The Blue Mountain Review Feb. 2021

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feb. 2021

Blue Mountain Review / Feb. 2021


Michael Cudlitz on his career from a river runs through it to clarice

Check in with nuci’s space a week with linden row inn

The life & Artwork of Gary Chapman

The SCE Member spotlight robert gwaltney

Winners of the LGBTQ Chapbook Contest

sit with the music of alain johannes

Poetry, prose & visual art


katie knutson




Introduction Hester L. Furey

“If we take infinity to mean not infinite temporal duration but timelessness, then eternal life belongs to those who live in the present.” -- Wittgenstein, Tractatus 6.4311 It’s confusing to me when people complain about weather. I love fog. My favorite fall or winter night features a sky full of white. Maybe it starts pink or lavender, at sunset, a low-settling cloud that may or may not bring cold. A hush characterizes these magical nights, as if everything is waiting. I love this sense of being on the edge of something, not knowing how the weather will turn. When I entered college almost 40 years ago, I was still planning to be a journalist. I knew I’d need to be able to make deadlines and be disciplined in my writing life, so I enrolled for a workshop on overcoming procrastination. Two therapists ran it, and they began by talking about how people who procrastinate fret and self-torment until they have done whatever it is they’re putting off. So, they advised, if you know you’re going to wait until the last minute – ok, do that, but at least don’t worry about it. I found their perspective interesting, and I decided to experiment with their approach. When I got my first paper assignments, I thought, all right, I am going to procrastinate, but I will not worry. After 2-3 weeks of this, I became impatient. I thought, “well, if I’m not going to worry, I may as well write the things!” It turned out that imagining all the bad things that might happen if I failed was the messed-up payoff. I had no idea, to that point, that I had been hooked on these bad feelings. Now, when students tell me that they do their best work by procrastinating, I ask them a question: have you ever tried it any other way? Also, I point out, there’s no reason you can’t still finish near the deadline, if you like that burst of adrenaline. But to give your brain time to do its best work, start earlier. No one will cop to being addicted to worry. I wonder. Over the last few years I have noticed an increasing tendency among people of my acquaintance to express fear about the future. Often adults who should know better are highly specific in their beliefs about “what is going to happen.” I find myself chatting about Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle more often than an English professor should have to. We humans are pretty good pattern-recognizing animals, I agree, yet we literally cannot know what will happen in the days and years to come. All kinds of tips and tricks are available to us to help us feel more focused and aware in the present moment rather than befuddled, distracted, and overwhelmed, and many of them work. We actually don’t have to work hard for presence – possibly this is why we don’t appreciate it. We can begin the process by being honest about what binds us to perseveration on thoughts of bad outcomes: ego? blind habit? too much media junk food? Let us take some responsibility for what has been happening in our brains. Worrying does not make us smarter; it inhibits productive thinking. I am not saying don’t plan, don’t visualize what you want, don’t be prudent, don’t study, don’t be disciplined, don’t plant seeds, don’t save money, don’t build relationships. These are all fine activities that we can do deliberately and with joy. But please, dear friends, let us stop imagining that bad things will happen and torturing ourselves. Worrying accomplishes nothing, and by giving in to fearful ruminations we deprive ourselves of the sweetness of the present moment. I wish you all a marvelous year.



Blue Mountain Review / Feb. 2021


table of Contents The Zealot and the Emancipator.............................. by H.W. Brands 100 Parallel Resting Places..... Casanova 10 by Laura Wetherington 102 William Walsh 14 The Citron 24 Festival 28 Michael 108 Poetry.LA’ 30 Linden Row 116 John 32 Melanie Wade 122 Melissa 36 Mario the Maker 126 Nicole 40 Kelly Long of Mostly 130 Quillkeepers 46 Hemingway’s Dog: Samantha 48 What Does It Mean To 132 The Tusculum 52 Catherine Moore of Nuci’s 138 Adam Cushman of Film 142 Southern Collective Experience Gary 58 Member Spotlight: Katie 64 Robert 144 2 Literary 8

Special 106

Visual Art 56

Music 68 Faces of 152 D.L. Yancey 70 Alain 74 Call Me 78 Neal Carey of the Richmond Symphony 82 Dave Brandwein of 86

A Conversation with Chip Riggs by Zach 154 156

Where the Bones Have Gone by Lisa 158 Under the Handmade Free Sign by the Road, 2 Miles From Our House by Lisa Bledsoe............................................ page 160 The Gods Dream Us Over and Over Again How Fires End by Marco 98 by Lisa Bledsoe............................................ page 162

Movie 90 Book 96



Blue Mountain Review / Feb. 2021

Swimming with the Fishes by Barbara 164 Strike Anywhere by Barbara 166 Jump Cut by Barbara Saunier................... page 168 Wedding Wine by Gerald Wagoner............ page 172 A Couple of Pocket Books by Gerald 174 Waking and Memory by Gregory Loselle.................................... page 176 Supermarket Waltz with Tomato Improvised Explosive Device by Gregory 178 Family Archaeology by Gregory 180 The Reckoning by Stella 182 Writ on Water by Stella 184 Starling-Rise by Adam 186 Stomping Grounds by Karen Luke 188 Pink Chronology by Sarah 190 Skin House by Sarah Matsuda 192 Landscape: In Parts by Sarah 194 Peak Bloom by Donelle 196 They Call it Healing by Brook 198 Baby in Baltimore by Hester 200 The Museum of Hospital Art by Anthony 202 One Day by Kenneth 204 Killing Rain Crows by Ron 206

The End of Activity in Natalbany by Chad 208 Klnasman by Edison 210 Hallelujah by Robin 212 Bonefishing by Shelly 214 God by Shelly 216 Bread by Carol 218 On Second Thought by M. Covert 220 Poem 1 by Tricia-Marie 222 Poem 2 by Tricia Marie 224 Girl by Laura 226 Rudy Giuliani by Faylita 228 232 Embiggenating by Jim 234 Oh.Promethus by Hunter 240 Rhine Maiden by Kerry 250 Salton Sea by Babak 256 Sensory Nerves by Rebecca 260 262 The Pirate’s Ransom by Libby 266 The Familiar Predicament by Phillip 267 The Chair by Jesse 268 270 BSing with God by Garry 272 On Tomatoes by Megan 276 To Grow Before 280


the poetry collections of

Clifford Brooks “Clifford Brooks has the rare gift of combining a lyric intensity and a grounded honesty in his poetry, one that reflects an amplified, passionate, and giving soul, but one that understands, very well, the suffering that sculpts a genuine heart...In these poems–whether narrative or lyric, minimal or dithyrambic, Brooks knows human passion, how it must suffuse any art worth making.” –William Wright, author of Tree Heresies and 2015 Georgia Author of the Year in Poetry

“Clifford Brooks writes a passionate, eloquent poetry, as wide-ranging as the models he sometimes invokes, including the blues and the epics.”-Robert Pinksy, former Poet Laureate of the United States

There are storytellers, and there are stories. Occasionally, we find no distinction between them. This is the case with Clifford Brooks.

-Kelli Allen, author of Imagine Not Drowning (2017), How We Disappear (2016), Some Animals (2016), and Otherwise, Soft White Ash (2012)

Clifford Brooks’s Athena Departs is tornadic, both in its dizzying whirl of settings, images, and motifs and in its sheer elemental energy....There is nothing faked here, nothing pretended to. Athena Departs is poetry fully meant by its creator, delivered with the force of a whirlwind. —Dan Albergotti, author of Millennial Teeth



Now for a limited time, the entire collection available, signed and personalized. To find out more reach out directly to the author at and use “CCB3 Poetry Bundle” as the subject line.



Blue Mountain Review / Feb. 2021

y ed b


p o ns o r

Contest Winners


Tell Me Exactly What You Saw and What You Think It Means is a collection that makes good on its title. In these searching poems of vulnerability and courage, a queer man wrestles with the complicated gift of surviving the plague wrought by AIDS in the 80s and 90s... these poems take stock of life at its midpoint, fixing a steady gaze through the lens of hard-won experience.

andrea deeken


Second Pl


Who are we but the stories we tell ourselves, the scars handed down across generations? The narrative poems in Mother King are rooted in the everyday: the rural exploration of a fractured childhood; sexuality and identity; and the mystery of motherhood. These quiet poems remind us that the smallest moments are the ones that can set us free.

l ih rd P ace

the judge

Steve Bellin-OKa


Pl a rst ce

ian spencer bell Marrow is about growing up queer in Virginia. Bell wrote the poems for a solo dance performance, which he premiered on March 17, 2016 at the LGBT Center in New York City.

honorable mentions Yasmina Martin: hazy Brian Rigg: Soft Animals Mo Corleone: Around the Lake

jessica jacobs Jessica Jacobs is the author of Take Me with You, Wherever You’re Going (Four Way Books), winner of the Devil’s Kitchen and Goldie Awards, and Pelvis with Distance (White Pine Press), winner of the New Mexico Book Award. Chapbook Editor for Beloit Poetry Journal, she lives in Asheville, NC, with her wife Nickole Brown, with whom she co-authored Write It! 100 Poetry Prompts to Inspire (Spruce Books/PenguinRandomHouse).

nickole brown Nickole Brown is the author of Sister, reissued by Sibling Rivalry Press, who also published her new chapbook The Donkey Elegies. Her second book, Fanny Says (BOA Editions), won the Weatherford Award for Appalachian Poetry and her chapbook To Those Who Were Our First Gods won the Rattle Chapbook Award. She teaches at Sewanee School of Letters MFA Program and the Great Smokies Writing Program at UNCA.



Litera Interv


Blue Mountain Review / Feb. 2021

ary views


Interview with

casanova green By: clifford brooks

Tell us about your new book. How did start it your mind and how did the result differ? Things I Wish I Could Tell You is a collection of poetry which gives people perspective into how I see the world, my life experiences, and things that I share (or wish I could share) with people in my life. Most of this book comes from work I did during my time at Reinhardt University’s MFA program. Initially, I designed this to be a much longer collection of work but what you will see in the final product is the most cohesive and strongest work and gives a perfect introduction to who I am as a writer and as a person.

What are a few of the technical skills you honed, and/or learned, in the writing process? I think the biggest skill that I learned during the writing process was the concept of deep imagism. In some of the poems, you see me focus on one aspect of the poem and gradually deep dive into how that one images creates a deeper message or asks a deeper question. I also enjoyed adding in more of my musical background and knowledge and focusing on the rhythm and flow of words while avoiding sounding mechanical. Ultimately, I learned how to “get naked” on the page as my mentor, Bill Walsh, would say. Authenticity and transparency may not be a technical move, but it is necessary in the crafting of good writing. You must be willing to leave something of yourself on the page and allow that seed of truth—the part that is you—to lead you in what and how you write. Until I understood that point, my writing was good but very pedestrian and, at times, gimmicky.

How did you pick the book’s title? What’s the deeper meaning? I have a Moleskine journal that I used my first years of teaching. What I love about these journals is that they are typically blank. So, I decided to decorate the cover and made the title Things I Wish I Could Tell You. The initial plan was to write a book for high schoolers giving them advice about how to survive based on my experiences in high school and as a teacher. The original title was Unpacking the Journey, but I felt that season was ending with my CD releases. When I was thinking and praying about the title of the upcoming collection, I was sitting at my desk. I turned and saw that notebook and that was the only title that stuck.



Blue Mountain Review / Feb. 2021 The deeper meaning stems from my life experiences. Although my life seems very privileged and easy externally, there is a deep thread of pain and myriad experiences of abuse and rejection that I would neither share nor process until now. It is weird to me that the book, which I wrote over four years and compiled almost a year ago, is coming out in a time where I am finally deciding to walk in my freedom and negotiate and heal from the web that is my trauma and my truth. The title has even more significant meaning because I almost lost my marriage, my family, and my church because I held on to things behind the scenes. In a way, the title that seems very concealing is liberatory because I have the freedom both as a person and as a writer to be honest and lay it all on the table.

What shocked you about the publication process? What shocked me the most was the speed of the process. I thought it would go quickly, but this journey has become an act of patience and waiting on the right time. Honestly, I know and believe that things happen for a reason and in the right season.

What advice do you have for burgeoning poets? The best advice I can give is to find your you. What I mean by that is, find your voice and find your place or niche in the genre. Do not try to be like someone else or try to run another person’s race and do what your best is and what God has gifted you to do. Also, build a community of creatives around you and glean from each other. Competition, especially in writing, is pointless. What has helped me in all facets of my life is being willing to celebrate and mourn with others, share what I have with whom I’m connected to, knowing when someone else is more equipped than I am and opening the door for them, and working well in my wheelhouse.

How does your ministry and the hope for Black Lives Matter factor into this collection? In terms of ministry, I notice that my faith-based poems come in two strands: the personal and the prophetic.

When you read some of the poems, you are hearing directly from me from my experience from being in a place of


worship to the place of lament. By the way, it is okay to lament as a Christian. Jeremiah wrote a whole book about it. I notice that many faith-based writers avoid the personal because it is too real, or fear people will judge them for it. Personally, I stopped caring about people’s judgement. The Psalms are not just a praise and worship album. It is a window into David and the other psalmists’ prayers, victories, regrets, and defeats and the poet should be willing and able to do the same.

The prophetic strand permeates the entire collection. The nature of the “prophet” has been relegated to a perverted clairvoyance which has neutered the true role of a prophet both inside and outside of liturgical or religious settings. Prophecy is not “fore telling” it is “forth telling.” It is calling things to order and speaking truth to power with the goal of aligning those who hear it with the will and plan of God. What humbles me about this collection is that many of the poems were warnings to things that we have seen happen before our very eyes and now we are looking at the results of these things. The poems, such as “Letter to the Evangelical Church,” still apply today and call people back to the heart of God.

In terms of Black Lives Matter, my answer is simple: I’m Black and my existence matters. I cannot separate my blackness from my existence. Over the past year, I and many of my brothers and sisters of color or of Indigenous descent have had to defend our right to exist and thrive. Many of the poems in the collection deal with the fact that we are in the throes of racism that many people thought was defeated a long time ago. However, those of us who experience it daily know full well that we have a long way to go. Sadly, this book only gives a taste of what I need to say. You’ll get more in the next collection I’m working and processing through, tentatively titled Endangered Species.

How do we keep up with your work and the release of your book?

things i wish i could tell you

You can find me online at http:// and on Facebook at You can also follow me on Instagram, Twitter, and LinkedIn. Also, you can stream or buy my music on all digital outlets or get it directly at http:// Lastly, you can connect with my church, True Vision Christian Community, at or on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, or YouTube.



poems by

casanova green

Blue Mountain Review / Feb. 2021


Interview with

william walsh By: clifford brooks

was my schedule, which was sweet. I was single and I

Give us the skinny on Professor Bill Walsh. What makes you tick?

Yes, the skinny, which sounds like something

from an Elmore Leonard novel, and that is perfectly fine with me. Honestly, I enjoy teaching. There is a great amount of satisfaction I receive as a professor. I guess I should give you some background on the journey I’ve had that led me to being a college professor. Over the

worked Thursday through Monday, which left Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday to write all day, play tennis, chase after the woman I was in love with, whatever I wanted to do. But, with that particular company, I could not have cared less if it burned to the ground. I am not and never have been a party-person or a guy who goes to clubs so going out on the weekends never appealed to me. In regard to the work schedule, the job was pretty good.

years, I have had many different professions, which I

One day, I decided to become a private

purposefully embarked upon because they allowed me to

investigator, just out of the blue. I researched it,

pursue my writing. As I tell students, you have to make

and because I had published a book, the owner

rent. It’s simply the basic premise of taking care of your

of Atlantic Investigation in Decatur hired me. He

financial obligations, and some jobs provided that basic

was a good guy named Ralph Perdomo, and he

need for me and allow me the freedom to write. I enjoy

needed someone who could write a report. He

having a reason to get up in the morning and having a

had always wanted to write a book about his in-

task in front of me; however, I have had jobs that I hat-

vestigations, so I was the guy he wanted. Ralph

ed, but they paid the rent, which allowed me to write. I

had handled some high-profile cases: The Rob

worked for a wonderful company while I was I college,

Lowe Sex Tapes, Lita Sullivan Murder, and the

Tillinghast Nelson & Warren—an actuarial company and

Sarah Tokars Murder—those were a few years

one of the biggest in the country at the time. I very much

before I came on board. Ralph trained me on

enjoyed the people and the job. We were the computer

how to investigate different cases. I caught on

hub for twenty-one other US cities, and I was in the com-

quickly and was a good almost immediately. I

puter services department. I’ve had other jobs I hated,

just had a knack for it. A while later, I went to

such as in the financial services industry, Point of Sales.

work for another company for lot more money,

At one point I was responsible for about 150 million dol-

and then after a few years, I started my own in-

lars a day. The only reason I stayed there for several years

vestigative company. I have been an investigator



Blue Mountain Review / Feb. 2021

for more than twenty-five years.

Now, each day as an investigator is always different, which I enjoyed. Because I get bored quickly, I need

something to excite me, which being an investigator did. But, after twenty-five plus years, I started getting bored. The money was pretty good and that kept me going for a few more years, but I always loved the air of academia. I simply love being on a college campus. I like all the smart people and great conversations that accompany them. That stimulates my mind and my creative juices, and young people have so much energy and enthusiasm—they are the future. That interests me.

So, what makes me tick. I like being on campus, helping to make the university a better place, developing all


the students’ minds, and the intellectual capital walking

I also enjoy learning about my students. Some

around. Again, having conversations or listening to an-

have had terrible childhoods, which they are writing

other professor who is an expert on snakes, or listening

about. Some are from other countries. I love asking

to a student give a recital—piano, guitar, or voice—I love

about their homeland. If all I did was teach and give

that, especially because it’s not something I have as a

grades and did not connect on the personal level, I could

talent or expertise. You know, you always admire what

not do it. I’d feel like a failure. There is more to teaching

you cannot do. With my students, I like it when I discuss

then lecturing for forty-five minutes. My door is always

something like Freytag’s Pyramid and then give them an

open to students—any student can stop by to talk—about

assignment to develop their novel based on this theory—

anything. Sometimes it is not about the class. It’s some-

and then they do it. Their ideas are pretty good. I like

thing personal or they want to talk about the job market.

seeing their imagination come to life. I give my students

Once in a while a student who has never written a poem

an immense amount of freedom to create, to bring ideas

or story will bring one to me, asking me to read it and

to class, to go outside all the lines and break the rules and

tell them if it’s any good. Being a professor is one of the

fail spectacularly and question me in class—to disagree—

most satisfying professions, and for me, I don’t know of

to use their minds, to challenge everything. When I pro-

anything else I would rather be doing.

vide this sense of individual power, without the fear of failing the class, it empowers each student. As a young adult, what could be better? I like it when they are truly thinking, imagining, and bringing to fruition their ideas. Sometimes students want to know what the rules are. I often say there are no rules except you MUST write one page per day. Why? Because in a year you will have finished your book. However, it is more than that—if a student writes one page per day, then on the following day edits that page and writes one new page, by the end of two weeks they will have twenty to twenty-five pages. You might think that should be only fourteen pages, but quite often, students are not satisfied with one page and end up writing more. But most importantly, the student has, in two weeks, begun the most important process of their life, especially if they desire to be a writer. They are developing discipline. Without it, you will never be a writer. End of story.



Who are your top five favorite poets and why?

It has changed over the years and will change

again, mainly because there are so many good poets in our country and in the world—new voices, undiscovered talent. When I list my favorites, my Top Five Greatest Hits, that poet who is #6 ends up being the ugly stepchild. Of course, when I was younger, a freshman and sophomore in college, it was Shelley, Wordsworth, Byron, Blake, Keats, Coleridge, all the Romantics, pretty much the same poets everyone reads in high school, and whatever we were taught in college survey courses. It’s all I knew besides Rod McKuen. I remember as a kid reading a book of poetry for kids that was pretty good, but I never focused in on the poet. Even in high school, I never considered the poet as a person, even with Shakespeare. He was just some guy who wrote this poem, but I never connected the dots to understand the person, which

Blue Mountain Review / Feb. 2021 is actually a fine process because all that matters is

State, which turned out to be David Bottoms, who just

the made thing, not the authorship. Because I never

happened to write the kind of poetry I wanted to write. Af-

considered the author, the author never mattered. It

ter taking his class, it didn’t take me long to read the best

like what Faulkner said in the 1956 interview with

contemporary American poets, and then I took classes in

Jean Stein, (and I just looked up the actual quote),

contemporary American literature, pre-World War I up

he does not matter:

through World War II, the Beats, the Feminist Movement

If I had not existed, someone else would have written me, Hemingway, Dostoyevsky, all of us. Proof of that is that there are about three candidates for the authorship of Shakespeare’s plays. But what is important is Hamlet and A Midsummer Night’s Dream, not who wrote them, but that somebody did. The artist is of no importance. Only what he creates is important, since there is nothing new to be said. Shakespeare, Balzac, Homer have all written about the same things, and if they had lived one thousand or two thousand years longer, the publishers wouldn’t have needed anyone since. My point is, of course, that being unfamiliar with the poet does not exclude a person from understanding and enjoying a poem, and for the longest time when I was younger, I did not know who the major contemporary poets were because none of my professor taught them. They existed despite the fact that I did not know about them. I’m not sure when and under what circumstances, but I do remember finding The Beat Poets on my own, somehow. I was taken in by their conversational tone, and like many young writers, I tried emulating them. Earlier on my efforts failed. I wrote a lot of love poems to my girlfriend, not in the style of the Beats, but in the style of real-

Poets, the 1960s counterculture, and so on, up to the current poets of our times. The primary text was Mark Strand’s The Contemporary American Poets from New American Library. It was my bible because from there I started reading all those great contemporary poets, their books. I still read that book today. I read everything and absorbed what they were doing, even if their style wasn’t my style. For instance, I like John Berryman even if I did not write like him. John Ashbery is another poet. I appreciate him but cannot write as he does because I do not think as he does. We have different sensibilities. From Strand’s anthology, I fell in with James Dickey, The Beats, William Stafford, Elizabeth Bishop, Theodore Roethke, Richard Hugo, Weldon Keys, Sylvia Path, Anne Sexton, and many others. In my opinion, it was one of the best introductions to American poetry. I’m not even addressing European and South American poetry in my response, but the United States is such a huge country, it’s really twelve to fourteen countries rolled into one, so to narrow the list to five is difficult. There are ten southern poets I love, ten west coast poets, ten New England poets, and probably ten from each of the other regions of the country.

ly bad poetry. I like to think my love poetry to her

was the Best of the Worst Ever Written—I won that

ness, I have to go back to the poets I continue to read all

award many times.

the time, even though I read a considerable amount of con-

Then I heard there was a poet at Georgia

However, to answer your question with truthful-

temporary poetry, and what I like to call post-contemporary, which is the absolutely new poetry being writing this


morning, the very moment somewhere in the country,

just worrying about the idiot swerving ahead of me—all of

what can be posted on the internet, the poets of the

a sudden, a poem pops into my head and it is pretty good.

here and now, the poets of the future.

How does that happen? I wish I knew, but the hard work

My current Top Five: 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8. 9. 10.

David Bottoms James Dickey Marie Howe Sharon Olds Ed Hirsch Denise Duhamel R.S. Thomas The Beat Poets Theodore Roethke Rita Dove

was put in days prior to that. When you can free your mind, it allows your subconscious to swirl into action without your conscious mind being involved—you tune in your radio (that’s a metaphor) to the world where ideas and poems gravitate to the open mind. I firmly believe in this process. My best writing ideas pop into my head while I am driving, especially with my novels. I work out the plot while driving down the word. I have dialogue battles back and forth with

That is the best I can give you and it’s not in any par-

characters. When I free my mind, when less is more, my

ticular order, except to say Bottoms and Dickey are my

subconscious world presents itself to me. From that point, I

big guns. The reason I like these ten poets, they speak

just write the best I can.

to me in way other poets do not, either in subject matter, tone, sensibilities, or language. There are poets who do not speak to be at all, and that is fine, because a person is not required to love every poet or poem, but these ten poets are tuned into my radio.

What is your philosophy behind writing solid poetry? My philosophy is to write the best I can. It’s that simple. What else can a person do? I have written many poems that did not work for whatever reason. It happens, but I never think of it as time lost or wasted effort. The time spent struggling on a particular poem today is the practice for the poem written next week. I cannot tell you how many times I have worked on a poem, hour after hour, just pounding my head against the wall to make it work, but then the next day, while driving down the road and not thinking about poetry,



I will say that one of my philosophical requirements for myself is not becoming the brooding sad-sack poet, or miserable angst-ridden writer. The world is filled with temperamental solipsistic bores. I’m mean, those types of pretentious writers bore the hell out of me. They need to get over themselves. Plus, they are such clichés. There is no requirement that states you must be miserable to be a poet. “But he/she is so deep,” people often say. I think he/ she is full of shit. Find your voice. Write your best poetry. Be thankful that you have talent that you can develop. Go develop your talents and do your best work. Enjoy life. If not, stop making the world a more miserable place. Go into politics or investment banking.

What do you feel is your responsibility to your reader as a poet?

