Verse, Visuals, InVectiVe, NarratiVes, ReViews, and InterViews by Wickedly Wise Femmes
TABLE OF CONTENTS
Femmewise Cat is split up into two parts so as not to be too unwieldy. Each part is prefaced with the same Catatonically Speaking rant, but also includes, as an opener, a review of a different feminist tome. After that, the issues proceed according to genre. We list the sections/genres and poetry contributors in order of appearance. Artwork is interspersed throughout.
Sections/Genres in Order of Appearance: I. Catatonically Speaking II. Review: The Natural Superiority of Women III. Versewise Femmes: Poesie Part II IV. Flashwise Femmes: Flash Fiction V. Femmewise Views: Reviews and Innerviews
POETRY CONTRIBUTORS IN ORDER OF APPEARANCE: Sheila Murphy/Misti Rainwater-Lites/Melanie Branton/Carol Shillibeer/Laura Stamps/Siddhartha Beth Pierce/April Michelle Bratten/A.J. Huffman/Alethia Drehmer/Virginie Colline/Marie Lecrivain/peach schist/Katrina Eresman/Marianne Szlyk/Michelle Greenblatt/J.S. Watts/Chrystal Berche/Wanda Morrow Clevenger/Nicole Henares/Regina Walker/Kerry Trautman/Wendy Schmidt/Deborah Guzzi/Alexis Fancher/Linda Leedy Schneider/Mercedes WebbPullman/Carol Smallwood/Parker Bauman/Erin Emily Ann Vance/Megan Merchant/Ally Malinenko/Maja Trochimczyk/Cindy Hochman/Gili Haimovich/Simone Keane
It’s difficult not to belabor the point about female representation still sorely lacking in the written and visual arts, where representation is so crucial. Throughout human history females have been “written out of” and “erased from” the narrative of writing and painting, as though women primarily exist to breed, and that this baby-making imperative somehow cripples women’s abilities in artistic expression. It’s as though the Handmaid’s Tale is pervasively true, and women are not imbued with a spiritual core, but rather are passive wombs-in-waiting. The historical dearth of artistic female representatives is absurd and disgusting. While it may be true that some luminaries have shone through despite the spotlight being directed eleswhere – Sappho, Dickinson, O’Keeffe, to name a few – an oppressive majority of canonized and featured artists are of the male persuasion. It’s bad enough that women are not represented proportionally in politics and business. But I will argue that art is the axis upon the world spins, or should spin, and so if women are going to be predominant in some sphere, it should be the arts over politics and business. Perhaps this will enrage some, but bear with me. The arts tackle socipolitical issues more constructively than politics ever will. True, policy evolves from politics, but politics can be, and have been, impacted by the arts. Without art, without a mirror being held up to society scrutinizing its flaws and foilbles and celebrating its beauties and triumphs, politics cease to mean anything. (And yes, women in math and sciences are also ludicrously lacking, though that’s changing, ever-so-gradually - but of course discrimination dumbly abounds!) I hate to couch things in politically correct terms (even though at times I unconciously hew to the tyrannical tenets of political correctness), but the patriarchal establishment is, patently, afraid of women – afraid of our subtle and seductive intellectual prowess. Women are inherently sly, witty, nuanced, innovative, compassionate, passionate, fiery, feisty, cerebral, spiritual, erotic … women are convoluted creatures with awesome abilities. This frightens the small-minded.
I have never seen myself as limited by my gender. From a very young age, I have intuitively embraced the fact that I am a person first, and that those who are whole are the ones who understand that we are spiritually androgynyous – that is, the male and female resides in us all. I have also always been feisty and gutsy, and never saw those qualities as deviating from typical female traits. (It helped, of course, that my mother, a strong female role model, is a scholar and a professor, and a member of a pioneering group of women who sought intellectual work over clerical work in a time when women’s roles were still ambiguous). That said, the genders are clearly distinctive in some respects, and of course this fact is taken to extremes in the realms of societal gender roles, which are rigidly reinforced by myopic losers. But those of us who were born with a vagina and breasts do have certain powers that males lack. This is not to say that men are inferior creatures, per se, just that there are features that we possess that cannot be accessed by those with a penis. And this is why the systematic suppression of women’s voices in the arts – and the unfathomable oppression of women in society, which persists in various guises all over the world, even today, despite a slightly savvier populace – is so fucking evil. Without women’s voices, we are only getting half the story of humanity, if even that. And that half of the story is often marred by sickening scenes of rape and various other forms of female subjugation. How have we allowed this? The suffragists suffered so that we could access our naturalborn rights, and the women in the 1970s “second wave” feminist movement (as documented in the recently released film, “She’s Beautiful When She’s Angry”) also fought feistily and tirelessly and so that we could live happier, healthier lives. But we still have not come far enough if rape is an everyday occurrence; if women do not earn the same amount as men (there is a 22 percent gender wage gap); if spousal abuse is not only common, but commonly dismissed in the courts; if women are still the main domestic caretakers, cooks and cleaners; if women in music and movies are still rewarded more for appearance than ability; if women are still underrepresented in the arts; if women’s reproductive rights are being curtailed and corroded STILL … the litany of cruel inequities is endless, tragically. Femmewise Cat, radiating from the small press webzine Clockwise Cat, very humbly attempts to redress the immoral asymmetry of men dominating the artistic conversation. I do believe in equilibrium, and I do believe that feminism is humanism, but I also believe that women have a peculiar angle on things, and therefore merit an outsized issue such as this. It does hearten me that so many women are prominent in the small presses, but it’s not enough. We need to flood all presses with our presence, and show those that constitute the regressive patriarchal establishment (thankfully, not all men, but too many, all the same) that we will not cower in the hideous face of petty misogyny. We will meet it head on, and we will crush you with our minds, and our souls.
Matriarchy, Not Patriarchy! By Alison Ross
While Simone De Beauvoir, a female, called for gender equanimity in her book, The Second Sex, Ashley Montagu, a male, is arguing something more controversial in his book, The Natural Superiority of Women: he posits that women are naturally, biologically superior to men, and that men should essentially subjugate themselves to the better gender. Montagu does not disdain men nor think that women should domineer in a destructive way, but rather he feels that men should interact with women in a spirit of humility, recognizing their greater gifts for love and compassion. He says that men's historical domination of women has emanated from the illusory idea that men's superior physical strength is tantamount to overall superiority. Montagu's thesis is that women are stronger constitutionally: they live longer, fight disease more robustly, and are emotionally more integrated. Montagu is quick to point out, of course, that he is making boldly sweeping statements and that individual cases will always mitigate his assertions. And also, very occasionally Montagu will make naive generalizations about gender roles and issues that threaten to destabilize his theories. But nonetheless, it's a compelling and heartening read; Montagu wants genuine harmony between the sexes, and thinks that principle will only be palpable when men cede their ill-begotten power and yield to the supremacy of the feminine entity.
Poesie Part II
Three poems By Sheila Murphy
Evensong (The) formalities quash informalities. Ostrich (a stretch) sketched over rice sheets matte finito versus gloss (verses) (I) hold here Inhere. Herein the chambered nautilus occurs the sea a stricken stretch. Utility reframes its converse an inversion made plain within recursive reach.
Aefensang (See even + song) Labor functions equally as noun and verb spread sheet replete with aggregated backache Work is a domestic (f)act One is thought to rise To the occasion fabricating What will come: a meld Of hours uncounted in the arms of the loved one (at first whispering then cast (adrift)) An alpha bet Stray horse unwild The mild idea thought Outside a thread of song.
Fidelity Complicated rose, a favorite in pastel without encumbrance in the yard, apart from glow distinct from nutrients from what else grows to feed that flower a cappella strong stem rinsed and limber weather taunts and feeds and lingers until change expected or unplanned relaxes the relationship between the earth and what arises to be drawn from sky allied with pathways to ascension blue or gray young white. Author bio: Sheila Murphy's most recent book-length publications feature collaborative visual poetry: Yes It Is (with John M. Bennett), Luna Bisonte Prods. 2014, and 2 Juries + 2 Storeys = 4 Stories Toujours (with K.S. Ernst), Xerolage 55 from Xexoxial Editions. 2013. Â
Fireworks By Misti Rainwater-Lites I'm a weak ass bitch, as always. The vibrator works fine but I'm running out of fantasies. So I do the worst thing, the shortcut to thinking thing, and place another ad at Craig's List. I'm seeking someone to share Fourth of July with. I'm seeking that one motherfucker who can put sparkles in my eyes. I've seen everything. I'm still looking. Please be tall. Okay. At least half an inch taller than me. Please be able to spell. There are two "i"s in my name. Please be man enough to dislodge my ex-boyfriend from my brain. You have to have hands and a tongue and a working penis. Don't smell bad. Don't slobber. Own a house. Trailer houses are houses, too. It's okay if you own a gun. This is Texas, after all. Just please don't ever aim it at me. Author bio: Misti Rainwater-Lites is the author of Bullshit Rodeo and other
invisible books. She shakes her ass on a manic basis at Chupacabra Disco.
by Melanie Branton
That sepia-saffron, sun-washed day we went to Turville in the car, like drunkards thinking they can walk straight, we thought the others hadn’t noticed that we were still fuzzy with fucking and that, with nods and grins, we were wildly semaphoring to each other private jokes that were all too public. There was a Norman church there and you blah-blah-blahed a lot about ancestors buried there (only you could namedrop in a fucking graveyard, my plummy-vowelled, pink-shirted, pedigree chum!) Then I raced you up the hill, thinking the others hadn’t noticed my eyes were on your body in motion and the snail tracks of sweat in the V of your shirt. And we saw a red kite, but you insisted it was a golden eagle. You traced its wheeling and soaring through the sky, whooping and laughing, and I traced your wheeling and soaring, whooping and laughing, because, at that point, I still thought you were a golden eagle and was yet to be disabused. Author bio: Melanie Branton was born in Exeter, England in 1968. She has taught English and Drama in London and in Lodz, Poland, worked in fringe theatre and spent seven years caring for her elderly parents. She has had work published by the UK-based journals South, Ink, Sweat and Tears and Monkey Kettle.
Two poems by Carol Shillibeer teaching comparative religion to born-agains running up to me to confirm his re-commitment to Jesus, all I say is good for you he holds his hand out as if in supplication, as in is this OK; but I leave on the platitude of nice to see... late for class, for the lesson where I let the film reel run and the flickering Hindu woman say when Christians are advanced enough, they will be reborn as Hindus. ++++++++++
demonology She took my class because at your age you will be sensible and she could ask questions on demonology. I blinked at that, said nothing because in a Catholic college in the back woods of the twice-born any thing is possible. She held out her hand, uncurled her fist, assuring me that the tin and enamel
yin and yang earrings that lay there had been dispossessed of both her daughter and their demons. How much of praise and how much of reassurance she wanted, I don't know. I kept my hand still and my mouth a straight line, but nodded. I think balance is safely precluded as an option, I said. I moved colleges at the end of term. I don't think she ever got the joke.
Author bio: Carol Shillibeer is a writer, but she also takes pictures, makes sound files, reads tarot, edits poetry manuscripts and teaches workshops. Her publication list is at carolshillibeer.com.
Wearing my Wound/Siddartha Beth Pierce
Two poems by Laura Stamps
Cat Pillows “What are these?” he asks, reaching toward a stack of fleece rectangles, the size of manila envelopes, piled next to us on the kitchen table. “Cat pillows,” I say. He takes another sip of tea brewed from the mint grown in my window, sugared with a drizzle of honey. “What’s in them?” he asks, pressing a slim pillow between his fingers. “They’re kind of crunchy.” I glance at the colorful fabric in his hand patterned with magickal symbols embroidered in black thread. “Dried herbs from my garden,” I say. Two curious calico cats jump in my lap. I brush my cheek across the ivory silk of their heads before they leap to the floor. “I sell these through my company, Catnip Enchantments,” I say. “They’re healing pillows. Each one treats a different cat ailment, like sleep disorders, aggression, anxiety, poor digestion, or overgrooming.” He drains his glass. “Fascinating,” he says. “What else do you sell?” I pour more spearmint tea for us and add a sliced strawberry this time. “That’s it,”
I say. “I have a long list of customers worldwide.” He swirls the fruit in his glass and takes a sip. Leaning forward, he tucks my hand between both of his. “I never thought I’d love being single again,” I say, staring at our long, slender, artistic fingers, lying together now, yet separate. “But I do. I was happy to be married for twenty-four years. Now I’m happy to be divorced.” The last splash of fire from the setting sun drips across the lilies on my balcony, igniting the graveled trill of tree frogs and crickets. “I’ve always been single,” he says. “I enjoy my freedom, too.” His hands are soft, smooth, oddly cool for such a hot evening in June. “Why did you invite me to tea, Green Witch?” he asks. I entwine my fingers with his. Over his shoulder I can see the kitchen counter and a bottle of organic olive oil. It’s extra virgin. I’m not. Drawings 1. The man I hoped I’d never see in the lobby of my condo building, that kind, compassionate, gentle man, the one I dodge whenever possible, walks toward me with
his cousin, Val. Not good. Not good at all. “What paintings are you working on these days?” Val asks, prompting me to talk about my art, knowing how hard that is for me. “You’re an artist?” Atwell asks. His warm smile fades to a frown. He didn’t know. No one does. Just Val. “Not really,” I say and glare at his cousin. “Yes, she is,” Val says. “You would love her work. It’s exquisite.” No, this isn’t going well. Not at all. 2. First, I begin with a pencil sketch from photos I take with my cell phone. The simple line of an ear, a tail, a paw: my tabby cats sleeping, playing, sitting at the window. I’ve painted them for years, two stray kittens rescued from a slim alley on Main Street. Next, a rich wash of color flows across the sketch, applied with a sable brush to a thick block of cold press watercolor paper. When it dries I add details in pen and ink. Intricate miniature drawings brightly tinted. No one knew about them
until last summer, when I ran into Val at my favorite art supply store. After he saw my work, he asked if he could speak to his gallery about representing me. I couldn’t let him do that. They’re just paintings of my cats. He suggested I open an Etsy shop to sell them online. I couldn’t. Who would buy them? He set it up anyway. Many have sold to cat lovers worldwide. I’m amazed. 3. “I’d love to see them sometime,” Atwell says. I glare at Val again. “They’re just drawings of my cats,” I say. Val takes my hand and tugs me toward the elevator. “Show him, Lacey,” he says. “You have an incredible talent.” Great. Just what I need. A couple of tall, handsome vampires in my condo. Not good. Not good at all. Author bio: Laura Stamps is a Pagan novelist and poet living in South Carolina. Her fiction and poetry have been nominated for seven Pushcarts and appeared in many literary journals, including Curbside Review, Half Drunk Muse, Main Street Rag, Iodine Poetry Journal, Mannequin Envy, Poetry Motel, and Word Riot. She enjoys creating experimental forms for her prose poems, blurring the line between fiction and poetry. View her work here: http://www.pw.org/content/laura_stamps
Morning Wood by Siddhartha Beth Pierce What do you say to a woman a lady What are the words that endear her heart to yours Do you look deep into her eyes caress her unknowingness Do you think she a Queen if you stray into the obscene? What do you say to a woman a lady reaching for her fingertips wanting to caress her lips Do you think her a bitch if she laughs at this? What do you say to a woman a lady when upon morning sun tipping your lids you announce your morning wood and she walks away?
Author bio: Siddartha Beth Pierce is a Mother, Poet, Artist and African and Contemporary Art Historian. Her art, poetry and teaching were featured on PBS in April 2001 while she was the Artist-in-Residence and Assistant Professor at Virginia State University in Petersburg, Virginia. She received her BA in Studio Art from George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia and her M.A.E. from Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, Virginia. She continued into PhD Studies in African and Contemporary Art studies at Virginia Commonwealth University where she is now All but Dissertation. Her works of poetry and art have been featured in numerous newspaper articles, journals, magazines and chapbooks. Her PBS interview can be seen here: http://youtu.be/6PcR9TsBQxo View her personal website here: www.innerchildpress.com/siddartha-bethpierce.php
Two poems by April Michelle Bratten
No Little Spark This morning I do not bleed for guns. I do not bleed for red, red. I bleed because I can. The sun has risen, foul dog, it watches, a warm egg in the sky, as I deny the white plastic, its little rocket. My long legs freely part. My bed is the Red Sea. The others, they swing from the ceiling like apes, they hang to get a better view, to scream, "You are female, girl! Make yourself presentable!" I have parted ways with their humanity. I have parted ways with their stroke of knee. This morning I walk the white floors of my apartment, leave behind ghost-marks where I sit. Foul dog, I have already pulled the string. I have set my body free from you because I can.
Part With the Clouds The couch is rotting. It heard word of a war not far from here. We attempt to ignore those dangers, filling our bodies with sand and water. I climb over its sagging cushions like the sun struggling to rise over a hill, only I am far less beautiful. My hands graze at the furniture's sad decline, like cattle, or rain before it settles. I want things I cannot articulate. Today, I am death. It remains cold outside, but there are bombs and planes overhead. The sounds rumble my lips. I am nobody. I part with the clouds.
Author bio: April Michelle Bratten lives in North Dakota. Her work can be found in Thrush Poetry Journal, Southeast Review, and decomP, among others. Her chapbook, Anne with an E, is forthcoming from dancing girl press (2015). She is the editor of Up the Staircase Quarterly.
#whatthefuckwereyouthinking by A.J. Huffman when you named your child hashtag, because you thought it would sound cool when you bought a pair of leggings at the Disney store, decided middle-aged, un-aerobicized thighs were the perfect spot to display the little mermaid’s face when you admitted to not only listening to the voices in your head, but also to giving them names when you bought your boyfriend a lace-overlayed cowboy shirt in easter-egg pink, made him wear it to your annual family bar-b-que when you taught yourself to apply your make-up with a palette knife, in the dark, while driving with your knees, on the way to work when you decided the answers you found at the bottom of the tequila bottle weren’t good enough, so you switched to morphine when you paid $150 for a t-shirt, then poked a hole in it so it didn’t look so brand new when you decided to date your best friend’s most recent ex when you stopped by to introduce your new fiancé to your two children you conveniently forgot the very next week when it was time to pay their child support when you tied your hair into knotted antennae, ventured into public, forgetting you are 43 years old when you ditched work to go to a football game, painted your body in team colors, ended up on national television when you spent your rent check on a new pair of shoes
when you told me you loved me, spent the next six months convincing me I was useless, ugly, then asked if you could still call me sometime when you needed a friend when you opened your mouth and just let the idiocracy flow when you didnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t have enough sense to even realize your account here has been closed permanently, and please is not quite the magic word your mother promised it was. Author bio: A.J. Huffman has published seven solo chapbooks and one joint chapbook through various small presses. Her eighth solo chapbook, Drippings from a Painted Mind, won the 2013 Two Wolves Chapbook Contest. She is a Pushcart Prize nominee, and her poetry, fiction, and haiku have appeared in hundreds of national and international journals, including Labletter, The James Dickey Review, Bone Orchard, EgoPHobia, Kritya, and Offerta Speciale, in which her work appeared in both English and Italian translation. She is also the founding editor of Kind of a Hurricane Press. www.kindofahurricanepress.com
Picassoâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Felines/Siddartha Beth Pierce
Hans Baldung: The Three Ages of Man and Death, 1530 by Alethia Drehmer If you could see into the future, you’d never move forward. One glance would contain more truth than any soul could handle. The owl at your feet watches me. He warns me to shut my mouth about all this futuristic knowledge—warns me to keep my time machines to myself. But I see your lonely baby’s face, placid and sleeping. I see you turn into a bitter, questioning woman beneath the yellow moon coveting what you are not willing to give. Further still as an old woman, defeat hanging from your breasts, from the wrinkled jowls of your face as you link arms with death.
His sands of time dripping through the hourglass at an alarming rate. You see what you have wasted. It is written between the spaces of my breath. You can never go back. Author bio: Aleathia Drehmer is the driving force behind the collective writing blog, The Forked Road. Most of her time is spent writing daily bloggery drivel instead of important compilations of words that will change the world. She spends her time sewing, stitching, and dreaming up new tasty dishes to cook for her family. Life is quiet these days...just the way she likes it. Aleathia's most recent book of poetry is self-published and is called "Reasons for Never Sitting Still".
