think!


Visual Interview: Brad Listi

Visual Interviews are where we send a writer a disposable camera and a list of ideas to photograph along with a few short questions. Once the camera is mailed back, we develop the photos and arrange them collage style to give you a unique glimpse into the life of the writer we’ve selected. Check out past Visual Interviews and stay tuned because we have Lindsay HunterAdam Robinson, Wendy C. Ortiz, Alissa Nutting, and Megan Milks coming up over the next couple of months!

brad listi citylonelywaterreadingalienstopquietdaughterbikemiraspiritpuppet

Brad Listi is an author and the founder of The Nervous Breakdown, an online culture magazine and literary community that includes TNB Books, an independent press specializing in literary fiction and nonfiction. His debut novel, Attention. Deficit. Disorder., was a Los Angeles Times bestseller. He is the executive producer of The Nervous Breakdown’s podcast series, and the host of Otherppl with Brad Listi, a twice-weekly podcast featuring in-depth interviews with today’s leading authors.


Interview curated by Erin Dorney and Tyler Barton. Photographs and text by Brad Listi. 

BUT IS IT LIT?//Bourbon Menu from DRY 85

Hopefully you know it by now. (But if you don’t…) But Is It Lit? is our homegrown series of articles about local/regional, funny, weird, lovable, and most of all downright literary things. Literature is everywhere–let’s talk about it. This post marks the 5th of our series, and it comes from a guest contributor, poet, and dear friend of the Triangle, Samantha Sweigert.

A few weeks ago, the Triangle was in Annapolis, Maryland, experiencing the literary-scene there for the first time at Ahh Coffee‘s monthly open reading. A few days before, our friends Sam and Aaron were also in Annapolis, where they came across a bourbon bar called DRY 85, the menu of which was loaded with literary (as well as whiskey) goodness.

Photo request: Eats review of Dry 85 Name of event: n/a Run date: 3/19 for b, 3/21 for Live Reporter: Kit Pollard Assignment sta

Photo copyright of the Baltimore Sun

(Sam writes:) 

Sing all of the slurred praises you like about vodka, rum, and gin; when it comes to lit-saturated adult sipping drinks, whiskey is as poetic as they get. Whether it’s bottom-shelf, crowd-funded Old Crow; a dark colored, honey tinted bourbon bearing the name of some moustached distiller; or a smoke-filled bottle of summin’summin from the mother country; each could write down its own pages. Whiskey has my writer’s heart, which is why on a two-day Annapolis, MD adventure, the fella and I were inarguably intent on visiting DRY 85, a prohibition style modern speakeasy with more than one hundred selections of whiskey and bourbon. Pick your teeth up off the floor.

After a healthy serving of some of my first rye whiskey, I was singing Punch Brothers music in my head and developing an old-saloon worthy plan of snatching the bar menu for my bookcase at home.

1. Quotes. The first page of this book of a menu displays a quote from Senator Morris Sheppard, often called the “father of national Prohibition,” which says, “There is as much chance of repealing the 18th Amendment as there is for a hummingbird to fly to the planet Mars with the Washington Monument tied to its tail.” Obviously Mr. Sheppard had very little faith in hummingbirds and the slow burn of a good whiskey, but I appreciate the uncommon simile.

2. HOW-TO. I hate being the one who has absolutely no idea how to order a drink/pack of cigarettes/fancy plate of pasta listed in Italian, and luckily, this publication saves anyone that unique embarrassment by listing the ways a drink can be ordered along with a description.

Neat: a straight pour at room temperature.

Cube: one ice cube. Opens the flavors.

3. Alphabetical Listings. All one hundred and fifty something versions of whiskey available are sprawled out on the next couple of pages along with their alcohol-by-volume. Some of my favorite draaank names are as follows:

Buffalo Trace

Dad’s Hat Rye

High West Campfire

Hudson Baby Bourbon


Whistle Pig Rye

4. The adjectives, though. Each whiskey, bourbon, rye, or special blend is tagged by a quickly eloquent paragraph describing its notes and flavors. If you know anything about whiskey, you know it’s all about those notes. These few lines accompanying each drink title were my favorite part of the experience. I sat there drinking my rye riddled with subtle hints of honeydew and banana while I scanned the rest of the booklet. Each bottle had something to tell me, a little context for the notes. Where had it come from? Were there flowers involved? How many years had it aged in a hollowed out piece of wood? I could have read the whole thing cover to cover. This little trinket really got me:


Busta Rhymes released Pass the Courvoisier in 2002. Sales jumped 30%. Instantly, cognac was cool again. However, the little family grower who works his vineyard and distills truly world-class, small batch juice simply doesn’t have that massive marketing budget to catch the eye of influencers. So, we support the little guys.