I do not have any responsibility toward any reader,

none whatsoever. I’m not so solipsistic to think I have in-

Blue Mountain Review / Feb. 2021 fluence over anyone. I don’t even know who my audience

about as good as it will get. With poetry, I don’t feel it

is until I meet them at a reading, so I don’t know who I

is my responsibility to satisfy anyone, because by do-

would be responsible toward. Plus, there is a level of au-

ing so, once I write for this group over here, I alienate

thoritative bossiness to that idea, that I must have or take

someone else. I write the best I can, to please myself,

responsibility. Because I have always been anti-authority,

and hopefully, the reader will find me. That’s it. That’s

meaning I never liked anyone telling me what I HAD to do,

all. Anything more than that and I’m placing too much

and I would do the opposite even if it was in spite of my-

self-importance upon myself.

self, I feel that my responsibility is to the counterweight of that notion. That is my level of counterculture, subversion. You say I have to do this – watch this! I’ll do the opposite. That’s why I was never really able to be a good employee. I always had my own interest in the forefront, not some company. I’ve mellowed a little over the years in regard to that, evidenced by my role at the university, but at the heart of my being, I rebel against being told what to do. Likewise, I have to ask, what responsibility does the reader have toward me? None, of course. If a reader were told they HAD a responsibility toward the text or the writer, I would hope they would rebel and say, No I don’t. As such, I’m not sure why we feel as if the writer has a responsibility toward anything other than the written word, or a responsibility toward anyone other than ourselves? That’s all I care about—writing the best for myself. If I do that, the reader will find me, perhaps.

Tell us about Fly Fishing in Time Square.

Fly Fishing in Time Square is my best effort

to date, and I feel a fondness for the poems. They are lyric narratives. I like what Denise Duhamel said about it, “It’s a love letter to America.” I like that description. My style of poetry, what I like to write, are lyric narrative stories with a metaphor buried deep inside so that on one level it has one meaning, but there is an undercurrent message. Writing poetry is difficult, wrought with numerous missteps along the way. Regardless, we keep pursuing perfection, which is unobtainable. Once you realize perfection is unobtainable, you can relax and venture forward to do your best, to be a good steward of the written word. Oftentimes the best thing about being a poet is encouraging and supporting other poets, especially younger poets. They are hungry for

As an example, how on earth would any person

knowledge, friendship, acceptance, understanding of

satisfy the world, all the people in the world? You simply

themselves—their past, and many like to sit at the feet

cannot, no matter what. At best, it’s 50/50. So why pander

of their elders to learn what it takes to be a poet. I was

to this fifty percent or that fifty percent? It’s like in poli-

in that situation many years ago, with a voracious ap-

tics—if you are a Democrat or a Republican, automatically,

petite to learn the craft. I still am to a degree.

half the people in the country hate you. There is no rhyme

Can you discuss your upcoming books?

or reason to their vitriolic feelings other then they are in one political camp and not the other. I think the numbers I’ve heard is that the country is divided 45/45/10. That is

I have three books forthcoming in 2021-22.


Because of Covid and all the intricacies surrounding the

years of hibernation. I rewrote forty pages and sent them

publishing industry and the current state of affairs, the

to someone for her opinion. If it wasn’t working, I would

dates are not yet determined. I am editing a poetry an-

never look at it again. However, my reader loved those

thology, The Poet Speaks, where approximately sixty of

forty pages and wanted to read more and know what

the best poets in the country are writing about one of

happened to the characters. I was happy about that, of

their poems. They’re discussing how the poem was writ-

course, because I had feared it was over and Lakewood

ten, the impetus behind the poem, and all the nuances of

would never see the light of day. In fact, it had a different

writing it. These short essays are compelling, with such

title until recently. Once I was given the green light, re-

different points of views and experiences. Each time I

wrote the entire novel in three months.

read a new essay as they filter in, I am more amazed. Some of the poets include Kim Addonizio, Richard Blanco, Camille Dungy, Stephen Dunn, Cornelius Eady, Jane Hirshfield, Ted Kooser, Dorianne Laux, Marilyn Nelson, Paisley Rekdal, Alberto Rios, Virgil Suárez, Mai Der Vang, and many others. It’s a diverse group of poets.

One of the things that occurred which I could

not do when I was younger was write the truth. This is/ was very important. I had set the novel in the little town where I grew up, where my mother grew up, where my grandfather lived for fifty years—with one exception. I changed the name of the town to Baker. As well, I fabricated everything about the town. When I decided to re-

I have my debut novel forthcoming, but I’m

not certain which novel will be published first. I have two novels coming out: Lakewood and The Pig Rider. It’s interesting how this has transpired. I started writ-

write the novel,

I decided to be as honest as possible,

thus I changed the title to Lakewood, which is a nod toward Sherwood Anderson’s Winesburg, Ohio, a

ing Lakewood when I was a sophomore in college, but

novel I greatly admired. Also, to be included in the

it was a terrible effort. Although, it was a beginning. I

mix is Edgar Lee Master’s Spoon River Anthology,

had a good idea but not the talent nor the experience

which is about as truthful as you can get. Lakewood

one needs to write that particular novel. I kept at it for a number of years, but it was awful. Over the years I would look at it, but I never did anything with it. It was one of

has all the original stores and some people from the time period. In fact, Deputy Barney Kellogg, and

those poorly written novels that stays in the bottom of

pharmacist Tony Barone, make appearances. My

the drawer, apprentice work each of us needs to wrestle

mom knew Mr. Barone, who used to wait on us at

with. However, during the pandemic, I found it again

the pharmacy. There are a few other people from the

and read parts of it. It was so terrible, juvenilia, drivel. One thing about the novel—I always liked the characters and the plot, and over the years, I thought about


the novel. I decided to give it another try after twenty


town in my novel. My grandfather makes an appearance. However, the main characters are all fictional. Except for the publisher and my reader-friend,

Blue Mountain Review / Feb. 2021 no one else has seen it. My mom wants to read it

tain character’s motivation, but during this time, I

because she’s worried I’ve say something horrible

was also writing and publishing other books and

about these folks, but I have’t. All the bad guys in

had other project in phases of production, as well as

the novel are fictional characters. The real people

running a company. I was also working on the se-

are good people who play minor supporting roles in

quel to The Pig Rider. That novel is close to being

the novel. I added them as a tribute to the wonder-

finished. In fact, it’s a trilogy and I have mapped

ful little town of Lakewood.

out the third book. I’ve written the opening five

With the original manuscript, I cut about one hundred pages of terrible writing and plot lines that went nowhere. In the end, I sent the entire novel back to my reader, where she made her edits and gave me some suggestions. From there, I sent it to my publisher. Within three weeks they sent a contract. So, from start to finish, Lakewood took thirty-six years to write. But that’s the poet in me. I take a long time to write a poem so for a novel to take thirty-six years is probably par for the course. I tend to take years to finish projects, as I have a long gestation period. I’m glad I never gave up on the novel, to have found it again, and gave it one more try, resuscitated it from the graveyard of the world’s worst novels by a young man with no more than a dream and perseverance.

pages of book three. So, you are probably beginning to see a pattern here—I like to have numerous projects going at one time, working here and there on them, finishing nothing, but then all of a sudden one is ready to be set free. Believe it or not, the pandemic has been great for me. I have five other novels that are close to being finished. In one novel, all I need is the last thirty pages—the ending. I know what it is, and I have the dialogue conversations in my head, but I need to sit down to write it. I keep thinking about it all the time, trying to get it perfect in my mind before I sit down to write. I am finishing up the other novels and have mapped it out to have all of them ready over the next three to five years. It’s the first time I have actually planned things out like this. For years, I have simply rolled along without any sense of urgency. That has all

In regard to The Pig Rider, from start to


finish it took about twenty years, but unlike Lakewood, I wrote The Pig Rider consistently. It took me a number of years to work out the plot and cer-


and how can we keep up with you online?

I always bring copies to my reading, of course. You can find it online—see the link below. Or, just type in the title and it should pop up on the internet. When the world finally opens back up, I hope to see people and sign copies and talk to the readers. html



Blue Mountain Review / Feb. 2021


Interview with

the citron review’s editor angela M. Brommel online & JR Walsh



By: Clifford Brooks

What Sparked the Creation of the Citron Review? Angela: The Citron Review was founded in 2009 by an MFA cohort of friends and writers, the Citrons, at Antioch University Los Angeles that wanted to create an online journal that celebrated the short form. We will still operate with that same friendship among editors, as we’ve grown, our writers and readers here and internationally have become part of that circle.

How is your journal different from others out there? Angela: The nature of promotion is that you usually try to make yourselves different from others, but we have really focused on how we can do better by the writers. Journals are often thought to belong to the cities of their editors and publishers, but a perceived location has the potential to transform into belonging to the places where the writers and readers reside.

You have gorgeous branding. How did you come up with such a vibrant presence? JR: Thank you so much! Good branding is always a little bit trial and error and often there’s an accident. I accidentally dragged the logo across the whole width of the promo and it just landed in the center. It seemed too big and was something we hadn’t tried before, but... you could see it clearly on a phone. Letting go of perceived rules allowed us to take chances. It also helps to have a font that you never get tired of. We can use variations on this until the citrons come home. I have a background in graphic design for publishing and newspapers. The pull-quote is usually a necessity of

space, but here it’s our inspiration. Our contributors’ words drive most of our choices for the image (either complementary or sometimes literal) and our images drive our color choices. I’m always thinking about the mosaic on Instagram. Will each tile be compelling on its own? If I’m leaning too hard into one color, can I mix it up? Will the contributor see that we’re expressing our love for the piece through these little promos? Will readers respond by clicking out of the social environment - or in Instagram go that extra step and paste a link? We hope so.



Blue Mountain Review / Feb. 2021

What can those who submit do to have the best chance for acceptance? JR: What’s that story/poem/expression that is yours alone? Or that is identifiable but uniquely told? You know that Woody Guthrie song (which I learned from) Wilco & Billy Bragg, that goes “Ain’t nobody that can sing like me.” Don’t worry if you think that love stories have been done before. No one can tell your love story, but you, with your words and emotions. No one owns your sweat, tears and laughter but you.

What new projects do you have on deck? JR:

Zest is a forum in which our editors review books, post interviews, and get creative with content that supplements the reading experience of our quarterly issues. This last issue we published an interview between two former contributors, Charlotte Hamrick and Tara Isabel Zambrano. When new opportunities arise, we try to start with yes. Even our look is everchanging, though familiar. It’s fun to see different colors and surprising citrus on our logo and banner.

In our recent issue Eric Steineger wrote, “Zest will focus on recent work, brimming with energy and craft. I think of the definition of zest that involves energy or the rind of citrus fruit, which contains acidity. Acidity, in wine or food, cuts through fat and acts as a great harmonizer of flavors.”

What do you feel is your responsibility to the public? Angela: In our Tenth Anniversary Anthology, we explored this question and reaffirmed that a decade later we still believe in publishing small works. Their ability to draw us into a single, present moment allows us to experience snapshots of stories like and unlike our own, that we are not alone in this world that often seeks to divide us.


How do we keep up with you online? JR: New issues arrive four times a year whenever the seasons change – every solstice and equinox. The next one is Saturday, March 20. We hope you will follow all of our writers and us on Twitter, Instagram & Facebook. For our writers: we’re always happy to hear your good publishing news and we want the world to know.




PROGRAM IN A 1920’S SPEAKEASY ATMOSPHERE Blue Mountain Review / Feb. 2021

Atlanta & Nashville


Interview with

neal tucker festival review

editor-in-chief of the

By: Clifford Brooks

Please introduce yourself and tell us a little about your life’s journey. My name is Neal Tucker, and I am the Editor-in-Chief of The Festival Review, which I founded in 2018. Prior to that (and continuing today), my work has consisted predominantly of writing, editing, acting, and producing. I studied theatre in both college and graduate school, so the arts, literature, and performance have always held a central place in my life.

What moved you to create The Festival Review? As a lifelong writer and reader, I wanted to create an outlet for high quality writing from bold voices in modern literature. The opportunity to experience the stories and poetry and translation of countless writers, and the chance to work with a few of them in crafting their pieces for publication, has been a source of bottomless joy and fulfillment that’s difficult to adequately express. I am continually humbled and inspired by the writers that give us the opportunity to share in their work and their process.

How is your journal different from others? There could be any number of differentiating factors from one publication to another, but perhaps the single most important element is the people. As with so many other publications that we admire, at The Festival Review our people care deeply about the written word and its capacity to effect change, its crucial humanity, and its ultimate legacy. We aim to produce something unique and lasting, to contribute to the long and storied conversation of great literature, and to give writers more opportunities to add to that ongoing dialectic. I’m so proud of what our team has been able to accomplish so far.

What do you look for in the work you accept for publication? Here are a few things that excite us as we consider submissions: lucidity, immediacy, incisiveness, poignance, erudition, rhythm, and great storytelling.

How can we keep up with you online? We’d love to keep the conversation going on Twitter @review_festival and Instagram @thefestivalreview. We also have a free newsletter people can join on our website at



Blue Mountain Review / Feb. 2021


Interview with

hilda weiss of poetry.LA By: Clifford Brooks

Introduce yourself to our readers. I am a poet, and I’m also the co-founder and curator of www.Poetry.LA. I have a chapbook, Optimism About Trees, have been nominated for a Pushcart prize and have been published in various journals.

When we started Poetry.LA (that’s: poetry dot LA), I thought it would be a good way to learn more about local poets and poetry venues. Now, I’m proud to say, we’ve turned the website into an online resource promoting the poetry scene in Southern California.

What sparked the creation of Poetry.LA? In 2007, I was doing a reading with other poets, one of whom asked my partner, Wayne Lindberg, to take some photos. Wayne was curious about YouTube which had just started in 2005. He thought videos of poets in performance posted to YouTube would be interesting.

We started our video project by taping open mic poets at that same venue, Redondo Poets at Coffee Cartel in Redondo Beach, California, and moved on from there to many other venues and featured poets throughout Southern California.

How does Poetry.LA stand out among other literary groups? We are a video gallery of poets in Southern California which anyone can access at www.Poetry.LA. •

• •

We have videos from more than 60 poetry venues and reading series, we’ve videotaped more than 500 poets and have over 600 videos posted including 4 U.S. Poet Laureates (Juan Felipe Herrera, Natasha Trethewey, Kay Ryan and Rita Dove) and 3 LA Poet Laureates (Eloise Klein Healy, Luis Rodriguez and Robin Coste Lewis). We have several interview series that focus on poets’ experience and craft as well as on individual poems with interviewers such as Mariano Zaro and Lisa Grove. We also have a dramatic film/poetry noir series called They Write by Night, hosted by the well-known poet and educator, Suzanne Lummis.

Essentially, we are presenting poets performing in Southern California and giving them a wide internet audience. You could say we’re both promoting and archiving the poetry scene in So Cal.



Blue Mountain Review / Feb. 2021

How did it feel to have one of your own on Jeopardy? Oh, yes! Our interview host, Lisa Grove, was a Jeopardy guest on the show that aired on September 23, 2020. We were thrilled that Alex asked her about Poetry.LA. As Lisa said, she got to talk “about our org on National TV!” What a legend Alex Trebek was and is. We miss him.

About her own interviewing, Lisa told me, “I love talking to people from many different backgrounds and giving them a platform to tell the world about their work and their lives. I love asking them questions, and I’m always impressed by people’s eloquence.” Here’s a link to Lisa’s interview with Chen Chen

How are you staying sane in this time of COVID? It’s a good time to watch videos! We revised our list of poetry venues to focus on those with virtual readings which, by the way, are open to poets across the globe. Look at our List of 17 Virtual Readings.

Of course, during the pandemic we have not been doing any live taping. Instead, we’re using Zoom and other remote recording methods. In fact, we’ve been able to help some of our Zoom interview guests adjust the lighting in their home studios, so they look better to the world whether they are reading at a Zoom event, teaching a Zoom class, or being interviewed by Poetry.LA. And we’ve been able to continue producing product for Poetry.LA via Zoom.

How do we keep up with you online? Website: www.Poetry.LA Instagram: Twitter: Facebook: go to Facebook; in the Search field type in: Poetry.LA YouTube:


Interview with

john palen By: emily kerlin

John Palen has lived a dual life as a journalist and poet. A reporter and editor for daily newspapers, he earned an American Studies doctorate from Michigan State University and taught journalism at Central Michigan University. His poetry has been published in magazines, chapbooks, books and anthologies over a 50-year span. Mayapple Press brought out his third full-length collection, Distant Music, in 2017. He just received his third Pushcart nomination, this time for the poem, “Learning to Float”. He lives in retirement on the Grand Prairie of Illinois. You can find him at

How and when did you know you were a poet? I grew up in a very small place. It was a good upbringing, but I was bored a lot. I remember writing my first poem in study hall in 7th grade looking out the window. It was full of teenage melancholy and all of that. I wrote through high school, kind of wildly throwing things on the page. I was extremely fortunate to go to Washington University where there was a poet-in-residence named Donald Finkel. He was an excellent teacher. He never crushed a student; he was helpful even when I was awful. When did I know I wanted to be a poet for sure? Freshman year at the university I read a poem by Richard Wilbur called “Love Calls Us to the Things of this World” and that poem--that single poem-- is probably why I write poetry today. I was just blown away by it. I thought, this is what I want to do. My first book was published in 1984 by Green River Press by Professor Raymond Tyner, who sought out local poets. Set the type himself on his typewriter.

What bit of wisdom or advice have you found the most useful as a writer? Don Finkel taught me that if you set up expectations in a poem, you should stick with those expectations...until you don’t. When you don’t, it should be because you are surprising the reader. And every poem should have a surprise. If you frustrate the expectation without delivering, then the poem still needs some work. So if you start out rhyming--and when I started out I was writing in rhyme and meter because I’m really old and that’s what poets were doing--if you start out with rhyme and meter and then the going gets tough and you stop doing it because it’s too hard, well, that’s not good enough.

I’ve learned that there are all kinds of ways to have form in a poem besides rhyme. Just language itself is very formal--there’s grammar and syntax and sentence structure. Those are all formal elements. There’s the putting of space in a poem to make it breathe. The sequence of things that happen. How many times have you looked at a poem and you said the fifth stanza really needs to be the first stanza and suddenly, it’s a new poem--just by changing the structure and form.



Blue Mountain Review / Feb. 2021

From where do you get inspiration for your writing? I ride public transit as much as possible. I’m a people watcher. I like to be out among crowds. Right now, in the pandemic I’m suffering from a lack of visual stimulation, so I’ve been checking out art books from the library and writing ekphrastic poems based on paintings.

I’ve also been writing about the history of the Midwest: the plains, the prairies. I grew up in southwestern Missouri. I’ve always been interested in landforms, glaciation, Indian culture and other history. I recently wrote a poem about the button industry on the Illinois River. Before plastic they used mother-of-pearl. Peoria was the nation’s center of the button industry. It was terribly hard work to harvest the mussels and then cut them out and finish the blanks into buttons. Then the mussel beds were fished out and many species went extinct. When I look at what’s around me, I always see this conflict. The Midwest is an incredibly beautiful place to me, and I don’t understand how anyone wouldn’t find it beautiful. “Flyover country” just doesn’t resonate with me at all--but by the same token, I just see ruin everywhere.

One of the things that journalism did for me was that it made me an outward-facing person. I’m a lot more interested in finding out what’s going on around me than looking inward. Although I think that looking outward and exploring that world reveals a lot about you.


Who are your creative mentors? John Donne has had a big impact on me. I like having a line that does something. He had strong, compact, rugged lines. They were dense. I like to write a dense line.

Walt Whitman was an outward-facing poet, too. Gwendolyn Brooks. May Swenson. She would just go out into the city and look at life with an inquiring eye and I love that. Gary Snyder. Naomi Shihab Nye because she’s so graceful and has so much simplicity. Gregory Orr digs into the pain of living without overstating it or beating his chest. But sometimes we get stuck reading our contemporaries. It’s good to go back a bit without getting too scholarly about it. Poetry in Donne’s time was so dramatic. With him you always get this sense that there is a character speaking to you. He creates a play around himself. One of my favorite lines from his poems is this: For God’s sake, hold your tongue and let me love.

In addition to Finkel, I was mentored by Judy Kerman, publisher of Mayapple Press, and the late Conrad Hilberry at Kalamazoo College. Both had a tremendous impact. One thing that Finkel advised me that has stuck with me is about accessibility. He said it’s quite possible that the singing of bats is very beautiful. So what if nobody can hear them?



Blue Mountain Review / Feb. 2021


Interview with

melissa hart By: Clifford Brooks

What makes life worth getting up for? What gives you peace of mind? I remember listening to Sherman Alexie give a talk at the University of Oregon years ago, and he said that happiness was overrated—he just wanted to be interested. It’s that type of curiosity that makes life worth getting up for. I’m wildly curious about so much, in any given day.

Today, I’m researching how to start a backyard honeybee hive, how the wild turkeys in my neighborhood got to Oregon, which animals adopt orphans of their own species or another species, and who played for the Dodgers in the late 1990s when my mothers and my little brother and I drove down to Los Angeles for games. Also, there’s a new literary magazine focused on baseball. It’s called The Twin Bill, and everyone should submit their best baseball prose and poetry.

You do great things in the classroom. How do you keep your heart fresh in class as a professor in this madness? I adore getting to teach writers. The students in the MFA program at Southern New Hampshire University where I work are so committed to their craft, so enthusiastic and ambitious and smart. It’s an online, asynchronous program, so everyone’s coming from a different part of the country, and everyone has an exciting personal story to share . . . especially now, when we’re all stuck at home trying to finish up a novel with our kids and cats and dogs and partners in our space.

We’ve had a good time debating the merits of bribing ourselves with cookies or checking into haunted hotels to write or—in the case of one older writer with grandchildren in his house, putting a door on his home office so he can concentrate for more than five minutes at a time. Writers need to honor their creative process . . . preferably, with a door and cookies. I try to engage my students with a great deal of humor, a great deal of candor when talking about writing and editing and publishing. This particular program focuses on genre fiction, and I’m always learning new things about how to characterize a vampire, or how to build a world full of giant human-eating katydids, or create a believable relationship between a serial killer and two women desperate to marry him.

I write contemporary literary fiction and creative nonfiction and YA



Blue Mountain Review / Feb. 2021 fiction, so in some ways, my students and I teach each other about the more specialized elements of our craft. I’m always on the lookout for new articles and stories and calls for submission to share with them . . . anything that helps them to find and take their place in the writing community both online and in person when public gatherings open up again.

There’s an interesting story in your life with caring for animals. Tell us a little about that. I grew up near Los Angeles with cats and rabbits and chickens, but I didn’t know what a raptor was until I moved up to Eugene, Oregon 20 years ago and met the man who would become my husband in our local dog park. Jonathan asked me if I wanted to drive up to Portland with him to pick up 600 pounds of frozen rats, and a live baby barred owl to take to our local raptor rehabilitation center. I asked him what a raptor was. It was one hell of a first date. Later, he gave me a tour of the center, and I saw up close just how long and sharp a raptor’s beak and talons can be. He asked if I’d volunteer with him, and I said no, but then I realized I’d lose him to some more courageous woman, so I signed up to scrub bird poop off the sides of the raptors’ mews and ended up—eight years later—training owls for educational presentations.

I trained the center’s Snowy owl, Archimedes, who’s a total rockstar. That work informed my middle-grade novel, Avenging the Owl (SkyPony, 2016), which was an Oregon Battle of the Books selection in 2019. Raptor rehabilitation is bizarre, and I was able to pack a lot of weirdness into the story—details like how we used to keep boxes of Girl Scout cookies in the deep freezer next to the eagles’ frozen rats, and how a yellow jacket once flew up my pants while I had an owl on my glove during a presentation and I couldn’t scare the bird, so I had to just let the insect sting me.

Who are your top three favorite poets, authors, and musicians? Why? Whew. This is a tough one. I’m a big fan of Mary Oliver, and Amanda Gorman’s performed poetry is breathtaking. I adore Brian Doyle’s prose poems, though if he were still alive, he’d maybe tell me they were flash nonfiction. (Then again, we might just talk about basketball.) Dinty W. Moore’s


creative nonfiction has my heart, always. I dig a lot of Anne Patchett’s and Lauren Groff’s novels. I dig Mozart and sea shanties and contemporary folk music, and if I’m out on a long run, there’s nothing I’d rather listen to than every single one of Meghan Trainor’s songs because she’s female-empowering and hilarious and she once liked one of my Tweets.

What are you reading now? I’ve been immersed in novels by women of color—books including Bernardine Evaristo’s Girl, Woman, Other and Kiley Reid’s Such a Fun Age and Celeste Ng’s books, and Julia Alvarez’s Afterlife which knocked my socks off with her insights into grief. My husband gave me a stack of naturalist books for Christmas, as well, so I’m reading and loving Brian Doyle’s book of essays titled Children and Other Wild Animals, and also The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Beekeeping because it’s time to introduce some pollinators into my world. If I get stung, I’ll just write about it.

You also do interviews. What’s it like at The Writer? I’ve written the Literary Spotlight and Conference Insider columns for The Writer for over a decade, and I write six feature articles a year for the magazine, as well. I so appreciate the freedom I have to explore those literary magazines and conferences that have a focus on inclusivity and celebration of diverse voices. I also really love interviewing writers, editors, literary agents, publishers, and booksellers for the features I write. Just last week, I spoke with three different professional obituary writers for a long piece on obit writing—I learned so much, and I ended up inspired to write and publish a colorful obituary on a neighborhood cat that stole laundry off everyone’s clotheslines for over 15 years.



Blue Mountain Review / Feb. 2021

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Interview with

nicole tallman By: Clifford Brooks

Who is Nicole Tallman? What is it about your life that created the author today? I am an only child and my mother taught me to read and write when I was very young. Some of my earliest memories are of her reading to me and teaching me to recite poems from an early age. It’s kind of funny how she was visibly horrified when I told her in my teen years that I wanted to be a writer. She tried to talk me out of it. In fact, I pursued an undergraduate degree in public relations instead of creative writing at her insistence. I managed to squeeze in a double major in French because I loved the language so much. Later in life, I went back to school for a Master of Arts in English. I just can’t stay away from language. Every job that I have had since I was 21 has involved writing. If you’re into personality types, I’m an INFJ, which seems to be pretty common among writers, and a 33/6 Life Path in numerology. I could also get into my astrological chart, which I find fascinating as well, but let’s just say I have a lot of feelings and I love the moon. Don’t most writers love the moon?