Haïkus sous un crâne by Virginie Colline
De profundis miserére by Josef Čapek Catacombs curbside I conjure up squelettes and darkness pushing down the daisies plucking up fears by the roots graveyard gardeners a buzz of black flies through the deadness of the day your skull in dry dock intuition in our bones skeletons know it all Author bio: Virginie Colline lives and writes in Paris. Her poems have appeared in Prick of the Spindle, Prune Juice, The Mainichi, Frostwriting, Frogpond, Mouse Tales Press, Seltzer, Overpass Books, Dagda Publishing, Poethead, Silver Birch Press, The Bangalore Review, Creative Thresholds, Storyacious and Yes, Poetry, among others.
Two poems by Marie Lecrivain
A Man Who Wears A Hat Like Mine They say a man who wears a hat like mine is a man to be noticed, not as one to stand head-and-shoulders above the rest, but as one who enters with the other sheep into the shrieking halls of an abattoir and is the only one to emerge sadder and wiser - from the other side. A man who wears a hat like mine is one who keeps his crown chakra as pristine as the day he was born and throws off the gaze of a state-sponsored deity he never believed in the first place. A man who wears a hat like mine is a man with a plan, has an extra $10 in his wallet for emergencies, and is a guy who “knows a guy” who can get you out of a jam. A man who wears a hat like mine is one you can look right in his eyes and find a thousand stories waiting to be told - but you’ll never hear one word. A man who wears a hat like mine can keep a secret but can’t be trusted to stick around for very long. A man who wears a hat like mine has a long road to travel with an ever-changing destination, and he’ll always remember you long past the time he fades from your memory.
Bain-marie In Maria P’s soul kitchen, it sits on the back of the stove next to the teapot, to be employed on the following occasions: holidays and cross-quarters, weddings and funerals, and emergencies like when the heart is broken. This is the time to put yourself in the capable hands of Madame Maria P. She will make you tea and read you stories from the Book of Life, while your heart, enclosed in copper and stainless steel, simmers in aqua vitae. When your heart is healed, it will be carefully placed and sewn back into your chest with the admonition: When you join the male with the female, you’ll find nothing but trouble.
Author bio: Marie Lecrivain is the editor-publisher of poeticdiversity: the litzine of Los Angeles, a photographer, and a writer-in-residence at her apartment. Her work has appeared in various journals, including Edgar Allen Poet Journal, Maintenant, A New Ulster, Spillway, The Los Angeles Review, Poetry Salzburg Review, and others. She’s the author of The Virtual Tablet of Irma Tre (© 2014 Edgar & Lenore’s Publishing House), and editor of the anthology Near Kin: Words and Art inspired by Octavia E. Butler (© 2014 Sybaritic Press). Her avocations include alchemy, alternate modes of transportation, H.P. Lovecraft, Vincent Price, steam punk accessories, and the letter “S."
DIVINATORY By peach schist walk into the yard. not much better to be among, walking on acorns, twigs, dog shit. bat wings stretch long around the peripheral view. they pass by with the clouds. constellations revealed spelling out foul language to me. akashic trying to make light of things. look at the tarot, compulsively. stalin always flips Into divinatory, red and breathing the same air as me. crestfallen. i want silk women. loose tooth, fall from me. cosmic army fizzles. dew on the grass.
Author bio: peach schist paints writes runs a public blog and thinks about her mental illness a lot. she is currently watching â&#x20AC;&#x153;star trek: the next generation,â&#x20AC;? resting her right foot on her dog's head. she plans on taking a shower soon-ish.
Waiting to Be Possessed By Katrina Eresman
God, that girl? She was always in a panic, like flustered and robust and meditative on cigarettes.
“Feel the air!” she said wildly. “Do you like the sky, like that? Orange, like that?”
Swinging, swinging, swinging around, she went up and down. She always had a saying. “Well, you know...” she would start.
She walked me, once, to the park at night. Deer everywhere. Four deer; did she know them?
I concur that circumstance would suggest that this was planned.
“Come on! Come on!” she was wild at heart. She pulled me under, and over the snow. There they were, alive and breathing. And her eyes, those seamless eyes, stared at me just like theirs. Ten eyes, in a trance of expectancy, black marbles turned to you. Waiting, blank, nothing. That’s her heart– pure, clean potential
in the middle of the road.
Author bio: Katrina Eresman is a young writer who enjoys creating poetry, short stories, and non-fiction articles on anything from Buffy the Vampire Slayer to astrology. Many of the latter can be found at her budding online zine, http://ourlittlesomething.tumblr.com/.
Two perspectives By Malaya S. Sy in hearing what causes death silence a moment is never a spectrum of deliberate hearsay listens and when the eye cannot contain focus enough to blur, blur recalling what does a voice do to include dissection of the handsâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; removable options moving Author bio: Malaya S. Sy (born 1969) is a dedicated reader of poets within the small press. Some of her favorites include Sheila E. Murphy, Eileen Tabois, Barbara Jane Reyes, Marcia Arrieta, Matina Stamatakis and others. Though she has been reading poetry for many years, she only began writing in early 2014. Her fascination with how language provides context to all aspects of communication provides the functionality of why she began writing.
Pinecone’s Sister -after “Root Groove” with Wynton Marsalis and Wycliffe “Pinecone” Gordon by Marianne Szlyk
One summer a girl toted a trombone up and down the hazy, still-shaded street, past black gum and English oak, past turkey oak and pine, to play with the boys, the saxophone quartet, at the ragged baseball diamond. The girl’s notes scraped the ground like knees sliding home while the boys tossed their notes like a baseball around the infield reaching the plate before any runner could. Their notes were mathematical, precise, practiced. The lanky girl wore shorts and her brother’s jersey with his nickname Pinecone. The boys were shorter with crew cuts and baseball caps. She taught herself to play in backyards beneath the pin oak and in basements beneath the pipes. They learned their jazz at school and practiced beneath the live oak in the park.
That afternoon, towards the end of summer, before middle school resumed, they played together. The leader of the boys, a young old man in a pressed white jacket, remembers. Pineconeâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s sister, buried in paperwork and childcare, now forgets. Author bio: Marianne Szlyk is an associate professor of English at Montgomery College and the editor of The Song Is..., a site for poems inspired by music at http://thesongis.blogspot.com/. Her own poems have appeared in print and online, most recently in The Camel Saloon, Poppy Road Review, Jellyfish Whispers, Poetry Pacific, The Blue Hour Literary Magazine, and Storm Cycle 2013: The Best of Kind of a Hurricane Press. Other publications, including her first chapbook, are forthcoming.
Two poems By Michelle Greenblatt
The perpetual dream.
Iridescent shadows circle dark stones, turning themselves over / to thought. Your tongue phosphoresces on a handful of kisses I tossed to you years ago. I close my eyes to watch our thoughts dance by. They flare up and flare up and flare up. The sky wrinkles with delight; the unsummoned clouds make music from rain. I throw myself, bodiless for a moment, into the wind in your presence with nothing less than fullness and abundance. No hour is the same hour: each perceptual pause holds an ever-changing eternity. Case of clarity, center of marvels, the perpetual principles of a dream unfolding
Without the help of a ladder. Here all year long I’ve kept my own secrets. The eerie blossoming of flowers in winter frightened me every time their petals opened to scent the chill wind. This season, I climbed long, high miles over danger without the help of a ladder more times than I can count. I’ve huddled in trenches and hidden in trees till they tripped me, trapped me and threw me down: I’ve been twisted / beyond recognition and remained that way, trapped in a sickening tangle of twisted limbs. I’ve fallen through the floors of dark, anonymous rooms; I’ve sat frozen in panic until I remembered to look up, then found a plump skyline full of wider wings than I have ever seen or dreamed. Whole worlds whip past me, beckoning. The only blood-borne cries I hear now are dim. Eyes, throat, lips: exposed mark the beginning of the first creation-kiss
A posteriori. Prismed glass scatters the rays of strong light into loose, flimsy-ribboned rainbows. One more brain:storm from the curdled clouds, one more stratus vision to conceal the avalanche that will drag me back through the shadows. At home with Kyle tonight, I skate on fat, crusted ridges of ice. A penny tossed by a child skitters across the lake’s solid surface. I wonder what she’s wished for. My a priori detectors tremor; the corpus delicti gag of dreams forbids me to speak. Retina rot; forget-me-not; after the fact / of you, all brilliance turns sourblack.
On black limbs. A kiss for virgin lips. Masks with four faces stalk the halls in order to find the bodies; bodies on all fours stalk the halls in order to find their faces. One may remain motionless while moving through time’s dark corridors in search of eyes, nails and finger-bones. One might try to plant roots or clots or sparks of light in captured skies, or attempt to drink a world, a name, an incompleteness down. Rapid hands spread cold like an oilcloth over the narrowblack landscape. Heat’s kiss transforms the roads into impassable alleys of measureless travels. Winter skitters away on black limbs. Awareness, preparedness, homage to isolation Author bio: Michelle Greenblatt is the poetry editor for Unlikely Stories. A twotime Pushcart-Prize nominee, Greenblatt’s third book, Ghazals, was co-authored with Sheila Murphy. The poems in this issue are from her fourth book, ASHES AND SEEDS, a collection of prose poetry, free verse poems, and post-modern haibuns that combine Greenblatt’s love of surrealist imagery with story-telling through avant-garde explorations into loss, isolation, insanity, and redemption. ASHES AND SEEDS is forthcoming from Unlikely Stories. You can find more of Greenblatt’s work in Free Verse, Bird Dog, Word For/ Word, Counterexample Poetics, Dusie, Altered Scale, eratio, Sawbuck, Sugar Mule, Moria, Shampoo, Coconut Poetry, Big Bridge, BlazeVOX, Xerolage, Blackbox, Otoliths, Fire, The Spidertangle Anthology of Visual Poetry and many others. Michelle can be reached at Michelle@UnlikelyStories.org.
Regina A. Walker
Three poems By J.S. Watts
MOTHER LOVE You'll never be accepted. They'll say I produced you out of spite, To get even. They know what they know. The rest can safely be ignored. Listen to them mithering away. Old bitches in want of a dog; Howling at the moon because it isn't. "But, my dear, green eyes, six fingers. Just like witches. You mark my words, They'll be mistaken for witches." But that is what they are. Pure witch breed. Born out of tears on a dark night, With only sorrow for a father. But such reality is uncomfortable. Far best stowed under a convenient carpet.
Convenience should never be underestimated. Look at their babies; solid gold, everyone. Just like their mothers: controllable, safe, Predictable. Not an individual amongst them. The bitch pack won't tolerate outsiders.
Whilst you, my dears: unruly, unrestrained, And free. Your own creation more than your mother's. You'll sing to the full moon, not howl at it. Independence was your first birthday gift from me. And your last. But I still think of you as mine. Primal ties are strong. I hurt too easily for your sake. Their thoughtless yappings carry a sharper note, But I shall be the proud one When my demon brood takes to the air. ++++++++++ Â
SISTER LOGIC Too many nights I have lain awake counting sheep instead of lovers. Listening to peewits calling their lost children across empty fields; to a lonely wind hunting through the trees. All I can do is hug my yearning to my chest and wait for morning.
But some nights she is there, in the shadows, across from my bed. Standing, patient, waiting for the tears to subside. Not helping, only watching.
She will not sully herself with my chaos.
Hers is a humourless face: cold grey eyes, a steady hand. She has all the passion of a nun. In truth, she could pass as such; her greyness as much a habit as her calm. A sister of solitude, not of mercy.
No, not of mercy. Hers is no tortured god, bleeding his passion on a crowded hill, demanding love in return for his death. She would never tolerate such confusion. Her only god is reason. Where there is knowledge there is no room for faith, or doubt. Or love either.
So there she stands, counting tears instead of drying them, while my world falls apart yet again. Each tear drop reflecting her dispassion, while her eyes only show me my pain. Yet for all this we are sisters, this paragon and I.
But she remains a stranger, this sister self. Two sides of a double mirror, both reflecting outwards. One side cracked and darkened, the other side reflecting with painful clarity. Two sides of the same whole. but only one is crying. +++++++++++ Â
Rambler The best present has always been the smell of a rose on my birthday. Not just any rose, but the fresh pink rambler ambling along my parentsâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; garden fence throughout my childhood. A clean drape of pink every June and blooming, always, on my birthday. The same rose, or a daughter cutting, that later climbed the fence further down the garden to spread its swathes of abundant pink in counter-balance with the mother plant. Like the cutting that travelled with me
to put down good roots in a different soil only for me to move on, a further offshoot growing forward. Or the rose found rambling its calm, persistent way around an arch in yet another garden, a gifted accident and a sense of old beginnings. And now the pink blooms climbing the wall out back, a granddaughter to my parentsâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; rose, but as cotton fresh and flushed as my childhood memories and flowering anew for me. Â Author bio: J.S.Watts lives and writes in the flatlands of East Anglia in the UK. Her poetry and short stories appear in a diversity of publications in Britain, Canada, Australia and the States including: Mslexia and Polluto and have been broadcast on BBC and Independent Radio. She has three published books to her name: a full poetry collection, "Cats and Other Myths" and a multi-award nominated poetry pamphlet, "Songs of Steelyard Sue", both published by Lapwing Publications and a novel, "A Darker Moon" - a dark literary fantasy, published in the US and the UK by Vagabondage Press. Further details at: www.jswatts.co.uk and on Facebook: www.facebook.com/J.S.Watts.page.
THREE POEMS By Chrystal Berche
Searching Where did I lose you? Was it when the walls were melting? Was I watching rainbows, forgetting you were there? Was I on the highway, running towards the sun Or chartreuse oceans and burning sands Was it in that dream of dragons, when all the light was shattered And lay in broken crystals on the floor Leaving me slithering through the cracks Desperate to cling to illusions Was there a place and time when I truly had you Or was I too busy dancing with demons Drinking absinthe on a cloud of purple haze Strobe lights enchanting, so my eyes left you to watch them Was it in the hurly-whirly crazy battle of desert energy Chasing cactus flowers across purple dunes Did you ever follow or did you just wait for me to come back to you Did I take too long, is that why you’re gone. If so, I’m terribly sorry, but the gnomes were growing moonflower And I couldn’t smell one So I tiptoed through their garden patiently seeking each bloom Delighting in the explosions of color all around I do so love when they shift and spin
Or blend all together and drip on my skin Wrapping me in cosmos You could climb in too and join me, they won’t mind And then I won’t be searching for you in those moments When the colors loosen their hold and its just me drifting aimlessly Without you to anchor me I need you, please come home. ++++++++++
Concrete Gardens Tonight, the sky is an electric highway of war gods Quaking in a jagged loop of endless dreams The reaper spins its heels at an all night dinner Sipping coffee and 151 from chipped porcelain mugs The essence of watered down memories There’s no one left here to mourn the sun The gypsies all dance in concrete gardens Celebrating the fall of Eden and the death of spring Wild roses burned in neon righteousness Jabbing their thorns into frozen flames All flickers of warmth stolen by the dying sun Red is the color of brake fluid in snow The long shadows creeping through broken windows Devour what the kudzu failed to claim Wood creeks, the echo of rockers in an empty room A stark reminder of a massacred past
A kaleidoscope of disconnected edges This ever changing nightmare of platitudes and regrets The sky cries icy tears across the faces of rainbows Their technicolor frowns inspire Midas dreams Ocean and heavens meld into disharmonious blue Bear witness to tumultuous sunsets Only immortals are blessed with eternity Endless opportunities to erase their sins ++++++++++
Drifter Rootless You called me drifter You scowled as you watched me wander Eyebrows heavy and low Framing eyes that never smiled Lips that never spoke a kind word I danced down dusk gray sidewalks Stomping the cracks and skipping beneath ladders Flipping convention the bird You yelled Raging that I was mocking you When all I was doing was being me So I laughed harder Long and loud Watching for that vein in your forehead
That pulsed like the tar pits Before bubbling over Like your temper when you caught me hitching My feet bare, my thumb out Smelling of sunshine Mind a million miles away You fight to forge chains for me Out of words like expectations and responsibility But I don’t think those words mean What you think they mean Nor do I think the word ‘daughter’ means The same to me as it means to you
Author bio: Chrystal writes. Hard times, troubled times, the lives of her characters are never easy, but then what life is? The story is in the struggle, the journey, the triumphs and the falls. She writes about artists, musicians, loners, drifters, dreamers, hippies, bikers, truckers, hunters and all the other things she knows and loves. Sometimes she writes urban romance and sometimes it’s aliens crash landing near a roadside bar. When she isn’t writing she’s taking pictures, or curled up with a good book and a kitty on her lap.
Five poems by Wanda Morrow Clevenger
fried everything and booze I learned how this person had an expendable organ removed same as me at about the same age and immediately felt the healing effect, reached for the frenchfried everything and booze––a new lease on life so it’s a sure bet the surgeon didn’t lay out the tarot cards like mine didn’t so this person doesn’t suspect a future gallstone conspiracy against his unexpendable organs and it’s a surer bet most people don’t want to hear doom and gloom––so the silent surgeons walk away satisfied and who am I to deny a person a new lease on life
November second against all instinct a month and 2 days after you were laid up way up north I finally stripped the bed I didn’t want to wash the sheets tuck the corners line up the log cabins plump the pillows was the pills they dosed up and dosed out double that decided like how your neuro said what you get is what you got for as long as it takes – he even drew a brain with a bruise on the patient board with a face outline the nose was too pointed Bob Hope pointed but his point was made it was November fall-forward day I didn’t want to fall forward I didn’t want to wash you from the sheets but the pills were earning their keep and sooner or later someone would show up unannounced and find me out
the Russian your physiatrist had a thick Russian accent and when she spoke her tongue darted between her lips no matter what I do she told me I should not cry in front of you the longer you lingered thinner and weaker it was all I could do to do what she asked in time I reasoned what she asked wasnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t a hard and fast rule but a rule of thumb that also applies to checkout lanes taxis, elevators and public privies
two pills two pills one for day one for night for a short while a real coup using the plastic gadget that cuts in two even if two was again needed and the gadget not
two pills a real coup a pretty bow a gnarled knot
I always wanted to title a poem “road kill” designated driver Rob ferries me daily down through the river bottom and back, pointing to raccoon carcasses he remarks he needs some car repairs but there is no time for repairs he remarks he carries all kinds – little old ladies bombed bowties and bridesmaids chemo patients back road pundit hospital hired hand gentleman to a fault, Rob jumps out to hold the car door open down through the river bottom and back is 424 miles I have become road kill royalty Author bio: Wanda Morrow Clevenger lives in Hettick, IL – population 200 give or take. She has published over 300 pieces of work in 114 print and electronic publications over the past seven years. A full-length poetry manuscript is currently stalking unsuspecting presses.
Two poems By Nicole Henares (Aurelia Lorca)
The Song of Me, Sometimes Myself, in Seville I hear from my window in the city, city, city carnations and the shadow of carnations ornate with death: A bright ruffle of sky blinding the spectacle of wind. Amid the intersection of grief and crackling blue pain, I wind through the streets in a solitude of ultimatums that dance and linger like a broken poem: I pray, so I will scream tiny bells like tiny stars down la Avenida de la Constitucion in the shadow of the great Cathedral: I am the princess of balloons! Between my thighs are poppies! My spangled shoes snap with the jasmine in hooting rhythm! Where is my Lorca, my friend to the pigeons? Has there ever been such magic? Oh poet, oh Federico Garcia. look what has happened to the beautiful lunacy of your vision: In the trellised gardens of the Alcazar the wind cries with the mourning doves and echoes into the roses. While a little boy on vacation sits in front of the La Giralda and collects on his thumb the flies the rest of us twitch off. Yet, I cannot remember the moon in the city sun. I believe I have angered the skies:
Their silver and mermaid lace swirl, heave, and whoo bird cries and cicadas, monstrous. Thus, I conclude my day with the palace peacock as he cleans his quills, a complicated process: Fans out his tail like the skirt of flamenco. His three wives, their unimpressive feathers, sleep on a shaded ledge.
Sad Little Bitch Thoughts The sad little bitch thoughts tonight come slow and syncopated. Sad little bitch. I loathe stillness, it reminds me of stupor, seething inadequacies. Rot. And here I am with you still in a meadow of stiff kneed still. My wounds have cracked. My blood is caked, hard, like a shield, like a weapon. While the sun and her fan wave hahahahahaha across the stretch of sky. And the muse twaddles her fingers from her ears, tongue out, mouth twisted, stitched. Because this beauty shop angel is pink toothed as candy, wears a powdered wig to perfume the night poison and circle the fat moon with perfect eyebrows. Because you never really listen to me anymore or my mournful laughter. I have become a badly behaved clichĂŠ. Nevertheless, I want to arm the stars with javelins and gladly pick the death card to give you one last conjugal dance so I can finally have a pain thatâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s better than stillness or nothing at all.
