Poetry Gregory Loselle Michelle Brooks Jianqing Zheng Thomas Phalen
A journal of culture
Josh Pray Chris Swann River Glass Books Brother Hawk Smith’s Olde Bar Mario Lapreté Last Chance Riders and more
Fiction Renée E. D’Aoust Ed Scannell Mathieu Cailler Charity Winters
Featuring Ellen Malphrus
*all rights within remain with the respective artists
Special Features Casanova Green Real Fiction Radio Sweet Water Family Dentistry
CONTENTS Poetry Gregory Loselle Michelle Brooks John Berry Tim Suermondt Tim Gavin Jennifer Gravely John Kaprielian Ed Ruzicka Elizabeth Robin Margarita Serafimova Laura Page Hester L. Furey Christine Jones Emry Trantham Benjamin Cutler Jianqing Zheng Maggie Hess Dani Putney Thomas Phalen Jared Pearce Michele Reese C.W. Bigelow Mary Elder Jacobsen Anastasia Jill Mitchell Nobis Ann Huang Al Maginnes Ian T. Hall Matt W. Miller
8 9 11 12 14 15 16 18 19 22 23 24 26 28 30 33 34 35 35 37 39 39 41 41 43 44 45 46 48
Cover Story Ellen Malphrus
Fiction & Essays 50 53 54 55 59 64 66 68
Renée E. D’Aoust Hope Jordan Charity Winters Ed Scannell Mathieu Cailler Josip Novakovich J. Wayne Shaw James H Duncan
Reviews Edgar Kunz Casey Clabough Tom Johnson
72 73 75
INTERVIEWS Visual Arts
82 85 89
Mario Loprete Ashley Hamilton Elliot White
Special Features Sweet Water Dentistry Real Fiction Hemingway’s Dog
158 162 166
SCE Member’s Spotlight Paul Luikart David Peoples
Faces of Faith Casanova Green
94 99 102 106 113 116 119 122 126 129
Ellen Malphrus Virga Mazagine Chris Swann River Glass Books Sarah Mangold Mab Morris Casey Clabough 1111 Press Shawn Crawford Red Flag Poetry
Music & Entertainment 134 136 139 141 144 147 150 153
Josh Pray Kalliopi Brother Hawk Anthony Nolan Jason Lyles Last Chance Riders Good Bad Flicks Smith’s Olde Bar 3
Introduction In the summer of 2009 I had moved back to New York City to attend an MFA program in writing. I took a part time job at a restaurant in the city and rented a room in Brooklyn. I had all the verve of the un-initiated, convinced to the future before me, my eyes and ears open to the world around me and ready to bring it to page. I was at work the night of June 25th, in the heat of the dinner rush. We had no TVs in the restaurant and so when customers turned their eyes from the meals to their phones, and waiters and bartenders began to congregate at side stations for some rare information, I knew something was up, some message delivered to us that had the rare air of relevance to all. Michael Jackson had died. I don’t think anyone expected the news to hit so big. It’s just that it was, ultimately, shared news. That night I walked to the subway and took it back to Brooklyn and then walked the ten blocks to my apartment. It was a crisp and breezy New York summer night when the garbage doesn’t stink. And everywhere I turned, from expensive cars and souped up cheap cars and tenement windows I heard the same thing – his music playing. Every window was open. Everyone sang along. It was as though for the first time in years it was okay for all of us to listen to his music again, and in listening we remembered the uncomplicated innocence of our younger days, together. How can such otherworldly communion occur though such a troubling vessel? I don’t know how, but I know that it can. Over the last few years our society has undergone a dramatic shift in its morality and the boundaries instituted in the negotiation of this new moral line. Much of it has been a necessary reckoning, though undertaken with a zealot passion unique to America and its proselytizing origins. One troubling outcome has been the shift in how people relate to the creative material of questionable (or more modernly stated “problematic”) characters. Referencing Michael Jackson and R Kelly I recently heard a friend say “I rather like the music of someone who isn’t a child molester.” I agree, in part. I cannot stand by the character of the musicians, film makers, actors, artists and authors who have failed in character. But, can I actually stop liking their work? That is a challenge for me. It feels, in part, like a request for the erasure of my own psychology. I know Michael Jackson is troubling, but I did, and still do, enjoy his music. I know Stanley Kubrick is a creep, but 2001: A Space Odyssey still has something to teach me. When I open up a book by Sherman Alexie or Junot Diaz, should I hesitate in enjoying its narrative structure or poetic wording before a final verdict is passed on their accusations? Who am I punishing; them or me? It appears that at the heart of this issue is our trouble in separating the creator from the creation. Maybe it’s something in our protestant roots that tends to see a creative product as a delivery from the sheer effort of an individual, rather than the creator as a caretaker of an inspired idea. This feels, to me, like a spiritual divide. If there is a God, I want to believe that it does not deliberate logically on who to inspire. That, every human being, however noble or terrible, has the potential to have their spirit deliver something beautiful to this world. The spirit falls and undprops according to that invisible force, and we, at our best, just capture the moment. And thus, maybe, our role, as poets, authors, musicians, is that of caretakers rather then originators. At best we bring something forth and let it go, grateful for the opportunity to tend to the work before we gave it away. As a consumer of creative works I do not need to stand by the individual who created it in order to stand by the work they birthed. Sometimes, questionable humans produce great children. Sometimes, it is some short burst of beauty from their soul that forever enlivened the eyes of their progeny. I state this not as an apologist for all that our society deems “problematic” but as a testament for the complexity of soul that brings beauty into being. Erasure, upon an ever shifting moral line, harms less the individual who brought the work into being than our love for the mysterious mechanism that inspires that work. As artists that is the core of our effort – the caretaking of that ineffable mechanism that illuminates the soul. 4
– Nikita Nelin
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Gregory Loselle Jay at the Window All afternoon it’s batted at the glass, from branch to window, back to branch again and, pausing, cocks its head, picks off a sour ash berry, gobbles it, resumes attack. It sees itself, perhaps, and, striking out against that other bird unrecognized, it charges at the charging flash of blue that’s warned it of intrusion and the dread of others’ eggs in its own nest. Confused and purposeful, it labors at its task into the gathering darkness, berry-soused, until the glass no longer answers back with its self-image—perfect agonist— but glows against the evening from within. It wastes the day contending with itself as we look on and sort our own concerns, or parse the threats its pounding on the glass can conjure up: the knocking on the door, the envelope unopened for the fear of what’s inside—the hourly tally of impediments we cast down in our way, the list of things that daily trip us up— and how we battle on like jays on berries: drunk with one thing, hungry for another.
Stratford, and Jessica Walking Away It takes a tick to register— a look back as she lifts her hair out of her coat-collar and hikes its skirts back with her elbows as she plants her hands in her pockets and walks down Bridge Street past
Gregory Loselle the copper-green human statue and the crowd awaiting his next move—before she disappears. Consider how the imprint of our leaving occupies the intervening air, and whether we are always tourists lost to each other in the crowd.
Gregory Loselle has won four Hopwood Awards at The University of Michigan, where he earned an MFA. He has won The Academy of American Poets Prize, the William van Wert Fiction Award from Hidden River Arts, and The Ruby Lloyd Apsey Award for Playwriting. He was the winner of the 2009 Lorian Hemingway Short Story Competition, The Robert Frost Award of The Robert Frost Foundation, and the Rita Dove Prize for poetry (where he won both First Prize and an Honorable Mention) at Salem College. He has won multiple awards in the Poetry Society of Michigan’s Annual Awards Competition. His first chapbook, Phantom Limb, was published in 2008, and another, Our Parents Dancing, in 2010, both from Pudding House Press. Two more, The Whole of Him Collected, and About the House, were published by Finishing Line Press in 2012 and 2013 respectively. His short fiction has been featured in the Wordstock and Robert Olen Butler Competition anthologies, as well as in The Saturday Evening Post, and The Metro Times of Detroit, and his poetry has appeared in The Ledge, Oberon, The Comstock Review, Rattle, The Georgetown Review, River Styx, The Spoon River Poetry Review, The Pinch, Alehouse, Poetry Nook, Sow’s Ear, and online in The Ambassador Poetry Project, among others.
Michelle Brooks Nothing to Declare You don’t have to do anything except keep your mouth shut. Try to forget. Your secret requires nothing of you. You do not feed it or water it, nor buy it gifts and find a place to store it. Bury it within yourself with no marker to let people know it’s there. And it isn’t. Anyone can see your hands are empty. What no one notices is that your hands tremble ever so slightly. It’s nothing really. Your life is a door you keep closing, ever so quietly that no one notices you’re gone.
Michelle Brooks No Parking Allowed Beyond This Point A girl in fishnets walks down the street staring at her phone before sitting on the curb, head in her hands. I’m stopped at a red light, cursing another Monday morning. I drive away before the girl stands up, and I wonder what sorrows have visited her from across the transom, what sadness lives in the invisible waves that have travelled through her phone. I park and walk to my office and a man yells out of his truck window, Do you want to party? I do not. I smile, look down and see a rip in my tights. It’s too early for this shit, and it’s too late to change. The man persists until I look at him, shake my head as I slide my keys between my fingers that I have somewhere else I have to be.
Where Dreams Come True The bathroom attendant asks me when my shift begins. In my silver dress, I look like a shake dancer. Soon, I tell her, giving her a dollar for the peppermint she offers me. I look for my friends, the sounds of the casino, of luck and loss, surround me. I spot a dwarf wearing a beret adorned with glitter riding a scooter. He wheels toward me and yells, “What are you looking at?” I tell him I’m waiting for my shift to start, and he softens. “First day?” he asks. I nod. “Shake it like you mean it,” he says, rolling away to put quarters in the Count Chocula slot machine. I find my friends at the bar ordering expensive cocktails that appear as if they are on fire, smoke from dry ice enveloping them until you’re left with vodka and fruit juice. I take a sip, thinking about how I could get the same thing for half the price down the street but I’m not paying for the drink. You never pay for just the drink. You pay for the show.
Michelle Brooks Michelle Brooks has published a collection of poetry, Make Yourself Small, (Backwaters Press), and a novella, Dead Girl, Live Boy, (Storylandia Press). Her poetry collection, Pretty in A Hard Way, will be published by Finishing Line Press in 2019. A native Texan, she has spent much of her adult life in Detroit.
John Berry Cleaning the Attic for Lauren
I’ll just say it— I envy you, love. Up and down the narrow rickety stairs with (I’ll say this too) an embarrassing amount of what we kept but did not need while the real work, the work of combing the ratty hair of the past is done—dusty photos, baby clothes the mother’s day card from your daughter, the one when she explained, in no uncertain detail, how a truly great mother would give her daughter riding lessons. John Berry is a native Virginian living in the beautiful Shenandoah Valley. A self-taught carpenter and cabinet-maker, he has been building ‘things’ since he was fifteen years old. In these latter years, his focus has turned to building relationships; with people, with Spirit, with the natural world, with poetry and with himself. A reiki practitioner in the Usui tradition, John volunteers at his local Hospice offering this gentle healing to those in transition. In 2017 he graduated from a two year course of study through the
John Berry Whitewinds Institute of Integrative Energy Medicine, and in the blending of these two modalities, John is practicing alongside his wife, Brenda, in their healing center, Sacred Celebrations. Recently ordained, he is also, with Brenda, performing wedding ceremonies through Sacred Celebrations, and the two are developing a program teaching the fundamentals of the human energy atmosphere to children and adults. John hosts regular poetry nights in Winchester Va. at the Hideaway Café, and at the River House in Capon Bridge West Virginia as well as promoting and hosting readings for other poets. A contributor to many fine publications including The Sows Ear Review, and the Greensilk Journal, John’s work has also been included in a number of anthologies including Birdsong: a Celebration of Birds, Disorder, Trumped, and has most recently appeared in Survival: A Poets Speak Anthology. His first chapbook, Wobbly Man, was published in 2016 by Red Dashboard Press and his latest collection, Medicine, was published in 2017 by Foothills Publishing. John’s third volume, The Lawnmower Poems is set to be released later this year.
Tim Suermondt My Wife Standing In Front Of A Poets Pub On O’Connell Street She fits right in, having just finished Baldwin’s “Jimmy’s Blues” and her own latest lyric that will break your heart. A last wand of sunlight cuts across the pub, the crowd inside about to be struck dead silent in sheer amazement. Of course it will happen: Look at the fire in her eyes, her mouth set to burn her words into history forever.
Tim Suermondt Now Is The Time If you can’t take the first step, take the second. --an Irish saying I’m ready to walk out of the hotel and get my first good look at the Liffey River, my mind full of Irish history pulling me along like a slew of dray horses— the ghost of Eamon de Valera trudging among a ward of poppies, children waving from trains the color of old barns— oh do you have a destination worth the going? I’ve put on a better shirt for the occasion, scrubbed off a few Boston pub stains of beer from my sneakers—and told myself the light green socks are not a notch too foolish. I sling the windbreaker over my shoulder and head for the lobby, full of industry— poised to see the bulrushes on the barricades, the leprechaun of love stumbling straight home.
We Wrote The best we could, the way we wanted. The Universe payed attention for a nanosecond, so much lost in its unforgiving vastness. Some men and women did read us and were charmed, ennobled by the words— future generations anyone’s guess. We wrote in every season, every conceivable winter never
Tim Suermondt slowing us down— crowding the cities, the fields with images well beyond the language of the apple tree, the computer that had to admit it wasn’t close to recording everything. Tim Suermondt is the author of five full-length collections of poems, the latest JOSEPHINE BAKER SWIMMING POOL from MadHat Press. He has published in Poetry, Ploughshares, The Georgia Review, Prairie Schooner, Stand Magazine, Galway Review, Bellevue Literary Review and Plume, among many others. He lives in Cambridge (MA) with his wife, the poet Pui Ying Wong.
Tim Gavin LOVE POEM XLII: In French I was there walking in the slush and snow up Broad Street and thinking about Maupassant And the boule de suif. How tender she was on The trolley offering her quarter pounder and fries To the homeless man next to her – his breath on Fire and his eyes, slots, which a only a key could Turn. She cradled her own problems and studied Her dark reflection in the mirror as the hail Beat against the glass and it was difficult for me To make eye contact except through the image On the pane and the shaking of the trolley And the electric current vibrating through the ceiling And the steel wheels in the metal rails traveling Down Germantown Avenue, making up time With each island not waiting for passengers Who ran waving their arms like pigeons And she pulled out a cluster of grapes And ate one at a time while offering another. Maybe We were related – At least first cousins maybe – If only I could express it in French.
Tim Gavin Tim Gavin is an Episcopal priest, serving as the head chaplain at The Episcopal Academy, located in Newtown Square, Pennsylvania. Prolific Press recently released his chapbook, Lyrics from the Central Plateau. His poems have appeared in many journals and most recently in The Anglican Theological Review, Badlands Literary Review, Blue Lake Review, The Cape Rock, Cardinal Sins, Chiron Review, Digital Papercut, Evening Street Review, Screech Owl Review, HEArt On-Line Journal, The Lake, Poetry Quarterly, decomP magazinE and Blue Heron Review. He lives with his wife and sons in ewtown Square, Pennsylvania.
Jennifer Gravely A mother won’t go when her children are present. A daughter said, Momma, I’m leaving. She shut the door from the inside, crawled back through the house and lay underneath the bed that held her through childhood. Her belly breathed against the floor against her will. She thought, Let this one be the last, thought, Let this one be the last, all morning in the other room. When the nurse called, She’s gone, she lay for a while, turned her head on her neck. The carpet under the bed felt like nothing anyone would want their feet on. The bed skirt had no color and hung like a succession of hands. She was tucked in some envelope. Every space she occupied would now be darker, thicker at the seam. When she could see the dresser again, her face somewhere over her body, this would be real. This would be the world without a mother. Mirrors would hang on walls and show her what was already the past as soon as she looked into them.
Some Rhyme, Some Afterlife Mourning lights the room like church. Is this song that fills our throats? Can we stutter through common meter
Jennifer Gravely into some rhyme, some afterlife? Mourning lights the room like balloons drifting ceiling to floor, a little less, a little less. Our faces take expression from our hands, the clasp, the shudder. Mourning lights the room like spoons heaping salt into the bowls of our hearts. Mourning lights the room like Mother pulling the covers, pulling us with her.
Jennifer Gravley is from Talking Rock, Georgia, and currently makes her way in Columbia, Missouri. She is a writer of sentences, a watcher of bad television, and a research and instruction librarian. Her work has recently appeared in Small Orange Journal, Gone Lawn, and New South, among others.
John Kaprielian Postage Stamp Forest Not even a quarter acre it stood there all twenty four years we’ve lived in this house I’d like to imagine it hosted hawks and herons housed foxes and owls but in reality it likely sheltered feral cats or rats and raccoons ready to spring on errant garbage But I would look out onto the trees as I had my morning coffee and watch the birds fly in and out of the swaying branches the cool green soothing and peaceful
This morning the machines started at eight o’clock noisily chewing the trees chipping the copse to make more lawn for children to play When I was a child I played in the woods spent hours catching bugs frogs toads and salamanders learning all the plants foraging for berries The lawn was no fun at all just something to mow and rake and seed and re-seed and water fertilize degrub lime weed curse
The gnawing continues with tenor chainsaws adding their droning rhythms oily smoke floats with the relentless noise and the forest thins tree by tree cool shade stabbed by hot knives of sun and I weep for my lost--
John Kaprielian Flood Like a baptism it scours us to the bone and deeper yet peeling off our layers of artifice and vanity leaving bare walls slick with sin and tears. All goes into the dumpster except the most essential the core the critical the irreplicable. split open and left to dry like salmon staked around an alder fire in a boreal clearing. We are washed and exposed hurt and hung out our flaws and secrets flapping on the line for all to see. But we’ll dry and we will piece together our lives make our machines work again and get back to the hard work of existence.
After graduating college with an esoteric degree in Slavic Linguistics, John Kaprielian found work as a natural history photo editor, which he has been for over 30 years. He has been writing poetry for 35 years and in 2012 he challenged himself to write a poem a day for a year and in 2013 self-published the poems in a book, “366 Poems: My Year in Verse.” He has also been published in The Five-Two Poetry Blog, Down in the Dirt Magazine, New Verse News, Foliate Oak Literary Magazine, and Minute Magazine. His poetry ranges in subject from the natural world to current events and politics to introspective and philosophical themes. He lives in Putnam County, NY with his wife, teenage son, and assorted pets. 17
Ed Ruzicka The Road to Alligator Bayou Nick and I found a gravel road, cow fields one side, Bayou Manchac on the other. Mid-way he stopped the pick up. Flew out. Crouched. Clicked a photo of an iridescent snake, lime and thin, blended into bamboo stalks. I kept going back for decades. Around one bend was the Alligator Bayou Bar. On a pointless afternoon nobody cared that its plywood floor drifted crazy as a potato chip and made the cue ball dip as it tottered into inertia. Saturdays men rose from stools. Left Buds on the bar to whirl and spin their women while some Coonass band went at it hard. Full moon nights I’d shut my headlights down. Pour past sleeping cows under blotches of shadow and silver, road-curves banked like a river. One April night, katydids, crickets, tree frogs all in full throat, a nurse got out of her skirt for all that trembling beauty. I lay my jacket down in the middle of the road. We became one pool together welling within the pool of moonlight welling.
Ed Ruzicka has recently found that he can blend in seamlessly. Whether testing the firmness of a mango at Albertsons, walking hospital halls, sipping suds at a music fest or pausing by a park bench to tie his shoe, he exults in the luxury of oblivion. He has one book out, “Engines of Belief.” His poems have appeared in the Atlanta Review, Rattle, the New Millennium Review, and Chicago Literati, as well as other literary journals and anthologies. Ed lives in Baton Rogue, LA and is an occupational therapist. More at edrpoet.com
Elizabeth Robin Leaving the Margin unfettered, unwatched, unabashed an oversized young man lays down a ten-dollar bet ten dollars riveted, his gaze does not flicker from her, bets their age difference will be less than ten years ten years his pit bull—huge head, lolling tongue, happy smile— perches on the bar stool between them her eyes dart. he watches. the dog greets each new entrant to the kool kat scene she pets the dog. her friend discusses the bet. the man’s certain he’s nailed a guess his speech is as slurred as his judgment this, just after, in a wrist-snapping relay two women to her right, this man, and both bartenders flip out switchblades in west side story wrist-snapping style she’s been planning her exit since voices resonate—This whole being free, how is that working? her father would say. This is how death happens, her daughter would add. at kool kats a woman unwinds to her peril she dreams of a world she can navigate unfettered, unwatched, unabashed but finds here a painful spotlight glares baldly, disallowing even a margin to scribble inside she laughs, says i’d like those twenty years back slides past the man into a night sweet as men raining down her spine, in a sky without eyes or history, and breathes the ebb tide’s mist
Elizabeth Robin Harmonia friends duct tape our lives in secrets peeled off one by one little revelations of trust in daily tete-a-tetes reunions after decades like well-worn chenille bedspreads or tatted lace doilies, they mesh into our daysâ€”comfort, irk, challenge: shake every grain of sand, out of that shoe can we measure a friend? use stiff builderâ€™s tape notched in centimeters? gauge against a nine-inch handspan? feel hygge quotient by degrees? the mockingbird sings beyond heart harasses intruders, pours out tunes flung to a crazy-quilt sky but friends are scribbled memories tucked down inside fading jeans is that why they sew up pockets? to capture the notes before they fly? harmonia intones a crescendo lifts us forward waltzing to the ray of light on a sunflower Harmonia is the Greek goddess of concord, unanimity, and oneness of mind; she is the love that unites all people.
Elizabeth Robin Distraction Attraction transfixed, i watch the hands work, turning bolts, pushing buttons, swiveling pieces manly perfection a melding of brawny laborer’s wide palms, sturdy strength a delicate artist’s tapering long fingers, sculptured flesh David’s hands i want my hands to disappear in those hands, want them to touch my cheek, press into my shoulders, travel me i blush an innocuous moment threading a film projector flutters, yet eyes never meet, no one speaks we avoid touch in that nanosecond, but the small flicker imprinted, as indelible as inking my skin into his Elizabeth Robin moved to Hilton Head Island in 2010 after a career in public education and began writing. A poet of witness and discovery, she relates both true and fictional stories about her Lowcountry present and world-traveling past. Writing offers a lens to view the world, and a strategy to thrive within its madness. She has two chapbooks of poetry with Finishing Line Press: Silk Purses and Lemonade (2017) and Where Green Meets Blue (2018). Her poetry and non-fiction have appeared in The Fourth River, Foliate Oak, Good Juju, Curly Mind, The Skinny Journal and more.
Margarita Serafimova The Holy Marriage You and I, and the Forest.
Everything passes – this beautiful man, his shoulders, which bring happiness, the open bush where he is lightly walking, this day – everything, forward towards freedom. * Margarita Serafimova was shortlisted for the Montreal Poetry Prize 2017, Summer Literary Seminars 2018 and 2019, and Hammond House Prize 2018; long-listed for the Christopher Smart (Eyewear Publishing) Prize 2019, Erbacce Press Poetry Prize 2018 and Red Wheelbarrow 2018 Prize, and nominated for Best of the Net 2018. She has three collections in Bulgarian. Her work appears in Agenda Poetry, London Grip, Waxwing, Trafika Europe, Landfill, A-Minor, Poetry South, Great Weather for Media, Orbis, Nixes Mate, StepAway, Ink, Sweat and Tears, Mookychick, HeadStuff, Minor Literatures, Writing Disorder, Birds We Piled Loosely, Chronogram, Noble/ Gas, Origins, The Journal, miller’s pond, Obra/ Artifact, Central and Eastern European London Review, Blue Mountain Review, Memoir Mixtapes, glitterMOB, TAYO, Guttural, Punch, Tuck, Ginosko, etc. Visit: https://www.facebook.com/MargaritaISerafimova/?ref=aymt_homepage_panel.
Laura Page Pompeii I held you here, between my teeth. I slid you under my tongue, safe from words denoting Time. I imagined we were god’s own quiet fricatives, & when He held us in his cheek, He could feel our singing.
He could feel our singing as we tossed pennies into the fountain, rubbing emotion from palms on denim-clad thighs. Your delicate horseshoes, your sweet tooth, & wishes I made still stain my hands.
Wishes I made stain my hands. Plum & sweet well water & knees deciding your ribcage, I conceded the peach bud, All wooly igneous and milk. Exhale.
Inhale: The sky’s big fonts peeling skin off the water. Our tongues all summerblunt. You were under a long time. The lakebed was a rocking pelvis. The lakebed was a rocking pelvis, a caldera furred like a womb, sand-drawn mouths on every stone. I’ll admit your holy was the thirstiest I’ve ever been. The most honeyed, most spilt,
Laura Page I’m honeyed and spilt, rearranging the bones of the lovers of Pompeii in my head. Pretenses of holding: her kneecaps in his lower vertebrae; carpals scattered in her ribcage. Scattered in my ribcage, fence posts forgiving all the sides they separate—. grief is not belied by joy. I won’t choose between buttercup or bane, nux or claritas.
Hester L. Furey Bug Relativism So it appears that . . ., the African men of magic found out the deadly qualities of graveyard dirt. In some way they discovered that the earth surrounding a corpse that had sufficient time to thoroughly decay was impregnated with deadly power. It might, in some accidental way, come out of the ancestor worship of West Africa. Zora Neale Hurston, Tell My Horse “Belief in magic is older than writing,” says Papa Franz’s daughter, a storm queen, lightning painted across and down her back. A born anthropologist, lover of the crossroads and those who crossed them, she rolled her birthday forward ten years, then drove south in a Chevrolet, to phosphate mines, lumber and turpentine camps, posing as a bootlegger, collecting stories and songs, shreds of African survivals, holding her own cards close, and taking the temperature for hoodoo in each town. In the Panhandle chiggers, mosquitoes, gnats, and boll weevils peppered her “lying contests.” She feared no damn bugs, been walking into other folks’ camps and looking around
Hester L. Furey since she was a child; knives were a different matter. Undeterred by tales of subcutaneous scorpions and spiders, seeking out every root doctor in New Orleans, humbling herself time after time, asking to be a student. Isolated and naked, fasting and seeing visions for three days, finally crowned with snake skins, she got her black cat bone the hard way. Haitians remind her: the Africans had a god of disease. Mosquitoes haunt the mangrove swamps of La Gonave, but she waxes Guggenheim-lyrical; “the moonlight tasted like wine.” There also lives Vixama, the volcano god “who sits with a hive of honey-bees in his long flowing beard.” Surrounded by animal sacrifice, rumors of zombies, physicians who long to know the secret drug, the maid Lucille who cautions, “don’t run to every drum you hear.” No mention of pests, in all that blood and rum on the ground, but cannibal gangs, and microbe survivals in animal hair and graveyard dirt. Visiting the white caretaker of the insane, another “doctor,” a Navy man gone native, she longs to linger trading stories on his swinging porch beds, but wakes the morning after a party to watch the day be born. “It took shape out of a ropy white mist, but there it was, the very last day that God had made, and it went about the business of changing people the way days always do.” She has an abiding weakness for these white fathers -the old cowboy who cut her cord, let her ride on his horse, took her fishing, and told her not to be a nigger; Papa Franz, her dear Carl. She makes up her mind to go home, write a book about Moses the conjure man, but before she can, in seven weeks, unable to stop, writes Their Eyes were Watching God. Hester L. Furey is a poet and literary historian, the author of Skeleton Woman Buys the Ticket (Finishing Line Press, 2019) and Little Fish: Poems (Finishing Line Press, 2010). She is the editor of Dictionary of Literary Biography Volume 345, American Radical and Reform Writers, Second Series. Furey teaches English at the Art Institute of Atlanta and Georgia State University.
Christine Jones For Robert Indiana When I jot down notes, I don’t look to see what scrap of paper I’ve pulled from my purse. I scribble on the already crinkled, but blank-on-one-side piece. I write hug, err, eat, die, also love. Your words scripted in marble, acrylic, and neon. Stenciled on salvaged wood pitched with bronze Numbers repeat as if this gives order. Your figures, neither great nor gold, span the canvas titled The Demuth American Dream No. 5, 1963. My felt-tip leaks through. I read the other side. It’s poet Jung-Yoon’s “American Dream.”. Suddenly, I’m aware of my American morning: a run along the riverbank, coffee at the café, mingling in this museum where later I can buy a printed scarf or a magnet at the gift shop. Then, on my way back to the air bnb, the Uber driver will point to the hi-rises where once his neighborhood was. He’ll say something about urbanization. He’ll shake his head. He’ll note the changes since he was a kid. I’ll nod, pretend to understand. But I’m a prime customer of the steel and glass with its modern teak juice bars. I eat the avocado toast, hug myself in hatha yoga. There is the remaking and the more of many things in America. Your painted cruciform of kaleidoscope colors is dizzying at twelve feet by twelve feet; a cubist dedication to the roadside diner’s pinball machine, also your mother. Mr. Indiana, yes, everyone errs—and dies, but luckily love with your tilted o survives. Its bold red beaming, tripping me up on this parquet floor—my scrawled notes bleeding.
Silent Song: A Ghazal What shepherd betrays his sheep? Of this, I know not more. I’m an owl, now, whose dreams persist. I know not more. There are holes in the high standing Himalayas. I hear voices in the distance. I know not more. Maybe because I was the middle one, the naughty one. The pebbles I played with— I knew not more. Hills & pails of spores infecting the dead cocooned— Yaks & goats grazing great widths— I knew not more. Apha & ama tilling, threshing. It was mo mo who taught me. Ideas beyond my family, domesticates— I knew not more. Thirty days on foot to Dharamshala—I was ten. How could I say to His Holiness, I know not more. What holds a child hungry for dried yak meat? Under the enemy’s searchlight, a cold night hissed, Know not more.
Christine Jones We banged on doors, begged for bread, our last breath. Red stars still striking, abducting innocents. No, not more. Kham’s grasslands grow greener, my village road extends. Apha’s beard, the bangles on ama’s wrist, I know not more. Fifteen years taller are the poplars, I am Son of Snow! My homeland—my melting wish, I know not more.
Reconsidering the Oyster Empty shell, purpled as a Georgia O’Keefe, in a puddle of ice. I feel both hunger and horror for its raw absolute as the walls of my throat encroach its slippery slide. I no longer taste the wine; still I pleasure. For two weeks, the oyster, androgynous in its youth, floats before attaching, before pollinating a million spawn, before he turns she spawning a million more. It’s three years before it’s edible, before I appear from over the dunes, to hunt, find, and take; before I pry, split, and eat. I know where its weak. I have that certain knife, curled at the tip, to break its hinge. Christine Jones holds her MFA from Lesley University and is founder/editor-in-chief of Poems2go, an international public poetry project. She’s also assistant editor for the emerging Lily Poetry Review. Her poetry can be found or is forthcoming in 32 poems, Sugar House Review, Ruminate, Cimarron Review, Passager Books, Crab Creek Review, Lit Mama and elsewhere.
Emry Trantham Chrysanthemum We sought relief in the shadow of a barbecue tent, the smoked particles of burning meat careening through our shade. My youngest whined a murmured fuss I had ceased to hear—I bounced her but my questions walked the crowded alleys of the fair, watched children toting already-dying goldfish in plastic bags, wondered how a man might lift a 500-pound pumpkin into a truck and then out again, and weighed anew: should we have kept our farm? Our chickens and bees, our garden and apple trees and pigs—my girls might have entered their gourds here, become those children, salted with practical skills and calloused palms— and then a man was there, leaning from the canvas of the barbecue hut to hand my daughter a single yellow chrysanthemum. She was pointing at the flowers, he said, and she grabbed the blossom’s stem.
Third Shift This isn’t how I pictured it—our life, our nights, my body in the middle of our queen-sized bed. Doors locked, checked. My phone on the nightstand because I won’t fret about its blue light or the seven reasons I should keep it across the room while I sleep—if you need me, I will answer. If you were here, I’d roll into the crook between your arm and ribs and use your body for its warmth. I would tuck my toes between your calves and rest my hand on your feathered chest. Instead, I text one last I miss you, set my phone within my reach, and turn off the lamp. I have this whole bed to myself, but still I make myself small. Emry Trantham is an English teacher in Western North Carolina, where she is raising three daughters, taking pictures, and writing poems. Her poetry has been published in The Adirondack Review and Rust + Moth, and she is a 2019 Gilbert-Chappell Emerging Poet.
Benjamin Cutler Pastoral with Bull The fenceless pasture does not belong to him. The bull arrives in the summer gloaming— all hot breath and polished coal, humming with a cello’s sonorous yearning—wanting nothing but to fill himself with stolen purple clover. He will be gone by morning, returned to the dry-seasoned bales and salt lick he knows so well, but for now he stands in this lush newness, lips lowered to the honey-fragrant flowering. O to be so still and at ease in the stillness—and to know that, for one dewy night, all this wild and shadow wet expanse is yours. This has nothing to do with desire— but, of course, everything.
Last Lap Around the Dead During my last lap at the cemetery I wish to join the dead
Benjamin Cutler in their cool-earth rest—muscle’s slow fall from bone, forgetting its flex and pull and rhythms, skin giving up sweat-shine for the dry dark. But when the run is done, that old sun a morning-young star, I lie above these silent sleepers—my back to their armcrossed breasts—and remember: O breath—O grass—O windwhispering oak— O light—O light—O half the day is light.
Ars Poetica at the End of the World In the end there was a word for everything, a single word for everything, but in the end it did not save us— we who would only speak in the language of an answerwith-no-question. When our voices finally failed us, we tried writing the word over and over again, like guilty children, tearing pages
Benjamin Cutler from our books to wear against the ash. We remembered how the fishmongers of Denmark and the carpenters of England had worn yesterday’s news as hats—shielded from burn & stain by wanteds & weddings & births, by predictions & crimes & deaths— but our marks were lost in the smoke’s smear and our paper with the embers. Had we known this was the end, we would have invented new words to name our sorrows, new questions to name our loves, but we always believed we were at the beginning of something new. In the end there was nothing to name and nothing to name this nothing, and in that void was the word— with only the darkness to comprehend it.
