The Centrifugal Eye Poetry Journal August 2010 Volume 5 Issue 3
Craft vs. Commercialism An exploration of customization, industrialization, fashion, craftsmanship & the arts.
The Centrifugal Eye Editor-in-Chief; Art Director: Eve Anthony Hanninen Contacts Editor; Ed. Assistant: Karla Linn Merrifield Art Editor; Ed. Assistant: K. R. Copeland Ed. Assistants & Proofreaders: Jennifer Hollie Bowles, Ismail Ishaq, Sherry O’Keefe Art Assistants: Dallas J. Bryant, Mandi Knight Quarterly Review Columnist: Karla Linn Merrifield Staff Reviewers: Dallas J. Bryant, Simon Lloyd Dunbar, Ocalive Mwenda Staff Readers' Circle: Anonymous Reviewers
Cover Art: ‚Reflections on Contrast‛ by Keith Moul, 2010.
Photographer Keith Moul is 64 and retired from an insurance company. He's married (43 years) to Sylvia and has a daughter, Ianthe, who is a talented artist. Keith writes and travels to take photos. He says, ‚Retirement is wonderful fun.‛
To see more of Keith’s Photography please visit his portfolio at ImageKind. (http://www.imagekind.com/Moul-posters)
Copyright 2010 The Centrifugal Eye — Collected Works — All Rights Reserved.
Editorial & New Book News — Eve Anthony Hanninen
Round-Robin Feature Interview Poetry Maude Larke Michael M. Marks Gary Lehmann Ellaraine Lockie Karla Linn Merrifield Esther Greenleaf Mürer ‚Belles of Bolinas - Detail 2‛ stitched by Patricia Wallace Jones, 2010
Erik Richardson Karla Linn Merrifield on Scott Owens Danielle Blasko on Anthologies Custom Detailing
Scott Owens Erik Richardson Carolee Sherwood David Sprague Brandon Williams Ron Yazinski Nicholas Y. B. Wong Carol Berg C. Albert Jessie Carty Geordie de Boer Alan Britt K. R. Copeland Tom Daley Bill Jansen Ted Jean Kim Keith
Memory Made-to-Order This morning I woke up wondering whether the house I was living in 20 years ago had a washer and dryer. My mind walked through every room in the fetching, little Craftsman, but I couldn’t picture those big appliances in any of them. Then I started to worry; where would they have been? I kept turning back to the half-basement — where else could they have been? — but when my internal eyes swept over the room, there was only the furnace and a lot of weightlifting equipment. There was no way I’d live in a place for over 8 years that didn’t include on-site laundry. The fact I had no memories of hauling any off to a distant, commercial launderette, either, disturbed me further. I’ve been known to handwash dainties in the sink on occasion, but I’ve never washed an entire load in the bathtub more than once or twice in my lifetime. And surely I’d remember doing that several times a week for a decade? Wouldn’t you? Okay, so maybe I was still a bit hazy from sleep. It was only 4:00 a.m., after all. Back to that basement. Had to have been down there. When I mentally peered all squinty-eyed toward the south side of the furnace, I noted a faint-but-growing sense of greyness — the type that appears around a particularly foggy memory. Did I ever do laundry while I was working out? Did I slosh while I buffed? Or was my tape player louder than the washer, so my brain didn’t connect laundry with exercise? After puzzling over this preposterous worry and conceding there was no going back to sleep for another hour, I decided that, yes, the appliances must have been stationed in that grey area. And yes, somehow I’d incorporated those regular mundane tasks of washing and drying clothes into a schedule and pattern that worked right into my busy work/art-school/home life with barely an extra thought. Talk about modern conveniences, though! Sure, I’d had to hustle laundry off during my teen apartment years, but that grew annoying in a hurry. I’ve had shared-laundry situations, and I’ve driven bundles of clothes to my folks’ place to do when the dryer broke, but for the most part, everywhere I’ve lived had some sort of facility available. So it’s true, despite being a proponent of ‚handcrafted,‛ ‚homemade,‛ and ‚custom,‛ I am also a grateful product of my convenient environment. There was a time, before industrialization, when everything was crafted or performed by hand, and as an artist and writer, I still prefer fine, unique goods over mass-
produced, commercial items, in situations where I can afford them. Or make them myself.
Do-it-myself. But if it weren’t for technology and enterprise, I’d be too bogged down scrubbing clothes over a washboard to do my own creating. And while an occasional lapse in memory may be slightly frustrating, it’s not all that unusual for the mind to dismiss that which it deems unimportant, so that it may remember and celebrate what it’s stimulated by; for me, that’s beautiful craftsmanship and creativity, especially when it’s tailored to my lifestyle. The August 2010 issue of The Centrifugal Eye explores the many angular, poetic variations of the tailor-made — from the literal: fabric arts and needlework, and the technical: industry and invention, to the surreal: psychology and intellectual endeavors. These collected works will be much harder for me to forget than my old washer and dryer. I’ll bet for you, too.
‚Crafty Heart‛ by D. J. Bryant, 2010
Eve Anthony Hanninen — an American poet in Canada — writes, illustrates, and edits from beneath the dripping fronds shading a North Coast, B.C. town. Her poems have shown up or are forthcoming in Switched-on Gutenberg, Magnolia: A Florida Journal of Literary and Fine Arts,
Sea Stories, Long Story Short (interview, May 2009), east to west: bicoastal verse, Sein und Werden (print and online), Moondance, and other fine poetry journals, as well as in the anthologies, Crazed by the Sun and Trim: The Mannequin Envy Anthology. She edits and publishes The Centrifugal Eye poetry journal. Contact Eve (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Hands-on New Book Picks
Cooking Cook from scratch — be inspired by food-writer Alana Chernila's The By Hand Kitchen. This collection of recipes and family stories emphasize their origin in a ‚modest budget, her love for sharing recipes with her farmer's market customers, and a desire to stop buying mass-produced supermarket foods for her young family,‛ reports Publishers Lunch. Alana shows you how to customize delicious meals ‚by hand,‛ all of which are simple, inexpensive, and satisfying. Publisher: Clarkson Potter. Publication date: pending.
Let Jeni Britton Bauer, founder of a gourmet, ice-cream company in Columbus, OH, shows you home chefs how to concoct gourmet-quality ice cream in your own kitchens using seasonal flavors, with her Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams: Artisanal American Ice Creams for
the Home Kitchen. Publisher: Artisan. Publication date: pending.
Debut Fiction Maria Duenas's The Couturiere depicts the life of a seamstress from Madrid whose lover abandons her in Algiers, where she assumes a new identity. She survives to become the most famous couturiere in North Africa and serves wealthy Spanish Moroccans, as well as the rich wives of German Reich officers. Her endeavors are soon woven by British Intelligence into the world of spies and counterespionage. Publishers: Atria; Picador. Publication date: pending.
Alex Gilvarry's From the Memoirs of a Non-Enemy Combatant explores, within the satirical tales of a man’s adventures, the whims of the American dream. He moves from the Philippines to New York, says Publishers Lunch, ‚with visions of becoming the world's greatest designer, only to be kidnapped and shipped to Gitmo, just when his clothing line is about to break‛ into the fashion world. Publisher: Viking. Publication date: pending.
‚Moroccan Couture‛ by E. A. Hanninen, 2010
Five Editor-Poets ask a participating group of
TCE’s August 2010 Poets how they customize their craft. Editor
If a museum were to encase your collection of poetry along with three non-
writing materials of your choice, what would the materials be?
Maude Larke: I’m an absolute lover of glass, silver, and wood. I once spent a whole day in the Victoria and Albert Museum in London — a museum dedicated to Victorian culture — half the day in the silver gallery and the other half in the glass one. There’s such richness in these matters, such play of light and grain. I hope I show as much faceted play in my work. Ron Yazinski: A Martin guitar, for the endless possibilities it represents; a hammer and chisel for the idea that any material can be turned into art; a baseball, because, in the end, it all must be fun. Carol Berg: Materials from nature . . . such as fallen leaves, a robin’s nest, and fog. These images reoccur throughout my poems. Nicholas Wong: Cigarettes — I couldn't imagine any writing moment without this addictive accomplice. An audio clip of poetry in a language most people in the world do not know — poetry touches each reader differently in other languages. A picture of my dog, Bradley — without whom I wouldn’t have transformed (at least I think I am different now). Ellaraine Lockie: My nonfiction books, because they’re unique contributions to the world — one’s about papermaking from inedible fruits and vegetables, and the other about the button's effect on the world from beginning through current culture; so far, they’re the only comprehensive books on those subjects in existence. For example, I perfected the technique that makes the inedible-fiber process possible, as most fruit/vegetable fibers are too weak to use standard, papermaking techniques. And I’d also have my miniature perfume bottles (with wonderfully preserved fragrances) and button collections included. Karla Linn Merrifield: The diorama would feature a recycling, snow-melt, mountain stream running through it (unless the curator could bring Frank Lloyd Wright back from the beyond to construct a mini-version of his Falling Water house’s brook). Along the stream would grow a simulated, bristlecone pine tree. Scattered around the tree and tumbling into the
Featured: A Rambunctious Cut & Paste Interview
‚Old Friends & Familiars‛ stitched by Patricia Wallace Jones, 2010
stream would be a mélange of water-polished stones, including granite and, preferably, chocolate-brown Moenkopi sandstone. Water, tree, stone. They’re three elements that recur regularly in my poems. Those boisterous spring and early-summer streams are the mother waters in most American watersheds and are greatly threatened by global warming; to hear them is a joyful reminder I reiterate in many a poem. And while I’ve written a book’s worth of tree poems, the bristlecones are special; they’re among the oldest living organisms on Earth, some over 4,000 years old, and know more of this Earth than I’ll ever know; they humble me — the only trees that have ever made me weep. The rocks are the core of my poetry writing, even when they don’t appear as imagery, teaching me to be concrete in my writing — and to polish my words! Besides, there’s nothing like a good dose of geology to get my juices running.
Erik Richardson: I think I’d have them include a span of green, classroom chalkboard, and chalk, because of the huge part of my life that’s been fueled by teaching from K5 up to college. The third material included would be barn wood. In one way or another, old barns have been like gravity points anchoring the various orbits of my (mis)adventures. Jessie Carty: The first three materials that came to mind were: cardboard, charcoal, and a glass of water. Although, that seems like three items that could be put together to write with if you wet the charcoal and used the cardboard as your paper. Those three items, however, do show up in my book, and this question just made me realize how subtle even the little items in a poem (or a book of poems) can be, even to the author. Ted Jean: Pebble, feather, nail; my work usually features a human actor in the physical world. Scott Owens: Dark chocolate, red clay, and a topographical map, because I love dark chocolate, I was born and raised in the red clay regions of SC, NC, and GA, and I spend a lot of time hiking. Geordie de Boer: A section of flowing stream (see Trout Fishing In America, by Richard Brautigan) — I like Taoism; a psychoanalyst’s couch, because of a tendency to write ‚the inner person‛ of us all; and a coin, because I like to use words that have two sides. Tom Daley: a) Sand from Wingaersheek Beach in Gloucester, MA — that beach was a place where many of my narratives seem to land, where I learned to dig with my hands, where I learned what it was to develop techniques in building structures and tunnels out of sand. We are all falling into the sea, eventually, as Jimmy Hendrix promised for those whose houses are built on sand. b) Water from a kettle pond — the legacy of glacier melt, the old residues of the ice age, a mineral sweetness. c) Loam from a compost bin — one of my great fascinations is to watch food and yard waste decompose into rich, black dirt. The decay and regeneration give me hope, in a strange way. Brandon Williams: A flashlight for night reading, a book of Gerald Stern's collected poetry to see the inspiration behind the first poem I ever composed and the pieces that have followed in a sequential order that can hopefully be considered an upward arc, and a lighter, because in retrospect there's no way anything I've written can stand up to the weakest piece in Leaving Another Kingdom. Gary Lehmann: Funny you should mention this. I’m the curator at the Valentown Museum in Victor, New York, and many of my poems begin with objects I have explored for the museum collection. So the materials I would place with my poems would be the objects that inspired the poems in the first place, such as a funny letter from 1911 between a
hardware store owner and his water pump supplier. He asks the burning question, ‚why for gods sake you doan send me no handel? . . . my customer he holler for water like hell, for the pump. You know he is summer now and the win he no blo the wheel, the pump she got no handel so what the hell i goan todo?‛ (The poem generated by this letter appeared in The Centrifugal Eye, May 2007.)
Which recurring materials, e.g., glass, wood, cloth, does your written work feature?
Alan Britt: I reference Rose-of-Sharon often because this diminutive lavender hibiscus thrives in my backyard . . . attracts butterflies, moths, bees, and me. As far as the materials you mentioned . . . wood . . . mostly in the forms of our split-rail fence and patio lattice, appear often in my work. I love their shape, texture and the way sunlight and moonlight filter through and wash over them. Ron: Without question, plants recur repeatedly in my work. They are resilient, yet fragile, each beautiful in its own way, and reassuringly fleeting. Nicholas: Does skin count? I think our culture is shifting from a predominantly visual one to a tactile one. If you're a fan of Mac products, you'll know what I mean. Karla: Even when I’m not being a tree-hugging poet, trees, stones, and birds appear often in my lines. So leaves, stones, and feathers are frequently essential materials, even when I’m writing about love, hate, war, friendship, and other aspects of the human condition. Oh, yes, and shells, which often figure in my poems, reminders of the cycles of life. Where once a creature lived, now only a beautifully-shaped and -colored, calcified fragment remains to sit on a shelf, to join another pile in another generous basket in my writing room. Ted: There is often wood, still constituting trees, and milled into lumber; once again, human interaction with nature. Scott: I’m not sure if it counts as a ‚material,‛ but hands figure prominently, probably because I’m a child of manual labor, abuse, and a loving mother. Mike M. Marks: I keep returning to peanut butter, chicken, and eggs. I love all three, even though I became an ovo-vegetarian a couple of years ago and no longer eat chicken. C. Albert: I'm attracted to cloth in both poems and mixed-media works (such as in the shirt collage/poems on pages 54-55). It could be genetic— both my grandparents worked in the clothing business.
Brandon: Coffee cups and large pine trees, ringlets of sun. At least one of those three shows up in a large majority of my poetry, because I often start my day drinking a cup of tea on my porch on the side of my house that's nothing but forest, where even the dirt road fades away behind me. It sounds far more idyllic than it actually is, but that works well for poetry, where I can show only what I want to be seen. Oh yes, and I use coffee instead of tea because my brother's only 15 and already drinks coffee, so I like to pretend I'm manlier than he is, and in poetry, people sometimes believe that. Kim Keith: My written work does have recurring themes that involve many of the handcrafts. When I’m not writing or going to school, I’m crocheting, knitting, quilting, sewing, beading, or tatting; therefore, items related to these handcrafts find their way into my work because of exposure to these media. Rob Plath: Yes, full ashtrays. They are little worlds to me . . .
If you had to describe your written work as ‚solid,‛ ‚patterned,‛ ‚textured,‛ or ‚smooth,‛ which would you choose? Why?
Maude: Textured. It relies quite a lot on sound, and sound has a texture (to me). There’s also much weaving of strands. Alan: Textured. I’m in love with the senses and I want my language to vibrate all five. Carol: Oh, I hope textured. I like the sound of the word ‚textured‛ better than the others (sorry, other words!) and it just makes my fingertips buzz a little bit. K. R. Copeland: I would definitely describe my written work as ‚textured.‛ I use a lot of
double entendres and creative wordplay to ensure multiple layers of meaning. Geordie: For the most part I’d say ‚solid;‛ I try to use sound and image, but my poems must mean something. The images I use are not obscure and I’d use ‚accessible‛ (that hated label) to describe most of my work. Tom: I would say textured. Musicality and musically-composed language are keys to the success of a poem, and sonic textures vital and necessary in poetry-making. I try to impart texture of a rich and varied nature to everything I write, but I don’t always succeed.
Brandon: I suppose I'd say my poetry is solid in the way a defensive lineman is solid. Sort of slow, a bit plodding, striking heavily, but not always right on target . . . Kim: I would choose ‚patterned‛ to describe my written work since I’m notorious for writing pantoums and for working internal rhyme schemes or rhythmic patterns throughout the majority of my poems.
If you were asked to construct a visual poem about yourself using no text, what objects/materials would you use?
Ron: I see myself as a statue of an enormous plow horse, perhaps a Clydesdale, constructed completely out of recycled auto parts. Nicholas: I think it has to be a collage of everything: photos, animals, food, faces that I love and hate, architecture . . . My brain is always at work and my thoughts are random. Ellaraine: A Montana landscape filled with mountains, prairie, rabbits, horses, dogs, cats, and birds. It would be on handmade paper that’s a page in a book, and it would have uniquely-fibered yarns running through it, and be scented with Diva. Karla: Lots of feathers in various colors (raven black would be essential) and patterns (such as the polka-dot wing feathers of some woodpeckers) from many species of birds, and several sets of birds’ feet, with at least a pair of raptors’ feet and talons, a pair from a wading bird, such as a great blue heron — long, heavy toes — and the webbed feet of a swimmer, such as a cormorant or pelican. As I wrote in one of my favorite poems, ‚At the Feet of Birds,‛ I want that ability to fly coupled with the ability to hold on to life with feet that are made to grip. Erik: An old manual typewriter, the Socratic dialogues, a picture of my dog, drawing pencils, artwork and hand-made cards from my students. Their inclusion will make sense from some of my other answers. The one that does need a bit of comment is the collection of Socratic dialogues, and that one has to do with my lifelong quest (and a lot of years in graduate school) of trying to use philosophy to push past the comfortable illusion provided by exaggerated certainty. Carolee Sherwood: Pick-up Sticks — that children's game — because I love it. Poetically speaking, the sticks create a different configuration each time they are dropped, and the trick to sorting them out without upsetting the stack changes constantly.