Dorothea Margaret Tanning
He Said/She Said By Regina Walker "Simply said", he said, he'd say - nostrils flaring with anger from his youth - while she said, she'd say, "Perhaps, perhaps." Too tight pin cults restrain her while toast and eggs and coffee appease him. His sloppy swack says thank you while a silly smile slides across her face and she goes shopping. Undershirt all dirty and ripped reveals ripples of fat as they slush to the big easy chair - Plop! TV on and food. Smack, smack, smack snack - crunch slurp. Sneezes and dirty fingernails. Forget to flush the toilet, forget forget to wash hands. But now she is home. Dinner! Smack belch. No conversation but smoke - cigar smoke and bad breath. "I'm tired" he said she said not looking.
Author bio: Regina Walker is a writer, photographer and psychotherapist in NYC. She is the Senior Writer for Revolution Magazine (USA).
Translations from the English into Admissions of Everyday Fears By Kerry Trautman
When she says: “See you later,” what she means is: “Sometimes the breeze tries to fray my muscles.” When she says: “I’m tired today,” what she means is: “To cut into an under-ripe cantaloupe is a failure.” When she says: “Pick up some milk on the way home, will you?” what she means is: “My shoes feel like they’re from my childhood closet.” When she says: “The mail is late,” what she means is: “If only the baby bunnies never had to fear dogs.” When she says: “Hold me,” what she means is: “or else I might dissipate like smoke.”
When she says: “Look! A heron,” what she means is: “Some day, everyone will leave.”
Author bio: Kerry Trautman lives in small-town Ohio. She is a founding member of Toledo, Ohio’s Almeda St. Poets, and The Toledo Poetry Museum, and she is often seen at local poetry readings and events such as Artomatic 419, 100 Thousand Poets for Change, and the Columbus Arts Festival. Her poetry and fiction have appeared in various print and online journals, including Midwestern Gothic, The Toledo Review, Alimentum, The Coe Review, Think Journal, and Third Wednesday; as well as in anthologies such as, Mourning Sickness (Omniarts, 2008), and Journey to Crone (Chuffed Buff Books, 2013). Kerry’s chapbook, Things That Come in Boxes, was published by King Craft Press in 2012. Her second chapbook, To Have Hoped, is available at www.finishinglinepress.com .
Three poems By Wendy Schmidt
The End Of Aunt Rose. On the day Aunt Rose left, I was more then happy to see her go. We never really got along. She was nothing but a pain in my gut and a damned nuisance. Good riddance, Aunt Rose, from my aching head to my cramping woes. You've been uninvited company since I was thirteen. To celebrate your passing, I will light up a last tampon box. Its fading fire will ceremoniously end this miserable chapter of my youth. Though I'm glad dear auntie afforded me the luxury of two healthy pregnancies. The rest was just a test of will power between me and my own body. I'd rather have done the dishes or taken out the garbage than deal with this monthly chore. Now, to even the score. One match set on stun. Look at it burn, burn, burn. Damn, I'm hot flashing. Womanhood is not for wimps.
Fix Lovesick, like an addict's fix, craving the boost, the prick of a needle, until the draw is done, and she's aching for more. Amped-out and empty, searching for the next push, to feed her need. Agonies are pumping hard, forcing her to play, a loser's game. Sanctum strikes, then she's all lit up, from the Big Man's bomb. But it's a bad go, 'cause her mind keeps tripping, back to a time. She was true, and knew the way, her own will, on midnight walks, down silent streets,
of this city. Solitary state, will bring her back, from a strayed faith, from a lost place, alone and in love, with liberty.
#exposĂŠ The price one pays for cheap propaganda, reckless love dished up self-serve style. All the hearts and flowers, hot and steamy showers, from a man who makes your brain buzz, like a kid downing double caffeine. Tweet and twitter, Facebook fairytales that lay it on thick, buttering up all the tumblers, who tremble at your R-rated rep. Spiteful girls read this fluff, and whisper web warnings, enough is enough. We don't mind the spin on hearts and romance. but this pickup truck of sweet tarts. prompts the pucker of sour lips. Scratching his back and making it bleed, tapping your claws all over the keys, with details of venomous vice gone viral, until we want to vomit up youtube, it's true. This picfest of super sweaty sex, only entertains the creepiest of crawlers. Give it a rest dear passion's pest, out there in soft-core cyber bore. Spare the cheap sentiment and cribbed sonnets. Better stop posting or suffer the blows, the next time we see those ex's and o's. Got a talent for tattling the truth, no one is cheering your chatterbox blog. #exposĂŠ is on the rise from rebuffed girls, with guile and guts, wise to the world. It's rather rude to blow your own horn, and sneer at the windstorm of spurned sisters. Play it safe, save us the updates.
Filter posts and over the moon boasts, humble yourself, temper the talk, 'cause best friends will stick like glue when you're ego is badly bruised, after lover boy turns out to be a loser. Don't let it lay like a lump in your throat, #exposĂŠ, and play hard ball. Land in love field but here's the deal, never ditch your friend for a last minute date.
Author bio: Wendy Schmidt is a native of Wisconsin. She has been writing short stories and poetry for the last ten years. The Four C's; cat, chocolate, coffee and computer are her chosen writing tools. Pieces have been published in Daily Flash 2012, Haunted Object, No Rest for the Wicked, Verse Wisconsin, Chicago Literati, City Lake Poets and a number of fiction and poetry anthologies.
Three poems By Deborah Guzzi
The Twenty First Century Prick In braille bumped out pinpricked never a curve to swirl has it got you sens it iized to the scratch the drag of skin across a heavy page words sage bound listen now to the chime hark to the voice, the gasp the indrawn ahhhhhhhhhhhh why waste the space, kill a tree, poke a hole appprrrrrreciate the verve the mind the curve grab a digitâ&#x20AC;&#x201D;like hike cumulus cloud of loud on fingertrips can the clicking key be codified to ride, the script of the unseeing might an A sound this way? a B, sound that way? hell with the scrawled page the scentless phrase crawled in a bumped outâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s the rage spray vanilla or lily of the valley bold leave a secret message in the scent a multisensory barrage of ahHa ah Ha mmmmm give me a verse terse on a scented trail in braille lover pop my cherry
Toes of Glory Spring time tickles springtime toes toes that wiggle toes that clench clench your cold hands clench your jaw jaw all you want jaw ber wocky wocky wocky duda wocky wonkas factory factory modified factory brand brand named popcorn brand the cattle cattle corn cattle hoofed it it wasn't all its made up to be it tickled my fancy fancy that fancy pants pants missing in action pants without legs legs up the wall legs make a backside backside of the moon backside blooms blooms in pink blooms in blue blue tooth tunes blueberry pancakes pancake makeup pancake mix mix it up baby mix master master colorist masterpiece piece out piece of cherry pie pie in the face face the days glowing face the floral field field the ball field overgrown
overgrown domesticated overgrown glory glory glory halleluiah glory days days youthful youthful days
Elemental Answers to Being Beside Every Iridescent Node Grows Beauty, Eyeing, Instigating, Nodding Gracefully. Bounty Energizes Inundating Nascent Growth. Brilliant Emerald Ignites Newborn Grains. Bathers Each In Nuance Gather. Beyond Eternity, Infinite Night Gropes. Beside Emerging Isotopes Nonchalantly Grasping Bottlenecked Entities In Nature’s Great Beneficence Engage Ideology, Non-sequitur. Givers. Bare endings. Idols Neglected Gape. Basking Ecclesiastic Idiosyncrasies Nascently Glow. Because Each Idol Names Great Beauty. Effigies, Itinerant Namesakes, Grin. Beside Each, I Narcissus Grow. being being being being being being being Author bio: Deborah Guzzi is a healing facilitator. She spends her days giving healing touch through massage, Japanese Shiatsu and Reiki. Occasionally, she writes for Massage and Aroma Therapy Magazines. She travels the world expanding her knowledge of healing modalities and writing inspiration. She has walked the Great Wall of China, seen Nepal (during the civil war), Japan, Egypt (two weeks before ‘The Arab Spring’), and most recently Peru. Her poetry appears in Magazines in the UK, Exsistere in Canada, Tincture in Australia, Cha:Asian Literary Review, China, others in India, Greece, and the USA.
Pig Rush/Leonora Carrington
Picassoâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Felines/Siddartha Beth Pierce
SECOND CHANCES By Alexis Fancher Remember those days in Chatsworth, before all the porno stars moved in? We made our own movies. Youʼd grab my hips, push up my dress, whisper obscenities into my belly, your hot breath a short cut to nirvana. I keep thinking about your tongue, how it could curl up, twist from side to side, make a girl very happy. The last time we met I wore that Donna Karan sheath you bought me, the one with the slit up the side. It made me look so hot you swore you wanted to marry me. Instead, we took risks. Shot drugs. Let ourselves be seduced by strangers. I’ve been trying to get back to you for years. I keep thinking about your thumbs, how they arch backward in double-jointed ecstasy, perfectly shaped for my clitoral pleasure.
The dress still fits. I could wear it when you fuck me. When we move back to Chatsworth, we’ll pretend we never left. Author bio: Alexis Rhone Fancher is the author of “How I Lost My Virginity To Michael Cohen and Other Heart Stab Poems,” (Sybaritic Press, 2014). Find her poems in Rattle, The MacGuffin, Broadzine!, Dirty Chai, Slipstream, H_NGM_N, and elsewhere. Since 2013 she’s been nominated for three Pushcart Prizes and a Best of The Net award. She is poetry editor of Cultural Weekly. Her website is here: www.alexisrhonefancher.com
Come on Girl By Linda Leedy Schneider
I say to myself as I fill a glass with water for the night. “Come on, little girl. You are tired. I’ll put you to bed.” My mother awoke today for a moment from her kaleidoscope world where my father is 25, my brother struggles to be born, her sister is dying again, she is selecting a hat for church, and always, always searching for her own mother. She placed her hand on mine and asked again, “Who are you?” I said, “I am your only daughter.” She smiled like she had just made a butterscotch cake for dinner and said, “Poor little girl.” I counsel anxious and depressed clients, work with autistic, aggressive, and withdrawn children, know the art of psychodynamic therapy and cognitive behavioral therapy, even write poetry which I have read in New York City and Chicago, but she’s right again. I am also a poor little girl whose mother is almost gone and I must fill my own glass with water for the night.
Editor’s note: This poem was the winner in an Hour of Writes contest. Author bio: Linda Leedy Schneider, winner of the 2012 Contemporary American Poetry Prize awarded by Chicago Poetry, is a political activist, poetry and writing mentor, and psychotherapist in private practice. Her work has been nominated for Pushcart Prizes. She leads workshops nationally and internationally. Linda’s work has been published in hundreds of literary magazines and she has written six collections of poetry including Some Days: Poetry of a Psychotherapist (Plain View Press 2011), and has edited two collections of poetry written by poets whom she has mentored. Linda believes a regular writing ritual leads to discovery, authenticity, personal growth and even JOY.
Questions of integrity By Mercedes Webb-Pullman
Are you a pervert, guilty of major crimes in this lifetime? Were you sent here? Why?
If you are or have been a Communist have you embezzled money? Does this security check upset you?
Are you a drug-addicted bomber who murders and rapes? Anything to do with a baby farm or sleeping with a member of a race of another color?
Do you collect sexual objects? Have a secret you are afraid I'll find out? Are you upset by this security check?
Do you hope you won't be found out? Do you think itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s wrong to have your privacy invaded?
What do you wish you hadn't done? Are you upset by this security check? What has somebody told you not to tell? Have you ever decided you didn't like some member of your family?
Have you pretended to be ill? Have you ever taken something belonging to somebody else and never given it back? Have you ever hurt yourself to make somebody sorry?
Did you come to Earth for evil? Have you ever smothered a baby or enslaved a population?
Ever destroyed a culture? Have you ever torn out someone's tongue, zapped anyone, eaten a human body, made a planet radioactive?
Are you worried by this security check?
Author bio: Mercedes Webb-Pullman graduated from IIML Victoria University Wellington with MA in Creative Writing in 2011. Her poems and the odd short story have appeared online and in print, in Turbine, 4th Floor, Swamp, Reconfigurations, The Electronic Bridge, poetryrepairs, Connotations, The Red Room, Otoliths among others, and in her books Food 4 Thought, Numeralla Dreaming, After the Danse, Ono, Looking for Kerouac, Tasseography, Bravo Charlie Foxtrot and Collected poems 2008 - 2014. She lives on the Kapiti Coast, New Zealand.
Icon By Carol Smallwood
A woman lifting a set of scales with one hand, the double-edged sword represents law— an icon using classical themes long planned, a symbol of justice designed to have no flaw.
The double-edged sword represents law, objectivity shown by blindfolded eyes a symbol of justice designed to have no flaw which in some courtrooms is oversized.
Objectivity shown by blindfolded eyes an icon using classical themes long planned which in some courtrooms is oversized: a woman lifting a set of scales with one hand.
Editor’s Note: “Icon” was previously published in Common Ground Review, Spring/Summer 2014
Author bio: Carol Smallwood's most recent books include Water, Earth, Air, Fire, and Picket Fences (Lamar University Press, 2014); Divining the Prime Meridian (WordTech Communications, 2015); and Writing After Retirement (Rowman & Littlefield, 2014). Carol has founded, supports humane societies.
Two poems By Parker Bauman
Dear Rape, You act like you own the world, like nobody nowhere can touch you, like you can move next door, bake an apple pie and bring it over, borrow a cup of sugar. Well, you don't own nothin'. And, Iâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;m here to fondle you, evict you from this planet, vomit up your apple pie, not lend you a damn thing. With impunity by your side-you sift through the sands of Arabia, hike through the Hindu Kush, rush frat parties, tackle at the fifty-yard line, preach in church basements. Take heed, my cowardly colleague. Your biggest predator, I wait hungrily over you in the tree of righteousness, ready to pounce. Ablaze with sparkly blade, I shall behead your arrogance, throw acid on your perversion, immolate your brazenness. I am coming for you now. Sincerely, Justice
Impunity the knocker clacks on my sanity it's you again haughty talons scraping poisonous tongue striking at the bounty of this first-world human. you spray your stench in the highlands of rwanda, flick your fleas into the sands of darfur putridity precedes you, noxious vapors now
ascending into the nostrils of the u.s. judicial system. sure-footed my brain flees trying to avoid death by responsibility. you meet me at the backdoor. Author bio: Parker Bauman is a human rights attorney who pens poetry to keep her sanity. She has been published in Connecticut River Review, Big Muddy and Earthen Lamp Journal. She lives in Connecticut, but hopes to someday return to her first love, New Orleans, where she will live a long life of wordsmithery.
Composition with Figures on a Terrace/ Leonor Fini
Two poems By Erin Emily Ann Vance
dissolving Bruises flower worn like sunsets the cycle begins Rosebush lined womb scars left on fetal skin -thorns began growing there 20 years ago and there are sequences on the tips of chromosomes that keep DNA from unraveling but like the plastic tips of shoelaces crushed under foot -you are unraveling from the inside out.
some of us Some women will never become mothers and some women will smother their children their DNA aging as each bruise heals coded strands like twisted ladders in a Dali painting shifting broken bones and twisted metal sculpture A mother found not guilty By reason of insanity Stoning three small children Like flies swat with plastic spatulas Author bio: Erin Emily Ann Vanceâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s work has appeared in numerous publications, including Grip Magazine, WAX Poetry and Art Magazine, The Gauntlet, and NoD Magazine. She is currently completing a BA in English literature and creative writing at The University of Calgary. Erin loves to travel and works with children on the autism spectrum. She has pieces forthcoming for 2015 from NoD Magazine, SharkPack Poetry Review, The Birds We Piled Loosely, The Boiler Review, Flurt! Magazine, and After the Pause.
Artist bio: Ashi Ashi was born and raised in India. Now she is staying in Saudi Arabia. She pursued graduation and post graduation in English. She loves nature, travelling, spending time with her family and friends, listening to music, reading, writing and painting. She is a poet, writer, painter, editor and overall an artist by heart. She says: â&#x20AC;&#x153;I try to capture women in different moods and roles and in the beauty of nature.â&#x20AC;?
“The Hand of God”: Marilyn Monroe to Auguste Rodin by Megan Merchant I’m a Gemini, you see. I was born a piece of rough marble. You laid bricks. I could have been a sculpture, or high rise, but the world decided they liked me better in a sweater. I am too top heavy to change the skyline anyhow. I’m a chiseled, dented thing. But I’m adored. The way your work is. Would it be as beautiful in the dark ? I saw your sculpture today at the museum. Pure beauty and madness, darkened with your own twisted fate. A fatal struggle. I love the light because of the shadows. It’s disciplined. Aloneness would be absolutely terminal without the touch of others, don’t you think ? Aloneness is an art, an art for the sensitive. When I’m naked, men aren’t really with me anyhow, they’re with a dream. And you can’t hold a dream too long. When your hands caress a lover, are you remaking her to your liking ? How well I know that pull, between truth and art. I do. Fame is fickle and cruel, a sort-of-happiness. It’s exhausting.
No different than memorizing lines, really. The words are on my lips, but no where to be found when I kiss. Maybe that’s why I’m alone. Alone in a world that needs to believe in beauty, in platinum, in this polished sexy thing they’ve created. You should know, I am naked writing this letter, laughing into the wind. The kind of wind that cranks the stars. But your blurry eyes can’t see that far. Rodin, I need to believe that a sexy thing is better than no thing at all. Author bio: Megan Merchant is forthcoming. Her chapbook, Translucent, Sealed, is forthcoming though Dancing Girl Press. Her first full-length collection, Gravel Ghosts, is forthcoming though Glass Lyre Press. Her first children’s book, These Words I’ve Shaped For You, is forthcoming through Philomel Books. Her future is bright. She wears shades.
Three poems By Ally Malinenko
Morticians Go To Such Lengths To Make the Dead Look Serene That He Or She May Be Unrecognizable It doesn’t even look like him, she says, standing over the casket of her dead father. He looks peaceful, I say, thinking that would be helpful that that is the sort of thing people say in these moments looking down at their dead fathers, and she laughs throwing her arm around me. She says the truth is he was never peaceful. He was a greedy old man. He was awful to my mother and wouldn’t let me go to college. He never did a single thing for another person. He was an abusive alcoholic who knew the other old bastards at the bar better than his own family. My poor mother died too young and he lived too long but it’s still nice, she adds. Seeing him like this. They did a nice job and that’s really what matters.
Immigration Must Be Done Right In Order For America To Succeed She hung herself in a Mexican jail rather than risk one more night trying to cross the border with a coyote.
Back in New York relatives ask for privacy wracked and sleepless with grief. Down in Texas they scream about their jobs, the towns, their American way of life under threat. but here in Mexico there is just a twelve year old girl wide-eyed long brown hair dusty shoes gently swinging from the end of her very own rope.
The idea of the Blonde American Woman is becoming an International Aesthetic Waiting in the doctor’s office they’re blaring the television it’s a show that used to just be a website but now basically consists of a bunch of people sitting around trashing celebrities and saying dumb things when the blonde stands up no tummy high hard tits in her USA t-shirt and tells a story about being in Egypt to see, “you know, those pyramid houses” Except there were all these angry women
“you know, hot in their hajibees or whatever” The rest of the audience chuckles because she is blonde and cute and American so she doesn’t need to say things right. So, she tells us, I put on my bikini… here the scene flashes to the blonde donning her stars and stripes bikini the stripes barely covering anything and the stars even less. She says, I started posing you know like, a supermodel a few men in the audience make wolf noises and chuckle and this guy, she says goes “I love America” in this super middle eastern accent and I said, that’s because we’re the best. and she flips her blonde hair over her shoulder and sits down as the USA USA USA chanting begins just across the street where on a world stage we scored another goal with another bomb in another unnamed town. Author bio: Ally Malinenko is the author of the poetry collection The Wanting Bone (Six Gallery Press), the children's book Lizzy Speare and the Cursed Tomb (Antenna Books) and the novel This Is Sarah (BookFish Books). She lives in the part of Brooklyn that the tour buses don't come to.