Benjamin Cutler was raised on a riverbank in the mountains of Western North Carolina where he now resides and teaches high school English and Creative Writing. A two-time North Carolina Poetry Society award-winning poet, Benjamin’s poems have been nominated for the Pushcart Prize and have appeared in numerous publications, including The Carolina Quarterly, Cold Mountain Review, Barren Magazine, Cumberland River Review, and Longleaf Review, among others, and he is the author of the full-length collection The Geese Who Might be Gods (Main Street Rag 2019). When he’s not reading, writing, or playing with his four children, Benjamin can be found on the creeks and trails of his mountain home.
Jianqing Zheng Rusticated Life Those years were like a yellowed book of memories with dog-ears unable to smooth back. Turning each page is like unwrapping an unearthed mummy, dried but well-preserved.
Question Is this expansive flatlandâ€” where the flower drum song roots deep and spreads wide, where the gorgeous sunset promises a new dawn, where cotton is handpicked and rice is handplanted, where rain is source of lifeâ€” also a dreamland studded with starry wishes? Lying on the hay like a pig, I oink and stretch my weary body.
Camping in the Smokies As the sun burns down behind the mountain
Jianqing Zheng and birds return to woods to resume hubbub, I pitch camp by a creek for a sound sleep. I want my dream to swim with the moon in the gurgling rapids that shimmer white under the starry sky dotted with fireflies. Jianqing Zheng is author of Enforced Rustication in the Chinese Cultural Revolution (Texas Review Press 2019) and editor of African American Haiku: Cultural Visions (University Press of Mississippi, 2016). His poems have appeared in numerous magazines, including Poetry East, Louisiana Literature, Tar River, and most recently Arkansas Review. He teaches in the Mississippi Delta where he serves as editor for Valley Voices.
Maggie Hess Moth There is a poem begging for me to put pen to paper. In the poem there is an old man. He sits at a table editing by lamp light. A moth circling the flames. Appalachian poet, Maggie Hess, was inspired by her transformational battle with schizoaffective disorder. Maggie won the Leidig Poetry Award judged by Linda Pastan and the May B Smith writing award & recently won honorable mention in Wild Leekâ€™s Chapbook Contest judged by Ron Rash.
Dani Putney Hyacinths Bury me by the hyacinths bumblebees play on. I picked them out at the nursery, you said they were beautiful like me. I want your soil to fill my pores— I’ll leave you a garden, darling. Make sure to bury me by the hyacinths. Dani Putney is a queer, non-binary, Asian American poet exploring the West. They’re fascinated with the various shapes—and shapelessness—of their gender and overall intersectional identity. Most recently, their poetry appears or is forthcoming in Foothill, Helen, Juke Joint Magazine, Lockjaw Magazine, and Noble / Gas Qtrly, among other publications. Presently, they’re infiltrating a small conservative town in the middle of the Nevada desert.
Thomas Phalen Bits and Pieces Money was simpler then. Something valuable, Made of something scarce, And scarce was precious, So a little bit Went a long way. Had slang names, now dead, As door nails. In bits and pieces. Like pieces and bits. Or if you had more than a little bit, Or more than a small piece, Then two bits or four bits, Which once was quite a bit A right fair piece. Now money is an idea
Thomas Phalen Like a promise, Something you have, but cannot see. But it has to be a good one. Because a broken promise is a theft. Ice in the heart. So the promise has to be more Than what it’s printed on. Then, the promise and the print Were of a piece, A single bit. Money had weight then. And the weight mattered. The heavier the better. Like a pound Of sterling silver. Or the king’s crown, On the uneasy head. Everything was heavier then: Shovels, baseball bats, bicycles; The wrong way up weight Of the sunward pull of kites On twine-wound sticks; The dark of night, alone; The impossible mystery of death Whose haunting secrets in the Church Smelled of incense and flowers’ sweet corruption. And work, such as we did, Was heavy going For a few coins. Heavy in the palm. The heavy things were hard to heft But in the effort I learned to grapple And grew deft. But not so deft To make light yet The weight that winter, ‘sixty-four, When my father beckoned me. I, trundling down To the big motor thrumming, He, delving his pocket,
Thomas Phalen Shifting ungainly behind the tight wheel. And then his face, Solemn with ritual, Because this was grave. There, in his hand, stretched to me reaching, Pressing it firmly to mine And wrapping mine round it, closing it up And his around mine and what was now in it. Shiny as that winter morning, Brilliant for the silver, Big as my hand, nearly. A rare and ponderous thing. A whole fifty cent piece (Always “whole” for big money then) A whole four bits. And the face just there Only now just dead. A death we saw forever and ever Through the murk of Church incense And black and white TV. His widow near shattered for the grief of him. Our hero and our hope, The head uneasy that wore the crown. In bits and pieces. Thomas Phalen: I submit Bits and Pieces and Two Other Poems. I have six unpublished collections of poems. Some were published in The Lune Vol. II, No. I, Winter 2017. I am a death penalty case defense lawyer. I am an Irish/American dual national. I was a contributor in poetry at the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference, Middlebury, in 2018. I am a contributor again in 2019, and at the Bread Loaf, Sicily, Writers’ Conference. My wife, Stacie, our Border Collie, Finnbar, and I live in Phoenix and have a cabin in the woods of Flagstaff, Arizona.
Jared Pearce No sage to burn It takes two days to clear your stink from my place
Jared Pearce once you finally leave. I don’t know if it’s your hair product or dryer sheets or the radioactive glow of your skin, but your cloud will hover, mist the halogen bulbs, and seems to weaken when the crocus calls at the front step. Though lingering pockets will pop from the couch, mattress, towels, you’re in decline once the robins snap on the worms. I wondered what the maple stump was doing, weeping sap by the bucket when the trunk’s been cut: a little last cleansing so the rooted wipe away memory, affix raccoon tongue or sunshine to that lost worry.
Jared Pearce’s collection, The Annotated Murder of One, was released from Aubade last year (www.aubadepublishing.com/annotated-murder-of-one). His poems have recently been or will soon be shared in Aji, Adelaide, Xavier Review, THAT, and The Aurorean. His website is https://jaredpearcepoetry.weebly.com.
Michele Reese ORNAMENTAL POISON Yew trees, pruned back like bushes, framed the front corner of my childhood home. On summer evenings, it was a treat to suck the scarlet arils off their seeds and dance barefoot around the white porch pillars to the flashing chorus of fireflies . . . expecting to live long enough to witness Halleyâ€™s Comet pass by again.
Michele Reese is a Daughter of the American Revolution and the daughter of a Jamaican immigrant. Her poetry focuses on this place of intersection as well as others including race, gender, and sexuality. She is the author of the poetry collection Following Phia. Her poems have also been published in several journals and anthology including Crack the Spine Literary Magazine, The Oklahoma Review, Poetry Midwest, The Paris Review, The Tulane Review, Chemistry of Color: Cave Canem South Poets Responding to Art, Hand in Hand: Poets Respond to Race, and Home is Where: An Anthology of African American Poets from the Carolinas. She is currently a Professor of English at the University of South Carolina Sumter.
C.W. Bigelow PLASTIC BOXES We left it in the workshop because he left no instructions. So this square plastic box with his name on the tag, mailed from the crematorium, (isnâ€™t dust supposed to be light?) remained there, untouched, ignored until she finally escaped. Anger was her fuel for
C.W. Bigelow another year – no lonelier than the previous decade of witnessing his sleepovers from afar – substituting pride for love because some defeats are disguised as victories – second place better than third. Returning to shut the house, to discover the remaining clues, sell the evidence and close the case. Perched on the workbench under an active leak in the roof – bizarre baptism that day after day washed his name away. That other woman boldly flaunted the affair burying my mother prematurely – until his death brought secret visits to the workshop and finally reconnecting – two plastic boxes – one heavier than the other, one name clear, one vanishing, as the woman across town takes her turn to sit alone in silence. After receiving his B.A. in English from Colorado State University, C.W. Bigelow lived in nine northern states, both east and west, before moving south to the Charlotte NC area . His short stories and poems have appeared in Full of Crow, Potluck, Dirty Chai,The Flexible Persona, Literally Stories, Compass Magazine, FishFood Magazine, Five2One, Yellow Chair Review, Shoe Music Press, Crack the Spine, Sick Lit Magazine, Brief Wilderness, Anthology: River Tales by Zimbell House Publishing, Foliate Oak Literary Journal,Midway Journal, Scarlet Leaf Review, Temptation Press Anthology - Private Lessons and Poydras Review.
Mary Elder Jaobsen The Pleiades Who? Oh, those sisters? They’re everybody’s envy—their dance cards forever full. It’s as if they invented dancing. They’re the “it” girls, in gloss and glitter, in sequined lace, but still demure. No plunging cleavage, no blinding bling, just hints of sex appeal through seven veils, cascading hems, old-fashioned things. Such an inseparable cluster they are, constantly rising above sibling rivalry. So much allure—for the Pleiades girls— sparks from just how close they are. Mary Elder Jacobsen’s poetry has appeared in Cold Mountain Review, The Greensboro Review, Four Way Review, One, Green Mountains Review, and The Cincinnati Review, and elsewhere, including American Journal of Poetry, Poetry Daily, and anthologies. A recipient of a Vermont Studio Center residency, she holds a BA from Goucher College, an MA from The Writing Seminars at Johns Hopkins University, and an MFA from UNC-Greensboro. Jacobsen lives in rural Vermont, where she works as an editor, curates “Privy Poetry” in a restaurant, and is Co-organizer of Words Out Loud, an annual reading series held at an unplugged 1823 meeting house.
Anastasia Jill saint madonna Her skin is born of Nazareth, of violated temples and colorblind portraits that are bejeweled -but still wooden -- sacred icons. Her blood vessels are unstoppable markers, the sojourn of blue from vein to eye, creating roads so she has a safer place to travel. No one will share her path, because she raids their holy minds. This is how she comes to be a fixture on the walls of my home; She crafts a legend of herself with the right hand, hangs by the grace of nails that will one day pierce her hand like auction price tags.
Anastasia Jill My partition comes to know why she hides --she is a woman of power in need of an alter. Who am I to keep a saint from consecration? 35mm When I move in the night she thinks I’m sleeping. My dolls hate me; but at least she thinks I’m cute. In her fish eye, I am perfect – a blithe and blissful bisque Lippies be storytellers of watermelon, of bubblegum. I don’t know what I say – what I’m supposed to say. She knows what I mean. It’s totally fine, honey. She plucked me from the others and told me I was different, didn’t deserve my hurt, was so pretty with my little heart. She pets me in a backdrop of flowers, hearts, and stars. It’s always night in the closet, the other dolls, they hate me. But she’s the camera woman. She thinks I’m alright. Anastasia Jill is a queer writer living in the South. Her work has been nominated for Best of the Net and Best Small Fiction Anthology and has been featured with Poets.org, Lunch Ticket, FIVE:2:ONE, apt, Anomaly Literary Journal, 2River, Gertrude Press, Minola Review, and more.
Mitchell Nobis Pulse Shoes laced, he picked up the ball, started dribbling it slowly at first, softly, then firmer, controlled & rhythmic. He drove the ball down and it snapped back to his hand— right, left, then crossovers, between the legs, behind the back, sprints up & down the court. Dribbling & paradiddling a boombap. Wood of old forests on the floor, clay of old earth in the bricks. The gym itself a womb, the dribbling ball, its steady beat, and amniotic sweat flew off his brow in the labor of early summer heat. Mitchell Nobis is a writer and teacher in Metro Detroit where he’s playing basketball until his body falls apart. His poetry has appeared in Exposition Review, Hobart, Cobalt Review, 8 Poems, Ponder Review, English Journal, and others. He co-authored Real Writing: Modernizing the Old School Essay (Rowman & Littlefield, 2016). Find him at @MitchNobis or mitchnobis.com.
Ann Huang Post Surrealists from the simple-lens Passion: hand notes and April brightness, mentors you provoke mirths. From the skin-thick shades of gray dust, from the men-scented dawn you mirthfully ride. You from the intimate one-time arrival collide, boldly; do I know the one, protagonist is surely given kisses & ring. (house & aging process) Ann Huang is an author, poet, and filmmaker based in Newport Beach, Southern California. She was born in Mainland, China and raised in Mexico and the U.S. World literature and theatrical performances became dominating forces during her linguistic training at various educational institutions. Huang possesses a unique global perspective of the past, present, and future of Latin America, the United States, and China. She is an MFA candidate from the Vermont College of Fine Arts and has authored one chapbook and three poetry collections. Her surrealist poem “Night Lullaby,” was a Ruth Stone Poetry Prize finalist. “Crustacea” another of her surrealist poems, was nominated Best of the Net in Priestess & Hierophant. In addition, Huang’s book-length poetry collection, Saffron Splash, was a finalist in the CSU Poetry Center’s Open Book Poetry Competition. Her newest poetry collection, A Shaft of Light, is set to come out in 2019.
Al Maginnes Shine
For Roy Bentley
With a cat burglar’s caution, I sniffed before tipping the jar to my nervous mouth. Tasteless, but for the scorch of its passage. I took a deeper hit. “Careful,” someone said. A puff of blue flame, soft as a cloud, enveloped my brain. This was devil whiskey, home-cooked sin, cooked, preachers swore, in some deep crevice of hell. I’d seen pictures of stills, secreted in hollows, guarded by grim faced men with guns. Here was the stuff of Thunder Road, a hundred patchwork hillbilly jokes, the liquor that gave birth to NASCAR. Above me, the moon wobbled and throbbed. Moss curled dark tendrils between my toes, fur growled along my spine. The rank blessing of wood fires gathered around me. Governments and laws collapsed to ruin, perished in graveled embers. When the jar came to me again, I was enlisted in the army that would not pay taxes or pave roads. I would live among fallen trees, bathe in the sand of creek beds. There was no flag worthy of my salute, nothing I needed to pray to. A sorry morning awaited, but this close to the clear waters of sin, I wanted nothing but to link arms with the devil and dance a clumsy sinner’s two step under a moon that would neither fall not hold still. Al Maginnes’ seventh book, The Next Place, was published in the spring of 2017 by Iris Press. Recent poems have appeared in Shenandoah, North American Review, Rattle, Vox Populi, and many other places. He lives in Raleigh, NC and teaches at Wake Technical Community College.
Ian T. Hall Sleep Apnea There is always something to be said for regularhood: the familiar falter of a barstool, the cold fidget that creaks a tree stand, pipe fitting, pissing mineral, breathing asbestos, paying up union dues. The kind of doggedness that translates to devotion. To this end I am mouthing my blessings into a trundle mattress beside a snoring woman that knows me better than I’d like to be known. The window wears no drape. The moon is a fistful of ripe light. The way the sheet pleats below her thighs is somehow French as the names of those poets I love to mispronounce. But I can’t stop thinking of another woman— the one in that painting on the label of those pint bottles. If this were a cock rock ditty I’d call her the Queen of all I’ve seen—that coal-eyed so & so. But this is raw memory and I’m just trying to let it be bygone. Hours ago, the woman sharing this mattress asked me what do you dream? I said I dream as always of my own death. How I want my wake
Ian T. Hall to be remembered as the gray area between effigy & pyre. How I picture a young man in the graveyard reading by matchlight my name. This cracks her up. She knows the joke is that I’m godawful sincere. Dying young doesn’t mean you live forever she said & like a wheel in deep mud sputtered to a stop, slept. I’m grateful she took me for forthright, cause I’m not fit to give her the blood-honest truth: I dream of watching my grandfather stagger home through the wooly snow, my breath backfiring on the window glass. He is pulling from a quart jug. He steps across the ice with such discretion it’s as if he fears waking even his own self. But of course he slips & sunders the jug. I see him hit his knees like someone begging a favor & lap up every star mirrored in the spill. I can’t take all that & turn anywhere but inward. It’s just too much to inherit. Ian T. Hall was born and reared in East Kentucky. He has an MFA in poetry from the University of Tennessee, where he served as assistant poetry editor for Grist: a Journal of the Literary Arts. He has published poetry and fiction in Kentucky Monthly Magazine, The Louisville Review, Broad River Review, Gravel, Bluestem, and Modern Mountain Magazine, among others.
Matt W. Miller Textile Triolet schika tak schika taka schika tak schika taka schika tak schika taka schika tak schika taka schika By these looms we lung the fiber of our hour schika taka schika tak schika taka schika tak schika taka schika tak schika taka schika taka schika tak schika taka schika tak schika taka schika tak schika taka schika tak schika spinning textiles into filament cirrus taka schika tak schika taka schika tak schika taka schika tak schika taka schika tak schika taka schika tak schika taka schika tak schika taka schika tak schika taka schika tak schika tak schika taka schika tak schika that flit between each ringing of the tower schika taka schika tak schika taka schika tak schika taka schika tak schika taka taka schika schika tak schika taka schika tak schika taka schika tak schika taka schika tak schika taka schika tak schika tak schika taka schika tak schika taka schika tak schika taka schika tak schika taka schika tak schika taka schika By these looms we lung the fiber tak schika taka schika of our hour tak schika taka schika tak schika taka schika tak schika taka schika tak tak schika taka schika tak schika taka schika tak schika taka schika tak schika taka schika tak schika taka schika taka schika tak schika taka schika tak schika taka schika tak schika taka schika tak schika taka schika tak upon this earth schika taka schika tak inside this machine schika taka schika roar! tak schika taka schika tak schika taka schika tak schika schika taka schika tak schika taka schika tak schika schika taka schika tak schika taka schika tak schika taka schika tak schika taka schika tak of groaning joints schika taka schika tak schika taka schika tak schika taka schika tak schika taka schika tak where no one can schika schika tak schika taka schika tak schika taka schika tak schika taka schika tak schika hear us !taka schika tak schika tak tak schika taka schika tak schika taka schika tak schika taka schika tak schika taka schika tak schika taka schika tak schika tak schika taka schika tak schika taka schika tak schika taka schika tak schika taka schika tak schika By these looms tak schika taka schika tak schika taka schika tak schika schika tak schika taka schika tak schika taka schika tak schika tak schika taka schika tak schika taka schika taka schika tak schika taka schika tak schika taka schika tak schika taka schika tak schika taka schika tak schika taka schika tak schika taka schika tak schika taka schika tak schika taka schika tak schika taka schika tak schika taka schika tak schika taka we lung the fiber of taka schika tak schika taka schika tak schika taka schika tak schika taka schika tak schika taka schika tak schika taka schika tak schika taka schika tak schika taka schika tak schika our hour tak schika taka schika tak schika our throats cottoned taka schika tak schika taka schika tak schika tak schika taka schika tak schika taka schika tak schika taka schika tak schika taka schika tak schika taka schika tak schika taka schika tak schika taka in our silent schika tak schika taka schika tak schika tak schika taka schika schika tak schika taka schika tak schika taka schika tak schika taka schika tak schika taka schika tak schika tak schika taka schika tak schika taka schika tak schika taka schika tak schika chorus tak schika taka schika tak schika taka schika Matt W. Miller is author of The Wounded for the Water (Salmon Poetry), Club Icarus (University of North Texas Press), selected by Major Jackson as the winner of the 2012 Vassar Miller Poetry Prize, and Cameo Diner: Poems (Loom). He has published poems and essays in Birmingham Poetry Review, Southwest Review, Harvard Review, Narrative, Crazyhorse, 32 Poems, Adroit Journal, The Rumpus, and other journals. He is winner of River Styx’s Microfiction Prize, Iron Horse Review’s Trifecta Poetry Prize, and The Poetry by the Sea Conference’s Sonnet Crown Contest. The recipient of poetry fellowships from Stanford University and The Sewanee Writers’ Conference, Miller teaches and coaches at Phillips Exeter Academy where co-directs the Writers’ Workshop at Exeter. 48
FICTION & ESSAYS
Renée E. D’Aoust Forward with Abandon Alpine Salamander Though alpine salamanders move slowly, each step is a bold movement forward, incremental, profound. On a hike, it’s impossible to move past an alpine salamander; they invite you to bend down low to the ground, to observe their silky, wet black backsides with bright orange strips. The orange is where she emits a nerve toxin: do not touch. The alpine salamander waddles. She throws an elbow forward with abandon, gathering momentum from steady progress. Before her stumpy leg extends and the foot lands, her otherwise stocky body twists, making a sleek S-curve. As with all salamanders, the alpine species is low-slung, but her body seems even closer to the ground than her cousins because her environment is full of jagged rocks, big and small, that she must navigate up and over, or around. Her stumpy limbs are not directly under her, as with a dachshund, but out to the side, like a bowlegged Slinky. Daniele doesn’t remember seeing alpine salamanders when he was a kid. His parents used to take him hiking in the Apuanian Alps in Tuscany, so they would have seen Italian cave salamanders and certainly alpine newts. But it was not until my husband was a young adult, when he’d stated hiking solo, a pilgrim in search of both a trail and independence, that alpine salamanders first caught his eye.
Road Trip We fight about travel expenses, standing before the House of Parliament, next to a clump of heroin addicts. We look at the River Aare, all of us in various states of emotional disrepair—only some of us have no marks on our forearms. Midday, we fight about Appenzeller, Gruyere, Sbrinz, Tilsiter. “Which one do I get?” I ask, musing about Swiss cheese, not the holey bland North American blob, but the real deal, available in a freaking gas station, but Daniele yells: “Jesus Christ. Just decide. Get any damn cheese.” The people in the long line behind us stare, my cheeks burn, and as I put all the cheese back, the Sbrinz drops on the floor. Thwack. When we return to the car, Daniele shakes. “Now everyone thinks I’m an asshole American guy. Why didn’t you buy your cheese?” End of day, we drive round and round Interlaken, our spiral set to music, first closer, then farther away; we are looking for a hotel, a Zimmer, a bed. Though the streets are pristine, no litter, we’ve clearly hit a music festival. Swiss suburban houses and condos, geraniums in every window, juxtaposed with heavy metal, a steady drumbeat and German lyrics that sound like a gander being strangled. It is late-July hot. It’s been one of those days when you discover all your buttons, the whole fucking keyboard. We are bedraggled, and our sweat smells like rat-piss beer, al50
Renée E. D’Aoust though neither of us drinks. My beau is Italian but has no taste for il vino. I’m allergic; my liver refuses to process an elixir that masks pain. Daniele slams his mother’s Renault Clio into reverse. “Fuck this. Cazzo. Let’s park. I’ll find us a place on foot.”
Dachshund Adoption Daniele wasn’t convinced that we needed a dog. He was understandably nervous: new country, new job, new wife—what next? Daniele worried about a dog flying back and forth with me between northern Idaho (my dad) and southern Switzerland (my husband), even a little furry creature that would fly with me inside the airplane cabin and inside her travel house. (A “Sherpa”—“Delta Approved”!) I made my case: “It is unethical for us to hike every weekend and not rescue a dog.” The dachshund was bred more than three hundred years ago in Germany to hunt for badgers; it is this past that leads to their burrowing skills. Burrowing is not just a predilection in dachshunds; along with kibble, it is their passion. The first months after Daniele and I adopted Tootsie, who was at least five years old, we didn’t allow her to burrow; the way she twisted herself up in any blanket or towel or sweater sleeve terrified us; we thought she would suffocate. I woke her constantly, put my cheek in front of her nose to feel the air from her lungs, and watched to be sure her fuzzy blanket rose and fell, indicating breath. She kept at her need to burrow, shoving her snout under the covers, under blankets, even under rugs, under anything that afforded tunneling-space, teaching us all about her obsession and her persistence. It was also this love of burrowing that meant when we took ten-hour intercontinental flights, all Tootsie did was eat one meal and burrow. She emerged a little fuzzy, as if she’d been hibernating, jet-lagged just like me. We were a team, and I was calmer flying, staying focused on my tube of fur, instead of on the tube of metal in which we hurtled through the air. Now that Tootsie is fourteen and a special senior, we don’t ask her to fly anymore. She used to hike eight miles in one day and wake up raring to go the next morning, but now she asks to be carried. Tootsie sniffs marmots from our arms, and they, in turn, chirp-sing warnings. Mid-hike, our tube of fur asks to be set down. She’ll amble along for a mile or so before she stops, tilts her head, and lifts one paw—this is the way she has always asked to be picked up.
Val Blenio The first time I saw an alpine salamander, we stopped for at least ten minutes or more to watch; when we stood up again, my knees were all dusty from the trail. We were hiking in the Swiss Alps, about two years before Daniele and I adopted our miniature dachshund Tootsie. 51
Renée E. D’Aoust Daniele and I had eloped four months earlier, in a courthouse in Sandpoint, Idaho. (“Only twenty-eight bucks,” we said, in unison.) I’d finally obtained all the official documents I needed to enter Switzerland as a trailing spouse, not just a visitor, or a girlfriend, but a married person. That day, it rained hard in Ticino. The Mediterranean kind that drops buckets for hours, and cleanses your soul. If you are outside hiking, there is baptism: we were soaked. The stone staircases on the north side of Val Blenio were slippery and covered with leaves that had changed colors and fallen. Chestnut burrs were everywhere, some cracked, some still caging the nut. Three hunting hounds howled from their pens, unused to humans hiking during late fall. We stopped in front of a chapel to pay respects to the Madonna; chicken wire stretched across the fresco to protect it from being blessed by birds, but one tiny lizard had slipped through the wire either to dodge the rain or to commune with Jesus’s mom. Daniele and I stepped carefully, because alpine salamanders were everywhere. These creatures often live within a ten-mile radius, so this was not a reunion, but a whole extended family, rather like the enormous Swiss farm houses that house generations of families and cows on the ground floor. Since that hike, I’ve never seen clumps of salamanders but only alpine loners, treading solo for their ten to twenty year life spans. Even more incredible than the small area through which they saunter is a gestation period that lasts two to three years. Tootsie is uninterested in alpine salamanders. She gives them a wide berth, aware, perhaps, of that strip of toxin on their backs. Greina Plateau We’ve been traveling since four a.m.: first train, second train, and bus. Tootsie eats her breakfast kibble at the trailhead; her choppers make slop-smacking sounds. The Swiss-German hikers cluck collectively, admiring our miniature dachshund as they stride by. One jokes: “Lawinenhund!” We have a steep, rocky start, so Daniele carries Tootsie. Her ears flop in rhythm with Daniele’s gait. I kiss her snout as they pass; her doggy breath emits a fine perfume of chicken and potato kibble. After three kilometers, we rise over a hill and claim the view. Tootsie stands, four paws firmly rooted on the ground. She is so little, and the vista is so grand. This landscape looks as if it were created it by Swiss decree: creeks, lakes, meadows, and mountains. Our trail
Renée E. D’Aoust’s memoir-in-essays is Body of a Dancer (Etruscan Press). She teaches online at Casper College and North Idaho College, and she lives in Switzerland with her partner and their dachshund Tootsie. Please visit www.reneedaoust.com
Hope Jordan Rain I remember the night rain poured down the chimney and you came into our bedroom wearing a headlamp and carrying a hockey stick. The mother raccoon and three kits that had taken up residence over the damper above our bedroom fireplace were making noises like small demons. “Time to relocate,” you said as you started banging on the mantel. We later figured that was when the mother grabbed one of the kits and ran up and out the chimney onto the roof, then across and back down into the garage window. We’d seen her do that before. The two remaining kits fell into our cold fireplace and you picked them up and they clung to you like young monkeys. Our friends said it sounded like a children’s book. We spent our first night in that house lying awake in the May moonlight that entered the naked windows, wondering what we’d gotten ourselves into. The post-and-beam bones of the house had been hidden under layers of shoddy construction, sheets of plywood sandwiched with mouse droppings, old and new. You found something rolled tight as a cigar in one of the old beams, and it turned out to be three prints of the same 19th-century photograph, a bearded man sitting in a chair with a large dog at his feet. The wallpaper in our son’s room featured sepia horses on an off-white background, and in my dreams I heard them breathing. One morning we woke up early to find three Haflingers in our back yard, eating the hay we’d spread over the new grass seed. The night of the torrential rain, you wore a bicycle helmet in case the mother raccoon decided to attack you. People thought we were crazy to live so far north. When your uncle drove up, he asked if we were in Canada yet. Your mother said it reminded her of the old country, especially the neighbor’s chickens. She loved going with us to buy eggs from Frank and Allison. She told us how the gypsies had once stolen her family’s chickens, and how her sister hid in a baking oven when the soldiers came to their village. Your sister fell asleep on our couch in the middle of the day, when she was in the thick of her second divorce. Our newlywed friends said their baby had never slept through the night, until they stayed over at our house. Did they think we lived a more peaceful life? Now I wonder if they saw the chaos underneath. The nights I paced the road in front of the house, waiting for you to come home. Remember that early morning, drenched in rain, when the kids and I watched as you nudged the mother raccoon into the small coop where we’d once kept young chickens of our own? It seemed that we were moving underwater, all the way south in the Volvo on the dark highway to the conservation land on the other side of town. We let the raccoon family loose in the early dawn. The rain was clearing up by then and the woods looked raw, primeval. You remember the way the rain soaked through the old roof, the three layers of shingles the former owners had kept piling on. You remember the way the rain damaged the new sheetrock. You remember how the baby raccoons snarled. Your mother and uncle told the same 53
Hope Jordan old-country stories even in the lavish new homes of their suburban sisters. One afternoon, driving around our town, you said, “It would never occur to me to put bunting on anything.” I drove by our old house last year. It was October, a year after we sold it and moved away to different lives. Frank had died. Frank, who had walked the dogs with us as the March snow softened, who didn’t mind being a third wheel, who’d been more of a brother to us than anyone in our own families. I sat with Allison on their deck and we watched the chickens run around the yard and there was Frank’s old rooster, bedraggled, but strutting, still tormenting the hens. The chickens ran across the road into the yard that had once been ours, and I could see the orange berries of the bittersweet vines we’d once dug out of the lilacs and cleared from the apple trees. The apple trees had always been ancient; now they seemed like they were dying. There’s nothing remarkable here. Young people get married, have children, leave the city
Charity Winters Last Convoy Out We rolled across the Lone Star State in up-armored trucks. After weeks of MRES we were salivating for ice cream and over ran a Dairy Queen. Accustomed to ballistic bulk we remained like turtles burdened with vests, helmets, canteens, chem lights, holsters, ammunition, and med packs. At the door we kicked the dust from our boots before mincing in on blistered feet that were about to cross another beach without an ocean. There, like here, freezers chilled what warm breath rots — let finale be not what it seems, but what it is when cracked lips sink into the curled tips of soft serve while bodies stretch across space or room and time melts mouthfuls scooped with red plastic spoons. Charity Winters is a 2003 graduate of the United States Air Force Academy, three time Iraq War veteran, and freelance writer. Her work has appeared in Proceedings, Leatherneck, Scintilla, The Red Mud Review, Lutheran Digest, The Report, Free State Review, Roundtable, O’Dark Thirty, and “Proud to Be: Writing by American Warriors Vols 2, 4, 5 and 6.
Ed Scannell The Welcome Lady In the summer of 1971 I was doing ironwork on a high rise building that was to be a home for the aged in Jefferson City, Missouri. We could see the State Capital’s dome while we were toting and tying in the reinforcing steel for the concrete. One night, after I finished drinking a six-pack of beer and working on a poem, I walked up Capital Hill. When I got there a young girl, with dark hair that reached down over her shoulders and a flowered dress that reached to her ankles, called to me. “Hi! Hey, could you open this for me?” “Sure,” I called back and walked over to where she and a young boy, with long hair like mine, were standing. “It’s stuck,” she said and handed a small round box to me. “The holes are supposed to line up.” I tried to twist it but it wouldn’t budge so I took out my pocket knife and opened it. It was kind of big and I heard her make a girl sound. I aligned the holes and handed it back. “Thanks a lot,” she said. She shook out some white powder in the hollow of her hand between the thumb and index finger. “Is it cocaine?” I asked. “No. It’s snuff, Winter green snuff. Like candy. Can you dig it?” She snorted the stuff in one nostril and then did the same with the other. She gave the box back to me. I did as she had. “It’s refreshing,” I said. “Thought you’d like it. Hey I have some good hash coming soon. Want to join us?” She indicated the silent boy. I nodded yes and said, “Sure is a nice way to welcome a stranger to town.” “I’m the Welcome Lady,” she said and smiled at me. Her teeth were perfect and her dark eyes danced. The three of us walked over and sat on a low wall that curved around the Capitol Building. Some more young people started to gather around. They called to her and she called back. It was clear that she was their leader. I felt like an old man at twenty-six. Soon a psychedelic Volkswagon bus pulled up on the circle drive. “There’s my man,” she said. I walked over with her. A small procession followed us. She bought the hash from a red-headed kid and we walked back and sat on the wall. She 55
Ed Scannell got out her little pipe of brass and wood. “This is a Capital offense,” I said. “Yeah,” she said and smiled that wonderful smile. After we smoked for a while and things mellowed out, she said, “Let’s go look at the river.” “Sounds good,” I said and followed her around the wall to a spot where we could sit and look down through the trees at the wide Missouri. “What’s your name?” I asked her. “Debbie Echo-Hawk,” she said. “It’s an Indian name. In my language it is a hawk that flies over mountains and canyons and the movement of its wings creates an echo.” “That’s really something,” I said. “Yeah, she said. “I don’t want to know your name, man. I want you to be a mystery.” Then she spread her arms like wings and waved them slowly. She moved closer to me. “I’m glad you’re here,” she said and touched my cheek. “You’re so young,” I said. “I’m eighteen.” She smiled that smile again. “That’s young,” I said. She frowned. Maybe I should have tried to hold her but I didn’t and after a while we went back around the wall and smoked some more hash and looked up at the big lit-up dome of government. Flying things winged in random arcs and we couldn’t tell whether they were birds deceived into believing it was day or bats knowing the sun was long gone despite the unrelenting light against the beating wings of darkness and light. A little later I went back to the motel and got my car and came back and gave her a ride home. Her parents’ house was back in some trees on a winding gravel drive and was split level with a huge wooden deck. She leaned over and kissed me on the cheek and said, “Have a good life,” before she got out. “Thank you, Welcome Lady,” I said. “You’re more than welcome.” 56
Ed Scannell I drove away and felt confused about what I should have done but supposed I should feel good. So I did. Ed Scannell is a retired iron worker, and disabled veteran. Heâ€™s had a short story published in the Arlington Quarterly, poems published in Back Door, Ironworkers Magazine, and a book of short stories and poems with Robert Earleywine published by The Hill, a Fine Arts Center in Joliet, IL, titled In the Big Skyâ€™s Mouth. He recently had two poems published in Tales from the Construction Site. Currently, he is working on a novel.