Mike: I have been faithful for several years at never seeing myself in a mirror or hearing my own voice. I’m on the inside looking out and wouldn’t dare write about myself. Gary: I suppose I would depict myself as a rock in the middle of a stream half submerged, so that it can observe the action both above and below the water level.
If you could excel in a craft (other than poetry) that you’re not already proficient in, which would it be? Why?
Maude: I’m a lifelong frustrated musician. I left my education in that subject too soon. Words and music are the two matters that most suggest to me movement without literally producing it (unless you count the musicians' gestures). Erik: Art, art, a thousand times, art. One thing I have learned from all that time doing philosophy in and out of grad school is that reason fails far more than we’d like to admit, and at that point, beauty must be its own argument. K. R: Carpentry, I suppose. It’d be nice to do the handiwork around the house that I currently pay to have done by others. Ted: I have no natural gift, so I’ve had to work hard on my tennis skills, with some success. I am fascinated with the speed, grace and violent force, the act of faith that constitutes good ball-striking; so much like boxing, with less risk of brain damage. Carolee: Something about pottery seduces me (and not just because I am from the generation for which the pot-throwing scene in the movie Ghost was just about the sexiest thing we had seen on the big screen up to that point). Is it the cool, wet clay? Is it development of a just-right touch? Is it the risk of loss in the kiln? The creation of something with a clear purpose? Mike: I try to grow bonsai trees. Whichever are still standing when I’m 151-years-old will be great. Geordie: Painting, because it’s another way to express inner feelings. I would likely lean toward abstract, although my poetry tends toward clarity. Maybe I’d paint a guitar as Soutine and Picasso did (my guitar playing these days is definitely ‚cubed‛).
C. Albert: I'd make upscale, Rococo lampshades. I could work slowly and play with light and shadow. Each one would be unique. Tom: Calligraphy — I’m enormously impressed by how the masters of that craft can employ beautiful letterforms to honor the integrity and pizzazz of words and language. I love the feel of the pen as it plots the ink along the page, especially the stiff scratch and the smooth glide.
How do you feel your poetic voice is distinctly custom-made?
Maude: It varies, as I do. I work on different levels, and I think my work does, too. This may create a problem with having ‚a voice," but I prefer, all the same, to work with "voices." Novelist Elsa Triolet scoffed at the idea of style: "One never has ONE style!" Ron: To be glib, I don't think my voice is sufficiently custom-made. Certainly, the image that inspires an individual poem usually occurs when other people are around and they're not driven to write a poem. But all too often, I wonder if what I'm writing will hurt others, and yet, that seems inevitable if I want to be honest and creative. To continue the metaphor, I, too, often find myself tailoring a poem to another's taste or a fashion that is currently in style. Ellaraine: Everything about my voice is custom-made, in that when I began writing poetry ten years ago, I hadn't read a poem since high school — a Shakespearean sonnet that I hated. And so I thought I hated all poetry, and avoided it completely. But then I was informed by my children's-picture-book writing mentors of the existence of free verse. I had no idea what was being written at the time, nor what had been written in the past. I took free verse to be just that — free — and I wrote in a way that felt right to me. Karla: It’s called life experience. No one else has lived this life with the joys, grief, places, people, challenges, and rewards that make me — and my voice — unique. I know, too, that education — books read, languages learned, art studied, continents traveled, etc. — combined to accent my voice in a distinct way. It’s not uncommon to find French, German and Latin words, or words from the natural sciences in my poems.
Erik: I think every person has a kind of musical theme, the tune that would play behind their character in a movie, if you will. They then move through life choosing which elements and chords and themes they will include or leave aside from the many they encounter, and they wrap the chosen bits into their composition. In that way, we’re each — if we are honest in playing out our inner music (and not just mockingbirds) — unique. K. R.: I’ve always viewed the world from an askew angle (left of left of center and around the bend); this angle inherently shapes the nature of my written work. Jessie: I think all writers have a unique voice. There are a few who may lean towards adopting the voice of someone else, but I don't know how many people can truly mimic another writer. I'm not sure what I'd call my "voice," but it tends toward simplicity. Ted: No formal study, nor even discussion group; neither model, nor mentor; simply finding my way through a lifelong fascination with words. Geordie: I have a sense of humor and of the absurd, and I use them. And I think like Richard Brautigan, although I write many non-Brautiganesque poems. My short prose is certainly of that genre, but I’d hardly call Brautigan’s work a genre. Kim: I feel that many forces have converged to shape my poetic voice. I’ve had some very helpful instruction from various professors along the way and great advice from my peers; however, my most valuable instruction has come from reading the work of others. I’ve been volunteering my time to read submissions for a literary journal, which has sometimes been wonderfully instructive on what not to do. And I’m always reading published work in journals and poetry books for inspiration so that I can see what devices have been used incredibly well, and (hopefully) learn to incorporate what I love about others’ works into my own. Gary: After a dozen or so years of apprenticeship writing, my poetry started to focus on historical events and people. That imprimatur has made my poems recognizable as a brand. I think it has helped me in the long run to focus and be recognizable.
If it were fashionable to have words sewn into your skin (or perhaps they already are), what words would be sewn into your forehead, your chest, and your hands?
Nicholas: Forehead: "eye" — new-age gurus believe there's a third eye between everyone’s physical eyes, with which we can communicate with spirits, look into the future, and
connect ourselves with higher beings. Chest: "Do Not Enter" — because it's also where my heart is. Hands: My first answer is "Do not let go," but I have a more interesting alternative. I will simply have the letter "R" on my left hand and "L" on my right. My hands have been held by many wrong people before, so I think it's OK to give them a wrong hand to hold in the future. Karla: I know it sounds corny — I’d have ‚rainbow‛ stitched across my forehead, not because it’s a symbol of hope, but for the colors of the spectrum. I’ve written a number of what I call ROYGBIV poems, each of which includes each of the seven colors of the rainbow. It’s not often you view the world and see all colors as in a rainbow. When you do, it’s a stunning moment that deserves a poem. On my chest over my heart, I’d have the tailor write ‚Roger.‛ That’s my husband’s name and my heart is his heart. And I wouldn’t have anything written on my hands. I’m vain about my hands and wouldn’t want to see them marred (age is doing enough of that, thank you very much), rather have them open to the world to touch and be touched. But if you insist, the tailor can stitch a miniscule turtle on the pad of each of my pinkie fingers, so my animal totem can write with me. Erik: On my forehead: Jnana. Jnana yoga is the path of realizing God, or the Absolute, through knowledge. On my chest: Bhakti. Bhakti yoga is the path through love. And on my hands: Karma. Karma yoga is the path through action. Scott: My forehead would say, ‚Silence is the real crime against humanity‛ (Nadyezhda Mandelshtam). My left hand would say ‚Gentle,‛ my right ‚Ripples.‛ Across my chest I would excerpt part of the preface to Leaves of Grass. Carolee: When I read this question quickly, I read it as "If it were fashionable to have swords sewn into your skirt." Wouldn't that be terrific? Any words I could choose to sew into my skin seem contrived after that exciting entrance into the question. C. Albert: These would be the names of loved ones who have departed. The thread would be invisible to others, though. And not on my forehead, please. Kim: Head: ‚Caution: Overly-Opinionated‛ (it’s only a fair warning) or ‚Open.‛ Chest: ‚Courage‛ (everyone needs a little bolstering from time to time). Left Hand: ‚Remember‛ (either as an aid or to drive myself nuts wondering what I’ve forgotten). Right Hand: ‚Persistence‛ (a reminder to never give up easily). Rob: Forehead: don't think, Chest: smoke up, Hands: war all the time . . .
In what ways do you think poetry is similar to needlework? Maude: There is a sort of patience involved, a strand-by-strand placing. And, of course, there are the different strands themselves. When I’m writing a poem of any length, it is in fragments on different pieces of paper that are laid out in front of me. The creative process is very spatial. I need to find the pattern that’s weaving itself in the words before I can "stitch the poem together." Alan: I see words as a subconscious tapestry of the senses, guided by imagination, as Blake intimated. Carol: I think stitching words together is similar to needlework — and revision akin to ripping out the seams and perhaps starting over again . . . maybe with a different colored thread to make the overall picture better. Ted: In either undertaking, if you are not careful, someone could get hurt. Carolee: I bet everyone is going to say this (which makes it either a really good answer to a question about poetry, or a really bad answer): poetry is like needlework because when you turn it over and look at what's behind it, it's a mess of knots and loose ends and ugly jumbles of ribbon and thread. What people see as the finished wall-hanging or pillow is precise and detailed. It takes a lot of time and patience, but everything ends up in its place. Mike: Artists could sign either if they were especially good. Tom: Patience, repetition, precision, nimbleness of hand and eye. Use of color and detail. Brandon: I've never needleworked, but after reading my poetry and after knitting for long periods of time, my mom usually heaves a great big sigh and needs to go somewhere to relax, so I guess there's that.
What constitutes "selling out" for a poet? Alan: ‚Selling out‛ implies hiring oneself out, contracting for a fee, albeit small, for poetry, and writing what you don’t believe in to satisfy whatever market happens to be available. I’d say a popular and subtle form of selling out involves customizing your work for high-profile publications such as Poetry, The New Yorker, etc. I understand the desire to have one’s work widely distributed, but all too many high-profile publications serve up unexciting poems as though they were lumps of terrible hash heaped upon plastic, school-cafeteria trays.
Ron: Selling out is writing a poem that doesn't occupy my thoughts when I'm out for a walk or one that doesn't keep me up at night. Ellaraine: Not writing the truth as we see it. Karla: In order for a poet to ‚sell out,‛ I think he or she has to have ‚made it‛ big-time. Only then, with several books under the belt from big presses like Norton or Copper Canyon, can the sell-out occur. You know: her publisher is pressing for another book and she hasn’t written a lot recently so she pulls a bunch of poorly-crafted poems out of the back of the drawer and sends them off. The publisher is happy, the poet probably isn’t (but has kept the terms of her contract), and the reader is utterly disappointed. I won’t mention her name, but I suspect this happened to a poet I’d admired for many years. I picked up her thennewest book, read it and thought, ‚What crap.‛ She’d sold out. (She’s since recovered from that one-book slip.) Struggling poets can’t afford to sell out. They may give up, but they don’t have the clout it takes to chuck their craft for a buck. Jessie: I don't think poets are selling out when they become successful or even when they write greeting card verse. I'd have a hard time calling anyone who took the time to write poetry a sell-out, but the closest I could get would be what I call the American Idol poet. The poet who writes but has not developed a readership, and/or is not involved at all with the reading of poetry, etc., yet publishes his/her own book and expects everyone to buy it. I call these types American Idol poets because they are like those hopefuls who have either told themselves or have been told by family members they can "sing" (write), but they haven't taken the time to actually learn anything about the art form they are supposedly pursuing. I think of the "poets" who come up to me after readings and always want to know how they can make a lot of money being a poet. Geordie: Writing for the sole purpose of getting published, which translates to writing to the current trend. We wouldn’t have writers like Brautigan, or Kerouac, if they hadn’t written to their souls, or if they’d written to be sold (although both wanted to sell their work). Tom: Writing bland prose that is broken into lines and calling it a poem because that is the popular thing to do. Eschewing politics because some critics dislike political poetry. Gary: By ‚selling out‛ I mean compromising the integrity of your vision for a poem. Too often when I go to poetry critiques I see poets who are not confident enough of their own vision for a poem to stand up to other people and say, ‚No, that isn’t it at all!‛ You can fail to improve if you don’t take time to understand what people are really saying about your poem, but all too often I see poets who ‚sell out‛ by accepting every comment as Divine revelation.
Do you think the best poetry speaks to people in different and unique ways, as though it is tailor-made for individual experiences, or do you think the best poetry speaks to people in similar and universal ways, as though it is tailor-made for mainstream experiences?
Maude: I don't think I would say "best," but I lean to the former. I’m quite aware that certain passages of my (and others’) poetry cannot be read exactly as they were intended. I think it’s important that readers find resonances. A reader not finding any is far more upsetting to me than is a reader finding other meanings than the ones that I intended. Alan: Most poetry is steeped in symbolism and by the very nature of symbolism exercises intellect and creates vagueness simultaneously. The variety of interpretations of poems attests to inherent vagueness. One way around vagueness lies in concrete particulars, or as Duane Locke says, ‚the radical singularity of the concrete particular.‛ But creating such linguistic radical singularity is incredibly difficult, and even then various sensibilities respond to particularized concretes according to individual sensibilities. Even mind-melding poems wouldn’t cure vagueness. Ron: Isn't the trick of poetry to speak in a unique, personal way that will have others feel the universality of it? I don't do needlework, but it should be possible to write a poem about needlework that brings me to tears or laughter. Carol: I would hope that the best poetry speaks to people individually . . . which means that there’s not a homogenous ‚best‛ poetry . . . so that one poem may resonate deeply with one reader, but not register at all for another. But that poem still has a chance with at least one reader! Nicholas: Reading poetry is always a subjective experience, but I think successful poems should strike their readers by speaking of universal matters in a very personalized language, a language that the readers wouldn't think of using. Erik: Two of the fundamental drives in the universe, and in nature, are the one toward unity and the one toward diversity. They come together to create an elegance similar to that of an orchestra, where certain elements have to be in common, but where other elements — themes, melodies, widely different instruments, and playing styles — have to be separate and distinctive. Poetry can connect deeply with people in either or both of those two ways; it can show them our diversity by allowing them to imagine/feel/live/see something far different from themselves, and it can show them a meaningful commonality between themselves and the poet (and possibly others) in the process.
‚Dickinson Needles‛ by D. J. Bryant, 2010
Jessie: I think the best poetry speaks to people in similar and universal ways. I think any poem is understandable by everyone on some level. You may not "like" the poem or relate to the narrator, event, etc., depicted in the poem, but you can still find something to take away from the written word, whether it is disgust, empathy, or boredom. These are all valid reactions; we all just hope for the more positive feelings of connection. Or do we all? Scott: Definitely the former, although as Frost said, ‚There are roughly zones.‛ A good poem will reach different readers differently, but the general nature of the experience will usually be similar. Carolee: I think the best poems hover somewhere close to the middle of that spectrum, miraculously able to be specific and personal while creating intimacy of a shared and recognized experience with readers. Mike: The best poems, like all art, speak to the viewer/listener/reader in their own voices. Tom: Poetry, like any collection of words, speaks to individuals individually. The themes of great poems — love, and death, longing and struggle — are universal themes. The trick is to be able to present one’s own take on those themes with innovations that capture the imagination of listeners, whether they be poetry aficionados trained in the practice of reading and hearing poetry, or mass audience for whom poetry often produces only barely disguised boredom. Brandon: In my experience, as lovingly explained to me by my professor, Christopher Buckley, when he tore my first draft into pieces and didn't even bother to drop it in the wastebasket, poetry is about using the specific to define the universal. Kim: One of the things I love about poetry is that there’s room for interpretation. Every poet must make peace with the fact that every reader will bring their own ideas and experiences to a poem; therefore, a poet’s original intention may not always come across or be entirely understood, and readers are allowed to take from a poem what they need to hear. Because of this, I believe that all of these choices can be correct depending on the piece.
Round-Robin Interview continued on page 38
M Technocracy Maude Larke Walk in, put a coin in a slot in the wall and receive an afternoon’s survival. Here’s another slot for a coin. This will hand you your communion. That woman in the corner, too—
‚Hurt Heart Mending‛ by Patricia Wallace Jones, 2010
put a coin in the slot at her breast; she dispenses pleasure. All a marvelous contrivance: to hold an entire existence— physical and spiritual— in a change purse.
‚Happy Change‛ by E. A. Hanninen, 2010
Maude Larke has come back to her own writing after years of ‚real‛ work in the American, English and French university systems, analyzing others’ texts and films. She has also returned to the classical music world as an ardent amateur, after fifteen years of piano and voice in her youth. She has several short stories and poems, three novels, and two screenplays to offer so far. Her screenplay Allargando finished in the top ten in the 2009 Indie-Producer Screenplay and Short Film Competition. She has been or will be published in Bird’s Eye reView, Breadcrumb
Scabs, the 2010 and 2011 editions of the Syracuse Cultural Workers’ Women Artists Datebook, Naugatuck River Review, Oberon, Doorknobs & Bodypaint, The Storyteller, Flowers & Vortexes, Cyclamens and Swords, descant, The Art of Music - A Collection of Writings, riverbabble, Indigo Rising Magazine, Little Red Tree International Poetry Book 2010, and Thunderclap!
Contact Maude (email@example.com)
‚Featherbrained‛ Card by Patricia Wallace Jones, 2010
Eggshell Beetles Michael M. Marks Eggshell beetles were mating on my bonsai tree. This ladybug strain I have never seen Nestling on my tiny Fukien tea; They never knew a tree so small, so clean. I’ve known an ill artist, an athlete healthy, A bearded inventor, and a portly gourmet, I’ve met a poor writer, an insurance man wealthy, A teenager complaining, and a counselor okay. I come to expect people as they are And to inspect them as they’re intended, But learn to enjoy them pleasantly bizarre. The thrill of discovery is too splendid. I love my lover’s buggy side, no loathing Her spots. It’s her holy inner clothing.