Three Poems By Maja Trochimczyk
She opens the envelope – a letter And a newspaper clipping With a bouquet of red roses and a story About mortgage securities fraud on the back He rubbed his soap along the edges She closes her eyes, breathes in His fresh, clean scent after the shower Three phone calls while she was away Eight after she sent him that letter Admitting what he meant to her – That hot July day, under the tiger sky Press five if you accept this call – Stay on the line – Stay on the line Breathing, dreaming, searching, hoping – A lifeline – a lifeguard – her lifeguard – Stay Lush buds open on a dormant branch The half-forgotten fragrance The taste of his sweat on her lips Heavy drops falling from above The aroma of his bronze, spicy Body – his touch on her skin A sudden swell of affection The past enters the present Stay on the line – Accept this call From an inmate at Avenal State Prison A long-lost love awakens
With a whiff of newsprint ink A faint trace of what once was Could be, will be – when they meet On God’s mountain where rosebuds Open into a scarlet cloud That made the fortuneteller blush Seeing their future in her Tarot cards The naked twins, L’Amoreux “My love” – he says – Thirty second left – Stay on the line – Stay on the line
On Grief & Loss: A Trilogy ~ for J. Michael Walker and his models in the Bodies Mapping Time project ACT ONE: A SOLILOQUY This was the day that the world ended – when he gasped and stopped breathing Silence – I’m made of silence I see us walking, holding hands I touch absence – I feel the weight of his hand on my shoulder Silence – I need to see I have to remember I’m not alone ACT TWO: A LETTER You say I’m rich, I’ve done so much in my life and I’m your only treasure
in an old age of solitude and distress. You say I should come back, call you, I am just too far. I told you, there’s a reason for the ocean between us, Mom. I told you, but you wouldn’t listen. I think uncles should not rape their nieces. It is just not polite. It should not be done. I told you, but you wouldn’t listen. Yes, I’ll write sometime, send pictures, maybe, I think… Forget the blame game you play so well. You did not have to take his side. ACT THREE: A CONFESSION It was as if the sun walked into the room when I saw him Shining with such, I don’t know, wisdom, maybe, or knowing me so well It was the day I did not feel I should kill myself, not even once That sunny day he came and my demons fled from his brilliance
Like shadows flee from the merciless blade of sunrise
The Shooting Star or A Portrait of Maria Szymanowska Rossini wrote: “Madam, I equally adore your modesty and talent.” A daughter of Warsaw brewers, Mother of three children, her husband’s Country manor not enough for this music star The future court pianist of Russian Tsarinas She traveled with her sister – Paris, London, Weimar, Marienbad Deluded by the youth of pretty Ulrike Goethe was comforted with Maria’s soft voice, The sound of her piano in waning rays of sunlight He saw Das Ewig Weiblichkeit. He wrote Die Aussöhnung. Shining with the brilliance of her art She rose to royal highs Among dames and princes In muslin gowns of the latest fashion She ruled over her elegant salon Her portraits still capture her mischievous charm A Roman Goddess, or a Slavic Queen What remains of this dazzling life, Ballrooms filled with perfume and applause? A gold and sapphire bracelet in the museum Her satin slippers that dared to outlive her – Insolent – for two hundred years They sit on the shelf, while she Is long gone, no trace of her daughters Grandchildren gone, too.
What else? A handful of etudes Songs scattered through Europe Melodies frozen into crystals of air Above vast plains of snowdrifts White mystery of now. Sparks of a shooting star Fall across dark velvet of our wintry, midnight sky. Â Author bio: Maja Trochimczyk, PhD,is a Polish-born poet, music historian, and photographer. She published four books on music and five of poetry (Rose Always, Miriamâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Iris, Slicing the Bread, and anthologies, Chopin with Cherries and Meditations on Divine Names). She is the founder of Moonrise Press, and Board member of the Polish American Historical Association. Her website can be found here: www.trochimczyk.net.
Frau mit totem Kind/Kathe Schmidt Kollwitz
Two poems By Cindy Hochman
Prayer for the Healing of Ferguson
Guns or roses? Pistils, not pistols. SILLY FROG SONG “Don’t sit like a frog Sit like a Queen.” —Denise Duhamel There are two things I know for sure: (1) it is lots of fun to polly wolly doodle all the day; and (2) no matter how much time goes by, Jeremiah is still a bullfrog. This is the first frog poem I’ve ever written. I am wary of bulging eyes and dissections. Promiscuous frogs leap from lily pad to lily pad. I was this kind of tadpole once. Frogs do not have to be told to go green. Frogs have no use for fancy hats or politicians. Frogs hate French people. I am the frogman—goo goo ga joob. I once shot a frog in my pajamas (and, no, I don’t know how he got into my pajamas, but he looked good in them). Do you know how frogs open gift wrapping? They rip it, rip it. There’s something I forgot to tell you before: ‘tis better to sleep with a frog than with a newt. (I’ve never slept with a newt, but when I’m happy, I pin my little legs back.) I was lying. He wasn’t wearing my pajamas—he was wearing little froggy Speedos (and he looked good in them). Frogs seem comfortable in their amphibian skin. I wish I were comfortable in my own creamy and wretched skin. Frogs, for the most part, are honest brokers. They pay their taxes. Then they croak. And they always have some mighty fine wine (yes, they do). Author bio: Cindy Hochman is the president of "100 Proof" Copyediting Services and the editor-in-chief of the online journal First Literary ReviewEast. Her poems have appeared, or are forthcoming, in MonkeyBicycle, Arsenic Lobster, CLWN WR, LIPS, the New York Quarterly, Pirene's Fountain, Levure littéraire, and Muddy River Review. She has also had poems translated into Turkish and published in Canada. She is on the book review staff of Pedestal Magazine, and writes reviews for Home Planet News, great weather for MEDIA, and New Mirage Journal. Her 2011 chapbook, The Carcinogenic Bride, was recommended on Winning Writers. Her newest chapbook, Habeas Corpus, is available from Glass Lyre Press.
Two poems By Gili Haimovich
Exposed Roots Even though these are Evergreens, we never look at their tops. We set our eyes at the height of the cement a crawling baby’s level. However, we can’t allow our tenderness grow around them, there’s not enough caressing grass there. Since no green is at my eye level, I’m thankful for exposed roots. This one spreads itself so thin, like mothers. One of its roots becomes so narrow, almost not taking up any space, shoves itself, in between, in and out cracks. While a crawling baby is contrary, spreads itself on all fours just to get somewhere. How have we come to a place where the bigger you are the less space you are expected to take up? You and I, did we grow narrow? Did we ever look at a treetop? Could we, now? Can we hold up, like an Evergreen treetop, look up, for horizons that will shade this baby of ours? Are we holding up or am I just a tree falling in a forest,
(or a bad bed, I’m so tired, when the day end’s) a crawling mother with no growing tenderness around her falling trunk.
Higher Hopes in 7 – Eleven Rush time in 7-Eleven. Though you can’t be too hasty when it comes to picking your poison in 7-Eleven. The limited selection directs your passion forcefully. Under the sick neon light even the peachy colored roses in the cellophane seems like a mistake. Held by the man that almost reaches the cashier in the long line. Do all the people here, that like me, wait in the endless line of Friday night, have higher hopes for themselves? Does it apply as much to the immigrant-hesitant cashiers? Somehow their hesitance has to do with them being immigrants. Does it let us, the ones who stand on the other side of the counter, feel a bit more secured hanging on to our limited, plastic-raped decisions? Or maybe it’s them, the immigrant-hesitant cashiers, not needing to choose a poison just to operate, that are closer to salvation? Friday night. Rush time in 7-Eleven. Is this line ever going to end? Author bio: Gili Haimovich is an internationally published poet. She has published the chapbook Living on a Blank Page (Blue Angel Press, 2008) and five volumes of poetry in Hebrew. Her work appears or is forthcoming in journals International Poetry Review, Poetry International Web, LRC – Literary such as Review of Canada, Drain Magazine, Asymptote, Recours au Poème (with translations to French), Poetry Repair, Deep Water, TOK1: Writing the New Toronto, Ezra Magazine, Cahoots, In My Bed, Bridges: A Jewish Feminist Journal, Women in Judaism and Lilith. Gili works as a translator as well as an interdisciplinary arts therapist and educator.
The Other Side Lyrics by Simone Keane
So what ya gonna do now Now you’ve said good bye Wrap yourself in cellophane And shoot up to the sky Squeeze into a bottle Go floating out to sea And hope to God they find you Pop the cork and set you free On the other side On the… Other side I remember the day when you blew me away When you told me I was the one You talked about marriage and kids and all that I didn’t know you were saying it just for fun And then came the day when you pushed me away Pushed me right up against the wall And nothing I did or said or breathed would ever Please you at all But I know I’ll be alright Now that I’m On the other side Where the grass is so much greener
The air is cleaner And everybody’s kind On the other side You can wash yourself down In summer showers And friends will talk with you for hours And no one leaves you behind On the other side Well some people say That when love comes your way To embrace it and don’t be afraid So I let you hold me in your arms Enchant me with your charms Never knowing one day You would grow a fist on your arm But I know I’ll be alright Now that I’m On the other side Where the grass is so much greener The air is cleaner And everybody’s kind On the other side You can wash yourself down in summer showers And friends will talk with you for hours And no one leaves you behind On the other side
So what you gonna do now Now you’ve said goodbye Wrap yourself in cellophane And shoot up to the sky Squeeze into a bottle Go floating out to sea And hope to god they find you Pop the cork And set you free On the other side On the others side On the other side
Editor’s note: Simone Keane’s CDs can be found here: http://www.cdbaby.com/m/cd/simonekeane
Author bio: Simone Keane is a singer songwriter from Western Australia. She is the first Regional songwriter to win two categories in the same year at the Western Australia Song of the Year Awards. She has released two independent cd’s, Burning and Moon Tunes. Simone background lies in musical theatre, but life events turned her to song writing as a form of self-expression. She is a qualified English teacher and works as a volunteer for Sea Shepherd Conservation Society. The natural environment is one of her greatest passions, as well as her boyfriend’s dog, Bruce.
Flashwise Femmes: Flash fiction by flashy Cats
Violent-violet episode By Sarah Edwards I got the pinching done. This morning I can go out, I can actually wedge my displaced hooks, all ten of them, against the plated latch and jam my body forward as though it’s last remaining desire is to breed with the laden glass door, a barrier of 5 separate vertical glass sheets. I would’ve done it, done it if it wasn’t for the protruding hip bone that did not fail to cram itself in between the 2nd sheet of reflected agony. In a moment of neurotic haste, I pulled back at the slant detail of the hip bone. “Ckrrunkk!” The sheer suffering that simple note produced was a marvel. My body hanging in it’s twitching state as my arms go through every stage of crude anesthetization, the plasmic fluid flowed effortlessly in it’s rich majestic hue. The string of my underwear that covered the hip bone in a form of a mock shelter was still attached, oblivious to the thick, lush stain it now bore. I felt my jaw unlock as the veins started pumping some fallen blood back to the corners of my inane box. I decided to keep hanging in my pitiful filth till the boy comes to crack me loose. He must be over the pinching soon. Hanging there, to keep my head afloat, to keep it from drifting towards the thought pool of misery, I recalled the pinching this morning. The boy had woken up with his left toe fullgrown, bulging with receding violet tint. His demure gesture with both of his hands tweaking his eyelashes, it was enough. I pulled his chipped, plum toenail, as his head lightly caressed the varnished wood, and towed him to the other room where the leather couch was rubbing against that fated glass barrier. Then for the 50 minutes that pursued us, I spent not moving an inch, my knees having a cold one like old homegirls with the wooden floor. The boy could barely lift those eyelashes and I pinched away, one violet pore at a time, with my parched finger ends. When it was done, the eyelashes were an appropriate size and the boy was able to move his toe in every which way. He moistened my hairline with his tongue and on his way back to the slumber, he periodically licked the dehydrated finger prints marked on his decreasing toe. Snapping back to my miser locale, I somehow slipped to notice, the boy’s angular palms rummaging the void between my v shaped form and the abrupt glass barrier. His left palm was now a crown for my rear as he lifted up my shape as a hip, hip, hurrah! He brought me blandly down and my knees were once again met with waxed familiarity. I was unhooked. The throb of physical bone was making itself more and more relentless as my hip kept pulsating in torment. Before I could bury my eyeballs far up in my brain, the boy had already opened the repugnant way, doused in elemental taste of clotted wine. My mortal part was in dire need of a professional band aid. As I let him lead me out in the vividly burdened sun, I caught a shady glimpse of a pale lavender tint forming branches on his toe. Author bio:
THIN AIR By Gloria Garfunkel She had everything. A mansion on a rocky cliff near the sea. Her husband. Two children. She bought anything she wanted. Her driver helped her carry six fur coats on one shopping trip. In the limousine, she stroked the fur of dead minks each in a different shade from black to white, each in a different style, yet she wondered about the ones she had left behind. She was insatiable. The less she ate, the more she shopped. She couldn't make decisions, so she bought everything, wore it once and donated it to poor people. She felt that her shopping was a kind of philanthropy. But everything had to be a size zero and she avoided weighing more than ninety pounds. She was petite and any more than that would be fat. If she couldnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t fit into something, she would go on a cleansing diet until she did. One day, when the nanny was sick and she had to care for her children, they were not wellbehaved and she realized they werenâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t perfect and that she had to compensate by being 85 pounds. She nibbled once a day and spent most of her time at the gym instead of shopping, learning to do all the weights, swimming, treadmill, keeping close track of her progress, doing more every day. Even when pregnant, twice, she hardly ate, allowed herself to weigh 100 and no one could tell she was pregnant, but somehow she gave birth to a perfect little boy and girl who had a series of perfect nannies to take care of them and take them to their lessons and keep them out of the way of the cook and the maid. She never ate with her children. Her husband did. The little she ate was done in tiny bites in even numbers alone in her bathroom. When walking through her house, little things out of place bothered her. Magazines had to be opened to certain pages with specific skinny models. But this need for perfection started to wear on her. She could never achieve absolute perfection. There was always something out of order, something she didn't have, something in life that eluded her. She thought perhaps her quest for eighty-five pounds would help her to feel better about herself. She drank only green tea and lost only two pounds. She was enraged at her lack of perfection. And so, one evening, after weighing herself again, she realized she would never be perfect like the models in her magazines. She looked out the window at the cliff and wondered if perfection would lie in erasing herself completely. Author bio: Gloria Garfunkel has a Ph.D. in psychology from Harvard University and was a psychotherapist for thirty years. She now writes flash fiction and her work has been included in numerous journals and anthologies.
More Sugar Than A Stomach Can Stand By Misti Rainwater-Lites You don't have to call me Baby or Darling. You can date other women. Remember that time in the ocean when I didn't have anyone else to rely on and I had two cents in my checking account and I owed you a blow job. It was never lightning for you. It was lightning for me, enough lightning for the both of us. You got drunk and burned the steaks and put your hands on my throat and squeezed and laughed when my eyes bulged and I cried out for mercy. You won't remember the time you grabbed my hair and pulled me toward the bed. You won't remember the loans and the rides and the enchiladas and chicken fried steak and white cream gravy. I was your mermaid, motherfucker. How can you forget that shit? You can fuck another woman. I hope that it's so bad it limps your dick and stones your heart and makes you call me. Here are the words you can say, the words that will run my long legs home to your bad dog door: Baby. I'm nothing without you. Please come home. The beer is in the fridge and my dick is hard and crying for your mermaid mouth.
Anna Julia de Graag
Dumb Waiting By Majikle To the casual observer it might merely look like a dumb waiter. A wooden box that hauls between the floors of the house by counterweight pulley, but to me it represents a fine freedom and every home should have one. The most wonderful technology since buckets got handles. I mean imagine, before that you could only carry what you could scoop up in your hands. Certainly I have down days, who doesn’t? There is the maintenance work I have to attend to. Keeping the winch strings untangled, unfrayed, oiling the moving metal parts is a monthly must but mostly my time is my own. And before all you feminist types get carried away let me tell you it was me came up with the idea. No more maniacal beetle-like heaving up and down those high step stairs. No more fallen arches, throbbing calves, creaking knees, as I haul up and down. Doing what all women do, sorting clean from dirty. Now I can hoist away even the largest of sacks without even a broken fingernail. When I first climbed in everything seemed right, the edge of the ledge was perfect for me to sit on as I slid myself around. I had to curl myself, had to bend my head quite a bit but eventually I got all in. It made me giggle to be crammed inside a toy lift but as I jiggled around onto my back I found a way of getting comfy, then when my husband gave me these cushions, well- snug as a bug in a rug. At first of course it felt strange, the click as the bottom door came automatically up to meet the top, the way the walls appeared to move and I did get a nasty graze once when my elbow wasn’t far enough inside but now it’s pretty much plain sailing. Obviously I know that other women don’t live in theirs, but once I put up pretty pink curtains and that sticky plastic view of Marbella it was truly my space. I can sit for hours imagining myself inside that blue sea it’s no different to a telly. Sit, deeply contented in my private place my, elevator.
Author bio: Majikle has lived as part of a rural women's communist in Wales UK for the past fifteen years. She qualified as a Master of scriptwriting in 2012 and likes to perform her poetry and short stories. Please subscribe to her blog for more info majikle.blogspot.co.uk/
FEMMEWISE VIEWZ: REVIEWS and INNERVIEWS
Michelle Greenblatt’s Ashes & Seeds By Sheila Murphy
In Ashes & Seeds, the poet offers a searing testament to the ubiquity of brutal forces that command the spirit to murder itself. In tightly crafted poetry, she hefts the raw footage of prompts that spawn sensory fear while braving the deprivation and rendering with accuracy an unceasing horror. Michelle Greenblatt’s poetry by turns demands that the reader be willing to recognize and participate in the most difficult states of mind, then immerse itself in the luxurious sensory beauty of a moment fashioned by memory and hope. Working against “the stinging winds . . .” an absent center of self and of the beloved, transports the mind to embrace the realization of what is lost. Greenblatt’s skill in language “spellbound by . . . tormenters” draws the reader and holds her there. In a relentless reversal of metonymy, Greenblatt’s work acknowledges the power of subtraction that reconfigures, piece by piece, the self. She testifies to an unexplained potency that resides fragmented points of insistence. In “No Alembic,” Greenblatt announces “the moment that divides itself into countless / thousands of voids.” Voice is diminished as the body is pierced, inhabited by the enemy, redefined, and used for purposes having nothing to do with any hypothetical or actual self. At the point of greatest pain, can identity exist? Whatever context is possible, specificity becomes the method of fashioning confluence by way of a narration. The machine of self is broken. Efforts to repair that precious entity as a
persistently hoped-for being, spawns the repeated reflex of “cut | cut | cut,” serving as indicator of recovery amid the many derivations of destruction. Division as a theme prevails throughout this volume. The disturbing reality of repeated visions comes closer to a healing in the final haibun of the book, “Without the help of a ladder.” At the same time, scars may miss the body. The depths to which the presence of the poem speaks have settled into a lesser sound. A welcome quiet. The body turned currency outside of any deciding self builds unseen yet palpable rage. There are voices outside any hypothesized would-be entity of person. Impressions made available by sensory means add layers to a pained, confusing interplay of someone else’s decisions. Amid flecks and depths of horror is an insistent, persistent wash of imagery that intends itself upon the environment, altering by way of willed resistance the prospect of nonexistence, taking riverblood as the only way of cleansing away pain and intrusion. Forms most prevalent in Ashes & Seeds are the numbered narrative sequence, the haibun, and free verse. It is in the haibun form that the most pronounced feeling of settling happens, as Greenblatt permits the final, single-line haiku to contain and transition toward new perception. In “Softly, softly.” The poet reveals her gift of painting the word, calling to clarity the sensory vibrancy of threat and dream infusing the requisite self-abandonment to earn entry into a shared state, hauntingly, “riding a hijacked dream.” The 100-part narrative that opens the book introduces disparate parts of wouldbe beauty, pronouncing the horror of their dismantling into broken elements. Curiosity is stripped of wholeness and purpose, and relegated to survival. Insensate and insensitive otherness holds a dissociated mild awareness of its inflicting harm. “What makes life life, and not a simple story,” she asks. Then places the being in a context: “I am writing . . . that it is 5:04 a.m. my arms are hungry; my mouth is empty. Inside me, there are spiders skittering around the hollow place where my mind should be.” Specificity offers the sole palliative as Greenblatt anchors the present self as though insisting upon a definition from which to build. Concurrently resisting the horror, the voice anticipates a role, a place, a context, recalling by way of authorization that, “She did not invent this.” “He chews on a butterfly’s ragged skin, watches the fish (curious): rippling emeralds with streams of scarlet swimming lazily around.” If the power of torment and the tormentor can be used to discover beauty, Greenblatt is the poet who can reflect into a seasoned renewal of which the second half of the book’s title refers. All boundaries are broken in Ashes & Seeds. The poet’s voice is cut away from its own context, and functioning there requires re-entry. The lyrical poise, the power of voicing potent emotion inflected by the visions “depleted, diminished,
deformed” render splitting, resonance, and the state of being caught in a blaze that allows no definitive clarity for the soul seeking its own relief. The final line of “All life’s discolorations.” reads “Promises and atrocities, no higher authority, my plethoric stores of insanity.” What are the seeds, where are the seeds? Greenblatt finds them wrapped with the blooded butcher paper of salvos from the enemy: a pure, luscious, sensual poetry. Always ironically in charge, the poet reminds us that “Years ago, I learned to take nourishment from nothingness.” Where breath is removed, salt is rubbed in to remove all liquid, and the harshness of that criminal attack on the spirit singes where singing would be, the poetry calls forth breathing “between operatic blurrings each day.” Would death be a respite, a rescue, a loss? Michelle Greenblatt commits the voice of the poems to capture and replace the soul she constantly refashions from fragmented memory and sensory awakenings. The question running through the veins of this book remains, “Is death a savior?” Is death to be trusted? Greenblatt reveals a third way: Living in the belief that ashes can fertilize the ground in which seeds take hold, she takes us as trusted partners to a reality built on belief in the ever available strength of mind with heart to transform present tense into a future of acceptance.