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Mathieu Cailler Parole After an hour bus ride from the halfway house to West Des Moines, I unload from the back, shuffle by other passengers who have no idea where I’ve been and what I’ve done. There’s even this little girl, maybe nine, with dark skin and bright teeth that reminds me of my little sister around that age. The girl smiles at me as I pass through the aisle carrying nothing but gloves and a little spending cash for the ride back “home” in a few hours. I’m encouraged by the girl’s grin, like maybe I got a shot at being free—and not just in the literal sense. According to my calculations, he lives about a mile into town, which is a lot for me, a seventy-one-year-old man with a weak heart, but it’s been decades since I’ve been able to walk in any direction I choose for more than a minute, so I don’t mind. One foot in front of the other. One plodding step at a time. What’s the next step here? Do I try and find myself a little job? Something easy? If there are any spots that are hiring an elderly convict, I’m not so sure I want to work there. I mean if I’m a catch—how bad are the other applicants? I don’t want to upset him with this drop-in. Hell, even in my free days, I hated the drop-in. People at the door, ringing the bell, and all of sudden, you’re fetching cake and pulling out chairs and brewing pots of coffee. I always thought of my welcome mat as sarcastic. No, all I want to do is look at him. I went to prison when I was thirty-one, and my then girlfriend, Carrie, was pregnant with him. I never got to meet my boy. I never got to hold or smell him. He never visited, and that made sense—a boy should worry about girls and motorcycles, not have to visit his old man in a building meshed of concrete and steel. I plan to ring his doorbell and ask to see Mr. Larin. (That was the name of my woodshop teacher in high school, and I like the sound of it.) I hope my boy will answer the door, but if he doesn’t, maybe his wife will and, while she’s explaining that I’m not at the right residence, he’ll come up and see what’s going on. I’ll try to keep the conversation going for a bit, say things like, “Do you know where Mr. Larin lives?” and “Did he used to live here?” With all my questions, I could possibly keep them on the stoop for a couple minutes. They might—my boy might—be very friendly, too. He might invite me in to use the phone and get out some pie and Sanka. Do people still drink Sanka? I hope the apple falls far from the tree, though, and when I pass by, he’s out with his family on the porch, running a paring knife though a pumpkin’s toothy smile, doing whatever it takes to make his kids laugh. I wrote him letters when I was away. Always a nickname guy, I called him Baby Lou in every one. He never responded, though. In fact, I bet Carrie intercepted my notes, and I don’t blame her. I’ve let it all pass, forgiven everyone, with the hope that they would forgive me. Carrie wrote me a few times, mostly to tell me to leave her and Louis alone— that I was a sperm donor, never his pop, and that his new dad was putting in the hard miles: taking him to school, packing his lunch, and teaching him how to change tires. She was right. I was man far away, in Fort Dodge, who took Bible class twice a week just so God wouldn’t shut the door on me. Sometimes, too, on Tuesdays, I’d take a crafts class. There, we build things out of papier-mâché, little sculptures, and all I could think of was how my life was like a wet strip that had never had the time to harden. 59
Mathieu Cailler When I reach Beechtree Drive, the street’s not quiet and domestic the way I thought it’d be on a Saturday morning. It’s humming with cars and passersby, carrying brown boxes and t-shirts and bowls and picture frames. I grab my scrap of paper and check the address. It’s the correct house. A sign that reads ESTATE SALE hangs from the roofline near the front door. The house is big, two-stories tall, painted a creamy white with olive-drenched shutters. There are six blue-spruce trees in the front yard, all the same distance from each other. Even though it’s chilly out, the front door is wide open and a man, a worker in a red vest, nods as I pass the threshold. All these people are stomping along the hardwood floors, unsure of what they’re searching for, hoping that a mug and a throw rug will make their Saturday better. The house has a warm smell to it, like someone has boiled cinnamon sticks. In the foyer, the scent is strong, but it dissipates as I wind towards the living room and stare at a painting over the fireplace of a boat tracing across the sea, its sail full. “A beauty, right?” a woman with a tight face and loose curls says. She also has on a red vest and appears to be working the sale. “Yes,” I say. “Who painted it?” “It’s a Winslow Homer print.” “Nice,” I say. “You can almost feel the wind and the ocean’s spray, right?” “I know.” “Where’s the owner of the home?” I ask. “Is he moving or something?” “I think he passed away.” “What?” I say. The woman taps a co-worker who happens to pass by, carrying a stack of dishes. “The man who owned this home is dead, right?” she says. The man nods. “Yeah, a couple weeks ago. A heart attack at forty.” I rub my face and feel as though a crack has split around my chest, allowing cold air to seep through and burn the sides of my heart and lungs. This day has kept me going for so long, and I made it, finally, to his home, my shoes aligned on the carpeting where his feet very well could have stood weeks prior. A flare of pain shoots across my rib cage. I clutch my chest, grab hold of the mantle, and count backwards from ten. “Sir? Sir? Are you okay?” the man says. I gather myself and assure them I’m all right. “And his family?” I say. “Think he was a lone wolf,” the man says. “This whole thing was all set up by his accountant. He did well for himself, though. I mean this is one nice place, right?” “Yeah,” I say. “It’s something.” I move about the floor plan. One of the rooms is getting little attention as most of the goodies have been cleared out, so I tuck inside what seems to be my boy’s old office. There’s wood paneling on the walls, a large bureau in the center, and a closet off to the side stuffed with bowling trophies that signify a perfect game, first prize in a league tournament, and another for third place in a county championship. I never cared much for bowling—any activity you can manage with a cigarette in your mouth hardly seems like a sport—and I know his mother hated it—she often said it ruined her manicures—so I wonder where the love came from, and I wonder how many other loves I missed out on. A turquoise ball covered with purple swirls rests on the floor, glittering in the soft light that wends through the far window. I brush the ball’s smooth surface with my palm. 60
Mathieu Cailler I was lying earlier when I mentioned the Mr. Larin story. Sure, that was the plan, but if things went to plan, I never would have been incarcerated. I was really hoping that when I rang the bell, Baby Lou would recognize me in some capacity. I wanted something gooey, you know? When you share a cell for forty years, a man finds himself in need of something like that. I head into the backyard where a group of people are examining a barbeque. One man lifts the lid, pretends to flip burgers and laughs, while his what-seems-to-be wife howls with laughter, then lets out, “Oh, Leroy! You’re a hoot.” I take a seat in an outdoor chair on the deck, and when a worker—the guy who confirmed Lou’s passing—comes by and asks me if I need help, I tell him that I’m testing out the chair. That seems to appease him and he leaves me alone and files to the far end of the backyard, positioning himself in front of a detached garage, where the door has been lifted and showcases a car that’s tucked under a brown cover. He stands near the vehicle, smoking a cigar in perfect rhythm—a puff, an exhale, a flick; a puff, an exhale, a flick. After the man finishes his stogie, he scans the area and tosses the butt far behind the garage. A short customer approaches the estate-sale worker and speaks in a loud voice, “So I’ll do what I can to convince my wife and hopefully be back here in a few hours with my good ol’ checkbook.” The worker nods, chuckles, extends his hand, and the two men shake on it. “You got it. I’ll take the cover off now, and store it and the other necessary materials in the trunk,” the worker says. “All right. I like your style,” the man says. “Positive thinking.” The man turns away and the worker begins peeling the car cover off the vehicle. As he works, it becomes clear that the car is facing forward, pointing directly out into the long, flat driveway. I can’t help but wonder if the estate-sale crew did that, or if Lou was skilled enough to back his ride up all that way and tuck his expensive car into the tiny garage, but I’m impressed nonetheless. The worker plucks the cover off the front bumper, giving way to a shimmering, silver Porsche convertible with a black, cloth top. It’s not the car that gets my attention— sure, it’s beautiful, in seemingly immaculate condition, and picturing my boy driving around his manicured neighborhood in this drop-top is an image I’ll love as long I can— no, what grabs hold of me and won’t let go, is the white license plate that dangles from the front bumper, like a loose buck tooth. I am far enough away that I need to squint, but with my eyes narrowed, it’s clear: My boy had elected to buy a vanity plate which allowed seven characters that he’d used to spell out BABYLOU. I push myself off the rickety chair and shuffle across the grass to the garage, feeling a tingle in my spine and sharp heat in the corners of my eyes. The worker nods as I approach, and I smile back. “A beauty, right? Only 13,000 miles, too,” he says. “I thought we’d sold it the other day, so I had her resting under the cover, but the buyer just called a little while ago and said he didn’t want it, so it’s back!” I crouch to my knees and run my hand over the raised lettering on the front license plate, tracing the voluptuous curves of the B and the sharp lines of the L. “Baby Lou,” I say. “Weird, right?” the worker says. “The new owner—whoever it is—will have to get ‘em changed anyway, so it doesn’t matter…” “I hear ya.” “Are you in the market?” “Maybe.” 61
Mathieu Cailler “It’s a stunning car. A five-speed, inline six, good amount of horses and new tires.” “You don’t know a thing about cars, do you?” I say. “Is it that obvious?” the worker says, biting his bottom lip. “Good amount of horses gave you away. Can I take it for a spin?” “Sure, I just need your driver’s license. I’m not allowed to go with you, because my boss won’t let us leave the grounds, but you can take it around the block and stuff.” “Oh, I see. Well, I don’t have a license.” “Really?” “Yeah.” “Don’t drive anymore?” “No, I shot a store clerk at a liquor store forty years ago. Never got around to renewing it.” The worker’s eyes open wide and he inspects my lips, cheeks, and nose, as though he is going to bring out a pad and sketch me. Then he grabs his fish-bowl belly and laughs. “Good one,” he says. “I shot a man in Reno once—just to watch him die.” “Looks like we’re one and the same then,” I say. The worker sucks his teeth then says, “But, yeah, if you don’t have a license, I can’t let you take the car.” “Fair enough. Can I at least sit in it?” “Of course. Your shoes clean?” I nod, open the driver’s-side door, and plop into the leather bucket seat that wraps my thighs and supports my spine in a simultaneously firm-and-soft way. A warm combination of coffee, maybe some cinnamon, stays with me in the cabin, and with each inhale, I suck the bitter scent into my nostrils, savoring the flavor, almost tasting it as it collides with my tongue. I depress the clutch and slide the shifter from first to second, then from third to fourth, and up into fifth. The worker bends down to the level of the open passenger-side window. “Looks good on you,” he says. “Like you’ve been here before.” The world is thick with quiet, like I’m deep underwater; young, free. In this moment, I hadn’t gotten drunk on March 1st, 1983; I hadn’t had a fight with Carrie about the rent and how I couldn’t pull my weight; I hadn’t wandered down the road and brought my pistol. I hadn’t gotten scared and fired a round into the chest of the young clerk behind the counter for a measly forty-six dollars. At the end of your life if you’ve had a total of ten hours of sheer, unbridled joy then you’ve done something right. All I want now is to collect some hours, so that when the lights go black, I’ll know I’ve kissed a woman, hummed some tunes, and spent some time in whatever way possible with my son. With the car key glinting on the dashboard, I take hold of my chest and begin to gasp, shake, and flicker my eyes. “Help,” I whisper. The worker peeks back inside, and when I see I have him, I crank up the intensity: I let my eyes roll back and rip open my shirt, causing a button to pop off and tap against the windshield. “Go get my wife,” I say. “She has what I need! Please! Hurry! Her name is Barbara.” The worker says a few jumbled words and darts from the garage, his feet banging on the polished asphalt floor, then the gravel, and then the grass. I sit up, straighten my shirt, grab the key with the rabbit’s-foot chain from the dash, and jam it 62
Mathieu Cailler into the ignition. A roar comes up and surrounds the car, echoing in the tiny one-car garage. The attendees of the estate sale all turn around in unison, their eyes lining up on the sliver Porsche that rattles in its cage with plumes of exhaust pushing from its pipes and coiling around its frame. I tear out of the driveway, let first gear redline around six-thousand, and am swinging into the road by the time I pull the shifter into second. My back’s alive with cylindrical reverberations, and I can’t hear anything but the push of the engine. Alongside the car, hedges, mailboxes, and picket fences blur into one gorgeous swath. I keep my feet hard on the pedals and my hands tight on the steering wheel, where me and my boy’s fingerprints get to live with each other for at least a half a tank.
Mathieu Cailler is an award-wining author, whose poetry and prose have been widely featured in numerous national and international publications, including the Los Angeles Times and The Saturday Evening Post. A graduate of the Vermont College of Fine Arts, he is the winner of a Short Story America Prize and a Shakespeare Award. He is the author of the short-story collection, Loss Angeles (Short Story America Press), which has been honored by the Hollywood, New York, London, Paris, Best Book, and International Book Awards; the poetry collection, May I Have This Dance? (About Editions), winner of the 2017 New England Book Festival Poetry Prize; and the children’s book, The (Underappreciated) Life of Humphrey Hawley (About Editions), which has been nominated for the Caldecott Medal and the Newbery Award, among other notable prizes.
Josip Novakovich STRANGERS We have friends in our lives, perhaps enemies as well, but we certainly also have strangers. Sometimes years later I suddenly think about a stranger and wonder, How is that person doing? A few months ago, a friend of mine introduced me to a young Pakistani in the Montreal metro. I ran into her randomly, and she was talking to this self-confident man. He wondered where the good music spots were in the city. I thought, and really, you have to accost a good looking woman to ask her about that? He introduced himself, and asked, Govorite po ruski? His Russian was amazingly good, way better than mine. Where have you learned it? I asked. At home, in Pakistan. I just loved Russian literature and kept reading it. I read almost everything Tolstoy wrote in Russian. What brings you to Montreal? I have a few days off before my program starts. What’s your program? Medicine, at Columbia. What do you want to specialize in? It’s early to talk about that, but probably cardiology. Why Montreal? I love languages. Came over to hear some French but I don’t understand anything. OK, here’s my stop, I said. I had to leave the metro coach. Have a good life, he said. You too, have a good life, I said. We shook hands and I left. I thought, well this was pleasant. Some people are impressive. I liked it that my initial reaction was inaccurate, that I didn’t expect much of this man, and then, he turned out to be so impressive. But then, what do I know? Does he really study at Columbia? How do I know he’s not actually let’s say from Kyrgistan or some other former Soviet Republic or Russia for that matter, and that’s why his Russian is so good? Anything is possible, but most likely he was telling the truth and was simply an impressive stranger, whose name I never caught. And then, why didn’t we go on? We are doomed to remain strangers although we had much in common. As a provincial, coming from a little town where everybody seemed to know everybody or at least too much about everybody, a complete stranger was a wonderful concept. In Zagreb, when I was about 14, I met two guys from India, who lived in an attic in Vlaska near Draskoviceva. They studied medicine. They were happy, funny, had white teeth, and offered me powerful tea. I don’t remember much more, but when I mentioned them to one of my relatives, he said, But they are like gypsies. Why talk to them? They probably steal. I was disturbed by that. Come on! They are smart people. In Russia, I encountered the same kind of chauvinism toward India. Pharmacists wouldn’t sell me medicine made in India. And I said, But why? Probably half of Bayer chemical engineers are from India. They are the best engineers in the world. And the shop assistants looked me like I was raving mad. I was taught not to talk to strangers—it seemed most of us in Croatia were. In the States, when I was 18, during my first visit, I experienced liberation. I’d go to the Public Square in Cleveland, and would find a stranger, and say, Do you mind if we converse a little? I would like to practice my English. Sometimes people laughed and indulged me, sometimes they looked at me like I was insane. At the time I drank Coca-Cola and no beer or wine. A man 64
Josip Novakovich with a long hair and beard said, Let me warn you against Coca Cola. When you go home, put an iron nail into it, and look for it a month later. You won’t find it. Coke will dissolve it into nothing. Just imagine what it does to you. Coca Cola for a long time was a symbol of America, and that it was so poisonous, of course, is symbolic. And then there are acquaintances who remain strangers. Here’s one: Marina Novozilova. I met her a long time ago in St. Petersburg, when she ran the library either for the British Council or the American corner. She had a strange charisma about her, black hair and kind of radiant blue eyes, positively something other-world about her eyes, as though she were a character in a science fiction movie. We stood in front of Nevsky metro, a very busy intersection, and she gave me her email address. I put it in my pocket. She left and I was elated. Pretty soon, four guys jostled me, from different directions. I felt something in my pocket and pushed a guy’s hand away. I stood at the curb and checked for my wallet. It was gone. I ran to the hotel and cancelled all the credit cards. Just as I was done with that, two strangers, a couple, appeared at the hotel. They said, are you Josip Novakovic? How would you know that, I said. That’s strange, and they replied, We picked up your wallet. We saw you standing on the curb and feeling your pockets. But as you reached down, you actually knocked off your wallet, which was sticking half way up. So here it is. I had fifty dollars in the wallet. I’d like to give you at least the fifty dollars, I said. Oh no, we don’t want it. We are happy with the good karma. Maybe someone one will help us like this one day. That’s better. They smiled, and left. They were truly inspiring. And then I had to think, did I actually already pull the wallet partly out when I put Marina’s email address into the pocket? Or did those four guys try to pick-pocket? I guess I’ll never know the answer, and I won’t know who these two good people were. But about Marina I know. We exchanged a couple of emails. Then last year, I thought, who do I know in St. Petersburg. Well, quite a few people, but I thought of getting in touch with them as I was tempted to take a trip to Russia, while staying in Bulgaria for a few months. The flights were cheap. I could be there for $150 round trip. In Sofia, I was tempted to get a Russian visa. I lived around the corner from a huge Russian center. Anyway, I wrote to Marina, and she said, Yes, wonderful, let’s meet up when you visit. How has life been this last decade for you? She said, Up and down. I am spending too much money on doctors and medications. I will tell you in person. Just come and visit. We corresponded back and forth. She was curious about Bulgaria and Croatia but said it was too complicated to get a travel visa and time off her work. Two months after our flurry of correspondence, before my departure for Canada, I checked her page again. There were all kinds of wishes for a better life in heaven. Her picture is still there—she is sitting in a steeple of a tall church tower, her elbows on the ledge looking out of the window. The picture is a bit spooky as there’s a sensation of longing in it, longing for a flight of freedom. And she jumped out of her apartment window, from the ninth floor, down to the pavement. It was a few months after I had planned my visit and I never visited Russia again. She suffered from a deep depression. In person she could be scintillating and charming. But she was either unhappy or chemically disturbed. She did take medicine to keep her balance. It seemed it was hard for her to keep her balance in a window—the downward pull got her. Well, I must say, I don’t know much about her. She 65
Josip Novakovich has remained a stranger. Her death made her somehow for a few days a friend, whom I grieved. But I never knew her, only the tragic outline of her biography. She was in her mid-thirties, living alone. Maybe she’d never been able to get along with anybody despite being intelligent and well-read, and obviously should couldn’t get along with herself. I do wish I had had a chance to talk with her. I feel a bit guilty I haven’t. Next time, if I meet a fascinating stranger, I will at least make sure I drink some powerful tea with her. I have no conclusion to offer, except, be kind to strangers. Love your strangers more than your neighbors. Life without strangers, just like life without music, might not be worth living. Josip Novakovich immigrated from Croatia at the age of 20. He has published a dozen books, and most recently a collection of stories, Honey in the Carcase (Dzanc Press), and he’s won several awards including Ingram Merrill and American Book Award.
Essays J. Wayne Shaw Our Common Heritage A heritage is an organically and naturally derived increase that no technological innovation can mass produce. Latin is a prime vehicle for the universal heritage that our culturally disinherited and politically fractured world needs. Such a heritage would help our society progressively revive its capacity for not only dispassionately entertaining opposite viewpoints but for discovering the necessity of opposition in all things. Latin belongs to the Indo-European family of languages. That family ranges from the loftiest latitude of Europe to India via the Middle East. What cultures and languages it does not claim as genetic relation Latin encountered and/or assimilated—and was assimilated into—as a result of the successive expansions of classical and then Christian Rome. The history of that assimilation has beauty and blemish and herein lies its importance to the world today. Human wisdom and human science, Sophocles and Darwin, reveal that life is fleeting intervals of serendipitous revelation and realization, encircled by tragedy and struggling. While there is much of sympathy in the world of letters at the moment for less influential and lesser known literary traditions, what is necessary for the modernite, and precisely what is lacking, is a cultural inheritance that acknowledges the nature of human life, an empathetic literary heritage. Sympathy for literature—or for anything or anyone—is untried acknowledgment proffered by an untried observer. It is disinterested politeness with its degraded counterpart, per the Aristotelian paradigm, politically motivated activism. Quite often the sympathetic study of literature involves the utilization of translations. While introducing oneself to a literary corpus via translation is common and understandable, the choice to exclusively read any piece of literature in other than its original in 66
J. Wayne Shaw perpetuum is a positive refusal to authentically comprehend it. Empathy demands encounter; it is comprehension of the previously dreadful other, which comprehension is born from having a shared trauma. An empathetic literature requires one to undergo its experience, which is to say one must learn its original language and then of its cultural context. One could certainly object at this juncture with the point that literary traditions less influential and lesser known than Latin may just as well be studied in their respective original contexts and therefore, again, what relevance hath Latin? The greater relevance and viability of Latin to today’s world rests to a degree upon the span of its tenure as a native language and in the sheer range of its distribution, geographically and spiritually. To be a sufficiently empathetic literature, and therefore most desirable for investment, a given literary corpus must have the capacity to supply a complimentary tension between demand and reward. Certainly, attempting to learn any language is to take on demand but not every language learnt will simultaneously and subsequently yield an adequate reward. Certainly, no denizen of the Indo-European historical realm, in pursuit of philological and literary empathy, will stand to receive as broad and continuous a reward from any language, apart from the native, as from Latin. Empathetic availability in Latin is provisioned not only by means of its geographical and chronological breadth but primarily through its content. Brute spatial diffusion alone is no substitute for substance. In Latin literature the potential for empathetic encounter ranges across a spectrum of issues and circumstances highly congruent with those of today’s world. Lucretius speaks to the modern penchant for mistrusting organized religions as rackets to keep the masses under the heel of the power hungry. Seneca’s essays will resonate with the spiritually hungry yet institution-wary millennial who longs for a practical means to achieve a personal connection to Providence in the western sense but apart from Christianity. Vergil, functionally the national poet of Rome as a conquering state, offers subtle mistrust of imperial and commercial power balanced against a desire to highlight the potential for good therein if socially oriented considerations were brought to the fore. Ovid via his Heroides bends his mind in an attempt to understand and illustrate the female perspective in an era wherein a legally empowered patriarchy was structurally entrenched. Specifically, those in the present day Indo-European realm struggling to appreciate so rich a condition as theirs when it was built on slavery will note that their circumstance has a counterpart in nearly the entirety of the Latin literary output inasmuch as Greek culture, the font of inspiration for the Romans, was assimilated via indentured servitude. Lest the whole of Latin appear here given over to revolutionary throes and woes, consider its role in the more conservative elements of the story of history. Any well-read Christian knows that St. Augustine, a north African Christian writer second only to St. Paul in influence, used the Latin language to detail how his immersion in Latin literature led him to his encounter with God and conditioned his reception and consequent interpretation of that most significant of books the Bible. Augustine’s medieval disciple, St. Thomas Aquinas, only prolonged the tenure of Christian thought in the realm of Latin. Then, as quickly as Latin left off its classical pagan originators for a new Christian host, so quickly did it depart the faith for a new rationalist agitation. From the fragmentation that was the Reformation flowered the Enlightenment. Both developments were steeped in Latin learning and rich in original Latin productions. From Luther and Calvin to Newton and Locke, Latin, alongside the budding publication of vernaculars, was the vehicle that conveyed social and scientific emancipation to the people. Whether spiritual or empirical, Latin has traversed the entirety of humankind’s societal evolution for the last twenty centuries at least. It needs hardly be said that so great humane lights as Dante, Montaigne, Shakespeare, and Milton produced their contributions, each in their respective vernacular, in close contention with their Latin precedents. 67
J. Wayne Shaw Latin in today’s world, if (re)embraced, would provide the common heritage first to which we are entitled and then in which we could discourse. Vitriolic sentiment would give way to measured expression with the message undiluted. A common Latin literary heritage would elevate points of view presently sullied by rancorous delivery and invite respect even from the opposition. Latin would afford the respect that is the beginning of acceptance by others and by oneself. About the Author J. Wayne Shaw holds a master’s degree in Classics from the University of Arizona. He teaches Latin, Greek and Classics at a nationally ranked charter school. A Navy veteran, Mr. Shaw has lived all over the world; which travels have shaped his perspective. He reads in Biblical Hebrew, ancient Greek, and Latin and explores the reception thereof in the Western literary tradition. When he’s not contemplating imaginative literature, Mr. Shaw can be found at home spending time with family surrounded by books or in his squat rack surrounded by plates.
James H Duncan Giving Stray Poems a New Home We all have them, those backburner stashes of older poems that never quite worked, stray pieces cut from other collections, orphans from other eras of our life that we don’t feel as connected to anymore. These strays can tell us a lot about who we were and how we evolved, even more than the poems that did find homes in magazines and books. What we cull and what gets left on the cutting room floor can reveal so much: emotions we didn’t feel comfortable sharing, work that exposed our technical weaknesses, lines that hinted at greater talents waiting to come forward but were temporarily stuck inside stanzas that definitely absolutely positively sucked. I have plenty of those pieces. I wrote far more poetry in my 20s, sometimes eight or nine poems a night for weeks, months, and years on end. Some were good, some iffy, some were unreadable godawful copycat rubbish, and some simply needed revisions they never received. Every now and then I dip back into that old poetry quarry and dig around to see what I can salvage. I highly suggest it, even just to see how you’ve developed as a writer, but it can become much more fruitful than that. In fact, my latest book of poetry originated this way, and I was a little surprised by how quickly it all came together. As you go through old poems, you’ll probably start to notice patterns, be it stylistic choices or the topics you gravitated toward. I saw a lot of poems that fell into three categories: poems of specific places, about specific people, or about moving around in that void between those things, that space where one thing ends and the next hasn’t quite started, the cracks between the distinct periods in your life. It’s a place that can be equally bitter and wistful, exciting and lonely. As I began organizing the old poems into groups like that, I gravitated toward those poems of “in between,” leaving the rest for other projects (or permanent retirement). Seeing them all compiled in one place revealed the through-line that a book of poetry needs. You may find different themes in yours, a few probably, and as you start shuffling the poems into different “piles” you’ll see which topics are gaining steam and which ones aren’t. 68
James H Duncan Being older and less skillful pieces, I had to strip away a lot of wonky stanzas and re-structure line breaks, chop out huge sections, rewrite entire sequences. Don’t be afraid to cut, chop, and burn away what doesn’t feel right. Even if you pare it down to a single line, you need to trust your gut and rebuild the poem from that one diamond buried in the dirt. While doing this, I also tried to remain true to who I was when I originally wrote the pieces. I put myself back in those old places and feelings, even if that’s not who I am anymore. While I feel I’m a better writer these days, I didn’t want these revised poems to be about me NOW, I wanted to improve upon what I was trying to say THEN. This can be hard to do. Something I had to constantly tell myself was: It’s okay to write poems that do not reflect who you are today. It’s okay to explore old feelings and see what you can learn. Something I learned while doing this was I used to really hold on to the past in a less-than-healthy way. Many poems hinted at a deeper despondency than I remember. I tried to keep those expressions in some pieces, for good or ill, but I rounded out and contextualized those emotions to give depth and reasoning, and to not just leave the raw reactions thrown down slapdash in the middle of the night. To round out the collection, I started to add poems that I published in magazines but not yet in books, as long as they fit the theme of that wandering feeling that takes hold of life when you leave a city or job or relationship behind and you move steadily toward the unknown ahead. And as the little collection neared completion, I wrote a few new ones to fill any perceived “holes” in the collective. This is important for any book, the process of stepping away and seeing it as a whole. There will be gaps and stories you haven’t told, or you may have told a story hundreds of times, but what have you left out? What scent or texture? What else did you see and hear? What happened before the events of this poem, or after the events of that one? Find those gaps and write to them, add context and texture to the collection, so long as you remain true to your themes and feelings in those yesteryear places. It might not reflect who you are now, but it can reveal shades of your journey, and that’s worth exploring. You are multitudes. You evolved. You are allowed to pause and reflect on a time, to look back—or even to write toward and consider the future, consider other point of views or perspectives. But whatever part of your journey you choose to explore, keep pushing the boundaries and plumbing the depths. Don’t find a cozy niche and stay there. Don’t put yourself ashore in a safe cove and scan the same coastline for poem after poem, book after book. This activity of looking back and using the old to create something new was a great experiment, but it also taught me that I don’t want to keep doing that. I have written a couple books like that now and once you do it for a while, you get the strong urge to put the oars in the water and try something different—be it a different theme, a different style, or a different perspective on a different time. I hope you’ll keep that in mind with your own work. Use those strays and old feelings, just never stop reaching for new horizons. James H Duncan is the author of Feral Kingdom, Nights Without Rain, What Lies In Wait, and We Are All Terminal But This Exit Is Mine, among other books of poetry and fiction. He is the editor of Hobo Camp Review and writes reviews of independent bookstores at his blog, The Bookshop Hunter. For more, visit www.jameshduncan.com. 69
Book Reviews Book Review of Edgar Kunz’s Tap Out by: Clifford Brooks Edgar Kunz defies reality while keeping both feet firmly in it. He does the same with gravity, tragedy, and family. This poet writes with piano hands and describes a life rough as the man who named him. Kunz’s debut collection, Tap Out, is an act of a man plucking out old photos, placing them down for us to see, and explaining aloud to no one how they fit into his life. Kunz tells the truth. I admire that most. He doesn’t choke it with melancholy or lather it with the toxic excess of nostalgia. Like in Frank Stanford’s Light the Dead See, there is a mythology in Tap Out. Yet, unlike Stanford’s Arkansas-centered landscape, Kunz takes up into Boston and Baltimore. Tap Out is written on the backs of police reports and restraining orders by a boy who hates and misses his father. The book beats the shit out of you. The names of those around him as his poetic eye, gouged, sharpens to write them down (Ant, Randy, Rico, Craig Mathis, and Wayne) also took me back to Sanford, but not like Sanford. I do not compare them as men or poets, but the elevation they remove me to. The use of names, and a tender-even-when-spitting-at-them, is relatable, familiar, and it puts a face to each poem. Kunz is not a slave to ego. It is not his drive, nor the byproduct of this book, to hone in on him. Tap Out is mythical to me in the sincerity of the shared human condition, but drawn along a terrain made of pilfered construction sites, hotel floors strewn with glass, and a social services office that I (at the same time) want to run from, and stay around gawking with my mouth open. It is impossible to judge this book or the poet. Honesty has a way of preventing judgement. You do not pity him. You do not feel shame. As his father shows up drunk to graduation, as he fights with his friends like life will be better if he won, as he hastily gets married to a young lady that 72
crashes in divorce – you know him. Kunz is earnest about his sexuality, intellect, and ethical moorings. A woman cursing Jesus at the V.F.W. makes an impression, but no more or less than the wrist bone broken through skin during backyard wrestling, cows spray painted with swear words, or the tools used to wash windows. The cover art of Tap Out brings his multi-faceted (rough and lyrical) front-and-center. They are clasped in prayer by and for his father. A hard life of work as a mechanic or poet comes with scars, but scars are not the hallmark of tragedy alone. It is the life of a man, the poet, who sings the blues for his father – who couldn’t hold a tune. Quality is in the page weight, font, depth of ink, form, and delivery. The content, those achingly gorgeous poems are sewn into a hymnal I have carried for a month, and still do, and will continue.
Book Review of Casey Clabough’s The End of the Mountains by: Clifford Brooks The End of the Mountains is an achingly-felt, vibrant true story about a man (Columbus Clabough) forced out of place by time, industry, and war. The tale is told by Columbus’ kin, novelist/researcher/professor Casey Clabough, in a colloquial but erudite fashion that mixes the sharp character development of Charles Dickens’ Oliver Twist with the succinct use of imagery found in Earnest Hemingway’s Old Man and the Sea. Few novellas capture the breadth of life as this one does, drawing in many other lives completely, going forth to and coming from true (and perhaps a tad enhanced) family history. Casey Clabough succeeds in getting on the page a gorgeous-but-often-bloody tapestry of “simple folk” living in the Tennessee Mountains. Nothing about the American South is romanticized, nor is it vilified. Bedeviled by bootleggers floating dead bodies down subterranean rivers, and then given a spiritual reprieve through nearly-forgotten gospel songs – the range of experience is both frightening and inspiring. The author is known for his pain-staking attention to detail and bloodhound ability to sniff out the best/right story. The End of the Mountain is no different. Columbus Clabough did not live to conquer. He thrived alone in the mountains, a part of them and apart from his fellow man. 73
He fell in love, married, and the nature around the newlyweds was haunted by the nature being stripped by unscrupulous men in the logging camps. The reader becomes intimate with preachers, Overhill Cherokee, German soldiers, a British poet, sly hiding tricks of the trapping trade, and a taste of boot camp. Casey Clabough writes the reader in when Civil War veterans were old, but still alive, when new young men were called in to die in World War I. With deceptive ease the story unfolds from a rough-but-robust community spread within, above, and beyond the ridgeline, to its gradual decline as trains brought tourists and took the locals’ innocence. Yet, Casey Clabough does not preach. He tells you a story – a true story. The white man lost out. The Native Americans lost out. Columbus Clabough had no ill will with the Overhill Cherokee. The line between white and black was not seen by the disenfranchised mountain man. Stereotypes are crushed under the boot of one man. A veteran’s story, a child’s story, a love story, and a bitter sweet symphony – The End of the Mountain is a revelation.