Starting in Cincinnati, still entrenched in the Midwest, Michael M. Marks was schooled during the Cold War/fallout shelter era evolving to anti-Vietnam war college days, from Elvis to the Rolling Stones. Among the first of the baby boomers, he is the middle child of five born in a six-year span, always fighting to be heard. Now seriously younger than each of his own five children, he recently celebrated his fifteenth birthday for the forty-ninth time. With about forty poems published in the last few years, he is nearing his first poetry book, tentatively titled
The Peanutbutter Chronicles. Contact Michael (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Slave to Circumstance Gary Lehmann Moses Williams became the slave of painter Charles Willson Peale about 1773 when a Southern planter traded him in exchange for a portrait. It wasn’t much of a deal. Moses was small, weak, and dull-witted, not much good as a field hand and too slow for house work. Besides, Peale, an ardent abolitionist, was a reluctant slave owner, He promised Moses, ‚When you learn a trade, I’ll free you.‛ Moses was a likeable lad, but he struggled to accomplish simple tasks. Peale despaired. ‚If you don’t get a trade, I will free you,‛ he threatened. After many failed attempts, Peale set Moses to reconstructing the bones of the mastodon he dug up from a marl pit along the Hudson River. Moses had no theory to go by. He simply compared each bone, never getting tired or bored, until the job was done. Later, Peale acquired the plans for a new machine that would trace a silhouette and miniaturize it at the same time. He installed it in his Philadelphia Museum. With this machine, Moses found that he had a natural talent for cutting out perfect silhouettes, four copies at a clip. His small hands were ideal. He charged a penny apiece, at first, but soon found the trade would bear four cents per image. Moses found himself busy all the time. In his first year, he cut 8880 images, enough to make a decent living. Moses purchased a home and married. Peale immediately freed him.
‚Comfort Coils‛ by D. J. Bryant, 2010 Gary Lehmann’s essays, poetry and short stories are widely published. Books include The Span I Will Cross (Process Press, 2004), Public Lives and Private Secrets (FootHills Publishing, 2005), and recently, American
Sponsored Torture (FootHills Publishing, 2007). Look for American Portraits in 2010 from FootHills Publishing. Website http://www.garylehmann.blogspot.com/
Garfield on Ice
On September 12, 1881, President James A. Garfield was shot twice as he passed unguarded through the Sixth Street Station of the B&P Railroad by a man who had been overlooked for a government appointment. One of the bullets lodged in his body, but the doctors could not find it. They sought help from Alexander Graham Bell who was attempting to modify his newly-invented telephone to act as a rudimentary metal detector. Bell and his assistant spent precious days trying to get his device to work. While the President lay dying in the White House, his doctors probed the wound with unsterilized fingers, thus giving the President a deadly infection. At last, to Garfield’s bed rushed Bell, and scan he did from head to toe— his new device did not just register one bullet but hundreds of them. It was only later that Bell discovered he was recording the bed springs.
Taos Sunflower. Photo by Joan Besley. 2010
â€šHandspun Mermaid.â€› Freeform, knitted wrap made with handspun
The Long Flight of Fancy Ellaraine Lockie
Ancient Egyptians sharpened branches and looped strings of cotton to craft stockings Muslims created silk cushion covers and gloves in the round using pins Servants of Queen Elizabeth I knitted her silk stockings and fine woolens on coarse wires Curved needles produced layered sweaters that kept fisherman warm in harsh weather in Ireland and Scotland As they rode, Chinese caravan men grabbed handfuls of hair from camels to roll, twist and knit with sticks into foot warmers American women followed Eleanor Roosevelt to war armed with steel-stilettoed needles, gloves and balaclavas for the home front
Today we knit with wings that carry us high above earthly stress, grief or loneliness Up here we fly free as the wearable art we create We pull in the thick green fur of mountain trees The sequin blue shimmer of lakes White fleece like fog settling into them Rayon sunsets of pink, purple and red Bamboo ribbons of rolling hills that offset the synthetic sheen of cities Silk slippery as the seaweed of mermaids' hair Each stitch a tick tenacious as ocean waves And then, because we already own at least fifteen such fashions We wrap a loved one or perhaps a shopping stranger in the warm saltwater constancy of our craft
The Long Flight of Fancy was inspired by fiber art, crafted by Joan Besley, for a show at the Rane Gallery in Taos, New Mexico, Autumn 2009. Published in gallery show guide.
Ellaraine Lockie’s recent honors include: the Lois Beebe Hayna Award, the Writecorner Annual Press Poetry Award, the Skysaje Annual Poetry Prize, the Dean Wagner Poetry Prize, the Elizabeth R. Curry Prize in Poetry, and First Places from the Summer Shark Poetry Contest from the Aquarium of the Pacific, the One Page Poem Contest from the Missouri Writers' Guild, the Dana Wichern Award, the Redwood Writers Poetry Contest and the Alabama State Poetry Society's Spring Contest. Sixth and seventh chapbooks have been recently released: Love in the time
of Electrons from Pudding House Publications, and Stroking David's Leg from FootHills Publishing. Her eighth chapbook, Red for the Funeral, just won the 2010 San Gabriel Poetry Festival Chapbook Contest. She also teaches poetry/writing workshops and serves as Poetry Editor for the lifestyles magazine, Lilipoh.
Joan Besley was taught knitting basics by her sister, Susan Wuerl, at age nine. Joan says, ‚My fiber education began with how not to wind a ball of yarn! My early pieces were full of holes and oddly shaped.‛ After progressing through patterns and "controlled" knitting, she finally realized that ‚knitting and creating can take me on a journey of texture, color, and quite often mystery.‛ She lives in Taos, NM, where she finds inspiration everywhere. ‚Frequently the finished piece is not at all the idea I began with and that’s not only the joy of what I do, but also expresses who I am. In November of 2010, I will be able to say I’ve been knitting for 50 years and I have more ideas than ever before.‛ The Mermaid shawl began as an experiment playing with handspun yarn, and four days later was morphed into a joyful creation. ‚I try to encourage new knitters to tap into the freedom of creating instead of being overly concerned with the finished piece. It's about learning, and doing what we love. There are no mistakes. Do what you love, love what you do.‛
M The Offering Karla Linn Merrifield To succor the unicorn who becomes possible in watermelon time, she works from a faded recipe penciled on a lined loose-leaf sheaf nearly forty years old. She orchestrates the summer ritual of watermelon pickles, like a priestess brews a magic potion, stirring sugar into vinegar, bundling cinnamon and cloves. She toils with wooden spoon over stainless steel cauldron, wielding unwieldy implements — bold strokes of tongs, ladle. Her hands get wet repeatedly, fingers shrivel. So goes the provisioning for possible unicorns.
In between boiling spiced syrup and rinds, watermelon pickles make headline news in brief morning emails she dispatches to girlfriends. One writes: Watermelon pickles —yay! Another affirms: They take days! Both tender offers for a share of sweetness:
I’ll pay you for a jar, and Can we work a trade? She nods and returns to the duty kitchen, stands
‚Melon Blossoms‛ by E. A. Hanninen, 2010
facing the stove waiting for the unicorn to appear.
Another timer set, during a second ceremonial hiatus she slips a book off the shelf, turns to the last yellowed pages and rereads for the umpteenth time the poem that set this tradition in motion when she was seventeen. Making yet another gift of watermelon pickles today, sweating in the steamy labor of manifestation, she hears the frothing innocence of adolescence as she chants the verse’s emphatic simple refrain aloud:
Unicorns become possible again in watermelon season.
First of the buttery bites, pale green tinged with tender pink, tinted lush rose, go into her bubbling A score of minutes later, the lids of half-pints pop, pop, pop as she levers them out, and a second batch takes the plunge, until each quilted jar of luscious, sanctified sweet-sour ambrosia seals, cools, and calls from the jelly cupboard — O, come, wild one of pearly horn — and her unicorn arrives home to feast, to stay.
‚Into DeForest‛ Sitched by Patricia Wallace Jones, 2010
‚Unicorn Shell‛ by D. J. Bryant, 2010
blue-enamel canner, itself eighty seasons old.
Wash Day She left the pink velvet in the August afternoon rain to observe from a bedroom window its patient performance. Drop by drop by drop along the plain, broad shoulders rain proceeded, darkening to a deeper shade the fabric, enveloping the simple neckline and shapelessness of the bodice where her breasts would swell. Absorbed in this vigil of absorption, she watched ample waist and long skirts become ever more weighted, preparing soon to collect, to cling to her thighs. Then at last at dusk the scalloped edge of the hem released drop by drop by drop the garnered rain to the earth. She slid into that wet . . . pink . . . skin . . . and blushed most deeply.
â€šWatermelon Velvetâ€› by E. A. Hanninen, 2010
gown she had sewn hanging
2009 Everglades National Park Artist-in-Residence, Karla Linn Merrifield has had poetry appear in dozens of publications as well as in many anthologies. She has five books to her credit, including Godwit: Poems of Canada, which received the 2009 Andrew Eiseman Writers Award for Poetry. Two more books are forthcoming: the chapbook, The Urn, from Finishing Line Press, and her full-length Athabaskan Fractal and Other Poems of the Far
North, from Salmon Poetry. She was founding poetry editor of Sea Stories, and book reviewer and assistant editor for The Centrifugal Eye, and moderator of the poetry blog, Smothered Air. She is currently at work on a project with poet William Heyen, photo-illustrating his essay, ‚The Green Bookcase,‛ soon to be published by Janus Head. Karla Linn also teaches at Writers & Books, Rochester, NY. You can read more about her and sample her poems and photographs at her blog site. Blog
(http://karlalinn.blogspot.com) Smothered Air (http://smotheredair.yuku.com/)
Karla is also a regular contributor of poetry to The Centrifugal Eye.
Raven Woman’s Artifact, 1862
The Tobacco Society blanket asks for nothing from the wind. My medicine blanket that I have lived to use again? My blanket is a museum piece. But it flies like a weather dancer on wings of piñon jays pinned to a red wool sky. It hovers over the Universe from beyond its glass display, as the nighthawk stitched to a coarse red heaven did once above Absaroka Mountain rivers. One red-wing blackbird shed its scarlet blood to dwell in the swirling world of my red, red medicine blanket. As with earth, as with rain, this blanket of deer hide and trade beads dreams through feathered time our healing.
M The Fixer Esther Greenleaf Mürer Primed with a flask of Rooibos tea he donned a tent the color of chameleons and rollerbladed off on his round of world-saving chores. He had finished scutching the grommets and was about to flense the crisps when a hyrax fell through the stiff orange air, catapulting the flensing-horn into the following weekend where it lay, slipping and sliding as one might dunk a donut
Lurching from pillar to postbox, he bespattered the void with endorphins of paisley. Cuffs rotated. A lone bicep sneered. Nine o’clock and all was past and present as in a medieval dipstick. Another world saved, though not the one he’d intended.
‚The Paisley View‛ by Mandi Knight, 2010
into the Sea of Mutability.
Esther Greenleaf Mürer lives in Philadelphia. She has been a library cataloger, indexer, and composer. She has published translations of four novels by the Norwegian writer Jens Bjørneboe, and was founding editor of Types &
Shadows, the journal of the Fellowship of Quakers in the Arts. She got serious about writing poetry when she turned 70. Since then her poetry has appeared in numerous magazines — such as Drunken Boat, Unsplendid,
Tilt-a-Whirl, and Apparatus Magazine — mostly online. This is Esther’s second appearance in The Centrifugal Eye ; she was featured poet in our February 2010 issue. Blog (http://esthergreenleafmurer.blogspot.com/)
Baking Sheet Why, I keep asking myself, can a baking sheet— one that serves well as a sled or a noisemaker, yet is quite hopeless for paying my bills, or for soaking my feet (and my feet are quite tiny), or pointing me in the direction I ought to be going in order to find that most magical metaphor, that which alone will pry open the seedpod of courage and pink possibility— why can this baking sheet, greasèd and primèd (however you do that) and laden with gobbets of dough in fantastical shapes and wild colors, withstand the chaleur of a fine resolution— the fever it takes to perfect a creation— so very much better than my jellied offerings?
Form: Pterodactyl, invented by Max Gutmann: One-sentence poem in dactylic tetrameter.
daydreaming of transfusions Rob Plath you knew her so well that if her skeleton walked into the room stripped of its humanity you'd recognize it as hers . . . the way her bones were poised, the bowls of hips & how deeply they were scooped & the circumference of each button of her spine & its overall unmistakable arch . . . yes, you knew her well beyond skin, beyond meat . . . but she is gone over a year . . . now your own meat & bones sit in a chair & gaze out the window today at the clouds, the trees . . . there's a barrier in familiarity that if crossed allows a lover into your plasma, grants her permission to swim in the milk of your blood . . .
‚Recognize You Anywhere‛ by K. R. Copeland, 2010
Rob Plath is a 40-year-old poet from New York. He has 7 chapbooks out, and 1 large collection of poetry called A Bellyful of Anarchy (Epic Rites Press). His new book, There's A Fist Dunked in Blood Beating in My Chest (Epic Rites Press), will be out in the fall (2010). He lives with his cat and tries to stay out of trouble. This is Rob’s second appearance in The Centrifugal Eye.
â€šDrawersâ€› by K. R. Copeland, 2010
Unnecessary Things Scott Owens Of course, no one uses the button on menâ€™s boxers, its lonely office to pull together two flaps of silk or softest cotton in some pretense of modesty, plastic eye that never sees, and is rarely seen performing its pointless task. Few others compare with its bliss, the perfect ontological existence, only to be, never to do, no annoying reaching towards teleology, epistemology, the logos of anything, not even necessary to be beautiful . . . the poem, the ugly jug, nipples on men, solitaire, silent letters, wisdom teeth, the at at the end of a question.
How to Get Here from There One. Suspend disbelief, willingly, completely, permanently. Two. Associate freely across memory, perception, intuition, history, religion, philosophy, every other inadequate belief. Three. Use rules of grammar, punctuation, convention, prosody, and logic loosely, the way you cook from a recipe that was never written down. Four. Don’t believe anything the poet says he was trying to do — not just because they’re all liars, but because it doesn’t matter. The poet died when he dropped the pen. Five. Don’t believe anything anyone else says the poet was trying to do. Six. Expect mountains of molehills, occasional brilliance, insight. Be prepared for catharsis, joy, wild epiphanies. Seven. Hope, at least, for relevance, resonance, sublimity, the unending constants of change and discovery. Eight. Recognize the limitations of language, human reason, self-knowledge, psychotherapy and poetic license.
‚Supercharged Intellect‛ by E. A. Hanninen, 2010
Nine. If it makes you think or feel or act more deeply, go with that. Ten. Don’t expect conclusions, consistency, clarity, an absence of guile or complicity. Eleven. You, after all, are half the poet, and in all likelihood, the better half. Twelve. Read with a kind heart, assume the best of intentions, that the sum will be greater than the parts, and always give partial credit. Thirteen. Remember the warnings: Some assembly required; Batteries not included; Harmful if swallowed.
Author of 6 collections of poetry and over 600 poems published in journals and anthologies, Scott Owens is editor of Wild Goose Poetry
Review, Vice President of the Poetry Council of North Carolina, and recipient of awards from the Pushcart Prize Anthology, the Academy of American Poets, the NC Writers’ Network, the NC Poetry Society, and the Poetry Society of SC. He holds an MFA from UNC Greensboro and currently teaches at Catawba Valley Community College. Scott is a regular contributor to The Centrifugal Eye.
Continued . . . Editor
What is the most uncreative task you do that, somehow, who knows why, still sparks your creativity? (Gutting fish? Cleaning out the fridge?)
Maude: Tidying up. Because my mind does not need to participate, it can slip where it wants to. And it certainly does! Alan: Rolling out the garbage forces me from my preoccupied dwelling to commune with alley cats, wood-grain-colored moths and rabbits hunched like diminutive mounds of frost in the uncut grass. Ron: This certainly isn't a task, but many of my poems begin with mishearing a line from a song, or a conversation, or misreading something. Recently, I misheard a line from Lou Reed, in which I thought he was wishing on the first UFO he saw that night. Modern love. Nicholas: Walking my dog twice a day and the long train ride to work, where I see people of various backgrounds and different ages, talking loudly (some even to themselves) and forcing me to hear what they say. Karla: Laundry! And I know why! There’s something about the mindless methodical steps — sorting before the wash, then folding, then sorting again to stash in closets and drawers that clears the mind during this mindless chore. And it’s sensual (warm, fluffy) and intimate (I get to touch my husband’s undies), so easily can set thoughts flowing off toward a love poem. ‚Wash Day ‛ (page 30) is such a poem, one of the earliest poems I wrote with him in mind. Doing the laundry is also a discrete chore. An hour or two later and it’s completely done, x’d off my to-do list and that’s very liberating. It makes me eager to move on to more important things, like writing poetry. Erik: Oddly enough, the process of digging into a question or an issue through sincere, open-minded debate probably does more to stretch my mind than anything. It’s not necessarily that I’m being creative. Just listening and absorbing someone else’s words and
ideas is sort of the opposite of being creative. It’s passive. But the more eyes through which I can look out at the world, so to speak, the more creative I can be down the road. Ted: Grinding compost by hand through a welded wire screen to make dark, consistentlyfine mulch. Ecstasy! Scott: Organizing the cabinets. Anything that creates order out of chaos. Tom: Washing dishes. Brandon: It's always driving. Driving down I-5 with no place to stop for the next 32 miles, that's when I compose great opuses (opusi?) in my mind that are completely gone by the time I get to the Arco at Lost Hills . . . Kim: Cleaning is the most uncreative thing I do — but I seem to get the most crazy ideas from doing the dishes or mopping the floors. I think it’s because everything is so uncreative and basic, common-sense-type stuff that my mind has time to get out of its own way.
What format works best for you when you write? Paper, or computer screen? Blackberry screen in the middle of the night?