What is your chosen genre and why does it still speak to you? Genre is something I struggle with a bit. Professionally, I write a ton of correspondence, speeches and opinion pieces. Personally, I mostly write poetry. I have dabbled in memoir and short fiction, but it doesn’t come as naturally to me as poetry. I definitely



like shorter pieces. I get flashes of inspiration and like to capture my thoughts quickly, before they evaporate. It may sound corny, but poetry literally speaks to me. I hear it when I first wake up, and often have to silence it throughout the day so that I can be productive at work.

You are an editor for South Florida Poetry Journal. Tell us about that and how that fits into your life. I submitted a series of poems to South Florida Poetry Journal last year – my first-ever poetry submission in fact -- and was asked by the Journal’s founder and co-publisher (Lenny DellaRocca) if I would be interested in becoming an associate editor for the journal. I jumped at the opportunity to build a local poetry community, to have an additional creative outlet, and to be part of a publication that gives a voice to poets at all stages of their writing journey. It’s a dream come true.

Blue Mountain Review / Feb. 2021

Do you have any books out there? If so, enlighten us. I have not published any books to date. I have spent most of my writing career as a ghostwriter for public figures, which has resulted in significant ink for others and little for myself. I do have a few bylined pieces in newspapers and magazines, but only recently started publishing poetry. In that regard, I just finished my first chapbook, which is tentatively titled The New Normal. The poems in my chapbook are situated in a communal grief arising from the pandemic, and a personal grief I simultaneously processed as I came to grips with the loss of my mother through the stasis of my quarantine. The poems represent a questioning of what’s normal, of the chaos of the moment we are living in, of our relative stasis, of our search for some control and solace, and of the places, moments, and people we revisit in our memories when we are not free to travel physically.

I was hesitant to attempt to publish my chapbook without professional feedback, so I took the opportunity through the Brooklyn Poets’ Bridge network to get mentorship from Dorothea Lasky, a poet I really admire. I also took online classes with Alex Dimitrov and Richard Blanco to further workshop my poems. Now that I feel like it is ready for the larger world, I am in the process of finding the right home for this debut work.

Here’s a sneak peek in the form of a short unpublished poem from my chapbook:

ON AGING DURING A PANDEMIC What did Narcissus see in the spring that Aphrodite led him to? Was his reflection the voice of Liriope?

Was it a gift to be turned into a flower?

What did Echo say before she gave up and wasted away, right before her bones turned to stone?

Sometimes I flinch when I see myself in the mirror and wonder how will I see myself when I’m 60?

Sometimes I flinch when I see my partner look in the mirror and wonder how will I see her when I’m 60?

I remember my mother at 60 looking in the mirror.

She asked me if she had jowls.


What are you reading right now? I have a nearly-toppling tower of books and journals on both my nightstand and writing desk. At the top of one tower is Sylvia Plath’s Ariel (The Restored Edition), Heather Clark’s Red Comet: The Short Life and Blazing Art of Sylvia Plath, The Collected Poems of Lucille Clifton (edited by Kevin Young and Michael S. Glaser), Phyllis Chesler’s Women and Madness, Sam Irby’s wow, no thank you, Samantha Pious’ translation of Renée Vivien’s A Crown of Violets, and the latest issue of The Paris Review. At the top of the other tower is Chen Chen and Mag Gabbert’s Fidgety Puddings, Dimitrov and Lasky’s Astro Poets: Your Guide to the Zodiac, Sharon Olds’ Stag’s Leap and The Father, Ilya Kaminsky’s Deaf Republic, Richard Blanco’s How to Love a Country, Natalie Diaz’s Postcolonial Love Poem, Victoria Chang’s Obit, and Jericho Brown’s The Tradition. Some of these I’m re-reading, and others are new to me.

How does music play into your creative process? I tend to write better in silence, but I do find inspiration in music when I’m not writing and tend to listen to alternative music with poetic lyrics, like Tori Amos, Lana Del Rey, Beck, The Killers, and Portishead. I also love French, Arabic and Indian music, music that crosses several styles, like Pink Martini, music from the ‘80s, ‘90s grunge, and a bit of rap, hip hop, goth, jazz, and just about anything with a violin.

What is your responsibility to your readers as a writer? It depends on what I’m writing, but I feel a great responsibility to tell the truth, to help simplify the complicated, and to do so in the most beautiful, economical way possible. When I can, I also try to help people feel less alone. I’ve been told that I have a talent of snarky writing, but I reserve my critical tone for use in defense of others or when fighting for the greater good.

How do you stay sane in the time of COVID? I work a lot. I also read and write a lot. It’s telling that my first chapbook was written in the little downtime I had working in the Miami-Dade County Mayor’s Office at the height of the pandemic. I also do Vinyasa yoga when I can, and try to focus on a mindset of gratitude. I am grateful for this opportunity to talk to you, for example, and for everyone who is taking the time to read this interview, especially when there is so much competition for our time and energy these days.

How do we keep up with you online? I’m most active on Twitter and Instagram, where you can find me @natallman. I also have a website that I use more for ghostwriting than poetry: I will add more poems to my website as I get braver and publish more. I also encourage readers to follow @SoFloPoJo on Twitter and to visit www. publish four times a year, but the reading period is open year-round to all genres of poetry, and submission is free.



Blue Mountain Review / Feb. 2021 the new normal

this is the time to listen more to put our ear to mother earth’s heart to keep moving our bodies our words and our minds

in subtle and not so subtle ways

because nothing bad can cling to what stays in constant motion


our time to save the world is now we have art in us we are the collective

experience the screen is an illusion and we have gathered together

it doesn’t matter if your compass is broken feel your way north it’s there that uncertainty drowns in the green gold of the water meeting the light

let’s make the beach our forest the palm trees our spiny pine the blazing sun our sleepy shade let’s turn everything on its side

there’s a new god here there’s a new normal

we are the new normal

About This Poem: As the term “new normal” crept up more and more in headlines during the early days of the pandemic, I began to dislike it exponentially because the state of the world pre-pandemic never felt normal to me. Who gets to decide what’s “normal” anyway? This pandemic is a good time to challenge the notion of normalcy, to redefine “us” in all of our collective difference as the “new normal,” and to pave a path forward to unite us in the uncertainty of this time through poetry.


About This Poem: This poem was written in response to the Kübler-Ross model of grief, which attempted to “normalize” grief. As I navigated the death of my mother and the pandemic, I started to see grief not as something that was happening in five or seven stages that I was entering and exiting, but as a blurry, imperfect circle of alternating distraction and reflection activities. I liken grief more to Ouroboros eating his own tail -- to the idea that we (or parts of ourselves) may need to vanish from view from time to time to keep existing…that we may need to deconstruct or kill off parts of our old self to recreate a new self that allows us to carry on after our losses.


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Blue Mountain Review / Feb. 2021 On Reading Poems, I Now Sympathize with Daughters of Dead Mothers -

For Frieda Hughes

It’s hard to look at this picture of Frieda and not feel something tragic mother, father, brother dead one by oven, one by cancer, one by hanging

It’s hard just to look at this picture of Frieda, with her menagerie of pets, poems, and paintings Yes, I mean the Frieda with an e

not Frida Kahlo Frieda Hughes, I want to buy one of your paintings

a green one representing the joy of being able to work on my poetry or something other creative

Frieda Hughes, I want to eat all of your mother’s poems and all of your paintings

It’s hard not to look at Frieda and feel something kindred us daughters of dead mothers

It’s hard to look at Frieda and feel something so protective to say to us through our mothers

There, there. You made it.

About This Poem: I am unabashedly obsessed with Sylvia Plath, and by extension her daughter, Frieda Hughes. There’s a poem titled “Mothers” in Frieda’s book “Alternative Values” that is simply devastating, and a particular online photo of her -- posing in her studio with one of her pet owls in “The Daily Mail”-- that makes me want to simultaneously hug and celebrate her. Why don’t we support and celebrate her more as an artist and strong woman


Interview with

Stephanie lamb quillkeepers foundry of


BY: CLifford Brooks

It is good to meet you, Stephanie Lamb. Tell us a bit about yourself. I was raised in Redlands, CA and now reside in the Southwestern United States. In my teenage years I attended open mics at local coffee shops and bistros to listen to live music and poetry. I never had the nerve to get on stage myself though. So, although I began writing at a young age, I primarily kept my work in private journals. During my mid 20’s I went through a severe writer’s block while seeking medical intervention for severe insomnia, anxiety, and postpartum depression. I rediscovered my voice almost a decade later and now I write and share my words to empower others and give a voice to the voiceless. I am an advocate for mental health and hope to help end the negative stigma surrounding it. I am an accountant by trade and education and use writing as a healing outlet. I also spend a significant amount of time administrating self-help groups, encouraging others to safely taper off anxiety and other psych meds. I am currently a contributor for Emotional Alchemy Magazine based out of New Jersey, where I write a monthly astrology forecast column. I am also the founder of an Instagram page Quillkeepers Foundry whose primary focus is to help other creative writers find publishing opportunities and grow their brand and craft. Naturally, that has evolved into my own small indie publishing company Quillkeepers Press



What are you reading right now? Oh goodness… I am always reading. I currently have around a half-dozen poetry books sitting bedside including Mythos from Phillip Douglass (@philthy.d) Blended Twist on Wild by Jon Perry (@cargoshippoet) Kaleidoscope by Asher Phoenix (@asher.phoenix_writes) In the Throat of Poppy by Jasleen Saini (@_j,s1111_) Dangerous Elysium by Natalie Serna (@_ silent.lover_) Hearts, Harps, and Leaky Faucets by Sean Thomas Lavalles (@sean.thomas.poetry) and Four by Tara Caribou (@tara_caribou) . I recently finished a great thriller by one of my favorite authors titled Ill Will by Dan Chaon and love works by Sylvia Browne, Dr. Joe Dispenza, and Christopher Hitchens. I have also been revisiting the classics on my bookshelf by Poe, Shakespeare, Jane Austin, and Jules Verne. Just to name a few.

Quillkeepers Foundry is a unique project. Please tell us about it. Quillkeepers Foundry is a platform page that focuses on finding publication information and opportunities for all types of writers and artists. It was originally conceived and geared more towards poets. However, it has evolved into so much more. I wanted to find a way to give back to the community that had given me so much. And as I began my journey to get published, I realized there are not enough known resources available to writers and other artists. There is no shortage of artist feature pages, but very few publishing opportunities pages. Submittable is an invaluable tool, but not everyone knows it exists, or they rather stick to social media. In addition to highlighting publishers, we enjoy celebrating artists accomplishments. We

Blue Mountain Review / Feb. 2021 try to feature as many self, indie, and traditionally published books from indie-authors as possible in segments we call “book alerts”. We also create poetry and other published work vodcast. As well as informational videos about various literary topics.

How do folks submit to be a part of Quilkeepers Foundry? I am always scouring the internet and social media platforms for new opportunities for our fellow writers and artists. If any publishers would like to send me their opportunities, I would be thrilled to plug it. If any artists would like to join me on a podcast I am always looking for guests. I can be reached on Instagram at @quillkeepersfoundry and @stephanielambpoetry. I can also be reached by email at

How do we keep up with you online? I am quite active in the writer’s community, and eager to help anyone who is seeking refuge in the often times chaotic world of creative writing. I can be found on Instagram and Facebook @stephanielambpoetry @ quillkeepersfoundry @quillkeeperspress . You can keep up with my monthly horoscope column at www.


Interview with

samantha rose hill BY: clifford brooks What’s new in your world, Samantha? Tell us about yourself. The wise words of Bob Dylan come to mind: The only thing I knew how to do was keep on keeping on. The world is in flux right now, and so am I. For the past year I’ve been finishing a couple of book projects and starting some new ones. I’m working on a memoir about loneliness right now, and also beginning to write a philosophy of loneliness. I’m reading about a book a day in quarantine and taking long walks to the Hudson to keep my head clear. On the side, I’ve been learning French and I started a weekly blog--

What drew you to the work of philosopher Hannah Arendt? I fell in love with the work of Hannah Arendt when I was in college. I was roaming through the library looking for Erich Fromm’s book Marx’s Concept of Man and found The Human Condition. Arendt’s prose style dazzled me, and I wanted to understand what she was talking about.

How does the writing of Arendt keep you sane in these weird times?



Hannah Arendt is an interlocuter for me, she is someone that I think with. Her writing style is unrepentantly ironic and clear-sighted, which is comforting in this chaotic political moment where reason has become irrational and reality has been forsaken for conspiracy theories and lies.

Tell us about the book you’re working on. I’m working on a few books! I just finished a short introductory biography to the life and work of Hannah Arendt which will be out this summer. I am finishing Hannah Arendt’s Poems which hopefully will be out later this year or early next. And I just started a new book project on loneliness, which I’m excited to write. In recent years loneliness has largely become the purview of public health experts and I want to reintroduce loneliness to the humanities. Loneliness is a part of the human condition and it’s not something to be frightened of—everyone experiences loneliness.

When does the book come out and how can we get our hands on it? Thank you! My little biography of Hannah Arendt is out June 10th. You can buy at your favorite book store. https:// Hannah-Arendt-Critical-Lives-Samantha/ dp/1789143799

Blue Mountain Review / Feb. 2021




Blue Mountain Review / Feb. 2021


Interview with

the tusculum review BY: clifford brooks Please introduce yourself and tell us a little about your life’s journey. Editor-

I’m Kelsey Trom, an Associate Professor of English at Tusculum University in Greeneville, Tennessee. I’m originally from North Dakota and got here by way of a childhood spent in Texas, California, and Virginia and a young adulthood in Richmond. I inherited The Tusculum Review editor job in 2019 when former editor Heather Elouij relocated to Florida. My fiction and essays have been published in Makeout Creek and other venues, but mostly I write letters to my friends and siphon energy into swimming with the Kingsport Viperfish. Between earning my MFA at Virginia Commonwealth University and a Bachelor’s in English at UVa, I spent the two most formative years of my life studying in VCU’s immersive studio art programs. Working on the design of the journal and chapbook with James Graham and other staff combines all my favorite things: reading, arting, and mailing.

Assistant Editor-

I’m Meredith Barton, a senior at Tusculum University in Greeneville, Tennessee. I’m an English Major with a concentration in Communication and Public Relations and plan to pursue a career in Human Resources. I’m from Brevard, North Carolina and came to Greeneville on a golf scholarship. I started working on staff at The Tusculum Review in the spring of 2017. My first position was Assistant Poetry Editor and now I’m fortunate enough to have worked my way up to Assistant Editor along with my initial Assistant Poetry Editor role. Working for The Tusculum Review has provided me with a unique experience I am certain I would not have gotten anywhere else. I am constantly surrounded by fellow peers and professors that I learn from every time I am in their presence. I enjoy reading, writing, listening to music, and learning about why the world works the way it works.

What sparked the creation of the Tusculum Review? The journal was begun by Prof. Mary Boyes in 2005 through the generous endowment of Tusculum alum Dr. Samuel E. Miller (’35 H ’98) and his wife Mary Agnes Miller. Since then, it has been edited consecutively by Richard Greenfield, Wayne Thomas, Heather Elouej, and me. The Table of Contents of our issues are lists of wellknown writers—Bonnie Jo Campbell, Paul Lisicky, Nathaniel Mackey, Ada Limòn, Mary Jo Bang, Justin Phillip Reed, Kellie Wells, Adrian C. Louis. Our Advisory Board is comprised of literary celebrities: Patrick Madden, Martin Lammon, Allison Joseph, David Lazar. At our small university, we focus on DIY collaborative projects as a way of preparing students for their creative lives and the professional world. The journal is the ultimate group project and outreach to the wider literary community. The work we publish adds valuable, immersive art to the endeavor of literature to represent and contemplate the human experience from a variety of perspectives. Our 16th volume begins with a poem by one of my favorite poets, Nicholas Samaras, and continues with a discomfiting and agile work of fiction by Michael Jasper in which a freshly adolescent girl contemplates her own startling ugliness and the ways boys and men now look at her without being able to see her. Our 2020 issue is nonfiction focused, and these essays are muscular: Nonfiction Prize winner Jamie L. Smith’s “Mythology Lessons” contemplates her mother, addiction, and guilt and the runners up, all chosen by final judge David Lazar, are similarly sterling. Margaret Johnson writes about people’s reactions to her hijab in “Shopping at Target while Muslim.” Robin Storey Dunn describes her period of sunburnt and terrified teenaged homelessness. The other nonfiction in the issue captures the disillusionment of the workplace (Robert Detman’s “The Miseducation of an Architect”) and the suffocating cloud shadow cast by a false accusation of sexual abuse (Fredrika Sprengle’s “My Ghosts Don’t Cross the Border”).Gary Garrison, namesake of the Kennedy Center’s Gary



Blue Mountain Review / Feb. 2021 Garrison National Ten-Minute Play Award, published his chilling play “Gawk” with us this year. It witnesses Black Winnapeg Dunn interrogating white teacher Joyce Craine about her culpability in Dunn’s young grandson’s murder. We publish work that’s relevant, and we were thrilled by Garrison’s reading from the play at our virtual launch, which you can view on the TTR Facebook page.

How is your journal different from others? The Tusculum Review is unusual for a journal of its quality in that our staffers are undergraduates and our editors are teaching faculty. Although we don’t have the same resources as big-name journals, the writers who submit to us, and those we publish, are impressive and important. Our students do far more than complete secretarial tasks and read submissions: they meet twice monthly with editors and help chart the course of the journal and the issue. For our 16th volume, released in November 2020, senior James Graham (’20) undertook a wholesale redesign of the journal. Major magazines undertake redesigns once a decade, usually with a full team of designers—James made it happen in three months.

kelsey trom

Every year, we run a contest with a $1,000 prize and a reasonable entry fee. We create a limited edition chapbook for the winner of the genre prize, which isn’t always poetry. This year, we designed, printed, and assembled an accordion book of the 2020 Nonfiction Prize winning essay. This year, we’re hosting a Fiction Chapbook Prize and a collaborative writing contest—The Established/ Emerging Prize—for co-creators in all genres. Our Fiction Prize judge is Dr. Amy Sturgis: creative writer, editor, and scholar of Native American Intellectual History and Indigenous Studies. Baltimore journalists and co-authors of I Got Monster: The Rise and Fall of America’s Most Corrupt Police Squad Brandon Soderberg and Baynard Woods are judging the collaborative writing contest. Our prize judges are always this impressive. The roster of past judges reads like a Who’s Who of American letters: 2020 Pulitzer Prize winning poet Jericho Brown, Ada Limòn (2019 National Book Critics Circle Award for Poetry, 2015 shortlist nominee for the National Book Award), Michael Martone (four books, two NEA Fellowships), Jaimy Gordon (2010 National Book Award for Fiction). We feature visual artists in fresh ways. For this issue, we solicited the work of printmaker Sage Perrot for our

meredith barton


cover and illustrations. Although our issues have always featured visual art, illustrations that pictorialize the writing itself aren’t something usually done by literary journals. We are trying new things. Our staff members graduate with a sense of vocation and the realities of the literary and publication landscape: many go on to graduate school, others to literary greatness. I do not exaggerate: 2013 Creative Writing major Justin Phillip Reed won the National Book Award for poetry in 2018 for his second book, Indecency, and in 2020 published his third, The Malevolent Volume. He is not the only graduate we’re proud of: last year, Anup Kaphle (Journalism, ’07) left his position as Editorin-Chief of The Kathmandu Post to return to New York City as the Executive Editor of Rest of World, a nonprofit digital journalism organization focused on the impact of technology beyond the Western bubble. Before that, he was Digital Editor of The Washington Post, World Editor for BuzzFeed, and show manager for Anthony Bourdain’s “Parts Unknown.”

What do you look for in the work you accept for publication? The Tusculum Review seeks well-crafted writing that takes risks. We publish work in and between all genres: poetry, fiction, essays, and plays--we appreciate work in experimental and traditional modes. We accept prose submissions of less than 6,000 words (24 double-spaced pages) and poetry submissions under 10 pages. We publish scripts in the 10-minute format (10 pages).

How can we keep up with you online? On our website:; on Submittable: tusculumreview.submittable. com; and on Facebook:



Blue Mountain Review / Feb. 2021



Visual Interv 56


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Blue Mountain Review / Feb. 2021


Interview with

gary chapman BY: clifford brooks Who are you, Gary Chapman?

What is your philosophy on creating lasting art?

I was born in Xenia, Ohio in 1961, earned BA and BS degrees from Berea College, an MFA from Cranbrook Academy of Art, and began teaching at the University of Alabama at Birmingham in 1990. Wedged between those milestones, are a devastating tornado, the divorce of my parents, working in Alaska, marriage, the birth of my daughter, her subsequent two open heart surgeries and ultimately a heart transplant at the age of 19, travel, some significant grants, funding, museum purchases, and a productive career as an artist with plenty of muses.

Authentic catharsis filtered with universal interest and understanding.

How did life carve you into the artist you are today? I attended college mostly to escape, thinking about psychology and architecture. My junior year I took a painting class, and I knew. Only later in life did I discover/identify that I had OCD tendencies and art proved to be the perfect vehicle for that focus and energy. Far more rewarding than cleaning and waxing a 1971 mustang 3 days a week, and a means for leaving milestones behind for creating a meaningful life.



How are you staying sane in the Time of Corona? I’ve had my low points. But time and again, I find keeping busy, working, to be the answer. It is never better than when I find myself lost in the studio surrounded by good music and painting. During this time, I also self-published my first book with support from the Alabama State Council on the Arts and The National Endowment for the Arts. A 113page book which includes the complete CONVERSATIONS Series, The 108 Black Paintings and The COTA Project, The HELMET Project, Museum Collections and Les Retables: L’Amour charnel series. It can be found on my website. On another note, my best friends know that I have a serious, boot fetish, during the COVID-19 period, my collection has risen to 28 pairs. (The vast majority purchased pre-owned on eBay.)

Blue Mountain Review / Feb. 2021


What are your thoughts on the amount of natural and technical training needed to hone artistic skill? This is a tricky one. I believe 100% in fine craftsmanship and skill; It is fundamental yet secondary to the content that drives the artist. Creativity is the magic that happens when craft and conceptual purpose are fused. It is like synergy, when 2 + 2 = 5. The best or most profound ideas fail to speak without the conviction of the mastery of the medium, just as the simple mastery of the medium does not make it art. I will tell you however, after 30 years of teaching art, I have seen so many students with skills that are beyond impressive, that in the end, fail to find the drive or need to create. Show me the kid that has the drive and a clear work ethic, remains open minded and teachable, and I will show you the one most likely to excel and succeed.

What does a common creative day in your life look like? A day in my studio. Good, interesting, passionate music, alone, painting, with my studio dog on the couch.



Blue Mountain Review / Feb. 2021

How do you use social media to your advantage? Mostly Facebook, not too much personal stuff, mostly art related reports. I have an Instagram account but am not good at the tagging etc. and consequently find it less interesting.

Who are your three favorite visual artists? Why? I could provide you with a long list of artists and their work that I really enjoy. But more interesting to me would be the list of artist/musicians. I often tell my students that it is imperative that they look at lots of art, from our past as well as what is being created now. However, I find it healthier for a visual artist to be influenced by, or enamored with artists of a different medium, for me especially music. Such influences provoke the artistic mind with out being bogged down by the influential artists own images. Visual artist, Odd Nerdrum. A Norwegian, figurative, painter who makes compelling, beautiful, and haunting work that transcends time. Musicians, just to name a few: Laurie Anderson, Peter Gabriel, Kate Bush, Annie Lennox, Nina Simone, Einsturzende Neubauten, Heilung, Gary Numan, FM Einheit, Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, Bauhaus, Shriekback, Beats Antique, Billy Holiday, The Cure, Danheim, Daniel Romano, David Bowie, The Books, Doubting Thomas, Johnny Cash, Juana Molina, Lana Del Ray, The Talking Heads, Loreena McKennitt, Ray Charles, Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, Pink Floyd, Raffi, Brian Eno, Sinead O’Connor, Sisters of Mercy, The The, Tom Waits, St. Paul and The Broken Bones and whole lot more.


What advice do you have for aspiring artists? Find what drives you to create. Work long and hard. Hope and be happy when luck finds you occasionally. Be organized, thorough and punctual. No one wants to put up with the cliché disorganized, scattered artist and it is not cool.

How can we keep up with you online and buy your art?



Blue Mountain Review / Feb. 2021


Interview with

katie knutson BY: clifford brooks Your art captures movement, life, and calm in a way that isn’t overwhelming. How did you grow into an artist that takes the genre by the horns? My work is the result of my personal exploration of how the subject, the natural elements, and the medium work together. In school I was encouraged to let go of the need to represent things with classic realism. I enjoyed exploring subjects with paint and letting the paint, as a tactile thing, have a role in the work. You will see lumpy edges, drips, and layers peeking through. You may even see evidence of another painting I painted over!

The subjects I have chosen the past several years changed dramatically. I moved back to Chattanooga almost 15 years ago and I lived in the city. I painted cities at night, places I had never been, but I enjoyed the play of light in the darkness. It had an aesthetic that was attractive, and it held symbolism that inspires dialogue.

Then I moved to the woods. The surroundings seeped into me and as much as I tried to resist becoming an artist that painted nature, it resonated with me the same way the city scenes did. Painting natural things broke some boundaries that were in place when I painted cities. If I wanted the paint to



take over and the brush size to determine the size of a tree branch, that could happen. Negative space became especially important and artists like Andy Goldsworthy influenced how I could find defined shapes in organic things.

When I found that my desire for abstraction could mingle with my surroundings, I just kept experimenting. Seeing local artists work from Ed Kellogg, Carolyn Killbrew and Mike Holsomback, and observing their process, helped form my confidence to experiment with the subject matter I kept coming back to.