Movie Reviews by: Tom Johnson Cliff Brooks and I were talking movies recently and he mentioned a theory he has that three of Terry Gilliam’s movies are not only linked thematically, they deal with the same subject from different points of view. In his opinion (and the author’s apparently) Time Bandits, Brazil, and The Adventures of Baron Von Munchausen are about how we use imagination as a coping mechanism when we are young, middle aged and elderly. It should go without saying but: SPOILERS AHEAD!
Time Bandits (1981) We follow the adventures of a small boy named Kevin. He doesn’t get much attention from his parents because of their addiction to consumerism and their competition with the neighbors. Kevin craves interaction. He tries to escape the boredom of his everyday existence through history books and his imagination. One day, his dreams come true. He learns that his closet contains a wormhole after a knight on horseback rides through his room. Kevin sees this as his chance for adventure, so he prepares a go bag for the next night. To his surprise, a motley group of little people or “time bandits” come through the portal instead. They have been helping God a.k.a “The Supreme Being” since the beginning of time and are tired of it. They made their escape and plan to go from time period to time period looting treasure as they go. Before they left God’s employ, they stole a map that would allow them to hop from time to time and place to place via wormholes like the one in Kevin’s room. Kevin is unsure whether or not to go with them until the massive face of God chases them into the portal, trying to retrieve the map of creation. Unfortunately for the group of adventurers, God is not the only one who wants the map. The personification of Evil is following their travels closely because he wants to steal the map so he can remake the universe in his image. With Kevin’s help, the bandits visit everything from the napoleonic wars and age of legends to the sinking of the Titanic. Evil manages to lure the bandits to his fortress and takes the map from Kevin. The bandits escape, leaving Kevin to confront Evil but they return with warriors from history to fight by their side. Evil easily overwhelms the warriors but is then destroyed when God appears from a cloud of smoke. He explains how he allowed the bandits to escape with the map as a test of his creation. He gives them their jobs back and Kevin wakes up in his bed surrounded 75
by smoke. Apparently, the new oven that his parents bought in the beginning of the movie has started a fire. Kevin’s parents reach for a piece of charcoal they find inside the defective oven but Kevin tries to stop them. He recognizes the charcoal as a chunk of Evil but his parents don’t listen and are blown away, leaving only their shoes. The camera then zooms out and you see God calmly rolling up his map containing all of existence. Time Bandits is rife with symbolism and it can be taken many different ways. Some say that the entire adventure up to the fire was in Kevin’s head and everything after he woke up in his bed was reality. His way of dealing with his negligent, inattentive parents is to “get lost” in his history books. So, he imagined that he was surrounded by friends who valued him and needed his input to successfully navigate various interesting challenges. The only flaw in this theory is when he wakes up in the real world, he still has the polaroid pictures he took on his adventures through time. I think the parts before and after he wakes up are all pieces of a larger wrap around story. It would make more sense that everything, including the fire and his parents destruction are in Kevin’s imagination. At some point when we are kids, everyone imagines their parents getting “what they deserve” and this whole movie was Kevin’s wish fulfillment fantasy. If so, it means Kevin is “The Supreme Being” because he has created the story we just watched and when it is over, he rolls up the map of his creation.
Brazil (1985) Brazil is a dark comedy that draws inspiration from Fellini movies and 1984 by George Orwell. It deals with a dystopian future completely taken over by beurachracy. It has a few funny bits but if you ever stop to think about the themes, expect to come away depressed. Sam Lowry is a low level bureaucrat, stuck in a dead end job working for a bloated, inefficient government that he hates. The only moments of freedom he has are in his fantasies where he is a winged warrior flying to the aid of the woman of his dreams (literally). A typo on a form soon changes his life because instead of imprisoning a suspected terrorist named Tuttle, a cobbler named Buttle is captured and killed. Sam is given the job of fixing the error. While visiting with Buttle’s widow, Sam encounters her neighbor Jill, who looks exactly like the woman from his dreams. That night Sam’s A\C goes out and of course, Central Services won’t do anything about it without reams of paperwork and red tape. Sam is shocked when Tuttle, a renegade A/C tech and possible terrorist, shows up to fix his problem. Shortly after his arrival, the beurachracy unexpectedly sends two authorized techs to do the job. Sam is forced to turn them away to protect Tuttle. In retaliation, the techs later demolish his ducts and confiscate his apartment. 76
Sam learns that Jill is in danger because Central thinks she is a terrorist so he puts in for a position with the Information Retrieval Department. There, he reads her file, submits the forms to fake her death and finds her in time to share a romantic evening until they are both caught by the Ministry. They are accused of treason and while his torture session is being prepared, Sam is told that Jill was killed. Sam is then rescued by the resistance, blows up the Ministry building, goes on the run from police and monsters until he finds himself in a vehicle with Jill driving to safety. Unfortunately, everything after the torture was a fantasy because Sam had been lobotomized but he seems much happier. Unlike the hero in Time Bandits who escapes into his own head, Sam is only content when his brain is essentially turned off. He is left to fantasize about a simple, uncomplicated life with the woman he loves. One with no responsibilities or restrictions. This could be a comparison to how many adults try to find happiness by “turning off” their brains with TV, alcohol, video games, the internet or reading magazines articles.
The Adventures of Baron Von Munchausen (1988) This film may be the most surreal of the trinity and that’s saying something. The movie starts off with a play in progress based upon the adventures of Baron Munchausen. Everything goes smoothly until an elderly man interrupts the show and informs the audience that the play is all lies because he is the true Baron Munchausen. Then he launches into his own story which includes his larger than life companions Albrecht (Super Strength), Berthold (Super Speed), Adolphus (Marksman with super vision), and Gustavus (Super hearing and breath). His retelling is interrupted by gunfire from the turkish army attacking the city gates. The play is canceled and the baron goes backstage. He is attacked by Death but Sally Salt saves him and convinces him to live on. The baron decides to save the city and sets off over the city walls in a hot air balloon made from women’s underwear with Sally in tow. During his new adventure, the baron assembles his team of friends, travels to the moon and angers its king, travels into a volcano and angers Vulcan (The Roman god of fire) and escapes a giant sea monster using tobacco. Throughout all of this, the baron is evading the Angel of Death and is alternately seen as an old man and a young man then back again. Once the baron’s group returns to the walled city, his companions claim to be too old to fight, so the baron surrenders himself to the enemy. Through various heroic and impossible feats, his friends save him and liberate the city. But the baron can evade the Angel of Death no more and he dies. After his funeral, the scene ends and you see that the baron is still standing in front of the audience from the beginning. He tells them that the preceding story was “only one of the many occasions on which I met my death”. 77
The baron is an entertainer and the worldâ€™s greatest liar but at some point he and his friends really were great heroes. As with many elderly people, some of their greatest accomplishments are behind them so they tell stories. They fix mistakes and alter details to cope with failures. They use their imagination to fill in the blanks so they can relive the most important moments in their lives. If you spend much time with elderly family members then Iâ€™m sure you have heard completely different versions of the same story but it doesnâ€™t make the underlying accomplishments any less true.
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VISUAL ARTS INTERVIEWS
Mario Loprete by: Alecia Vera
1968 Graduate of Accademia of Belle Arti , Catanzaro, Italy “I live in a world that I shape at my liking, throughout a virtual pictorial and sculptural movement, transferring my experiences, photographing reality throughout my filters, refined from years research and experimentation. Painting for me is the first love. An important, pure love. Creating a painting, starting from the spasmodic research of a concept with which I want to send a message to transmit my message, it’s the base of my painting. The sculpture is my lover, my artistic betrayal to the painting. That voluptuous and sensual lover that gives me different emotions, that touches prohibited cords… The new series of works on concrete it’s the one that is giving me more personal and professional satisfactions. How was it born? It was the result of an important investigation of *Work on previous page by Ashley Hamilton 82
my work, the research of that “quid” that i felt was missing. Looking at my work in the past ten years I understood that there was the semantics and semiotics in my visual speech, but the right support to valorize the message was not there. The reinforced cement, the concrete, was created by two thousand years ago by the Romans. It has a millenary story, made of amphitheaters, bridges and roads that have conquered the ancient and modern world. Now it’s a synonym of modernity. Everywhere you go and you find a concrete wall, there’s the modern man in there. From Sidney to Vancouver, from Oslo to Pretoria, the reinforced cement it’s present and consequently the support where the “writers” can express themselves it’s present. The successive passage was obvious for me. If man brought art on the streets in order to make it accessible to everyone, why not bring the urban in galleries and museums? It was the winning step to the continuous evolutionary process of my work in that “quid” that I was talking about before and that is what is making me expose in prestigious places and is making me be requested from important collectors. When the painting has completely dried off, I brush it with a particular that not
“The sculpture is my lover, my artistic betrayal to the painting.”
only manages to unite every color and shade, but it also gives to the art work the shininess and lucidity that the poster ,that each and every one of us had hanging on the wall, has. For my Concrete Sculptures I use my personal clothing. Throughout some artistical process, in which I use plaster, resin and cement, I transform them in artworks to hang. My memory, my DNA, my memories remain concreted inside, transforming the person that looks at the artworks a type of post-modern archeologist that studies my work as they were urban artifacts. In the past few years, i freed myself from all of the work relationships with galleries that I collaborated with. I think that my work has reached the maturity to covet and to be represented from an important gallery and I would like to use your art project in order to make it be known to who sees this in my project.”
Mario Loprete Upcoming Solo Exhibitions: August 29 – October 31 Manni Art Gallery in Venice, Italy November 19 – December 31 Biblioteeke Hilversum, in Hilversum ,Netherlands April 2020 – April 2021 Zylinderhaus Museum in Bernkastel-Kues , Germany
Ashley Hamilton by: Alecia Vera
2014 Graduate of The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga Ashley, can you tell us a bit about yourself? Where you are from, your education, etc.
I am originally from Nashville, TN - but I’ve called Chattanooga home for the past 10 years. I began my art education at Nashville School of the Arts and received my BFA in painting and drawing from UTC. I also spent a year studying abroad at Queensland College of Art in Brisbane, Australia, where I focused on printmaking and installation. You work is very methodical. Can you describe your process and what that really includes?
My process is messy and unorganized, involving multiple layers of paint and many emotions. In my past I had a pretty clear process, but over time it has become more complex. Sometimes I make very simple, one-layer paintings and other times it involves a deep excavation through 15 layers of paint. Most recently I’d say my process is more like the latter: I have hundreds of paintings in my studio of all sizes, and after they’ve been crowding my space for too long, i’ll take about 20-30 of them and cover them with white paint, only leaving glimpses of the past painting. I’ll continue adding paint layers of text, signs and symbols with personal meaning, and general splotches of color - and eventually peel back the paint to reveal it’s history. Sometimes i’ll go back in and add trance-like mark-making - an obsessive trait many of my paintings carry that “holds them together” in my head, and also part of my “repetition compulsion.” I paint very manically and obsessively - nothing is 85
planned; it all comes back to how I’m feeling that day. I think of my process as a “residue of a manic performance.” I have been following you long enough to know that Marks of Humanity are a huge inspiration, can you describe that more in detail?
“Marks of Humanity” is a long-term project of mine where I photograph and document what I consider accidental “paintings” or mark-making from humans on the streets. It could be a covered up sign, an accidental sculpture of colorful trash, or an interesting line “drawing” in concrete. Here is a short statement about that project: The root of my aesthetic interests lie in the streets. A covered up sign, questioning its own existence. Fragmented objects. Failed attempts. Suspended signification. Questionable origin. Where did it all begin? My work derives from the intrinsically human struggle of understanding ‘self.’ I attempt to understand ‘self’ by first understanding the world around me. I walk along the streets to find traces of humanity: strangely familiar objects with history-infused backgrounds. Like me, they have stories to tell. Once abandoned, they have found recovery through my empathetic fascination. The objects become sublimated, re-defined in a different context, and energized through a multitude of 86
possibilities. You have a very distinct style, has it always been this way? If not, when was the moment that everything shifted in that direction?
My work first shifted into what it is today while in college, under the influence of painters Alan White and Ron Buffington. I remember the painting that changed everything: I was making grid paintings and including collage work and i didn’t quite like this one piece piece of paper, so I tore it off and it left a residue of the material - that was the moment that started it all: from there I used a similar pasting and removing technique that over the years has turned into a constant addition and removal of materials - what I call the “revealing and concealing” over and over and over again. How does history play a role in all of your artwork? Can you describe why it takes years to work on certain pieces?
I’m interested in the history of painting as well as the history of an individual piece. As an ode to the history of abstraction, I often include signs or marks that were among the first abstract symbols found in the caves 30,000 years ago (entoptic phenomena). In regards to the history of an individual painting, it comes back to my process of continuously covering up paintings over the years - some of my work has 4-15 different paintings underneath, sometimes peeled in certain places to reveal the underlayers. Sometimes a piece will be “finished” for years, only to be painted over in a manic rage - this is why some paintings take years to finish - I am a process based artist afterall. What is your relationship with the “grid” and how does that tie into your practice?
I studied the concept of the grid in art school and connected with it as being a tool used by many artists in painting’s history. Art theorist Rosalind Krauss, who wrote about the grid, claimed that it “functions to declare the modernity of modern art.” I later realized the grid is among the abstract symbols found in the caves, thought to be part of “entoptic phenomena.” The grid was quite literally the first ever abstraction found in caves - some
“The root of my aesthetic interests lie in the streets... Where did it all begin?”
people thought they were using the grid as a color palette, others think it was an intrinsic symbol found in the brains of humans.
I consider painting to be a long conversation: I use the grid as a reference to the history of abstraction and a reference to thousands of artists before me who have also used it. I am specifically interested in an imperfect or ambiguous grid, one that rebels against its perfect origin as a shape. I’m interested in how much chaos can happen within such a structured symbol. In a way, I seek to “queer” the grid - an essay for a later time. ;) Are you someone who has a plan when you approach a surface? Or are you more of a feel-it-out as you go?
I am a COMPLETELY a feel-as-i-go, process based artist. My work is deeply emotional, and any “plan” I have gets quickly covered up. Who have you been inspired by in the past, present and future?
I’ve been influenced by thousands of artists over the years - some for their conceptual ideas and others for aesthetic inclinations. A few that I always return to include, but are not limited to: Cy Twombly, Alan White, Anne-Lise Coste, Basquiat, Tracey Emin, Summer Wheat, Howard Finster, and Robert Rauschenberg. As someone who is emotionally invested in their practice, do you ever get burnt out on creating? If so, why and how do you bring yourself back?
I absolutely get burnt out on creating. It has become part of my process - When I am burnt out, I make “failed” paintings repeatedly - and although it’s frustrating, I have grown to welcome it, because it allows me to cover them up with little to no afterthought. These failed paintings ultimately become incredibly complex paintings that have multiple layers of paint on them. I work through my “painters block” literally by continuing to paint, even when they are complete failures. Do you have any shows coming up? Where can we find your work? What can we expect to see from you in the coming year?
Right now my work can be found at Frequency Arts and Barking Legs Theater. I do not currently have any shows coming up, but for me they usually pop up spontaneously. Stay tuned on my social media to hear about shows! You can find my work on my website: ashleyhamiltonart.com and instagram @ashleyhamiltonart Until then, I’ll be in my studio working through struggle and play.
Elliot White by: Alecia Vera
Elliot, your work is insanely captivating. Can you describe your method of approaching a blank surface? Does it start with a doodle or do you always have a subject in mind?
Thank you! I like making it as I go along. If its a subject, its about someone underneath it all at first and it goes from there and I like to think that I realized what its all about after it is finished. I really like to try to tell a story but I also like to cover it up a lot so it bounces around a lot. Most of your work that I have seen seems like there are multiple mediums. How many supplies do you use in one piece? Which supplies are your favorite to use and why?
Right now its mostly just acrylic with drawings underneath. I like to use whatever can fit all in a small space around me. I don’t have any favorite supplies right now, but I do find things like a pen I like a lot or something like that. Your work is easy to get lost in with its winding curves and intricate details, I almost feel like your work is partly narrative. Is that true? If so, what stories are you trying to convey?
Oh yeah its about lots of ways of trying to find out how things really are, like if you could find out how something really is and then put all of it together with everything else. Like how much you know about the present moment and trying to get it all out real fast so you can take a big breath. How long have you been an artist? What has been the highlight of your artistic career so far?
I’ve been doing it since I was a kid. I think knowing that someone knows the art is for them is the highlight of my career so far. You have a wide array of styles ranging from free-form abstraction to realist details. Which artists have you gained inspiration from over the years?
I liked a Czech artist named Jakub Hosek a lot. Also 70’s Hipgnosis. I first met you when you were in a band with your brothers, can you discuss your relationship with art and music and how those two things can be directly related? Example: album cover, merch designs, etc.
I like to take the conceptual side of music into consideration for art but I keep them seperate so I can keep art a little more open instead of making myself try to blend them when it feels unnatural to do it. Is creating a form of escape for you?
As an artist, I have realized I can’t go long without being in the studio. Do you have a similar relationship with your work? If so, how long does time pass before you start to notice you need to create something? I used to get that feeling of escape all the time but it went away and its a different thing now I can’t really explain, its feels like a mental release kind of thing but in a hard to get it all out kind of way. I don’t know how long I can go, I really am happy when I can do a lot of it all the time even if its a tiny thing for fun. Are you a self-taught artist or have you had any formal training?
I had formal training and got a BFA in drawing.
If you had unlimited resources, what would your next project be?
Where can we see your work? Tell us about some of the opportunities you have had over the years and how those have shaped you and your work.
You can see what i’m up to on Instagram for right now @elliottvwhite_art I’ve kept pretty quiet about what i’m doing for a little while and have done some work for other people in the past couple of years. What shapes the work the most is beyond me though, it changes everything as things go along somehow. 91
Ellen Malphrus by: Clifford Brooks
Who are you? Who were you as a child and young adult, and who is the unstoppable force we see today? May I challenge you to write a poem in answer to this question?
I was a tomboy bookworm as a kid—a tree climbing, story making, fort building, library loving kind of girl. I grew up (so to speak) in the rivers and woods of the South Carolina Lowcountry. After college I was a museum curator for a while, then a small town newspaper person. I almost went to law school like nearly everyone else in my family but I veered off to James Dickey’s classroom instead—and life was never the same. These days my world is filled with my family (two-legged and four), my writing, my work at the university, and my travels. Home is mostly amid the salt water marshlands of Carolina and otherwise beneath the Rocky Mountains of western Montana. I missed my chance as a full-time hermit, but I do what I can to make up for it. And yes, I accept your challenge and have written a poem called “Here, I Am Words” in response.
Here, I Am Words I am a horse that paws at water. I am the bolt of a midnight cramp. I am the sideways snow of a blizzard. I am a leopard that vaults into chance. I am the pain of my mother dying. I am a gallop of deep July rain. I am the blue of a calving glacier. I am the peace of a runaway train. I am the hip that curves into my husband. I am a secret path through the hills. I am the tips of wing-clipped canaries. I am unfaltering stars at the cliff. I am the whim of a heron feather. I am the voice of a gravelly wind. I am the tide as it swallows the river. I am the silk where a spider web mends. I am the sleep of a good day’s weary. I am the sand spur that spikes at my heel. I am the swirl of a wildflower meadow. I am the night swamp that mires my dreams. I am a stingray gliding through moonrise. I am the bone black when fires burn out. I am an avalanche heaving great boulders. I am the mud-slick where dolphins have fed. I am the dance of a thousand angels. I am the slash when the eagle takes flight. I am the stone clouds that bypass forever. I am the live oak that bends to the light. I am the stir in the blood of my children. I am the mist where the waterfall ends. I am a creature of mountains and marshes. Say I am heartache. More so, say bliss. You mention travel, and we’re conducting this interview during the week between your return from Italy and your departure for Montana. In May you were in Maine. Are you always this nomadic? Where else have you traveled? How important is travel to you as a writer?
Well, I’ve always had this ol’ wandering bone. “The girl was born with wheels on her ass,” is how my father phrased it. And it’s true that I start feeling hemmed in if I don’t have three trips queued up on my Delta dashboard. I’m thoroughly rooted to place but always restlessly looking around the bend to see what else is out there. Travel is the great liberator, isn’t it? The circumstance that frees us from banality. To have walked the secret gardens of the Alhambra among nightingales and jasmine under starlight long after the gates were locked. To have witnessed a leopard sail from an Acacia tree over the top of a pair of lions and bound across the Serengeti Plains. These are treasures. Last week we made passage 95
through the Straits of Messina between Sicily and mainland Italy and the rocky shore where Scylla tried to lure Odysseus was invisible in thick morning fog. Mythology made palpable. Thrilling, inspirational stuff! In the course of my own odyssey, I’ve had wide-ranging sojourns in most of Europe, a goodly portion of Central and South America, parts of Asia, pieces of Africa, and all of North America stem to stern, including the breadth of my homeland. I’m fortunate to have a husband who’s a willing companion as often as he can be, but I’m also a big believer in traveling alone. Solitude is a fine thing (in my humble estimation) but the added component of being in motion makes it a different ball game. Jim Harrison talks about just getting in the car by yourself and heading out as a valuable means of self-exploration, and I totally get it. The journey out is always the journey in—and all of it is valuable to the writer. This one, anyway. What inspired you to write? What keeps the divine fire in your raging to push the envelope with poetry and fiction?
Once I’d memorized my storybooks as a child, my mom made up characters and adventures to amuse me into a nap. Then, no doubt in a young mother’s desperate desire for her own rest, she one day cleverly side-tracked my plea for more with the notion that I tell her a story instead. I was hooked! Words, stories, are what I know. I can’t help but try to do them justice. Sometimes I get close, sometimes I totally miss the mark—but the effort is always golden.
“Words, stories, are what I know. I can’t help but try to do them justice.”
Who are your heroes in life? Who first made that list, and who are some of the new folks you’ve added to that roster?
Long standing heroes: Pippi Longstocking, my momma (cheesy, but true), the Dalai Lama, Jane Goodall, Jacques Cousteau, Sacagawea, Jimmy Carter, Harriet Tubman, and my great-granddaddy (cheesy, but again true). Contemporary heroes: I couldn’t begin to name them. In this cruel, greedy world-gone-crazy I try to keep heart with the knowledge and gratitude that there are heroes fighting the good fight—not just for human rights, but for the children in Clint, Texas, cages. Not just for the planet, but for the water in Flint, Michigan, sinks. What is a writer’s responsibility in being honest with themselves, their readers, and on the political landscape of today?
If you’re not being honest with yourself, what’s the point? If you are honest with yourself, you’re being honest with your reader. I don’t believe in writing from an agenda, but I do believe in writing what your guts and heart insist is your truth. I can’t help but write from the mindset of my strong beliefs, and I am of the opinion that artists do have a responsibility to call an axe an axe in whatever way that 96
axe manifests itself. Sometimes I just don’t want to grind an axe or be walloped over the head with one; sometimes I want to write or read about feathers. How does music factor into your life, writing, and mental well-being?
Your previous question was about honesty. “Music doesn’t lie,” Jimi Hendrix says. Amen. Music— birdsong— must have filled the hollow places in the heart long before words. Music still expresses what words can’t. I don’t listen to music when I write, but whenever I can make my brain quiet there’s always a song in the background. Does that happen to everyone? I’ve often wondered. If you could ask five writers/poets (alive or dead) one question about their art, who would they be and what would you ask them?
Hmmm . . . what if we (including our significants) have an afternoon dinner party with various artists (writers included) and thinkers (writers included) and doers (writers included) instead? Maybe beneath a sprawling plane tree in Provence or Tuscany. Here’s a table full that I think would make for good company and good conversation—and we could ask lots of questions. (Some of them are from my previous hero list.) Here goes: Karen Blixen, Joseph Campbell, Simone de Beauvoir, Kris Kristofferson, Empress Dowager Cixi, Leonardo da Vinci, Georgia O’Keefe, James Dickey, Jim Harrison, Nelson Mandela, Billie Holiday, the Dalai Lama, Josephine Baker, Wendell Berry, Jane Goodall, Charles Kuralt, Cleopatra, Walter Cronkite, Terry Tempest Williams, N. Scott Momaday, Amelia Earhart, and Willie Nelson. Yes, it’s a big table, but imagine the fabulous stories. You’re Professor of English as well as Writer in Residence at the University of South Carolina Beaufort. What motivated you to teach? What do you adore most in the profession of educator? How does your teaching affect your writing?
I stumbled into teaching in order to pay the rent (then mortgage) and buy dog food when I found my river shack and settled into Bluffton. I somehow thought teaching would give me plenty of time to write, so I got a Ph. D. and a tenure track university position. Once I figured out how wrong I was, I had come to love my students and commit myself to the beauty of their own discovery and accomplishments. A dedicated teacher who is also a writer often sacrifices the progress of her own work—that is a fact. I try to find balance, but during the school year my own writing time gets shorter as the semester gets longer. Yet I derive such joy watching them bloom, knowing that I’ve had a small hand in that blossoming. I am a nurturer. I can’t help myself, no matter the cost to my own work—one more reason I should have been a hermit. What projects have you completed in the writing sphere that make you most proud? What do you have in front of you currently?
My novel, Untying the Moon. There is a good chunk of my soul wrapped up in that book, and I think it offers a careful reader something worthwhile. I’m working on the next novel, but the greater focus right now is on a book of poetry, tentatively entitled Ancient Appetites. I’ll polish it this summer in Montana, then I’ll be on the prowl for a publisher. Suggestions appreciated. What is your philosophy to living a content life as a writer? So often I read those who choose this as their driving passion speak of it as hopeless drudgery. That seems a sadistic way to live your life? How do you see it?
Writing is joyful, soul-expanding work for me—even when the subject matter is anything but happy. Contentedness comes simply from the act. On the days when I write more, I am more fulfilled as a human. What are some of your best memories of Pat Conroy? How are you affiliated with the Pat Conroy Literary Center?
Oh, wow. There are so many—the lunches, the late-night phone calls. Conroy is my brother. His nudging (okay nagging) is the reason I finally finished Untying the Moon. The two of us side-by-side at the book launch (Ostensibly he was there to sign the foreword he’d written for the novel.) beneath a moss draped live oak on a spectacular October afternoon is a beautiful memory in every way. Being by his side with his family as he crossed over isn’t a happy memory, but it was an honor. Mostly I hear his laughter and see those blue eyes light up—yes, the dude actually had a merry twinkle, no kidding. I’m on the advisory board for the Literary Center, and I give Jonathan Haupt a little help in my role as Deputy Director for the annual Pat Conroy Literary Festival. This year’s dates are October 29—November 3. See you there! How can people keep up with you on social media? What causes do you support that you’d like others to look into?
Luddite that I am, I’m not heavily immersed in social media, but I do have a facebook page and a website: www.ellenmalphrus.com I’m an environmental activist and support the usual suspects: Sierra Club, Environmental Defense Fund, Nature Conservancy, Ocean Conservancy, Audubon Society, American Rivers, and the National Park Foundation. Also, check out The Way of the Rain facebook page and website. I’ve come to believe that donating to our local animal shelters (except for disaster relief) is the better way. And, of course, stay tuned to www.patconroyliterarycenter.org and on facebook!
Virga Magazine by: Clifford Brooks
What inspired you to create Virga Magazine? What does the name symbolize? How do you feel with Virga live in the world?
I love curating. Thatâ€™s one simple reason I decided to start a lit mag. I made a lot of collages as a kid and young adult, delighted as much with the process of selecting images and typeface to cut and paste to a surface. as I was with the finished product, or perhaps more so. I most often used images from glossy womenâ€™s fitness magazines, because this is the media my mother most often consumed, so my process was pretty limited. I only had access to a small swath of media, but that made the endeavor that much more intriguing for me. Of course, a literary magazine, an issue contained in a literary publication, is so much more than a collage. A significant reason for creating Virga was that I wanted a way to interact with and respond to writers and artists, to see what shapes could emerge from collaboration. Simply stated, it was a way for me to be a more involved literary citizen. Virga is a meteorological term. It denotes observable precipitation falling from a cloud, which then evaporates before reaching the ground. Precipitation with parachute, I like to say. I guess I like the 99
suspension of movement…something that would move from point a to point b, rain in this case, is transformed before it has the chance to “arrive,” so to speak. I seek work that acknowledges that sort of in-betweenness. That precarity. We just released our fifth issue and have been publishing poetry and hybrid work for over two years. I’m proud of the contributors we’ve featured and pleased that Virga has become a space for really vulnerable, risk-taking work. We’re still developing and growing, but I’m very pleased with our little corner of the lit community. That stated, I, of course, did have an aesthetic that I wanted to see more of in the lit- mag world and I felt, several years ago, that few publications were as intentionally pursuing that aesthetic as I felt I could. In 2015, I applied to be a reader for a small independent press, Anchor & Plume, and was accepted. Reading for this press exposed me to work I would never have had read otherwise, and I’m very grateful. While I agreed with the founding editor of A&P on many points, I began to see that I gravitated toward work that was more experimental. Virga is what grew out of the desire to cultivate a space for work with a kind of wise and mirthful quality, a poetics that was more lyrical, imaginative. What niche does Virga fill that you saw lacking in literary journals? How will you fill that once empty space?
Virga seeks work that is quietly subversive. I suppose I risk some push-back saying this, but so many journals are publishing work that, while it effectively subverts unhealthy and dangerous paradigms, does so by relying on what I’d call shock-factor. There is a lot of angry poems out there, angry poets. Of course there’s a place for this type of work, and in many cases, it mobilizes and inspires individuals to enact change. Virga however, sees a need for a subversion that is emotionally vulnerable, in ways that outrage cannot be. Life for our generation is saturated with uncertainty and I think embracing indeterminacy and precarity in art is one way to subvert the status quo. Genre bending is also a way to do this. Please tell us a bit about each of your staff, the role they execute, and a quote from them about how their art keeps their life in motion.
We’re a tiny operation. My sole assistant is Dillon Weingart. He reads submissions and gives me feedback. Dillion is an artist and musician. He received his degree in English Literature, and his writing 100
has been anthologized in Phi Theta Kappa’s Nota Bene, and the Timeless Voices Poetry Anthology. On how art keep his life in motion, Dillon says: “Art has been the vehicle that consistently motivates me to ask questions. Humans tend to project their own assumptions and perceptions on others as they interact with them. Art can strip those projections away, and enable progress, personally and socially.” What are your best practices for effective writing? What are submission practices people can use to give them a better chance of acceptance? What are bad habits to stay away from that sink their chances before their ships take to the ocean?
For me, writing is most effective when I’m not thinking too hard about writing. The editing process is where a piece can take its final shape, that’s where more objective concerns can be addressed The writing, however, is about emotion, about tapping into a primal self. I always come back to Robert Creeley, who said “form is never more than an extension of content.” Charles Olson argued that too much reliance on similes, metaphors, and other tools used to describe a thing can drain a poem of its vital energy. He famously said that the syllable and the line, the two primary units in poetry, are dictated by the ear and the breath, respectively. A poem begins in the body this way; it’s a primal thing, and effective writing, I believe, happens when we allow it to be. The best submission advice I can give authors is to follow the submission guidelines. It also helps to know what a magazine has previously published. Read the mission statements. Though it should be a no-brainer, it unfortunately still needs saying that a really good way to sink one’s chances at publication is to send any content that is racist, sexist, homophobic, or is lewd or condones sexual assault. Just don’t do be that person. How do you see Virga growing in 5 and 10 years?
In the near future, I’d like to incorporate more interviews and book reviews. Looking further ahead, I’d like to see Virga connect with writers and artist in real-life venues, hosting readings or participating in them on a semi-regular basis. It would also be great to be able to host workshops. If Virga Magazine had a motto, what would it be?
I mulled over this one, trying to come up with something clever. The best I can come up with is “embrace the precarious.” That really sums up what I think art is, at its most poignant. Please share Virga’s mission statement.
Virga seeks work that demonstrates elegance, empathy, and experimentation. We want content that is well-crafted, pays reverent attention to detail, and keeps humanity at its center. Do you plan to have an annual print issue or even go full-print some day?
We have no plans to issue a print issue in the foreseeable future. What are advantages to an online publication over that of a print?
The most obvious advantage is cost. While maintaining our website and submission portal does
present some monthly and yearly costs, putting out print issues and distributing these would involve more. Additionally, I think itâ€™s easier to network and connect with potential readers, when the content is readily available to read online. I love a good print magazine, I should say. However, we feel it isnâ€™t practical, at this time, for our small publication to pursue that endeavor. How do you hope you and your press are remembered?
We definitely hope we are remembered for beautiful poetry and hybrid work, and as a safe space for vulnerability and risk-taking.
Chris Swann by: Clifford Brooks
What do you remember first as a child? How did your childhood, teen, and young adult years shape you as a writer?
