B R U N A is pleased to present the fifth event in the MUTTER COURAGE program, an occasional reading series + conversation space curated by YANARA Friedland. Mutter Courage #5 welcomes STEVEN Dunn, author of Potted Meat (2016) and water & power (2018), both published by Tarpaulin Sky Press.
ABOUT STEVEN DUNN
Shortlisted for Granta magazine’s “Best of Young American Novelists,” STEVEN Dunn is the author of two novels from Tarpaulin Sky Press: water & power (2018) and Potted Meat, which was a finalist for a Colorado Book Award. STEVEN was born and raised in West Virginia, and after 10 years in the Navy he earned a B.A. in Creative Writing from University of Denver. He is currently an MFA candidate at Goddard College.
Here's an excerpt from Dunn's first novel Potted Meat:
My mom and stepdad have a baby so we move in with my stepdad’s mama. The house is built on the side of a hill. The house is leaning. The house has a kitchen floor that is slanted with the tops of nails pushing through brown linoleum. The house has a basement with a coal furnace. The house is white with two bedrooms upstairs, a bedroom and kitchen and living room downstairs. My mom and stepdad and the baby sleep in the living room. LaShawn and Jamar are my stepdad’s niece and nephew. They sleep in the bed with my stepdad’s mama in the bedroom downstairs. In the same room me and my sister sleep on the floor. Nobody sleeps upstairs.
When I put coal on the fire before bed a rat waddles along the wooden beams and stops to look down at me. Now while I’m trying to sleep I hear the rat scratching and chewing wood under the floor.
At five my stepdad yells to wake me to put coal on the fire. He says I didn’t fix it good enough last night at one. He says if I fixed it good enough I could sleep till five thirty. I walk outside and go to the basement. I shovel two buckets of ashes from the bottom of the furnace and dump them over the hill. Then I fill seven buckets of coal and dump three on the fire so it will last until I come from school.
Me and my sister, and LaShawn and Jamar, come from school. My stepdad yells because the fire went out. He said he and his mama and the baby was cold all day. That I was trying to freeze them to death. LaShawn and Jamar ask me why can’t I fix the fire right. My mom tells me I better get my shit together. I go to the basement and the fire is out. I put too much coal on and smothered it. I need to build a new fire.
There’s an old house next door where I get dry wood. With the axe I chop brittle walls, kick through walls, chop up the floor. Wake the rats. Their nest is tangled straw, sticks and dry leaves. In it is chewed-up Bible pages. Empty can of potted meat. Cracked pork-chop bones. Half-eaten Barbie head.
At five the next morning I put three buckets of coal on the fire so it will last until I come from school.
ABOUT MUTTER COURAGE
MUTTER COURAGE is an occasional reading series and conversation space curated by YANARA Friedland, which invites writers at the corner of poetic, embodied, and intersectional practices to share their work with the B R U N A community. MUTTER COURAGE refers to the name of the main character in Berthold Brecht’s eponymous play. A relentless maker in a war-torn world, MUTTER COURAGE inspires this series, which unfolds in expressions of courage in voice.
We acknowledge that the activities of B R U N A take place on the sacred and ancestral home of the Lummi and Nooksack peoples. We are grateful for their loving stewardship of the land and its inhabitants, and intend to be good guests and neighbors as we recognize their sovereignty and rich cultural practice + heritage. We set this intention first by making acknowledgments and then by practicing reciprocity. We are grateful to be able to share this space (both physically and culturally) with indigenous communities from here and elsewhere. In addition, we invite others to join us in recognizing our status as settler/occupants of this land and in making a commitment to support the Lummi and Nooksack nations through reparations.
B R U N A is made possible in part with support from Whatcom Human Rights Task Force