Alan: Handwriting on paper is my comfortable conduit for impulses from brain to hand, and though slow and often backed-up, handwriting induces the most pleasurable imaginative flow. Ron: I jot down notes all the time, especially on vacation. But mostly I write on a computer screen. I revel in the luxury of waste it affords. So many lines deleted that can't be used against me. Carol: Paper and computer screen. I start my ideas, and then when they’re really sparking, I have to use the computer . . . maybe because the computer is faster and my ideas are spinning at that point. Ellaraine: Paper and a medium-point, uni-ball® black-ink pen at mid-morning in Starbucks. Karla: From time to time, I’ll draft a poem on my laptop at my library table. However, as a plein-air poet, I write most of my poems outdoors. I grab my folding, canvas camp chair and head off to a quiet spot, or I put up my little tent, Blake, and write in the privacy of my nylon retreat, looking out through the ‚front door‛ at the woods or desert or beach beyond.
All I then need is a pen (felt-tip, so I can really feel the letters as I form them on the page) and my journal. Erik: The method I love best is to lug out this old, manual typewriter that a poet friend gave to me years ago. There’s something so vigorous and sensual about having to, effectively, pound out a poem. Jessie: I fluctuate between writing utensils in much the way I write in different genres. Sometimes I write in a steno notebook that I love, which is super easy to carry with me everywhere, but I also love to compose on the computer. Most of my poetry starts on paper, but all of my prose starts on the computer. Ted: I’ve been known to use the text function on my cell phone to record ideas and passages while . . . brace yourselves . . . driving! Geordie: I write via computer. Thoughts come to me faster than I can put them on paper and I rely on the uninterrupted flow, then edit later. If I get ideas in the middle of the night, I get up and jot a note on paper. When I look at it in the morning, I see where the stream takes me then, which is often different than the night notion. C. Albert: I wasn't totally sorry when my computer died, as I lack self-control when it comes to being online. I've learned to compose mostly by hand and like that better now. My favorite pencil uses .8 lead, soft and dark. My favorite eraser looks like a donut with pink icing. I recycle paper, write on the backs of things. Tom: Sometimes paper, sometimes computer. The computer is faster, the pen is more deliberate. I keep waiting for the red underlining signifying a misspelled word to appear when I write on paper! Brandon: The blank screen of Microsoft Word makes me want to fill it completely, as quickly as possible. Gary: I used to be a paper-and-pencil guy, but now I’m entirely wedded to the computer screen. The ability to move, alter, create optional versions and insert passages at will makes the computer my ideal writing tool.
‚Have It Your Way‛ by D. J. Bryant, 2010
How many scraps of paper do you have in your back pocket, right now, with notes for your next poem (and if not in your back pocket, where)?
Maude: Mostly stuffed into a notepad, but some lying around near the sofa. I counted 42. Ellaraine: I always carry a tiny blank book with me, usually in a fanny pack. If I don't take a fanny pack (rarely), the tiny book and pen go in a pocket along with other essentials (driver's license, one piece of paper cash, credit card, and brown lipstick). K. R.: I have no scraps of paper in my pockets right now (no pockets), however I have innumerable scraps of writing in countless journals, notebooks, and loose paper in various mounds about my bedroom/office. Scott: I’m wearing my pajamas at the moment, so no notes, but there are two napkins and two other scraps of paper stuffed into my notebook waiting for me to get back to them. Carolee: Organization/productivity mavens should shield their eyes, but I have so many I'll never find them all let alone get to them. Some of them are tucked into my journals. Some of them are memos in my phone. Some of them are notepad pages on my iPad. Some of them are abandoned blog posts. Someone should remind me about this when I say my muse has left the building. She leaves me bread crumbs if I remember to look for them! Mike: I love starting with paper and pencil, but am rarely smart enough to have them nearby to leave notes with. Geordie: I have ideas and lines both in a (paper) notebook I carry, and in a file on my laptop. I often get a notion when reading other poetry, or a thought will pop into my head anywhere. I look through these later and often a poem will flow out. Sometimes not. C. Albert: Since I haven't replaced my computer, I carry handwritten drafts in my handbag, along with the clutter: cell phone, almonds, sun screen — until I get to my boyfriend's Mac. I keep a journal, the sort that never leaves home, a dream journal with drawings, and a scrapbook of found images and collage starts. I almost never have creative blocks. Kim: Guilty. In my pocket I have two napkins, one receipt, and four random scraps. My purse has nine scraps. My desk is overrun with them (too many to count), and just about every page in my textbooks and notebooks in my backpack have some sort of random scrawl. If there’s something to write on, it isn’t safe around me. And worse, if I can’t find paper, I write on my forearm (which is something I’m always having to explain since I’m 35 and should not be writing on myself like a teen).
If you have other creative talent besides writing, how far do you stray from the How-To manual?
K. R.: I’ve done fairly well with computer-generated art and am entirely self-taught. The only
How-To book I’ve read is Islam for Dummies. And, no. I’m not proficient. Ted: I jealously guard my status as self-taught: in writing, painting, carpentry, tennis. Not sure why this is so important. You know how kids' art is bold and astonishing and fresh, until the old guy with frizzy hair and a frock teaches them about perspective and complementary colors? Something along those lines . . . Scott: I love cooking, but I’m a slave to the recipe. On the other hand, I’ve never used a gardening manual — maybe I should. Carolee: I don't read How-To manuals. If I can't figure something out by playing with it, I become impatient and frustrated. And then I can't be creative. Geordie: I played the guitar and sang till I developed a neuromuscular hoo-doo. My singing style was based on listening to Jerry Jeff Walker, John Prine, and other outlaw voices. As for guitar playing, I adopted a Travis picking pattern with my own variations. So, while I had a rule book, I strayed (always fingered G-chord wrong). It wouldn’t be a rule if you didn’t break it. Brandon: I once creatively drove from Nampa, Idaho, to Salt Lake City, Utah, and back again, in a blizzard. Honestly, I doubt I'll ever match the creative stupidity of that event.
What is on your desk right now that inspires you?
Alan: A bottle of Oyster Bay Pinot Noir. Ron: I have the obligatory family pictures, and nearby, a bonsai tree. But the object that most symbolizes what I do is a baseball. It represents man-made rules, which is all there are. A sense of society, because it’s a team sport, and the combined feelings of work and joy. Also, whatever the outcome of today, we play again tomorrow. Carol: Books — Hamlet, Borges, Anna Journey. Also I have to have my dictionaries . . . I use dictionaries from other languages, so my Latin, Swedish, and French dictionaries are all right close at hand.
Nicholas: Books — poetry, critical theories, and hardcore, tedious, academic books. Karla: I usually don’t draft a poem at my desk, but that’s where I do most of my revising, so I have lots of things on my desk to inspire me: four tiny turtles (glass and plastic) sleep on my laptop . . . an upturned box turtle carapace filled with sea glass from Greenland . . . a hawk’s feather . . . a curling, dried, sweet gum leaf . . . an egg-smooth cobble from our ‚front yard,‛ that is, Lake Ontario . . . and plenty more artifacts too numerous to mention, a joyous clutter. Erik: Well, I can mention some of the things, but I couldn’t possibly express how/why they inspire me. The process of doing that is my slow, poetic journey, I would say. Some highlights are: a picture of my Cherokee great-grandmother, a wooden box my wife’s dad made for me, a Galileo thermometer, a handcrafted, clay mug, and an origami-paper box my daughter created. Jessie: A Sharpie® pen. While I don't write with these often, a good pen, in general, just makes my day! It makes me want to write. I am such a school-supply nerd. Carolee: I don't work at a desk. I’m a bag lady. I carry books, journals, and a laptop (or, lately an iPad) around with me in canvas bags or large pocketbooks everywhere I go. Something I've been carrying recently for inspiration is a collection of postcards for a poetry exchange. Mike: Lists. Lots of lists. C. Albert: I like to compose poetry seated on my soft couch, in an arm chair, or on the floor with a tiny ottoman table. Brandon: The bills. Also, every time my new phone creaks out, "Droid!" when I get an email, I just really want to write a science-fiction story. Gary: Right now, on my desk in front of me, I have two versions of an old poem that failed. I took it to two critique groups last week and got two entirely different readings of why this poem doesn’t work. My very next task, after writing this, is to merge and purge the two into something rich and strange. Rob: A skull . . .
Round-Robin Interview continued on page 56
‚Being 14,‛ by Phoebe Mürer, 2010 Portrait Collage Series 1999-2000, Oil on Canvas, Visit Phoebe’s website (http://phoebemurer.com/paintings/?id=4)
Custom Poem Erik Richardson
What color was the hair of the first person to break your heart? Name the most amazing thing you’ve ever done. In which season do most of your dreams take place? Wait— this could take longer than I thought. Let’s frame the scale of the job by comparison: How many variables would we need to tailor a pair of pants? Too many continuous values judged by the eye and hand: a list of static measurements is never enough to capture the calculus curve of your thighs or the 1st and 2nd derivatives of the arc of your ass along both the x and y axes much less the torsion of fabric at each touch point when you walk, the proportion of your waist to hips. To get a poem anywhere close, we’ll need thousands of memories. It will be faster to teach you to pretend you’re someone else and use their poem than try to graph the growth of your character in the stuttering span of time it takes for either of us to figure out who you are.
Read Erik’s essay, Taoism, Craftsmanship, and Writing, on pages 82-83.
Erik Richardson is a freelance writer and school teacher with a number of published articles, essays, and poems. Some of his recent work has appeared in The Loch Raven Review, Sein und Werden, and Arbor Vitae. In addition, he won the 2009 Joseph Gahagan Prize for poetry, and is the editor of a small poetry journal for young poets, Signs & Wonders. Erik is a regular contributor to The Centrifugal Eye.
My God! The Tailor . . . Carolee Sherwood This is the something-plain you wear: thick bodice, heavy russet, wide peasant skirt (salvaged soul of windless curtains). Only toes of brown shoes peek out. Even your neck is corseted, encased in pale cotton. Up the back, a strict row, scar of tiny white buttons. Threaded loop after threaded loop strangles every pearl. You blush at the tailor’s touch. His fingers work through the fabric. Your skin a useless divide between his hands and your heart. This man you already love practices his craft with dozens, overdressed women afraid to leave dull wardrobes and husbands behind. Before he’s cinched the final waist, the tailor envisions a new dress, can’t wait to stitch beauty onto you, watches the modesty drape catch your shape as you change.
‚Perfect Dress‛ by E. A. Hanninen, 2010
When you return for the assumptions (old frocks) you’d left, his alterations will surprise you. Weary no more, you are strapless. You think in patterns:
He loves me. He loves me. He loves me. You are red sequins. Repeating lines.
He loves me. Emphasis on me. You are accentuated by red feathers. Each tantalizing plume quivers at the nervous breaths trembling inside your chest. You have never seen your breasts like this, propped up, proud. The tailor’s wrapped you in his design, a garment you’ll treasure, a maker you’ll worship. He pictured you on your knees in front of him the moment you entered his shop, when you asked him to adjust a simple hem. Obliged, he held pins in his teeth, dallied with the small details of your ankles, smiled discreetly into the folds of your skirt.
Carolee Sherwood’s poetry has been published recently in Pirene’s Fountain, Awakenings Review, Scythe, and Hobble Creek Review. She is part of the creative team that produces Big Tent Poetry. In addition, she co-edits Ouroboros Review and writes reviews for Poets’
Quarterly. This is Carolee’s second appearance in The Centrifugal Eye. Website (http://caroleesherwood.wordpress.com)
Contact Carolee (email@example.com)
New York Like New York David Sprague I stand here like a man standing here. A cab pulls up like a cab pulling up. I enter the cab like a man entering a cab. The cab leaves like a cab leaving. I sit back in my seat like a legend, like a full-grown stag, like an Empire State Building, like a dormant volcano, like a man sitting back in a cab seat. The cab stops like a cab stopping. I pay and tip like a man paying and tipping. I exit like a man exiting.
David Sprague is an English student attending the master's program at York University, Toronto, this coming fall. His poetry has appeared in multiple Queen's University publications over the past few years and, more recently, his work showed up in the online publication, Exercise
Bowler. Particularly fascinated by surrealist poetry, his work examines the tension between what is wildly original and what is simply cliché. (David is also the creator of a single-panel cartoon strip, The Colo(u)r of the Sun.)
‚NYC Sewer Lid‛ by Keith Moul, 2010
Community Brandon Williams There’s a cup of coffee and a scrub brush in the communal shower. I found toiletries on the sink in the kitchen by my honey-nut cereal, and you don’t even want to know what I had to watch swirl down the low-flush toilet before I sat down with my Field & Stream. I think the greatest threat to humanity is community. That’s why I could never understand communism, the idea that with everything working together, we’d all be better off. Give The Three Musketeers a few generations of genetic modification, of genesplicing, of good old-fashioned mutation, before you hold them up on your ideal index card. All for one, two, three strikes you’re out, or are we getting rid of corporal punishment, too? Delineation like delinquency like infancy like idiocy; Stalin stalling for time, Lenin lending an ear, and I’m on the john right next to a scrub brush in a shower filled with scum, reading about some lake in Minnesota that sees ten people a year, and I’m thinking that’s the kind of community I want to build.
‚Afterthoughts‛ by E. A. Hanninen, 2010
and I can have my drink and drink it, too.
‚Community-Minded,‛ background art by K. R. Copeland, 2010
Brandon Williams is a graduate of the University of California, Riverside. He's been published in journals such as Rattlesnake Review, Fewer
Than 500, American Pressings, Commonline, Milk Money, Words-Myth, ken*again, and Scawy Monstur. He's a firm believer in down-home country music and is probably almost certainly a strict constitutionalist. Contact Brandon (firstname.lastname@example.org)
‚Rock Guardian‛ by Mandi Knight, 2010
Rock Garden Ron Yazinski I am a third of the way finished with my heart. This is the last one I’m going to build, ever, I swear. I will fill it with roses, barberry and Japanese maples. For spring, I will plant red tulips. Passersby will marvel at my heart. They’ll all want one of their own. For how better can a man describe love for his wife, Than by stroking the petals of a rose, And singing? I’ll bet when God built the Garden of Eden, He built it in this shape. I’ll bet, too, He whistled, the music of the spheres. Though when Eve and Adam left, He learned to soothe Himself with thunder And a splitting of the earth. Whereas I’ve stood in the center of several of these gardens, And after singing every song I knew, Took out my anger on the flowers.
Ron Yazinski is a retired English teacher who lives in Northeastern Pennsylvania with his wife Jeanne. His poems have appeared or will soon appear in Mulberry Poets and Writers Association, Strong Verse, The Bijou Review, The
Edison Literary Review, Lunarosity, Penwood, Chantarelle’s Notebook, The Centrifugal Eye, amphibi.us, Nefarious Ballerina, The Write Room, Pulsar, Menagerie, H.O.D. and Crash. He is also the author of the chapbook Houses: An American Zodiac, which was published by The Poetry Library, and a book of poems, South of Scranton. This is Ron’s second appearance in The Centrifugal Eye. Contact Ron (email@example.com)
Artifice To a handful of tourists at the Biltmore ® Estate, The blacksmith demonstrates How to fashion an ivy-shaped key ring. Deftly in the super heat, He explains and pounds while sparks fly. Right before he dips the ring To harden it in its cold bath, He says, I give it one last whack with the hammer to scar it.
Otherwise it won’t look real.
‚Smithwork‛ by D. J. Bryant, 2010
Qipao, Homage to Wong Kar-wai’s The Hand Nicholas Y. B. Wong He removed the qipao from a mannequin and spread it on the desk. He gently slid his hand into the fabric from the bottom, where her lanky legs would slide through and glide along a seamless route. His eyes closed, his breath quickened, his hand searched upwards, beneath the silk storks and jade butterflies, for a body he once deigned to, a body not clothed by the second skin
by E. A. Hanninen, 2010
he tailor-made for her.
Nicholas Y. B. Wong lectures film studies and contemporary literatures in English at the Hong Kong Institute of Education. His academic articles have appeared in Asian Cinema and two Australian publications concerning media studies and education, Screen Education and
Metro magazine. He is also a creative writer based in Hong Kong. His poems and short stories are featured in Asia Writes, Taj Mahal Review, 6S: The Green Bike Stories, Cha, qarrtsiluni, Yuan Yang and Fifty-fifty: New Hong Kong Writing, edited by Xu Xi (2007, Haven Books). His poem ‚Lives‛ was shortlisted in the 2009 Chroma International Queer Writing Competition. He is currently an MFA candidate at the City University of Hong Kong. Contact Nicholas (firstname.lastname@example.org) Website (http://nicholasybwong.weebly.com)
Carol Carol Berg strikes the same initial note from throat: hard k like the thunk of wooden plank on the carpenter’s slab or someone’s desk scraping against stone floor. The plank is a blank slate, a momentary silence before the carpenter’s chorus of carvings — watch as the shavings reveal the shadow of my carrel, nestled here under this eastern window.
‚Into DeForest, Detail 4‛ by Patricia Wallace Jones, 2010
although not spelled carrel,
The slant of morning light is necessary for illumination. Touching the tip of my brush to cinnabar paint, I smell the sun’s chemical crescendo inside the pot. The word cinnamon ignites my mouth. The famous painter says, it is far
better to draw in company than alone , yet this carrel is my company, the wood’s texture a talkative scroll. My caresses along its grain — limb more beloved than any human’s — might seem strange. We speak to one another in physical language: My pen scratch along its bare burnished back is the sound of living things: rustle of oak leaf, whir of bird wing.