My earliest memory is of standing in my family’s backyard in Asheboro, N.C. I’m maybe four, and my legs are bleeding. I had run into a patch of briars and scraped up my shins, and my mother was trying to calm me down and clean up the blood on my legs with wet paper towels. As a kid, I played a fair amount of role-playing games—Dungeons and Dragons, Top Secret, Traveller—and really enjoyed the storytelling, the imaginative aspect of those games. Basically, if you’re playing D&D, you’re participating in a group creation of a narrative. A few years ago I read an article about how all these writers and creative artists like Junot Díaz, Ta-Nehisi Coates, and Stephen Colbert had played D&D, and I thought that was amazing. Those games are all about inventing stories and characters and entire worlds in your head. In eighth grade, I knew I wanted to be a writer. My social studies teacher, Mrs. Corpening, was frog-marching us through the Revolutionary War, and she passed out a mimeographed sheet listing options for the end-of-unit project. One of the options was that we could write a we could write a diary—or, for the boys, a journal—from the point of view of a fictitious character living during the Revolutionary War. Most of my classmates were puzzled or annoyed by this choice. I was thrilled. This was the first time at school that someone had asked me to write creatively. As a child, I read books everywhere—including the dinner table, to my father’s bemusement—and I had a vivid imagination that allowed me to transform my backyard into an Army base, an undersea laboratory, or a space station. Who wanted to write a stupid book report on Johnny Tremain? Instead, I invented a frontier woodsman who was swept up by the Revolution and fought in the Battle of Kings Mountain in South Carolina. In that battle, the death of the British commander sealed the Patriot victory. Of course, my character was the hero who shot the British commander. What I loved about that assignment was the sheer audacity of the idea that I could make up whatever I wanted. I scanned the encyclopedia and my social studies textbook for background info, but otherwise, the story was all mine. It was like the best kind of daydreaming, except with the permanence of ink on a page. In eleventh grade, my favorite high school English teacher, Ted Blain, had my class write a novel. Fifteen students, one chapter each. We had to come up with a plot, characters, and setting, and organize As a young adult, what probably shaped me most as a writer was taking creative writing classes from some great teachers like Cathryn Hankla, Marshall Boswick, Dabney Stuart, Michael Pritchett, Trudy Lewis, Carol Anshaw, Pam Durban, and John Holman. Creative writing programs sometimes get criticized for producing writers who write very beautifully about not very much, but just having my dreams of being a writer affirmed by actual authors who wanted to teach me how to be better, and exposing me to a community of other writers and would-be writers, was life-changing. Who are your heroes? 5 from your life experience, and 5 from your literary peers? Why these individuals?
My wife Kathy, for her fierce intelligence, her tenacity, her honesty, her continual support of me and my writing, and her executive functioning skills. My grandfather Henry Conkle, for always being in my corner, for encouraging me through his own 103
storytelling, for his service in the Navy during WWII, for his sense of humor as well as his sense of duty. My AP English teacher Ted Blain, for giving me a push at exactly the right time to help me on my way as both a fiction writer and English teacher. My two sons, Whitaker and Sullivan, for allowing me to see them each forge their own identities and giving me endless opportunities to try and fail and try again—and occasionally succeed—as their father. Martin Cruz Smith, whose literary thrillers like Polar Star are a touchstone for my own work. Patti Callahan Henry, for her constant support and her excitement for my fledgling career as a writer, and for her sheer awesomeness as a human being. Ed Tarkington, for steering me through the wilderness of publishing and sharing his own experiences, and for helping me to realize that the novel I thought I was supposed to write wasn’t the novel I needed to write. (And many thanks for a great evening at Parnassus Books in Nashville.) Jonathan Evison, for his encouragement and advice over many years, and whose MySpace group the Fiction Files gave me access to an online community of readers and writers at just the right moment. Pat Conroy, who combined compelling plots, fully-realized characters, an unabashedly Southern perspective, and lyrical writing that all made quite an impact on a young writer in training. What is your philosophy concerning truth in fiction? How much of your experience and relationships make it into the landscape/characters you create? Do you think a writer can accurately capture the essence of anyone on paper that they don’t intimately know or of themselves?
I used to hate the advice “write what you know,” in part because of John Gardner. As an undergrad, I read Gardner’s The Art of Fiction, the first serious book about writing fiction that I came across. There is no one more passionate in and declarative of his beliefs than a newly-minted college sophomore, and I swallowed Gardner hook, line, sinker, rod, and reel. His advice on write what you know is as follows: “Nothing can be more limiting to the imagination, nothing is quicker to turn on the psyche’s censoring devices and distortion systems, than trying to write truthfully and interestingly about one’s home town, one’s Episcopalian mother, one’s crippled younger sister.” Part of me loved this because I felt there wasn’t anything I knew, no experience in my life, that was worth converting into fiction. In my college creative writing classes, most of us wrote short stories that were either thinly-veiled accounts of our own lives or wildly-inventive narratives about things we knew little to nothing about. I loved making things up on paper—why write about what I know? This led me to spend the better part of a decade on my first novel, which is underneath my bed and shall stay there. It is about a father-son conflict in a family of working-class fishermen, set in Ireland and the Georgia coast, and involves the Irish Republican Army. My own father and I never fought about anything aside from disagreeing about politics; I was raised in a solidly middle-class family; I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve gone fishing seriously; while I’ve often been to the Georgia coast, it almost always involves a beach; and while I’ve been to Ireland twice and read a lot about the IRA, I’ve never knowingly met anyone associated with the IRA. Other than all that, of course, I knew exactly what I was writing about. 104
It took me a long time to realize that “write what you know” isn’t about accuracy in the same way as if you write a biography or an autobiography. Fiction is truth-like. It can, like all art, reflect reality back at us in ways that make a greater impression than reality itself. I took a long, hard look at my Ireland novel and saw that it was the novel I thought I was supposed to write. Instead, I focused on what I had been writing about, what I wanted to write about: friendship, loyalty, betrayal, and redemption. To my surprise, I found it enormously fun to plunder my own life and transmute people, places, and events from my own experience into fiction. All lives are particularly unique, so there is no lack of experiences from which to draw. It’s “write what you know” with a vengeance. Some of the characters in Shadow of the Lions have the same first or last names as some of my classmates from Woodberry Forest School, for instance. Some of the classroom and dorm scenes are based on things I have witnessed or done. But my novel is not autobiography, by any means. It’s a narrative that draws from my own life to deepen the story, to ground it in a kind of reality with which I’m familiar. But it’s not my life, or even my story. It’s the story of Matthias, stranded between the lions at the gates of Blackburne, watching his best friend disappear into the woods, then stumbling after him. And I’m running after them both, trying to write it all down. Please walk us through your writing process? Do you have a routine to get the engines fired up, maintained, and then cooled down? There is a theory that prose writers would benefit from taking a course in poetry to intensely focus on word economy, harmony of language, and creation of vivid imagery. How do you feel about that?
As a high school English teacher who loves to teach poetry, I’m 100% behind this idea. I used to joke that I’ve written four poems in my whole life, and that was probably five too many. But truth be told, I’ve written two poems I feel good about. That does not mean that they are good. I’m just happy with them. I appreciate the focus on individual words that successful poets are required to have. Fiction and poetry are different genres, of course, and success in one does not translate automatically into success in the other. You wouldn’t necessarily expect the lead singer of a rock band to be an amazing opera soprano, for example. But a poetry course for fiction writers would probably pay off in terms of nimbleness and flexibility with language. I like Robert Southey’s comment: “It is with words as with sunbeams—the more they are condensed, the deeper they burn.” 105
What question are you so tired of answering you’d rather cut off a thumb than answer again?
“You wrote a novel? Is that, like, a fictional novel?” What are you working on now? Where can we find what you’ve written? How can we keep up with you?
I just finished rewrites on my second novel, titled Hide Your Fires, and am waiting to hear what my agent thinks. It’s a bit darker and more of a thriller than Shadow of the Lions. The novel is set in Atlanta and has to do with a family that becomes dysfunctional due to tragedy, and it has a protagonist who tries to escape his past and instead has to confront it head on. This summer I’ll start on my third novel. You can follow me on my website, christopherswann.com, or on social media (links available on my website).
River Glass by: Clifford Brooks
What gave you the inspiration to create River Glass Books? What inspired the name?
Marley: Kimberly and I began making notebooks while in college together. Folding paper and piercing and stitching bindings was deeply satisfying, a reward in itself—never mind the finished notebook. At the time, I had just started working for Jack Bedell at Louisiana Literature, and the job afforded me, among other pleasures, the chance to put my hands on a number of books published by small presses and sent to us as review copies. The multitude of design choices intrigued me. Soon, Kimberly and I were curious about what might happen if we took our own private bookmaking hobby to the next level. I floated the idea to my friend, Brian Koester, whom I’d met at the Bennington Writing Seminars, and I asked if he’d contribute a short collection to help launch the press. Over the next year or so, he and I sifted through pages of his poems and selected the 14 that would make up Bossa Nova. The name “River Glass Books” was inspired by the river-worn chunks of glass that wash up on the rocky bank of the Black River in Proctorsville, Vermont. As a baby, my parents bathed me in the river, and we collected the river glass. To this day, Kimberly and I pick up any we find, and the name holds for me a special childhood nostalgia. What niche does the press fill on today’s publishing landscape?
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Kimberly: We publish handmade chapbooks while maintaining a personal interaction with each author we select—something not always possible with larger presses. We value our conversations about each book and the author’s vision for it just as much as the work itself.
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Model Home poems
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There is also no reading fee for our submissions in hopes that all writers feel comfortable sending their work to us. We get that submitting manuscripts to publishers can be time-consuming and expensive, therefore requiring a level of commitment to the craft. The writer/rest-of-life balance is hard enough, and when “submission days” are added to the mix— it’s hard to do it all. We try to alleviate some of that burden by allotting this free space to send work. We hope to provide a platform for all authors—those who have multiple books to those who are seeking their first publication. With each title, we aim to create chapbooks that honor the writing of our authors with beautiful, handmade copies. How do you feel about today’s publishing world? What do you think it lacks? What do you think it needs?
Marley: We’re at a point in publishing history where access to publication is available to more people than ever. There’s an effort, from the big houses to university and small presses, to showcase underrepresented voices. At the same time, online journals and social media present more opportunities to share one’s work with the world, leading to innovations in publishing and the work being produced. The publishing world today seems dynamic and exciting. We’re thrilled to be a part of it, in our small way. This question has me thinking of readership. What’s going on in the world of readers? What does it need? Maybe we should ask ourselves if we’re being bold or curious enough in our reading. But then again, there’s an overwhelming amount of work being produced. You can’t read everything. What presses did you draw ideas from? Why?
Marley: There are so many presses we admire whose books have formed our standards for making our own. Some favorites in the ring of handmade chapbooks and broadsides are Porkbelly Press, Horse Less Press, and Phylum Press. Each of these publishers is dedicated to preserving the art of bookmaking, and we’re indebted to their work. Yellow Flag Press out of Lafayette deserves special mention here. Their attention to design, especially in varying materials and binding methods for each edition of a title, was an early inspiration as we got things rolling. Your books are elegant and unique. What goes into each book? What is the creative process behind each one? How much input does the author have in the process?
Kimberly: For the interior of each chapbook, our goal is to always keep the design classic and clean. We want the work to speak for itself. When designing the cover, we first ask if the author has specific art in mind, and we work from there. We typically have a vision for each title we select, but we include the author’s input whenever possible. Our goal is to compliment the poems through aspects of the design—color scheme, thread, stitch design, and inset page (a sheet of fine paper bound between the cover and text stock). The fun part is selecting the materials. We choose paper from a local store and try to find handmade sheets for first edition inset pages. In the spirit of small-batch artistry, sometimes we can only get our hands on a few at a time. We love the variety this adds to our work. One of my favorite books we’ve made is the second edition of Bossa Nova. Instead of the milky lavender sheets we chose for the inset of the first run, the second features sheets with playful wisps of color throughout, like someone dropped a pile of string in the paper. In order to make this second run, we had to stockpile for a while—three sheets here, two there—before we had enough. The result is unexpected and beautiful against the ivory text stock and well worth the effort. Then, of course, comes the piecing together of each book, which happens at our long dining table. We do this assembly-line style, me folding pages and Marley stitching each copy together before handing it back to me to number. It’s a fun, meditative process. Crooning along with the stereo is usually involved. Sometimes wine. Marley: We like to say that wine stains on first editions only increase their value. What writers would you love to publish? Why?
Kimberly: Honestly, we consider ourselves lucky to be given the chance to read so many manuscripts. 108
It’s a scary thing to put your writing out into the world, and we’re always honored when authors choose us as a potential home for their writing. We love publishing work that moves us, makes us breathe a little differently. Writers who adjust the lens a little—this is who we love! Marley: I’ll second that. Reading submitted manuscripts is one of the top pleasures of this whole enterprise. We don’t know what we want to print until we find it in the “slush pile.” That being said, I would love the chance to publish the work of prose writers. We’ve received very strong fiction and nonfiction manuscripts in the past, and although we had to ultimately pass on them, those weren’t easy decisions to make. I hope we can read more prose manuscripts in the future. Kimberly: I’d also love to eventually open up this space to exceptional work from young and emerging writers at the high school and collegiate levels. There is so much momentum in fostering healthy literary goals for aspiring writers. Perhaps part of this growth is achieved by offering high schoolers and undergrads a platform for such victories. Publishing can be, among much else, a form of validation for one’s writing, and for young authors, it can serve as motivation for future literary accomplishments. There are already so many great journals, like The Adroit Journal, that are open to young submitters. I’d love for River Glass Books to one day be a part of the mix. What books do you offer now? Who are the by? What are they about? What was it about their work that attracted you?
Marley: We have three titles out now. Our first was Bossa Nova by Brian Jerrold Koester. In this collection, Koester grapples with his brother’s suicide, and the poems are often stark portraits of loss and longing. Even in poems with “lighter” subject matter, there is something ominous, like metal on your tongue. But I always finish this collection feeling full, having been fed. When first reading these poems, I was drawn to the highly defined images—“dust, fine and smooth as refined flour”—as well as images that clashed and were perplexing—“the shortest shadow of a star.” What is the shortest shadow of a star? I don’t know, but I can see it. In terms of presentation, these poems are a great lesson in reduction. Each is reduced to its essentials. Sometimes, Koester will risk a reader’s failure to immediately comprehend a phrase in using only the necessary words. I like the risk, and it pays off. Kimberly: Our second title is Latch by Jen Stewart Fueston. Latch is a collection of poems that centers 109
around motherhood and opens with longing. The ache pulsing in her desire to conceive is visceral, “lodged like a berry in the mouth of a blackbird.” And later, her affection for her children and her vulnerability because of them is unrelenting. This collection captured me instantly. I was struck by the honesty and precision in her portraiture of womanhood, in each description’s femininity and strength. Her language is exact and her direction deliberate. There is propulsion in her organization of these poems, in the texture woven by recurring images, and in her natural progression of subject. Fueston accomplishes the transition from the biblical, “the Rachels, the Elizabeths and Hannahs” to the mothers imagined by artists, and finally to her own experience, and in doing so, leaves us both hollow and swelling. Marley: Our most recent title is Model Home by Eve F. W. Linn. Many of these poems are also about the challenges and rewards of motherhood. Linn dwells on moments of transformation—becoming a bird, becoming a cloud—as well as images of containment—“a shiny compact,” “a blind body bag,” “the varnished coffin.” Every move is intentional, even as Linn tackles her subject through a series of different methods or points of view. Whether she is studying a family photograph, meditating on works of art, or reflecting on events from her past, her voice is consistently inviting. The result is a collection that contemplates family life and the various homes we build for ourselves—and how these can be both restrictive and liberating. What are a few tips for those who are thinking about submitting can do to better their chances?
Marley: We currently only publish around two books a year, which severely limits what we can accept. We’ve turned down many manuscripts that will surely be published elsewhere. Because the competition is steep, even for our little press, I’d urge submitters to only send their best possible work. Also, I hope submitters whose work we’ve turned down in the past will try again! I’ll quote Tim Gautreaux: “That’s not rejection; that’s propulsion.” What advice do you have for others thinking about creating their own press?
Kimberly: Just do it! But do your homework first. “River Glass Books” was actually not our first choice for a name; we had something else in mind. A preliminary internet search showed us that the name was available—no other press was using it, that we could see—so we went ahead and bought the domain name, started designing the website, and even came close to printing the first run of Bossa Nova. Then we learned that an author was self-publishing science fiction novels using the very name of the press we were about to create! We had to restart from scratch. What can a small press offer that the big houses cannot?
Marley: Traditionally, small presses have offered greater accessibility to writers. You don’t need an agent to try to sell your manuscript; you can simply send it yourself. Factors other than your manuscript’s marketability will be more likely to affect its publication, and you may be more involved in the design and promotion of your book. But it all depends. “Small press” could mean anything from a single person running a website and stapling booklets to a full-blown corporation producing trade paperbacks. What is the philosophy behind River Glass Books?
Kimberly: There is something lovely about holding the work of a writer, about devouring the words page by physical page, about leaving it dog-eared and half-open on your counter, in your car. We be110
lieve in that feeling. Our goal is to participate in the art of bookmaking by crafting beautiful books by hand. Marley: We believe there should be a minimum of barriers between us and the writer. That’s why we don’t charge reading fees and allow manuscripts to be sent to us in a number of ways. We hope that anyone who wants to send us work will be able to. When considering manuscripts, we always read the work first and cover letters last; previous acknowledgments (or lack thereof) or personal connections won’t affect our decision. Please introduce you staff. What role to they fill? What are a few words from each about how they feel concerning River Glass Press?
Marley: We’re a two-person team. We’re such a small operation, so it’s possible now for us to do everything together. I could say that we’re cultivating a unique aesthetic or that we’re hoarding all the pleasure to ourselves. Of course, not everything happens in a vacuum. We’re indebted to our writers for choosing us to print their work in the first place and for collaborating on design and promotion of their books. And we wouldn’t be here without the help of our friends and colleagues. Too many people deserve our heartfelt thanks than we have space for here, but we should say that Jack Bedell and Reine Bouton were especially instrumental in helping to establish the press. Maybe one day we’ll get to a point where there are more voices in the room, but we’re happy where we are now. We love the process, from start to finish, and we’re lucky to share in this work together.
Advance Praise for Model Home by Eve F. W. Linn “Model Home inhabits womanhood from all angles—the performative, the domestic, the bodily, and the maternal. In these concise poems, language tightens as the subjects multiply into a kaleidoscope of daughter, mother, self, and their overlapping wilderness.” —Allison Pitinii Davis, author of Line Study of a Motel Clerk “In these poems, knowledge often comes from a gaze—one that discovers and uncovers beauty in the natural world, truth in the human. Each line is sculpted, each poem a concentration of precise imagery and surprising turns of phrase, and the pleasure for the reader is continuous . . .” —Joan Houlihan, author of Shadow-feast
Purchase Model Home and our other titles online at
www.riverglassbooks.com River Glass Books publishes handmade chapbooks of verse and prose. Our next open reading period is August 1st through December 1st, 2019. Submission guidelines and more information can be found online at the link above.
by: Holly Holt
Briefly relate to us who you are, and what events in life developed you into the writer you are today. How and when did you decide that you wanted to be a poet?
I was born in Omaha, Nebraska and lived in Topeka, Kansas, before moving to Edmond, Oklahoma. I received my B. A. in English Literature from the University of Oklahoma and a MFA in Creative Writing from San Francisco State University. I figured out that I wanted to be a poet in college when I discovered that there were living poets and that MFA programs existed. Up until that time I did not realize that studying creative writing was an option. What are you currently working on? How would you describe the poetry that you write? Has your writing changed since your first book? If so, how?
I am currently working on a book of poems about the life and work of Swedish artist and mystic Hilma af Klint. My poems tend to involve a lot of research, collage, and explore how women are missing or written out of official history. Do you have a particular process you follow when you sit down to write? Is there a set time during the day where you feel most productive?
For the last eleven years, I write for an hour in the morning near my office and I also write on the weekends. I’m not a “morning person” by nature, but my commute situation created this window of time that has worked out well for me and I actually look forward to getting to work early so I can write. Describe the location of where you like to write and why that is the ideal place. Where do you live and work? Has that impacted your writing? If so, how?
I live in Edmonds, Washington and work as a program manager in continuing education at the University of Washington in Seattle. Like most people with a day-job, writing time is sparse but I try to incorporate writing into my daily routine. I prefer to write in coffee shops or anywhere with a table. Writing at home is hard for me because I am always thinking there is something else that needs attention. As long as I have head phones, I can work anywhere. My dream space is a large artist studio with giant tables for spreading out books and lots of light and endless time. What lessons have you learned about the process of writing and getting published that you didn’t know when you first began? Any words of advice for new writers?
There is so much I did not know! My advice for new writers is to read widely, not just the people and genres that you know, and to write. Keep writing and reading. Study a new language, it will help you focus on words and grammar at a granular level. Write some more. When you’re ready, send work to journals that you want to be a part of, not just a journal with an open reading period. Find your publishing community. Start your own journal! Rejection will come all the time, but keep going, the publications will come too. When did you decide you wanted to help others learn how to write? What inspired you to become an educator? How has being an educator impacted your writing?
I think my teaching is not so much a desire to teach others how to write, but a desire to make writing available to people in different ways. I am interested in showing that there are many ways to be a writer and maintain a writing practice. You do not have to be a full-time writer to be a poet, you do not have to have a book to be a poet, you do not need a MFA to be a poet. I began teaching again after 114
a twenty-year break when I realized I wanted to think about poetry even more during the day. I want to help people discover their own practice and deepen their engagement with writing whatever form that might take. As far as my own writing, I notice that teaching has made me more aware of formal elements in poetry that I might have glossed over in the past. What has been the most rewarding aspect of being a professor at Southern New Hampshire University?
I love making a connection with a student and seeing their progress from the beginning of the class to the end. Everyone makes such a big leap, and the reflection assignments help students identify their own progress. For the advanced class, I make personalized reading lists for each student based on their interests and current work. I want to nudge everyone out of their comfort zone and take this time to explore what a poem can do. When I suggest the right book/poet, the one that really sets a student off on a new path, I feel rewarded. I also enjoy walking them through a few new possibilities for poetry and helping them establish a future writing life both inside and outside of academia. What assignment has been the most fun you’ve ever given a class? Most difficult? What topic do you find the hardest to teach?
The assignment with the biggest impact has been the “Sound” unit in the Advanced Poetry Workshop. We listen to and read everyone from Nathaniel Mackey, Cecilia Vicuña, Tracie Morris, and Jaap Blonk to old recordings of Gertrude Stein. From there, I ask everyone to incorporate as much sound as possible in a poem. Can they create a word ball of sound? This assignment produces the most experimentation and true breath to everyone’s work. My hardest topic to teach is the sonnet because I still have a hard time scanning meter. Most beginning writers want to write a perfect sonnet while I am trying to get them to just write with concrete images and worry about perfection later. Who are some of your influences for the poetry that you write? How has the work of others improved your writing? What is your favorite poem and why? What books are you currently reading?
A few of my favorite poets are C.D. Wright, Susan Howe, Beverly Dahlen, and Rosmarie Waldrop. I’m currently lingering over C.D. Wright’s Casting Deep Shade (Copper Canyon) and Cristina Rivera Garza’s The Taiga Syndrome (Dorothy, A Publishing Project). What are your hobbies? How do you unwind at the end of the day? Who are your favorite musicians?
I’m usually writing, reading, or watching a movie. Music is also a big part of my writing process. I’m usually streaming KCRW in Santa Monica. How do you want to be remembered? What are your professional aspirations as a poet? What would you like to do that you haven’t been able to do yet? Describe your ideal writing project.
My aspiration is to write more books, and have those books taught. My ideal writing project is funded with time off to work on it fully. What is the answer to the question you’ve never been asked but always wanted to be asked?
“Would you like to run my poetry press?” Yes, yes I would. Or, “May I be your patron?” Again, the answer is yes. www.sarahmangold.com 115
Mab Morris by: Clifford Brooks Give us a few biographical notes about you that moved you to create this one-of-kind wine & words event.
I’m a writer without funds to travel to conventions, or bookshops to do readings, and I really want a writer and reader community—and not a writing group, or book club, but a place for those to come together to meet published authors. When I started Wine & Words, I discovered that I wasn’t alone. There are good writes who cannot afford conventions, or have day jobs in North Georgia and can’t travel to A Novel Idea, which is closer to Atlanta. Sometimes they can’t even go to the Atlanta Writer Club—which is an incredible resource. I also discovered that some writers think that doing readings is boring. While I would love it if writers did readings at Wine & Words, the time is often taken up with meeting and talking with readers and drinking wine, some who have shown up for the wine and have left with books. It’s a little tough to have an open format. I rather like structure, but just letting the books and wine do their magic has been wonderful to watch. I’m letting it be what it wants to become. The authors who come understand this. What drew you to the winery this revolves around? How does the combination enhance the event?
I’ve known the owners of Accent Cellars for a few years. I worked at a wonderful tasting room on the Dahlonega Square called Naturally Georgia—which is how I met Tyler and Tristan. My old boss Vickie Cooper introduced us. Tyler and I became good friends. They have bar books of mine, for people to read. I often go there to edit when I’m stuck. I believe that often people come for wine—since it’s set during business hours, and we set up near where Tyler does the tastings—and see that there are books, and they ask questions. It doesn’t always happen. Wine & Words is till very small. People often have an agenda, but when authors are able to talk with potential readers, they can at least get their name out there. Wine makes everyone friendly. What do you look for in presenters? How are they paired with their libations?
If the have books published, are in the region. Most of the authors are people I met at Dahlonega Literary Festival, but two are coming because they’re regulars at Accent Cellars, and I put a call out for October. I’ll admit I’d like to start looking for excellence in self publishing. I’ll also admit that I love that we do not have merely self published writers. There are a great many fantastic authors out there for people to discover. I’m hoping they come to Wine & Words and discover their new favorite book, and author, and a new favorite wine. The pairings are usually just a fun thing. Like Lala Thankyou by Erica Gerald Mason with the Rose, because both are fun. The Cab Frank with either Ben Meeks’ Petrified or my Fate of the Red Queen because both wine and books are unusual, and so on. Sometimes it’s totally tongue in cheek. Fate of the Red Queen featured a red drink, so it had to be a red wine. 116
Do you bring music into the mix, or visual art to add ambiance?
There is always art at Accent Cellars. I would absolutely not mind having music in the mix, but Accent generally has music. We try not to muscle into their territory. However, we are trying to see how we can do an open mic night as well. The one we’d planned got taken over by authors because the key people pulled out. It would have been so much fun. I still have incredibly fond memories of Awaken to the Sound, that happened at Awakening Gallery in Dahlonega. I still miss the gallery and that after hours event. There’s probably a bit of Awake to the Sound in Wine & Words, to be quite honest. Who have you brought in thus far, and who do you have on the roster for the rest of 2019?
So far we’ve had Trisha Slay, Ben Meeks, JD Jordan. Trisha Slay’s Unhaunted is such a great read! JD gets you into the world of Calamity with his language, and surprising characters, especiall Calamity Jane! Ben’s Petrified is astonishing for such a new writer without much experience with writers groups, or conventions. Coming up we have: June 16: Erica Gerald Mason & Shanna Bosarge July 21: George Weinstein & Mab Morris August 18: Stacia Pelletier & Lindsey P. Brackett. September 15: McCall Hoyle & Friends (still to get details) October 20: Peter Salomon & Jeff Strand. In 2020 we’ll be getting Georgian Fields with some guests, as well as Charles Clifford Brooks (who I hope will help me create an open mic day!). How do people get in touch with you to apply, or keep up with the growing team of authors?
Authors can reach me through Wine & Words’ Facebook page, or through Mab Morris. If they reach me through Wine & Words, then our other co-hosts might also be able to answer questions. For readers: they can come to the events! I hope that more writers show up as often as they like. All authors are welcome, even if I’m featuring other people’s work. Featured authors are linked through the page, with posts for upcoming authors, or past authors. We do try to have prior authors’ books at the events. Surprisingly Dahlonega doesn’t have a bookstore. This is a way for me to test the waters, and contemplate Monroe, Georgia’s Southern Pen bookstore model, and see if we can bring that up here as well. What is your vision for the future of Wine & Words?
I hope to have more open mic nights. I hope to see people buying books more often of not just featured authors, but authors who have been to Wine & Words. I hope that it helps create the idea that Dahlonega can have a fully functioning bookstore eventually. I want readers and book club people to come and meet writers, find books they might want to read, meet writers they might want to come visit their club. Just more. When and where is Wine & Words?
It is at Accent Cellars in Dahlonega. 215 Auraria Road, Dahlonega, Georgia 30533. It is on the 3rd 117
Sunday of the month. We’ll probably take a break in November to February, unless this gets so big (and I hope it does!) that we extend it through the slow months. The winery will be open, so if there are authors and readers who want more during those months, I’ll certainly keep it going! I try to post at least two of the events that are upcoming, with links to the authors. Who are you?
I’m Mab Morris, main host for Wine & Words, and I write Fantasy novels. I’m actually doing something a bit nutty—and not just pairing wine and words—but building a multi-cultural world book by book. It’s a rather long game, so I have time to build up my readers, and promote other fantastic writers with this event. I have time to try something new, and let it become what it wants to become. If Wine & Words is just a place where authors can meet readers casually, without the pressure to preform a reading (if that’s what they want, and some do!) then that’s what it will be. We’ll tweak the format if need be, and let it have room to grow! So far it’s been quite a lot of fun, in part because it’s given me more opportunities to find new books, and meet more writers than I could have done without it. I’m grateful. I hope that readers will discover it, and be as equally entertained and grateful as I am! I’ll admit that the 3rd Sunday has landed on some awkward days, but each one has been fabulous so far. I only hope it grows.
Casey Clabough by: Clifford Brooks What question have you never been asked that you’ve always wanted to answer (and slap us with that answer)? Well, one time, not long before I was taken to a mental hospital, I was hearing the voice of God in my head. So I guess one question might be: what does God sound like? And the answer is that he doesn’t sound human. He makes things known without words which is an alien thing, especially for a writer. Also, he sounds far away and distant but at the same time you’re hearing him inside your head. So God sounds otherworldly and strange. but in my case he transmitted feelings of strength and reassurance, so I was happy to talk with him and wouldn’t mind if he returned. What question have you been asked so many times you never want to hear it again? Probably the southern writer thing. I don’t really know what that means anymore. Our world is so connected, technologically and mobility-wise, that it’s becoming very difficult to have some kind of regional exceptionalism in North America. Of course the ways in which it’s dying out are interesting to document, study, and portray. You have one of the most prolific portfolios I’ve seen in literary theory and critique. How did you get started in that field, and what piqued your interest in it? Well, I initially was going to be a creative writer. I went to graduate school at the University of South Carolina to study with James Dickey. However, he died in my first year and I really didn’t want to transfer and start over, so I stayed and switched over to literature. There was a lit. professor there named Matthew Bruccoli who was kind of a big deal and he got me excited about publishing. I 119
managed to get my first book published before it was approved as a dissertation by my PhD committee. Then I just kept going until I started to get tired of it, at which point I started publishing . What question have you never been asked that you’ve always wanted to answer (and slap us with that answer)? Well, one time, not long before I was taken to a mental hospital, I was hearing the voice of God in my head. So I guess one question might be: what does God sound like? And the answer is that he doesn’t sound human. He makes things known without words which is an alien thing, especially for a writer. Also, he sounds far away and distant but at the same time you’re hearing him inside your head. So God sounds otherworldly and strange. but in my case he transmitted feelings of strength and reassurance, so I was happy to talk with him and wouldn’t mind if he returned. What question have you been asked so many times you never want to hear it again? Probably the southern writer thing. I don’t really know what that means anymore. Our world is so connected, technologically and mobility-wise, that it’s becoming very difficult to have some kind of regional exceptionalism in North America. Of course the ways in which it’s dying out are interesting to document, study, and portray. You have one of the most prolific portfolios I’ve seen in literary theory and critique. How did you get started in that field, and what piqued your interest in it? Well, I initially was going to be a creative writer. I went to graduate school at the University of South Carolina to study with James Dickey. However, he died in my first year and I really didn’t want to transfer and start over, so I stayed and switched over to literature. There was a lit. professor there named Matthew Bruccoli who was kind of a big deal and he got me excited about publishing. I managed to get my first book published before it was approved as a dissertation by my PhD committee. Then I just kept going until I started to get tired of it, at which point I started publishing my creative books and did less scholarship. Why is literary theory and deep criticism important in the world of letters? I don’t know that it is. I mean, it doesn’t have to be, but I do think knowing different ways of reading literature can’t help but aid your own creative writing endeavors. It gives you more ammunition for processing the things you read and that can’t be bad for a writer. I don’t usually like the way it sounds-the writing voice of theory--so I find myself skipping around a lot, looking for concepts or ideas I can use for my own purposes. I often read philosophy that way too. Tell us about your unique mind and how, if any, different light it sheds on the page to either help, or hinder, your assessment of it? How does schizophrenia affect your creativity? (The following is actually an excerpt from my schizophrenia manuscript) Looking back, I can trace how my creative writing and academic study of literature grew increasingly tangled in my head over the course of several years. Originally trained as a scholar, I moved over to also writing creatively. In the process I became interested in the convergence of the two pursuits: of 120
combining the scholarly study of literature with creative writing. This idea took the form of a term known as “literary embedding,” in which the writer buries within his creative writing fragments of prior literary works. For example, in my recent novella The Whale’s Song—a retelling of Herman Melville’s Moby Dick from the whale’s point of view—my own descriptions occasionally mesh or overlap with passages from Melville’s novel, albeit from the whale’s perspective. This approach worked in reverse manner as well: while performing scholarly writing about literary works I sometimes would draw from my creative writing a description which seemed apt for a particular sentence or progression. In this way, the creative became the scholarly and the scholarly the creative. I was excited by and proud of this self-styled cross-fertilization, breaking down various categories and conventions of writing. Increasingly, though, I became less able to discern where the embeddings were coming from and what kind of writing I was performing. Things began to get mixed up in my brain. A piece of writing that set out as a scholarly essay might conclude as a short story, or fictional and nonfictional elements might contend with each other over the course of a piece of writing so that the end result defied description. Although I delighted sometimes at the results of this process, increasingly it bordered on gibberish that was not really appropriate for any particular readership other than my own skewed sensibility. What are a few of your current books on shelves today, what’s next on your horizon, and how can the public find your work? Other than reading manuscripts for friends and graduate students, my active reading list is all stuff about schizophrenia and mental illness. The book I’m writing alternates chapters between my personal experience of the disease and its history; I’m hoping it will be something that can help other sufferers and their families, as well as people with other kinds of mental illness. Nearly all my books are in print and can be found online various places. Where do you currently teach, and in what departments/programs are they included? I had to stop teaching altogether because of my illness, but I have been trying to ease back into it
11:11 Press by: Clifford Brooks A conversation with Andrew from 11:11 Press Let’s begin at the beginning: What gave you the drive to create your press? How did you decide on the name?