Puma Perl's Retrograde
By Misti Rainwater-Lites I read the PDF of Puma Perl's full-length poetry collection, Retrograde, on my ex-husband's computer, which has been fried by all the video games our son has downloaded. I'd much rather hold a copy of this ass kicking collection in my hands and read it on a Mexican beach with one hand on an icy bottle of Corona and the other hand on my ex-boyfriend's dick but as a paramour from Craig's List recently spewed in a misspelled and misguided e-mail, I need to stop living in a "fantasee" (sic) world. There is no fantasy to Retrograde. Perl's tone is caustic and tougher than nails. She seems to be telling the reader,"Yeah, life can be a bowl of shit. Stop bitching and flush the damn toilet, already. If the toilet overflows, grab a fucking plunger." This is not to say that Perl's poems are shitty. This is to say that Perl's poems transcend the shit of life...addiction, horrible relationships, poverty, loss, illness, death...and shine with the holy light that can only emanate from a true balls to the wall survivor. I furiously scribbled my favorite lines from the poems that resonated with me the most. I love every fucking line in Apocalyptic Jokes, my favorite poem in the collection, but I especially adore "the same way you love oranges or Beatles songs." In Orbit my favorite line is "I don't know
whether to slap him or fuck him." Oh sister. I've been there more than once. In Sweet Secrets the stand-out line is " 'You give great head,' he said. Sweet words still move me." I feel the fuck out of "Nobody told me life would last so long" from Speak To Me in Tongues. And in Electric Boom Boom I love and feel "I'm going crazy with caring." Fuck, how can I forget this line from Sleep And Sleeplessness: "REM sleep does not improve my sex life." Retrograde is a collection I will return to at the end of mediocre dates, during dry spells and to remind myself that for every man who cannot spell there is a vibrator that can.
Sleater-Kinney: Three Women to Love By Alison Ross
I am almost chagrined to confess that I was not a Sleater-Kinney fan before the launching of "Portlandia." (For that matter, I wasn't a Portland afficianado, either, before "Portlandia," but I DID always want to visit Oregon, and I finally did last fall!) I had heard of them, and knew of their import, but I just had never gotten around to indulging their sound. I did, however, like Bikini Kill, who emerged from the same riot grrrl scene as Sleater-Kinney. So I am not a completely hopeless bandwagon-hopper. Now, of course, I nurture a verging-on-unhealthy obsession with SleaterKinney. Over the years I have purchased all seven (now eight) of their albums and have listened vigilantly, compulsively. How could I have allowed music this visceral, this vital, to elude me? I often agonize over this question. But such questions are fruitless. One cannot foreshadow one's own evolution. It happens gradually, and truth be told, I could not have deeply appreciated music this raw, this soul-searing, at any other time in my life. I have always been a feminist, but as I near my 50s, I am lurching ever more toward a radicalized version of this facet of my identity - not misandry, mind you, and not a grotesquely politically correct iteration, but just a more "aware" incarnation of feminism, wherein I am more attuned to implicit manifestations of sexism, and implicit assertions of patriarchal privilege, etc.
So for me, Sleater-Kinney fills a void, both politically and musically. I am a big music lover, and yet so few of my favorite bands are female-fronted. I am slowly revising my collection to include more female musicians, however, and have built up an impressive pile. Patti Smith and The Coathangers in particular have moved into my top ten and Sleater-Kinney is inching toward my top five. And, just to publicly assuage my guilt over my female-musician-neglect - I have always loved female blues and jazz singers such as Bessie Smith and Billy Holliday. Politically, Sleater-Kinney and I have a solid kinship, as they pen lyrics that lacerate misogyny, and any number of right-wing authoritarian misdeeds, such as the embracing of corporate greed, misguided militancy, and so on. Up until now, "Dig Me Out" has been my favorite Sleater-Kinney album, but trumping it would have to be their new release, "No Cities to Love." Perhaps I am being too impetuous in making such an assured declaration - after all, I am "supposed" to be more fond of their earlier work, as everyone knows that a band's later output is never as good as its initial releases. Everyone also knows when a band breaks up/goes on "indefinite hiatus," as Sleater-Kinney did (for TEN years), that "reunion" albums never match up to those albums that were produced in the sweat and tears of when the band was caught up the mad momentum of being a continuous touring and creating entity. But I am here to assert vociferously that "No Cities to Love" is an essential album for every music lover to own. It is an album whose majestic music melds so many elements of so many styles - the caustic concision of hardcore punk, the spiky angularity of post-punk, the bouncy beat of new wave, the atonal cacaphony of no-wave, the bombast of classic rock, the pillowy melodies of pop - and yet it does so with such fluidity and ferocity that the cumulative effect is disorienting and grounding at the same time. The ten-year hiatus seems to have done wonders for coalescing anew Sleater-Kinney's verve and knack for cultivating tunes that startle for their elegant abrasiveness and engage with lyrical tirades about brutal economic paradoxes, empty-headed idolatry of cities, abuses of power.
From the detuned menace of opener "Price Tag" to the soaring stomp of "Bury Our Friends" to the sluggish, sludgy anthemic closer, "Fade," "No Cities to Love" is a terse but titanic testament to the idea that wisdom accrues with age, for these songs are far savvier than those sculpted in the band's youthful years. All Sleater-Kinney albums are classic, but on "No Cities to Love," the band's sonic ethos - the cyclonic guitars of Carrie Brownstein, the high-pitched hurricane howl of Corin Tucker, and the thunder-storm drumming of Janet Weiss - is elevated, pitting them against the greats, those who, in the dubious interest of longevity, dutifully churn out albums year after year, and yet never seem to progress beyond banal hymns. Maybe more bands need to go on hiatus. Sleater-Kinney has never sounded so ominously, anarchically alive.
Lyn Lifshin’s FOR THE ROSES: POEMS INSPIRED BY JONI MITCHELL by Cindy Hochman Out of an abundance of curiosity, admiration, and of course, poetry envy, I’ve always wondered how Lyn Lifshin, after decades of prolific writing and over 100 books, continues to do what Ezra Pound implored poets to do: MAKE IT NEW. Like a crafty and creative alchemist of language, Lifshin seems to pull new images out of a big bag of tricks which keeps replenishing itself, and just as Jesus turned water into wine, Lifshin turns even the most benign word combos into sensual gold. Always delving into new topics that have captivated her, whether it be horses, ballroom dance, poetry, love, or all of the above, her scores of readers can always rest assured that whatever flows from her gifted pen will glow like precious gems against black satin sheets. Following hot on the leather-booted heels of her masterpiece All the Poets Who Have Touched Me, Lifshin turns her attention to a singer she fancies her mirror image, Joni Mitchell, a delightful irony in and of itself for a poet who has herself garnered so many fans that she is used to being on the receiving end of this kind of attention and affection. Starting with the physical similarity of their long blonde hair, and wild-living-butsensitive tendencies, Lifshin channels Joni—lives her, breathes her—in ways that are so finely observed that even if you were not heretofore familiar with Joni’s work, after reading these poems, you will find yourself knee-deep in Lyn’s obsession. But this is no idle idol-worship. We are treated to a road trip with Lyn and Joni and our Sixties’ sensibilities, all contained within a graceful homage to poetry and song.
Sometimes what she’s feeling is not anything a poet can sing Perhaps this is true, but as nearly as possible, Lifshin does sing Joni Mitchell’s life—and lifeblood—so that it deeply, and sometimes painfully, connects to her own. The title of this book, For the Roses, is identical to the name of Joni’s song, as many of the titles here are. In fact, roses have always played a prominent role in Lifshin’s poems, and here, they appear in every color and incarnation: the clothes she dons, the perfume she wears, the incense she burns, and even her Hebrew name. And, yes, sometimes a “rose is just a rose,” like the cherished one she (allegedly) once received from Allen Ginsberg.Lifshin aficionados will recognize with delight the skinny-poem format which glides energetically and breathlessly down the page in elegant and artful fashion. But even couched within this lightness of form, Lyn taps into something more vital. Her roses are a symbol of the raw heartbreak and lament that has always been the trademark of both the minstrel and the poet, even a sort of (at least metaphorical) savagery that underlies these brief, but urgent, cries. Lyn Lifshin’s poems seem even more laced with longing when superimposed upon the backdrop of Joni Mitchell’s mournful tunes. Any thing wild and gentle that should go running wild is kenneled in me Someone should remind Lyn that nothing in her has ever been “kenneled” or restrained— in her poems, at least, she has always been a filly running wild, poetry’s Lady Godiva, riding naked and untamed, yet still somehow virginal, throughout the town. Each poem is a morsel, a snapshot, a vignette, rendered in Lyn’s silver-plated voice. There are flights of fancy galore, but no fluff here—these poems are as rock-hard as the diamonds she is fond of conjuring. So I suggest you cancel all your appointments for the next week or so, make a pot of chamomile tea, and curl up under a down comforter with this lyrical-odyssey-of-a-LynLifshin book. No matter how many poems you’ve read of Lyn Lifshin’s, like comfort food, you still want to gorge yourself on more. In honoring Joni Mitchell, Lyn Lifshin does a masterful job of re-paving the parking lot—and bringing us back to Paradise.
Sheila Murphyâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Letters to an Unfinished J. By Alison Ross I had to concede to a harsh truth upon finishing the elegantly elusive Letters to an Unfinished J.: My cosmic connection is not nearly as profound and sophisticated as author Sheila Murphy's. Sheila Murphy may or may not seek to create a cosmic dimension in her verse, but upon reading it, one nonetheless feels impelled to deepen their mystical relationship with the world.
The volume constitutes prose poem letters, and each is a compact cosmos unto itself, one which both is rigidly controlled and yet anarchically exploratory. The control facet is evident in how the author has structured the poems - they each have a beginning, middle, and end - but the anarchy comes into view when considering the element of surprise that each poem-letter harbors. The imagery and word interplay are jolting, to say the least, antithetical to how we typically perceive syntactical constructions and word relationships. These brazen combinations may indeed be the result of a conscious choice on the part of the author, but it's anarchic within that deliberate gesture, because her brain is roaming unconstrained. The poem-letters contain complex comminglings and jarring juxtapositions, convoluted for their daunting lack of accessibility and (apparent) logic. But after further probing - if one relishes in straining the brain for the profits it inevitably bestows - one sees that the purpose is not to consciously manifest a certain coherence, but to emanate a subliminal sense - to force the reader to inhabit the spaces beyond the superficial surface, to rip the veils off the fraud we call reality, and locate not the surreality, but the supra-reality - an invigorating and enhanced way of perceiving.
It's almost as though Sheila Murphy is our matriarchal mentor, coaxing us to challenge our cheap, complacent world views through language that's mathematical and musical in equal measure, whose sardonic humor is never far from the surface and yet whose dispassionate tone means business. Indeed, the language can almost be seen as confrontational. How dare she write a poem that I must actually puzzle over, rather than immediately grasp and lovingly inscribe in my treasured notebook of favorite author quotations? How dare she flout the "rule" that dictates that poetry proclaim staggering universal truths that will guide me through life's struggles? Sheila Murphy wants us to find our own truths, but first she wants to affectionately shove us toward the "truth" that truth is a tangled, largely intangible thing. How's that for a labyrinthian riddle? In letter number 26, she writes: Every day we're reasonable and every day we're twice as blond as grain responding to the wind tongue. Ambiguous interpretations may abound, but for me, these lines are expressing how thinking people can also be easily swayed, but within reason. Later, in the same poem, she writes: With the fervor of a flag waved in the confines of eternity. If we lived in a state of immortality, it would not compel us, whereas our state of mortality does. Later still, she writes: We camera our way to floral things removing silhouettes. People are more enticed by dynamic color than they are by the stoicism of shadows. Toward the end, she writes: As ravishing as plums against white sheet prepared for painting where immortality becomes a stiffness melodied apart from shadows. The idea of immortality again emerges, and again, it seems that the author is repudiating immortality as undesirable - a static mystery. Her final line concludes: Breeding tumult the way humor czars its way to the status of a thumbnail. Chaos erupts when the hubris of humor relegates itself to inconsequentiality. As is evident from the above-quoted lines, Sheila morphs nouns such as
"camera," "melody," and "czar" into verbs, and she also revels in lyrical fragments, paradoxes ("confines of eternity") and alliterative pairings. So what does it all amount to? Perhaps it's a cryptic diatribe against our shallow coveting of immortality, a coded plea to accept mortality as good and compelling, even. Only Sheila knows best, but one thing she indomitably proves to us is that language is perpetually malleable. In this way, Sheila is like e.e. cummings, who mercilessly poked and prodded language until it bled out its soul onto the page. Sheila Murphy, though, is not merciless. But she is relentless. She does not so much ruthlessly anatomize and rearrange language, as cummings seems to, but she does present linguistic possibilities from varied vantage points. She is a cubist with heart. A mystical heart. As she puts it: Endow an other with the capability of casting song into a random sea and form a comfortable new gender with no name
Cindy Hochmanâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Habeas Corpus : Body-Flaunting
By Alison Ross
In the preface to her book, Habeas Corpus, Cindy Hochman explains the Latinderived term, but then states that we need not concern ourselves with the legal dimension of the words, but rather focus on the literal meaning, "you have the body." And then she launches into explicating her various body parts in wildly witty prose poetry. The poems absolutely spill over with exuberant wordplay, to the point that the reader is blissfully fatigued by the end of the succinct tome, and yet immediately compelled to re-read to more fully absorb the wacky banter, inventive puns ("Oh, let me eat cake before I march off to the guillotine (no appetite for war)," and abundant alliterations ("Pretty mouth, pouty mouth, putty mouth, poet mouth"). The humor employed here ranges from nuanced whimsy to full-blown hilarity. In her poem "Mind," for example, she writes: "My mind is from Venus; yours, from Uranus." In a book about body parts, however, the sexual organs do not play a prominent role. But this does not mean that Cindy can be deemed prudish; far from it. When sex emerges in her poems, it's usually addressed in a playfully crude way - but also in a matter-of-fact, clinical way. I don't want to spoil it for the readers, so I will not quote any other naughty bits.
Cindy treats all themes, from nostalgia and aging to spirituality and sinful living, from politics to poetics and art, with equal ebullience. Her buoyant nature is on full display here. Yet her lust for life is tempered with an acerbic undertone, one that acknowledges the abject absurdity of things, but without lapsing into empty cynicism. Habeas Corpus is essentially Cindy Hochman's diary of the body - and she's generously allowing us to eavesdrop on her internal dialogue, as she celebrates the multifarious functions and capabilities of the glorious corpus! She sings the body electric, indeed.
Editorâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Note: Habeas Corpus (ISBN: 978-1-941783-02-3), published in 2015, is available from Glass Lyre Press.
FEATURED POET/ARTIST: SHEILA MURPHY
In December of 2013, as I was ambling through Austin streets off the Drag, I noticed a new bookstore had sprouted up since my last visit to the city to see my family. The bookstore turned out to be more of a co-op, and it housed an intriguing array of art books, volumes of verse, and sociopolitical tomes. I gravitated toward the poetry section, as I am wont to do, always in search of poets whose craft resonates with me and whose sparkling style promises to impact my own in some way. A slim volume of Andre Breton's work snagged my eye, and, next to it, in the same series, I noticed a book by an author unknown to me, Sheila E. Murphy. I already knew I would be purchasing the Breton, but I needed to peek inside Murphy's book to verify or deny whether I would purchase hers.
Fast forward to an earlier-than-thou Delta flight, on which I was ensconced back to Atlanta. The night before I had been out late seeing one of my favorite bands since college, Public Enemy. This was the 5th time I had seen them - three times in recent years, two times in the past. In Austin, I had seen them in a smallish club - too small for a band of PE's stature, that's for sure - and was up front for the entire gig, defiantly oblivious to the merry chaos around me. Who cared if a working woman in the nearmidnight of her 40s was being crushed among wayward youth getting their booze on? This was Public Fucking Enemy, and I wasn't about to miss being as intimate as possible with these irrepressible hip hop icons. And, after the show, I had finally gotten to meet my idol, Chuck D. I had met Flava Flav years before, but adoringly clinging to Chuck and telling him I loved him was a dream materialized. So, needless to say, on that 6 am Delta flight, I was nursing a blisshangover, still basking in the radiant shimmer of the aggressively buoyant performance antics of Public Enemy. A dearth of slumber colored my giddy mood. Determined to stay awake, I cracked open Sheila's book, Letters to an Unfinished J, and began pouring over the verse within. Soon I would find myself enraptured by the audacious experimentation off her oddly lyrical lines, the jarring juxtapositions and tangled thicket of startling images and unhinged wordplay. The dual onslaught of the slightly incongruous events of recovering from a powerful PE performance and reading Sheila's poetry for the first time induced me to compose a poem, "Rejoice in the Flavor of Now," in a fever of inspiration. For me, all good art is equal, genres be damned. Public Enemy represents cerebral street smarts, and Sheila represents an avant garde linguistics that transgresses all boundaries and forges a fresh idiom. Both PE and Sheila are what I will term "subversifiers" - they overhaul paradigms with their vigorous verse. In PE's case, the verse overtly lambastes sociopolitical complacency, while in Sheila's case, the verse subtly but forcefully attacks linguistic complacency. She wants us to know that poetry is not only alive and well, but words are living things to manipulate to our own purposes, traditions be damned. There is no room for linguistic normalcy in Sheila's world. Sheila E. Murphy is an award-winning poet with an established reputation as one whose verse is difficult but rewarding. She has written a staggering number of books; collaborated with many other literary luminaries; appears in numerous anthologies; and has
exhibited her visual poetry and art internationally, and domestically at institutions such as Harvard University. She very kindly conceded to an interview with Femmewise Cat, which follows in three parts of increasing depth. Sheila is dauntingly erudite, but possesses a penetratingly genuine nature that puts any trepidation to rest. Enjoy!
Sheila Murphy Interview: Part I of III *Your only webpage is a Wikipedia site, so I don't know that much about you, other than what the site says. Talk a bit about your early life in Indiana (and wherever else you may have lived), and your experiences in school and at home, with family, friends, etc. Discuss your parents and their professions, etc. I was brought up in the Notre Dame University community, where my father was Professor of Finance and later Dean of the College of Business Administration. Dad started the MBA program there. My mother was a teacher, also, principally of high school students, in addition to elementary at one stage. At the core of my early life were commitments to learning, language, and music. Every aspect of my life included music. I was a flutist from the age of 10, and few people knew me as anything other than a musician. As the oldest of three siblings, I am fairly typical of â&#x20AC;&#x153;the oldest childâ&#x20AC;? as reflected in the literature. High-achieving, leaderly, and confident. Hyperresponsible. In charge. My father and I are very much alike, and I am also very like my mother. Two different sets of characteristics meld in me. Not atypical, I suspect, but surely an interesting thing to feel as I live along. I have always loved school for the learning, the discovery, and the socialization. I have been blessed with extremely fine teachers throughout my life. My two brothers, Tommy and Neil, are three and four years younger than I, respectively. They are very close to me, and this closeness only increases as we age. Very dear friends whom I would choose in a heartbeat. Beautiful individuals, highly capable, brilliant. *Were you a good elementary/middle/high school student? Did you always gravitate toward language? How about math? I ask about the latter because there is a technical precision in your language that suggests high math competency.
