THE BOOK: Askew.

THE AUTHOR: Robert Vaughan

THE EDITOR: David O’Connor

THE PUBLISHER: Cowboy Jamboree Press

SUMMARY: A kickass collection of poetry and prose

THE BACK STORY: Most of these pieces were developed in two years of National Poetry Month (April); 2019 and 2020.

WHY THIS TITLE: The world feels tilted, off- center. Scrambled and off-kilter.

WHY SOMEONE WOULD WANT TO READ IT: Because it is hard to feel anything these days.


“Robert Vaughan is a sketch artist, a writer who shows more than he tells. Some of his sketches are quickies but he is always a great observer. At his best he uses color, evokes sound and is adept at selecting the right details. The poems of Askew are sketches of intimacy in which something is off-kilter. No matter how well one thinks one knows another person, mysteries, secrets, lacunae remain.” Mark Kerstetter

“I always turn to Robert Vaughan whenever I need a good kick in the language pants, a waft of ‘salacious breeze’ cut with ‘a swallow’s shriek.’ In his latest collection, ASKEW, Vaughan continues to honor the ‘small madness where senses reel behind the eyes.’ Ache runs rampant, fractured by longing: for places and people, arrested moments, former selves, fleeting lovers. These may be compact poems and microfictions, but don’t underestimate their size: Vaughan approaches the page with an honest, elastic and heartfelt expansiveness that holds space for us all.” Sara Lippman

“With his latest book, ASKEW, Robert Vaughan takes his unique talent for writing quirky, inventive and highly evocative prose to a level unparalleled even in today’s elite, prose poetry circles. There is simply no one like him. ASKEW both astounds and skewers the reader, sometimes leaving her/him/they spellbound, breathless and mired in after-thought. Sometimes gasping. Sometimes wounded. Sometimes chuckling nervously.

There is, perhaps, no author writing today who is able to “land the plane,” or write a last sentence, with such panache as Vaughan. Here are but two examples, though there are literally dozens upon dozens of others throughout Askew: A story, after all, is a kind of smothering. The longer he swallows her arm, the more possibilities open up. And it’s not only last sentences that Vaughan excels at, but also the ever-important first sentences: Mother was fond of saying I was born during a tornado of light. There are so many people going to the Grand Canyon to die. You’re as loose as a vacant freeway. The night my mother dies we’d watched Solaris at the Quad Cinemas… One could teach classes, entire semesters, on how to write such utterly compelling first and last sentences from this book. One could, and likely should, teach this book for decades to come. One could, and should, read it, over and over again.

ASKEW is the perfect title for Vaughan’s latest collection because each piece is superbly off-kilter, just as the most fascinating parts of life are. Vaughan takes the mundane and flips it on its head, to wonderful effect. He writes about bravery when it’s stuck under the covers, not readily apparent, breathless and wondering what’s next. He writes about fear and failure in ways that humanize not only his characters, but also, we as readers and flawed human beings. What he never, never does, though, is bore us, let us off the hook, or allow us to know the direction each particular story is headed, which is the very signature of artistic expertise. To speak specifically of any piece in ASKEW would be to ruin the reader’s chance at achieving a revelatory feeling of wonder and self-discovery—senses that the very best art strives to illuminate in us. The plot in these pieces may be pertinent, but the language is so exquisite that it also sidelines our thoughts about narrative arc, which is also a sign of author authority, if not genius. Simply put, ASKEW is a marvel, and then some—for the reader, for the writer, for those of us who aren’t yet sure who we are, what we’ve done, or where we’re headed.” — Len Kuntz


AUTHOR COMMENTS: I’m so grateful to Adam Robinson and Cowboy Jamboree. To the team at Bending Genres and to all my co-horts in the indie world.


LOCAL OUTLETS: Boswell Books


PRICE: 9.99


Published by


Recently retired after 35 years with the News & Advance newspaper in Lynchburg, VA, now re-inventing myself as a novelist/nonfiction writer and writing coach in Lake George, NY.

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