Carol Berg has poems forthcoming or in
Fifth Wednesday Journal, Pebble Lake Review, Rhino, Sweet, Tattoo Highway, and elsewhere. She has an MFA from Stonecoast (Maine), and an MA in English Literature. She also works part-time as a writing tutor at Pine Manor College (Massachusetts). Contact Carol (BergCaro@gmail.com)
Her Shirt C. Albert
The cars follow each other, they never stop tailing each other. Insular cars pass steadily through. Crosswalks mean nothing. She waits at the corner wearing a gingham shirt, crisp black and white grids,
‚Her Shirt,‛ Poem Collage by C. Albert, 2010
a graph carved with roads.
Alien stretches of concrete have no map — where to turn? The cars don’t stop, no one is driving. The cars eyes stare frozen as their mouths gush vapors over her shirt. The Mixer’s concrete pours on top of her. She knows where to turn, down into her secret basement of fungus and roots to play with her barbies and breasts in the quiet dirt and green. Moss grows between the cracks.
His Shirt The rational man wears black and white squares boxes where he keeps XYZ’s evenly invariable
and no fixed rows
‚His Shirt,‛ Poem Collage by C. Albert, 2010
Fly out of the black
Emptiness inside his shirt where insects sleep with snakes rocks masks Open mouths dark chocolate and broken wings She wants to reach in to the hairy dark. C. Albert makes collages and writes poems; sometimes they overlap: collages with poems written in them or poems as companions to collages. Her works are upcoming in Wicked Alice, Naugatuck River Review, and Triggerfish Critical Review. C. Albert is a regular contributor to The Centrifugal Eye. She has two portfolio sites of collage and poetry: Runaway Moon (http://www.runawaymoon.blogspot.com) Aerial Dreams (http://www.aerialdreams.blogspot.com)
Continued . . . Editor Is there a metaphor of handcrafting (e.g. sewing, cooking) that you use sometimes (or often) when crafting poetry? For example, do you think of a poem as a recipe or dress pattern?
Maude: The notion of weaving is uppermost. But musical form is also important. Exposition and recapitulation, theme and variations . . . Two of my poems, "Madrigal" and "Passacaglia," do in words what the forms do in music. And of course, madrigals weave musical themes. My spatial approach mirrors that. It is the "weaving" of juxtaposition that moves me forward. Alan: Threading . . . as in threading linguistic experience. Erik: Clay sculpting. I don’t do it myself, which is surprising because I’m a very kinesthetic person, but I find the metaphor really helpful, and I use it when I’m teaching kids about writing, as well. The first step is to make sure you have lots of great, colorful clay on the table to work with. Everything else is editing, and as long as you keep the clay wet, you can keep on messing with the piece. Jessie: I often compare poetry to photography. I'm an avid, amateur photographer and my love for writing and poetry both date to my childhood. I have a manual digital camera and before I take a shot, I pause to think of the settings I need to use to compose the best shot. Do I want a high-speed shot? Flash? Etc. Each aspect pertaining to photography I can apply, in some way, to writing poetry, so I do use different aspects of photography at different times in my writing. Think of shutter speed. You can adjust the amount of time that the camera will expose the shot. Perhaps you want a quick shot that catches someone leaping in the air, or instead, you want more exposure and see the motion of the person leaping — blurred, with some crisp aspects. I can do the same thing with a poem. Perhaps the first quick shot is a tight haiku, perhaps the motion shot is a poem that starts hectic, with many metaphors, and then fine tunes itself to one specific moment at the head of the shot.
Scott: I sometimes talk about writing as being like building a house. One goes to many places to gather raw materials; examines the work of others to get ideas, etc. I don’t know if that helps me write, but it helps me explain to others how I go about my business. Carolee: At my house, before eating anything I've cooked, my kids eye the food suspiciously and ask, "Was there a recipe?" Usually, I answer, "Well, sort of." That means they'll be eating what we affectionately refer to as my "concoctions." I think my poems are like this, too. I experiment. I play. I rarely know what's going to go into them. Geordie: I think of a poem as an uncarved block, much as a sculptor might view a chunk of marble. My uncarved block is the mass of words that adhere to a particular idea, and my task is to find the poem within. I find the best way to do that is to sift the words as they reveal themselves naturally, and hew off the extraneous along the way. C. Albert: My first draft is like a skeleton. I write fast, and it has good bones, but almost always needs a lot of fleshing out; the hard part. Hunting for the right words is fun, like clothes shopping without leaving my couch. Tom: Sometimes I think of writing a poem as breathing the letters together, as one does in writing out letterforms in the practice of calligraphy.
Do you ever use handcrafting activities as a route to generate poetry? For example, does a spell of knitting help you gather your ideas?
Karla: I wouldn’t call it handcrafting, but photography is certainly an artistic endeavor I constantly use to open the floodgates to poetry. There’s considerable crafting involved in composing a photograph, such as aperture settings, framing of the shot, considerations of light and shadow, ISO speed. . . . But perhaps the most important aspect of crafting a photograph is my eye’s search for the significant detail — what will the focal point be? This search, repeated again and again, trains the eye, which in turn trains the mind to create concrete details in my poems. One creative act leads to another. I’ve also learned through photography how much akin is cropping a photograph to trimming excess words or lines from a poem. Ted: It never occurred to me before your suggestion, but you are quite right: When I have framed a bit of remodeling, or built a rock wall, or planted some rhodies, the residual sense of handicraft does seem to lend stimulus and order to my writing.
Scott: Yard work often leads to poetry. Gardening, mowing, etc., diminishes the ‚noise‛ of everyday concerns so that my thinking wanders a bit more away from what has to be done. C. Albert: I switch back and forth between writing poems and making collage. Recently, I've been drawing and doing photography. This jumping around has brought a lot of creative growth. Brandon: It's all I can do to find individual keys on a keyboard, so complicated handcrafts are far beyond my abilities.
What does it mean to ‚craft a poem?‛
Maude: It means setting a strand or strands, weaving them, seeing if each word takes part in the weave and if it doesn't, is that an addition or subtraction? If it's an addition, I follow it. Ron: To craft a poem usually means to cut without mercy. In that way, it's a lot like a stone sculpture. Unlike a sculptor, however, the poet often has to cleave his favorite line or idea for the poem to work, often the very line that was the genesis of the poem. I don't imagine that sculptors have the same attachment to the stone. Carol: To me, it means to build a poem up from different materials. One word might spark a line, or a blazing orange leaf stuck in a spider’s web might be something I would write down in my journal and save for a poem that hasn’t come to me yet. Writing down phrases, gathering words— these things that I might take and store somewhere to be used later when I’m in the midst of writing a poem and need to put something right there, because that part of the poem is just a little too blank. Nicholas: To remove redundancy and to enrich if necessary. Karla: Hard work! Mary Oliver claims in her A Poetry Handbook that she revises a poem an average of 80 times. To ‚craft a poem,‛ we ask ourselves such questions as: Is each verb worth the 50 cents Oliver says they’re worth? Is each image fresh, original? Have we made a leap in logic that leaves the reader in a lurch? Is every line break working? Has every line earned its keep? Would couplets be more effective than triplets? And 74 more questions of that ilk, if we are to reach Oliver’s level of revision. K. R.: I believe to craft a poem one must first begin by putting general thoughts on paper . . . from there, the writer must decide on a number of factors; format, rhyme scheme (if any), employment of poetic devices (alliteration, assonance, personification, etc.), tone, and
target audience. Each poem will no doubt transmogrify through a series of revisions, and unlike, say, a knit sweater, may never be deemed finished by its creator. Carolee: For me, crafting a poem means to fuss over mechanics — stanza and line breaks, word and image choices, etc. — until the poem's structure and voice serve it exquisitely. I love it, but it's very tedious work. Often, I am guilty of not pushing as hard as I can. Tom: Many things, from summoning words to arranging them, to replacing them with stronger or more musically-apt choices. To build new kinds of images from imaginative dissonances or incongruities. To compose the music with an ear attuned to nuance. Brandon: For me, the crafting of a poem comes after it's been written, in the many drafts afterward where I'll read through the piece for flow and change one word or perhaps two before I sit back and grumble and start over with the reading. The actual writing of the poem I allow to come to me naturally, sometimes letting multiple individual poems stew for weeks while the obviously perfect next line takes its time in forming.
How has technology altered, enhanced, or detracted from the process by which you craft your poems?
Maude: I will never write a poem on a computer (I think). But it provides objectivity. Once I see the poem on the screen, it becomes something else and I can discern things that may need to be changed. Alan: The computer has enhanced my ability to rewrite. Rewriting, although always an integral piece of the freedom puzzle, was a bit stubborn until my PC afforded me alluring alternatives at the stroke of a key. Ron: Technology has certainly facilitated the making of my poems. I write without worrying how many times I cross out a line. It's a very forgiving palimpset. It helps to have the spell check and thesaurus handy. Besides, the computer is the metaphor for my work. The keyboard is mightier than the sword. Carol: I think technology has mostly been helpful — in that if I want to know something about the dragonfly, I might use Google™ search or Wikipedia® to look up the dragonfly and find out how the Swedish folklorists used the dragonfly in their stories. And it certainly has helped me to not send out poems with so many spelling mistakes. Ellaraine: What I appreciate most about computers is how easy it is to keep a running
record of poems' evolutions. I find having all the drafts clipped together in a pile is very useful for many reasons. I hand-write the first few attempts of a poem; after I see that it will become a poem, I put it on the computer and take it from there. Karla: Technology is a blessing, especially when it comes to research and revision. While I usually draft a poem by hand, I often preface writing by browsing the Internet to verify facts, such as the genus and species of a bird, or refresh my memory about the rules for a particular poetic form, e.g., the number of syllables in a hay(na)ku. Following the drafting, which involves a number of revisions in my journal pages, I keyboard the poem, and the serious re-visioning begins. How easy on a laptop to test stanza lengths and fiddle with line breaks, check spelling, browse a thesaurus, and so on. Technology is a boon to the submissions process, too, as all TCE poets know. So much easier to check current guidelines, for example, rather than referring to Poets’ Market, which, like most printed references, is out of date by the time it reaches the bookstore. Lately, more journal publishers have adopted online submissions practices, such as handy Submissions Managers, streamlining the process and eliminating the need (and costs) of printing, envelopes, stamps. Finally, as a vagabond poet who’s on the road half the year, wifi or my cell phone keeps me in touch with the world so I can perform my TCE editorial duties and continue to process poetry submissions just about anywhere I go. My laptop is my best technological friend, named ‚Bertie,‛ after my beloved writer, David Herbert Lawrence. Erik: Mostly the impact has been on the way I think about poetry and relate to other writers. In a way, working at the computer can be harder, because it is much easier to just stop and wander off in a daydream or switch over to checking your email. When you have lugged a big ol’ typewriter up into the middle of your desk, though, two things happen: 1) the physicality of the act helps to keep you engaged, and; 2) it’s a big hassle to stop writing and jump on to check your email or your Facebook® page, so you don’t wander off track nearly as much. Jessie: I think technology has definitely made me a better reviser. When I first started writing poetry it was always in a notebook and rarely typed up. I, therefore, rarely took the time to make any changes; instead I created what I thought was the best poem in that first draft, hovering over each word. Now, since I know I'm going to have to type even my handwritten scribbles up, I tend to "say" more in my initial drafts, letting myself pick away at the mass of words until I find the right ones. It’s a freeing experience. Probably the only drawback is that I rarely print, and I don't often save all the drafts of a poem in progress. I miss that a little. Ted: This computer is a fine tool. The ease with which I can edit, now, helps to overcome my reluctance to change things; on paper, the scrawled word of first choice seemed altogether too precious.
Kim: Technology has altered my writing significantly, and I’d say for the better. I’m part of some online poetry forums that give valuable critiques. I run a poets’ blog group that gives prompts, advice and tips to aspiring writers. And most of my writing classes are online since I’m a single parent who would not otherwise get to attend college. Online email or submission managers have vastly improved the process of getting work published and also to make the work of other poets more accessible for me to read and learn from. Altogether I’d have to say that technology improves the writing process by making more information available to a wider audience.
When you craft a poem, what steps are involved?
Ron: Every poem begins with an image and a line that is slightly askew in either its grammar or vocabulary. It almost never ends where I think it is going to when I begin. I mistrust poems that don't reveal themselves as I go along. I want to be surprised when I write. Better yet, I want to be terrified. Carol: I might free write for 10-15 minutes about the desert. Then, I may use a flora map I picked up when traveling to Lake Powell to incorporate interesting, and to me, previously unknown images from the desert, like the Mormon Tea shrub. When I have a line that I really like, I’ll rush to my computer and start a new file. I’ll be revising while I write up the rough draft. Then during the next couple of days, I’ll return to it, reading the poem out loud and making changes. Let it sit and ‚rise,‛ hopefully, and then slap it down and make more changes. Repeat. Nicholas: Take away weak verbs and adverbs. Avoid overwriting and obscure images. Read it out loud and hear the sounds of it. Jessie: I normally start on paper with an idea, an image, a line, and then I just keep writing until I have nothing else. Sometimes I do this on the computer, but I prefer paper, where I just write without thinking about line breaks, etc. After I’ve handwritten or typed a draft, I try to let it sit for a few days or even a month (depending on whatever else I am working on). When I go back to it, I read it out loud to see if new line breaks start appearing. I start to remove unnecessary words. Then I let it sit again. I go back to it another day, or a few later, and keep doing that process until I am no longer changing words. This normally takes me at least a week or two of daily (or if I skip days, can take more like a month) changes before I feel like I have a poem that’s ready to submit somewhere. If the poem is then rejected by a publication, I go back and read it again to see if I want to make any new changes before I send it back out, because the time it was away being considered for publication can really give me much-needed distance.
Scott: Many of my poems start with a single line or image which I put into my notebook, and over the next day or week or month, other lines and images collect around it until I have a sense of a complete ‚moment.‛ Typically by then, I’ll have a particular line that defines the overriding structure. Then I take it to the computer and shape it into a poem. I may submit it for publication at that point, but I’ll continue to fine-tune it indefinitely, especially when it comes back rejected, or when it appears in a journal. I’ve even revised poems that have been published in my own books. Mike: When I’ve collected enough interesting phrases, I sew them into a poetry quilt. Geordie: If I don’t read poetry, I don’t write poetry. As I read, an idea often crops up triggered by the poem; I look for my own take, say, a parched garden, on reading about a desert, or a line comes to mind, like ‚My belly button defies Hell’s Canyon for depth.‛ Then I write down the words as they come into my mind. I’ll play off words or phrases, such as ‚Hell’s Canyon‛ with ‚the hell of it;‛ ‚belly‛ providing the lead to ‚hell.‛ I just let the poem flow where it wants, read it, then begin editing. Editing is ‚to craft‛ a poem — does it make sense? does it sing (assonance, alliteration, rhyme)? does it flow with gravity (rather than being forced), like a mountain stream? Next, I read it as if I were speaking it, to see if the line breaks are logical for breath; is the last word on a line the right one, etc? Is the first line immediate; the last? While the initial writing is stream-of-thought, I rewrite, rewrite, and rewrite. Brandon: My poems almost always come from a line that sticks with me, a cute turn of phrase. I usually start from there and roll with it for as long as it'll go, adding a line or sentence as it comes to me over the span of several weeks. In the editing and culling down process, that original line is almost always among the first cuts, and by that time, I've run it into the ground and am glad to see it go. Gary: Steps? For me the process is tailor-made to the demands of the poem. I’m always thinking about economy of words. I’m always aware of the visual beauty of the poem on the page. I’m always seeking metaphors to deepen the telling. I’m always trying to refine the main idea into its essence, but on beyond that, everything is up for grabs in any order whatsoever.
Round-Robin Interview continued on page 74
‚Communication Circus‛ by K. R. Copeland, 2010
Oh Telemarketer Jessie Carty Oh Telemarketer — I know you are just doing your job — I’ve been there. I had to pull numbers from the phone book — Cold call — Mostly women — To see if they wanted to sponsor a child for the circus. I was calling on behalf of the Shriners and this predated Caller-ID but was after rotary phones so at least I didn’t have to turn a dial all day — Nor do you. Oh Telemarketer — I want to feel sorry for you but you keep trying to sell me on a change to my satellite dish plan even after I’ve said no — I try to shut you down with — Well I thought
of canceling since I’m unemployed but you are undeterred. Oh Telemarketer — I don’t want to hang up on you — I want you to end this call but after my third negation and the ongoing scripted sound of your voice I give in — I hang up with a — No thank you and goodbye. Oh Telemarketer — I hope it wasn’t your first day — I hope you didn’t take it personally — If you see this — Note the original draft was written on the back of yet another poetry journal rejection. Like you telemarketer — I keep trying.
Jessie Carty's writing has appeared in publications such as Main Street Rag, Iodine Poetry Journal and The Houston Literary Review. She is the author of two poetry chapbooks, At the A & P Meridiem (Pudding House Publications, 2009) and The Wait of Atom (Folded Word, 2009), as well as a full-length poetry collection, Paper House (Folded Word, 2010). Jessie is a freelance writer and writing coach. She is also the photographer and editor for Referential Magazine. She can be found around the web, where she blogs about everything from housework to the act of blogging itself. Blog (http://jessiecarty.com) Contact Jessie (email@example.com)
In Medias Res Into Ars Poetica Geordie de Boer The new plants look like they’re on a forced march without their canteens. One, parched, has sunk to the ground like a Boy Scout hearing punk rock for the first time. The playground grass seed sown last spring sprang up in spikes looking as if I’d buried a schoolyard of knottyhaired kids up to their crowns. Impossible for the mower, they get a haircut with a weedwhacker in spite of their cries. This fussing over plants as if they were wayward waifs drives me inside to listen to the plaint of Gregorian chants. If I were the President, as commander-in-chief, I’d order my leafy troops to regiment themselves. Or appoint me Commissar of Public Works so I can cast bridges across chasms of consternation— better yet, make me Poet Laureate of the Garden Plot so I can cast phrases across an empty lot and grow images where none has grown before.