Gilles Brisson Grande Champagne 1er Cru VSOP – 40% ABV – France – 12.

Seven years old. Subtle, smooth and profound. More like our KRS-One to your Busta Rhymes.  


If whiskey-menus can be literature, what else could? You tell us. Email us (thetrianglepa [at] gmail dot com) with ideas or your own BIIL write-up!

Interview with Nicholas Montemarano

photo1In Lancaster’s Chestnut Hill Cafe, a coolly comfortable shop on the city’s west end, author and Franklin & Marshall College professor Nicholas Montemarano tells me this is the place he often comes when he needs to get back to the basics. “If I hit a wall or something…if I need to get away from my computer…when I need to go back to writing longhand, I’ll come here,” he says. There’s the old cliche, a stereotype that truthfully applies to a fairly large number of us, that writers only write in coffee-shops. Normally the impetus for this is the atmosphere, the noise, the bustle, the setting which allows one to be within and without. For many, it’s the complimentary Wi-Fi. But for Montemarano, it is an escape from his computer, a return to the foundation of pen to paper, which he uses to break through a writing block.

And it’s been this way for twelve years now. Montemarano began working as a creative writing professor at F&M in 2002, shortly after the publication of his first book, a novel called A Fine Place (Context Books). After four years of commuting between Philly and Lancaster, he moved here. “It has really changed a lot. The arts community has grown tremendously,” he says.

Since receiving his MFA from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst in 2000, Montemarano has published three books. After his debut novel, his short story collection, If The Sky Falls, was published by Louisiana State University Press in 2005. Last year, his novel, The Book of Why, was published by Little Brown. When we sat down a few weeks ago to drink a cup of coffee and chat, Montemarano said he has also finished writing a new collection of short fiction.

His work, and especially his latest novel, tends to pull its tension and structure from plots and themes structured around death. I asked him whether or not he knew where this fascination stems from. He says, “It’s THE subject. This weird situation we find ourselves in, where we appear here, suddenly we’re alive, and then eventually we’re not. It’s the most mysterious, interesting, strange, andit can beanxiety-producing thing about life: that it ends.”

In Queens, where the author spent his childhood, his family lived in a neighborhood “surrounded by cemeteries.” He says with a laugh, “The joke is that there are more people buried in Glendale than there are living.” He grew up right around the corner from the same cemetery Harry Houdini is buried in. This setting became the childhood home The Book of Why‘s main character, self-help writer Eric Newborn, who “has this sort of death-obsession as well.”

“So, for sure, I think I have a preoccupation with [death]. Every day, when I open the Times, I turn first to two sections: Obituaries, and Books. Those are the two things I’m really interested in,” says Montemarano. I asked him if this lifelong rumination, this literary grappling with death has made him more anxious or prepared for his inevitable own. He says, “The thing that has moved me very slowly in the direction of death acceptance would be just simply getting older. Having a kid, life experiencesthese things have moved me ever so slightly towards the side of acceptance of death. There are a couple of ways to look at death: there’s the anxiety of no longer being, or being here; that doesn’t really bother me as much anymore. The anxiety, for me, is separation from those you care about; that’s the anxiety of death… It’s more about separation and suffering, that’s what is a little bit harder to accept.”

Something that seems to bring all people towards a closer acceptance of their mortal fate is the practice of empathy, an act that Montemarano describes as the real joy of writing (or reading) fiction. In a recent article, the author says, “The most important reason I write stories, and read them, is to practice empathy.” I asked him to expand upon this idea of practicing empathy. He says, “That’s an opportunity we have, as writers. You get to try on the skin of other people through your made-up characters. I know that, for me, if at any point I start to feel that I’m standing above my characters, or I think I’m better than them or something, then I know I need to revise. I need to be able to feel empathy for them, no matter who they are.”

The problem with empathy, however, is that you can never fully know how another person, be they real or imagined, truly feels. We can interpret what we learn and observe about others through our own emotions and experiences, but it is never the same as living as that person. Trying on someone’s skin is not like actually having that skin, and Montemarano acknowledges this, trying hard to gain as complete an understanding of his characters  and plights as possible.