The name is an echo from our collective childhoods. Although the three of us founding members (Me, Megan, and James) grew up in different corners of the Midwest, we all vividly remember playing a game—and like everything in childhood, there was something magical about it. Passed down as folklore from the older kids, we learned to watch the second hand slowly make its way around the old elementary school clocks. Later, running around the neighborhood on those long muggy summer days, a stolen glance of an adult’s wristwatch could turn a group of children into a screaming torrent of chaos, yelling: “11:11, make a wish! It’s 11:11! Make a wish, quick!” According to kid legend, if you make a wish before 11:11 tuns into 11:12, it will come true. Like many secrets of childhood (underarm farts, the ringing *pop* of a finger snapped against a cheek, shooting a rubber band, and skillfully spinning a pen with your index finger around the middle joint of your thumb) we don’t know exactly how we learned it, but it was for the taking, and 11:11 remains tattooed into our childhood. To this day, when I pass the digital clock in my kitchen on my way to bed, if it’s 11:11 PM I think to myself: “make a wish”. And sometimes I do. We named our press “11:11” because it reminds us of a time when we were all truer to ourselves, when we had the guts to follow wherever our spirit took us, and that’s the type of writing we aim to publish. With age, this intrinsic boldness wanes, and our actions become about what society expects and demands. The tough part about middle school and high school is figuring out which parts to give up and which parts to keep. This continues post-school as we grow older; the belief is that materialism will calm an unsettled ego, and with this will come acceptance and respect, or at the least validation from our peers. I’ll have meetings with clients in my 9-5 job and leave thinking: there’s nothing left of what was once a truly unique and creative human being; they’ve taken on another identity. It’s the same all over, including the Arts. I think there’s a toxic belief about publishing that begins with authors believing that publishers only want books that fit their computer-generated model of success, so authors fold themselves accordingly to fit into a box, hoping at least a glimmer of their true selves can shine in published form. At 11:11, we think this limits an author’s true genius. 11:11 is a call back to a time of innocence when the author was more confident in being themselves. We believe everyone has a story, and you are the only one who can tell it exactly the way it needs to be told. Sometimes this means throwing out the Heroes Journey because not every poem or story has a “happily ever after” ending. Most stories don’t. In real life, there is more life after “happily ever after,” and we want to hear these stories, because they are a true and honest reflection of the soul. What niche does 11:11 Press fill that you found lacking in publishing? How do you see it expanding in the future?
We’re becoming known as a nontraditional or experimental publishing house. I’m most comfortable with the word “indie” because indie presses take risks on meaningful projects the big publishers are not willing to jeopardize losing their reputation or money on. Since we believe in the work and the unique voice of each author we publish, we let our authors have a lot of freedom. Of course, we also want to make each book the best it can be, so we’ll go through manuscripts and identify places where the book could be stronger. But the final decision is always the author’s, since it’s their work and their message to the world. If an author doesn’t agree with one of our suggestions, it gives them an opportunity to think about why they made a particular word or plot choice, and the process makes them more confident in the integrity of their work. Since we have a broad mission, we are publishing a variety of voices: poets, fiction authors, essayists; and some of these authors can be called avant-garde. Others are more traditional and take risks in the writing process. I’m a big fan of the Dangerous Writing movement, which began with Tom Spanbauer while a student of Gordon Lish at Columbia University. In a feature published in Poets & Writers, Spanbauer describes the act of writing dangerously as going to parts of ourselves that we know exist but try to ignore. To some degree, everyone feels this internal battle and writing about it helps us make sense of it all. Spanbauer says he writes because: “I cannot speak and cry at the same time.”As a press, more importantly than publishing books or trying to make enough money to fund more books, we hope to encourage more authors to write with this kind of honestly. There’s a Hermann Hesse quote I keep returning to that summarizes this perfectly: “‘I wanted only to live in accord with the promptings which came from my true self. Why was that so very difficult?” What is your opinion on self-publishing, and its effects on the traditional publishing market?
If you’re given the opportunity to sign a contract with a traditional publisher, they may ask you to make changes you are not comfortable making. And if that’s the case, self-publishing might be right for you. I think self-publishing gets a bad rap. Self-publishing is like when a band or solo artist books studio time to record an album because they don’t want a record label controlling their sound. Broadly, I think all artists are fed up with the gatekeepers, and technology has enabled many artists with drive to bypass the gatekeepers. The publishing industry is about ten years behind the music industry, so we’re in the middle of some big disruptions. Is it good or bad? It depends on how you respond to the change. We think it’s a good thing because it’s also opening doors for indie publishers. With that said, we don’t recommend self-publishing services because they price gouge for the use of free services and prey on writers who are new to publishing. Even hybrid publishing gives me the heebie-jeebies. They are bad for writers and bad for our indie culture. If you want to self-publish, you can do it for free using Amazon’s KDP, and there are great resources at the Creative Penn, Kindlepreneur, and Sterling & Stone’s Self-Publishing Podcast. What is your philosophy on the art of the physical book: The cover, the paper weight, design, binding, ink weight, and font?
I’m going to pass this over to James, our creative director, so he can answer this question. James? The cover design is a union between Frank Lloyd Wright and the contemporary designer Helen Yentus – both have been a heavy influence on our style. Additionally, Walter Gropius’ Bauhaus movement of the early 20th century has inspired the relationship between the colors we choose and 123
the balance of the composition. Personally, I believe that the non-lexical aspects of a book create an enhanced context and an amplified voice – this is most apparent in Gut Text. As a press, we aspire to remind authors that they have the power to give themselves permission to break rules and redefine the standard expectations the community has created. The cover should convey content without words—it’s preverbal, and our goal is to give the author a book that honors the preverbal state. You get all that? (This is Andrew again). I’d also like to mention that we work with a local printer, Bookmobile, and they have a great support team who have helped us out numerous times in the past. What are the biggest challenges you’ve faced thus far on the business end?
As mentioned earlier with your question about self-publishing, the whole industry is changing—a lot— and we’re trying to keep pace while remaining relevant and covering all our costs. It’s a juggling act, but one we’re happy to be part of. One option we rolled out this spring is our name-your-own-price eBook download. We are doing this on a case-by-case basis with every author we work with, but many of them are onboard with the option. We don’t want to limit access to our catalog because someone can’t afford a book. Also, unlike a bookstore, you can’t flip through a digital book, read a couple pages, and get a feeling if you want to read/buy it or not. So, with no questions asked, everyone has access to read most of our books. This has been a little difficult because everyone likes free books—free anything—and we’re not sure exactly how it’s going to land. For example, in the first 30 days of releasing the option, we had more than 5,000 downloads of our latest release, Gut Text by Mike Corrao, and very little in terms of corresponding book sales or contributions. I think we find ourselves in a difficult time in the Arts when we expect free music, cheap streaming videos, and, when possible, free books. The only time we pay for things is when we have to out of necessity. I’m not sure where the line is, or if we should draw one. We believe art is for everyone, and most of our authors would agree that it’s better to be read by thousands and have modest book sales than to only have modest book sales. As a company, we do this out of love—from the money we make in profit 50% goes directly to the author (from the first book sold) and 50% goes towards paying off the project. Any surplus goes into an account that funds our next projects. At the end of the day, we owe it to our authors and future authors to pay them for their creative work. And with more sales and support, we will be able to fund more books. Tell us a bit about the staff. Please give us a few faces of 11:11 Press.
You’ve already met James, our creative director, who is also the visionary behind our logos and many of our covers. When he’s not geeking out in InDesign, you can find him reading analytic philosophy in dark places and drinking black coffee. Megan is the Editor for 11:11 and her main focus besides giving feedback on submissions is in copyediting. As a writer in the peer-reviewed academic world, 124
her background has trained her to be incredibly detail-oriented, which we’re all grateful for. Hanna is our voice coach aka line editor and she helps the author with their voice on the page. We’re incredibly lucky to have such a creative and dedicated core team. We also have two design interns, Jennifer and Ashley, and one editorial intern, Erica, who is learning the ropes on the business end of publishing. As the Publisher, I work in a project manager role and I’m blessed with the opportunity to work with everyone on a weekly basis. Our early success is due to these wonderful people working behind the scenes who truly care about contributing. What projects do you have out? What projects do you have in-process? What are projects you’d love to be a part of as your publishing house grows?
We have three books out, two more that will be released in 2019, and four-ish that will be coming out in 2020. This September we will be publishing Vi Khi Nao and Ali Raz’s book, Human Tetris, which is a cross between the genre of newspaper personals and the self-display of online dating. It’s creative, sensual, and always, very entertaining. Later this fall we’ll be publishing a novel by A.S. Coomer titled Memorabilia. After the main character finds the suicide note of a friend, his whole world begins falling apart. This character becomes a prisoner to the state and his own body. It’s Coomer’s first attempt at something more philosophical, and his fans won’t be disappointed. We will be working with some notable indie authors in 2020, and some new ones, and we don’t want to spill the beans quite yet, so stay turned to our website and Twitter account. Our long-term goal is to expand 11:11 so we are able to support a bigger cause. We are currently in the processes of seeking non-profit status to work with communities in crisis using writing as a therapeutic tool. Like I discussed with Dangerous Writing, fiction can be a tool to help writers work through a difficult past they might have buried years ago. As an author works through those feelings on the page, they are working through those feelings themselves, and can gain the same peace or insight as their characters. There’s a lot of power in both the act of writing and the minds ability to imagine base soly on words in a book. We hope we gain enough support to grow this into a nationwide initiative because we believe writing—and reading—can save lives. How can people find you online? How can they submit their work for consideration?
You can visit us online at 1111press.com, and you can email us your submissions to 1111 (at) 1111press.com What helpful hints do you have for those who’d like to submit that give them a better chance?
Be humble and have a good work ethic. A lot of writers new to publishing think publishers want to see them flex their muscles. If we can feel a writer’s ego in a query letter or manuscript submission, we know working together is likely more trouble than it’s worth. When you’re honest and true to your true self, your writing will speak for itself. What are pet peeves that writers should avoid like the plague if they wish a chance for acceptance with 11:11?
Writing often begins with something personal. In the days and months that follow quietly crafting alone there’s a great deal of pride and joy when the manuscript is finally finished. The next step, what makes a good manuscript great, is revision—and a lot of it. It’s sanding down the bumps and asking for an editor’s feedback. Granted, not all editors are going to tell you want you want to hear (I had one editor completely rip me apart), but even if what they’re saying is hard to hear, there’s usually a nugget of truth in what they’re saying. If we ask you to revise and resubmit, the last thing we want to hear is: “if the reader doesn’t understand, they’re stupid.” Go back to your manuscript and revise. A tough lesson, but a necessary one, is that being humble is a sign of strength. Most of the writing we publish breaks rules, and if you’re going to break the rules, you have to know why you’re breaking the rules. If there is no purpose to your breaking of the rules, why do it at all? You should always remain true to yourself and to your writing.
Shawn Crawford by: Clifford Brooks
Give us some background on you. Where did you grow up? What education do you have under your belt and brow? Which events in your life helped most to develop the man you are today?
I grew up in El Dorado, KS in a fundamentalist Baptist family. For whatever reason, books were never off limits like the other facets of culture. I chased literature all the way to receiving a Ph.D. with a specialty in Milton. I got tired of the game in academics and moved into nonprofit work. Trying to hold the demands of faith and the other worlds offered in books in balance had a profound influence on my life and thinking. The books won. What is your opinion of the literary landscape today? What are its high and low points? How do you hope to improve it with Calliope Crashes?
I started Calliope Crashes because I found the world of listicles and three sentence comments on the latest video depressing. We try to comment and offer culture in a longer format that is still entertaining. We have a loyal readership that is never going to be huge because we don’t chase clicks for their own sake. I have a friend that makes movies (He won an Academy Award this year. Shameless name drop). He said when he started if you could just get the money together to make the film, you could get distribution on a wide scale. Now anyone can make a movie but you can’t get any distribution beyond your YouTube channel. 126
I think the same thing has happened in publishing. Which is both positive and negative. Way more diversity because of all the platforms like self-publishing and on-demand but much harder to get readers. But at least I can champion some voices that weren’t being heard at all. What have you been writing over the years? What have you had published since putting pen to paper?
I used to write dry, academic papers. Then I transitioned to freelance writing to make a buck. Then I gave up for ten years. I finally decided to write what I wanted, and I have been working on coming to terms with my upbringing in the larger historical context of evangelicals. That has really resonated, especially since the election of Trump. People are baffled and wonder, “how did we get here?” I hope I have something to add to that conversation. Where did the inspiration for Calliope Crashes come from? What does the name of it symbolize?
Calliope Crashes is a mash-up of Calliope, the muse of poetry and eloquence, and the circus calliope, the steam organ often played when a circus paraded through town. And of course the Springsteen song. I find that the perfect name for wanting to be relevant while recognizing the circus we currently inhabit. What are all the moving parts of Calliope Crashes?
Calliope started out as website with different areas of focus in pop culture, built around a persona I created now known simply as The Rant. That grew out to include other writers, and finally a larger umbrella called The Calliope Group that includes anything I am interested in, including print publishing. What is your philosophy in life and art? How does that mantra play into your working life?
Given my upbringing, I still believe in words and their power. Radiating outward, the creation of art tells us who we are and who we can be moving forward. I’m never going to give up on that belief regardless of the current moment. One reason we are struggling in American culture is because we stopped listening to our artists, we stopped believing in the power or words to do anything more than manipulate us into buying products and voting for charlatans. I don’t subscribe to that view. I want to keep searching for those words, personally and from others. Calliope Crashes recently got its print-publishing wings off the ground. Tell us about the collection of poetry we can soon bring home. Who is it by? What story does it tell? Why did you pick this poet as your flagship?
I always wanted to get into book publishing, and new technology finally makes that possible. As I was looking to start a small publishing house, I met Quraysh Ali Lansana. As the last student of 127
Gwendolyn Brooks, Lansana has an amazing legacy and a powerful voice. He was ready to curate his first new and collected works and had just left his former publisher. He was also willing to take a chance on Calliope Crashes as his new home. Lansana explores Black identity both in the rural setting where he grew up in Oklahoma and in the urban reality of his many years in Chicago. He’s also a student of history, and I believe the Skin of Dreams, the resulting book we just published, will resonant now and far into the future. We couldn’t be more proud to make this our first title. What genres do you plan to publish in the future? How can people submit?
The Calliope Group wants to publish books with a strong point of view that might get lost in other settings. Especially nonfiction that tells a story not being heard, poetry with a strong narrative bent, and fiction beyond the usual best-seller Our next book will be a revised edition of Terry Hawkins’ great speculative fiction work, American Neolithic. Moving forward, we also want to create anthologies around timely themes. We are going to have limited titles, but we always want to listen to pitches. You can query us at email@example.com. Where do you see Calliope Crashes in 5, 10, and 20 years?
In five years, I want this to be my full-time job and not just a side hustle. In ten years, I want interesting voices to think of us first as a home for their book and writing, and in 20 I want to be the subject of a Netflix documentary, regardless of whether it is a celebration of our success or a cautionary tale of dreaming too big. What have you always wanted to be asked, but never have? What is the answer?
I always want people to ask me why I have such odd, varied interests. The answer is because I’m curious. If someone isn’t curious, they have abandoned a part of their existence that makes life meaningful.
Red Flag Poetry by: Clifford Brooks What is Red Flag Poetry about? What is your operating philosophy? What kinds of work do you like to feature?
Red Flag Poetry is primarily about the medium of the postcard and the joy we feel when we receive fun mail. We believe that the postcard offers a unique canvas for us to send poetry paired with a piece of visual art to our readers all over the country and even all over the world. Red Flag is a passion project, fueled by the desire to get poetry out into the hands of more people, especially people who may not come into contact with it otherwise. Further, the project operates under a philosophy of accessibility. We want our readers to be able to receive their postcard in the mail and by the time they have made the walk from their mailbox back to their home or vehicle, they should be able to read the poem in its entirety and glean some message from it. We ascribe to the notion that poetry can be something read and digested in the moment, but read again and again, and reflected upon later. Because of this, we tend to feature shorter works that will, first of all, fit legibly on one side of a postcard and, secondly, offer something for our readers to not only immediately enjoy—whether that be for its aesthetic beauty, its innovative use of imagery, or whatever else the case may be—but also ponder upon later for even more enjoyment. To check out our previously published work head over to www.redflagpoetry.com. In today’s world of social media madness, your take the spread of poetry back to the USPS. What motivated you to do that?
Checking the mailbox in today’s day and age has become a burden. People dread going to their mailbox unless they’ve received notification on their phone saying that package they ordered has arrived. Outside of that, our mailboxes are filled with junk flyers from local grocery stores, offers stating we’ve been pre-approved for another debt trap credit card, and bills upon bills. So, in order to combat this we wanted to start something that would make people want to check their mail again; something that would brighten their day for a minute on that walk back from their mailbox; a short and digestible artform that could be read, pondered over, then maybe read again at a later time. Red Flag Poetry strives to offer something tangible that makes checking the mail less of a chore and more of the process of wonder it once was when getting a postcard sent from a friend or loved one was more of a common occurrence. 129
Who are involved with this project? Please have the staff give a line or two to why they are involved and why they love Red Flag Poetry.
We have three permanent team members who are always involved in the workings of project. They are, founding-editor/primary designer: Peter Faziani, editor/press director: Wesley Scott McMasters, editor/art director: Sarah Everett, and editor/communications director: Matthew Stumpf. Outside of the four permanent members of the Red Flag team we have a rotating pool of interns who have worked with the project over the years. These interns vary from standard editorial assistants, to social media coordinators, and even web interns who have helped with our website and internet presence aside from just social media. Our current intern is Rachel Foor and she is working in the capacity of editorial assistant/social media coordinator. Peter Faziani – I love this project because it allows me to help emerging and established poets find new audiences for their work. Wesley Scott McMasters – I love poetry and the people who write it, and Red Flag gives me an opportunity to help bring art to people across the world. Sarah Everett – being involved with Red Flag Poetry has been a fun way to expand my knowledge and skill set in areas like organization and project management. It’s a quirky group with an important mission. Matthew Stumpf – this project has really helped me refine my understanding of the editing and publishing process. I also love working with this group of people and helping poets find a new and unique forum for their hard work. Where did the name “Red Flag Poetry” come from? What is its significance?
The red flag in Red Flag Poetry comes from the flag on mailboxes. It signifies that as a project we are postal-based and that we primarily operate through the sending of physical mail through the USPS. Who are some of your poets featured thus far? What drew you to them?
Red Flag has featured many poets over the years, but to name a few we have worked with John Dorsey, Amanda Oaks, Devon Balwit, Virginia Petrucci, Yuan Changming, Darren Demaree, Alexis Rhone Fancher, Nalini Priyadarshni, and Simon Perchik. This list is in no way exhaustive and we are sorry to all the amazing poets who did not get mentioned here. We still love you all. As a small press we strive to publish new and emerging poets as well as some established writers, all of which write fantastic poems that we feel need more exposure in the world. We were drawn to most of our published authors through a mutual appreciation of their work and desire to showcase their writing. How do you choose the designs to go with the poetry? Who are some of your artists?
We receive photographs, paintings, graphics, and sketches during our submission period and then match those to the poems we have set up for the year month by month. In some cases, the images link to a particular line in the poem or just match the general vibe of what is being said. When we come across a month or a book that we do not have an image for based on our submissions, we ask colleagues with an artistic background if they are interested in creating a piece of art based on the work. Some of our artists include Jackie Perry, Donald Winzer, Amanda Oaks, Ellyn Faziani, and 130
Allen Forrest. How do people sign up to receive your mailings? How many do you have signed up thus far?
People can sign up to receive monthly Red Flag Poetry postcards on our website at www.redflagpoetry.com/subscribe. With a subscription to the postcard service, people are also automatically signedup to receive our digital Poetry Express email, similarly sent once a month. Poetry Express features longer works that won’t necessarily fit on a postcard and is sent to our subscribers’ inbox. This way we are sending to both the mailbox and the inbox and featuring different kinds of work in both mediums. So far, we have a total of roughly 200 subscribers. These numbers vary depending on new sign-ups each month and subscriptions running out, but this past year has been one of immense growth for the project and we are thankful for all the support. How far away do you mail your poetry? Do you hope to make this thing a global influence?
At the moment, the furthest away we mail postcards is to Estonia and Australia. We have, in the past, also had subscribers from India. Also, we currently have multiple Canadian subscribers who have been with us for quite some time. The team absolutely hopes to make this a global project, spanning as far and wide as its potential will allow. What are some new ideas you have for your press? Does the press thus far keep you fired up?
Red Flag Poetry began humbly as the postcard project we are most well-known for. Over the past few years we have extended into the realm of publishing chapbooks and full-length manuscripts. This has been a great experience that we want to continue on with and hope to grow even further. Aside from this, we have dabbled in the arena of podcasts as well as co-hosting a local open mic poetry read-out called Lit. Night @ the Artists Hand (www.theartistshandgallery.com). The press absolutely keeps us fired up. Primarily, this fire comes from how we all continue to learn and grow and how we all love getting poetry out into the hands and emails of anyone willing to read it. What is the key to your success? What advice do you have for others looking to do something similar?
The project owes some thanks for its success to the gracious financial support we receive from the Indiana University of Pennsylvania Department of English (www.iup.edu/english), which has enabled us to focus more of the quality of the products we are sending out, but let’s be honest here, lit mags and small presses typically have a very brief lifecycle. Our growth and ability to last comes from the unique approach that each member of the team brings. We also think part of our staying power over the past four years has been our ability to publish poetry and art in ways that people want to look at. While our culture could always benefit from more poetry, art, and literature, we think the best advice we have for someone looking to start a press or a magazine, is to know that it will be an uphill endeavor that requires constant and careful attention and an unfaltering desire to perform a labor of love. Afterall, we’ve never done this for the money, and we don’t expect we ever will. You can find Red Flag Poetry on their website mentioned above or on Facebook at www.facebook. com/redflagpoetry, Twitter at www.twitter.com/redflagpoetry, or on Instagram at www.instagram. com/redflagpoetry. We love hearing from new fans of the project and poets from around the world.
MUSIC & ENTERTAINMENT
Josh Pray by: Clifford Brooks Josh Pray is an intellectual comedian, yet very much of the people. I found him through the YouTube channel which shares his name. After I enjoyed the laughter and humble wisdom of a few episodes, I was hooked. The brand of humor he employs avoids the trappings of vulgarity, judgement, and egotism. Instead, his message is simply love. Pray’s mission is to encourage everybody to come in peace, leave in peace, respect themselves first, then respect others. (And to do all this with a smile.) Pray is as approachable in conversation as he appears on his YouTube series. “I am the same Josh in my videos as I am on the street,” he said. “Being honest keeps my life simple.” That rule of life is what draws tens of thousands of views on all his videos. His sense of humor is on-point. He pokes fun at himself, not others. Real-life videos like 5 Reasons to Love a Redneck, Perfumes Every Queen Should Wear, 5 Reasons to Put Utah on Your Bucket List, Can Black People Get a Sun Burn, and Tombstone is the Best Western Ever are a few videos that break down barriers. Let’s stop here and ask: Who is Josh Pray? He was born in Immokalee, Florida and raised by a strong mother who today, not only keeps her son in line, but delivers the word of God as a church minister. Josh spent his youth in a loving, supportive household. His exposure to the wonder of what the Lord can do sculpted much of the man’s integrity and ethical foundation. “There is a verse in the Bible, John 1:5 ‘The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.’ I want to be one of those who come into a dark room with light and leave it, and life, a brighter place.” His mother, one of his heroes, taught him how to embrace that light. Other mentors in his life like Gary Houston and eighth grade language arts teacher, Edward Spruill, lit a fire under him to teach others how to embrace that same light, and themselves. After high school, Pray went to college to study education, but found deep in himself a greater call134
ing. The classroom was not his lot, but education still is. Comedy called him from an early age, and grew more intense over the years. His comedy icons are Martin Lawrence, Jim Varney, and Don Rickles. I asked Pray if he could pinpoint a time in his life when he felt his life and career turn in his favor. He said, “In 2017 I stopped trying to be something I’m not and be me. I came at comedy like Richard Pryor. I love that man and his work, but the subject matter and cursing wasn’t my style. I decided to take a leap of faith and get on stage as Josh Pray. My career and peace of mind improved immediately.”
“I want the focus of my show to be on the people.”
It’s a daunting task to be transparent in front of your friends, much less the world. When I asked him if he feared judgement and negative backlash about such honesty, Pray told me, “It’s hard to be negative when you come with only the positive. I mean, yeah, you’ll have haters that want to stab at you. For every hater there are a thousand fans that tell me I helped them beat dark times. I don’t let negativity get me down.” Pray is being modest about that number. Since he’s taken on the vulnerability of showing his faults, scars, and mistakes crowds of fifteen thousand or more have turned up to see him live. “If anyone is going to be made fun of, it’s me.” When he shows his own humanity, it allows folks suffering to take it easy on themselves. An Avid reader, Pray’s personal education never ends. In addition to reading the Bible every day, he’s currently reading Robert Greene’s The Art of Seduction. Gene Elliot Thornton’s autobiography, Wretched, Pitiful, Poor, Blind and Naked, played an important role in shaping his personal philosophy because it taught Pray that a hard life, and hard hand, doesn’t define a man’s life. It isn’t about the mistakes you make; it’s about what you learn from them. Likewise, it isn’t how deep you’ve dug yourself into a hole; it’s about how you get out of it. Redemption is a major theme in Pray’s life. It is a core function of his comedy ministry – redemption, we can all find it. As the conversation wound down, I asked Pray what he wanted out of life, and his career, in the future. He told me that he wants a show on the Travel Channel where he takes viewers into the kitchens of South Central L.A. and backwater West Virginia. “I don’t want to go into restaurants and plug a business. I want the focus of my show to be on the people. Food brings families together, and families aren’t always about blood kin. It’s always about people. It’s the experience, the laughter, and the joy of good food shared among good people. You leave issues and drama at the door when you sit down at the table to eat.” If you want to change the world, educate it. If you want to fill the soul, soul food isn’t a bad place to start. Peace comes from understanding, and laughter tears down walls each of us might leave up if we try to talk serious issues without laughing first. A smile goes a long way. Josh Pray has come a long way, and his light shows us a path to follow. It’s a path without guilt. It’s a path of empowerment. It’s a road to sympathy, self-awareness, and a lifetime of lasting friendship. Please check out his YouTube channel and show support there as well as his social media outlets. Our American society is riddled with hate speech, in-fighting, and rivalries. Let’s take a different approach: listen to R&B with Josh Pray, take care of ourselves, and love others. We get one life. Let’s fill it with the hope and determination of great men and women.
Kalliopi by: Clifford Brooks
Please give us some details about you. Are you the same offstage as off? What about you do you want people to remember?
I am a singer/songwriter and actress from Greece. I was born in Athens, went to drama school and played several lead parts in the theater, starting out while still being a drama student. I also went to London where I did a one year intensive acting course. Back in Greece I joined a band playing covers and then originals and began writing songs. We made a record at Lyra and toured with a major artist in Greece, Germany and Cyprus. I worked both as a singer and an actress for some time before moving to London for a second time, to explore the music scene, play live and write songs...I stayed for a few years and then returned to Greece to continue my work as an actress, while I had the chance to write the music for two theatrical productions and record my songs. 136
I tend to be a lot more casual and funny offstage, I make jokes and act stupid while onstage I like to dress up and rock it up a little more, being more serious and all, feeling a little nervous before the show.. It’ s really amazing to see your songs have an effect on people’s lives and make them feel good, energized, unique....other artists’ songs I love have had that effect on me and have been with me most of the time... Who inspired you to become a musician? What style of music to perform?
I think it started by watching old Hollywood musical movies and musicals with July Andrews like Sound of music, Victor Victoria, Marry Poppins..also musicals like Grease, West Side Story.. Do you write your own songs? What is your process when you create lyrics?
Yes, I write my own songs.. most of the times I think of a melody first and while I am working on it and try to sing it, a word or a phrase or even incoherent sounds that resemble a word, will come up, images and phantasy mixed with personal experiences will spring to mind and a story starts building up and take shape...my lyrics all have a sort of senario behind.. Do you write the music too? How do collaborations fit into your creative process?
Collaborations can give you a spark, can act as a springboard and give you a feeling of safety that you are not alone in your artistic endeavours. I have collaborated with producers and bands in the past as a singer and that has given me a lot of experience on recording. As a songwriter, I teamed up with the guitarist for producing my songs and it has also worked very well when I wrote music and songs for two theatrical productions, one was a musical of Oliver Twist and the other the music and songs for a new play based on Macbeth, using the director’s adaptation in greek of Shaekspeare’s poetry as lyrics. What are you reading now, and what are your favorite books?
I have started reading a historical novel by Yiannis Kalpouzos - “Yinati.The wiseman of the lake”, it is situated in the city of Ioannina. I am not an avid reader really, I would like to be able to read more.. most of the books I’ve read was while I was in the theater where I read many theatrical plays and was introduced to all the classic and modern playwrights and also when I studied for my Sorbonne degree in litterature. It might seem funny but I remember I loved reading the Three Musketeers, I had watched the movie many times but in the book there are more little details and subtleties that make a difference. I also loved Isabel Aliente’s atmospheric and magical “Stories of Eva Luna”. Who are you favorite songwriters, poets, and novelists? Why?
Jim Morrison, John Lennon, Bruce Springsteen, Sting, Leonard Cohen, Cat Stevens...are some of my favorite songwriters, of course loving their music first of all.. I like classic novelists like Victor Hugo, Dickens, Dumas, for their storytelling and character making, books that are based on historic events and weave fantasy or myth with reality, also modern surreal137
ists and existentialists like G.Seferis, A.Camus, G.Apollinaire, Antoine de Saint-Exupery for the simplicity, their use of allusions and modern style. What do you bring to the music scene that you saw lacking before?
Well, it’s all been done before, there is a lot of greatness that has preceded us and probably will be very difficult to surpass that....so I make music cause I need to, cause it happens naturally and makes me feel good. What advice do you have for new musicians trying to make a mark in the world?
I wouldn’t want to advise on that really, it can be misleading.....every person has his own destiny and no one can tell in what circumstances success and fulfillment may find you....maybe just to try and discover their own truth underneath borrowed layers, we have been carrying for years and not be judgmental or put themselves down.. What is your philosophy on living a happy life?
Happiness can be a choice, decisions you make about what people you have in your life, how you let things affect you, You can choose to be happy... What albums do you have out? What projects do you have on the horizon? Where do we go online to check out
Two singles of mine have been released “Naked” and “Another Chance”, that you can find on all major digital distributors, like iTunes, Spotify, Amazon, Deezer..etc..and on CD Baby. I have songs for a full album, but will probably release more singles first and then follow with an album. The projects are endless, from making new music videos to writing new songs, making an acoustic version of a song or a remix...! On top of that I have been working on the production of the songs I wrote for Oliver Twist’ musical and thinking maybe it be could be released as part of a children’s book. You can find me on my Facebook Page, Instagram and Twitter: @kalliopimusic and you can also subscribe to my newsletter on my website at http:\\www.kalliopimusic.com
Brother Hawk by: Dusty Huggins
Tell us about the members of the group.
Brother Hawk is JB Brisendine - Vocals, Guitar Nick Johns - Keys, Vocals James Fedigan - Bass Evan Diprima Drums How did the group’s formation come to fruition?
James and I (JB) had been jamming for a few years with different people trying to get something going. The whole time I was begging Nick to come play with us but he had a different life and a lot going on. Finally, in 2010, I wore him down and the second we played together, it was on. We grew up together playing music and had our first band together at nine so I knew he was the missing piece we had been looking for. One issue we have always had as a band is going through a lot of drummers over the years but that came to end last year when Evan joined. He’s the perfect fit for us and we’ve grown so much musically just in the short time he’s been playing with us. How does it feel to carry on Atlanta’s brand just as bands like ARS, The Black Crowes and Collective Soul
have in recent years?
I didn’t know that we’re viewed that way but i think it’s wonderful if people do. The Black Crowes are one of my all-time favorite bands and a huge influence on us. I can remember being in elementary school when Nick and I met and loving Collective Soul. The fact that they were from a suburb of Atlanta just like us really gave me the feeling that we could grow up and do the same kind of thing. What are some of your largest influences as a group? What about as individuals?
Personally, Neil Young is my biggest influence. He’s the true GOAT to me. Nick’s big two are Radiohead and Sigur Ros, James’ is Nirvana, and Evan’s is CHUCK BISCUITS. As a band, we really do pull our influences from everywhere. We’re not dead set on making a certain kind of music. But lately in the van there’s been a lot of the last two Talk Talk records, the most recent QOTSA record, and Live Bon Iver. Put yourselves in your own shoes 40 years down the line. What do you think you will look back on and be most proud of to this point?
We were talking about this question and Evan said “perseverance from all of us” and I think that’s pretty true. We’ve all been through it trying to make music our life, especially finding the right people to play with and of course trying to have a life and families outside of it. But we love it, and now that we’re all together I dare someone to try and stop us! 8. What is on the horizon for Brother Hawk?
We have a live in studio video series coming out late summer/ early fall. We went to Big Trouble Recording in Atlanta and did four live tracks with TJ Elias who did our last two records. Two of our songs and two covers. We’ll also have east coast tour dates for October and November. Our next hometown show is August 14 at The Earl with Tedo Stone and Pike Co.