‚Bridge of Consternation: La Push, WA‛ by Keith Moul, 2010
Geordie de Boer, a rambler and writer of fiction and poetry, has been published most recently by Deuce Coupe,
Sheepshead Review, The Raleigh Review and Right Hand Pointing. Visit him at his blog, Cockeyed Fits. (http://geedeboer.wordpress.com/)
A-knit-omy My bellybutton defies Hell’s Canyon for depth. The hell of it lies in the lint that accumulates like silt River. I could knit a vest made from bellybutton lint-wool if I knew how to knit one— and purl, too.
‚Needle Bouquet‛ by E. A. Hanninen, 2010
in the eddies of the Snake
Ode to the Hudson Alan Britt No one wants to be a river today. —Federico García Lorca
Oaks’ elephant arms and legs, poplars with banana-bitten leaves, and jade smoke rising, rising, rising from the rippling haunches of the Hudson as she wraps her watery branches around our waist of imagination, around the supple waist of democracy, around a future sans slavery, sans bigotry, sans capitalist greed, but with a Whitmanesque humanity floating like gulls, white papery gulls, floating like the ashes of indigenous kisses, floating like mythologies of moths, floating like underwater strands of DNA, floating like congested stars, planets, moons, or dying pulsars in Humvee rearview mirrors, ®
floating like mistresses, divine and sultry mistresses of the imagination as only the imagination can conjure sultry mistresses, floating like alien six-winged rods, or eight-winged rods, floating, floating, floating along the Manhattan seamstress’s extended lifeline of despair as conceived by Madame Fortuna, along the pomegranate lips, dark aureoles, tender and dark aureoles of the newest indigenous goddess in tight jeans and flouncy breasts the color of willow and sandpaper.
‚I Am a River‛ by K. R. Copeland, 2010
Today, a day like any other, always today the river with hips of linen, hips of iron rusted by moonlight, hips reflected off 5th Avenue plate-glass windows onto puddled sidewalks, foreheads and fingerprints smudging sterling silver crucifixes dipping their cross-legged toenails into the fertile miasma today, today, today, today and today into the burnt womb of the Hudson! I want to be a river; I want to be worm and weasel; I want to drown and dance, dance and drown, drown and dance; today I want to be a river!
Alan Britt’s recent books are Vegetable Love (2009), Vermilion (2006), Infinite Days (2003), Amnesia Tango (1998) and Bodies of Lightning (1995). Essays recently in Clay Palm Review and Arson. Interviews and selected poetry recently featured in Steaua (Romania), Latino Stuff Review, Inc., and Poet’s Market. Other selected poems appeared recently in many fine journals, including Agni, The Bitter Oleander, The Christian Science Monitor, The
Comstock Review, The Midwest Quarterly, and in anthologies such as American Poets Against the War (2009), and Vapor transatlántico (Transatlantic Steamer, 2008). Alan received his master’s degree from the Writing Seminars at The Johns Hopkins University, and teaches English/Creative Writing at Towson University. He performs poetry workshops for the Maryland State Arts Council and occasionally publishes the international literary journal, Black
Moon, from Reisterstown, Maryland, where he lives with his wife, daughter, two Bouviers des Flandres, one Bichon Frise, and two formerly feral cats.
â€šYour Muse is in Stitchesâ€› by Patricia Wallace Jones, 2010
Sew On and Sew On and So On K. R. Copeland What may, comes, we wear what crumbles wrinkles, crinkles, one-eyed needles soothe the savage seamstress who sews on. Smocks of cotton, socks of sin costumes for a clown, a pin in rapid repercussion, seams, sews on. Buttons, zippers, wear and tear repair and re-repair with care our hearts, our hems, our stratagems, so on.
Sew On and Sew On and So On first appeared in Anemone Sidecar, 2004
K. R. Copeland is a widely published Chicagoland poet/digital artist/editor and literary-prize nominee. She currently acts as assistant art editor of the online literary and print magazine, The Centrifugal Eye, and is co-editor of Sea Stories, the online literary journal of the Blue Ocean Institute. When not enveloped in the arts, she is in her garden, tending the roses or posing in yoga asanas. K. R. also regularly contributes poetry to The Centrifugal Eye.
T To Mima’s Vase Tom Daley
To Mima’s Vase Your glaze was shaved by lava. Hieroglyphs in cider dregs cankered your lip. Across your curves, toss their toast-black wings. Their color pools like ladled mole light. You burned that she might sing. With heat leached from brush fires, she hackled your neck. She drizzled your back
clawed from the caves of Lascaux. Somewhere in the of your earth, like kiln fire.
her hands still flame Peel away your
‚Black Wings‛ by E. A. Hanninen, 2010
crows, slow as clay,
singed papyrus husk and twine us again in the wind and wheeling of her grace.
To Mima’s Vase first appeared in The Studio Potter (2005).
Tom Daley serves on the faculty of the Online School of Poetry and teaches poetry and memoir writing in the greater Boston area. His work has appeared or is forthcoming in Harvard Review, Fence, Barrow Street, Diagram, Rio Grande Review, and elsewhere. He is the author of a play, Every Broom and Bridget — Emily Dickinson and Her Servants, which he has adapted into a one-man show. Contact Tom (firstname.lastname@example.org) Online School of Poetry (http://onlineschoolofpoetry.org/)
Music for Periscope and Orchestra Bill Jansen Important, special equipment arrives: An empty box And boxing gloves. Now I can hear the almost things, Like the ping of submarines and arctic drones Hovering over the ice floe-shadowed ruins Of the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra.
Bill Jansen lives in Forest Grove, Oregon. His poems have appeared or will appear in
Hanging Moss Journal, Triggerfish Critical Review, Asinine Poetry, and The Externalist,, as well as in other various ezines. Scholarly works on Thomas Weelkes, Thomas Watson, and others of that era have been published with Eric Lewin Altschuler, MD., in peerreviewed journals. This is Bill’s second
The chilled martini sounds
appearance in The Centrifugal Eye.
Twisting the night away. The continuous, dispersing see ya. Not to forget the sundial They left us on the ice. Who knew the polar bears Would mistake it for a radio And fall asleep to Guy Lombardo. I’m guessing the robotic noise I pick up Is some mechanical madrigal in the squalor below. I hope it’s not a waltz. I hate the waltz. Tomorrow maybe the equipment will fail. (If it does) I’ll back into the dum-de-dum snow, And hibernate in white and silent omnibus. But for now I listen to the soft piccolo of the Northern Lights, And the stars’ crab-shaped cantata.
‚Only a Game Fish‛ Stitched by Patricia Wallace Jones , 2010
The 12 tones of the albino flounder.
â€šBuckthorn & Blackberry Antsâ€› by K. R. Copeland, 2010
Deep Weed Theory Ted Jean Gather your stomping to get through the weeds as they rise to lift you halfway into fir wood; this is the parcel behind the little war-time bungalows, where the rednecks have failed to cause any trouble; breach the blackberry and buckthorn far enough and the view of Mt. Scott and Mt. Hood should be plain; in between, if you pay attention, there is abundance beneath each step, from foxglove through harebell and pigweed to plantain upon warrens of coppery ants. Why has it started to choke me up, of late, to witness the world at almost any layer of sense? Standing to my armpits in sword fern and fireweed, I begin to twig that I am not, after all, any kind of martyr; in transit, in fact, from heaven to Heaven.
Ted Jean is a recently retired AIG executive. He writes, paints, plays lots of tennis. New to submitting work for publication (since November 2009), Ted has published fifteen items, mostly poems, in Poetry Quarterly,
Blue Earth Review, Cirque, Perceptions Literary Magazine, The Delinquent, and several other publications.
A Key to Locks Kim Keith Crocheted into a chain stitch to capture the unruly; I believe the French translated this to make it more suitable for movement. Pins and knitting needles roll up inedible buns; one, serious and severe from its top perch — a force worthy of Lucas flicks in oppositional pairs. Heated cylinders of ceramic or metal mold a shock of springs, bringing bounce where limp boredom once ruled. Make it permanent with foul activation. Science’s compound approach: application, timing, rinse. Every hue known to Eve, but beware brass; fading and sprouting needy roots, common downfalls. Too much of any of these renders 7-10 splits in the end — no hope to be spared. Maybe start entirely over: the bowling ball might be ‚in‛ for summer, at best. At worst, a way to break a six-to-eight-week chemical habit— Habit: nuns have it easy.
Kim Keith lives in Gold Canyon, Arizona, in a four-cat-three-dog-two-ferret-one-teen-daughter-zoo; therefore, she would like to know what she would do with some free time. She channels insomnia into writing while enjoying questionable food from all-night diners. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Fissure Magazine, Barrier Islands Review, and Skive Magazine, amongst others. Contact Kim (email@example.com)
‚Desphair‛ by K. R. Copeland, 2010
Continued . . .
If you could customize your own job/occupation, exactly what would it be? How different would it be from what you do now?
Maude: I would be a musician, discovering or rediscovering new works every day, working tightly with other musicians to create, always in some kind of ensemble contest, never uniquely as a soloist. In what I do now, there is no cooperating, no collaborative work. Karla: I’m one of the luckiest poets on the planet. I wouldn’t change a thing about my poetry career. Having retired from the rat-race world of marketing eight years ago, I’ve had the luxury of writing, revising, and marketing my poetry 24/7 (well, with time out to eat, sleep, hike . . .), with the added benefit of extensive travel to feed the fires of my inspiration. If pressed, I’d change one thing: Give me more hours in the day, more days in the week, more weeks in the year to write, write, write. Erik: I think I would grow the writing and design business that my wife and I run, and I would teach a few college classes on the side. Aside from being able to devote more time to writing, I would be able to focus more on some creative art, instead of just commerciallydriven, graphic design work. Of course, while I’m imagining it, I should also go ahead and imagine that the job would come with health insurance! K. R.: My ideal job would be ‚traveling poet.‛ I would be paid handsomely to traverse the globe in search of poetic inspiration. My musings would be published as a regular column in either The New Yorker or National Geographic. This is entirely unlike my current occupation, which requires me to spend most of my daytime hours with my head in an oversized oven. Jessie: In my dreams, I would just be a professional writing coach. I would travel around and teach online. I'd help writers with their manuscripts. I could even help writers build their social-media presence. My dream is to always make my own hours and schedules,
and I've been doing that for the last three years, just with virtually no pay. I am going to start adjunct teaching for the fall and that gives some structure, but also leeway, so I am looking forward to it. Ask me again in December how I feel about it. Ted: This retirement suits me fine. I work out, play tennis, ride my bike around town, paint, write, drink wine with my crazy artist friend, work in the yard, remodel the house, cook dinner for the family, make love to my wife. I don't know how I managed to work more or less diligently for 38 years. Riding my bike the other day, it dawned on me that the strange feeling I had was precisely how I felt when I rode my bike around Ukiah at the age of nine: simple astonishment at the world around me. Geordie: I would create the job of Night Owl Counter and only do it during the day. I’d find a large Ponderosa pine to lie under and wait for the owls to flock to me. Come to think on it, that’s what I do now. Best job I’ve ever had. Brandon: I'm currently a work-at-home typist. It's low-paying, but I can do it from anywhere. Really, for unskilled workers such as myself, with no desire to learn a trade, and not a single inkling to complain about a job every day at 5:00 pm, I couldn't think of a better job.
Are you a do-it-yourselfer, or do you generally like your world ready-made? If the former, what three things do you enjoy creating/crafting most, and how are these hands-on processes echoed in your writing? If the latter, how does commercialism and consumerism impact your approach to writing poetry?
Ron: I see the future of my writing as incorporating many of the elements that are considered technological or commercial and finding the romantic and tragic in them. I want to find the pathos in the cell phone, and the nostalgia of Times Square neon. Anything else is cliché. Nicholas: I'm from Hong Kong, where people dream of making nothing but money. The hectic and fast-paced lifestyle has somehow taken my patience away, which I think I need to get back if I want my writing to go further. No one can write well if rushed. Among my friends, I am the one spending my income on books. Most of the time, I feel that I am a misfit. People do not read English poetry here. But then, the cultural and hyper-capitalist mix that I find in Hong Kong can inspire me to explore certain subject matters that writers from elsewhere could not. It's a treasure, but in order to get it, I first have to exclude myself.
Ellaraine: I like handmade, but most of it made by someone else, the exceptions being a few chosen crafts. Those I'm fanatical about: hand papermaking, knitting, collage, and folk-art bookbinding. My poetry weaves in and out of them, literally and figuratively. Scott: A bit of a combination. I’m a do-it-myselfer with things I enjoy or have time for — gardening, home repair, childrearing, cooking, all of which figure prominently in the subject matter of my poems. On the other hand, my mechanical skills are severely lacking and I have a tangible fear of electricity. I’m not sure commercialism impacts my approach to writing, but I do occasionally use ‚consumer culture‛ as a subject. C. Albert: I'm both. I often buy things ready-made and alter them. For instance, I recently bought a pair of shoes and cut off the binding plastic strips, cut off the logo, tea-dyed the laces. I do this with jewelry, too; maybe take off excess beads, turn pieces upside down. Collage works off this concept of reworking found materials. I've been told my poems are like collage, too. Brandon: I like my world ready-made. If it wasn't, I'd have nothing to rail against nor reason to pine for the good old days that I'm too young to have known. Kim: I’m a do-it-yourselfer. I love to cook from scratch, make my own clothing and jewelry items, and craft afghans and quilts. I tend to use a great deal of words that are connected to handcrafts in my work, and my non-verbal creations tend to give me some time to clear my head. I’m also incredibly patient because of my crafts, so I tend to apply that to my writing process as well.
When ‚sewing‛ a poem, do you first piece numerous elements and then seam them together for cohesion, or do you begin with a single, solid ‚cloth‛ (image) and build around it by detailing and adding trimmings?
Maude: The poem itself decides, but lately my poems have been many-layered. Usually one strand appears first, then the others sprout from it. But once I have the strands, the weaving starts. Ron: My favorite poems come from the collision of two disparate ideas, and in their fusion, finding a tension and a meaning that initially totters on nonsense, but ultimately resolves into insightful metaphor.
Carol: Each poem begins slightly different . . . so a beautiful-colored cloth might capture my attention and start a poem from there. Sometimes I want to purposefully play with a material — like food — or pretend I’m someone else. Karla: My ‚sewing‛ happens both ways. Sometimes I have the cloth completely visualized and know from the start the pattern I’m going to follow, but most often I start with a scrap, a piece of an image. Then I gather other scraps, scribbling them any which way on a page or pages, until I start to see a pattern emerge, the poem taking shape on its own. At some point the poem looks like a dress or a jacket and inevitably the trimming work begins. I’ll add punctuation (or remove it), stitch on a title, baste the hem that is the final line . . . Jessie: I tend to start with one single idea, but I love when you find little bits in different poems that you didn't realize belonged together, because later you can shape a whole new poem like a quilt. Carolee: I try to do both. The poem I have in this issue of TCE (pages 46-47) is an extended metaphor. I would say I knew it from the beginning. When this happens, I try to write much more than I need for the poem. Then I take it in and in and in until it has only what it needs. Sometimes, however, my poems are strange juxtapositions with only a thin, loose thread connecting them. Mike: I love starting with a bunch of awesome images/phrases and crocheting them into a doily, where they all hang out and compete with each other. Geordie: I start with the cloth, then add the trimmings, like cooking and then recooking a penguin, or frying frijoles a second time. But when I’m stuck, I’ll take several lines I’ve stored and string them together and see if with a few buttons, or a zipper, they’ll make a poem. Tom: I work in lists, catalogues, collage, bricolage. I sometimes write while listening to the news, and add words from the broadcast. Kim: I’m the embellisher for the most part. I tend to have one central idea or image and add to it along the way.
If you had the opportunity and could afford to study under another writer, artist, craftsman, or musician, who would it be? Why?
Ron: If we're in the world of fantasy and so include the dead, I’d love to know more about Frederick Law Olmstead, the great landscape architect who created what Americans think
of as natural terrain, whether in Central Park or The Biltmore® Estate. To arrange the elements of nature in such a way that people think of your work as more appealing than creation is one of the greatest explanations of art I've ever heard. Carol: I would love to study under Shakespeare. I think using books is luckily inexpensive and works pretty well. When I hear of another poet or artist, such as Frida Kahlo, I can use her art or writing to help feed mine. I’m easily star-struck, so working with an artist via book lets me take what I need. Nicholas: Woody Allen is one of my all-time favorites. I just love his wit and sarcasm, though I doubt if I could learn anything solid from him. So I would opt for Sherman Alexie, who is talented and humorous at the same time. He writes wonderful poetry, short stories, novels, and screenplays. He brings pop culture into his works to lighten the heaviness of racial issues that he explores. Recently, I’ve been reading the poetry of Jane Hirshfield. I’m blown away by the calm-yet-powerful imagery in her words. She must have a great deal to teach on craftsmanship and her beliefs in Zen philosophy. Karla: E. O. Wilson, the renowned Harvard entomologist and Pulitzer prize-winning author, is the one person I’d be honored to meet, much less study with. He’s doing more than any other human being, I believe, to further the preservation of the planet’s diversity. He’s a fine, fine writer whose work has continued to inspire me over the last ten years. It would be wondrous to follow him in the field as he conducts his research and translates his findings into words everyone can appreciate. Erik: There’s a Milwaukee poet named B. J. Best. His first book, State Sonnets, just came out in 2009, and he has another, Birds of Wisconsin, coming out in October. He has a strong, distinct voice that runs an extension cord to plug the reader into nature better than anyone I’ve ever read. I want that. K. R.: I’d be honored to study under Mark Strand, who often writes on the natural world in a rich-yet-accessible manner. Ted: William Shakespeare . . . no, really: for the conversation, towel-snapping, wine, music . . . I'm pretty sure he was an excellent friend in a creative circle. Warning: there may have been some coarse language! Scott: Too many to name. I would love to spend a week with Galway Kinnell or Stephen B. Hawking or Bill Gates or storyteller Sheila Kay Adams, because I think they would all offer unique insights into human experience.