I was a very good student in grade school and high school. My strength was in language arts, English, writing. Math was fine for me, and has grown stronger in more advanced education. I also have gained a strong interest in reading about mathematics, more of that all the time. *What about college? Discuss your various degrees. I hold a Bachelorâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s degree with a double major in English and music, and a minor in flute performance. My Masterâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s degree is in English Language and Literature. My Ph.D. degree is in Educational Administration and Supervision. *As far as employment, you seem to have had an array of diverse positions. Discuss those a bit. Also discuss your involvement in the Scottsdale Center for the Arts Poetry Series. I have taught full-time at the college level, have served as an administrator at the dean level, have developed curriculum and presented programs as an external consultant, and have served in a variety of management and leadership positions in the (private sector) hospitality industry, where I headed up training and development for a large hotel firm. Later, I was promoted to a vice presidential post, responsible for an area that generates roughly a third of the organizationâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s revenue.
For the past couple of decades, I have led a consulting firm, performing a variety of long-term projects in program evaluation, leadership and organizational design, coaching and leadership development, and related areas.
The Scottsdale Cultural Council provided the opportunity to inaugurate a poetry performance series. Bev Carver and I coordinated the series for 12 years, framed around Bev’s idea of commissioning poets to write in response to visual art included in traveling exhibitions. We would lead the listening and viewing audience around the gallery, and poets would perform their newly created works while standing near the works that inspired these poems. Very exciting, and I believe that we were privileged to hear some poets’ best work in the process. *When did you start playing the flute? Have you ever played professionally? The flute joined me when I was 10 years of age. Long-term partnership there! I performed classically, notably in chamber music groups, orchestras, and solo programs. I practiced about six hours a day from the time I was young, with no need for external stimuli. It was just want I felt was best. I played professionally in clubs for a while, mostly summers. *You are also a visual artist. How did this come about? You have mentioned to me that you are self-taught. Expand on this, if you could. My association with visual poets was prominent in this evolution. In addition, friends of mine who are artists drew me into the activity in a somewhat accidental way, such that I found myself unable to stop. I began this effort to relax into something self-defined, but (as usual), got involved quite deeply. I love visual art, looking at it and doing it. *Who have been your favorite writers, and why? Who are your favorite visual artists and musicians? How have these people shaped your own writing, visual art, and music? Gertrude Stein makes more sense to me than most human beings, which tells you a good deal about me. I am a voracious reader, listener, and viewer. My list is therefore quite long. I am an appreciator and also a very hard worker in everything I do. Paul Hindemith’s concept of “Music for Use” has always inspired me. I love Stravinsky. I love Kandinsky and Pollock. Integrity in art of all types is important to me. Purity in sensibility. As a matter of preference, I do not separate the art from the person. The urgings of peers and current trends only mildly affect me now. I am dramatically more independent than before. The more comfortable I am, the less I adhere to prodding, with only a few exceptions of selected guides.
*Do you have a philosophy that you live by? If so, expand on it. How does this philosophy inform your art?
Yes. I’ll allude to a pragmatic leaning. I believe that good practice requires the constant raising and investing in my “default position of performance.” This means that what you get if you wake me at 2:00 a.m. and say, “Go!” I will perform at a higher level over time (assuming I am to be awakened at 2:00 a.m. at scheduled frequencies. I live this way. The busy lifestyle of any artist, notably one who is seeking to do everything else concurrently, as I am, means that every moment must be as precise as possible. It’s the one I have at that time to do the best that I can. I used to be what I’ll call more casual about creating. Now I am more demanding of myself. I work harder, edit more comprehensively, and seek to purify work before allowing it out of these premises. I am told that I continue to be prolific, though.
SHEILA MURPHY INTERVIEW: Part II of Part III *What is your feeling about the current "state" of poetry? We always hear the death knell being rung for poetry, but then there are more poetry journals than ever (owing to the internet, mainly, but it's still heartening!).
What are your thoughts - are you a "poetry doomsdayer," or do you have hope - or does it matter? Many people are tempted to make generalizations about the fate of poetry. I am not one of those. I believe that poetry is embedded in our psyches, and that the only loss we now perceive is the lack of confidence and general disinclination, perhaps, in a great number of people to feel poetry. Song lyrics, rap music, and emergent celebrations of words demonstrate that poetry has escaped the narrow confines of the classroom, the page, and all prior centuries if its being. We will always have poetry, but I will need to stay tuned and contribute to making that happen, while watching others do so, as well. *What is your favorite style of poetry to read? Are you well-versed in the classics? Do you mainly prefer to read experimental poetry, like your own, or are you open-minded to the point that anything goes - from traditional and modern-day academic verse to Dada and Surrealist poetry to Beat poetry, etc. - as long as it's compelling? I hold two degrees in English Language and Literature, studied literature formally, and am versed in the classics. I read Middle English aloud and find that delicious to do. I have taught myself more about poetry as literature than I have learned in the formal classroom, and have enjoyed considerable learning on the formal and informal fronts. I am I am a voracious reader of poetry. I do not limit myself. I find joy in any number of writers’ work. I try to read to discover what the writer seeks to create and to remain as open to that as possible. I rarely seek to disparage another person’s work. If it does not resonate, I just pick up something else. If it does not yet resonate, yet I want to learn more, I stay with it. *Describe your "poetic ethics." If you need clarification on that, let me know - otherwise, interpret it as you may! Every human act has ethical dimensions. For many people, the practice of ethics is paired with performing within legal bounds. I perceive ethics as a field of opportunity within which one can take the best course of action that will benefit a situation for the long and short term. Whether one follows John Stuart Mill (Utilitarianism, or “greatest good for the greatest number”), John Rawls (“Veil of ignorance”, or other philosophers, viewing ethical dimensions in terms of “How good can this become?” or “How well can I do this?” far exceeds the “getting by with” approach into which some discussions descend. Poetic ethics may mean any number of things: Restraining one’s impulses to capture experience that does not belong to one, only to use it against another person; respecting others’ work as theirs; any number of potential issues may
emerge that need a decision to take the better course of action for the sake of human wholeness. Recently, formal relationships among teachers and students of poetry writing have been called out for power abuses. While this kind of horror has been criticized in other fields, the sleeping creeperie has emerged in this one, and now been made public by young people. The only way human beings can relate productively is as equals in terms of power and access to resources. My sense of teaching and learning says that everyone must work hard to preserve dignity on all sides and not violate others for one’s own “gain,” if you can call abusive “getting away with” a gain. *Describe your writing process. What prompts you to begin writing a poem? Do you have a regimented routine when it comes to writing poetry, or is it a more free-flowing, intuitive experience? My sense of hearing is a busy one. I am enamored of the sounds of voices, accents, inflections, music of all kinds, nature, traffic. You name it. I want to hear it. I have a background in music. For the first 20-some years of my life, no one knew me as anything except a flute player. Thus, musical study, training in instrumental vocal music lives in me. I am entertained by what I hear. What I hear stimulates poems. Some of my writing comes from experience, while other pieces of writing emerge from philosophical exploration. I live in my thoughts. I am a conceptual perceiver. *What is your thought about revision of poetry - both for yourself, and for editors? In other words, do you believe in revising your poems if an editor asks you to, or will you staunchly refuse based on the integrity of the original, and based on the idiosyncrasies of your individual style? Or does it depend on the variables involved? What is your revision process for yourself, if any? I believe in revision as the birthing process for the real poem. While it is possible that a poem can emerge intact out of nowhere and be ready to live without too much adjustment, this is not the most frequent pattern for me. I am very fond of being edited, provided the edits proposed are intelligent and reflective of what is being done in the poem. I now revise more heavily than I did early on. I am more careful, a bit more minimal in my work, and try to meld access of a wider readership than I did years ago. Editors typically pose suggestions as questions. Often, the questions themselves are quite welcome to me. I respect editors who truly are editors rather than merely gatherers.
*Discuss how you have dealt with rejection, when you have encountered it. How often have your pieces been rejected, and have you received any memorable and/or scathing rejection letters that you can discuss? My writing has changed from simple to difficult to simpler again over the years. Rejection has come to be less relevant for me than it might have been once. Everyone is fond of praise. Sometimes we receive that. Sometimes we do not. We groom ourselves to accept, change, grow, or grouse. I like to keep things moving in all areas of my life, and I move right along, pursuing what interests me. I don’t sit still for very long. I continue to enjoy the favorable response of a good number of readers. That said, anyone doing anything worth doing, and who further has “lived outside the formal MFA writing system,” as have I, risks not being examined so closely as those who have. Operating outside of those boundaries may mean that no one “owes” you anything in particular. No one is being paid to create you as a recognizable name. This is not exclusively so for poetry. It is a law of human behavior. I am in general quite conscious of the political dimensions of most human interchange. The formula is pretty simple. How one earns a living is to serve one’s customers. People in formal writing programs are the job of people teaching in creative writing programs. Thus, there are incentives and motivations paired to make progress follow those lines. This is simply logical. *Talk about your collaborations with Michelle Greenblatt and others. What is different and more challenging about collaboration versus individual writing and how does it enhance your own verse? What are some of the obstacles inherent in collaborative writing? Collaboration with Michelle Greenblatt is a delight. Michelle is a very fine and rich writer of poetry. I have collaborated with many others. I have been engaged in a single sequential work with the Canadian poet Douglas Barbour since 2000, and two of these volumes, titled Continuations, have appeared from the University of Alberta Press. K.S. (Kathy) Ernst and I have produced both books and physical visual poetry works together for many years. John M. Bennett and I have been creating poetry and visual poetry together for many years, as well. Otoliths Press brought out a book-length creation I did a few years ago with Scott Glassman, and that is another high point. I do not find a single obstacle in collaborative writing. In my experience, this is as natural as breathing in different lovely climates. The air is sweet in all different ways.
*As you know, I first discovered your writing when I picked up a book by Andre Breton and noticed yours, Letters to an Unfinished J, in the same series. Discuss that book briefly, and the series it appeared in. Letters to Unfinished J. was submitted to (then) Sun & Moon Press, edited by Douglas Messerli, in 1996 for a poetry manuscript competition. I learned in 1997 that my manuscript had won. Dennis Phillips was the judge. The book’s emergence was stalled, such that it emerged from Messerli’s subsequent Green Integer Press in 2003 with notice of its having won the award in 2001. Beverly Carver, my poetry editor, worked with me to balance that manuscript, a collection of prose poems, some of them, haibun. We both are proud of that book, as it very aptly reveals my preferred style of writing prose poems. *Were your poems always so boldly experimental? What led you into such unfettered experimentation and how were you initially received? My reading led me to innovate, and I am very engaged in discovering innovative trends, exploring such trends, and going where my writing and visual poetry take me. I am a heavy producer in all of the areas in which I enjoy working. I love to find myself working in a form that I suspected would work for me. I try it. If I like it, I keep using it, and watch to see what changes, what refines itself, what is happening. I am very eager to discover new things.
Sheila Murphy Interview: Part III of III *You said: "I believe that poetry is embedded in our psyches..." I am so glad that you said that, and also mentioned music lyrics and so on, because I have often thought that the artistic impulse lives in us all, and that poetry takes different permutations, depending on the variables present. But some people would object to the idea that poetry is embedded in our psyches, and proclaim that only an elite few are "chosen" to express themselves poetically and artistically, at least in a way that resonates with others. How would you respond to that? After all, just to play devil's advocate for a minute, not everyone "makes it" (meaning, gains recognition, not necessarily financial stability!) as an artist or writer. Psychics tend to say this, don’t they? Just because they claim to suspect, but actually know, where we are veering in the next several months, they also let themselves believe that we know it ourselves. Very unconsciously, if so. People are free to jump in and explore the sounds of words. Only the truly gutsy individuals delve into the whole thing and grant themselves licenses to do so. I recall in high school how students and faculty spoke about poets. It certainly seemed that I belonged in that arena. Longed for it, at least.
The elitism that has poisoned our culture over the decades is embarrassingly overturned when we catalogue the various eruptions of art at its most vibrant. Just imagine the poetic splendor of some rap music, its cogency, its brave accuracies, its music, its simplicity of flow. There is power there. The more elite some portions of our culture are, the more the “great stuff” finds its way from the most unexpected places. *You said: "Some of my writing comes from experience, while other pieces of writing emerge from philosophical exploration." Can you expand on this? Are there particular philosophers and philosophies that you hew to, or are you referring mainly to the philosophical investigation of life as you live it and observe others living it? To that effect, How can poetry illuminate experience in a way that no other writing form can? Poetry has cadenza properties. It is infinitely expandable, can contract to sliver size. Poetry, once discovered, lives without us. While poetry can be longhand (Whitmanesque) it often powers its relatively few syllables into an abundant, palpable reality that changes how the world is experienced. A poetic way of perceiving may mean that “a little goes a long way.” It may mean that one wishes to riff on a particular feature and see how that variation plumps up a certain theme. One of the best ways to accept poetry is to notice what it allows. Poetry is not one thing. It may resemble logic or mathematical perception, with a small ingredient’s coming to be more than we thought this small self could be. The main prerequisite for poetry is the capacity to notice something and to hold there until it becomes something else. A poet maybe helps you fall in love relentlessly. It is a kind of musical perfume that changes how things will be arranged. Even the past changes when poetry appears in our present midst. The future owns a measure of hope.
*You said: "I am very fond of being edited, provided the edits proposed are intelligent and reflective of what is being done in the poem." This surprised me a little, because your poetry has such an idiosyncratic edge to it, that I would think you would object to others imposing their own possibly irrelevant ideas onto your carefully crafted lines. Flannery O'Connor said something to the effect of, "I am only interested in criticism if it's within the realm of what I am trying to do." That is essentially what you are saying as well, if I am reading you correctly. Have you ever refused to edit a poem, because the editor's suggestions were insulting to the integrity of a piece? I would call this a personal, rather than an artistic issue, and in general, I do not experience this sort of thing. If something of this type has come up, I likely have not responded or have clarified where I am coming from, such that I tend to forget all about it, because the issue is not important to me. What is important to me is a meeting of the minds and hearts that can occur between the writer and the editor. I have had beautiful experiences with this for the most part, and feel lucky about it. *You said: "My writing has changed from simple to difficult to simpler again over the years." I had to laugh at this a little, because as an admirer of your poetry, I have never found it to be "simple," though of course it's always compellingly cryptic. I read lines over and over and cannot reason them out, and yet I glean meaning from them intuitively, which is what I think your poems (subconsciously?) set out to do. They are not explicable in common terms and inhabit an alternate logic all their own. They juxtapose familiar scenarios with unusual ones, fusing them into a unique languagecentric universe. The meaning, if there is one (is there?) is implicit, and meant to subtly startle the senses rather than pound the reader over the head with a seismic universal proclamation. Am I on the right track, even remotely? You have stated this eloquently, Alison. The work does a better job of the language than mine would if I were talking about it. We need to dig down into what “meaning” is in the context of poetry. It’s not the same as literal equivalency, nor is it amorphous. Something different instead. You are right about the implicit sense of the poem. It is important to remember that I am not “thinking out” the poem before it comes to me. It takes shape, and then I help polish what I think of how the shape is actually right unto itself. I chisel, brush away, refine, until the poem makes itself evident to me / in me. If I call more recent work “simple” or “simpler,” I mean that it is closer to me in its essence than I encouraged it to be earlier on. I look for lines I thought I heard. And then I hold them just a while. They come to life. They come to me.
*You said: "My reading led me to innovate, and I am very engaged in discovering innovative trends, exploring such trends, and going where my writing and visual poetry take me." Talk more about your visual poetry. How did you become engaged in that? Which trends specifically led you to purposefully explore visual poetry? In 1999, friends in the local area gave me a bit of time during an afternoon social event to experiment with paints. I found myself taking to this. In 2002, I took part in the Avant Writing Symposium at The Ohio State University Libraries, based upon my work’s being part of the Avant Collection in the Rare Books and Manuscripts section of the Libraries there. Dear friends of mine are visual poets, and our friendship drew me to the discipline. John M. Bennett, K.S. Ernst, C. Mehrle Bennett, mIEKAL aND, Scott Helmes, Geof Huth, Michael Peters, Wendy Collin Sorin, Bob Grumman, and others served as inspiration. I became quite taken by the work I saw, much of it having been created 30-40 years prior. I had the opportunity to see the Sackner Collection during a related trip to Florida not long after that. One thing led to another. I have been working collaboratively with Kathy Ernst and John M. Bennett, along with others, over the years. In addition, my own work has emerged in this vein. The lovely creation called “asemic,” closely related in appearance to abstract drawing (“writing that cannot be read”) is one of my favorite pursuits. I have long surpassed what Malcolm Gladwell posits as the 10,000 hours of practice. It makes for some level of competence when one really cares about a craft or art form. I draw a great deal. I do increasingly intricate hand drawings, some large, some small. I have developed a number of styles, but have a fairly consistent type of work that is taut and varied in strokes. I am quite engaged in this work. I can do it in different settings, and have the good fortune of an extremely steady hand. I see differently from the way I did in my earlier life. *You very kindly sent me seven of your books, and I managed to read four of them in the past months. I plan to read the rest, of course, and lament that I could not read them all before our interview. I became so immersed in your convoluted verse my head was spinning, and I needed to take a hiatus from it and read other less complicated poetry. I mean all of this in the most affectionate way! I adore your audacious innovation. I highlight lines voraciously as I re-read the poems I have bookmarked. One of the things that I think might be overlooked sometimes in your poems is the absolutely dead-pan hilarity of some of the lines. Take, for example, "A Slapstick Broth." The title itself prompts guffaws for its brilliant absurdity, and the images it conjures. The first line reads, "I have decided to detail you to the back yard of intelligence wield-y as a slapstick broth." I love the assertiveness and the foregone assumptions inherent in that line. But then you have lines that seem to probe social alienation, but in a way that's paradoxically musical and stoic:
"The clocks would genuflect to compasses and we'd move on with lives we leased like pretty cars to be released when hammering out details. Finances are a subset of democracy, itself a subset of the long solo performances that ultimately appear to clash. But that is just one version of the blues." (From "And She Was Losing Hair") The last line also has a dead-pan quality to it. Talk about the humor in your poems - is it deliberate, or an afterthought? And then talk about how the musical AND mathematical appear in your poems - the emotional intimacy and yet sense of aloofness. I feel both pushed and pulled by your poetry, if that makes sense...a turbulence between ambivalent/ambiguous emotional states... My perception is replete with humor. It finds me. If I allow myself to fasten on the attitudes beneath pronunciation and the feeling and the simple little facts from one side or another (And donâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t get me started on dialects) . . . there is enough humor in one five-minute period to carry me a lifetime. I allow myself to relive things just enough to help me find more to enjoy. A side note: I believe that certain human feelings cannot be possible in certain dialects, and that they are entirely probable in others. *You write in many different modes, though I do see a trend in your books toward prose poems and haibuns. However, you also write some exquisitely short and sweet poems that are latent with power nonetheless. Others are lengthier and may or may not trend toward a particular "look" on the page (i.e., broken into stanzas, or centered, or sliced into doublespaced couplet-like lines, or aligned in a column, etc.) Which poetic forms do you prefer, and why? How did you come to write in such a breadth of styles? You mentioned you have informally studied poetry - describe that process. Are there certain styles that are more "precise" than others in conveying certain concepts? Thank you. I like prose forms because prose seems to foster inclusion of unlike elements without appreciable disturbance. I like the pantoum, because the repetition of lines creates the sense of rolling down a hill. I like the haibun because of the subtlety of the final line, a kind of leap that is connected in concept to the passage that precedes it. I like very short poems because economy functions like a harmonic on the violin. Although I have considerable formal education in language and literature, among other areas, I have immersed myself in studies in informal ways for many years. I was just explaining to a friend of mine the other day that my formal education is only a fraction of my rigorous requirements of myself (all of these pursuits are
raging and intriguing and disciplined). People who really teach themselves are by far more demanding than people who do what they are told. *Describe the "evolution" of your books from Sad Isn't the Color of a Dream, to Falling in Love Falling in Love With You Syntax:, to Letters to an Unfinished J, to Green Tea With Ginger, to Concentricity, to Proof of Silhouettes, to Incessant Seeds, to Toccatas (I think I have the chronology correct - if not, feel free to revise it). What does each book reflect thematically as far as what was going on in your life at the time? Or is that immaterial? Also, I realize you have more books than those I listed, but these are the ones I have, so feel free to discuss others. I will begin with Sad Isn’t the Color of the Dream, which is an early work that included both haibun and lineated poetry. You find in this book many pieces that are very close to my life, to my heart, to my perception in a fairly direct sense. The poem “A Portrait of Beverly C,” for example, conveys narration with the sound of the perceptions in the forefront. I am deeply fond of reading from this book, because the works are pure life in this sense. They sound that way. They are taut, some of them. There are pantoum formed poems in there. It is a feast of things I love to hear. Falling in Love Falling in Love with You Syntax is a “selected” volume that Peter Ganick of Potes & Poets Press invited me to bring together, so the first six books are represented there, in addition to some thenrecent works. Green Tea with Ginger is a collection of very short poems, many of which appeared on the wryting-l listserv or group that continues to thrive, in which many writers share their texts. Proof of Silhouettes is one of several books from Rupert Loydell’s Stride Publications. This book is a bit more disciplined than prior books. Rather a collection of mixed styles, and a book that I like very much. I would like to skip over to Toccatas, which I believe demonstrates a very strong and immediate sense of work that I take pride in having written. Touch pieces offer me a way to integrate my music and my poetry writing. *I think the title, Falling in Love Falling in Love With You Syntax: perfectly encapsulates what your poetry is all about,: the title is musical, which reflects your flute-playing expertise, and it also essentially spells out your obsession with the malleability with language. I get the feeling (as you say in one of your prose poems, "something immense in us arranges flowers for alleged fun") that you are simply awed by language's feral power and you attempt to domesticate it so as not to feel subjugated to it - and in the process, you subjugate the readers to your awesome ability to make language come alive with feral powers. And you also want to have fun with it, playing with it, rearranging it to suit your whims. What it is about language that transfixes you? Language paints us in the sacrament of sound. It is our very deepest selves shaped playfully and profoundly. It dazzles us to the point of dancing in the
roadways and draws us to the absolute surprise, a Heraclitus festival of sorts. The morph of tones into a multi-sensory experience. I listen with the greatest interest, and I have yet to be disappointed in what I hear. *Are you averse to "deconstructing" one of your poems? Is that a terribly pedestrian thing to ask? Do your poems resist deconstruction? Is deconstruction a silly 80s (or whenever) fad? Or are you open to the possibility of dissecting a piece, just for kicks or to allow us lucid insights to your incredibly, if luminously, complex verse? I am not at all averse to doing this. I am going to take a small piece from a collection called The Daylight Sections, consisting of 100 short poems, published by White Sky Books in 2011 (Peter Ganick, Publisher). 34/ My silence reasons with your silence. Scissors along lake top shift the path of boats and pebbles in the parking lot trucks nudge that sound small. Havasu is a demeanor that we live as anyone would breathe in spare momentum. Conjecture reverts to play of objects under-cast by siloes of convivial respect. Look at this world and how we're bound by fate that it will go away, as stated by someone who'll never know. The piece opens with what might be thought an unusual declaration, voicing the unexpected: “My silence reasons with your silence.” This equation projects a kind of wry consideration, as though to suggest a deeper relationship, or even no relationship at all. There are many things that this projected statement might mean. A wish world, an untruth, a fantasy, a reality that only the speaker might presume to understand. Further aggressive posturing, if it is that, emerges in the second stanza, where scissors change the surface of the lake, change what might be thought fate, as the “path of boats” is changed. The transition to “pebbles in the parking lot” reflects a different message, one perhaps more reasonable, and yet unusual as well. “pebbles . . . trucks nudge that sound small.” They are small. There is the merest suggestion that the parking lot itself, even the trucks, are small. One perceptual feature might be that if you stand back far enough, many things are small. At least they may sound that way.