Much like walking through the woods, or watching a sunrise, painting these things is very meditative. Representing these things with the tactile, approachable techniques of my painting style resonates with the viewer. They can now always have that sunrise; they can always be on that trail. I guess I feel I minister a bit to my audience that way. Because of this, I am satisfied to be firmly in the camp of painting the woods of Tennessee and the big sky of North Georgia...until I go live somewhere else!

What makes you happy? Oh man, what a simple but tough question! I would say in my life I have always held happiness and joy in different categories. Happiness is more fleeting than joy. So, what brings me happiness is making good food, listening to a great sci-fi podcast or watching a strange mystery movie with a glass of wine. I love hiking on Lookout Mountain. Then there’s goofing off with my teenagers as we watch silly tik-toks, talk about anime, or roast each other (nicely).

Blue Mountain Review / Feb. 2021 But joy, the things that hold me fast when circumstances aren’t awesome, those things aren’t fleeting. My faith holds me to eternal joy, to things I know will not change because God is unchanging. Beauty brings me joy, even if it’s making the bed, mixing coconut milk into an amazing curry sauce or putting my house plants in better light, the beauty that comes from simple things is so good.

Exercise, working my body brings all the good endorphins but also brings joy as I realize again and again that I can do hard things. And of course, my family, I am very blessed to get to live and work with my husband and kids. We get annoyed with each other, but we are very close, and these days of togetherness don’t feel as forced as it may for others.

Is the calming air your newest pieces convey blow to combat the chaotic energy of the world today? If not, tell us how your “new wave” came into existence. This past year has been a wild one and although I am active on social media, I knew I needed to use my energy and strong feelings in ways that would produce good fruit, not just opinions on the internet. I found myself driving in North Georgia a lot for work and school. The subjects of my work changed from trees to big sky. When I felt the conversation around me falling into hard places, I intentionally lifted my gaze to the things that stay the same. The sky was still blue, the clouds rolled by the trees still changed color in the fall. It’s not that I choose to remove myself from hard conversations, it’s that I believe I’m doing better for the world by adding to the beauty.


It is taxing to argue, and to live with fear. When I observe that these emotions are occupying too much space, I know I need to lift my gaze to the things that keep giving beauty to the world.

What advice do you have for other artists trying to break into the field? I know there are many ways to live as an artist. You don’t have to be poor and starving. I had an example of how to live and support a family as an artist because my father supported our family with his craft for years. I would say that it is important to live a well-rounded life. It helps you live richly. Fall in love, go to school, get married, have kids, get a job (that maybe isn’t an art job), buy a house. Being an artist involves all of the struggle of life. It involves periods of great inspiration and periods of dormancy.

Comparison is the thief of joy, right? So, search yourself and discern what is healthy competition and what is stealing your joy by comparison. And with that in mind, surround yourself with creative people that build up your character, don’t complain, and know how to work hard and also rest well. Lastly, never be afraid to share your art. You never know who needs it until you share it.

How does music play into your creative process? Music is so important. It gets me moving when I feel sluggish to get to the studio. I have different playlists for different moods as I’m sure we all do. I am pretty nostalgic, I listen to a lot of weird 80’s pop, Americana rock bands, and some jazz fusion. I also have teenagers, so I try to pay attention. I can’t quite embrace K-pop, but I do kinda love Billie Eilish.



Blue Mountain Review / Feb. 2021

What plans do you have for the future? The past year my husband and I took the dive to become full time entrepreneurs. I quit teaching art about 4 years ago and we began hosting a cottage we own as a short-term vacation rental. Then we listed two more properties. We love Chattanooga, we love beautiful design and experiences, and we are sharing our love of these things with guests. We have worked with good friends to make beautiful places and that hard work has paid off even in the hardest year many of us have ever known.

Painting is something I always desire to explore. But as I walk through years of marriage, parenthood and now entrepreneurship, I realize that my visual art is a powerful tool in my toolbox, but it isn’t what defines my creativity. I am creative even when I am purchasing furniture, interacting with guests, helping children understand the world they are growing up in, and supporting all the many ideas my husband has. My artwork is part of my life, and my life is in my artwork.

How do buy your work and keep up with you online? I have a lot of different places you can interact with what I’m doing. I have an Etsy shop, an Instagram account, Airbnb listings, and a Teachers Pay Teachers shop to purchase art lessons. So find the menu of places on new_eyes


Music Interv 68


Blue Mountain Review / Feb. 2021

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Interview with

D.L. Yancey II BY: clifford brooks How goes it in the life of DL Yancey II? What’s new in your life? Things are going well gratefully, despite the turmoil happening all around us. I’ve been praying for a while now to have an opportunity to work from home, and this past year I’ve been teleworking from my basement, which has been a blessing. It’s a running joke with my church family that I can be the one to blame for the pandemic, all because I wanted to work from home. But in all seriousness, I’ve been extremely fortunate. I’ve published my first children’s book, The Adventures of King; My Red Guitar and I’m currently finishing up a Master of Art program in Ethical Leadership. It’s been refreshing to have some change-up in my routine.

What effect has Covid had on your music career? I think 2020 was a year of self-evaluation for a lot of us. Like many other musicians, paid live performances have become scarce opportunities. So, I found myself hitting the reset button musically. Covid has forced me to reconsider how I market my music and even re-explore my approach to writing. Instead of preparing for the next performance or recording session, I’ve slowed down to ask myself the tough questions like, “who am I as an artist”, “who am I trying to reach”, “what sound am I inspired to create”, etc. In another light, Covid has helped me spend more quality constructive time with my instrument to strengthen my musicianship. Overall, it’s been a much-needed time of re-development.

What part does your family play in keeping you on track? They keep the pressure of reality on! My wife and children have responded so well to this new way of living, that it inspires me to really dig deep and bring forth a new dimension of myself. Their growth demands a reciprocal level of growth in me. My oldest daughter has been accepted into several colleges, my oldest son is continually maturing as an athlete, and my wife just launched her life coaching business. They all continue to encourage and support my music during this time, which keeps me uplifted to continue. Being the best husband and dad, I can be to them keeps me focused and just makes me a better person generally.

What new projects do you have on deck? I have so much planned for this year! I’m launching a website for the children’s book, that will feature families who have supported as well as provide a platform for elementary/middle school math tutoring. I’m also excited about releasing my second children’s book later this year that will highlight one of my childhood favorite instruments. Musically, I look forward to creating a video for my latest single “Closer Love” and developing some branding content that will help me create engaging dialogue with those who support my music. That’s a creative space I’m anxious to get better in.



Blue Mountain Review / Feb. 2021

You wrote a children’s book. Tell us about that and how we can get our hands on it. The Adventures of King is about a young African American boy with naturally loc’d hair who sees Engineering and Technology as Art and journeys through unique ways of exploring modern technology. Being a 13-year professional in the utility industry, I’ve seen the lack of diversity and particularly African American workers. I also have the opportunity to speak with young students through organizations like Junior Achievement, and when I ask about their interest in STEM fields many times i hear “that’s too hard”. So, for me, the book is a way to normalize STEM in the context of African American culture for all cultures to


appreciate. It is my contribution to diversity and inclusion within the world of STEM. It’s available at www.TheAdventuresOfKing.Com, Amazon, and Barnes and Noble.

What lasting change do you see Black Lives Matter bringing to our political and social landscape? That’s a great question! In my opinion, it has the potential to have as much of a lasting impact as the Civil Rights movement. Obviously,

there are “post-1964” racial injustice issues here in the country that are still prevalent violations of human equity and equality. BLM’s recent nomination for the Noble Peace Prize shows how effective the movement has been in creating awareness not only here in the US, but also abroad. Other countries and most importantly, other races/ethnicities are now supporting in droves! Racism is an American issue and so there is of course conflicting perspectives internally of what BLM really represents. But honestly, African Americans can’t wait on the system to fix itself. I mean, no one can wait or should wait for the system to fix itself. Matter of fact, no systems are designed to fix themselves except the human body. There has been so much racial pain induced in this country that it’s going to take multiple lifetimes to help America pass the racial health check. I think BLM has created a spark that’s igniting a much-needed fire in humanity to collectively fix some racial issues. However, it’s going to require diversity amongst those in policy/law making and intentional efforts in eliminating biases when making important decisions in these rooms.



Blue Mountain Review / Feb. 2021

How do we keep up with you online? Please follow me on all social media platforms. To keep up with the latest DLY2 music news follow me on Instagram, Facebook, and my website. IG:@DLY2 FB:@DLY2Music Website: Stay tuned with the latest on “The Adventures of King” on Instagram and the book’s website. IG:@dly2books Website: Lastly, for information on my work in Diversity and Inclusion, follow me on LinkedIn at DLY2TheProfessional.


Interview with

alain johannes BY: clifford brooks Alain Johannes: What in life has created the musician we see today? Well, life itself - really. But more specifically I was lucky to have had an interesting childhood in a musical kind of bohemian atmosphere with lots of fascinating people. My mom and my uncles performed and toured and had musician and artists friends over, so I got to hear all kinds of awesome music - and had access to cool instruments. When I moved to Los Angeles and met Hillel Slovak and Jack Irons in junior high, we hit it off and spent the following years jamming and learning together. Eventually we played shows in the early 80’s LA scene.

in all this amazing music I loved that gave me comfort in a kind of feeling of connection to humans, nature, the cosmos. Not to sound too “new age” but yeah essentially, I became the sum of the inspiration that listening and loving the myriad textures, sounds, emotions in all this music I absorbed.

Your soulmate is Natasha Shneider, She’s no longer with us, but could you tell us how she lit your fire and added her incredible voice to your sound?

Then the huge one was meeting Natasha Shneider in ’84 and beginning that amazing journey with her - musically and otherwise. She was an incredible creative force and we complemented each other perfectly. We were always learning from each other while pushing ourselves to constantly grow.

Natasha had this incredible gift. Born that way. A total natural. She didn’t need an instrument to compose. She had perfect pitch and could play something she had heard only once on the piano immediately. She almost “saw” the music as she described it.

As the years passed, we were blessed to have friendships and musical connections with badass bands like Soundgarden and Queens of the Stone Age. All of that living and creating in the context of this extended family is in every fiber of my being.

Natasha had an incredible drive for greatness, would demand it of herself and all those around her. Her voice always gives me chills. Our band Eleven with Jack Irons is my favorite time in this life making music. Euphoria Mourning would be second. It’s still quite impossible to absorb her absence but thankfully for my sanity I feel her presence. She continues to guide my path in music making.

How does music keep you sane? Honestly, it’s the only time I feel truly alive and connected to the universe or reality or source or whatever you want to call it. So, I pretty much spend as much time as possible listening, playing, recording, or learning new instruments. This past year especially it has saved me in those long months I was alone. The only other time I feel good is in nature on walks etc. Even then I’ve got my headphones on lol.

What in your early years crafted your sound? I think the endless hours I spent listening to music from all over the world and different time periods really helped me have this open, intuitive, and spontaneous relationship with music creation. I found the feeling the common thread



Give us a rundown of your bands and those you’ve worked with over the years. Our first band in high school was What Is This. Then after Natasha and I met we had a duo project called Walk the Moon. Then we formed Eleven with Irons. Later we collaborated with Chris Cornell in the making of Euphoria Mourning and toured as his band. Then we met Josh Homme and were part of the Desert Sessions Vol. 7/8/9/10. Also contributed to QOTSA’s Songs for The Dead, Lullabies to Paralyze (which we toured as part of the band) then I recorded and mixed Era Vulgaris.

Blue Mountain Review / Feb. 2021 As a producer or engineer throughout the years I’ve also worked with No Doubt, Live, Mark Lanegan, PJ Harvey, Arctic Monkeys, Them Crooked Vultures (also joining the band for the live shows), also had a band with Matt Cameron, Ben Sheperd and Dimitri Coats called Ten Commandos.

What is your responsibility as an artist to your fans? I think to my fans is the same as to myself which is to strive to be honest in my work, stay creative and hardworking and find inspiration so I may too be inspired and inspiring.

What is your philosophy on living a good life? Be kind, be positive, be true, be in the moment. Love freely and deeply. Make it your purpose to brighten someone’s day or find light even when there may be little.

What are your new projects on deck? I’m hoping to make several instrumental albums this year. Something different for me but that brings to a point my

lifelong fascination with instruments and the atmospheres they can help create.

What are you reading right now? Now re-reading Bukowski’s Last Night of the Earth Poems, and about to dig into John Cleese’s Creativity.


How do we keep up with you online? My main activity is on Instagram @alainjohannes It’s like my sketchpad and my almost daily avenue to share and reach out. Also my websites for various activities alainjohannes. com, and my production or engineering work

Hear his interview with This Business of Music & Poetry here: Black and white photos by: Tom Bronowski Color photos by: Stephen Linsley



Blue Mountain Review / Feb. 2021


Interview with

call me spinster BY: clifford brooks Call Me Spinster: Introduce yourselves, the sound you capture, and tell us where “Call Me Spinster” was invented. We are three sisters, so Call Me Spinster is, in some regards, a 30-year-old collaboration. We are the daughters of music teachers. Our mother trained as a classical singer and conductor and our dad is a folk guitarist and weekend singer/songwriter. We grew up begrudgingly packing off to piano lessons and choir practice. Our Grandpa Roger was a sort of music-savant eccentric with an encyclopedic knowledge of Gilbert and Sullivan and spent almost all his days holed up in the basement arranging songs. The other side of the family is Amish and Mennonite, and we grew up learning to harmonize at family gatherings plunking through many of those old hymns. The band itself didn’t form until several years ago. Rachel and Rosalie had continued their musical journey through college, studying opera, jazz theory, classical Hindustani singing and Brazilian and West African percussion, but Amelia hadn’t pursued music past 8th grade piano. When our (Mennonite) grandmother passed away, we found our grandfather’s accordion tucked away in a closet. Amelia began teaching herself to play. Rosie, then a German teacher in Portland, was gifted a rent-to-own standup bass and began learning from YouTube videos. Rachel, a music teacher in Costa Rica, began picking up the mandolin and banjo and playing in a bluegrass band Gringo Stringo. We began getting together on summers off to teach each other the songs we were learning and play a few family weddings. When Amelia got pregnant and decided to take maternity leave in 2016, the others jumped on the opportunity to move across the continent, live together in Chattanooga and start a band in earnest.



Our music ranges in style - our first EP has been classified as “throwback rock n roll,” bluegrass/Americana, pop, folk. We like good melodies and are vocal/harmony-centric. We generally lean on acoustic instrumentation ranging from sitar-esque banjo and sparse pedal steel to more traditional guitar - piano - drum kit and percussion, though we are starting to incorporate synthesizer and electronic sounds in our newest songs.

Blue Mountain Review / Feb. 2021

What are each of you reading right now? What new (or old) music is moving you currently? Amelia is reading Breath by James Nestor and The White Castle by Orhan Pamuk. She is on a new music binge after not listening to much at all while we were working on our own record. Some new artists, some old: Norma Tanega, Robert Wyatt, Fionn Regan, Diane Coffee, Shamir, Pinc Louds, Julia Holter.

Rachel continues her decade long practice of reading Harry Potter en español over and over again. She is listening to the songs on her yoga playlists - mostly

Ariana Grande, Tuneyards, and Alabama Shakes.

Rosie is reading a book on gardening and enjoys listening to Dr. Dog or mariachi playlists when working around the house.

Who are your biggest influences? The first 15 years: Robyn, Joni Mitchell, Andrews Sisters, Prince, Boyz II Men, Bjork, TLC, Meredith Brooks, Altan, Lauryn Hill, Carole King, Ani DiFranco, Cake, Stevie Wonder, Pink Floyd, Mirah, Mos Def, Aretha Franklin, Anna Moffo, Alison Krauss and Union Station, CSNY, Ennio Morricone, Erykah Badu, Fiona Apple, Jill Scott, Alanis, Zap Mama, Ella Fitzgerald, The Guess Who, Lauryn Hill/the Fugees

What is your responsibility as musicians in this time of Covid? Create, create, create! We have a unique opportunity to hunker down and get to the meat and potatoes of what artists do. James Baldwin’s timeless essay on the role of the artist:

“Perhaps the primary distinction of the artist is that he must actively cultivate that state which most men, necessarily, must avoid; the state of being alone…He is... enjoined to conquer the great wilderness of himself. The precise role of the artist, then, is to illuminate that darkness, blaze roads through that vast forest, so that we will not, in all our doing, lose sight of its


purpose, which is, after all, to make the world a more human dwelling place.”

Our current state of disconnectedness has its silver lining. So many of us are drastically reconsidering our time, our priorities, and making space for those uncomfortable but often beautiful junctions where art happens. As musicians and other creators begin to share what has been learned and made during this time period, I think we will find an unusual depth and breadth of content.


EP out now

There’s also a great need to stop, dance, and celebrate - one of our most important responsibilities as musicians that we can continue to employ, no matter the distance!

"[Call Me Spinster] create a sound that’s giddy at times, unhurried and cerebral at others, but consistently tuneful and

What is your philosophy behind a life well-lived? Bake cookies often and for everyone.

How do we keep up with you online?



enticing all the’s a sound that’s consistently satisfying and yet still seductive and sensual.” –American Songwriter


Blue Mountain Review / Feb. 2021


Interview with

neal cary Richmond symphony orchestra of


BY: CLifford Brooks

Neal Cary: A man who owns the sound and curve of his cello. Please tell us about your life and how it came to produce such music. I believe every successful musician must find their own voice, and this starts with their instrument. For a lucky few, it’s an instant recognition of finding their true musical love. For others like myself, their instrument is selected for them at a young age, and then it becomes a necessary struggle to find and fulfill that expression of their inner self. Regardless, like all relationships, it’s not always roses and honey. It’s also never onedirectional. Every person is shaped by the one they love, and similarly, musicians are shaped by their instrument. All instruments must sing to be beautiful, but the cello, being closest in range to the human voice, must certainly be guided by the expression of the human voice. While our strings, like vocal cords, can naturally shape sound in a human manner, the wood of the instrument adds a unique, beauty to the tone. Our bows, like our lungs, give the breath of life to our sound. It is this combined essence that draws me into the sound of the cello.

There’s a story about a pianist who finished a concert and immediately a fan approached to say, “I’d give half my life to play like that.” The pianist calmly answered, “I did.” What’s your philosophy as it pertains to natural ability and technical study? Is there an equation to follow? Just as life cannot be synthesized to math, neither can artistry. Most important, is expressing ones’ innermost self with deep, meaningful intensity. It is only with a mastery of artistry that this type of non-verbal communication can be shared with others in a manner that can speak heart to heart. It is this personal connection, artist to audience, that can speak this language of our shared humanity. The hunger to communicate on deep emotional levels is the driving force behind all successful musicians. Regardless of physical attributes that may advantage any person to an instrument, nothing can come without this hunger, along with dedication, and simple, hard work. Each musician must struggle in their own way, and each journey is unique.

What are you reading right now? I flit about reading various science books, especially those on evolution, but I am currently engrossed in a scholarly article by Jonathan Del Mar on the Beethoven Sonatas for Piano and Cello.



Blue Mountain Review / Feb. 2021

When you perform there’s a fire and joy around you that’s indescribable. Where are you mentally or even spiritually when you perform? Technical mastery must come first so that the mind can completely escape into an inner, musical universe. Once there, music becomes alive in the moment, and like a sculptor, becomes free to shape into artistic form. This musical universe is complete liberation and freedom from this life.

Why did you choose the cello? My father chose the cello for me, partly because one of his best friends, Pat Ficarra was a cellist. Pat Ficarra went on to be my cello teacher from the beginning through high school. It was later, after serious struggles mentioned earlier, that I chose the cello for myself.

Who is your biggest influence in life? Certainly, my first cello teacher, but also Leonard Rose, my cello teacher at Juilliard. My earliest influence from Leonard Rose was through his recordings, which inspired me to make my first life goal of studying with this great master. Once out of high school, it took five years of concentrated work in every area possible in my life to reach that goal.

What are your thoughts on how to live a fulfilling life? To have a fulfilling life, I believe we must focus outside of ourselves. Being kind to others, treating people the way they want to be treated, and remembering the story of the human race goes beyond our individual journey will make our own contribution meaningful. If love guides action, life will be full.


What advice do you have for musicians praying to break into something like the Richmond Symphony Orchestra? While I am an atheist, every person must chart their own life path. Ingersoll once said “Hands that help are better than hands that pray,” but at the very least, prayer has the potential to focus the mind toward a specific action. Regardless, without the additional step of work and dedication, desired goals remain out of reach. Work and dedication are critical to success, but each person must be realistic. Sometimes life takes us in a different direction than we hope, but the most important end is finding our community.

What are your plans for the future? In the short-term, I am working through the five Beethoven Sonatas for Piano and Cello. While I have studied all of them with different cellists, I am experiencing the joy of discovery in finding my unique voice. In the long-term, I hope to leave the world better off. I am confident that the next generation will climb higher mountains, and cross greater seas as I disappear into the sunset.



Blue Mountain Review / Feb. 2021


Interview with

DAVE BRANDWEINof turkuaz BY: clifford brooks & ANDY WHITEHORNE


urkuaz - the experience, the harmony, the beautiful funk. Intoxicating singers, moving as a single force of nature, this group of 9 knows how to own the stage. Lights aren’t the brightest spots while the band stands. They know each other. They know their sound. It’s exciting to watch, even more to experience. Turkuaz enjoys 13 years of playing music together. Time serves their audience well with a band as dynamic as their vocal range. This band, gesticulating, lyrics playful with meaning. The crowd never sours. You will dance.

photo by: Justin Knaperek



Sammi Garett and Shira Elias are soulful sirens. They’re the furnace by which the whole band burns. Craig Brodhead breaks open on guitar. Taylor Shell stands strong as a groovy metronome. Michelangelo Carubba’s blistering drums combines with Chris Brouwers, Greg Sanderson, and Josh Schwartz on horns. Their level of skill and passion helps fans forget their trouble. Dave Brandwein sings, writes songs, and deconstructs the guitar. On January 18, 2020 Turkuaz lit up the Georgia Theater in Athens with Neal Francis. The funk was real. Turkuaz amalgamates generations of sound. It’s easy to get lost with their

Blue Mountain Review / Feb. 2021

photo by: Dani Brandwein

jam-inspired, soul-infused songs. Turkuaz’s Kuadrochrome Tour sparked the need to speak with their lead crooner, Dave Brandwein. He takes to conversation without pomp or circumstance. “I’m just a guy. I love making music.” He speaks of his bandmates with genuine admiration. “We’re family. Problems we work out. None of us abide drama.” Turkuaz is a breathing machine, and Dave stands at its helm. “We came together over the years through positivity,” he said, “If you put out the right energy the universe answers. Our music shares a sound because we all pitch in.” When asked about how songs are born, Dave said the melody comes first. Instrumentals find him who reverse engineers the lyrics. “It helps my creative process to step away from the world. Focus on the music,” he answered to how he stays focused. In this Age of Covid, time away from society hasn’t been hard to come by. To stay positive Dave meditates, stays close to his fans online, and works on material for his solo album. “Covid has everyone on edge. I want our sound to ease that tension.” What he sees in today’s culture is an opportunity for more teamwork. He rarely used the pronoun “I.” Dave wants the limelight on his team, on Turkuaz. Turkuaz is seriously festive. This isn’t a house band. They can jam, don’t get me wrong, but it’s their cohesiveness that sets them apart. The band obviously loves one another. I don’t believe anyone can create their memorable sound without a strong, peaceful accord. Dave said Turkuaz found their roots in Boston. The name “Turkuaz” came from a grocery in the neighborhood. The tempo is deliberate, but whimsy isn’t far from the process. “Turkuaz,” plucked off a window down the street, mysterious, funny. Dave doesn’t speak of himself, the band, the music without humility. It’s never forced. “Ego often tears apart good things. We try not to let that happen.”


photo by: Dani Brandwein

“The Rolling Stones, The Beatles, Sly and the Family Stone, the Talking Heads, and all of Motown inspires us,” Dave passionately speaks of his sound’s lineage, “We stand out because of the diversity we naturally bring to the stage.” Dave isn’t speaking only of cultures, but genres of music. Michelangelo’s drums sound inspired by Art Blakey. Shira and Sammi channel Mavis Staples and the Brides of Funkenstein. Brodhead and Brouwers pull double time on the keys. To try and pigeonhole this crew is futile.

When asked how love factors into their creative process, he told me that love factors into everything Turkuaz has a hand in. It’s not a hard sell. You see it in their performance. The concert is a show. Watch their performances online. Catch their tribute to The Beatles. The same song never sings itself the same way twice. You can’t see them live right now, but you can get close. 2020 was going to be a big year for Turkuaz. The band was slated to hit the road with Talking Heads’ Jerry Harrison and Adrian Belew (pictured right) for their collaborative tour “Remain in Light” slated for festivals stops across the country. Due to Covid, Dave spent 2020, its distance, the space from his bandmates and friends, the canceled tour dates and songwriting sessions – in that space he sat down to finish his solo project. “I want people to know how this time affected me. The things I thought and how these events processed.” When asked what his responsibility is to his fans, he answered, “Being honest.” In the equation of nature vs nurture in songwriting, he said, “I think that lasting songs share natural talent and learned, technical skill. You gotta have the need to make music. You’re born with it. Yet, you need mentors and technical direction too.” In the months during quarantine at home, Dave set his often-splintered attention on a single task. His solo work is folk-inspired pop/rock. Dave whittled down the sound, not sacrificing depth. His tone quiets when he speaks of the new songs. A reverence, an eagerness, “I am curious what fans will make of it. It’s as much me as with Turkuaz – just a different perspective.”