For example, he’s currently writing about a character with Parkinson’s Disease. “I don’t know what it’s like to have Parkinson’s,” says Montemarano, “so I’ve been researching, reading books, memoirs.” For years, the author volunteered for hospice and spent time alongside patients who suffered from the disease. He says, “You have to try to find ways to more deeply inhabit that character’s skin.” Because, at the bottom of it, empathy is about recognizing that despite our myriad differences, people are fundamentally the same, which makes the anxiety of death a little bit lighter to carry. “Because,”  as Montemarano says, “we’re all in the same boat, and I don’t want to live forever.”

photo1 (1)Special thanks to Nicholas for taking the time to do this interview with me, and to Chestnut Hill Cafe for providing the excellent accoutrements of conversation.

Be sure to check out Montemarano’s latest novel, The Book of Why, and feel free to comment below or email us at thetrianglepa [at gmail] dot com with any questions or ideas for future articles.


BUT IS IT LIT? // YO (the app)

10448252_10202114948503259_3226630384853710749_nYO, the brand-new, game-changing, lovable-yet-infuriating smartphone app is more or less “sweeping the nation”. Our friend and senior YO correspondent, David Ramsay Jr., reviewed it for us.






List Of Things You Can Say To Someone On YO:


List of Things You Can’t Say to Someone on YO:

-Yo is new.

-Yo is empirically cool.

-Yo is the first tweet of the typical frat bro.

-Yo never leaves a brother hanging.

-Yo is available on the app store or google play.

-Yo is purple;  Yo is simple.

-Yo is sweeping the nation.

-Yo turns 20 days old tomorrow.

-Yo is pointless.

-Yo is a waste of time.

-Yo is a waist of time.

-Yo is a waist of thyme.Yo iz a waist of thyme. Yo iz eh waist of thyme. Yo iz eh waist uf thyme.



Let us know what you think.

And THANK YOU, DJ. Follow him on twitter @davidramsayjr.

Remember, if you have an idea for a BUT IS IT LIT? article, email us!

BUT IS IT LIT? // Rockscramble Graffiti at Potato Patch


If you aren’t familiar with this series, But Is It Lit aims to report on fun, local(ish) phenomena/ephemera and ask of it the age old question: is it literature?

Last month, we went hiking with our friends in Lancaster Transplant at an excellent boulder field near Lebanon, PA. Where is it exactly? Well, as Jocelyn Park (founder of Lancaster Transplant, visual designer, and our tour guide on this hike) writes, “It’s hard to find the location unless you’ve been there before, a pull-off just to the right, about a mile or so past where Pumping Station Road and 322 meet.” 

It’s basically a hill of giant rocks. The hike is as fun and as tough as you want it to be, as there are an endless number of ways to tackle the hill. As we were exploring the rock scramble, colloquially known as the Devil’s Potato Patch, we noticed graffiti-art covering the boulders. We thought we’d be spending the day in nature, where the only literature we’d encounter would be the notes we might scrawl in our journals once we reached the top. 

But, oh were we wrong. (Or were we?)

Cutting to the chasehere’s what I think about the graffiti at Potato Patch:

1. The messages spray-painted on the rocks are like news headlines…


“2 Pac Never Died…Biggie is Dead” Author Unknown

…from 17 years ago. But, forest dwellers and passing vagrants might not be aware of some of these things yet, so it serves a purpose.

2. The messages spray-painted on the rocks are like tweets.


Author Unknown

Gross oversharing and in-your-face humor work to surprise the reader. Laughter is a common reaction. These short, probably true, jokes are much like the 140-character snapshots we get on a daily basis from writers and humorists alike. They are in our feeds; they are here on our rocks.

3. The messages spray-painted on the rocks may sound like poetry…


“The first soap was made from the ashes of fallen heroes, like the first monkeys shot into space.” Chuck Palahniuk.

…but they are really just quotes from Fight Club. Great line from Palahniuk‘s opus, but can we get some original material? Same goes for the banality displayed here: 


“Still Blazing” Author Unknown.

4. The messages spray-painted on the rocks are challenging your paradigms about not only what literature is, but where it can be found.


“Mind Expansion” Author Unknown.

Whitman said it best in Song of Myself:

“Failing to fetch me at first keep encouraged,
Missing me one place search another,
I stop somewhere waiting for you.”

So, keep your eyes open and if you see something that might be literature POINT IT OUT (and then email us).


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