Suddenly, “Havasu,” the name of a City (Lake Havasu City) in Arizona. Called in this poem “a demeanor,” as though it is a behavior of sorts. Then the suggestion that its seemingly factual (and yet a projection) of the commonality of how Havasu “is,” saying “as anyone / would breathe in (as in “breathe in” or take in air) “spare momentum.” How does this work? Is there such a thing as spare momentum? So much in this poem is up for grabs. So much is made to sound declarative, certain, factual, and thereby allows an assertive speaker to barge forth, proclaiming, linking specks of reality along a path that is hypothesized. There is a tongue-in-cheek quality to “Conjecture reverts to play of objects undercast / by siloes of convivial respect.” Here, the idea is that some overseeing perceiver or intellect can “begin anywhere” (like an Etch-a-Sketch, as I referenced in a very early poem) and specify a reality. “Under-cast” may mean foundation-making. There is a reference made to “siloes of convivial respect,” which may offer a view that no one is quite known to others, nor do others particularly know one. At the same time, there are ways of “looping together” separate individuals as ingredients of something larger, perhaps. The short poem concludes with a small statement about fate, asking that the reader “Look at this world,” with the view that we are taken over by fate. Oddly enough, the statement is blithely made that the fate is that the world will go away. The person to whom this is attributed (and mildly so) is referenced in passive voice is “someone who’ll never know.” Thus, the hypothetical nature of the piece reminds us that we can posit arguments, engage with one another, seek to interrupt nature or other conditions we experience, or think we do, and yet each of the facets we observe cannot be verified. The voice seems to be suggesting that we are not particularly seeking certainty, either. The attitude beneath this poem seems to hint at less than a concern, despite taking the time to mention the various elements in succession, as though pronouncing what is said may help connect what feel, ultimately, like unconnected pieces. Thank you so much for answering my questions. I feel humbled and honored to have interviewed you.
Misti Rainwater-Lites’ Bullshit Rodeo by Puma Perl
There is a divine symmetry to the bookmarks that I have inserted into Misti Rainwater-Lites’ brilliant “Bullshit Rodeo.” A label from Spanx Assets, Red Hot. An invite for a Dee Dee Ramone exhibit. A business card with the words, Cheer New York! Cheer Loud! Cheer Proud! Spanx-clad cheerleaders singing Ramones songs are a good visual for this book. Misti has made obsession into an art form. For argument’s sake, we will agree that it’s a novel, although I sense that my virtual daughter is like me – our truth is stranger than fiction. I sometimes curse out loud while I read Misti’s work, part admiration, part envy – how the fuck do you do it, I ask her, and then I read on. From the small towns of Texas to the West Coast and back, Misti loves and longs fiercely, mostly at the same time. She reveals the painful struggle between what should be and what is, especially in the saintly American arena of motherhood. We are not saints, and the most beautiful of children will not make it so.
“I am Texas trash…I want to fuck the world…I am all cunt and heart.” Reading Misti is a little bit like reading Bukowski – open anywhere for a quotable line, and you can’t go more than a few pages without some heartbreak. In the spirit of the true outsider, she felt something missing at age four and jumped on her little red tricycle to go find it. Naturally, she was betrayed by her imaginary compatriot and spanked soundly for it. Some of us are born where we don’t belong. I don’t think we ever get over it. We can try to deceive ourselves and others by perfecting that fried chicken or feigning lobotomies in order to chat coherently with our relatives, but underneath nothing fits. This is why Misti found me online and designated me her “Mom.” We recognize one another. “I’ll see a new psychiatrist,” writes Misti. “I’ll get a new diagnosis. I’ll learn how to kick-box. I’ll take a parenting class…” and, a few lines down. “God help me. There is no God. I am God. God help me.” I can. I can’t. I want to. I won’t. And I totally get it. I’ve made my own version of promises, but, as they say in the therapeutic communities, “Wherever you go, there you are.” Life isn’t fair. It is easier to live in some skins than others, but the truth is found only in our own, and it’s bruised and ugly, and, occasionally, so beautiful it hurts.
Sweta Srivastava Vikram’s Beyond the Scent of Sorrow By Cindy Hochman “I think that I shall never see a poem lovely as a tree . . . —“Trees,” Joyce Kilmer
Poetically speaking, trees have been etched into our consciousness since we first had to memorize Joyce Kilmer’s poem in grade school (and before we even knew that “Joyce” could be a man’s name too!) In Sweta Srivastava Vikram’s small, but stunning, chapbook Beyond the Scent of Sorrow, the metaphor of trees is given a vital context and a mournful bent. These poems focus specifically on the eucalyptus tree, which has been deemed expendable in the southwest of Portugal, slated to be replaced by the mighty oak, to which the poet draws precise and plausible parallels to a catalogue of abuses and injustices leveled at women everywhere. We all know that it is not nice to fool Mother Nature—and in these 19 poems, Ms. Vikram rallies, in feminine solidarity, to her cause. The opening poem, “Eucalyptus Trees,” provides an explanatory backdrop for Vikram’s themes: Homeless will be the birds, as the gatekeeper of mother nature, the eucalyptus forest sits on the pyre of sacrifice
... eucalyptus, like women, watch in dismay as the world prints signatures of deceipt— announces a death sentence inscribed on her body These poems possess a raw earthiness and urgency befitting the somber subject matter. It is apparent that the poet did her research before tackling this project, which adds a rich and credible dimension to poems that are already breathtaking in their scope and tone—the poet knows from whence she speaks; these poems are smart and informed. To read Vikram’s work is to be caught up in brambles of empathy—don’t be surprised if you smell wood, smoke, and fire. She does a skillful job of personifying the trees to reflect both the strong and vulnerable qualities of women, in tropes that run the gamut from martyrdom to survival. From dense forests to sultry bedrooms, there are hints of sexuality, pain, and the language of violence (“the loyal friend of the hills is being stabbed”; “sad verses and lonely earth undress me every night”; “my womb is punched again”). Like the cork oak selectively stripped of their bark every ten years of their lives to quench a lover’s thirst for wine in Evoramonte, Portugal, I am undressed night after night until my wounds mock the myth of one thousand years — God was seen residing in me once, just like the tree. It is significant that, in her Acknowledgments, the poet includes a disclaimer; in essence, making the point that “pro-woman doesn’t mean anti-man.” Indeed, despite such titles as “It’s a Man’s World,” “Unholy Men,” and “The Ritual of the Sexes,” it is clear that the poet’s intent is not to engage in male-bashing; her rendering of the genders is grounded in matter-of-fact reality rather than screeds of blame. In the same vein, the line “God was seen residing in me once” does not represent a swipe at religion so much as a temporary loss of faith due to heartbreaking circumstances. In highlighting the various inequities that women often have to endure, the poems branch out to encompass more than just ecology gone awry— the poet also correlates economic inequality and the corporate conundrum, giving the book a sense of relevance and timeliness; indeed, this poet leaves no stone unturned:
It was all going well until wells started flooding— mouths filled with cactus and daffodils of approvals and bonuses. ... leaving jellyfish and poisonous turtles for every feminine jaw and lip flying towards success with a ring on her finger. So, too, in the pointedly titled “Poverty Is a Woman,” the poet laments that “gender bias swallows my money.” Beyond the Scent of Sorrow represents a rebirth of earth; a renewal of not only foliage, but hopefully, of humanity too, for even within the emotional tangle of endangered trees and wounded women, the poet speaks from a position of towering strength. You will find ashes and abandonment here; the denuding of both the natural world and the flesh-driven one, and yet, the poet does not forsake beauty for message—taken as a whole, the poems paint a landscape in language that is harsh but somehow lovely. One gets the distinct feeling in reading these poems that, having battled the elements, all that is stately, beautiful, and necessary will, in the end, survive—and bear fruit. Even the brevity of the chapbook speaks volumes, as if to remind us that the conservation of trees is directly linked to the production of paper, which of course is the poet’s stock in trade. And it is on this scorched parchment that she proves that her bite, in the poetic sense at least, is just as fierce (and passionate) as her bark. Editor’s Note: This book review was previously published in Pirene’s Fountain in 2012.
SOME CATNIP FOR POETRY LOVERS: CLOCKWISE CAT PLAYS TEN QUESTIONS WITH POET LYN LIFSHIN By Cindy Hochman
CH: Lyn, it’s very exciting for me to interview you for Clockwise Cat—as you know, I have been a fan of yours for a very long time. Now, since this edition of the journal is called Femmewise Cat, which is self-explanatory, let me start by asking you what the term “feminist poet” means to you, and whether you consider yourself one—keeping in mind that some female poets eschew that type of labeling. LL: When I first began writing, many of my poems were political, many were take-offs on the commercials of the day, published in magazines like Kauri and Outcast. I was usually referred to as “Mr. Lifshin,” as if women didn't write about those subjects. Very soon, when I began to write more personal poems, that changed: John Reilly, in Broome Street Magazine (Jan 1972), wrote "... one of my favorites is Lyn Lifshin. When I READ HER POEMS, I THINK OF THAT BLIND SPOT AT THE BACK OF THE HEAD AND FEEL THAT SHE IS HELPING TO REMOVE AND SUPPLANT IT WITH A KNOWLEDGE THAT MEN AND WOMEN NEED TO SEE ONE ANOTHER AS THEY ARE ... HER POEMS ... A COMPLETE REVERSAL OF THE MALE-FEMALE RELATIONSHIP AS IT IS USUALLY UNDERSTOOD....” Not long after, MS Magazine began publishing many of my poems— especially poems about women living in different times—poems often set in Colonial times and later. In the documentary film Lyn Lifshin: Not Made Of Glass, Yvonne, the poetry editor of MS Magazine at the time, says something to the effect that Lyn Lifshin does deal with men, but she doesn't always treat them well! I will have to go back and check the exact wording. So, yes, I am fine with being called a feminist. CH: When you first started writing poetry and getting published, were you conscious of wanting to write with a gender-based based slant, or did you just write on topics that interested you, without the female aspect in mind? LL: No, I don't think I considered writing with any slant, consciously. I think the comment in San Francisco Review of Books hits it right: "Here she is! Might as well stop fighting it.
Lifshin is not going to go away.... For women, she's an archetype of gusty independence. As a poet, she's nobody but herself—frighteningly prolific and utterly intense. One of a kind." CH: Just thinking about your vast and stunning body of work through the years, one could point to a decidedly female perspective in the topics you’ve chosen to write about. For instance, you’ve written poems about Marilyn Monroe, you’ve taken on the persona of “the Mad Girl” and the Madonna, and let’s not forget that marvel of femininity, Barbie. More seriously, though, you’ve written some very powerful poems about the mother-daughter dynamic, and you also wrote a book of poems about Malala, the courageous young Pakistani girl who got shot by the Taliban for daring to speak out on the education of girls in her country. Please tell us how that book came about—and what was your reaction upon hearing the news that Malala had won the Nobel Peace Prize? LL: Like many of my books (The Barbie Poems, Vol 1 and 2, Marilyn Monroe, Dick For a Day (what women would do if they had one—definitely a feminist book!) Light at the End, The Blue Tattoo, Katrina, Hitchcock Hotel, Women Write Resistance: poets resist gender violence), the plan was to write a poem or two for the collection. When I decided to edit a collection of mother and daughter poems, Tangled Vines, I did not have a single mother and daughter poem. But in editing and reading and loving so many of the submitted poems, the mother and daughter theme became my obsession—many books from then on usually had a section of mother and daughter poems. My Black Sparrow books, Cold Comfort, Before the Light, and especially Another Woman Who Looks Like Me, all have sections devoted to the mother and daughter relationship, as do A Girl Goes into the Woods and Persephone. A book slated to be only mother and daughter poems was delayed, then canceled, when Black Sparrow wanted to be my exclusive publisher, and I was only too happy to just publish with them.
Many poems have come from paintings in the wonderful museums in DC—the first year here, I went to five or six exhibits a week and, thank goodness, kept a calendar with where and when. There were wonderful exhibits and talks at National Archives, the Portrait Gallery, American Art Museum, many Native American poems from the Canadian embassy, National Museum of History, and the National Gallery of Art, and the Natural History Museum. I still remember the first trip down to DC, before I was sure I would end up spending so much time here, I went to an exhibit of the Jews in Wyoming and wrote about that. A small chapbook with drawings and collages done by Eric Von Schmidt came out of a visit to the Field Museum in Chicago. Sadly, the chapbook, Museum, with beautiful color collages by him, was printed in black and white. I do have one color collage in Appletree Lane.
At Syracuse University, I had a minor in Fine Arts, and was entranced by a course that studied cave paintings up to the present. Later I visited as many art museums as I could, especially in DC, where I spent much time in the wonderful museums and especially at the special exhibit of painters such as Turner, Hopper, Classical sculptors, Degas, Cezanne, Manet, The Impressionists in Winter, The Impressionists at the beach, O'Keeffe, Wu, Vermeer, Alfred Steiglitz, Barbara Morgan, Eva Hesse, Maxfield Parrish, Ansel Adams, Romare Beardon, Rothko. George Segal, Frederick Hassam. Last month, on a tour of The Louvre, and then Musée de l'Orangerie, I regretted the crowds and that there was little time to just wander and look, as I had on an earlier visit, just letting myself merge with Monet's lilies. But this time, I did manage to write a poem—not yet typed up, about Mona Lisa's odd smile and how it came from an uncomfortable feeling with Da Vinci's other painting of the other woman (actually, it is a feminist poem) Ginevra de Benci. But, yes, most recently, Malala, the young fearless Pakistani girl, nearly murdered for wanting to go to school—an amazing young woman, young girl really, is such a shining example of Feminism. And, like many books of mine, this one started with requests for a submission for an anthology quite soon after her attack, when her survival and recovery were in doubt. It was very early in her shocking story. I had heard about the horror of the Taliban attack and began following her almost daily—reading about her past before having any idea she would recover. As the story unfolded and she, amazingly, lived, I became more and more hopeful, wrote more and more poems. When I first saw live photographs of her, she looked good, but I noticed one side of her face was usually covered. I think I was in Barcelona or Paris when I heard she had won the Nobel Prize and, of course, I was thrilled. She had been nominated the year before, but I think it was wonderful that they waited, that she could do more and more to promote the education and welfare of young girls all over the world. The book was immediately accepted by the publisher who had done my book Katrina, about the victims of the hurricane. I am donating some of my royalties to Malala's projects. When she left the hospital smiling, it was a miracle. I still want to know more about her mother, who is not only never shown in pictures but hardly written about. CH: In addition to the female-oriented books you have written and edited, you’ve also waxed eloquent about another passion of yours: horses; specifically, Secretariat and Ruffian, to whom, if I may say so, you seem to have had a close bond. In what way do those books relate to the topic of feminism, or do they? LL: I've done four books about horses: The Licorice Daughter: My Year with Ruffian; Barbaro: Beyond Brokenness; Secretariat: The Red Freak, The Miracle, and Lost in the Fog. There always seems to be a mysterious connection between women and horses. For young girls, horses, riding lessons, horse books, horse statues, seem tangled in their lives and dreams. Perhaps it is the feeling of power and freedom—the sense of being able to find a path and take it anywhere. Like ballet, something that seems to almost hypnotize young girls, horses are strong and can seem to move in the air, their feet hardly touching the ground but, with their strength, there is extreme vulnerability and fragility. Especially with racehorses, the kind of horses I've been attracted to and written about. And I can't help but think of my poem about going riding with Sylvia Plath, where she is riding her horse: When Sylvia rode Ariel / as dark sky began to lose/its ink, she broke for that / moment out of everything / holding her as I did with Ruffian / cantering, galloping / airborne / no longer daughter, mother wife. I just Googled "horses and feminism," and it seems like a fascinating subject: I just skimmed a few articles and they all seem to definitely connect the two.