Blue Mountain Review / Feb. 2021 photo by: Michael Weintrob photo by: Dani Brandwein

2021 renews our faith that the music scene reopens sooner than later. Nothing will be as it was, but Turkuaz will go back on the road, including the rescheduled dates for ‘Remain in Light.” The solo album by Dave will come out. They stay in touch with their fans and release shows on YouTube. It’s easy to find ‘em online. Their bliss is infectious. It’s their modus operandi to gift you a good vibe. For those who hope to make music their living, he said, “Don’t give up. Don’t stop. We need music more now than ever.” It was uplifting to hear Turkuaz live; an honor to interview Dave. The conversation cast light across a dark space. Turkuaz is blessedly comprised of: Dave Brandwein on guitar/vocals, Taylor Shell on bass, Craig Brodhead on guitar/keyboard, Michelangelo Carubba on drums, Chris Brouwers on trumpet/keys, Greg Sanderson on tenor sax, Josh Schwartz on baritone sax/ vocals, Sammi Garett with vocals, and Shira Elias with vocals.


MOVie review 90


e ws

Blue Mountain Review / Feb. 2021


movie reviews BY: tom johnson


ast article I talked about a personal phobia but this time lets throw a larger net. Nyctophobia or fear of the dark is one of the most common fears because we have all felt it. Whether as a child, lying in bed and peering into a half open closet or as an adult, looking into dark alleys you pass as you walk home down a well lit street. It’s not really an irrational fear because Nyctophobia is really just a fear of the unknown. We’ve had it beaten into our heads over thousands of years that darkness is where unknown dangers lurk waiting to pounce on us.

This makes it a perfect fear to exploit in horror movies. It’s why Michael moves through the shadows, Paranormal Activity only happens at night and vampires sleep during the day. Jump scares are just more effective when it comes out of the pitch black. So finding a horror movie that uses darkness is easy but how about movies where darkness is front and center as the primary danger? Buckle up Nyctophobes because the following movies are for you.

30 days of night (2007) This film had an interesting journey to the big screen. It started as a failed film pitch. So, the writer turned it into a comic book miniseries where it found traction and garnered attention. This in turn led it to being made into a 2007 horror film. So, all you writers out there… never give up! I highly recommend this movie but there won’t be a lot of explanation on this one because the premise is very simple. Alaska was made for vampires. There are a lot of places in the great white north that don’t see the sun for months at a time. So, a group of vampires get together and decide that instead of taking one human at a time and risk getting caught, they would just wait till the sun goes down in Barrow, Alaska and throw a month long undead rave. The vampires come into town to have fun and feed at will. The only thing they have to do is make sure no one survives to warn the next town. The husband and wife sheriff team has their hands full trying to save as many as they can in the longest night of their lives.



Blue Mountain Review / Feb. 2021

pitch black (2000) Although technically a horror, I tend to think of this as a great Sci-Fi adventure flick and it is one of Vin Diesel’s biggest early roles. After the success of Pitch Black, he also did The Chronicles of Riddick (Pretty bad) and Riddick (The best of the three, I highly recommend). The story starts onboard a commercial starship where around 40 people are being transported in a sort of suspended animation. The ship crash-lands on a desert planet and only 11 people survive. One of them is a violent criminal named Riddick and the “police officer” that is guarding him. The survivors explore the planet and the first thing they notice is that it’s blazing hot due to the three suns in the sky. As they separate to look around, people start dying. They soon realize that there are tunnels running all through the planet where dangerous predators live in the darkness because light destroys them. So the good news is that the suns shine for 22 years at a time and everyone will be safe as long as they stay in the light. The bad news is night lasts about a month on this planet and apparently it’s been around 21 years and change since the last sundown. The only way they can survive is by getting off planet as soon as possible so they make a deal with Riddick. He is an Apex predator who can see in the dark but is he enough to save the day? Who says he wants to?

lights out (2016) This movie actually started out as a short film you may have already seen on YouTube. God knows the monsters face at the end of the video has seared itself onto my retinas. To be honest, the short is much more effective than the movie because the film draws out the story a bit too much but it’s chilling none the less. The short and the movie start off much the same way. A woman is looking down a lit hallway. She clicks off the light and immediately there is a shadowy outline standing down the hall as if it had been there the whole time. She turns the light back on and instantly, the shape is gone. Turn off the light, the shape is closer. Light goes on, the shape is gone. This is where the movie diverges from the short. The woman leaves (because she’s smart) and Paul is the only one in the building still working after hours. The entity starts to stalk him and when he realizes he can just turn on the lights, the entity starts blowing out the bulbs one by one. It is like the creature exists in an alternate dimension that connects to ours only in the dark corners of our world. As the story unfolds, we find out that Paul has a son Martin and daughter Rebecca who have been getting visits from this entity and are now afraid to sleep. It could all be linked to an imaginary friend named Dianna that their mom had when she was a little girl because she is still heard talking to Dianna in her room at night. Rebecca and her boyfriend decide the only way she can protect her little brother is to find out who Dianna was and make sure she is gone for good.


darkness falls (2003) I love this movie but your mileage may vary. Some people think it’s cheesy, others find it terrifying. I think it hits that great middle ground where it’s both. It starts off with a legend, which I think is integral to a good horror story. It immediately engages your imagination and usually gives the creature a reason for doing what it does. This legend says that in the 1800’s a kindly woman named Matilda lived in the town of Darkness Falls. She loved the local children and they loved her. The kids nicknamed her the “Tooth Fairy” because when they lost their last baby tooth she would give them a gold coin for it. When she was older, Matilda was seriously burned in a fire and she started wearing a porcelain mask to cover her scars. One night 2 children went missing and the parents accused Matilda. They ripped off her mask, exposing her disfigurement to the light. Then they hung her like she was a witch and sure enough, with her dying breath she cursed the town. The next morning the missing children were found safe and sound but from that day on, people believed that her spirit still comes for a child’s last tooth. Except now if anyone sees her face, they are marked for death. Flash forward to 1990. Kyle Walsh just lost his last baby tooth and after waking up at the worst time, he sees Matilda. Before she can kill him, he shines a light on her. This hurts her and gives him time to hide in the bathroom. When his mom comes in to check, she is killed by Matilda and Kyle gets the blame. Flash forward 12 more years. Kyle has survived by somehow always being in well lit places. He gets a call from his childhood friend Caitlin. She now has a child who she thinks is being hunted by Matilda but no one will believe her. So Kyle returns to town to face his fear and hopefully end the curse of the Tooth Fairy for good.

the mist (2007) This was a tough pick. It deserves to be on this list because it deals with darkness in so many ways and 99% of the movie is amazing but I hate the ending with such an all consuming passion, I would gladly delete the movie from human consciousness. The book was written by Stephen King and even though he is known for having somewhat weak endings, at least this one was ambiguous and hopeful. The movie goes the opposite direction and rubs your nose in its “dark” ending. The story starts with a freak storm bringing in dense clouds of a fog like mist that prevents anyone from seeing more than a few feet in front of them. To make matters worse, there are creatures that live in the mist and they see humans as prey. When you finally do see the monsters, there is no real consistency. Some creatures are massive but some are tiny. A diverse group of people hole up in a supermarket and try to ride out the monster attacks. At first, everyone works together but as the pressure builds they turn on each other. Religion in particular is examined closely through some people relying on it for strength and hope while others take it to extremes and become violent zealots. I would recommend watching the movie right up until the point where the hero and his group leaves the supermarket then either turn it off or flip to the end of the novella and finish the story there.



Blue Mountain Review / Feb. 2021

American Neolithic Terence Hawkins “This is a one-of-a-kind novel…Terry Hawkins is a bold and fearless writer.” Tom Perrotta, author of The Leftovers and Mrs. Fletcher

It’s the day after tomorrow. America is Police State Lite. The Bill of Rights has been swallowed by the Patriot Amendments. Science bends the knee to state-sponsored Creationism. The Supreme Court is powerless before the Patriot Tribunal and the Homeland Police upholding their motto, “Always Watching.” Enter Blingbling. Foreign-looking, undocumented, and apparently homeless, he’s implicated in a hip-hop murder. His lawyer, the hard-boiled Raleigh, keeps him from Homeland’s clutches until a routine DNA test exposes a secret that threatens to destroy his client, his career, and much more. Release Date: November 4. Pre-order at

the skin o dreams: new and collected poems 1995-2018

Quraysh Ali Lansana “Quraysh Ali Lansana has woven a roadmap of poems and prophecy from Tulsa to Chicago, slowly breaking open the voices of history with each step. Follow the path on these pages to enter your own skin.” Tyehimba Jess, Pulitzer Prize winner, Olio

the skin of dreams is a remembering, an offering and a gathering of geographies. Traversing twenty-three years of earth and breath, Quraysh Ali Lansana’s first new and collected works roadmaps small town Oklahoma to southside Chicago in compelling poems that question, surprise and dare. As a direct descendent of the Black Arts Movement and last student of Miss Gwendolyn Brooks, Lansana explores the complicated internal and external terrain of Blackness and history from a post-King, post-Kennedy childhood through the election of the first non-White president while grappling with the definition of home. These are poems that cry, sing, scream and see. Available now at


book review 96



Blue Mountain Review / Feb. 2021


how fires end BY: Marco Rafala BY: Clifford brooks


arco Rafalà quiets ghosts in his debut novel, How Fires End. He slays wraiths. Family secrets shunt into his, and our, subconscious. A man now less haunted, Rafalà spins out his catharsis. Breathing over the span of three generations, for ten years this man molded a book I deem one of the best in the last twenty. His quiet genius and determination honed How Fires End.

I’ve read it twice. From World War II Italy to 1980s American, Rafalà paints a picture with the brush of several voices. In a chorus they tell us how some demons can’t be out-dealt, family can’t be loved enough, forgiveness finds those who look. Technically the book feels tight. The melody of Rafalà’s composition often reads like a movie, soundtrack included. It’s a hefty read, but the dialogue, description, and sheer educational value takes your mind off page numbers. It’s a story – a good one. Only in this case, more is better. How Fires End moves you to care. The novel’s pacing is meticulously maintained, and it pulls, collides, swoons, and aches in tune with lives all of us can gel into and empathize with. The only thing you won’t feel is disappointment in time wasted. You will get hungry. Fact. The way Rafalà weaves the foods of his ancestry can only be matched by Pat Conroy. Food symbolizes hope, struggle, meals where family sets aside old grudges and enjoys the sanctity of kinship. The book is a heavy delight. Now, for a bit of background on the book and its author, here’s Marco Rafalà:

How do you nail the dialogue? It flows so naturally. Being a child of an immigrant, I learned to tune into the nuances of dialogue early on. In my family, I heard Sicilian, Italian, broken English, and English. This affected my pronunciation of certain words and landed me in speech therapy. At a young age, I had to learn to mimic a way of speaking that was unnatural to me. But I gained a hyper-awareness of the rhythms and idiosyncrasies of various speech.

Of all the folks making way in How Fires End who do you see yourself in most? Many people have interpreted my novel as autobiographical. It’s not. Though, like many authors—perhaps especially debut authors—I did dip into the well of my own experiences to evoke place, community, and characters. David is the obvious character who people might assume is me. He’s a thirteen-year-old American-born son of a Sicilian immigrant growing up in the 1980s, pulled between two cultures.



Blue Mountain Review / Feb. 2021 But the character that I connect with at a gut level is David’s father, Salvatore. He interested me because of the things he couldn’t say, even to himself. Growing up, the Sicilian men around me were men like that. That silence and withholding of feelings is also often my own natural inclination.

It took ten years to write this novel. How did you keep the faith in dark times? Over the years people asked if I was still working on that book and suggested that it was time to throw in the towel. If you let those voices in, they will multiply your own doubt. You can’t control the publishing industry, or whether an agent or editor will connect with your work. If your book does sell, you can’t control how much marketing goes into it or the reviews it will get. But you can control whether you give up or not. You make the choice whether to let yourself down.

What symbolism does food play within the story? Food is a big part of Sicilian culture. And, for the characters, it’s a way of providing comfort without having to share their feelings in words. But at an even more fundamental level, food is how we survive. My father taught me how to tend a vegetable garden. We also raised rabbits and butchered them in our basement for food. I’m sure that violated a few zoning laws in our suburban Connecticut neighborhood. But this was how men like my father showed love. He was teaching me how to live in this world without him.

How does it feel to receive award nods from your peers? Tell us about the accolades you already have under your belt. How Fires End won the honorable mention in fiction for the 2020 Connecticut Book Awards, alongside winner On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous by Ocean Vuong and finalist The Seven or Eight Deaths of Stella Fortuna by Juliet Grames. It was an honor to have my book in such heady company, and to gain such recognition from my home state. And it meant so much to the Sicilian American community in Connecticut which is represented in my novel.

Why is it important that people read How Fires End? How Fires End is about the Second World War, but unlike many other World War II narratives it focuses on the aftermath of that conflict. It’s also a Sicilian-American family saga that is not about the mafia. Instead, it’s an immigrant story that explores how trauma carries across generations and reshapes families.

Sales Links


the zealot and the emancipator BY: H.W. Brands BY: Clifford brooks


ood books about history inform. Great books about history inform, enlighten, and entertain. H. W. Brands’ new book, The Zealot and the Emancipator: Struggle for American Freedom does all three. He creates this magic by using nuance, pacing, erudition, and the magic of a born storyteller. Brands draws the reader not only into the multilayered personalities of the book’s leading men, John Brown and Abraham Lincoln, but also into the fragmented, harshly divisive, and sometimes violent state of American society in the years leading up to the Civil War.

In past recounting of this era, it has been easy for historians to cast John Brown as a delusional villain, albeit one with a passion for true racial equality. That same mindset presented Abraham Lincoln as the saintly icon who saved the American nation. But these have been one dimensional portrait, greyed tintypes of events and people written to condense the complicated human condition into easily taught lessons. The Zealot and the Emancipator: Struggle for American Freedom steps away from that simple rendering of complex events to give a more truthful, journalistic approach to the reader. Brands brings to the reader complete descriptions of the leading cast, the supporting crew, as well as third-party accounts to provide readers with a 3-D Technicolor experience.

The tragedy at Harper’s Ferry is not the focal point of this book. It is the story leading to this uprising, and the reactions after its failure, that holds the reader enthralled. H.W Brands provides the backstory of John Brown; his family, friends, supporters, and those out for his head. Abraham Lincoln is represented in description and detail. The politics take center stage. Established Democrats see the end of the Whigs and Abraham Lincoln takes rise within the Republican upstarts. What does “democracy” mean? What should be done about slavery?

Brands’ impressive research and tightly woven narrative give this book the feel of modern journalism. Firsthand accounts from an array of characters draw us into the conflict and makes one question past beliefs. Readers empathize with Brown and struggle with where to stand as Lincoln walks cautiously towards the White House. A pantheon of voices and opinions careen into this narrative to keep you eager to know more. The debates in blood and ink force us to see the decisions with which Lincoln struggled; who to free, where, when, and the ever present doubt that his decision would destroy America. Who is free? Who makes the decisions? Does democracy work?



Blue Mountain Review / Feb. 2021

The Zealot and the Emancipator: Struggle for American Freedom outlines a crisis that could easily apply to the social justice struggle raging today. H.W. Brands takes in an entire epoch in American history and presents it with the vigor of the best-paced novel. Only truth, facts, and complete accuracy allowed within, readers will not leave without a new perspective.


parallel resting places BY: laura wetherington BY: Clifford brooks


aura Wetherington begs out of earth a sanity that the current age lacks. Never wasted on the predictable, or to build upon false hope, Parallel Resting Places launches from the haunches of a life rocked by miscarriage, tyranny, shock, and awe. You get salt in your mouth, look back at nothing, and in a safe place absorb righteous pain. Not to flaunt or exploit, the experience Wetherington captures in real time keeps the reader in line.

From “Dear Sarah Jane,” What do writers mean when, in the context of writing,/they talk about permission? Wetherington dismisses need of permission. She owns each page and takes responsibility to leave her life in front of you free of subterfuge. Her thoughts, scars, victories – looking up on your back you see them all as stars. “The book is a mirror” Within: each bird illuminated -/what no gentle boy could hold in his hand for long -/the world performed in absentia – there’s an expanse of the masculine understanding its limits. Gentle in an ugly land. Found in its unflinching core. Vulnerable without a doubt your bones broken in a fight. Unbeaten.

What is the meaning behind the title Parallel Resting Places? The title comes from the ending lines of the last poem in the book: “in place of reason we have / parallel resting places // additions to this world / make another.” While writing these poems, I was thinking about what it means to filter the untranslatable from one experience, or language, or culture into another. As an example, I was in the car with my friend in France in the early 2000s. He had a flat top, loved military history, wore his shirts tucked-in, and loved Metallica because he thought Lars Ulrich was a phenomenal drummer. When his favorite Metallica song came on, his eyes lit up like a child’s. We drove two blocks to get a coffee, then parked and sat in the car for five minutes while he drummed along with Lars. He was transported. I had trouble mapping the remarkably high and tight parts of my friend’s personality with these decidedly hesher vibes. I had grown up watching high schoolers in the Sierra Nevada Mountains grow their hair long, headbang, and



Blue Mountain Review / Feb. 2021 sing along, “F** it all and f**ing no regrets, I hit the lights on these dark sets / Medallion noose, I hang myself, Saint Anger ‘round my neck.” He had transposed the music without any of the cultural residue I had—he didn’t know the lyrics—which felt beautiful and also baffling. All of this to say the book title is, for me, about the two (or more) very different places where an album, a poem, a person, or an idea can live. It’s about the same thing being in two places at once, but also about the same thing being two different things in each of those places. It’s about language or knowledge travelling from experience to experience, or from brain to brain (resting place to resting place), and what changes in the translation. There’s no single meaning to the book’s title, but this is one of the things I was thinking about while writing.

“Dear Sara Jane” is an intoxicating piece. Could you let us in on the impetus of its creation? Oh, thank you! All of the letters in the book came swiftly after the 2016 election. I’d had a three-day-long miscarriage about two weeks before, but in the time while I was pregnant, I’d found myself reminiscing about my childhood and imagining the future life/friendship/loves of this growing fetus. I was one of those people blind-sided (maybe I should say white-sided) by Trump’s win, and the impact of those two shocks so closely together were the impetus of all the letters. I was also thinking strongly of Jack Spicer’s After Lorca (which is being reissued this May by the New York Review of Books. Yay!)

When writing this book, what did you purge? Were there sore places picked open or more of a peaceful place after catharsis? I purged a lot of poems from the collection. But seriously, in terms of grief, that has only increased since 2016 with the administration’s policies: children being separated from their parents at the border, the Muslim travel ban, breaking with allies and saddling up to dictators, the increasing rise in far-right extremism and the president’s refusal to denounce white supremacy, now the weak re-

sponse to the pandemic which is disproportionately affecting Black and Brown communities, reactivating the Federal death penalty, and the president’s incitement of a mob storming the Capitol using a campaign of disinformation. The sore places are still being picked open.

Where is your resting place in the collection? This is an excellent question. I think the resting place is in the first letter, to Hannah Ensor. Hannah and I met in 2009 as fellow teachers in the New England Literature Program. We’ve been talking about poetry and teaching together since then, but more recently have been meditating together (and occasionally writing together) and our friendship is one of the biggest influences on my poetics and my ethics. So that letter is a still point. I’m relaxing my breath now just thinking about it. And expanding. To put it more broadly, the places where the collection reaches toward community—the letters to friends, but also the French poets named, the nods to Spicer, and the award citation from Peter Gizzi—all of these moments are resting places.

What do you hope this book provides to your readers? For those people who write, I hope the book catapults them into writing. I hope it leads readers toward work by the constellation of folks swirling around the book: Hannah Ensor, Randa Jarrar (who has a new book coming out in February!), TC Tolbert, Sara Jane Stoner, Jack Spicer, Peter Gizzi (whose newest book just came out in December!), Marie Étienne, Déborah Heissler, Vénus Khoury-Ghata, Liliane Giraudon, Jean-Marie Gleize, the list goes on.

Buy her collection today: https://parlorpress. com/products/parallel-resting-places




Blue Mountain Review / Feb. 2021


Marco Rafalà SCE



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How Fires End is a raised fist of a novel, one filled with men’s brutal tenderness and tender brutality. It is both a subtle and powerful indictment of the silences between generations and a poignant testament to the bond between sons and fathers of all kinds. A blazing debut by an important new Italian-American voice. —Christopher Castellani, author of Leading Men

Beautiful, mesmerizing, consoling, and under immaculate control, Marco Rafalà's How Fires End is a powerful novel about the religion we create for ourselves as we face that which perhaps even God has not imagined for humanity.

—Alexander Chee,

author of Edinburgh, The Queen of the Night, and How to Write an Autobiographical Novel

Marco Rafalà’s debut novel, How Fires End, avoids Mafia tropes for a moving depiction of multi-generational loss and love, grief and gratitude, heartbreak and hope.

-Kirkus Reviews

purchase your copy here purchase your copy here


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Blue Mountain Review / Feb. 2021

pecial features


interview with michael cudlitz BY: Clifford brooks & Andy WHITEHORNE

With a career spanning 30 years, what still motivates you as an actor? I love to tell stories and always have. I am a big fan of the human condition and the many ways it presents itself in coping with adversity, dealing with pain, processing grief and all the highs and lows that life presents us.

What’s your favorite role thus far, why, and what helped it crawl into your soul? I think if you were to break it down, right now I have two favorite rolls. In 2000, I was in the HBO mini-series, Band of Brothers, produced by Tom Hanks and Steven Spielberg. It was about 101st Airborne, the division that dropped in by parachute behind enemy lines during World War II. The series was based on a book by Stephen Ambrose and included interviews with the men who experienced those events. Working on Band of Brothers changed my life. I am truly fortunate actor. I’ve had many, many wonderful opportunities to create interesting, fun, sympathetic, and dangerous characters. But this project was different. Because of its biopic nature, we were not creating people just from a script. We were representing real men who lived real lives. When we were filming, some of the men were still alive. We needed to authentically represent these men as they were. And we knew our work would be seen by their families, their loved ones, and their children. Not just them, but an entire world in which these men were members of what is commonly referred to as the greatest generation that ever lived. None of us who participated in the project took the task lightly. The second would be SouthLAnd. Playing officer John Cooper was the single most creative experience in my career. The creative freedom we were given as a cast by executive producers Chris Chulac and John Wells has yet to be repeated in my career. The pilot script written by Ann Biderman was nothing short of brilliant. John Cooper is possibly the most layered character I’ve ever had the opportunity to portray. He was loosely based on one individual but was really a compilation of many. The idea that a cop show could be largely focused on a middle-aged LAPD officer who was dealing with his difficult job and the complicated life behind the badge, plus really taking an honest look at the damage of the job, but also the damage he was doing to the job, was a wonderful game of three level chess. I thoroughly enjoyed playing it. John Cooper is my favorite fictional character that I’ve created just from words on a page. Beautiful words. Ann’s beautiful words.

What are you reading right now? Do you have a favorite poet or author? I’ve never been a big recreational reader; I don’t really read many books these days other than scripts and research materials. The last book I did read was Silence of the Lambs. But…that falls under research for my new project Clarice.

What roles are your favorite to play? Which ones challenge you the most? I really enjoy playing complicated characters. I’m not necessarily locked into comedy or drama or any specific genre. I find; however, the most multidimensional and layered characters tend to be found in dramatic work. The funny



Pictured Michael Cudlitz as Paul Krendler Photo: Brooke Palmer ©2020 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved

thing is, after saying that, I have to say the character of Mike Cleary, who Tim Doyle created for the half hour comedy, The Kids Are Alright, was layered. So, I guess it doesn’t really matter. If the material is good, the character complicated and the overall world and story the character lives in are compelling — I’m in.

Blue Mountain Review / Feb. 2021

As you move into the 4th decade of your film career, is there a role you’d love to play? Not a specific role, but I’d love to do a Western.

How does music move into your daily life? What bands get you going and/or help you chill out? I’m a child of the 80’s so basically anything 80’s or % classic rock. I’m a typical “guy.” Same couple t-shirts and jeans. Same couple of songs. Hey, give me Billy Joel’s greatest hits and I’m good. I will say, my wife has heavily influenced my musical taste the past few decades. Her play lists are fantastic, and I often find myself listening more to her choices than mine.

Are there any roles you passed on that you regret, or did that open the door for bigger parts? I genuinely believe everything happens for a reason. That doesn’t mean you have to like, or agree with, the reason at that particular moment, but in the end, of you take a moment and look back you can see why certain things happened and how they changed your course. I never mourn for


Pictured Michael Cudlitz as Paul Krendler Photo: Brooke Palmer ©2020 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved

Pictured Michael Cudlitz as Paul Krendler Photo: Brooke Palmer ©2020 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rig

too long when I don’t get a project I’ve been working for. Especially since I’ve started directing. B E

There are so many outside forces that determine final casting. If you spend too much time trying to figure it out, you’ll miss the next thing. Band of Brothers was the first project I was involved in where I saw an impact on the trajectory of my career. I started working on better roles, in better projects, after that job.

You were on Beverly Hills 90210 for eleven episodes. What was it like on the set? How was it to work with Luke Perry? My time on 90210 was life changing. I started out on the show as the construction foreman and soon became the Construction Coordinator. Construction on film and television paid my way through school and after college it seemed a natural fit. It was incredibly lucrative and had a flexible schedule which still left time for auditions. Just not for 90210.

I was told by the producers I would not be able to act on or audition for 90210 because it would be a conflict of interest. All that changed after A River Runs Through It came out in theaters. I believe our producer Paul Wagner said at the time, “Well, we didn’t know you were a real actor”. I will always be grateful for the support I was given by my 90210 family. The only thing I will say about Luke is this - he was an amazing friend who left this earth way too soon.




ghts Reserved


Blue Mountain Review / Feb. 2021

Pictured Michael Cudlitz as Paul Krendler Photo: Brooke Palmer ©2020 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved


Personally, Sgt. Denver “Bull” Randleman is one of my favorite characters in any show to date. How did you prepare for that role on Band of Brothers, and what fond memories do you have? As I said, Band of Brothers is one of the highlights of my career. The preparation for that project was unlike any other one I’ve had prior or since. We were representing real people, the actual men who served in Easy Company. And for some of us, we got to meet the men we were playing. Most of the prep before going into production was done in the states. I had many, many conversations with Denver. Not only him, but also with other men in the 101st who served with him.