Carolee: I would rent a house somewhere by the sea and invite my poet friends and put us up for a couple weeks a few times a year. We would study. We would workshop. We would read aloud our own work and our favorite "famous" poems. We would eat. We would drink. We would stomp around on the beach. We would grow old(er) together, for sure, blessed by one another's company. And maybe we would become better poets. Geordie: Today, I’d like to study with Kay Ryan. I love her flowing, witty, meaningful poems that tumble down musically like a waterfall. I try in some poems of my own to emulate this style; I admire the wit and brevity. Also, she seems like ‚real people.‛ C. Albert: Romare Bearden is my favorite collage artist, though he is no longer living. Tom: Were he alive, I would study with Robert Lowell, whom I consider the master of the synthesis of style and form and content. There are a number of calligraphers I would love to study with — too numerous to name — because of their discipline and attention to quality, consistency, and their innovations, which are informed by intense practice and mastery of the craft. I wish Luciana Souza could teach me to sing as she does. Kim: I would love to study with Campbell McGrath, but since this is just fantasy, I’d love to have had the opportunity to learn from Gregory Chaucer, John Donne, William Shakespeare, Sylvia Plath, or Edna St. Vincent Millay. Gary: I learn from everybody, but if I could converse with T.S. Eliot about the construction of ‚Prufrock‛ and ‚Waste Land,‛ I think I could gain a great deal for my own poetry. The other person I’d like as a teacher is John Ashbery, since I haven’t much of any clue what he’s doing and would love to hear him try to explain it. Rob: I studied under Ginsberg in the ’90s. It was like being at the foot of a god. No one else comes to mind now . . .
‚Antique Buttons Pattern‛ By E. A. Hanninen, 2010
Tailor your very own interview question. Then answer it.
Maude: What is your highest ambition these days? My highest ambition is to see my words set to music, either as a work or works for speaking voice and orchestra, or as a work or works for singer and orchestra or piano. Music gives me such inspiration. And I would love to see that inspiration prompt an answering one. Alan: What do you enjoy most about writing poetry? Writing poetry is the ultimate freedom and opportunity to explore sans fear of anything, thus absorbing Blake’s Tyger, or confronting Lorca’s duende. Pure joy! Nicholas: What do you want people to get out of your poem’s appearance in this issue? That poets exist in Hong Kong (though not many). Erik: What are the top three ways that owning a dog makes you a better poet? 1) When you walk around with poop bags in your pocket, it’s hard to get too high and mighty. 2) It reminds you that no matter how bad your day has gone, or how many atrocities of war went on around the globe, there is still love in the world and a reason to laugh. 3) But most of all because it forces you to stay connected to the natural world around you. When you have to go out for a walk every morning, you know in your bones what time of the year it is, you breathe in the temperature and the smells, you see how bright or dark it is at 6:30 am, and you can feel yourself growing larger or smaller in the requisite number of layers. Carolee: Do you still make wishes on your birthday cake candles? If yes, what do you wish for? Of course I still make wishes on my birthday candles (and I still close my eyes when I make them)! As you might expect, I can't tell you what I wish for because then it won't come true. Mike: Why do you write poems? I used to do it to get laid, but now writing poems is sissy stuff, and I enjoy challenging my manhood. Brandon: Favorite fictional character? Tarzan. The Tarzan from Tarzan of the Apes, Tarzan with Korak the Killer and the beautiful deadly princesses and the obvious racial undertones that make me flinch when I read it now. The cartoons ruined that character. Ruined him.
Wondering who the anonymous Editors A through E are? To keep the focus on our many interviewees, we’ve opted to remain anonymous, but you’d be right if you guessed that all five editor-poets are staff members of The Centrifugal Eye! Review the staff list under our masthead on page 3, if you’d like to keep guessing.
Essay: Erik Richardson
‚Giraffe Batik‛ By Sharon Auberle, 2010
Reviews: Karla Linn Merrifield Danielle Blasko
Taoism, Craftsmanship, and Writing
An Essay by Erik Richardson
To provide the foundation for reflection on the topic, I first want to share a classic Taoist story. Chuang Tzu, the famous Chinese Taoist philosopher (circa 4th-century B.C.) offers the parable of the butcher: Every blow of the butcher’s hand, every heave of his shoulders, every tread of his foot, every thrust of his knee, every whshh of rent flesh, every chhk of the cleaver, was in perfect rhythm — like the dance of the Mulberry Grove, like the harmonious chords of Ching Shou. ’Well done!’ cried the Prince. ‘Yours is skill indeed!’ ‘Sire,’ replied the cook laying down his cleaver, ‘I have always devoted myself to Tao, which is higher than mere skill. When I first began to cut up cattle, I saw before me whole cows. After three years’ practice, I saw no more whole animals. And now I work with my mind and not with my eye. My mind works along without the control of the senses. Falling back upon eternal principles, I glide through such great joints or cavities as there may be, according to the natural constitution of the animal. I do not even touch the convolutions of muscle and tendon, still less attempt to cut through large bones. ‘An ordinary cook changes his cleaver once a month — because he hacks, a good cook changes cleavers once a year — because he cuts. But I have had this chopper nineteen years, and although I have cut up many thousands of cows, its edge is as if fresh from the whetstone. For at the joints there are always narrow spaces, and since the edge of my cleaver is without thickness, it remains only to slide it cleanly into those narrow spaces. It is thus that I have kept my chopper for nineteen years as though fresh from the whetstone.’ (from The Wisdom of Lao Tse, Lin Yutang, ed., Random House 1948)
At first glance, a story about a butcher might seem a little out of place in an essay about writing and craftsmanship, but the main ideas of the story are the focus, whereas the particular skill being practiced could just as easily have been changed to one of the other common crafts in the Taoist storytelling tradition, such as practiced by wheelwrights, woodworkers, or stone cutters. The vital idea reflected here is that the artist or craftsman must work in harmony with the nature of the materials — characterized by the traditional Taoist concept of yin; not by forcefully imposing herself or her ideas on the medium — characterized by the traditional concept of yang. A full development of these concepts is beyond this essay, but there are three interesting ways the ideas at the heart of the story can shed light on the role of craftsmanship in 21st-century life: our relation to the materials, our relation to the customer/client/reader, and our relationship to ourselves.
The first, and most obvious, place where we see the idea of working with nature is in the practice of a craft in itself. Across myriad cultures, the craft tradition had to do with bringing out certain features of the materials being worked with. Working with wood, for instance, put some boundaries on what kinds of shapes could be developed, and set limits on the strength and flexibility, so that a lot of training had to do with shaping our ideas and expectations to fit with what nature had given us to work with. Great examples of this can be seen in the time and energy that furniture-makers and wheelwrights spent searching for well-shaped pieces of wood that helped them in their task, or in the effort spinners and knitters put into experimenting with which wools worked best for different products, or which natural dyes created the most brilliant colors. This approach stands in stark contrast to the modern, manufactured mode of life where we use technology to make molded globs of plastic, and chemicallyconcocted fabrics fit into the shape of whatever ideas and expectations happen to spill out of our mental blender. As we move deeper into the parableâ€™s idea, the second place where we have lost touch with the idea of yielding and accommodating ourselves to what we are given (yin), rather than pushing our will outward (yang), has to do with the role of custommade items. In the tradition of custom work and tailoring, the craftsman works to fit the product with what the customer wants and needs. She is taking the customerâ€™s nature into account and attempting to fit herself and her talents to that boundary in the same way she does relative to, say, the nature and limits of spun wool. Once again, we cannot help but notice the contrast to the modern way of relating to the customer which is almost all yang. In the modern approach, producers make a product and then push like crazy, with millions of dollars of advertising, to force the customersâ€™ wants to fit the product. This brings us to the most intimate place where the tragedy of the modern mindset plays out, and that is where we realize that not only are we out of touch with the nature of the materials and the nature of the customers, we are also out of touch with our own natures. We are not listening to ourselves any more than we are listening to our customers. It is deep within our human nature to create with our hands, to use our minds and our bodies to carefully shape things of beauty and utility, so when we ignore or leave that part of our inner essence aside, we are trying to force ourselves to be something other than we are. We are trying to pretend that we are just another glob of molten plastic that can be poured into a chair in a cubicle somewhere far from trees and grass and sunlight. Of course, the title might have given the impression that this essay would also go on to talk about how to apply these ideas to your writing life as well, but hopefully you can appreciate how that would result in something of a contradiction. Your nature is your own, and since we cannot talk about how these ideas might best apply to how
you write and what you want or need, it is better to leave the custom-fitting process to you. Anything else would just be me pushing a pre-made product.
‚to save my life by saving yours‛ Rug rats. Ankle biters. Mad munchkins. Germ factories. Demon spawn. Those are some of the kinder words I’ve used to name what most people simply call children. Ever since I entered puberty I knew I wanted to live a child-free life. Now at 57, and like a handful of my closest friends, I am. With no regrets. None of us got the gene that demands procreation. The truth is I don’t enjoy children. They’re noisy and messy and contagious. Am I selfish? Most likely. Smart? Absolutely. Why destine a child to a life of abuse? Why bring yet another human being into a world that is already overburdened by the weight of our species? I admit I’ve made a few exceptions to my All-Children-Left-Behind rule. I love my step-granddaughter, Zora, my friend Katie’s boy, Sage, and friend Annie’s girls, Aelis and Tamsin. And a little girl named Sawyer has stolen my selfish-smart heart in the pages of Scott Owens’ new book of poetry, Paternity. As it was with my February review in The Centrifugal Eye, I’ve been forced to leave my baggage at the front cover. The Tao of Poetry has led me into another book tailor-made to stretch my understanding of the human condition. Instead of an exercise in spirituality,
Paternity has opened my eyes to the wonders of parenthood.
What it lacks in lush imagery, exquisite phrasing and surprising metaphors,
Paternity more than compensates readers with candor about life as a parent — a candor ‚that touches the heart of the readers,‛ said poet and Owens’ cheerleader Glenda G. Beall, who recommended the book be reviewed in these pages after having interviewed Owens in Flutter. She gushed in her TCE Reader’s Survey, ‚I sat down and read the book from front to back without stopping.‛ I, on the other hand, took baby steps, letting the poems’ emotive impact — their candor — creep up on me, getting used to the cold reality of parenthood little by little. So I sampled first ‚The Hours,‛ the book’s longest poem, but one divided into a dozen subtitled parts beginning with ‚5 A.M.‛ and ending at ‚3 A.M.‛ In other words, 22 hours in the life of a young father in short, snapshot stanzas. I followed Owens and ‚the baby‛ from the ‚magic time of becoming‛ to ‚the unwanted weight of worry‛ that comes in the wee hours. Owens tells it like it is, whether it’s ‚her morning breath‛ or her ‚mastering manipulation of toys / and friends.‛ She is a ‚constant disruption of joy.‛ So this is what it’s like to parent. Ah so! And this is what it’s like:
Book Review Column M Tao of Reading Poetry Karla Linn Merrifield
Paternity Poems by Scott Owens Main Street Rag Publishing Company Paper/ 70 Pages $14 US
1 A. M. The hours disappear like loose change forgotten in seat cushions, kept in jars for rainy days.
Owens may wax sentimental and sappy from time to time (see below), but candor prevails, as it does in ‚Off Season,‛ one of two poems in Paternity that continues to haunt me.
‚dreams gone sick / and gray‛ The book signals great potential for this poet — with deeper, more challenging poems yet to be written that wrestle with the more troubling relationship that will most likely develop as Sawyer matures and challenges her father during adolescence. Then might come the gravitas that is only hinted at in Paternity. The hints, the glimpses, are strong ones. They occur in a trio of poems that open the book, before Sawyer enters the lines. These poems, ‚ Foundings,‛ ‚The
Basement,‛ and ‚On the Days I Am Not My Father,‛ reveal Owens’ relationship with his stepson. ‚Foundings‛ opens: The first time my stepson cried without his mother’s hands to brush the pain away I came to him quickly. I touched him.
A few lines later, we read: And then, he leaned into me, and my whole body changed into something I had not known existed.
Owens reminds us of the power of human touch, the power to connect — universal themes with depth. ‚The Basement‛ delves even deeper. Here Owens draws comparisons between his relationship with his stepson and that with his own father. When his ‚son takes tools he knows he shouldn’t have,‛ Owens admits he’d like to scream. Then the deeper truth emerges as the poem draws to conclusion in these last 7 lines: I think of things I missed in my own childhood: a father’s gentle reminder, the chance to try, to help, to think that maybe I could. There, instead, the yell and slap, or maybe the slap and then the yell and then the slap again. I put the tools away, gently remind him to put things back the way they ought to be.
But perhaps the most profound — and profoundly haunting — poem in the book is not thematically related. No stepson. No Sawyer. Instead, an adult friend or colleague, a woman named Barbara Fracaro, to whom the poem ‚ The Last Good Day‛ is dedicated. This poem empathetically traces the course of her sufferings from Lou Gehrig’s disease. The last lines read: They tell you no cure, no recovery. They tell you six months, as if knowing mattered now, as if time made any sense when you could go for a walk one day and the next go on forever.
There’s that taste of gravitas that left me wanting more. Those poems of emotional depth have another rich dimension: the darker the poem, the more effective it is. Among such poems are also several that harken back to Owens’ earlier collection, The Fractured World, in which the poet confronted his troubled relationship with his father. When that ghost reappears in Paternity, the reader is in for
some stirring stuff, as in ‚The Basement.‛ Consider ‚On the Days I Am Not My Father,‛ mentioned above. The poem opens: I don’t yell. I don’t hold inside the day’s supply of frustrations. My hands stay open all day.
The poet is taking inventory of all the ways he is unlike his violence-prone, fisted father. Like counting to 10 to let anger subside, we hold our breath, hoping the sins of the father are not visited on his son the poet. The inventory continues; the poet’s still counting to keep any negative learned or inherited transgressions in check: On the days I am not my father holding you is enough until holding you is no longer enough for either of us. I listen well. I let things go unfinished, in an order I didn’t plan. My mouth is relaxed.
Then this line that pierces the heart: ‚I don’t make fun / of you to make myself feel better.‛ Even more piercing are these lines from ‚ Defending the Indefensible :‛
I think of my own days locked in closets, bloodied beneath the belt, the hand on the electric stove. Oh my. What big teeth these darker poems have as Owens struggles in the lines to break the cycle of abuse he once suffered.
Over the top with ‚memories created and shared‛?
And what a contrast they present with those expressing the pure joys of fatherhood, poems that are at times as toothless as the infant he celebrates. I imagine readers who are
also parents reveling in the sentimentality of these poems, winking back at Owens knowingly. I, alas, cannot. You be the judge. ‚Sawyer Says‛ is a good example, as proud papa stitches a poem composed with snippets of his tyke’s speech. This is the verbally nimble toddler who tells her daddy, ‚You need a different job.‛ She’s the little tyro who asserts: ‚Now I know why I was sick, / because I wasn’t getting enough candy.‛ The poem ends: Sawyer says, Aren’t you glad I chose you, Daddy? When I was in Mommy’s tummy, I saw you and you looked sweet, and I knew you’d be a good Daddy, so I chose you.
The kid was right: Owens is sweet, bless his Daddy heart, but I wipe the stickiness from my fingers and thumb back to those darker poems that resonate with depth as well as candor. The book could have done without its Poetic Postscript by Anthony S. Abbott, which opens with an epigraph from Owens’ poem, ‚ The Word for What Only 4-Year Olds Can
See.‛ I don’t know who Abbott is and I don’t care. His postscript, titled ‚Effuctress,‛ is an odd scrap from another quilt. It detracts from the patterns of light and shadow that Owens has stitched in these pages. Better the book had ended on page 68 with Owens’ last lines, alternating dark and light, in ‚The Daddy Poem.‛ my only tools paper and play, pen and wipe, image and line, standing still until the past poems up inside me.
These are not lyric poems (which is my preference), nor are they rich in metaphor, nor are they musical, but there’s one element of craft that Owens has mastered: He writes a smashing last line. Thus he concludes ‚Steps,‛ a dizzying litany of parent-child activities with: The end, I suppose, was inevitable, reliving the things we knew best, how to leave, how to be left.
And in ‚Creating Small Occasions,‛ a poem about Sawyer’s ‚first steps, words, teeth,‛ he muses: ‚A life made up of small occasions / would not be so bad.‛ And this, my favorite Owens’ stitch-it-up-and-tie-it-up-neatly ending, in ‚Daughter’s Confidence,‛ a poem that takes place at ‚a pizza shop‛ where his little girl exhibits remarkable aplomb when a human in mouse costume turns his back on the 3-year-old:
It’s a quality I hope she’ll keep to refuse to be ignored, shunned, judged as unworthy by mice or men, even by robots.