CH: Do you think that men read your poems differently than women do? What, in particular, would you like all of your readers to take away from your poetry? LL: I'm not sure that men read my poems differently—maybe different subjects appeal more to them. In today's mail, I got a note from a magazine asking me to send more poems about Vietnam—I suppose that would include Iraq—any war zone poems. Maybe some of my early poems, erotic poems, drew men in, I just don't know. There were not many people, women, writing as frankly as I did when I began—and my earliest books got some strong reviews— many comparisons to Plath and Creeley. CH: In the many years you have been involved in the poetry world, have you noticed changes in terms of gender between then and now? Do you think female writers are being taken more seriously these days and are better represented than they were in the past? Did you bump up against any gender discrimination when you were first starting out? LL: I am not sure—there certainly are more women writing now and more women's magazines. I do remember one editor of a prestigious magazine telling me I wrote about love, war, family and politics: subjects of no interest to him. But I don't think that was a gender discrimination, just some snarky comment. No, I don't think there was gender discrimination. (As a graduate student—that was something else) CH: In your delightful book All the Poets Who Have Touched Me, which is a combination of factual situations you’ve found yourself in on the poetry scene, along with fantasies of meeting poets (some living, some dead) whom you admire, you draw a particularly poignant, almost sisterly, connection to Emily Dickinson, and you also reference several other female poets, such as Sylvia Plath and Edna St. Vincent Millay. Can you name some other female poets, of any era, who have inspired you, and in what way? Also, do you think there’s a connection between the troubled lives of some of these women and their creative bent? LL: Those three women, probably of all the ones in All the Poets Who Have Touched Me, are ones I identify with strongly. I hate to answer that question because I am always afraid I will forget someone or leave someone out. If you glance through the three anthologies I've compiled, you can imagine, at least at the time, those women were all either influential or I just plain liked. Reading the Table of Contents of Tangled Vines, my choices now would be quite different, as my choices would be different from those women in Ariadne's Thread: Women's Journals and Lips Unsealed: Women's Confidences, but I still feel, if not influenced, I care for their work: Ellen Bass, Judith Hemschemeyer, Maxine Kumin, Sharon Olds, Marge Piercy, Anne Sexton, Diane Wakoski, Jane Kenyon, Mary Oliver. I probably have been influenced by some of these poets—I'm not sure exactly how. Then there are poets who I've really liked at different times of their writing career, like a student of mine, Alice Fulton. And I like Louise Gluck and Kim Addonizio—I know when I re-read this list, I will find it has changed drastically. CH: Especially on point to the topic at hand, I would be remiss if I didn’t ask you about your latest book, Femme Eterna, just released by Glass Lyre Press. The word femme itself is in the title, and you write about three amazing female poets/storytellers of ancient cultures who had to struggle for some semblance of independence. Can you tell us what made you study the lives of these particular women, and again, were you trying to make a feminist statement? And—as you were crafting your poems, did you see your own life in the lives of these women? LL: Femme Eterna never started out as a book. Not long ago, Luba Sterlikova, an interesting Russian painter, had the idea that we could collaborate—combine her paintings and my
poems based on them, to explore some of the most interesting women in history. Although I had written about women in the past, from Eve to women in the less distant past, she had paintings of Scheherazade and thought that Nefertiti and Enheduanna and several other women, like Devi, Pachamama and the Celtic Bird Goddess—would be exciting to explore. The project did not materialize. We both had very heavy schedules and projects and travel, and the expense of having a sample book produced, a requirement of the contest, was too formidable—but I became fascinated by the stories of these women and in particular, how they survived with courage, daring and grace. While I didn't choose these women, as I studied their lives, I became more and more fascinated and impressed by what they did. It was exciting to know that Enheduanna was the first person to sign her name to what she had written, and that she was a poet made it even more exciting. In Istanbul, seeing cuneiforms, how complicated and tedious writing with them must have been, I have even more respect for what Enheduanna accomplished. How Scheherezade dared put her life in danger every night, telling the king, who murdered bride after bride, and won his respect through her clever stories, her research of history, and Nefertiti's ability to go on when she had lost so much and even, some believe, reigned as king. CH: Now, here’s a question I’ve always wanted to ask you. Is there such thing as a “famous contemporary poet” (either male or female) and, if so, are you in that category? LL: I think poetry is more split into factions and groups—more than ever—I am sure it has a lot to do with the writing degrees which I've heard in the past sent 2000 new poets out into the world, and probably now the number is higher. E-books, online publishing, cliques around various writing departments, poets who have taught and are established for years in one area and are very well-known in one location, would have no one knowing who they were if they moved. I am sure editors receive more poems than they ever used to. When I was starting, editors were happy to receive, say, a stuffed priority envelope (for around 2 dollars). Now there are often limits and people have to use Submittable, which takes a lot more time. Online magazines can reach many more, but I wonder if people read them. I doubt they save them. I am sure I am not a famous contemporary poet! I'm an outsider, on the outside, and that makes it impossible! I know there are fans who like my work and it is always rewarding to hear from them. So many of my books are out of print, though I always have a few copies (usually) and they are listed on my website, www.lynlifshin.com, and most or many of the books have sample poems. I think having a very good literary executor can help keep work from being lost in the future, but I don't have that—and am not sure how to get one. When I lived in Upstate New York, I taught workshops of all kinds and did many radio and TV interviews, and I had very big audiences for my readings, big local following. Now my following is more widespread, less local. It is always wonderful when someone uses my work for a course! Of course, many who used my books for festivals and classes have retired…. Maura Gage, just as I sent the interview off, reminded me she taught an honors class at Louisiana State University on Emily Dickinson, Sylvia Plath and Lyn Lifshin.
CH: OK, one more question for the road. I’m sure your fans are eager to know what you are working on now (and we know you must have a project in the works, because nobody writes as much as you do!) I know I am eagerly awaiting your next endeavor; so, can you give us at least a hint as to what we might expect—and, is the theme by any chance women? LL: If you could see the shelf over my desk, you'd see about 60 never-yet-typed-up notebooks— most, 70 pages—of poems. They go back to the nineties. Some are themes (the trillium poems and a group of poems for a workshop about urban youth, runaways, hand-built houses)—and who knows what mix of other poems in these 60-plus notebooks. I tend to want to type up new poems. And, yes, I do have a small collection of poems about The Ice Maiden—the Amputa young teen who was sacrificed to the gods, and 500 years later, her body slid out from the iced-over mountains she'd been buried under. She was on display at National Geographic and I became hypnotized by her. I watched as long as I could. She looks so beautiful, really. I remember Bill Clinton said he wouldn't mind having lunch with her. At first, the museum did not talk about how she was drugged, hit over the head with a strong rock or pipe, then buried in the snow. It was supposedly an honor to be picked, only the most beautiful, and fed and pampered, dressed in the finest silks and velvets, what was in store for her was torture. Then left to freeze to death on the mountain top. Definite child abuse. But I am actually working on three sets of poems relating to recent adventures: poems about Paris and Barcelona, poems about Arizona. Years ago, I did a poem I read often, "Arizona Ruins," a poem I'm very happy with. Went back to the same site and some other surrounding sites and have written, not another version of the site, but I hope, a new look at surrounding ruins. But, yes, there is a group of poems about a woman, and thinking about it, it is definitely a feminist series. It is about "The Little Dancer," the sculpture that Degas made, as he made many sketches and paintings. I never realized what a hard life these "rats" girls rescued from the slum areas and made not only to dance till they were exhausted but there for the use of the rich, sexually. A recent musical, partly fact and partly probably fiction, from a feminist viewpoint, got me going on poems about the real young women. Thank you so much, Lyn, for taking the time to answer these questions, and we wish you a happy, healthy, and creative 2015!
Alison Ross’s CLOCKWISE CATS
By Cindy Hochman
Alison Ross, the indefatigable editor of the thought-provoking online literary journal Clockwise Cat, is one of the true contemporary heirs to the Surrealist tradition, with Beat leanings and a revolutionary spirit all her own. Ms. Ross speaks the language of the visual, flexing her muscles of the marvelous with all the pulse and thrum of “The Tell-Tale Heart.” In her aptly titled chapbook, Clockwise Cats, Ms. Ross accomplishes an impressive feat— embedding her footprints firmly alongside those of Rimbaud and Baudelaire, while avoiding the sand trap of the derivative, and retaining all of what makes the poetry of the incongruous so compelling and, well, incongruous. She is also my heroine for proving that a book consisting of only nine poems can indeed be epic. Both in the editing of her journal and in her own fine work, this poet has always been on a mission—not only to present provocative and memorable mind-waves, which she does with fierce aplomb, but to spark a vital discourse which treads (not always so gingerly) over the turfs of both the poetical and political. In these poems, the titles of which alone are worth their weight, Ms. Ross cleverly
employs the whimsical tools of Dada, but gives them an updated, technological, cultural, and sociological spin. The Anachronistic Anarchist The anachronistic anarchist uses post-it notes to remind herself of her dinner date with the sun. But the sun has a cold and sends a rain check that bounces into a reverse black hole. The anachronistic anarchist sends two gmails a day to her former self but they are flagged as spam and the user is blocked from the future It is clear that Ms. Ross, steeped deeply in multilateral dimensions of creativity, has fully embraced the sacred connection between poetry and art, especially as it pertains to the particular shades of the Surrealistic psyche. This is why it is wholly apropos that the ghost of Joan Miró shows up frequently within these poems; after all, Miró felt that “poetry and painting are the same.” In the poem “Miró’s scream,” Ross herself integrates the two genres with a colorful mural of words: Miró’s scream became a new color of crayon . . . Miró’s scream ripped open like a red yawn and lullabies fluttered out like blue bats . . . and oblivion unfurled like a new color of crayon. As a serious student of the surreal, Alison Ross is aware that titles of poems matter. On the surface, the title “Death is imminent and I’m still smiling” may strike the reader as blithe, with the poet’s tongue planted flippantly in her cheek,
but there is no denying that it contains that hint of haunt and juxtaposition that are integral to the genus Surrealism, and the poem itself invokes the dreamlike freefall of time and space. Thankfully, this poem also contains an “umbrella of the imagination,” since, according to the poet, “it’s raining cats and clocks.” The grand finale of this chapbook is a poem that will be quite familiar to Ross’ fans and contributors, as it has long graced the first page of her webzine and, in fact, bears the same name as the journal itself. Here again, what may appear to be jocular (it has always reminded me of the iconic Felix the Cat pendulum clock) is, in essence, the ethos of this book: that, by eschewing the mundane, a cool cat can sometimes outwit eternity. The clockwise cat is wise to clocks She knows their motive; to tame the savage animal of time In her brief bio, Alison Ross humbly states that she “dabbles delicately in verse.” If I were writing this bio, I would revise it to say “she reverberates resolutely with resonant roars.”
Georgia O'Keeffe: An Artistâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Intent and the Nature of a Flower
By Siddartha Beth Pierce Recognized as the Mother of American Modernism, Georgia O'Keeffe was an American artist who first began working in New York in 1916. Here, she met her husband, the photographer, Alfred Stieglitz. They were married in 1924. Stieglitz first became her mentor and provided numerous opportunities for O'Keeffe to begin showing her work in New York. At this time in her artistic career, O'Keefe was painting mostly large format flower blossoms as if being viewed via a macro photography lens. An artist creates with an intent of their own choosing and interests. But, once a work is placed on display in a gallery or museum, its visage becomes partly the interpretation of its viewer. Herein, lies a major discrepancy between the intent of Georgia O'Keefe's flower paintings and the plethora of critics and viewers who most often claimed her works were not only overtly sensual but also sexual in content. However, in considering such analyses, it is extremely important to acknowledge the artist's, the creator's thoughts on their own work rather than making grand assumptions about their supposed intentions. 'I found I could say things with color and shape that I couldn't say any other way things I had no words for.' -Georgia O'Keeffe
In the above, quote, the artist clearly expresses an interest in formal issues such as shape and color to express an enigma: what she was saying with her paintings. 'Nobody sees a flower really; it is too small. We haven't time, and to see takes time - like to have a friend takes time.' - Georgia O'Keeffe Herein, Georgia O'Keeffe clearly defines the aforementioned enigma as an
appreciation for Nature, specifically flowers. She relates the acknowledgement of these small objects to the importance they harbor and likens their appreciation to that of friendship. O'Keeffe expands on this notion further: 'When you take a flower in your hand and really look at it, its your world for the moment. I want to give that world to someone else. Most people in the city rush around so, they have no time to look at a flower. I want them to see it whether they want to or not.' - Georgia O'Keeffe
O'Keeffe by Stieglitz Ironically, O'Keeffe's flower paintings were widely analyzed in a Freudian manner as many viewers followed the notion that these paintings were sexual in content rather than accepting the artist's own explanation of her work: 'I decided that if I could paint that flower on a huge scale, you could not ignore itw beauty. ' - Georgia O'Keeffe O'Keefe clearly appreciated the beauty of Nature and did not agree the Freudian/sexual connotations often associated with her flower paintings. This absence of interest in such misguided interpretations is further evidenced by O'Keeffe's refusal to collaborate on Feminist projects during her lifetime including offers by the artist Judy Chicago. Finally, it bears witnessing that in addition to petals, flowers are the seed bearing part of a plant which includes the plants sexual organs. How many people have considered that the sexual organ of a plant, including, stamens, by Nature's design itself resembles the sexual organs of animals and humans? Is it possible, that perhaps, Georgia O'Keeffe offered the truth in her writings about her work: turning natural objects into abstract patterns for the enjoyment of all by delving into the macro world of Nature for Nature's sake.
The Beat Goes On, Unless You’re in Hollywood By Ally Malinenko I got into the Beats in high school, probably like many people, by reading Kerouac (not On the Road, but The Subterraneans). One book lead to another as they inevitably do, and I worked my way through all of the major players - minus Burroughs who I could never get into. But the same question kept popping up over and over again. What happened to all the women? Edie, Joan, Carolyn, Elise, Diane, and Joyce, to name a few. They were there for the majority of the movement and yet, they go utterly unrecognized. It was the 50's, a time when women belonged to their parents first and their husband second. When Kerouac, Ginsberg and Cassidy broke the rules, they were punished. They were cast off by their families, disregarded by society, deemed dangerous and troublesome. There was much shaking of the head and tut-tuting over what was happening to these young men. Yet when women acted out - when women experimented with drugs or sex or art - they were institutionalized, fed electric shock therapy, lobotomized. They were locked indoors and forced to conform. And since then many of the women of the Beat Movement have been edited out of the story. Or when they are included they have been re-fashioned as Muses, there to inspire the brilliant men they found themselves around. Their role was to be passive, attractive, to keep their mouths shut and their eyes open and maybe, just maybe, they might learn something. And this role was not specific to the Beats. John Lennon’s and Paul McCartney's first girlfriends, Cynthia and Dot, respectively, were allowed to sit in when John and Paul talked music but they were advised "to keep quiet,” though they of course had opinions on the music scene in Liverpool. How could they not? John and Paul wanted them in their mini-skirts and blonde as Bardot as possible. So that's the way it was. But that's not the way it is anymore. Here we are in 2015 and yet it feels like little has changed when it comes to The Beats. More
and more Beat-oriented films are coming out and yet the portrayal is exactly the same. You have two choices: Whore or (Long Suffering) Madonna. Let's talk about the last two big Beat movies – “Kill Your Darlings” and “On the Road.”
“Kill Your Darlings” is predominately about the Lucian Carr/ David Kammerer murder. Basically Kammerer, infatuated with Carr, dogged him endlessly until Carr stabbed him, tied him up, weighed the body and dropped it into the Hudson River. Using the honor slaying defense, Carr did two years before he was released. “Kill Your Darlings” includes a few scenes with Edie Parker, Kerouac's girlfriend at the time.
Edie Parker was a good friend of Joan Vollmer - who later married Burroughs. While Edie and Joan attended Barnard, they shared a place where "the boys" all went to hang out and listen to jazz and get high and talk about art. One more time in case you missed it: Whose place was it that they all hung out? Yes. Her place. At the time depicted in the film, Edie and Jack were dating but they later married, in a bizarre effort to free up some of Edie's money so she could bail Jack out after he was arrested as an accomplice to Kammerer's murder. In the film, she's played by Elizabeth Olsen. The makers of “Kill Your Darlings” liberated poor Edie from that nasty trap of a) having her own place and b) actually being a part of the movement by giving her two scenes. In the first she bitches at Kerouac that she spent all day making stew, which he tells her smells like crap before grabbing his coat and leaving with his buddies. All day making stew? That's the most they could give her? All day. Making stew. The second was of Kerouac's triumphant return to Edie, where she was found at the table with her grandmother eating sad cake (literally) and chastising Jack for being late/unhelpful/free-wheeling/having a life, which she clearly doesn't. Edie Parker is nothing more than a typical 50's housewife: rejected, angry, unappreciated and utterly defined by her male partner. The real Edie Parker was a part of the movement, a college educated independent woman. Not that Hollywood would know a damn thing about that. Thank god they didn't include Joan. They would have crushed her. Anyone who knows anything about the beats will tell you that Joan Vollmer bit it with a slug in the brain playing William Tell with Burroughs. All fun and games until someone does too many drugs and kills their wife in a shootout. Vollmer suffers from poor representation in all of the writing but especially so in Burroughs’. When she is mentioned at all, she’s a drug user – specifically a fan of bennies (not heroin, like her husband). This was a crime that could be thrown at all the “boys,” and yet for a woman to indulge, it is somehow beneath her. Women must be pure of spirit, body and heart. And as always they have no need to smother demons, not like men do, for they are only women. Not as tortured as their male counterpoints, right?
Yet it was, once again, Joan’s place that the Beats gathered in to discuss philosophy – which they did with her. Like Edie, she was a college-educated woman, well-versed in politics, philosophy (a favorite subject, in fact) and literature. Brenda Knight, in The Women of the Beat Generation, refers to her as “the whetstone against [which] the main Beat writers…sharpened their wit.” But as far as history is concerned, the most interesting thing that happened to Joan was the bullet that ended her life, an “indirect suicide which (Vollmer) had willed to happen”, according to Peter Schjeldahl. Burroughs not only escaped punishment, but went on to single out the killing as the birth of his life as an artist. It allowed him to free a demon, to release himself to his own art. Which says quite a bit about the life that he took.
Kristen Stewart plays Luanne Henderson.
As far as the film, “On the Road,” over at Beatdom, there are some quotes about Luanne by Al Hinkle, someone who actually knew her: Luanne! I fell in love with her the first time I met her. She was a beautiful, blonde 16 year old, outgoing and confident. She wasn’t forward with men, but she wasn’t shy, either. Luanne wasn’t a “quirky” girl; she was very down to earth and got along with everyone. Neal had such complicated relationships. I remember us pulling in to the drive-in diner and being introduced to Neal’s beautiful little wife when she came out to take our order, then going to Pederson’s pool hall and meeting Jeanie, Neal’s girlfriend. It kinda shocked me. I know Luanne was in love with Neal all her life. I could see that, even at 16, she felt that she was a married woman, not a child. She was the one that found the way to make all of Neal’s crazy plans work – she worked for money (or stole it), found rides, made sure she took care of her man. Even after he divorced her to marry Carolyn, Luanne made herself
available to Neal whenever he asked, and I think she always felt that she was still his wife, even though they both remarried. When BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit) first opened in the 70’s, I would take a ride from San Francisco to the last stop on the line – Daly City, and I would walk up this enormous hill to Luanne’s house and visit with her every week. I always had good feelings about her – she had earned her place in our gang and was fun to be with. I know she had gotten into heavy drug use later, in her 40’s, but she went to rehab in Colorado and came back to California clean and sober. So Hollywood took this interesting engaging character and did this instead: Warning: Topless people doing sexy stuff. https://dailymotion.com/video/xuc411 According to the Guardian, "Kerouac made little effort to give his female friends depth and dignity on the page; the film attempts to remedy that oversight." Remedy? Really? By making Luanne nothing more than the whore to Edie's Madonna? Is that the most you can do, Hollywood? She was confident and down to earth. Apparently that translates to "Quick, get her nekkid in the car to pleasure those them smart literary type boys!" "I love Marylou," Kirsten says, "In the book she's fun, she's sexy, she's vivid, she's progressive for her time. She jumps off the page and smacks you in the face … Luanne never made herself a commodity. And she really is this amazing link between the two boys; it's a grand statement to make, but that adventure might not have happened without her." Luanne Henderson traveled around with Jack Kerouac and Neil Cassidy and the most interesting thing they have her do in this film is a topless hand job scene. Thanks, Hollywood. Keep up the good work of crapping all over the Beat Women. It's bad enough they were stifled in their own time. In ours, when we have the change to liberate them, we instead shove them back into the same tired old box.
Because let's be honest, nothing has changed. These women are still be portrayed as secondary to the boy's club, only now Hollywood can â&#x20AC;&#x153;liberate themâ&#x20AC;? by giving them the only weapon Hollywood has ever understood: Their sexuality. Which is, without a doubt, the least interesting thing about any of them. Grow up, Hollywood, and give us a movie about what it was really like for creative women in the fifties who tried desperately, albeit fruitlessly, to break out of the patriarchal world they were tied to. We and they deserve that much.
Author bio: Ally Malinenko is the author of the poetry collection The Wanting Bone (Six Gallery Press), the children's book Lizzy Speare and the Cursed Tomb (Antenna Books) and the novel This Is Sarah (BookFish Books). She lives in the part of Brooklyn that the tour buses don't come to.