Recently you moved behind the camera in two episodes of The Walking Dead. What was the acting experience like on the show, and how did it feel to move into a role with creative control? Working on The Walking Dead has been a terrific experience. Not only did I get to play this amazing, fun, totally ridiculous, over the top character, Abraham Ford, but they believed in me and my voice enough to give me my first shot at directing. Until then, I never had the opportunity to be the one who decides how the story is told visually. The cast and crew were so supportive.

That support quickly turned to confidence. I could not be happier with the result of that first episode. It was such a positive experience and is quickly becoming one my new passions. In fact, I’m tentatively scheduled to return this spring for my 4th episode.


How do you get into the proper headspace to play such drastically different roles? What is your process? For me, everything stems from research. I feel like you must do the research and really figure out how your character does the job that they do. And then, you must forget about it. I think with roles like cop, doctor, lawyer, soldier etc., actors can get caught in the trap of “doing the job”, and not focusing what that character is doing in the actual scene. For example, a brain surgeon in the middle of a procedure is not actively thinking about all the classes he or she took to get there. They also aren’t completely freaking out while they’re doing it because it’s literally “brain surgery.” In fact, it’s the opposite. They’re calm. They’re effective. The training and work they put into becoming a brain surgeon take over. As an actor, you have to be comfortable enough doing the job, so it looks effortless. It’s just something you do. Then you are free to be present in the scene. If you aren’t? The audience will know — and they will not be shy about letting you know too.

Before you started acting you worked building sets. Is carpentry still a part of your life?

Pictured (L-R) Michael Cudlitz as Paul Kren Photo: Brooke Palmer ©2020 CBS Broadca

I love carpentry and building. But I haven’t done it in a while because my vision isn’t what it used to be for precise work.

What is your philosophy of being a “good actor”? Does it apply to finding joy in life? I don’t really have a philosophy per se. My work and the way I approach it has evolved over the years and hopefully will continue to evolve. Every day I’m on set, I learn something new. The same is true with every experience I’ve ever had. I know the performances I enjoy, the ones that transport me, are performances that are truthful, compelling, honest, and grounded. I love to experience what the actors are thinking and feeling when I watch them as they are things I aspire to in my own work.

How does this apply to life? I think my work ethic — the focus on being truthful, compelling, honest, and grounded reflects directly on the way I try to live my life. They are a mirror.

You have a new show coming out in 2021. I am stoked to hear about it. What’s the premise and how do you tune in? Yes, I do have a new show coming out called Clarice. It will air on CBS starting this February 11th. The show is a serialized drama focused on the life of FBI Agent Clarice Starling — the main character from the novel The Silence of the Lambs, by Thomas Harris. The show takes place after the incident with Buffalo Bill and is centered on Clarice’s time in the bureau. I play Paul Krendler who is basically her boss. The pilot script was written by Alex Kurtzman and Jenny Lumett and was one of the best pilot scripts I’ve read. I’m really excited to see how the audience reacts to it. It’s not your typical network show.



Pictured (L-R) Rebecca Breeds as Clarice Sta Photo: Brooke Palmer ©2020 CBS Broadcas

Blue Mountain Review / Feb. 2021

How do we keep up with you online? You can keep up with me online @Cudlitz for both Twitter and Instagram. Also, I’m on Facebook “Michael Cudlitz”. I used to be very interactive on Twitter but less so these days. It’s a mine field out there lol ....... I absolutely love my fans and am grateful for them and always enjoy hearing from them.

ndler & Rebecca Breeds as Clarice Starling asting Inc. All Rights Reserved


"The Silence Is Over"-- CLARICE, from acclaimed executive producers Alex Kurtzman and Jenny Lumet, and starring Rebecca Breeds (“Pretty Little Liars”) in the title role, is a deep dive into the untold personal story of FBI Agent Clarice Starling as she returns to the field in 1993, one year after the events of “The Silence of the Lambs.” Brilliant and vulnerable, Clarice’s bravery gives her an inner light that draws monsters and madmen to her. However, her complex psychological makeup that comes from a challenging childhood empowers her to begin to find her voice while working in a man’s world, as well as escape the family secrets that have haunted her throughout her life. Series premieres Thurs. Feb. 11 (10:00-11:00 PM, ET/PT) on the CBS Television Network.

arling & Michael Cudlitz as Paul Krendler sting Inc. All Rights Reserved





Blue Mountain Review / Feb. 2021


interview with linden row inn BY: Clifford brooks

Vishal Give us a few details about you. Tell us about Linden Row Inn. What about it struck a chord with you? Our group acquired Linden Row Inn in Downtown Richmond in 2008. The property comprises a series of row homes and carriage houses that were constructed in the mid-19th century, right before the Civil War. Prior to that, the property was home to a garden where a young Edgar Allan Poe played as a child and met his lifelong love, Elmira Royster Shelton. Historians have told us that the enchanted garden mentioned in his poem “To Helen” refers to the garden where Linden Row Inn now stands. The property is a national landmark that was converted to a hotel in 1988. I’ve always loved history and was a history major in college. I spent the first part of my career as a management consultant who stayed in hotels for 150-200 nights per year. Having stayed at so many different types of hotels during that period, I was intrigued by the business side of the hospitality industry. While pursuing my MBA, I had the opportunity to do some consulting work for a couple of hotel clients and felt a connection to the industry right then. When our group was looking at acquisition opportunities, most of the properties we saw were cookie cutter hotels. While those hotels may have been great businesses, they lacked a unique identity or backstory. As I thought back to my days as a road warrior, my most memorable hotel stays were at properties that had some sort of a unique design feature or story. Over time, I intentionally sought out hotels where I could feel more immersed in the destination I was visiting. Linden Row Inn stood out from the crowd due to its architecture and history. The moment that our team walked through the doors of the hotel, we sensed something special that we didn’t feel anywhere else.

You have a history in finance as well. How did that help you decide to take up the mantle of Linden Row Inn? Linden Row Inn is a beautiful property with a remarkable past. It is in a charming historic district in the heart of a growing city. Over the past dozen years, Richmond has emerged as one of the South’s most popular destinations due to its thriving arts, culinary and brewery scenes.


Of course, in 2008, Richmond was still emerging as a tourism destination. However, back then, we saw the amount


Blue Mountain Review / Feb. 2021 of talent in the city and felt confident in its potential. The property had (and continues to have) a fantastic aesthetic, and a story that we knew would be of interest to visitors seeking a more authentic local lodging experience. All of that said, like any other business, when we were initially evaluating the opportunity to take over Linden Row, it was important to ensure that the hotel would be economically viable. While the property checked all the boxes from the perspective of being unique, my background in business and finance was critical to understanding the financials of the business and to creating a profitable operating model. This was particularly important because the hotel business is very capital intensive and operating a hotel within a historic building can be quite costly. Over the past dozen years, we have worked hard to offer our guests a high level of service while also reinvesting in the property for the benefit of future generations.

What are you reading right now? I am currently reading A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles. I personally love historical fiction and am fascinated by the time period that the book covers (early 20th century Russia).


As part of the ownership team at the hotel, what do you want people to know about the safety precautions taken at Linden Row Inn? The health, safety, and comfort of our guests is our top priority. Over the past year, we, like all hotels, have had to make many changes to our business considering the pandemic. As a member of the WorldHotels Collection, we are following the WorldHotels We Care Clean program which includes enhanced cleaning and sanitization protocols in all guest rooms, public spaces, and meeting and event facilities. In addition to that, to promote the health and safety of our guests, team members, and the greater community, we have introduced new social distancing measures and protocols on property. Hospitality is a people-oriented business and we have been doing our best to follow health and safety protocols without compromising on our unwavering commitment to stellar guest service.



Blue Mountain Review / Feb. 2021

Casey Tell us about yourself and the role you fill at Linden Row Inn. I was born and raised in Farmville, VA and joined the Linden Row team in 2014 where I am now the Director of Sales. I began my career in the hospitality industry with my studies at Virginia Tech but my passion for event management and sales began much sooner than my college years. I was extremely excited to learn that I could study an industry I was already so passionate about and graduated with a business degree in Hospitality and Tourism Management alongside a concentration in Event Management. During my time at Linden Row, I have overseen all onsite sales to include corporate and social events, group blocks, meetings, conferences, as well as leisure and corporate sales of the property.

Give us a few details on the rooms available there and the themes each possesses. The property comprises of seven row homes that house the Main House Rooms and our Parlour Suites. Behind the row homes, you will find one of Downtown Richmond’s greatest hidden gems, our Garden Courtyard. Our Garden Rooms are in either one of the two original carriage house buildings in this courtyard. Our Main House Rooms feature single queen size beds, single king size beds, or two queen size beds. They are in the 7 connected row houses; these rooms feature 12’ ceilings, rich jewel-toned color schemes, contemporary amenities, and access to the veranda overlooking the courtyard. These are originally the bedrooms for the family members who lived in the homes during the Civil War era. Our 7 Parlour Suites are located on the second floor, one in each of our 7 row homes which were also used as the original entry ways for the families who resided at Linden Row during the Civil War era. Through their stunning period architecture, original antiques, chandeliers, 12’ high ceilings, and access to the veranda overlooking the courtyard, our Parlour Suites will take you back in time. Each suite features a king-sized bed and an exquisitely appointed parlour area. The unique location and décor of our parlour suites are perfect for romantic weekends or family getaways.

What kinds of events do you host there? At Linden Row we can accommodate events of up to 125 people. We host a variety of event types such as wedding ceremonies, receptions, rehearsal dinners, welcome parties, farewell brunches, bridal showers, and luncheons. Linden Row Inn was voted as “Best Place for an Elopement in Virginia”, “Best Hidden Gem Wedding Ceremony Site” and “Best Under-the-Radar Reception Site” in Richmond Bride’s The A List 2020 and named as a 2021 Top Wedding Venue by Virginia Living Magazine. Linden Row is not only suited for social gatherings, but also perfect for intimate corporate functions such as board meetings, cocktail receptions, networking events and small conferences.

What kind of deals do you have at Linden Row Inn now? The deals that we offer are catered to meet the needs of the different types of travelers that we host. Our deepest discounted rate is our ‘Advanced Purchase Rate’, which offers up to 40% off our rack rate. These are perfect for travelers who have set travel date and are looking for a great discount, as the Advance Purchase Rate has a no-cancellation


policy. We are also currently offering ‘Extended Stay Rates’ for any guest staying 7 nights or longer. These discounted rates are perfect for guests who plan to be in the area for an extended period. We provide these discounts upfront on their stay as well as flexible cancellation policy of 72 hours prior to arrival. We encourage guests to visit the Specials and Packages page on our website and book direct for the best rates and offers.

What are you currently listening to/reading? Podcasts - The Daily, Up First, My Favorite Murder, Sword and Scale Reading: Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood

Sarah Please tell us a little about yourself and your position there. I began my career in the hospitality and wedding industry in 2017 when I joined Savara Hospitality, who manages a variety of boutique hotels including Linden Row Inn. As Portfolio Marketing Specialist, I lead the marketing efforts for the various boutique hotels within Savara Hospitality’s portfolio and work alongside the Sales Department at each hotel. I am also the Director of Email Communications for the American Marketing Association Richmond chapter. When I am not brainstorming the next social media post or creating brand content, you can find me exploring the outdoors of Richmond or sipping on a cool glass of Pino while hanging out with my cat, Chester. I enjoy live music (which I miss those most since the beginning of COVID), traveling, hanging out with her friends, making new friends and baking chocolate chip cookies. I have a huge passion for connecting with people while having fun and working with the team at Linden Row Inn has allowed me to do just that!

What are some of the high points of Linden Row Inn? Linden Row Inn offers our guests a traditional setting with modern amenities and classic Southern hospitality. Being comprised of seven row homes that were originally built in the mid-1800’s, the building where Linden Row stands has been restored with great detail over the years. The hotel’s guest rooms and parlour suites are furnished with period antiques, and we are proud to be featured on the National Register of Historic Places. Our guest rooms and event space feature exterior entranceways that open to an intimate, beautiful winding garden courtyard. Among the many famous past residents of our property, Edgar Allan Poe spent his childhood playing in the garden that is now the hotel’s garden courtyard that is famously mentioned in his famous poem “To Helen.” Linden Row Inn is part of the WorldHotels Collection, a curated portfolio of over 300 of the finest independent hotels and resorts across the globe and is also a Virginia Green and TAG-approved hotel that proudly supports our local community.

Edgar Allan Poe has ties to your hotel. Please give us the history on that. Before the row homes of Linden Row were built, the land was originally part of a 100-acre tract west of the city limits purchased by Thomas Rutherfoord, who found his fortunes in the tobacco, milling, and real estate industries. In 1816, the property where the Linden Row Inn now stands was sold to Charles Ellis. Mr. Ellis’ home stood across from this property at the corner of Second Street. Ellis used the land as a garden which was known for its beautiful roses, jasmine and linden trees. In 1811, Elizabeth Poe, an actress performing in a traveling company at the Richmond Theater, became ill and died,



Blue Mountain Review / Feb. 2021 leaving two young children orphaned including Edgar Poe. Mr. and Mrs. John Allan raised him and gave him Allan for his middle name. The Allans (including Edgar) lived with Mr. Allan’s business partner, Charles Ellis, across the street for some time. It was in the gardens that Edgar Allan Poe played with the Ellis children. Local legend has it that the enchanted garden is the one that Poe mentions in his famous poem “To Helen.” Historians have also noted that young Poe first courted his life-long love, Elmira Royster, in the garden where the Linden Row Inn now stands. Charles Ellis then sold the property, and later a row of ten houses were built facing Franklin Street. Seven of these ten houses are now part of Linden Row Inn.

What are a few of the places to visit within walking distance? From world-class museums and significant historic sites, to outdoor recreation and academic institutions, Linden Row Inn’s location in the midst of the Richmond Arts District - minutes away from all major attractions in the capital area. Aside from some of Richmond’s popular art galleries and restaurants being within blocks of the hotel, you can walk down to Brown’s Island where you can find the T. Tyler Potterfield Memorial Bridge, a pedestrian bridge that will take you across the entire James River and provides panoramic views of downtown Richmond’s skyline. Down there you can also visit the Historic Tredegar building that is part of the American Civil War Museum. Virginia Commonwealth University’s Monroe Park campus and the Stuart C. Siegel Center, an arena popular for sports events, concerts, and career fairs, are walking distance from Linden Row Inn. For those interested in culture and arts, the VCU Institute of Contemporary Art, Altria Theater, Dominion Energy Center, The National and Virginia Repertory Theatre can all be found in the area as well.

What are you currently listening to/reading? The Get Up podcast by Spotify and The Daily podcast by The New York Times

How do we keep up with you online? Visit us on our website at or by following us on Facebook ( or Instagram (@lindenrow).


interview with

melanie wade styles

Owner and CEO of Cultured South Fermentation Company and Golda Kombucha BY: Clifford brooks

What’s your story behind Cultured South Fermentation Company and Golda Kombucha? Golda Kombucha is Georgia’s first and finest sparkling kombucha tea. Inspired by a treasured family recipe with fruit and herb flavors native to Georgia, Golda’s founder (Melanie Wade Styles), began developing kombucha while in college and has since expanded across the Southeast. Golda Kombucha is more than a business venture—it’s a family’s history. Our kombucha recipe and the culture used for fermentation were passed down from Grandmother Golda, the business’ namesake. A living testament to wellness, Golda is 99-years-old and resides in the Blue Ridge Mountains. She has been brewing and perfecting her unique kombucha recipe for over 40 years, now passed down to Golda Kombucha’s founder, Melanie. After experimenting with profiles like lavender-lemonade and peach-ginger in her home kitchen, Melanie was ready to bring her product to market. Golda Kombucha debuted to the public in 2013 at local farmers markets and craft fairs around Georgia. We soon discovered that Atlantans couldn’t get enough of this time-tested family recipe. As demand grew, we doubled the size of Golda Kombucha’s facility and moved to a brewery on the west side of Atlanta. Today, the teas are available on tap, in ready-to-drink cans, and in growlers at dozens of restaurants, bars, and grocers throughout the Southeast (including in over 100 Kroger supermarkets, Food Lion and in several Whole Foods Markets) as well as at the headquarters of Golda Kombucha: Cultured South Taproom.

Give us a few details about Cultured South. With one visit to our first-of-its-kind taproom and retail store, our passion for our products will be obvious. We are centered around health, wellness, food culture, traditions, and down-south hospitality. We thrive on bringing you new flavors of fermentation that we cultivate just feet away in our brewery and fermentation kitchen. We are honored to work with local farmers and quality southern ingredients. We take fresh local produce, herbs, and fruits, to create fun fermented goods made just for our community: You.



Blue Mountain Review / Feb. 2021

Cultured South Fermentation Company is the creation of brewmaster, Melanie Wade, founder of Atlanta’s first and only kombucha company, Golda Kombucha. Wade brews kombucha tea using her Grandma Golda’s original recipe and has been since college. With Golda’s heirloom culture, Wade expanded her kombucha business across the Southeast, premiering smooth flavor combinations like peach ginger, lavender lemonade, and strawberry mint in 2013. Golda Kombucha can now be found in over 100 Kroger and Whole Foods markets.

In 2016, Wade got to work growing Cultured South Fermentation Company, Atlanta’s first marketplace for healthy, living foods made in the South. To launch a brick-and-mortar tap room, Wade signed on as a tenant at the Lee + White adaptive reuse development in Atlanta’s historic West End. The dynamic warehouse space operates as a kombucha tasting room, brewery, shop, and research and development kitchen. Spawning from the success of Golda Kombucha, Cultured South is the adopted parent of Pure Abundance artisan vegan cheeses which are handmade and sold onsite. \

The tap room is a home base for the Atlanta community to connect and learn through the natural abundance of Cultured South’s local, probiotic-rich goods. Find the Cultured South Tap Room on the Atlanta BeltLine in the historic West End neighborhood.

What sparked the vision that became the business you run today? It was all my grandmother’s recipe that sparked the flame of fermentation and health foods. It all started with Kombucha, but we quickly expanded to create Cultured South, a family of fermented products and wellness goodies.


How are you staying afloat during this weird time? Because so many people are focusing on staying healthy and keeping their immune systems up during the pandemic, our business has flourished. I think now more than ever people are reaching out to grab local goods that do well for their bodies.

What kinds of goods and services do you provide the public? We provide a safe, community gathering space for the public in the way of our Taproom located right off the Beltline trail in Atlanta, adjacent / attached to our brewery and manufacturing space.

What is your business philosophy? Treat others how you’d like to be treated.

How can we keep up with you online? You can visit our websites: and , you can also follow us on Instagram and Facebook: @GoldaKombucha and @CulturedSouth







Blue Mountain Review / Feb. 2021


interview with mario the maker magician BY: Clifford brooks Tell us about yourself, Mario. My name is Mario Marchese, and I perform as “Mario the Maker Magician.” I’m a (normally touring, now virtual) family performer based in Nyack NY. I look at everything through the angle of the Maker Movement with a goal of inspiring and encouraging kids and families to likewise make and create without limitation.

What does magic mean to you? For me, magic is a language. It’s a way of expressing playfulness, invoking laughter, sparking curiosity, making imagination come to life. Magic translates impossibility into something tangible. It’s allows people to live in a different world for a while and to experience new possibilities. It encourages dreaming.

What philosophy do you live by? My personal life philosophy is the same as the message I try to deliver in my theater shows: “Do what you love, use what you have, and have fun.” As I tell this to my



audiences, I am simultaneously reminding myself. Another driving thought in my life is something that was beautifully expressed by Mother Teresa: “We can do no great things, only small things with great love.” I just love that.

What drew you to magic? It’s funny - I didn’t grow up with magic. I didn’t have a magic kit when I was a kid. I never even really experienced live magic until I was in my 20s. And then, it happened accidentally. I loved antique shops and vintage stores and walked into what I thought was an antique shop one day to find that it was actually a magic shop. And on a little TV set in the back corner of the shop, my very favorite scene from my very favorite movie was playing right at that moment. It was the food fight scene from the movie Hook. It was almost overwhelming, that moment. It felt important, but I didn’t know why yet. I had no idea that because of that accidental magic shop visit, I’d catch the “magic bug” and end up returning to that shop every week for months and months, learning and devouring as much knowledge as I could from those generous shop owners.

Blue Mountain Review / Feb. 2021

What are you reading right now? Mostly instructions to robotics kits that I’m assembling with my kids! Haha. Children’s books. Nightly Bible stories. My kids are the driving force of most of my reading material these days.

How have you been staying afloat in this crazy time of Corona? We were lucky to have a couple of wonderful partnerships formulate right at the beginning of the pandemic, just days after we saw our entire calendar of tour dates cancel. Through those partnerships, we were able to launch headfirst into the world of livestreams and virtual shows. I’m so grateful to have had the nudge to make that happen early on. It has me time to learn how to adapt to that crazy new “stage,” and re-discover my voice in a new way.

It’s been amazing to be able to connect with families all over the world even though we’re not physically touring. We’ve also been fortunate to be able to release our first magic book into the world this winter… The Maker Magician’s Handbook, published by Make Community, the wonderful folks behind Make: magazine as well as a DIY maker magic kit called The Chomper Bot Kit! These projects have helped us stay busy, and more importantly, connected with our audiences.

What part does music play in your life? Music was a huge part of my life way before I ever even discovered magic. I learned how to perform onstage through singing in punk bands in my teens and twenties! I learned how to be adventurous in expressing myself, how to be bold, how to unapologetically


be myself. Now, my guitar comes out in my virtual shows, with on-the-spot, ad-lib punk rock dance parties! It’s my little nod to my musical past and one of my favorite parts of the show!

How do you make performing magic all your own? My props are all handmade with humble, often discarded materials like cardboard, masking tape, hacked toys, and infused with homespun tech like microcontrollers and 3D printed elements. It’s all designed to help kids realize that everything I do, and whatever they can imagine, is totally accessible to them as well. I’ve been able to marry my love for DIY electronics and my love for magic to create something that is unique and weird and wacky… and totally me. I love the idea of building a mechanical creation that can autonomously perform magic without me even being near it.

Who are your biggest inspirations in life? I’m super inspired by amazing performers and creators like Slava Polunin, the renowned Russian clown. I love anyone who wholeheartedly throws themselves into their passion and allows the world to witness it. Carving new paths, creating new art forms, expanding the world into new expressions.

How do we keep up with you online? Attend one of my virtual punk rock magic parties! You can find out about those show dates, my book, kit, and more at Also find me at:



Blue Mountain Review / Feb. 2021


Interview with kelly long of mostly mutts BY: Clifford brooks Hello, Kelley Long: Tell us a about yourself and how you came to Mostly Mutts. While spending my career as a Mortgage Banker, I kept hearing a whisper instructing me to get a dog. Once I obeyed, my life and heart were forever altered. After adopting two unruly puppies, I departed my corporate life and began my canine education. It is absolutely what I am meant to be doing. I am so grateful to have found Mostly Mutts. I volunteered for 5 years before becoming an employee.

What sets Mostly Mutts apart from other pet adoption centers? We rescued 875 animals last year and we are proud of the number of dogs, cats and the occasional guinea pigs that we save. In addition to rescuing them from danger of euthanasia in an animal control facility, we do our best to understand them so we can make a good match with their future family. Our trainers work with them so that they learn basic commands. We also offer complimentary training classes after the adoption. Mostly Mutts is committed to our animals before and after adoption.

What is your favorite part about what you do? I love riding in the back of the van as we visit our various animal control partners and save dogs. It is so rewarding to watch a frightened and afraid dog blossom into a confident, loving animal. Then to see them with their new families makes me incredibly happy. I have the best job in the world!



Blue Mountain Review / Feb. 2021

What are you reading right now? I am currently reading Hamnet by Maggie O’Farrell and Extraterrestrial Civilizations by Isaac Asimov. I switch back and forth between them depending on my mood.

How are you keeping the doors open in the time of Covid? Covid has been particularly good for dogs. We have more applications to adopt than dogs available, which is an awesome challenge. It has also been very bad for donations. We had to cancel all our fundraising events for last year. We are using social media more than ever and are grateful for our community.

How can people volunteer with Mostly Mutts? We always need Volunteers! To volunteer, visit our website: get-involved/center-shift-volunteers

Our Mutts need and appreciate donations. Our website:

The best way to keep up with the Mutts is through our Facebook page:


Hemingway’s dog what does it mean to

to collaborate? BY: David Peoples

Jacob E. Goodman



Blue Mountain Review / Feb. 2021

Jacob E. Goodman: Composer For you, what is collaboration? The most successful sort of collaboration I’ve had was with one other person. One of us would get ideas and think them through, and then we would meet and discuss the ideas, tear them apart if necessary, and wind up agreeing on what works and what doesn’t. I’ve created in two different worlds -- mathematics and music.

Can you tell us about a rewarding collaboration? In mathematics, I collaborated with a colleague for over 25 years. Working as above; we wrote over 50 papers together, started a journal in a new field and co-edited it, and organized many conferences. In music, I collaborated with 13 colleagues in 2002 to start a new organization, the New York Composers Circle, which has now grown to over 80 members.

Nickitas Demos: Composer For you, what is collaboration? As a composer, I believe it is important to collaborate with performers/conductors who will be programming my music. This is especially important if a work is a commission. It is very gratifying to have performers make suggestions that make a composition more idiomatic without compromising the artistic vision of the work. Collaboration is even more important when working with film directors and choreographers as the composer must work closely to develop a unified artistic vision in tandem with her/his collaborative partners.