Paternity I think signals much potential for this poet. I imagine Owens emerging from the warm cocoon of young parenthood into a caliber of poet with the iridescent, subtle polish of a David Ignatow (his ‚Lost Childhood‛ comes to mind) or a Floyd Skloot. I’m looking forward to Owens’ future work. In the end, Owens has saved his life by saving Sawyer’s; with these poems, he has saved his life by stitching his past to the present with bright swatches of hope for the future. Also in the end, even this child-free reader ultimately rejoices — that Owens undertook paternity and chose to write about it. For Scott Owens’ bio and a taste of his more recent poetry, see pages 35-37.
Readers of our print edition may find these references online at these URLs: Main Street Rag Publishing Company http://www.mainstreetrag.com/ Flutter http://rarepetal.webs.com/interviewwscottowens.htm Merrifield Book Review, TCE February 2010 http://issuu.com/centrifugaleye/docs/tcefeb10-troblems/72 “Woven Swatch‛ By D. J. Bryant, 2010
Karla Linn Merrifield
Karla Linn Merrifield
2009 Everglades National Park Artist-in-Residence Karla Linn Merrifield has had poetry appear in publications such as CALYX, Earth’s Daughters, Poetica, The Kerf, Negative Capability, Paper Street and Blueline (print zines), and in The Centrifugal Eye, Terrain.org, Elsewhere: A Journal of the Literature of Place, and Elegant Thorn Review (online zines), as well as in many anthologies. In 2006, she edited THE DIRE ELEGIES: 59 Poets on Endangered Species of North America, from FootHills Publishing; in 2007, FootHills issued her Godwit: Poems of Canada, and issued The Etowah River Psalms in September, 2009. She is also author of Dawn of Migration and Other Audubon Dreams (2007, RochesterInk Publications). Karla received the 2009 Andrew Eiseman Writers Award for poetry from the University of Rochester.
Read more about Karla and 3 of her poems on pages 28-31 Contact Karla (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Column Editor’s Note: What’s your story behind a poetry book that you’ve read and desire others to read? What path led you to that book? Tell me. Just complete our online Reader Survey. From your stories I’ll select the books and I’ll review them for all our readers in future issues of The Centrifugal Eye. Give me something new to rave about! (http://home.earthlink.net/~tinyviolet/thecentrifugaleyepoetryjournal/id366.html)
Anthology Craftwork: Piece-Meal Quilting for Editors A Review by Danielle Blasko
: An Anthology of Poetry on the Allure of Rivers Ed. Judith A. Lawrence, 2010 Lilly Press Bensalem, PA Paper / 75 Pages $12 US
Though every anthology editor has a slightly different approach to editing, most would agree that anthologies come together through a sort of tailor-made process. Judith A. Lawrence, editor/publisher of River Poets Journal/Lilly Press, lists the critical pieces that must be woven together to ‚successfully run a small press publishing company:‛ a bit of knowledge on editing, grammar, design, publishing software, legal issues, website layout, a healthy appreciation of poetry/prose and writers, a great deal of determination, a desire to learn all the aspects, willingness to work late nights, often weekends, along with a family that puts up with you, and a large sprinkling of humor and patience is required.
Karla Linn Merrifield, editor of The Dire Elegies, said it best when she described the craft of editing anthologies as ‚piece-meal, quilting-type work for an editor.‛
Anthology comes from the Greek word for ‚flower-gathering,‛ anthologia, the root of the Greek anthologai, used to describe collected Greek poems and epigrams. The modern usage of the term can apply to a wide range of collected literary works including, but not limited to, poems, short stories, plays, essays, photography and other visual arts, sometimes in combination with one another, as is the case with many textbook-type anthologies that attempt to cover a wide range of literature, like those published by the well-known W.W. Norton Company. It seems likely, though, that more academics are beginning to favor the small-press, specialized anthology over big-press, ‚all-encompassing‛ and costly texts. In the introduction to Another South: Experimental Writing in the South (2003), poet Hank Lazer writes: The narrow stylistic range permitted in official records of literary merit — such as the Norton Anthology — achieve their xenophobic, segregationist ‚purity‛ of aesthetic representation most decisively when treating the genre of poetry . . . When it comes to poetry, the demand, as in the Norton, is for unadventurous, retrospective poetry of a ‚singular voice.‛ In poetry, official textbooks such as the Norton ‚fetishize‛ a lowest common denominator of written expression (xxii-xxiii).
It wasn’t until the 20th Century that poetry-only anthologies gained popularity, probably, in part, due to their thematic flexibility and ability to showcase multiple authors’ works so that publishers weren’t obligated to invest all of their publishing eggs in a single author’s basket. Perhaps the most important publishing proponent in advancing the poetry-only anthology was the Georgian Poetry series produced in England during the reign of King George V, which established the use of the anthology to define a generation of poets; in this case, a group of poets that was writing during George V’s rule. Today, anthologies are used to group poets and poems in a number of ways and are generally built around a common element, e.g., poems might be thematic, topical, period-specific, regional, etc. A refreshing, contemporary example of a thematic anthology working in contrast to the ‚unadventurous, retrospective poetry‛ found in textbook anthologies is River Poems: An Anthology of Poetry on the Allure of Rivers (2010), a collection of 53 poems by 49 poets, edited by Lawrence. Diving into a poetry collection on the awesome allure of rivers that manages to avoid what might easily become an expression of clichéd images and descriptions related to rivers was a truly invigorating experience for me as a reader: We cannot avoid the strong suspicion That this river is a kind of tear In space, a place where time can flow both ways, Because that is exactly our condition, Turning endlessly while we prepare A past we will remember all our days (‚Goosenecks of the San Juan,‛ Stephen Lefebure, 67).
When Merrifield edited The Dire Elegies, she followed a pretty basic six-phase process, similar to the procedures used by most anthology editors: 1) pre-planning, 2) submission period, 3) assembly, 4) printing, 5) launch, 6) post-production/launch. Most editors adhere to this same step-by-step approach, each having their own personal quirks within the process. Lawrence explains: I put the ideas [for themes] into a file, and at some point do some research on whether those particular themes have been done before and if it has been done frequently, or very well, then I move on to another theme. No point in repetition or improving on perfection.
In fact, whether or not there is another anthology on the market like the one envisioned is a key concern of editors and the question is often addressed directly in an introduction to the text. Sometimes the editor might be telling the reader this is a topic that has not previously been anthologized, so it is a one-of-a-kind exploration. Other times, the editor wants the reader to know that his or her anthology offers a fresh perspective or takes a look at something from a different angle. In Another South, Lazer sets up the anthology in contrast to the Norton Anthology: The Literature of the American South : They have produced an anthology — at least in the area of poetry — of the already known, the already ‘certified’ modes of imagining, representing, and embodying this time and place. And herein lies the great value of Another South, as the first anthology to explore and represent new modes of writing about the South.
Once Lawrence begins to receive submissions, she gradually sorts them into multiple files, ‚such as most matching the theme, impossible to resist, maybe ifs, and other odd names.‛ Lilly Press receives between 300 to 1,000 submissions each anthologyreading period, and as Lawrence points out, there’s ‚an amazing number of excellent poets out there submitting work, making the selection process very difficult.‛ Writer William Heyen, author of more than 30 books of poetry and editor of three anthologies: American Poets in 1976 (1976), The Generation of 2000: Contemporary
American Poets (1984), and September 11, 2001: American Writers Respond (2002), released his latest anthology in early 2002, just months after the 9/11 attack; quite an incredible feat considering the length of time normally required to create an anthology. Lawrence, for instance, begins working on an anthology ‚almost as soon as the previous year’s anthology is complete.‛ Heyen says the course of the project ‚didn’t seem like a brief time to me. Things poured in. Writers were writing fast, and passionately, and I was glad about that.‛ He made the decision to arrange the pieces, consisting of both poetry and prose, alphabetically according to author last name, simply because ‚there was no other choice . . . it would have been too dizzying to arrange pieces other than by authors, alphabetically.‛ How to organizationally manage the manuscript once the selection process is complete can be a daunting task for an editor, but Heyen shares a glimpse of inspirational, editing logic: ‚Emerson says that the poet integrates, MacLeish said he wanted wholeness, and all good pieces connect thematically in all sorts of trajectories.‛ Of course, no anthology would be complete without a title. Oftentimes editors come up with a title before they begin. Lawrence believes, ‚Anthology book titles can be the most difficult part of the process [and] River Poems, in its simplicity, was the easiest title as all the poems were about rivers.‛ However, the common thread that runs through this anthology is more than just ‚rivers;‛ it is also ‚allure‛ — possessing the characteristic of being mysteriously and powerfully attractive — as indicated by the aptly-chosen subtitle:
An Anthology of Poetry on the Allure of Rivers.
For some people, what is so alluring about rivers is their unpredictability. In ‚Clarence,‛ poet Alexandria Michelle Red reminds us to ‚be wary of the / unpredictable / spirit of water‛ (11). The poets anthologized in River Poems seem to have a shared awareness of that unpredictability, are oftentimes drawn to the danger of not knowing, and if only for a fleeting moment in time, have successfully captured the river spirit: Yet the river weeps in places far beyond the bends of easy reach and camera’s eye, somewhere far below the swirl of a wave tossing the sailboats high and fast (‚Cornish Cliffs and a River Near Chernobyl,‛ Ksenia Rychtycka, 51).
To each river its flood. Each flood its rising water mark and disembodied, drifting branches (‚Two Hometowns on the Same River,‛ John Sibley Williams, 48).
My plan is simple; hang on to this raft to the end of my run. Survive (‚Grand Canyon, Arizona,‛ Regina Murray Brault, 60).
Editors cannot always be sure of the submissions they will receive, and as Merrifield explains, ‚an anthology’s theme can take surprising turns, like finding a piece of brocade in a gingham quilt.‛ In River Poems, oftentimes the spirit of the water takes on a sacred or holy quality: Mad Atlantic bends its curves to touch our feet, oh anoints (‚The Hour Falling Light Touches Rings of Iron,‛ Tom Sheehan, 70).
I’m grateful I live near you, to walk along your riverbed, hear the melody of your waters, experience serenity a river brings. O’Delaware, may I absorb your peace (‚Petition To A River,‛ Carolyn Constable, 27).
Yet, pulling me in, we rush on, over rock, sediment, crashing even mightier between banks. Baptizing me in yesteryear his memories – my quarry, as he carries me home toward rivers end (‚The Last Years,‛ Wynn Everett, 75).
Sometimes the poems even seem to border on the ritualistic, becoming almost incantatory in nature: Man this is my kind’a prison Hold me here like an autumn leaf Hold me here till I turn a brilliant red Then release me on the wind to fly to wherever I need to be next Thank you, thank you my dear good mother earth. Thank you. (‚Fall Flood,‛ Jennifer Ackerman, 34).
Rivers accept what is brought To them, the waste The impurities, the noxious Rippling all the way to the sea . . . Rivers admit All debris just to accept the water (‚Rivers accept the waters,‛ Elijah Pringle, 39).
Where yesterday leads us, like a river. Our cigarettes popped, fumed, spoke like a river… I overheard someone say
“River Glass IV‛ By E. A. Hanninen, 2010
eternity is a failed attempt to reassemble glass. Acceptance, she continued, is leaving the shards alone (‚Two Hometowns on the Same River,‛ John Sibley Williams, 49).
Sound is certainly a concern with any book of poetry, but it would be crazy to dismiss sound in an anthology dedicated to rivers, which possess a sort of musicality all
their own, a flow, if you will. In fact, the editor of River Poems admits to reading ‚each submission from one to six times out loud‛ before making a decision. While the entire anthology flows nicely, several poems struck a powerful chord that resonated with my musical preferences, leaving me longing to ‚sit, look, and listen / to the symphonic river run (‚Big Sur Symphony,‛ Neal Whitman, 56): Spring sun split by trees spills light on silver green water. Mica sparkles on the river floor amidst black rocks and swirl (‚Breaking the surface,‛ Mark Vogel, 53).
of silt swirling midstream and in eddies that encircled me with glinting bronze waters, as strands of my hair wildly swept in upcanyon winds— a nimbus of silver. Now the memory is sepia-tarnished… Autumn begrudges its glimpses of ephemerality; evaporation dissipates my confluence with the river (‚Approaching 0 flow CFS,‛ Karla Linn Merrifield, 50).
Still carrying a tune, still carving out its future, the river beneath is always beginning, always arriving, its headwaters, its mouth full of the same eternal song, lyrics of a language they no longer understand, a gurgle or a death rattle now in their plugged and distant ears (‚The Underground River,‛ Robert S. King, 66).
Some poets in River Poems, like Bill Wunder, weave personal ties with the bigger picture, and eloquently display how metaphor can inform the allure of rivers: How beautiful, the way water shapes stone. How sad, this life, and the journey through it can become (‚Holding a River Stone, Thinking of You,‛ 22).
Many other poets used the publishing opportunity to take a stand and make statements on the positive and negative implications of human interference in nature.
My feet scuffle the dirt where others’ feet have scraped the earth beneath this bench and killed the grass leaving evidence that they were here like me, for their own reasons (‚Motive At Idaho Falls,‛ Regina Murray Brault, 61).
There are no more animals to feed, save themselves. Every year the birds know fewer songs (‚The Underground River,‛ Robert S. King, 66).
A helicopter will pass overhead, someone taking photos of the river as peaceful and flowing thing for postcards I will send to friends, no sign of fish kills, what hides beneath the water’s surface (‚On the Banks of Rivers,‛ Richard Roe, 62).
Perhaps it is Lawrence who expresses the overwhelming concern of eco-poets most poignantly in her poem ‚Point of Comfort:‛ flowing heaviness of the Delaware river deplete of geese, the absence of catfish rippling the surface, the lone boater departed, nature and man having given up its summer radiance to this bleakest of winters (63).
I only wish the editor would have used her own poem as the epigraph to the anthology, rather than a predictable Ralph Waldo Emerson poem, as her poem really seems to capture the concerned spirit of the anthology. Despite the frighteningly bleak view of the future presented in the previous poems, there is also hope to be found in River Poems: Surely if we can fix an ecosystem we can fix
the economy, we can rise again . . . West of the Mississippi, everyone my age thinks Cleveland is drowning is one breath short of dead, Not knowing we’re a special breed, a Northern Phoenix – born of water, rising from pollution (‚Northern Phoenix,‛ Dorla Moorehouse, 43).
One thing is certain about editing an anthology; it takes commitment and it takes a lot out of the editor as a human being. Heyen was given the go-ahead to edit an oil spill anthology, but after just completing a book-length poem on Hiroshima decided not to undertake the task: ‚Etruscan Press said go for it. I changed my mind: it would have been depressing for about a year, and I don’t have that kind of commitment in me just now.‛ It is clear that editing an anthology is no simple arts-and-crafts project, but it is a craft that requires hard work and dedication to get the perfectly-tailor-made outcome that editors aim to achieve.
Readers of our print edition may find this reference online at this URL: Lilly Press (http://www.riverpoetsjournal.com/)
Danielle Blasko Danielle Blasko
“Woven Swatch 2‛ By D. J. Bryant, 2010
Danielle Blasko is a Detroit native who has been enjoying life on an east coast beach for the past three years. However, she is a city girl at heart and is currently in the process of moving back to her hometown. Danielle is the Senior Fashion Copywriter at Eidia Lush, a custom design shoe company based out of Chicago. She edits The Feline Muse Literary Blogzine, and her poetry has most recently appeared in
The Legendary, escarp, Short, Fast, and Deadly, Gutter Eloquence Magazine and The Moose & Pussy journal. This is Danielle’s second appearance in The Centrifugal Eye. Website http://www.danielleblasko.com
‚Being 16,‛ by Phoebe Mürer, 2010
‚Being 19,‛ by Phoebe Mürer, 2010
Submissions, Archives & Press Releases Custom Detailing
If you are a poet, essayist or artist, and feel that your work is a match for us, please visit The Centrifugal Eye’s submission guidelines on our website. (http://centrifugaleye.com/)
Back and Special Issues are still being stored at our TCE Archives sites for an indefinite period. Please be sure to visit the sites for 4+-years worth of great reading. Centrifuge: Special Project Archives (http://home.earthlink.net/~centrifuge/)
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The Centrifugal Eye is pleased to recognize the latest publishing achievements of several of our contributing poets. Make a note on your wish list for: Harry Calhoun’s chapbook, Near daybreak, with a nod to Frost is now out from Propaganda Press. http://propagandapress.wordpress.com/ And forthcoming in October 2010 is his
Retreating aggressively into the dark from Big Table Publishing. http://www.bigtablepublishing.com/ Gary Lehmann’s collection, American Portraits, is forthcoming from FootHills Publishing. http://www.foothillspublishing.com/
Karla Linn Merrifield's chapbook, The Urn, is due out from Finishing Line Press in January 2011. http://www.finishinglinepress.com/
Scott Owens’ and Pris Campbell’s chapbook, The Nature of Attraction, was released this month from Main Street Rag Publishing. http://www.mainstreetrag.com/ Kenneth Pobo’s collection, Fitting Parts, is available now online at Philistine Press. http://www.philistinepress.com/fitting_parts_9.html
Martin Willitts, Jr.’s chapbook, Van Gogh’s Sunflowers for Cezanne is due out December 2010 from Finishing Line Press. http://www.finishinglinepress.com/
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Dear Editor, What does the adjective ‚house,‛ e.g., ‚in-house job‛ or ‚house artist,‛ mean in the field of publishing? ~Jerry T. Dear Jerry, ‚House‛ refers to the company organization, itself — this term covers staff members, and jobs traditionally performed within the publishing house instead of those being contracted or sourced out to freelance writers, artists, typographers, and editors. It’s even often used to describe the publisher’s default style-guides. Most writers are not involved with making style decisions for their published works that are already covered by the ‚house style.‛ House designers and art directors do that. Editor,
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‚Being 20.‛ by Phoebe Mürer, 2010