Anthony Nolan by: Clifford Brooks What is your background in the music industry, and what position do you hold now?
I started taking music outside of my bedroom back in high school. I djed for local hip hop artists playing parties and events. That’s also where I got my first experience organizing and promoting. The djing continued through college when I learned more about production, the recording process and audio engineering in general. I joined a band in 2009. Its success and the generosity of people we met along our journey led to my exposure to some nicer studios than I could afford at the time. In 2010 I worked for a recording studio in Atlanta, Doppler Studios. I eventually built my own facility and have been working as an independent audio engineer ever since. This year I start working in audio post production at Bare Knuckles Creative. What inspired you to get into this field? What does music do for you? What are some of the first songs you remember hearing?
Music was a ways a big dev in my house growing up. My father is from Detroit MI. He played keys as a gigging musician when he was young. He was always playing soul, jazz and funk music as loud as possible. His passion for music definitely planted the seed that led to my interests and career. The first tape I can remember owning was MC Hammer. Before that Dad was playing artists like Earth Wind & Fire, James Brown and The Isley Brothers. Music can create or enhance a mood. It always does for me at least. It helps me create the environment or energy I’m looking for whether it’s on a commute or at a concert. I just love how music can instantly create a such a palpable emotional response. It’s helped me motivate, cope with pain, inspire me to pursue things or even just crawl into a ball and reflect. It’s really powerful. 141
What are some of the biggest misconceptions about your line of work? What are some of the perks that few know about?
As an audio engineer I think there are a ton of misconceptions about what we do. I’ve seen plenty of artists hire an engineer but not have a clue what they process is like. They just have a professional mix on their checklist. I think one of the most common issues comes from artists thinking all their problems can be fixed by a mix engineer later instead of working with the right recording engineer to get things sounding good before the mixing gets started. It’s absolutely amazing how the accessibility to legit professional quality recording tools has grown. So many people are generating a ton of great material. Unfortunately, sometimes to get the results you want, you’ve got to re-record things that you really love. That can be difficult as an artist, especially one on a budget. I personally think the line between engineer and producer gets blurry at times. Most people understand that an EQ and compressor are tools in an engineer’s toolkit. Sometimes it’s about making the right sound that fits the intent of the material and not just about tweaking what’s there. Changing the tone of an instrument or the type of reverb can often solve the problem, even though most probably consider those the producer’s responsibility. That can be hard to do once an artist has created and been listing to a song for a long time before it gets to my desk. It doesn’t always happen, but when the artist, producer and engineer all get on the same page and feel comfortable sharing new ideas great things happen. It takes trust and patients but when all these things align everyone learns a lot, becomes better producers and songwriters while taking that song to a level no one could working on their own. To find success on the engineering side of music production, what is the ratio in street-to-book sense? What are bad habits to avoid and good ones to adopt?
The professional audio industry has constantly been changing over the last few decades. Revenue streams are totally different than twenty years ago and new ones are being discovered every day. This really is not the kind of job that you can just educate yourself somewhere, and show up to a job and work your whole career. I feel like you have to be creative both in your business model and your marketing. I don’t know if I would still be doing what I do if I also didn’t approach my whole career as an entrepreneur, accepting several more roles than just the audio side of things. I did not pursue a proper degree for audio engineering. I took a few classes but most of my education came from getting in front of a DAW and just trying to make things sound better. I’ve always been curious about the education programs but for me experience was more valuable than the education. There are so many non audio related things that are absolutely necessary to working with artists and helping get the best performance possible to work with. For most, the recording process is an incredibly intimate one. The artist is usually worried about getting their best work done while also trying to stretch their studio budget to get everything completed in the best way possible. It doesn’t matter how book smart you are. If you can’t read the room and help encourage their productivity while maximizing the technical results without impeding on the session it’s just not going to work out. I’ve literally seen an artist frustrated with their ability to get their performance right fire their engineer mid session. It’s so important to pay attention to the mood and vibe of both the material itself, and the process of creating it. They’re all tied together. Sometimes finding positive ways to encourage taking a break or even changing gears to something new yields 142
better results than just brutal repetition until things sound right. For me, those are things that are more easily learned though experience and watching other engineers work. There have been a handful of situations where I was one of the least qualified applicants with respect to formal education, but still got the position. I must not be the only person who thinks this way. I still have respect and interest in the formal education side of things. I just haven’t pursued it. What are you reading right now? How does literature (or any other genre of art) inspire you when mixing and producing music?
I’ve gotten into post production for tv and film this year. I’ve had to learn fast and time has been scarce. Recently my reading has been dedicated to learning more about tools and techniques for mixing in surround environments. New hardware, software and overall goals for sessions have consumed me, at least for now. I love it though. I’ve always been more of a math & science guy so reading manuals and tutorials don’t feel boring at all. For me music is all about vibe and the emotional response. Sound is literally just moving air and can sometimes be difficult to describe in great detail. I always encourage producers artists and engineers to share all sorts of media that inspires them or creates a similar vibe to what they’re going for. When I was in a band we would share books, authors or visual artists, using them to help establish a desired mood or vibe of a song and then start to think about the instruments. What is your philosophy in life?
Pursue your goals at any cost. Time is the most scarce resource in the planet. Tomorrow isn’t promised. Fight for the life you want. How does your spiritual life factor into your professional?
I’m not personally a religious person. I do however think it’s always important to be respectful of everyone’s thoughts and beliefs. That’s even more important in the studio. As an audio engineer your working on someone else’s material. It’s my personal goal to help realize their vision for the project. Not mine. Sometimes in order to do that it helps to understand the thoughts and motivations behind the artist and the project they are working on. What projects do you have on deck that we should look out for? How do we find them online?
While I have some production in the works, it’s far too soon to talk about. Recently I’ve been inundated with post work that I’m not legally allowed to talk about yet. How can folks with more questions about your business contact you with questions?
I’m always happy to chat about projects, gear and techniques. You can find me on instagram @AnthonyNolanMix. My email is AnthonyNolanMusic@gmail.com Do you dream of building your own studio and an increasingly independent role in music production? Where do you see yourself in five, ten, and twenty years?
When I first bought my house it was all because I wanted to build my own studio. I found a house with an underground unfinished basement and built everything out from there. The rooms 143
are floated and the structure is decoupled from the house. It’s a legit buildout. While I don’t have the square footage of a bigger commercial space, the construction, equipment and room tuning have been more than I need to get quality work done. I’ve got a handful of Grammy nominated and platinum recording artist clients who seem to agree. It’s so hard to say where I’m going to be in a decade in this space. Ten years ago I was in a touring band. I built a music studio and started working as an engineer after that. Now I’m working at a different studio doing post work. Things change so fast and I just want to adapt and continue to find ways to work on audio and music production.
Jason Lyles by: Clifford Brooks Give us some background on you. Who is the man behind the music? Is there a persona you developed for the stage, or is the cat-on-thestreet and the guy-on-stage the same dude?
Besides being a musician, I am a father, husband, teacher, and distance runner. I grew up in a small north Georgia town called Chatsworth. After that I went to Berry College in Rome, Georgia, and eventually moved to Chattanooga. I don’t really have a stage alter ego or anything. I’m pretty much just a more extroverted version of myself. I also am kind of a social butterfly and enjoy entertaining people and making them feel welcome and a part of the group. It’s part of teaching and performing. I just like bringing people on the ride I’m offering whether on stage or in the classroom. I’ve always been a doer. If I felt like recording an album, running a marathon, setting up a summer 144
tour, etc., I just planned the steps I needed to take and started to execute them. I love big projects that take lots of little steps to reach. I really thrive on looking at big picture goals and making incremental progress towards them. It’s such a satisfying feeling after you’ve reached that goal, but then I’m quickly on to the next one. Who inspired you to begin this journey in music, and who inspires you now?
I was always into music, but I guess it was my mom who really influenced me in the beginning. First of all, she made me take piano lessons which gave me a basic understanding of music theory. She also had a giant box of 45 records (to which she kept adding more) that we would listen to together. We had a front porch swing adjacent to our living room, and my mom would put the stereo speakers in the windows. We would swing away many summer nights on that porch listening to songs of the 70s and 80s. Before long I was setting my piano practice music aside and sounding out pop songs and tv themes I liked. After that foundation was laid, there were several influences in high school. One was a guitarist friend of mine who taught me some chords. Another was my high school chorus teacher Camilla Springfield, who taught me to sing and pushed me to bring the most out of my stage performance. Along with this I was listening to artists such as Matthew Sweet, Ian Moore, and Nuno Bettencourt. Larger than life guitarists, singers, and songwriters that I was dying to emulate. Stir up this perfect storm and before I knew it I was playing in bands, writing songs, and performing at local venues. Now I’m constantly discovering new music and artists both national and local that inspire me to keep going. Currently I really like Future Thieves, Kerchief, and the Beta Machine. My daughter is also a big influence. I want her to be part of the music and performance, and she is always itching to be my backup dancer at my gigs. What do you do outside of music to make a difference in the world?
Outside of music I’m a husband, father to a six-year-old, and a science teacher. I think of actions as ripples in the water. When we are positive to those around us, they are more likely to be positive to those around them, and so forth. Unfortunately the opposite is true. I try to be a positive influence in my family and a good role model for my students. I teach the kids environmental science and try to show them how to make the world a better place. The same is true for my music. I want to spread positivity and inspiration around whenever I perform. What are you reading right now? How do you go about songwriting? How does literature and songwriting marry in your life?
Songwriting is a process for me. It either starts with an idea I get randomly (usually in the car or shower) such as a song set in the small town of Eton, Georgia, or it starts with a musical theme or riff. And sometimes it’s a marriage of the two. A song starts with some framework that I add upon until it’s complete. The best songs are when both music and lyrics come at once, such as my song “Lift Me Up.” I wrote that opening guitar line and immediately came up with lyrics to complete the song. It was really done in one sitting. Other songs may take me longer to complete when trying to get the words, structure, or arrangement just right. I’ve had musical ideas for years with which I still haven’t done anything. Their time will come, though! As far as literature and music goes, I think reading just makes you a better writer in the same way listening to musical arrangements and chord structures can make you a better musician. I like to use word play in my songs that are (in my opinion anyway) clever or different. I use a lot of colloquial145
isms and words you don’t typically hear in pop songs. My lyrics have included words such as lexicon, ephemeral, Dramamine, glacier, dreary, descends, and symmetrical. Reading gives you a better vocabulary and communication toolkit that can make your songwriting more expressive, and sometimes cerebral. Right now I’m finally getting around to reading the Song of Ice and Fire books by George R. R. Martin. I’m on book five. I know the tv show has been wildly popular, but in my opinion it doesn’t do justice to the books. Where can people go to keep up with you?
People can follow pretty much everything from my official site: jasonlylesmusic.com I have links to all social media, streaming services, youtube, etc., there. They can also go to @jasonlylesmusic on social media and bandsintown.com/jasonlylesmusic for my tour schedule. What are some of the favorite venues you’ve played?
One of my favorite venues to play is the Moon Roof Bar in Rome, Georgia. Going back to Rome is nostalgic and fun for me, and I’ve played at the Moon Roof on and off for about 12 years now. Favorite Chattanooga venues that stand out are Slick’s Burgers and Feed & Company. At some venues you’re just background noise, but the best ones are where people gather to listen to music. Another favorite is Mash and Hops in Cleveland where the crowd is always receptive and there to have a good time. In addition, festivals like Riverbend and Nightfall are always fun since you get to entertain a larger crowd and try to win over new fans. What advice to have for musicians on the rise to avoid some of the troubles you’ve faced?
One piece of advice I’d give is to take the time to develop. Many people are eager to get out there and perform, record, and book a tour, but you have to be ready. Before you start performing, practice at home. Before you start recording, perfect your sound. Before you start booking, make sure your online presence is solid and the professionalism shows. Also, listen to people with more experience than you. Get in touch with local people who are doing what you want to do. Jam with musicians better than you. You’ll be better for it. Another tip is to not give up. There is endless frustration in doing this. Not everyone is going to get you and what you’re doing, and that’s ok. Not everyone is going to like what you put out there, so check your ego at the door and try to connect with those who do appreciate you. You’ll have gigs where not many people show up. Some people will be indifferent to you at shows. Venues will say no. Worse than that they will ignore you completely. But don’t be afraid to go for it when you’re ready. Be persistent, but polite, and more times than not it will pay off. Dream big. You want to play that big venue or festival? Submit your material. The worst that can happen is nothing.
Last Chance Riders by: Dusty Huggins You guys have been together since 2016 but on your website, it says that the band formed at a charity festival in Dahlonega, GA. in 2018. When did you guys get together?
An iteration of the band started in 2016 as a four piece. DeWitt was the sole song writer and also the lead vocalist and we were having a blast playing shows and getting to really know each other. There had been some open discussion within the band to about looking for a lead vocalist and in 2018 through nothing less than fate, Jessie joined the band. That was the new beginning of the Last Chance Riders. How did this all come together? How did all of you meet?
John and I met in middle school and played in bands together throughout high school. In 2016 we put together a cover band to perform at a charity event that DeWitt happened to be attending. The Jessie Albright Band was performing at the same event. Looking back on that weekend and thinking about life before we formed the group that we have today reminds me of how special it is and I mean Truly Special that we crossed paths that weekend. We were unknowingly destined for this opportunity. Are all of you from Atlanta? DeWitt is originally from Atlanta. John, Shane and Jim are all from Georgia. Jessie is from Vermont and lived in Boston prior to moving to Georgia. Who came up with the name Last Chance Riders?
It was DeWitt’s idea that he mentioned to Jim in a conversation long before band names were a topic of discussion. Once the ideas started flowing within the group that name didn’t come up until we were having a hard time deciding on something we all liked and Jim brought up that idea of DeWitt’s and it stuck. What about the band’s logo? Is that a bat with a halo?
Haha...bats are kinda cool and have amazing aerial abilities but its not a bat it’s a Phoenix that was somewhat derived from the logo on one of John’s hotrods, a 1970 Trans Am. DeWitt provided the artwork. Atlanta seems to be home for a lot of bands with very different styles. You’ve got Zac Brown, Mastodon, Sevendust, Georgia Satellites, TLC, Attila. With your sound, you seem to be influenced by the Classic Rock bands of the late 60’s and 70’s and there seems to be an upswing in that style of music again. What’s your thought on that?
We definitely have a sound rooted in the late 60’s and 70’s. I call it “vintage fresh.” We have noticed an upswing in the popularity of Rock. That’s cool. If for any reason that upswing stops or changes, we are going to continue doing what it is that we do now and that’s to blow the roof off every venue we play. To absolutely blow the doors off the place. Rock isn’t dead. We Are Rock. Rock is here and we’re it. Let’s talk about the album Jet Lag Super Drag. Interesting name. Tell me about that?
Jet Lag Super Drag was taken directly from the lyrics DeWitt wrote for Downright Disgusted which is a vignette where misspent youth meets the ups and downs of addiction and sobriety with a sprinkle of rock n roll thrown in. Like falling asleep on ecstasy in Amsterdam then waking up in pleather pants and realizing your backpack is on Air France, but you still have your guitar! Who wrote the songs for the album? They’re all very solid songs.
Thank you. DeWitt and Jessie write the songs. As a band we are all proud of the music we make. You all recorded the album at Sonica Studios with John Briglevich, who’s known for his work with Drivin’ n’ Cryin’, Edwin McCain and Stuck Mojo. How did you guys hook up with him? We checked out all the studios in Atlanta that have experience recording Rock and Sonica was on our list. DeWitt had recorded a solo project there a few years earlier and after the band met John Briglevich we were hooked. Johnny B is the man! How did the recording process go? How long did it take to complete?
It was a fantastic experience. We recorded the album in five days. First we tracked everything live and went back with some overdubs. Drums and vocals received the most attention. Our budget was limited and given the amount of time we had we could not have asked for better. Our goal was to record four songs and we recorded eight. We were pleased with the outcome. With respect to your writing, who are some of your influences?
Jimi Hendrix, The Rolling Stones, AC/DC What artists do you look up to
Those who play their own instruments and pay their dues. On the album Jet Lag Super Drag, what is your favorite song to perform live?
Downright Disgusted and Tidal Wave 148
How’s the music scene in Atlanta these days? Are you seeing a shift from pop to rock?
The music scene is a tough grind regardless of the city you’re in. Atlanta and the surrounding metro area has some really great venues that cater to what we are all about and we hope that continues. With regards to the music industry, has there been anyone who really helped mentor you guys, or did you have to just learn a lot about the industry on your own?
It would be tough to name or even count the number of resources that we have been able to learn from. We do most of the work ourselves, as a band, but we have gone to great lengths to create a solid plan and we do our best to stick to that plan, whatever it may be. What is your most memorable show?
Opening for Robert Randolph and the Family Band was definitely high on the list. John Briglevich, from Sonica Studios, came and ran sound for us for no reason other than he is cooler than the underside of your pillow and wanted to make sure we sounded like Last Chance Riders. A lot of band’s I’ve interviewed have had a nightmare show or a Murphy’ Law show. Have you had one of those?
The shows that seem most like a nightmare are typically if and when the monitors or stage volume is wrong. If Jessie can’t hear her vocals and we aren’t able to hear each other it can be frustrating as a performer but in the end it often goes unnoticed by the audience. we did have a performance get postponed because a tweaker climbed up and into the ceiling and wouldn’t come down. The cops came and chased him all over the place and the ceiling tiles were falling behind him. He eventually wedged himself between the walls of the place and EMTs had to cut the sheetrock out to remove him. It was pretty rad. What’s on the table for the rest of 2019?
Write more. Play more. Record.
Good Bad Flicks by: Clifford Brooks A conversation with Cecil What’s your backstory? Where did your love of film come from? What are a few pivotal moments in life that made you stronger?
When I was little, I loved Kung Fu Theater and Creature Double Feature. I was glued to the TV watching marathons of these “bad” movies. I didn’t have a TV in my room, so when I was supposed to be sleeping, I would sneak out of my room to watch Saturday Night Dead, a series that ran cult movies after Saturday Night Live in the Philadelphia area. When I was a little older, I had dreams of becoming a radio DJ. Although I liked the idea of talking more than spinning records, so that morphed into me wanting to do some sort of talk radio. I’ve had lots of oddball things happen to me over the years and considered doing a paranormal show, kind of like Art Bell. I had a cheap microphone taped to a card table, and I recorded myself talking about a variety of topics while making really lame jokes. I kept cassettes of my shows but sadly threw them out. I should have kept them; it would be hilarious and slightly painful to listen back. In a way they were podcasts, back before podcasts were even a thing. Although since this was the 80s and I had no way to broadcast, no one heard them but me. When I was a teenager, I had a friend whose parents both worked nights, so me and some friends would go over her place with a stack of movie rentals. We started watching mainstream films but then started going to the “back row” films to see things like Alien Predators, Burndown, The Toxic Avenger, Chopper Chicks in Zombietown, Endless Descent, and many more. While I do love a ton of mainstream big budget films, I’ve always had a fascination for the underdogs. From B movies to small indie films, I just appreciate them more. As far as life changing moments, I quit drinking in my early 20s. I didn’t like who I was when I was drunk and decided I was better off without it. I’ve been much happier since. What are you reading right now? What music has your attention? How does literature and song fit into your daily life?
Reading a few things. Pool of Radiance, a book I read a long time ago and wanted to revisit. Once I’m through that, I plan on reading Death Troopers, a horror novel taking place in the Star Wars universe. The Elder Scrolls Cookbook and The Vault Dweller’s Official Cookbook are very enjoyable. I’m also enjoying The Ultimate Visual History of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. As far as music, I’m listening to a mix. AC/DC, King Diamond, Bad Religion, Enigma, S Club 7, Metallica, Slayer, The Spice Girls, and Iron Maiden. For newer stuff, I’m listening to Unleash the Archers, Amon Amarth, Lacuna Coil, Alestorm, Gojira, and Opeth. I listen to music to either get motivated or to relax. I often listen to Trance music when I want to just zone out; it’s perfect for days when I have to do a lot of keyframing. I don’t read as much as I would like. I find myself doing so much reading while I’m researching that I burn myself out on it. I’d like to read more; I really need to get on that. What are your Top 5 Under-appreciated Films of all time? Why these films?
Not sure about all time, but here are 5 that I do think are very underappreciated/unknown. Nemesis - An awesome sci-fi action film from Albert Pyun. Baseketball - It’s hilarious. The Cat from Outer Space - One of the forgotten films from the era of old Disney. The Pest - Completely stupid and overwhelmingly enjoyable. John Leguizamo is having an absolute blast, which makes it even more entertaining. It’s not for everyone, but it never fails to cheer me up. JCVD - My favorite movie of 2009. An unexpected dramatic turn from Jean-Claude Van Damme. If you could get ten film-makers/actors (alive or dead) together, who would you choose? What would you ask them?
Kevin Smith, Isaac Godfrey Geoffrey Nabwana, Menahem Golan, Yoram Globus, Bob Clark, Charles Band, Roger Corman, Cirio Santiago, Mike Nelson, and Joel Hodgson. I don’t have anything specific I would ask, I would just love to talk about the industry, how its changed over the years, and tales from the sets. How did Good Bad Films get started? Did you anticipate it getting this popular? Where would you like to see it go in the future?
I was tired of all the negativity in the film community and wanted to come at it from a positive angle. Initially, I was doing it for my friends, but over time it started reaching more people. I was hoping it would get popular, but I didn’t expect it. Since I don’t talk about mainstream films very often, I knew I had an uphill climb to build an audience. I’m overjoyed every day that I am able to continue to do this. I would like to see it continue to grow and reach a bigger audience. Maybe one day to do a panel at a 151
convention. I also would love to be able to get the rights to be able to screen the director’s cut of Blair Witch 2 in a theater for a live audience.
You have a classic sense of humor. It shows in the commentary created for each show. How long does it take to write for each episode? Do you do any other creative writing?
It depends. A GBF episode takes a few days to write. An Exploring episode can take from as short as 2 weeks to as long as...many months. It depends on how much research is needed or how much digging I need to do. For example, the Nothing but Trouble episode started with an email back in 2014, and the episode was just released late last year. I’ve written various scripts over the years but nothing published. Mostly horror and a “Clerks” style comedy. I came very close to shooting the comedy as a completely no budget film but it all fell apart and never happened. What is a question you’ve always wanted to be asked, but never have? What’s the answer?
I’ve thought about this for a while and honestly can’t think of one. I’ve been asked just about everything that I would want asked. What aspirations do you have to further your experience in film?
I’d love to make a horror film one day. I’m also thinking about writing a novel. What other work do you do? What are your hobbies?
I play video games, and I’m also a pretty good cook. Since I started working from home, I began improving my cooking skills and found that it is very relaxing and quite rewarding. It’s much better and healthier than eating out all the time. How can folks find your YouTube series, comment, and make donations to the cause?
https://www.youtube.com/goodbadflicks patreon.com/goodbadflicks https://www.twitch.tv/goodbadflicks
Smith’s Olde Bar by: Dusty Huggins
Smith’s Olde Bar is a local Atlanta music venue that was founded in 1994. The bar is known for not only its music, but for it atmosphere, food and gaming area that is used to host all sorts of different people as a local hangout. The venue is currently owned by Mr. Dan R. Nolen and Mr. Charlie Hendon with Sean Mcpherson and Brittany Burdett leading the way on the front of talent buying. The venue has hosted some of the most prominent names in music today. Some of the more notable names to showcase their talents at Smith’s Older Bar include David Bowie, Train, Tom Morello of Rage Against The Machine, Bush, Band of Horses, Janelle Monae, Kings of Leon, John Mayer, B.o.B, Collective Soul, Kings X, The Wallflowers, Moe, Bjork, Zack Brown Band, Butch Walker, Toby Keith, Fishbone, Corey Smith, Jennifer Nettles, Lady Antebellum. The catalyst behind Smith’s Olde Bar, Mr. Dan R. Nolen, simply fell into the bar and music business with his intoxicating personality alone. In his experience, Mr. Nolen has worked with some brilliant men you may have heard of, such as Charlie Daniels, Wet Willie, Dixie Dreggs, James Brown, Gregg Allman, Hank Williams, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Widespread Panic, Stevie Ray Vaughn and Irving Azoff. As you will read, the talent buying team of Mcpherson and Burdett were brought on by the owner/operators and eventually embedded themselves into the Atlanta music scene in many other ways while continuing to ensure that Smith’s stays as a reckoning force in the Atlanta music scene. 153
Give us some background on yourself and how each of you became involved with Smith’s Olde Bar.
Sean: I started in a band and then I got hired to run the door on Mondays in the Atl Room here at smiths in 2005. That’s where I started meeting lots of bands. I also had a background in audio, which turned my one-day a week door guy position into a few nights a week running sound there. That led to me booking my own shows at Smiths, which led to me becoming the Asst. talent buyer, then finally the Primary Talent buyer. This was a long journey that took 14 years total. Brittany: I started bartending at the Georgia Theatre when I was 18 and going to UGA, this sparked my love for live music. When I moved back to Atlanta in 2004, I heard Smith’s was perfect for me so I applied and got the job as a server. I moved my way up to bartender shortly and begged to work upstairs only if possible. I made friends with bands and eventually asked to book my own show. When do you each remember knowing that the music industry was the field in which you wanted to pursue your professional career?
Sean: I was five yrs old. My uncle was an engineer and I wanted to be like him. Brittany: Literally, until I read this question I never really thought of this as my professional career. It’s just too fun! Do what you love and you’ll never work a day in your life. How difficult was it to persist in making this happen?
Sean: Very. Brittany: It wasn’t too difficult for me because I had already worked for the company for so long and just kinda took any opportunity that came along. Eventually squirmed my way into the assistant talent buyer position. What are some of the artists/people you would credit this decision to?
Sean: My uncle William Rascati Brittany: Definitely Dan Nolen early on and then Sean McPherson as well later. They both gave me opportunities even though I had no experience, only immense passion for live music. Any regrets?
Sean: yes, that I didn’t quit drinking a long time ago, it took me too long to come to that realization. Brittany: I don’t have regrets. Just mistakes I will not make again. It’s all a learning process. Many readers may believe that the booking process is a simple and short process consisting of a few simple emails and then the band plays. As an artist that plays your venue, I am very aware that there is a lot of work that you two do to make a show a success. Can each of you walk our readers through the process from putting a lineup together to the night of the show? Sean: • Get holds avails from bands agent or bands booking rep, assign hold status. Obtain market history (if any) 154
• Negotiate date, venue, ticket price, deal, set times/lengths, billing, and door times. • gather approved marketing assets/ generate marketing plan/budget • Announce and put show on sale (coordinate with bands manager on tour announcement if necessary) • Pitch local press outlets • Generate and schedule content/advertisements (posters, fb events, fb/insta ad funnels, boosted posts/ genre-targeted email blasts, tweets) • Interact with band to stir engagement with their respective fanbases (insta takeovers/ ticket giveaways) • Rinse and repeat as necessary Brittany: • Some are super easy and do just take a few emails. Others are so time consuming you’d rather throw your laptop out the window than answer another email about it, lol. It’s usually worth it though. • Band emails me looking for a date • We figure out a mutually agreeable date • I mark the hold on the calendar • Support act search begins • Once support is added, we decide run of show, ticket prices, and announce/on sale dates. • Show is confirmed upon receipt of a FINAL DETAILS email that contains an advance link, promo pack, and basic details and contact info for the show • Promo plan is decided and executed • Week of show email sent to check on everything • One last big promo push • Show! If you could change anything about your industry, what would that be?
Sean: That music is monetized properly and valued more accurately, especially recorded music. Brittany: I wish bands received pay on how good they are and not on how many folks are in the room. I hate seeing an amazing band play to no one! Its objective so I know it would never work but a gal can dream. What career advice would you give to performing artists as a whole?
Sean: Work hard, be respectful, work on your craft and always be improving. Oh and have fun. Brittany: Don’t be a dick. Everyone talks and bad gas travels fast. And, lol tip your bartender. In shorter terms, how can the artist help the venue in making a truly successful show?
Sean: Communication, a show is a partnership and the partners need to communicate and work together. Brittany: By actually promoting the show actively. Send texts. Do the FB event invites. Don’t just post a flyer once and expect to pack the room. Be creative and have fun with what you post! What side projects other than Smith’s do each of you have going on?
Sean: I manage 2 acts, ATL chapter chair of NARIP, Own and operate East Atlanta Recording, (www. eastatlantarecording.com), I play in a band too. Most importantly, LovingÂ husband and father to be of 2 twin boys. Brittany: I am the primary talent buyer for Sunset Sessions at Park Tavern. I also do one off shows for iheart media.Â
Sweet Water Family Dentistry by: Clifford Brooks What were you like as a kid? Were you a moody teen? Did you grow up with a deep empathy for others, or was that a trait of your character family helped you foster?
I was a mature teen but lacked self esteem. One of my aunts proclaimed that I had an “old soul” when I was just 5 or 6 years old, so I think I was gifted with an advanced maturity level at an early age. However, I was different from the majority of my schoolmates. I was a Pakistani kid in a city (Powder Springs) and at a high school (McEachern) where there were no other Pakistani families and the majority of the population was southern Caucasian. It took me a while to get comfortable with being an outlier. By the time I was a senior in High School, I was definitely much more comfortable in my skin. Then I went to college at Emory University and was surrounded by people from all different ethnic and religious backgrounds. This definitely helped me become a lot more secure and more confident. Early in life, I had deep gratitude for all the little things in life. My family did not have the same resources as many people around us. We were lower middle class and we had to budget for everything. In fact, I shared a bunk bed with my younger brother until I was in college. It was difficult at times but now I’m very thankful that I had the upbringing that I did. It truly gave me an appreciation that I would not otherwise have. Empathy came later. I have to credit my friends at Emory. Most of my friends at Emory were on pre-medical paths and were much more empathetic than I was. Thru my experiences and interactions with them, I grew a much more empathetic mindset. What are you reading right now? How do the arts factor into your daily life?
Currently, Llama Llama Red Pajama and Daniel Tiger’s Bedtime stories are on heavy repeat in the nightly routine with my young daughters. I was an avid book reader but being a new father has definitely slowed me down. Between practicing dentistry, managing an office, and spending time with my wife and two young daughters, my reading has been momentarily halted. The next book on my list is “The 8th Habit: From Effectiveness to Greatness” by Stephen Covey. I love self improvement books and Covey’s “The 7 Habits of Highly Successful People” is one of my all time favorites. What motivated you into dentistry? Who are you heroes in the field?
“While I had a passion for business, working at a corporation was not fulfilling at all..”
I was a Business Consultant working at a large corporation before I made the decision to become a dentist. While I had a passion for business, working at a corporation was not fulfilling at all. I considered many different small businesses but it wasn’t until a friend mentioned dentistry that I found something which combined my business interests with my need to make a societal impact. I have many heroes in dentistry but the 2 that I look up to the most are Dr. Michael Apa and Dr. Scott Leune. They are 2 completely different types of dentists. Dr. Apa served as a mentor and teacher while I was in dental school at New York University. He is a world renowned cosmetic dentist who practices in New York City and Dubai and is also opening a third office in Los Angeles soon. He transforms people’s lives by transforming their smiles. Dr. Leune is a dentist from San Antonio who is a business mastermind. He manages multiple dental offices and has started multiple companies which provide relevant resources to the dental industry. Dr. Leune is my favorite lecturer in dentistry and someone who’s podcasts I listen to regularly. He has a gift for taking complex things and making them very easy to understand. What does Sweet Water Family Dentistry provide that few others do?
If you’re from the South, you’re familiar with Chic-Fil-A and their exceptional customer service. At my first meeting with the office staff, I informed them that I envisioned us being the Chic-Fil-A of dentistry. I believe we have the team and the culture which has allowed that level of service and care to come to fruition. Our team at Sweet Water Family Dentistry truly treats people the way they would want themselves to be treated. You participate in clinics and lectures (often for free) in low income areas. What spurs you into these acts of altruism? Do you think that basic dental care is still not properly understood?
One of the reasons I chose dentistry as my career was because I wanted to make an impact on society. While I can make a difference helping people in my office, the larger impact comes when I can help the less fortunate. I feel this is just a basic human responsibility. I have been gifted many blessings, and I feel, in return, I have a responsibility to help others. Basic dental care is definitely not understood. I have patients tell me all the time how they are trying to eat less candy, sugar, etc. The reality is I barely spend any time discussing people’s diets. Unless you’re snacking on sugar all day, the more important issue to me is proper home oral hygiene. I want 159
them to understand how important it is to go to sleep with the cleanest, healthiest mouth possible. That’s when most of the damage happens. I really don’t care what you eat throughout the day, as long as you’re brushing morning and night, drinking ample water throughout the day, and flossing right before bedtime. If people focused on proper home oral hygiene rather than reducing sugar, decay and gum disease would decrease tremendously. Who are your top 5 favorite musicians/bands, and why?
One Republic– I identify with their music because of its diversity. You can see they’re influenced by rock, pop, hip hop, and indie. Also, as I’ve gotten older, I appreciate them even more as it’s very difficult to find catchy, uplifting music you can listen to with kids in the car! Jay Z– I grew up listening to a lot of 90s hip hop. I respect Jay Z because of his lyrical skills and his longevity. He was able to adapt and reinvent himself and his music to stay relevant for over 20 years. That’s very difficult to do! Frank Sinatra– what can I say, he just has a smooth voice that takes you back to a time where everyone always looked dapper. Celine Dion—looooove her voice. Anything from the Motown Era. Much of my music taste is stuck in the late 90s and early 2000s. That’s when music really affected me emotionally. It stuck with me a lot longer than it does today. Honestly, I am very out of touch with today’s music scene but I can tell you all the latest, hottest nursery rhymes. Have you heard Baby Shark?! How does music factor into your office atmosphere. I have been there on a few occasions, and the selection does soothe anxiety. Is that a deliberate decision, or do you and your staff simply have stellar taste in music?