Can you tell us about a rewarding collaboration? I have three: I had a wonderful collaboration with an independent film maker when scoring for a small budget commercial film. Another rewarding collaboration was with a dancer/choreographer from a professional ballet company on a commissioned work. On a smaller scale, I recently had a very rewarding collaboration with a classical guitarist who had commissioned a solo work. As I am relatively unfamiliar with this instrument, the performer’s suggestions were invaluable in shaping the work. I will be republishing the piece with the guitarist’s edits and with accompanying credit.

Michael O’Connor performer, researcher, conductor

For you, what is collaboration? For me, collaboration is any instance where an artist joins with another to create to art, whether it be in performance or creation of that art. It has varying degrees, though. Two artists/performers may collaborate outside their usual associations and create something unusual, or it may refer to the every day collaborations of artists in an orchestra or rock band. Either way, it is essential in creating or realizing art.

Can you tell us about a rewarding collaboration? Recently I asked a local choral directors vocal ensemble to perform alongside my university students, and


a professional instrumental ensemble so that a performance of Charpentier’s Te Deum could be realized. It was received very well and everyone got to perform something they might otherwise not have had the opportunity. It was also a chance for educators, professional performers and college students to work together draw from each others experience.

Serena Scibelli: Performer, Researcher For you, what is collaboration? Working with someone to create something

Can you tell us about a rewarding collaboration? In the Event I directed called “Anime in Viaggio” (Traveling Souls) that was a collaboration between me and a singer on World Music Plus – a collaboration between us and a photographer who had expositions of pictures taken around the World.

Lisa Renee Ragsdale: composer For you, what is collaboration? Either / Or Receiving a commission from an individual musician requesting a singular work, or from a chamber ensemble (String Quartet or Wind Quintet) asking if I could compose a specific type of composition.

Can you tell us about a rewarding collaboration? In November 2018 I received an “out of the blue” request from a single musician from Atlanta, GA for me to compose a new work for Double Bass / Cello & Viola. A kind of ‘reverse’ String Trio and after a few emails we had as many details as each of us could think of resolved. I began work in early February 2019 and completed “Ethereal Trio” for Jackie Pickett of Atlanta by the middle of May, 2019. Having only had 4 previous commissions, I still retained every detail I could think of to prevent any errors or mistakes. I do not yet know when the first performance will take place of this work due to the Pandemic.



Blue Mountain Review / Feb. 2021


NEW FROM BESTSELLING HISTORIAN H.W. BRANDS The epic struggle over slavery, told through the lives of John Brown and Abraham Lincoln. “A gripping account of the politics that led to Southern secession, war and the abolition of slavery.” The New York Times Book Review

“Mr. Brands…offers a lesson that has never been timelier.” The Wall Street Journal

“A book that deserves to become foundational reading for America’s new reckoning with slavery, race, and racism.” Harold Holzer, author of The Presidents vs. the Press and winner of the Gilder Lehrman Lincoln Prize




Available wherever books are sold

The Ghost Gospels

introducing Blue Mountain Review / Feb. 2021

Holding the reader a willing captive in the liminal spaces between life and death, survival and surrender, recovery and decline, Laura Ingram dazzles the heart and mind with the tenderly-wrought insights of a young woman coming to terms with the aftermath of her eating disorder. As the narrator trains her own thoughts away from hunger, the reader is fed hearts from jars, blackberry brambles, and boxes hidden under beds, hearts that have been pickled and skipped like stones across the tops of creeks, hearts grass stained and wobbling and scrubbed pink in the kitchen sink. And bones—bones blooming and curved like question marks, bones kissed and buried and “scrawled against [the] skin like a pharmacist’s signature.” Yet, even as the imagery blooms and fills and increases, becoming ever more tangible, the poems by: laura ingram narrator fears she will dissipate into something no longer substantial, and “you will remember she is only ulna and aspartame and leave her in search of something more solid.”

the ghost gospels

This is a collection that will break your heart and hand it back to you illuminated between the cracks, for like Kintsugi, the Japanese art of using gold to highlight the cracks in repaired pottery, Ingram’s poems embrace wounds and imperfections rather than glossing over them, modelling that through careful attention and reflection, the selves we can create after we have been broken can be stronger and more beautiful than before.

To puchase your copy or contact the poet: Each copy $10

the latest work from

Laura Ingram 137

interview with catherine moore of nuci’s space BY: Clifford brooks

Hello Catherine Moore. How has life moved you to be involved with Nuçi’s Space? Honestly, I think life has moved me in the direction of Nuçi’s Space for several years now before I even was aware of The Space and what it is we do. I have lost several friends to the disease of depression and when I found my life lacking fulfillment, The Space was there to offer that in spades.

Where I once felt bleak and listless in the face of a monotonous working space, I now feel exalted and full of drive to help the people around me. It’s a change that everyone in my immediate life has seen in everything from how I talk to how I dress and carry myself. I am forever grateful to Nuçi’s Space for giving me this newfound motivation.

What’s the history of Nuçi’s Space? What was the onus of its creation?


Nuçi’s Space was founded by Linda Phil-


Blue Mountain Review / Feb. 2021 lips, mother of Nuçi Phillips, who tragically took his own life roughly 20 years ago. While in the depths of her family’s darkest hour, Linda found the tenacity and strength to start a nonprofit for suicide awareness and prevention within the music community (one Nuçi himself was part of). Her inner strength, along with the support from family, friends, and the Athens music community, helped shape what was a brave idea into The Space we have today.

Who are the movers and shakers within the hierarchy of this beautiful creation? I believe everyone who works at Nuçi’s Space brings something unique and amazing to the table. From our volunteers all the way to Bob Sleppy, our executive director, and our board members. None of what we have today could be done without the dedication and hard work each and every person involved with the space brings. I can easily say that everyone here at the space dedicates 100% of their energy towards our advocacy and prevention programs, and it’s a wonderful energy to be part of.

How does your program help those with a heavy heart who may consider suicide the only way out? Our program helps link our clients with potential counselors and psychiatrists that they otherwise may not have access to. We also have monthly or bi-monthly free or reduced-cost clinics for various health exams like hearing, vision, and wellness exams so that our clients can spend their time bettering themselves rather than worrying about a sore tooth or strange rash. We want our clients to spend time on themselves and pushing themselves to lift their burdens rather than trying to add to them, so we’re always taking new suggestions and comments as well.

You have a library and performance space. How do those fit into your community programs?


In pre-COVID times we would hold performances on our stage- primarily from our Camp Amped kids as they showed off their final works. Camp Amped is a program we have in place for children 12-17 so that we can instill a love of music and a presence within the younger community. We also have a music library! Our library is filled to the brim with everything from psychology books to sheet music, and we welcome anyone and everyone to come rent the books from us to learn all they can about whatever subject we have on file.

Our library and stage areas are open for use under non-COVID times for everyone who would like to rent them out. We hope to be able to open them back up soon!

What other programs do you support? We support as many local Athens non-profits as we can! We work closely with our area’s homeless shelters, as well as local businesses and venues. We try and support not only the people who grace our doors but their backgrounds as well as their livelihoods.

Along with this, our building supports composting, recycling, upcycling, and we reuse whatever equipment is donated to us unless we deem it necessary to resell at affordable market prices during our ReWired sales. We support our local newspapers, printing stores, and businesses to keep Nuçi’s Space running.

Widespread Panic is a big supporter of your cause. How did they get involved? That’s a wonderful question! We are Widespread Panic’s Financial Sponsor, meaning that we take care of all of their charitable needs (or as much of it that we can) and in return, they donate their time, money, and efforts towards our cause. We help one another out, as people in the music community are known to do, and why Nuçi’s Space thrives as much as it does. Once we started helping them out our relationship was able to grow into the beautiful thing we have today.

How have you been keeping sane during this crazy time of Covid? I know here at Nuçi’s Space we shut down for a time to keep the numbers down, but we still called all of our bands that we had come used to seeing using our rehearsal rooms. We checked in on them and offered to help them pay any kind of rent or utilities they needed through our Garrie Vereen fund. We were able to donate roughly $130k to people in need of assistance during the initial shutdown. It makes me tear up when I think about how many people, we were able to directly help when everything essentially shut down.

For me personally, during the pandemic, I have played a lot of Animal Crossing: New Horizons and baked more bread than I ever want to see again. I also picked up some new hobbies such as embroidery and digital painting. So, one could say I found a lot of new time to explore myself artistically, which I have loved doing.



Blue Mountain Review / Feb. 2021

What projects do you have on deck for 2021? We have loads of projects on deck for 2021 that I can’t speak on just yet, but one that I can is the 20 years of Nuçi! We are going to spend all of 2021 highlighting the story of Nuçi’s Space the community, including segments on local bands that we support and those who support us. Keep an eye out on our social media for when these videos and blog posts will air!

How can the public find out more and possibly donate to help you mission? You can always, always, ALWAYS check out our website at and see what events and cool promotions we have going on. We try to keep it as up to date as possible, and you’ll notice a huge makeover to it in the coming months- for which we are extremely excited about! We also have a YouTube channel (@nucisspace) and a newsletter you can sign up for by going on our website. From there you can also donate!

We recently reworked our donations page as well, so that it’s more streamlined and easier to navigate as a donor, but if you have any questions you can always give us a call at 706-227-1515 and someone can guide you through the process.

If people are feeling unsteady, what words do you have for them? How can Nuçi’s Space be a

relief for them? Depression is a serious illness and one that can be lethal. We here at Nuçi’s Space understand and are willing to do everything in our power to give you the help you need. We help hundreds of people find the help they can afford and stick with, as well as offer a monthly clinic for any other ailments that plague you. For immediate help, we recommend you call the Georgia Crisis line at 1800-715-4225 or 911.

How do we keep up with you online? You can always sign up for our newsletter through our website! We are trying to get on more of every other month basis on our updates, so be sure to keep an eye out for that! We also have a YouTube channel (@nucisspace), a Facebook page (Nuci’s Space), and an Instagram (@nucisspace). So, no matter what social media you prefer, we’ve got you covered!


interview with adam cushman of film 14 BY: Clifford brooks

Please introduce yourself to the readers of the Blue Mountain Review. What makes you tick? My name is Adam, I’m a filmmaker and author. What makes me sick? Not a lot. Unfairness, injustice, racism, hate, and most police procedurals. (Also celery.)

What sparked the creation of Film 14? Hearing about a thing called “book trailers” and seeing the potential for it. It’s an exciting form, and an excellent way to help authors while encouraging reading.



Blue Mountain Review / Feb. 2021

How do you take your movie trailers for books and make it all your own? The key is to avoid the template style of book trailer making. Instead, we adapt much like we’re doing a short film, with a script, casting and everything. There’s a whole process, and it takes a couple of months. But the key is to remain faithful to the book and the author’s vision for it.

What are some of the exciting projects you’ve worked on lately? Aside from a ton of author videos, which became wildly popular since COVID, a new YA title for Penguin Teen, several short films we’re adapting from books, two feature films, and a horror series. All from books.

How do people reach out to you for your service? Email me:

How can we keep up with you online? Our handle across all platforms is @film14trailers


southern collective experience

member spotlight

robert gwaltney BY: Clifford brooks

It’s fantastic to have you on board with the Southern Collective Experience and as Prose Editor for The Blue Mountain Review. Tell us a little bit about yourself. You know, asking a writer to share a little about themselves is a risky endeavor. And when asked this question, I desperately want to DAVID COPPERFIELD the heck out of it. Chapter 1: I Am Born. The quick of it is that I have spent all of my life in the South. I am the oldest of four boys, all of us raised in Cairo Georgia where my parents remain all these long years later. Centuries ago, I graduated from Florida State University and worked in state government in Tallahassee until 2000 when I moved to Atlanta where my partner, Tim, and I still reside. We have three fur babies: Bentley, the world’s grumpiest and oldest living Yorkshire Terrier; Templeton, a spirited, long-haired Chihuahua who enjoys shopping at Home Depot; and Georgie, the sweetest Pomeranian who suffers a serious treat addiction. Despite their peccadilloes, I love them something fierce. And by day, I serve as Vice President of Easterseals North Georgia, Inc., a non-profit organization strengthening children and their families at the most critical times in their development. In all the glorious hours between, I write.

Who are your top five favorite writers? Who can pick just five? There are so many ways a body might go about answering it. Top five living writers. Or



top five deceased. A combination of? Also, this question poses a dilemma because I have great friendships with some brilliant writers. Of course, these talented and beautiful people will always remain at the top of my list of favorites, but I certainly would never attempt to rank them. So, as to not belabor the matter, why don’t I go about it this way. The top five writers who were early favorites, having also had influence on my writing—I’ll list those in no particular order: Charles Dickens, Truman Capote, Tennessee Williams, Emily and Charlotte Bronte—I am counting these two sisters as one. And finally, John Steinbeck.

You have some exciting news to share. Your debut novel, The Cicada Tree is being published next year, January 2022. What experiences in your formative years prepared you to write this novel? Chapter 1: I am born. Sorry, I couldn’t help myself. Kidding aside, my creative lens is certainly shaped and sharpened by my upbringing in the rural South. Growing up gay, closeted, and lonesome all those years in Cairo Georgia certainly factor into my voice within the pages of The Cicada Tree. I survived those early years by constructing a playground of imagination for myself. A world within which I possessed extraordinary talents—secrets I couldn’t share with others. The knowledge of these abilities, at times, were enough to sustain me while existing there at the lonesome edge of the world.

Blue Mountain Review / Feb. 2021 But I should share that the novel isn’t about a little boy growing up and discovering himself. Rather, The Cicada Tree is told from the first-person perspective of Analeise Newell, a young woman looking back on 1956, the summer she turned eleven.

What is your responsibility as an author to your readers? Because time is limited for most people, I feel a great responsibility to weave a story worth a reader’s while, should they be so kind to select my novel or read anything I have written. I believe in order to fulfill my responsibility to readers, I must be fascinated by and in love with the story I’ve written. When I set out to write The Cicada Tree, I simply crafted the novel I had been searching for my entire life as a reader. And I wrote it.

Why did you choose the title? The title, The Cicada Tree, is from a boyhood memory—a long ago summer a brood of cicadas descended upon Cairo Georgia. On a particular day, after returning from The Roddenberry Memorial Library with my Granny Louise, a stack of books, cradled in my arms, I took notice of a pine tree covered with hundreds of amber shells. Seemed to me the cicadas grew from the bark like peaches from a tree. “Look Granny,” I said. “A cicada tree!” She pulled one shell from the tree and then another, placing them on the front of my shirt like a Sunday broach. “Wouldn’t it be a funny thing, Robbie?” she said. “If folks could shed their sorry skin like these here cicadas do? Somebody coming along and picking off our yesterday


selves from a scraggly ole’ pine .”

In a sentence, what is your novel about? The summer of 1956, amidst the emergence of a brood of cicadas, eleven year old Analeise Newell’s burgeoning obsession with the wealthy Mayfield family culminates in a dangerous game of manipulation, setting off a chain of cataclysmic events with life altering consequences. How does that sound?


What sets your novel apart from other Southern fiction? I describe the novel as having a Southern Gothic sensibility with elements of magical realism—all the things I love. In the end, I suppose it is set aside from other Southern fiction within this genre because the voice is uniquely mine, carved from my unique frame of reference.



Through this logic, I feel all Southern fiction or any novel or artistic work is separate and apart from others for similar reasons.

What advice do you have for new writers? Read. Write and take chances. Frighten yourself, push yourself beyond your comfort zone. And never give up. Lord have mercy, keep your butt planted in the seat. Writing is an act of solitary perseverance, and if you can embrace and master this, you can write.



Blue Mountain Review / Feb. 2021

What do you hope your novel does for the LGBTQ community? I would first like to acknowledge all that the LGBTQ community has done for me, providing early on in my young adulthood, a safe place within which I could discover and find my way. The Cicada Tree isn’t a work that thematically is representative of the LGBTQ community. The novel wouldn’t fall within the genre, but it is written by a proud member of the community. In the by-and-by, I suppose that my novel, by its very existence, is a testament to resilience. And I humbly believe that it’s a work of unique beauty. And when any of us, gay or straight, make something lovely and send it out into the world, we have in some small way contributed to our shared community.

What are you working on now? I’m in the early stages of a novel titled, In That Quiet Earth, a work of literary fiction in the Southern Gothic tradition. It takes place in 1931 upon Good Hope Georgia, a fictitious coastal barrier island. It’s told from the point of view of Samuel, an aging ghost in existential crisis, existing alongside three living companions from childhood. These four individuals are all who remain upon Good Hope, eeking out their days in a stupor of ill-spent youth, unrequited love, and resentment. You know, feel-good stuff.

What is the first sentence of your work in progress? I love first sentences. I can give you two: the first sentence from the prologue and from the first chapter. The prologue: “Eulalee Skye emerges from the marsh.” And the first chapter: “Across the Acheron River, a poor soul wails.”

How do we get our hands on The Cicada Tree? The Cicada Tree will be released by Moonshine Cove Publishing on January 21, 2022. It will be available to order from Amazon, Barnes and Noble online, and at independent books stores. For information about my novel, please visit my website: and sign up for my quarterly newsletter. You can also follow me on Facebook and Instagram.


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Blue Mountain Review / Feb. 2021



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Blue Mountain Review / Feb. 2021


a Conversation with

chip riggs By: zach riggs


ho is the wisest person you know? I don’t know many people who can say “My Dad.” But I can.

Because of Chip Riggs, I grew up seeing peace, wisdom, real honesty, true humility, integrity, and kindness towards others every day of my life. At 6”4, he’s known as a gentle giant, and many people today respect the wise counsel and direction he can bring to any situation. He is a faithful husband, responsible leader, and involved father and grandfather. In truth, he’s a unicorn. People like my Dad hardly exist anymore. His breed becomes more rare by the day. It’s like he knows some “secret sauce” to life — a way to live life to the fullest and enjoy it everyday, even as the days grow colder. What’s the sauce? My Dad would say it’s the best relationship in his life — his relationship with God.

Tell us a little about where you’re from and how you grew up. If I could express my childhood in a couple of words, they would be “wonderfully ordinary”. My Dad was climbing the corporate ladder in search of the “American Dream,” pulling our family up every rung. I was born in Atlanta, Georgia, and grew up in several Midwest and Western states. My life was exactly what you’d expect of an upwardly mobile, middle class, white, Protestant, American home; secure, happy, and, well… ordinary. My parents gave us a loving and firm foundation in faith, resulting in my believing in Jesus as my Lord and Savior at the age of seven. We ordinarily went to church every Sunday and Wednesday, tithed, prayed for missionaries, and learned Bible verses. There’s obviously nothing wrong with these things, but by my twenties I came to realize there was something missing. In my early twenties I went on a summer-long mission trip to the Philippines and I realized what was missing, a true love for God and His great purpose throughout the world. During that trip, He grabbed hold of my life and gently began guiding me to the life He always wanted for me – a life of dying to self, taking up my cross daily, and following Him. He taught me He will use any “ordinary” child in His Kingdom work and demonstrate His extraordinary love through them to the world.



Blue Mountain Review / Feb. 2021

Who do you believe God is? What would you say his character is like? God is Creator. He created you and me, so He knows us better than anyone else. He created love, so He is perfect love. He created the universe, so He is everywhere at once and knows everything. He created the family, so He is the perfect parent. He created perfection, so He is perfect in every way. He created relationships, so He desires a relationship with you and me.

What does a relationship with God mean to you? How has it changed over the years? My relationship with God is deep, personal, emotional, and real. It wasn’t always like that.

I grew up knowing about God, and I believed in Him and received His gift of salvation. But nobody taught me how to grow as a believer and have intimacy with God. In the Philippines, God grabbed a hold of my life, literally wrecking my plans in the process, and showed me how much He wanted that intimate relationship. Since then, I have never had a day go by without knowing and growing in His love for me.

How does your relationship with God impact your other relationships every day? As I draw closer to God, it’s clear to me His eyes are on all the nations – those most vulnerable who haven’t had a chance to hear of His justice, love and peace. His desire is to draw near to them.

When I realized that, it redirected the trajectory of my life (i.e. “wrecked”). Because of the urgency of His plan among the nations, I see myself as a soldier in His army, ready and willing to go anywhere and do anything for His glory. This attitude of heart keeps me humble, since I’m simply a servant serving others who have not experienced His justice, love and peace.

What is your favorite book of the Bible, and why? I find myself going daily to the “watering well” of the Psalms. I find an expression of love and devotion in them that both quenches my thirst and leaves me panting for more.

What are your top 10 favorite music artists of all time? I grew up with The Beatles and Beach Boys, with a healthy dose of The


Eagles and Pink Floyd mixed in. Steely Dan had an early impact on me and led me to enjoy contemporary jazz artists like Bob James, George Benson, and Spyro Gyra. Staples in my playlists today include Sting, Gregory Porter, and Jack Johnson.

Where are you living now and what are you up to? What does your day-to-day work look like? I live in Las Vegas and serve as one of the pastors at Hope Church. Hope is a Kingdom-minded church focused on God’s mission in Las Vegas, the West, and the world. My role as Mobilization Pastor is to help people focus outside the church and realize their calling to “sent” as Christ was sent. Essentially, I try to get them to leave the church! We have seen hundreds of people go and serve in places in our city and around the world.

What are your biggest dreams and passions in life? Have those changed from when you were younger? When I was young, my Dad gave me this piece of advice: “Son, don’t do something just for the money. Find something you enjoy and do that.” Later, when I was following Jesus more closely, that advice evolved into this biblical truth: God will give you the desires of your heart in keeping with His will.

My passion and dream now is to spend my life so others find their true purpose in God’s Kingdom. I love it when a Jesus follower has that “Ah-ha” moment of finding that special, unique life-purpose for which God created them — whether among the broken and vulnerable in their city, or among a people who haven’t heard the gospel on the other side of the world.

If someone wanted a relationship with God, how would you say that begins? A relationship with God begins with the realization we are broken and cannot help ourselves. This, combined with the truth that Jesus paid the penalty for our brokenness so we can be with a perfect God, leads us to turn from our sin and toward God through faith. If we acknowledge Jesus is Lord and Savior, and we really believe He is God and gives us new life, we will be saved from our brokenness and experience total acceptance by God. That acceptance is what leads to an intimate, authentic relationship with Him, and there is nothing like it in the whole world.

How can someone reach you if they have questions about God or their faith? Email me at



Blue Mountain Review / Feb. 2021


poems 156



Blue Mountain Review / Feb. 2021


Where the Bones have Gone By: Lisa Bledsoe The twin houses of high weeds and summer have magicked a haze, a steamy bewilderment lush with everything inconstant. Imagine what you could locate here, and lose. I picked what bones I could from the small skeleton. Within weeks the rest was swallowed by the wet, drawn into the unrevealed to be granted mysteries and new inclination— in thrall to the way the land is leavened, rising by what force? and falling away in slopes and angles. Heaving up my pack, I let go the problems of mothers and children, of gathering back what was scattered, and accept the desire unspooling within my feet to be mixed with clay and remade in a secret place. To be spared utility, to simply watch how trees feather themselves with dusk and the fragrance of lightlessness, if not dreams. This isn’t the necessity of wandering, only an unmoored tongue in praise of something overlooked.



Blue Mountain Review / Feb. 2021


under the handmade free sign by the road, 2 miles from our house By: Lisa Bledsoe There have never been puppies, which seems like a failing for which I might like to assign blame. Though God knows there have been other things less wishful and more egregious missing. Certainty, for example. Also never offered were credit freezes, cheese or chocolate samples, and certainly not the strain of this relationship. Maybe some opinions or hotel shampoo bottles, for as far as that will get you. Responsibility might have been there but not for free. Free gets you summer squash, not empathy or compassion, not the way you’re thinking. Suppressed emotions have a high cost, unlike advice from ghosts: don’t believe everything you think. There, a freebie for you. I sound sour. If only I had a free puppy. Meanwhile the goldenrod is blooming in the gravel lot and the cardboard boxes filled with what no one wants are disintegrating in the rain.



Blue Mountain Review / Feb. 2021


The gods dream us over and over again BY: LISa Bledsoe So that we never die the tremulous bird inside shining and fragile-winged waits to predict the next danger, sending voltage through two people with their backs to each other. The eye of the mountain blinks slowly, searching for what we might have: breath to endure the seismic holy by cold degrees, before freezing before the wars, the repairs teach us to count each leaf fallen or not. I confess sliding onto shelves books who want to be side by side— sedimentary, familiar. Their pages are waves of voices singing to the flames, dissolving into cartilage and vibration. We are consumed both by tremors and the benediction of stillness.



Blue Mountain Review / Feb. 2021

Watched by crows and friend to salamanders, Lisa Creech Bledsoe is a hiker, beekeeper, and writer living in the mountains of Western North Carolina. She is the author of two full-length books of poetry, Appalachian Ground (2019), and Wolf Laundry (2020). She has new poems out or forthcoming in American Writers Review, The Main Street Rag, Star*Line, Pine Mountain Sand & Gravel, and River Heron Review, among others


swimming with Fishes By: Barbara Saunier —Pantoum after Zandomeneghi’s In Bed, 1878 A sea turtle swims in the girl’s repose, weightless under waves of eiderdown, rumpling the light. From the wallpaper next to her bed, weightless under waves of even, reptilian beats, the wallpaper next to her bed blooms—frond and undulation. Even, reptilian beats mingle the hair over her pillow, and bloom—frond and undulation— with kelp and jellyfish. Petals mingle with the hair over her pillow. Shrimp tempt her prehistoric beak among kelp and jellyfish. Petals scatter as she passes— shrimp tempting her prehistoric beak, sea turtles swimming in the girl’s repose and scattering as she passes— eiderdown rumpling the light.