The office music selection is definitely a deliberate decision as the right music can be very soothing. We use a Pandora playlist which I’ve personally compiled. Genre diversity matters to me but it has to be something that I would listen to outside the office. I’ve been lucky enough to have an upbringing which consisted of people from many diverse backgrounds. This introduced me to all different types of music. Now while you may not like every song that plays in our office, I want everyone to hear a song that provides them a positive mental escape. Therefore, our playlist includes country, jazz, hip hop, pop, rock, r&b, easy listening, etc-we want something for everyone. Where do you see Sweet Water Family Dentistry in five, ten, and twenty years?
In 5 years, I hope to have grown our office to include 1 or 2 more like minded dentists and multiple new team members providing the same level of care that we currently are. In 10 years, I hope to have multiple offices throughout metro Atlanta delivering the same care and attention to detail as we currently are. In 20 years, I hope my offices have found a sweet spot. What I mean by that is that I hope we have the right number of offices where we are still true to our current values. I do 160
believe that you can get large enough to lose sight of what is important, where decisions become more about the bottom line rather than the people or the service. I don’t ever want that to happen to us. What are a few things people still miss in taking care of their teeth that are inexpensive and easy to do but makes a huge improvement if completed?
I mentioned this before but it’s worth repeating. I cannot stress the importance of going to sleep with the cleanest, healthiest mouth possible. Any food left behind overnight draws bacteria, and this bacteria causes damage for an extended period of time. During the day, you never have this long of a period for bacteria to cause destruction. Oh, and definitely use an electric toothbrush. An electric toothbrush will get your mouth cleaner than you ever could with a manual toothbrush. It brushes your teeth for the right amount of time using the right amount of power and speed! Quotes from our staff:
“We are family. Each day presents a new opportunity to make a difference in the lives of our patients. As a staff we are dedicated in providing exceptional dental care. Dr. Sajid and the staff create an enjoyable environment and that is the reason I like working at Sweet Water Family Dentistry.” -Errika “We take into play your physical health as much as your oral health. Many people don’t realize that the mouth is both a gateway and a mirror to your overall health.” -Jay “It has a family friendly atmosphere. The entire staff is like family and that’s how we treat our patients. Dr. Sajid has a great chair side manner and is fair and honest. I think those qualities are important not only in an employer but with people in general.” –Misty “The atmosphere is beyond bright. My patients are all unique and I enjoy building a personal relationship with them. My team is more than a team, they are my family, and I always look forward to working side by side with these astonishing people.” –Wynter “Everyone shares the same vision and is dedicated to the mission of establishing trust and comfort with our patients. This truly creates a family environment where everybody is there for each other. I’m happy to say that our team works really well together. Everyone has something positive to contribute and that makes for a better work place and a better place to be as an employee and as a patient. I also enjoy the interaction with the patients. When you learn their names and they become familiar with you, it makes them feel welcome and more eager to come to future appointments.” -Jessica Check us out at www.sweetwaterfamilydentistry.com and give us a call! We will guide you from there!
Real Fiction Radio by: Clifford Brooks
Tell us about you and why you created Real Fiction? What draws you to the written word? What do you write? How has radio influenced your creativity?
Real Fiction must have something to do with growing up in a Nebraska radio family. My father managed radio stations and still has a house full of vintage equipment. There was never a time during when a radio wasn’t playing. It’s interesting you ask about radio and creativity. Shortwave radio was actually the most compelling to me as a child because it was possible to hear broadcasts from all over the world. I have a memory of a nuclear scientist sitting in the basement with my father tuning in broadcasts from northern India during a conflict against Sikhs. He’d listen for hours and I would sit quietly in the corner absorbing the languages and emotion. Today it’s easy to find international broadcasts on the internet. Back then, it was exotic and I wanted to travel to all the far-flung countries that emerged through the radio. 162
Despite the fact that my family is very social, I’m introverted and read a lot. Recently, I finished writing a novel which draws on my interest in technology, documentary films and marginalized communities. 2) What do you love most about interviewing people? Do people in general fascinate you? Are you a people-watcher? Creating interviews to discuss the story behind the story will never get old. Writers are time travelers, cultural anthropologists and wildly imaginative. When I was a child, people from all walks of life visited our home – traveling musicians, wealthy East Coasters, farmers, politicians, ham radio operators– everyone. And for as long as I can remember, I seem to be a magnet for personal confession. In airplanes, waiting rooms, grocery store lines, people share their secrets and pain. I used to find this unsettling but now I listen hard and absorb the shock of revelations. Are people fascinating? Definitely, yes. What does Real Fiction Radio have that other shows in the same family don’t? What flair does your style provide the listener?
I’m excited to feature authors in thirty-minute broadcast segments. Longform conversations about books on radio stations are rare because the format is expensive to produce. I find this length allows the listener to learn about the author’s backstory and the book. Real Fiction airs on WERA-FM, which has the most boutique coverage radius in the country. The broadcast signal covers all of Arlington County, nearby Virginia suburbs and into Washington DC, including the White House. We record in a soundproof studio at Arlington Independent Media with a certified audio engineer. Prior to recording, I spend a few minutes talking with the guest as the sound levels are set. We review aspects of the book that resonated with me as a reader. When the engineer gives a thumbs up, we’re ready to dive in. That is not to say things go perfectly. Because I’m genuinely beguiled by the author, I lose track of time. Even when the engineer points to the counter clock or holds a sign up telling me to wrap it up, I keep it going. I suppose this is another aspect that sets Real Fiction apart from other literary radios programs and podcasts. I book the studio with a generous window of time to maintain flexibility. Also, I’m picky. I spend hours in post-production obsessing about the content and sound quality. Some voices (like mine) have naturally low projection. Other voices are bold with a tendency to clip. Do you remember seeing stereo systems with the treble levers for base, mid-tones and high tones? The same tonal concept applies in smoothing voice recordings. Initially, I was intimidated by editing software. Now I dig into the waveforms to slice out lip smacks, coughs, clearing throats and moments when I accidentally kick the table. You will still sound like you – but it’s a cleaner version of whatever your throat has tossed into the microphone. Is this flair or obsession to detail? I don’t know. The most important factor in the Real Fiction program is the producer community at WERA-FM and Arlington Independent Media. Everyone cares about content and maintaining broadcast standards. Launching a new program is daunting and hanging around these pros makes it possible. What is your view of the publishing industry and radio industry today?
This is a challenging question. Both industries are struggling but there’s reason for hope. The big five publishing houses (Penguin Random House, Harper Collins, Macmillan, Simon & Schus163
ter and Hachette) favor manuscripts with bestseller potential. Publicity resources are overwhelmingly devoted to authors with a strong sales history and platform nonfiction (celebrity memoirs and cookbooks). The hustle is so competitive that some literary agents admit to signing new clients only when a “big five” deal is obtainable. More literary agents are pivoting to lucrative digital book deals. Recently, I’ve noticed a handful of traditional literary agencies advertising editing assistance for writers interested in self-publishing. It all speaks to a battle to keep the lights on. This isn’t an encouraging situation for debut authors. However, independent literary presses are a bright spot. Algonquin, Counterpoint, Catapult, Bloomsbury, OneWorld, SheWrites Press, Scribe and W.W. Norton & Company are publishing some of the most original, award-winning novels and reportage. What is my level of confidence in this assessment? Pretty high. I am contacted daily by publicists pitching books for broadcast slots. A job perk is receiving books prior to publication and I’ll share an important observation. Every book campaign I have reviewed includes plans for national, regional and community radio interviews. This. Is. Not. Possible. The ratio of book releases to available radio interviews in the United States is so unbalanced, I can’t possibly offer an estimate. Having said that, I want to emphasize that publicists are some of the most positive, delightfully aggressive people in book world. Authors who take a hands-on role in their publicity and platform help determine a book’s fate. This relentless enthusiasm gives me faith that there is room for everyone. Commercial and Public radio are different worlds. There is a fascinating documentary film – ‘Corporate FM’ – that digs into the regulatory decisions that have virtually destroyed local radio. Last year, the nation’s largest broadcaster, iHeartMedia, filed for bankruptcy. When was the last time you heard a book chat on a commercial FM station? Probably never. It’s hard to get excited about music feeds dictated by centralized headquarter programming. Public and community radio stations are the golden creators of original content. It’s challenging and expensive to keep community radio afloat. In this narrow media landscape, independent media should be supported and preserved at all cost. If that sounds like a downer, here are two sunnier observations. Audio books are the fastest growing segment of the book industry. They are incredibly popular. More authors are narrating the books themselves, which I think is exciting. Second, radio programs live a long second life on podcast platforms. Authors who land a radio interview will have a downloadable archive. Writers will continue to write. We share a responsibility to make sure these stories get airtime. The motto at Arlington Independent Media and WERA-FM – “Raise Your Voice”. What genres do you like to feature? Who are some of the people you’ve featured up to this point?
The debut season features authors of literary fiction and narrative nonfiction. Rachel Louise Snyder spent nine years researching ‘No Visible Bruises’ - a nonfiction book about domestic violence. I received a lot of feedback about Julie Langsdorf’s debut novel ‘White Elephant’. The book took fifteen years to publish, but once this story caught the wind of “right timing” it became a bestseller. In future seasons, memoir and poetry will be included. What is the feeling you like to leave your guests when the show is over. What feeling do you want the listeners to part with?
Hopefully every guest will feel that I took time to reflect on their work. The thing is, I care very much about getting into the marrow of the story. Every book gets a close, careful read. I listen to the raw file of the interview twice before making any adjustments. I’m always amazed that there is a standout comment from the guest that frames the entire discussion. Finding the hook is a moment of great 164
excitement. I include this with the intro music in the first minute of the program. Keying off what we talked about earlier, very few people like the sound of their own voice. If I done my job well, the author will enjoy hearing their smooth conversation and the listener will feel intrigued enough to read the book. What do you do for fun to prevent burnout?
I keep a binder of travel articles by the nightstand and plot escape. What other projects do you have going on or hope to have happen in the future?
In early 2020, Real Fiction will expand with blog conversations with agents, editors, publishers of literary journals and booksellers. By the way, the resurgence of independent bookstores is a triumph. I believe they are the new power brokers with the ability to influence publishing houses. This is heroic. How can people find your old shows, listen to the new ones, and contact you to be a potential guest?
Real Fiction airs Wednesdays at noon on WERA-FM 96.7 in Arlington, VA and streaming on WERA. FM. Episodes are uploaded to www.realfictionradio.com with a link to platforms: SoundCloud, MixCloud and Stitcher. I love hearing from listeners and potential guests. My email is firstname.lastname@example.org
Hemingway’s Dog Why are villains more interesting than heroes?
Why do people rubberneck when they see a wreck, backing traffic up for miles? Why do dogs sniff what’s been left in the grass by other dogs? Sometimes we just can’t get enough of the grotesque. But sometimes, with a well-written villain, we can identify with their flaws and struggles. Or they may have virtues and humanity that make us connect with them in spite of it all. The actions of heroes may be more foreseeable and therefore less interesting than a villain’s, whose actions may be unpredictable and random. When I write my novel, the villain will definitely be a cat. How do I decide what breed of dog to get?
This one is real simple. Go down to your local animal shelter, and take a look at the dogs. Think about what you want in a dog: do you want one that can sit on your lap? Do you want one you can take for long walks on the beach or hiking in the woods? How are you with long-term commitment? Go through the shelter dogs, and pick the one that looks like they might be into what you’re into. Pay your fees, get your dog. Whatever you do, don’t go look at the cats. When I am reading other writers, I tend to take on their voice in my own writing. How can I avoid this?
If you feel like you’re taking on the voice of the writers you’re reading try some of these ideas to shake loose: •Read outside your chosen genre: if you write mysteries, read science fiction. Read something totally different so that the common tropes and language of your genre won’t be omnipresent in your work. •Read poetry if you’re writing fiction; read fiction if you’re writing poetry. Something about having words fire in a different part of your brain may help you find new ways of expressing yourself, a new language for your writing, and may reduce the risk of sounding too much like another writer. •Maybe just write and don’t worry about it. Unless you’re lifting passages from writers you enjoy, taking ideas from great work and making it your own is what all artists do. Follow Hemingway’s Dog on Twitter @doghemingway where you can @ your questions for the world’s most sophisticated canine advice columnist. 166
SCE Memberâ€™s Spotlight
Paul Luikart by: Clifford Brooks
First off, Southern Collective Experience, thanks for taking the time to ask me questions. It’s an honor and these are really good questions. I hope my responses do them justice. Who are you? What do you hold dear? What stops on your life’s journey have been blessedly and brutally educational?
I’m Paul Luikart and I hold a lot of things dear. Some spiritual, some philosophical, and some highly material. A few, in no particular order: My family. Whisky. Good art. Beer. Baseball. Punk rock. God, but it’s tough to say “God” without certain, mostly nasty, cultural connotations coming to mind so, I’ll say “God on God’s terms.” Coffee. Exploration. Risk. Mystery. Whisky. Did I say that one already? I’m amazed at how “blessedness” and “brutality” are so often one and the same. I’ve spent a big part of my life around homeless men, women, and families. Life on the streets is sheer brutality. I used to think I could save people from that brutality. Then I thought I could be a part of helping them save themselves from that brutality. Now I think the best I can do—the only thing I can do, really—is to offer my presence for what it’s worth. It’s been a blessing to realize that. What does “home” and “family” mean to you?
Certain geographic locales feel more like home to me than others. Chicago, most especially. I can’t shake the “me-ness” that living in Chicago gave me. I think about Chicago daily, how it sculpted my spirit and brain, but also about the critical role it had (and still has) in shaping my artistic vision. Violence, brutality, brotherhood, healthy dissatisfaction, brokenness, the triumph of the human spirit. “Home” also means wherever I am with my wife and kids. I’m lucky that I get to be part of a fantastic, loving, and supportive family. Not to mention extended family. My folks, my sister and her family, my in-laws. I’m the most un-healthy ingredient in my familial mix, which is nice in a way. I never secretly wonder which of us is going to freak out. The answer is the same as it was the last time somebody freaked out: Me. Who inspired you to write? Why do you write? What does writing do for you that nothing, and no one, else can?
Who? Gretchen Witt. My high school girlfriend. I was really in love with her, but she broke up with me. I wrote a poem about the sadness and confusion I felt. It was, of course, the world’s shittiest poem. But it was the first time I ever tried my hand at creative writing that wasn’t for an assignment. Now I write primarily as a means of artistic expression. I write because I’m not me if I don’t write. I write so I know what I think about things. I write to contribute, in the little ways I can, to the health of American culture. I write because I’m made to write like a wheel is made to roll. Why does a killer whale kill stuff? I don’t know, but it does. So much so, in fact, they put it in the name. I’m a writer and a wheel and a killer whale. I’m a killer whale with wheels and a notebook and a pen. I can’t help it. What is a writer’s responsibility to the reader?
I’ll come through the backdoor on this one. A writer isn’t responsible for his/her reader’s emotions. That’s a common and wrongheaded assumption on both the writer’s and reader’s parts. Bad fiction is filled with appeals to the reader’s emotions, mostly to corny and shallow and vapid effect. On the other hand, the writer is deeply responsible for the care and direction of the reader’s imagination. A writer, if s/he’s done his/her work correctly, creates scenes alive with unforgettable imagery in the reader’s mind. The reader is free to attach the emotions s/he wants to those images, but that’s up to the reader. 168
How much truth do you think exists in fiction?
If fiction is done well, it’s made up of at least 101% truth. More truth than truth. Fiction does a much better job of sharing truth than a factual conveyance could ever do. It’s Gestalt-y. The sum of a good piece of fiction should be much greater than its parts. The facts of a given situation, imagined or actual, can only convey something finite. This is useful in some circumstances, obviously. I’ve never been a detective, but I’d think if I were one, I’d want to gather as many facts of, let’s say, a murder, as I could. The collected facts should convey who the killer is. Nothing more, nothing less. Good fiction puts readers in touch with eternal truths, those notions about humanity that actually outlast any one individual life. Truth embedded in good fiction is bothersome and I’d caution readers about reading good fiction if they don’t want to be bothered. Bothersome because s/he, the reader, now having read a piece of good fiction and having now ascertained something s/he hadn’t previously about humanity’s deep, equalizing truths must now incorporate or actively deny this revelation. Both take a lot of energy. And since there are a finite number of these eternal truths, the extra bit about being a fiction writer is that s/he should convey those eternal truths (part the first) in fresh ways (part the second.) It ain’t easy. How honest do you think a writer must be in poetry versus fiction?
A writer must always be honest. What, if any, symbiosis exists between your painting and life of letters?
Well, right now, painting is serving a very practical purpose: distraction. I’ve got a new collection of short stories. I’ve sent it out to a number of publishers. I’m waiting on either rejection or acceptance. It’s tough to wait and time goes very slowly. So, I paint as a damper for my anxiety. But I’ve always loved to draw and paint. One summer, my folks let me turn a room in the basement into a quasi-art studio. I went Jackson Pollock in there. There’s something too, and I’m not sure what, about being a visual person. The part about writing I enjoy the most is envisioning a scene and writing it with the most visceral details I can imagine. I want my words to, first, make me see something and, secondly, make the reader see something. Making drawings and paintings appeals to my visual nature. How did children change, and add to, your artistic life?
On the one hand, ask me again in twenty years. My kids are young. On the other hand, there’s this: The only thing I knew for certain going into parenthood was that I was supposed to read to my kids a lot. “Easy,” I thought, “I’ll screw them up in so many other ways, but dammit, I will read to them as much as I can.” And my wife and I do. We read to our kids a lot and it is pure joy. The time I spend reading to my kids reinforces my belief that writing is a noble and necessary pursuit, certainly a belief I want to impart to them. Presently, I have to be very careful. My eldest is reading now and her siblings are not far behind. A big piece of my parental responsibilities is to keep them away from the things I’ve written for as long as possible. By so doing, I hope to minimize the enormous sums of money they’ll inevitably have to pay for therapy later in life. When my kids are adults and when I’m dead and gone, I want them to be able to say, “We remember that Dad was always writing and painting. He invited us into the world of artistic expression and the appreciation of art of all kinds. The way he lived showed us the vitality of creative endeavor.” 169
What books do you have under your belt, what are they about, why are they important, and what new projects are you working on?
Like I said, I’m shopping around a new collection of short fiction right now. It’s called The Museum of Heartache. It’s quite a bit more meditative than my other collections (Animal Heart, Hyperborea Publishing, 2016; Brief Instructions, Ghostbird Press, 2017.) Those collections are raw and rabid. The Museum of Heartache has some of that but it’s more Pink Floyd-y than Rage Against the Machine-y, if that makes sense. Contemplative might be a word for it, more so at least than my other stuff. It’s my best work so far. I hope it attracts a good publisher’s or agent’s eye soon. I can’t wait for it to be in readers’ hands. I’m also writing a novel. Set against the opioid crisis in southern Ohio. Here’s a little teaser anecdote: As part of my research, I asked a doctor friend of mine how much bleeding there’d be if a deer rammed its antlers into a man’s eyeball. Spoiler alert: Quite a bit. What is your take on the Southern Collective Experience LLC, and what do you hope to bring to the fray?
My take is that the Southern Collective Experience LLC is ambitious and wide-ranging and welcoming and eclectic. I hope these adjectives also describe me, as a human being and a writer, and I hope that makes me a good fit for the SCE. Now, I should be honest and say that I am still learning what “Southern” means. I was born in and have lived most of my life in the snowy Midwest, where the iced tea is as bitter as our secret hearts. I am still off-put, and probably always will be, when a stranger says to me, “How’s it going?” My gut tells me to shove that person on the shoulder and say, “What’s it to ya, fella?” Just kidding. Kind of. I hope to bring new perspectives. I hope to bring new ideas for projects and new ideas to foster creativity. For example, I have this desire to lead writing retreats to abandoned places. How great would it be to sneak into an abandoned mansion, explore it for an hour, and then write poetry in that space for another hour? Don’t steal that idea, by the way. I’ll shove you in the shoulder. What is your philosophy on life and happiness?
I have a strange relationship to happiness. Strange, in that I don’t believe in it. I have major depressive disorder, and, at this point, it’s definitely ruined any notion that permanent happiness is attainable or that happiness exists as an antithesis to depression. Depression is far more powerful than happiness. Look, depression is such an emotionally violent illness. When I’m way down, I’m thinking about ways to kill myself. It’s impossible for happiness to fill the emotional chasm that repetitive thoughts of self-destruction grind into my cranial landscape. It’s like tossing a bag of Ready Mix into the Grand Canyon. But even when I’m not down, when I’m feeling pretty normal, when I smile and joke and laugh, when the good things in my life actually feel good, I’m extremely hesitant to describe that as, “happiness.” Inevitably I crash back into a roiling and shore-less sea of guilt, fear, anger, and self-loathing. That’s overwhelmingly real to me, whereas happiness is brittle. Happiness is untrustworthy. Happiness is a ghost dance. Happiness is a piece of paper on fire. I could go on. I want peace and joy. I believe in them. I believe peace and joy are indestructible entities that exist outside of the boundaries of my skin and brains. I can cling to peace and joy in the chop and foam of the Depression Sea. Peace and joy don’t depend on me for their existences and I feel much more confident depending on things that don’t depend on me. In fact, peace and joy exist in spite of my raggedy self. Happiness depends on me to manufacture it and I’m done with that. I can’t do it anymore. How are creative writing programs failing and succeeding?
Such a good question. One of my favorite anecdotes on writing and the literary life comes from Hubert Selby, Jr. (Last Exit to Brooklyn, Requiem for a Dream, et al.) He was a merchant mariner in New York, but early on, he got hurt and couldn’t do the job anymore. All of a sudden, he had to figure out another way to make a living. So, he said, “I know the alphabet. Maybe I could be a writer.” Well, he was a brilliant writer and the extent of his writerly education when he first sat down to a typewriter was…awareness that letters exist. Look, formal creative writing programs aren’t necessary to be a writer, even a good writer, of literary fiction. I’m not sure creative writing programs want aspiring writers to know that, but it’s true. It costs a lot of money to do a BA or MFA or PhD in creative writing. If you can’t do it, you can’t do it. But you can always be a writer. That said, creative writing programs can offer enormous benefits. There’s, suddenly, a dedicated chunk of time—two years for an MFA, another two years for the PhD—to use simply for creative writing. Time is a damn dream come true for most writers. You also have to read a lot and most creative writers love to read. Plus, you realize you don’t write in a lonely bubble. You form relationships with peers and mentors that prove invaluable in the years after you graduate. Some creative writing MFA programs make students compete for funding. The University of Iowa (Iowa Writers’ Workshop) comes to mind, at last check. That’s a disservice to students. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with a little healthy writerly competition. It can make you a stronger writer. But if you’re competing for bucks to stay in the program, that inevitably becomes your focus and the source of all your fears. That tends to dissolve the nascent creative spirit awfully quick. Acid for flower petals. Writers are wild explorers. I’d say it’s hard to find MFA programs that honor that in their students or even realize it’s true. MFA programs (and BA and PhD programs) that don’t foster the wild-explorer nature, one way or the other, will produce bored writers who will eventually quit writing. Instagram: paulluikart Twitter: @PaulLuikart Facebook: @PaulLuikartauthor
David Peoples by: Clifford Brooks What are your thoughts on the Southern Collective Experience LLC? What do you hope to bring to the organization?
I love where you are and where you are going. I crave being around artists and hope I can collaborate and share in this community. I would love to host events, we featured some of your poetry Clifford… I hope I can offer that to other artists as well. What I would really love to do is somehow evolve my ‘Concert in the Woods’ series to include something from the collective. Basically, I collect submissions of electronic playback compositions to create 171
a sonic event (usually through a network of local composers). The pieces are fused together and then I’ll get a group of people together and we go on a hike with the new works playing back from portable speakers. For me, it would be awesome to collect prerecorded narrations of poems/text and pair it up with new compositions from my area friends (mostly here in Mississippi, Alabama, Tennessee, Georgia, and Lousiana) – or at the least myself. What is your philosophy on living a happy life?
Occasionally, get yourself a really tall ladder and look above and around everything you are doing (get some real perspective)… don’t wander too long in the fog of other people’s hooey. If you can’t grab ahold/find the truth, get some hope and ride that hope till you can get some true happiness. What tips to success do you have for those coming up who hope to have a career in music?
This is a tough one. I think you have to be as true as possible to yourself – whatever that might be. I think the real trick is finding those that will truly appreciate and those that will sponsor what you want to do. Can you give a background on who you are as a musician (and where you see yourself going)?
I don’t know how much of my past informs on who I am tomorrow much… the past is there, and there was some music influences on me. The stuffy answers are that I wrote my first symphony when I was 15, conducted my first large ensemble when I was 17, listened to a lot of music (especially radio), and would get quite the euphoric high listening to music live (no exclusivity— as long as it was live). Any music instrument I got my hands on (in the past or future) was a welcome escape (and further musical intoxication). I do have to give credit to some of my teachers when I was younger, they’d turn me onto a composer… the next thing I’d go down to the library and absorb/research everything I could find. My piano/organ teacher (when I was a kid) would tell me stories about Stravinsky when he was in college (going to lectures and such). How do you experience music?
For me, and this is a big part about how I share music too, is the underlying therapeutic value of music. Music can help release (or increase) emotional states. For example (as they would connect to me)… ‘Buena Vista Social Club – El cuarto de Tula’ = Ultimate relaxation and movement (and fun to sing with), melts anxiety ‘Philip Glass – Facades (from Glassworks)’ = Realign focus and activate analytical thought ‘Orlando di Lasso – Magnificat: Praeter rerum seriem’ = Bring happiness, align/focus multitasking ‘Barber – Adagio for Strings’ = Mourn/remember someone lost 172
Now, this is just a sample of a very vast repertory of music that I experience, I am in constant contact with music (and how I experience it is in a state of evolution). What motivated you to teach music? What do you love most about it?
There is great value in teaching, teaching/coaching someone through the process of creativity really makes me sit back and realize how I create my own music. It also puts me in touch with others on a similar path. What are you reading right now? Who are your favorite authors and poets? Why are they on this list?
It is hard for me to ‘hold’ favorites, but I can tell you I am currently reading (or will be soon experiencing works by) Loren Eisley, Margaret Atwood, James Schuyler, and Ai. As a composer, I have become obsessed with setting to music the poetry of Christina Rosetti and Shakespeare… however, your poetry was exciting to set to music. What do you bring to music that others leave lacking?
I’m not happy with what I hear on the radio today. Maybe I delve into finer arts, but I like to imagine I bring a little spice to music that (if emotional) is super emotional with explorations in color. What projects do you have behind you that still give you deep satisfaction in composition? What are you working on now?
Two projects come to mind… I have a project out now that really has a lot of my personality in it. It has happiness and joy, meloncholly and depression. The album is called ‘Looking for Utopia.’ Secondly, in my academic career I had the opportunity to write a massive composition for symphonic orchestra, vocal solos, and chorus. I got to express my own personal belief (and forgive me if I go to religious on you) and defend it against a bunch of academic professors. The work is a setting of Abraham sacrificing Issac from the Old Testament. If you look at a lot of art on this, the angels that stop Abraham are buff and thonderous… not mine. I set the voice of God and angels as peacefully – not booming – because, for me I will have no part in a deity that would yell or be abusive. The music does go boomy (loud) and aggressive – but that would be a depiction of what I imagine went on in Abraham’s mind (psychological states). I am always on the look out for new collaborations, especially from other artists (writers and visual artists). Currently, I am wrapping up a Vietnam Memorial piece, a new piece for guitar and piano, new electronic pieces, a modern take on Handel’s The Messiah, setting my own poetry (halocaust memorial), a mathematical piece, an album of jazz trombone with electronics. How do we find you online to follow-up on what you’ve done, and keep up with your progress?
I keep up a website https://www.bluesilhouettes.com/ The current albums I have out are available here: https://www.bluesilhouettes.com/albums My current collection of poems (Halocaust Memorial): https://www.amazon.com/Never-Spring-Because-Died-Winter/dp/173158699X You can also keep in touch by facebook: https://www.facebook.com/davidpeoples 173
Faces of Faith
Casanova Green by: Clifford Brooks In the style and construction of your poetry, please tell us about the most transformative points in life that culminates in the man you are today?
Although it doesn’t look like it, I’ve been through a lot in my life so it has been a consistent narrative of transformation. I’ve survived abuse, depression, loneliness, low self-esteem, and crippling anxiety among other things. But three moments stand out the most: the death of my mother, the day I got married, and the day my son was born. Each of those moments forced me to grow up and step up in ways that I thought I couldn’t handle. Looking back now, I see God built me for all of it. How does your creative and spiritual lives work together and against one another?
They work together because they force me to constantly be in a place of prayer and listening to God. I’m not the “write everyday” kind of guy. I’m more of a wait on Jesus person. When inspiration or revelation comes, I write, sing, or speak. I know that great things come in what some call “the secret place” and I am not a fan of trying to manufacture something. They work against each other because the spiritual governs how the creative is to be used. I can’t just write or sing just anything I choose and release it like nothing will happen. There are poems I’ve written that will never see the light of day because they do not fit how God is using me especially in this season of my life. Please elaborate on your theory that poetry is prophetic.
My church knows that I am a word nerd and I love etymology which is the study of the origin of words. When you look at the etymology of prophetic or prophet, it means to speak forth. Poets, and all creatives, are gifted to see the world differently and see beyond what is on the surface. We then reveal what we see through our creative work so those who are not creative can see, hear, or experience the themes or messages we see below the surface. 174
As a man of faith, I am able to merge the creative ability with my relationship with God and allow Him to be the lens I see the word with and the microphone I speak from. God has blessed me with the ability to watch, discern, then speak so I can speak forth in a way that reveals not only natural but spiritual truths. I understand you’re releasing a new album. Tell us about it, and where we can get it.
Songs from the Journey Parts I and II are a celebration of 20 years of music ministry with all music either written or co-written by me. Both parts will be recorded live and we are treating it as if they are a church service so you never know what happens. We recorded the first part on February 23rd and it was one of the most powerful and spirit-filled worship nights I’ve been in. We released the single entitled “Consuming Fire: Part 1” on July 5th and will release Part I on August 9th. We plan to record Part II on August 24th at my home church, Judah Christian Community, in Columbus, OH and release it in February 2020. All projects will be available on all digital outlets and from my website. As a educator, does the teaching you do in the classroom carry over to your congregation, and vice versa?
Oh yeah. I counsel my students as much if not more than my congregation and my congregation learns so much from me because I am just a walking book of knowledge. You cannot run from what is a part of you. You create FaceTime videos every Sunday on your way to deliver your sermons. They are uplifting, genuine, funny, and always leave the listener with a sense of peace. Where does your inspiration come from? When did you start doing it? How do you see it evolving, and are they archived anywhere?
I started those videos about a year ago just as a way to invite people to church and because I was so bored driving alone. I never plan what I’m going to say and every comes from prayer and just talking about what’s on my mind and heart. I was floored when friends from across the country tell me that they love watching the videos. I have even had people from other faith traditions come and tell me that the videos help them get through the week. I could see it evolving to YouTube or another platform or being a larger part of True Vision Christian Community. You can find them on my personal Facebook page but they will move to my professional page in August. What are you reading right now?
I just finished reading Wild At Heart by John Eldridge with a friend. I am currently jumping back into The Active Life: A Spirituality of Work, Creativity, and Caring by Parker J. Palmer. What writing projects are you getting through now or looking to soon?
Currently, I am compiling and writing work for my first chapbook. The working title is Things I Wish I Could Tell You but it may change. I am also going to do more fiction and non-fiction work and see where that goes. Lastly, I am writing music for a project and collaborating with other artists on their projects. Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
In terms of family, I can see me and my wife having more kids and our son being an amazing big brother. In terms of the church, I see myself starting the process of passing the torch and continually establishing churches across the world. Musically, the church CD and my fourth and fifth albums will be out and I’ll be traveling around singing and preaching. Academically, it is honestly up in the air. I 175
may be finishing a PhD, teaching full-time at the college level, or walking away all together so I can focus on ministry and creating. In terms of writing, there will be at least one book out and Iâ€™ll still write and submit work from time to time. How does having a child change your world view?
I remember holding my son for the first time and instantly feeling a rush of responsibility. Every decision you make is made with the understanding that you are in charge of another life and you canâ€™t ship them off to someone else. Having a child has made me a more careful person but has given me great joy. He is inquisitive like me which is a blessing and a curse at times but watching him navigate the world has taught me how to be a better man and a better pastor. Web and Social Media
Personal Website: www.cgcreate.online Church Website: www.truevisionlancaster.org Facebook: www.facebook.com/cgcreatellc Follow on Instagram and Twitter @casanovatlgreen All music is available on all digital platforms
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Clifford Brooks was born in Athens, Georgia. His first poetry collection, The Draw of Broken Eyes & Whirling Metaphysics, was re-issued by Kudzu Leaf Press in August 2018. His second full-length poetry volume, Athena Departs: Gospel of a Man Apart, as well as a limited-edition poetry chapbook, Exiles of Eden, were published by Kudzu Leaf Press in 2017. Clifford is the founder of The Southern Collective Experience, a cooperative of writers, musicians and visual artists, which publishes the journal of culture The Blue Mountain Review and hosts the NPR show Dante’s Old South. He is on the faculty of The Company of Writers, and provides tutorials on poetry through the Noetic teaching application.
SERVICES OFFERED: Tutoring • Lecturing • Reading • One-on-one manuscript editing Please email for more information: email@example.com
Editors Clifford Brooks Poetry
Terence Hawkins Fiction & Essays
Alecia Vera Visual Arts
Dusty Huggins Music & Entertainment
Tom Johnson Movie Reviews
Meri Wright Graphic Design
A Journal of Culture Poetry, Literature, and the Arts from The Southern Collective Experience.