Blue Mountain Review / Feb. 2021


strike anywhere By: barbara saunier For weeks in the garage I excavate heirloom oak from under legacies of green paint, blue, and white, all overhung by stripper fumes and sanding dust. I sand and swipe and stroke and sand and play the virtuoso grain like brass valves, till finally in a lightswell of tung oil her quartersawn score peals forth, a trumpet voluntary from wood grain sentient as a living thing. On her ball-and-claw feet the table reigns. Warm as a kitchen, she welcomes your buddy to a languid Sunday afternoon of guytalk and beer, fanfares of checkered flags and TKOs and other ones that got away, till from his pocket he fishes a cigar and strikes a match across her face like a slur. Guys will be guys, we hear, with their feet on the coffee table and their shorts on the floor. And you, one of those guys who will be a guy, without so much as a hitch in your guytalk —RBIs, timing chains, some darned thing— you lay your own cigar unlit in a saucer to riffle the cupboard for a rag and the can of finishing oil, which you set on the table before your pal, and for me the moment that flares up right there is reason enough to love you.

—with thanks to dwb



Blue Mountain Review / Feb. 2021


jump cut By: barbara saunier Enough of bedroom suites and tailored jackets: He will author his own place setting — mix dishes without matching. Oatmeal in Corn King toast and eggs on Doulton Street Art. Two screws and a washer against orange asters hand painted on unmarked porcelain from Japan, if not last year’s blackberry jam. a shoelace. So French New Wave, this improvising at table table ware ware house house coat coat tail tail spin spin dry — existential and absurd. Round and round she goes the demarking stripe, the border infinite with latch keys, shark teeth, boot jacks, lamp shades. And where she stops nobody.

Another day it’s Meissen Onion

on ruddy stoneware heavy as a dunce. Or Spode Woodland with Melamine — wherever that came from. If his dishes are chipped or cracked, so much the better. What can he do to them that hasn’t already been done? that he himself has not already done in some refracting moment such as the next clink could turn into. clink clank clunk Cracks make inroads through pottery, jump cuts in the glaze. A little something that says pay attention pay dirt play out pay up. Nicks are points of reference on the face of the infinite—his plates and bowls have borne some use and show it. Oh he knows tight-fisted perfection. head bone connected to the neck bone But he proffers an open hand and a place at the table giving and receiving


-with thanks to JYW


Blue Mountain Review / Feb. 2021

Barbara Saunier has published in many journals and reviews, including Cream City, Spoon River, Poet Lore, and Nimrod International. Her work placed first in the MacGuffin 16th National Poet Hunt. Since retiring from teaching at Grand Rapids (MI) Community College, she lives quietly with her horses, cats, and one good dog.




Blue Mountain Review / Feb. 2021


wedding wine By: gerald wagoner He watches the tiny airplane blink across the canal’s silent surface. A toddler’s noisy toy melds gull cries into the reedy voices of fish that feed on rising rancor. The musk of sleep’s disquiet clings to his daily indolence. Easter morning he pictured Mary taking Jesus by the green ear to tell the world in her pissed mom-voice: “Stop being such a prig. For Christ’s sake; it’s a wedding!” Then guests drank to excess, danced a sweat, sang shattered glass, stumbled home to fuck. Now, stalled in pestilence, lush crows pass overhead at altitudes self-righteous and prideful. Their songs mock his solitude. City dogs bark abruptly. Tilt their heads to ask why he pauses beside tidal water to caress night’s edge. Afternoons he sits sequestered, listless, on a park bench, weeping in vain for what he wishes were true. Wishing he did not covet all the glittering prizes a wide-fingered egret spreads across dawn’s mirror, freely, like wedding wine.



Blue Mountain Review / Feb. 2021


a couple of pocket books By: Gerald Wagoner Yesterday you had a stray recollection of pocket books rotating on wire racks in a bus depot, or a news stand, maybe a drugstore. It smelled of pre-adolescence. Pocket Books, were once the purse-sized new dime novel, cheap paper, cheap glue. Science fiction or crime bound in lurid covers: the bloody knife, a blond woman, hand outstretched, eyes wide in horror, breasts desperate to escape the dress. Your mother called all paperbacks pocket books, and churned through them like candy stashed in her kitchen drawer. All that reading. What if, at nineteen, she had not got knocked-up with you? Her intelligence was good enough. But to be real, either way, college was never a consideration. She was the cute bank teller waiting for some man, fresh out of uniform, handsome with potential. She never aspired to ascend any corporate ladders, nor did she gravitate toward Bronte over pulp. Another truth is, though, if she had married a teacher, there would never have been this bundle of particular quirks peculiar to you; which doesn’t mean you were, or were not meant to be. It only means that every year, now, just before the winter solstice, you pace anxiously, take long walks, and can’t focus. It’s no surprise. Really. Only you could choose to unhitch her from the machine that night, then sit on the edge, hold her unresponsive hand, measure the expanding gasps between exhales until silence reigned the room, then gaze long to imprint how the body’s pink flush dims then cools. How it mutates into the greens, blues, and greys of lividity. How in death the mouth falls open, the tongue an inert lump. Near dawn you told your brother that if mom could pick up a couple of pocket books and some sweets while in the way station to eternity, that would be nice.



Blue Mountain Review / Feb. 2021

Gerald Wagoner b. Pendleton, OR (1947), BA creative writing U Montana (1970). MFA sculpture, SUNY Albany (1983). Moved to Brooklyn, NY (83) to make sculpture. Taught art & English NYC public schools. (1987-2017) Gerald is intrigued by patterns in events, both personal and historic. He writes poems to explore loss, longing, and change. Publications:Right Hand Pointing, Ocotillo Review, Passager Journal, BigCityLit, The Lake, What Rough Beast Coronavirus Edition, Coffin Bell.


waking and memory By: gregory loselle It’s the last thing you remember when you wake: The green side door in maculate light, the heat Of afternoon already present in the play Of sun and shadow. But it’s morning. You Approach, absorbed—though how you know is known The way we know in dreams: some inner voice Pronounced the thought, uncritically you hear— Some reassurance waits behind, some sought Epiphany is present on the landing, once inside. The distance is decreasing. You reach out And then, awake, your hand grasps air: the door Is closed, has always been, and always will Be—hard and anxious morning light leaks in Around the edges of the windows, glows Reflectively against the walls, and lays a stripe Across the floor—and everything you know, Both now and in the dream, amends itself: There was no house (there was!) no door (there was) Behind which all your secret wishes heaped Themselves, the needs you never knew you had, But knew you knew, the way we, dreaming, do.



Blue Mountain Review / Feb. 2021


supermarket waltz with tomato improvised explosive device By: gregory loselle I try to imagine you one aisle away, about to return, holding something I missed, but here in the produce a dislodged tomato has fallen and splattered across the tile floor, its seeds prick out stars on the black asphalt tile, split open, its juice seeps out under my shoes— and suddenly I’m no more grocery-shopping than you are only an aisle away. What seed someone’s planted will bloom where your wander a step to one side of a beaten-earth road? What spray of red splatters across the earth, opened like this split tomato? I’ve already lost you, I’m already crying when the boy with the bucket and mop arrives, sees me and, touching my shoulder, Says “Don’t worry, ma’am, this kind of thing happens all of the time.”



Blue Mountain Review / Feb. 2021


family archaeology By: gregory loselle We count the things that don’t survive: his letters cut to templates by the censors, cables, her replies. Among the paperwork, he kept his call-up notice, on the back of which she wrote in circumspect Gregg Shorthand here a fervent prayer for his protection, his return— and we know why she wrote it there: she penciled out across the back the orders on the other side. We have the pictures—still, we lack the order of their posting, envelopes with cancelled postage with the date and point of origin. With hope some cousin may yet still unearth a cache of letters, diary, unprinted negatives. We search the bottoms of old boxes crumbled with bits of paper, cellulose gone brittle, gritty dust. We fumble and hope that some new old thing will appear exactly in the shape of something gone to fill a gap through which we only stare.



Blue Mountain Review / Feb. 2021

Gregory Loselle won four Hopwood Awards and The Academy of American Poets Prize at The University of Michigan, where he earned an MFA. He has won The William van Wert Fiction Award from Hidden River Arts, and Lorian Hemingway Short Story Competition for his short fiction, and The Ruby Lloyd Apsey Award for Playwriting. His short fiction has appeared in the Wordstock and Robert Olen Butler Competition anthologies, as well as in The Saturday Evening Post, and The Metro Times of Detroit. His poems have won The Robert Frost Award of The Robert Frost Foundation, the Rita Dove Prize for poetry (both First Prize and an Honorable Mention) at Salem College, and multiple awards in the Poetry Society of Michigan’s Annual Competitions, and have appeared in The Ledge, Oberon, The Comstock Review, Rattle, The Georgetown Review, River Styx, The Spoon River Poetry Review, The Pinch, Alehouse, Sow’s Ear, and many others, and online in The Ambassador Poetry Project and other sites as well. His chapbooks include Phantom Limb (2008), and Our Parents Dancing (2010, both from Pudding House Press); The Whole of Him Collected (2012), and About the House (2013, from Finishing Line Press; and In Ordinary Time (2019, from Moonstone Press). He has just published his first full-length collection, The Very Rich Hours, with The Poetry Box Press.


the reckoning By: stella reed My body was fire when I pushed you out the walls kindling, your cries muffled in my blood. My body was water when you lay in my arms sore from blossoming. They said daughters dropped like stones in the river, but I witnessed: they were like dragonflies, translucent hovering between reeds. They said it would be strangers dressed as death, crossing our borders. But death rose from the center of the village. They said my sleep would be safe, restful. I buried bullets beneath my pillow. My head sprouted rifles. You were to be the answer, Stasha, you the reckoning, a reliquary of forgotten songs. We arched our necks, went blind staring at the sun of our own surety.

Yet you did not


your feet touched earth

and you fled.

What can a mother wish for a daughter? They will try to erase you, want to see you like me, on my knees I buried your afterbirth with the heart of a whale, clipped feathers of a sparrow to the hem of your gown. You will become and unbecome, you will bleed for days and not die. Be a woman

a swath of gold



the way a seed is a field a source of light.

Blue Mountain Review / Feb. 2021


writ on water By: stella reed Evaporation


Handprint on the heat of my back disappeared with a sadness as the lake water left. The motor boat purred and stuttered, clouds of silt and algae. I was seventeen, calm, with occasional floods of lust.

Scent of wet wood, a steaming dock. The girl whose long braid shone like butter. If I could just take the tip into my mouth and suck. Now water down my back is a leaf turning over just before it rains.

Condensation A baby conceived from a handprint on water. Mobile home unslung on cinder blocks, depressing a field where horses snorted and pawed the ground, noses green with hay. Precipitation Outside the clinic a paper bag fluttered against a lamp post like an injured brown bird, golden-orbed fetuses depicted on placards carried by people lining the walk. In the waiting room, palms stuck to glossy magazine pages. I was dressed in paper, roomed in chrome. Needled with sedation. I took the lake, its reflected birds, its stringy weeds. I lifted the water, I shook the child free. Transpiration I dreamt sleek creatures that cascaded over falls, pooled at my feet, writhed my flanks, spilled from my hair. I scoured the panicked lands for lost children. Bats crawled across a wet lawn in daylight. Deposition I asked the snow for its silence.



Precipitation I should have been held by a mother beneath the limbs of a willow, calmed by the raft of her breath, her long hair keeping me tethered. Instead I spun the globe again and again. Each time my finger stopped in the middle of water, crust of salt on my nail. Run off I no longer dream of the house in the field cells of a wasps’ nest like lace, plastic wading pool green with mold. Geese pull storm clouds across the sky. I call to them Sweetheart, Darling, Look at you Dear Things as their voices break the air.

Blue Mountain Review / Feb. 2021

Stella Reed is the co-author of, We Are Meant to Carry Water, 2019, 3: A Taos Press. She is the 2018 winner of the Tusculum Review chapbook contest for Origami, judged by Emilia Phillips and took 3rd place in the Baltimore Review’s writing contest 2020. Stella teaches poetry to women in domestic violence and homeless shelters through WingSpan Poetry Project in Santa Fe, NM. You can find her work in The Bellingham Review, American Journal of Poetry, Tahoma Literary Review, SWWIM, Psaltery & Lyre, anthologized with Black Lawrence Press, and forthcoming in the tiny journal and Terrain. She holds an MFA from New England College.


starling-rise By: adam whipple I can neither confirm nor deny the existence of starlings, though, by turn, they have confirmed and denied me. Standing shore-bound, the numberless wing-beats capture. The chest becomes an ear, struck, drumming with murmurations.

We have waded through sea changes, liminal grays demarcating life, our lips day-parched and wanting relief.

Who does not know this? Who forgets the sweaty waking, the days dissevered? The chewing of small, dim-lit hours?

The shoreline mud is a passerine’s feast. Snail and seed tuck among rushes. The birds’ oil-slick sheen surfaces black as winter whispering portents. They are clustered like seconds, minutes gathered by season in the mind’s congress.

This is the look of memory aging— moments in time amassed synaptic, awaiting the unseen signal to fly.

Then comes the wing-brush of denouement; the playwright chuckles from the back row; you feel the air rush in sudden escape.

Twenty-five thousand murmuring days rise from a wakeless glass of lake-end, fluttering—and the living gasp at its passing.



Blue Mountain Review / Feb. 2021

Adam Whipple is a musician, poet, and author living in Knoxville, Tennessee, in a house called The Watershed. A graduate of CarsonNewman University, he is an editor of Foundling House and a writer for The Rabbit Room. His essays and poetry have also appeared in Curator Magazine and on Analogue.


stomping grounds By: karen luke jackson My people sprang from dirt, Scotch-Irish farmers, Oglethorpe’s debtors, bore names like Royal, Luke, Whitley and Tanner. Summers, cousins swarmed yards like flies, picked cotton, put in tobacco, “Hard work never hurt nobody.” Before chain gangs freed roadsides of bushes and vines, I foraged plums and blackberries along fences that hemmed in swine. In that world of barefoot summers, hand-me-down clothes, and fishing holes, Daddy’s gas station boasted restrooms: MEN, WOMEN, COLORED. Black maids—Edna Freeman, Annie B. Gordan, and her mother Beatrice─ ironed church shirts, butchered chickens, and sang to me of a different future. “The truth will set you free when the world is on fire.”



Blue Mountain Review / Feb. 2021

Oral history, contemplative practices, and immersion in the natural world provide a latticework for Karen Luke Jackson’s writing. Her poems and stories have appeared in numerous journals, including The Broad River Review (Ron Rash Poetry Award), Ruminate, Emrys, moonShine review, Friends Journal, and One. GRIT, a debut chapbook chronicling how her sister overcame dyslexia and depression to pursue clowning will be available from Finishing Line Press in the fall. Karen lives in a cottage on a goat pasture in Western North Carolina and is a facilitator with the Center for Courage & Renewal. For more information visit her website www.karenlukejackson.


pink, chronology By: sarah matsuda Beak of a little stuffed chick given to me on Easter. Pretty things in plastic straw and eggs with chocolates inside. Panties. Cornered, me, behind the shed, next to the sewer tank, rope around my wrists and then his tongue and hands and fingers and face, warm breath into my hair. Face into mine, untying, then kissing, then flushed wrists, finally, handing the rope to me. Cornered, him, tied his wrists and ankles, and here he was, for me, falling, so quick. • Skin, bathtub, rubbing names and hearts written in magic markers. • Parts of boys. Thighs, knees, and otherwise. • Her little pills on the bureau, next to a vase painted with big flowers and a picture of Jesus with a pulsing heart showing through his robe surrounded by rays of gold. • We squat in the shallow water to look for crawdads. We find many, and inspect each one of them, turning them over to look at how their legs connect at their middles. Some are pink and some are blue, we like the ones that are blue. We scream when holding the big ones, especially if there is the cluster of red eggs, and we wonder what it feels like to touch them but we are afraid so we put them back in the water, away from us. We play with the smallest, we touch their claws, hoping they will pinch us and dangle on our fingertips. We touch their blue backs and want to touch their tiny black eyes but we don’t, we touch their tails. We squeal when we touch their tails, the edges are scalloped and lined with little hairs, the top is hard and made of . Underneath is where their eggs will collect, the tail will curl, and their bodies will turn a gorgeous slimy cobalt. • She had scars on each wrist, the right thicker than the left. She had deep cracks in her lips. Every day we ordered grilled cheese sandwiches with tomato from the corner deli. Sometimes we ordered cappuccinos with cinnamon when we had enough money, or we drank cheap wine. We read our horoscopes and stories about alien babies born from dogs. Often we read all of the horoscopes and picked the ones we liked the best, deciding it was ours for the day. We figured this made sense because we must have a moon or sun or star that fit into the universe and our desires, somewhere. • I loved to feel the roundness of her head against mine. I pushed her on the swing and when she threw her head back, she laughed I could see the little ridges in her gums. Streetlights now on; black smears under her eyes. Corners folding in, darken. • You’ve no idea of how bad I’d whore for you, swollen pussy, if only I were a more numbed woman.



Blue Mountain Review / Feb. 2021


skin house By: sarah matsuda Architectural structure, containment of utilitarian objects. Privileged thing of manipulation and signification. Fetish. Attempt delineation. Remember fluidity. • There are some whose entire lives can be read from the surface of their bodies, like maps, each mark a contingency, as if one mark always leads to the next mark. There are places on me where birthmarks have faded or disappeared, stories of accidents and futile attempts at privacy, there are dates to recite and other important numbers, such as age, days hospitalized, amounts of medications, narcotics, dollars and rest and days missed and there is a whole year of my life I do not remember and can only explain through the strange discolored patterns left on my skin. • There were rabbits in cages with rolling balls of poop, red-stained edges of rotting lettuce. His hand moved slowly into the cage while they backed into the corner, huddled with eyes wet and ruby, and quick he got hold of both ears and there it was. Limp except for a pair of sharp front claws, in front of me. She smelled like peat moss and babies, more delicate than I imagined, exquisite fur slipping underneath loose skin, bones jutting through, doesn’t really make sense, velvet ears and tiny curled claws. I liked her immediately, I thought she’d feel more solid, more compact; I could feel her entire skeleton underneath fur, a lovely muff, nearly breaking through that odd, detachable skin. I was afraid and it was always exciting to be afraid, and I don’t think I loved her, although now when I think of her I can’t help but to imagine I did, love her, deeply and irrevocably, for when it was time, much later, afterwards, I held on without blinking, to her pink-lined ears. She had those red-hots for eyes, non-human, nothing to focus or reflect, and she had babies coming and when they came they were just like her and no one thought that an odd or disconcerting thing. And when her babies grew up we did the same thing to them, and there was never much fur and I never kept anything, not even of her, my brother dyed and sold every foot, we glued them into gold-plated caps for key chains, and we made about three dollars. He bought a dartboard and I bought a pocketknife I now open my mail with, and always, even now, I can smell her. • Mothership. (Monumental inside dream. Secret. Maybe desire will cease. Want. Imagine Mothership. Inside. Landscape. Rescue.) • Storage closet. Plastic pelvis with small silver screws. Birth charts and breathing charts and cross-section charts of pregnant women. Touch her pink parts, tracing her without lifting my finger. Plastic pelvis too big for me but I hold it in front anyway, imagine my own, this thing inside me, play with the tail bone, the only part that moves; I’m not sure but I thought it was a real pelvis, from a real woman, who had a real baby, and later it was secured with screws so it wouldn’t come apart. And I was in the closet with her pubis, her inside basin, sex house, hip tips, out, thing that holds other things, house of fetus, ending with the little tail bone, apart from the whole, a fragment, useless, autonomous. This pelvis kept in the closet for my mother’s instructing of pregnant women on Birth and the Pregnant Body. She stole a baby doll from me to make the lesson complete and demonstrated Exit, with Skeleton.



Blue Mountain Review / Feb. 2021 •


landscape: In Parts By: sarah matsuda It is only after your body has been damaged, when you realize your inability to control it, your separation from it, that your body becomes a privileged place of understanding, an interpretation of the world. A landscape, in fragments. Desire, love, violence, sex, pleasure, delight, pain, loneliness. All of it vile, lovely ache. Wanting is so unbearable and delicious, love so nasty and warm. The being known, knowing, that is love, the ache to be known, know, that is desire. • Pleasure. Soft, small, ephemeral. Medical labs, shiny, bare smell of cleanliness, rubber and needles. I sit, latex tube around my arm, make a fist, squeeze. You rub me with alcohol, we stare at my skin and you find a vein close to the surface. I watch your concentration and smell you: beautiful, sparse, like a hospital. Such comfort in hospitals, their simple structures, I always think of them as hallways and rooms, white boxes and rectangles, silver lines, 90 degree angles, security of ammonia, Clorox, latex. We watch silver go inside a specific, tiny part of me. Outside and inside sensation simultaneously and the magnetic color and your sterilized parts and tubes and vials and all of it so small, and leaving just a little ache in the inside of my elbow. My fluid extracted and contained and labeled, tapped with such cleanliness, gentleness, all of your pretty sterility. • The scratch of a mother’s callused hand after slapping your seven-year-old face. The brother collecting worms to hide at the bottom of your dinner plate, you eating them, straight-faced and proud. Watching the boy cry in his sleep, the chalky taste of cement after falling from the attic, the father in the dark room. Those years about future delight, about pleasure soon. The ring around your neck after a long night with that girl. Cutting your fingernails into little arrows, digging them into your thighs at the dinner table, and then into your brother’s, and imagining your mother’s face. Getting caught stealing panties and jock straps and Playgirl and Penthouse, wooden benches in locker rooms, splinters and fights and sucking cock. Practicing a smile to hide wrinkles and teeth, hitting a dog running across the road, never stopping or even slowing down. That redhead, choking you with all of her spit, scratching your butt with intended affection. The weight of your tongue in your mouth, that purple mark on your hip, watching it all from the surface of your skin, turning to blue and eventually to green. • The allure and sadness of navels. Navels are the only mark we have of being inside, the insides of her. And then outside, we survived the separation but not without difficulty. • Tell me everything. Not until your letter arrived today did I realize how I miss you. Swing your leg over my belly, tell me what you did today. Let me sit in the kitchen and watch you, where did you learn to chop like that? I always want to go home. I’m a bit snobbish, totally broke, but I’ve got good credit and good booze, I’m deaf in my left ear, I’ve gotten stitches in odd places, I’ve lost, car keys and babies and sobriety.

194 •


Blue Mountain Review / Feb. 2021

The loveliness and terror of aquariums. Cool, damp, and dim, plexi electronic uterus boxes, huge humming machines with parts swimming inside. If the water were thick, if our lungs could be flooded, who else would jump in with the fish? I would be satisfied being one strand of kelp or an eel, or even a little octopus. What joy to have that plum-colored ink, all of those legs and every one with cupped suckers – imagine your fluidity, your grasp, your look of fetus flesh, the tingling tips of your eight legs as you swam into chilly waters. • Stella Reed is the co-author of, We Are Meant to Carry Water, 2019, 3: A Taos Press. She is the 2018 winner of the Tusculum Review chapbook contest for Origami, judged by Emilia Phillips and took 3rd place in the Baltimore Review’s writing contest 2020. Stella teaches poetry to women in domestic violence and homeless shelters through WingSpan Poetry Project in Santa Fe, NM. You can find her work in The Bellingham Review, American Journal of Poetry, Tahoma Literary Review, SWWIM, Psaltery & Lyre, anthologized with Black Lawrence Press, and forthcoming in the tiny journal and Terrain. She holds an MFA from New England College.


peak bloom By: donelle dreese The house backs into the woods. We bring our soft spirits and iced teas try to imagine what it was like before this singing cicada wall of green. Only a few months ago it was all naked twig and trunk knuckled bark, brown and gray. We watch a spotted fawn bed down in a field of purple coneflower, waiting for mother. Yesterday, we saw a coyote stalk through clover where goldfinches bob and butterflies braid. We sit without speaking witness the rage between bird and squirrel echo on. Remember when we had our own small fires that we tried to extinguish with flowers and retreats into trees? Now we sit quiet and listen watch the peak bloom wither.



Blue Mountain Review / Feb. 2021

Donelle Dreese is a poet, novelist, essayist, and professor of English at Northern Kentucky University where she teaches multicultural and environmental literatures, American women poets, and writing courses. She is the author of several collections of poetry including Sophrosyne (Aldrich Press). Donelle is also the author of the novels Deep River Burning (WiDo Publishing) and Cave Walker (Moon Willow Press). Her poetry and fiction have appeared in a wide variety of literary journals including Blue Lyra Review, Roanoke Review, Louisville Review, and Potomac Reviewset in Florida, was the Silver Medal winner in general fiction from the Florida Book Awards.


they call it healing By: brooke mazur I call it giving up a four year attempt at existing solely as your wet dream. I call it girlish fantasy slipping through my hair like scissors, snipping expectations like strands of the hair you all just love to pull on. I call it admitting that time and experience are not good enough reasons to remain together. I call it giving me back to myself and finally, finally not looking to you for the right parts of me.



Blue Mountain Review / Feb. 2021

Brooke Mazur is a writer from southwest Colorado. She is currently a junior at Fort Lewis College and has worked as a writing assistant for author Blake Crouch in 2020. Brooke has a poem entitled “Titles” published in her school’s literary journal.


baby in baltimore By: hester furey Baby bade an early goodbye to a girly good buy, to the letter of the law, to the senses of sentences. Baby, our lady of the roses and bellies. Between May and Mabel, between Leo and Leon, William and Henry, and then Leo and Alice: building triangles and boxes in verse and prose. Mother and Father gone, always Baby. Holding to shreds and shredding patriarchal poetry, the homesick expatriate, leaving behind the looming dismal fathers: “Alas for an unbuttered influence say I.” Baby followed Leo to Harvard, became the pet of William James. Thence to Woods Hole for embryology, finally to Johns Hopkins, where, between Barker and Bull, spiked piss in the lab, likely sabotaged slides of blood: they hazed her out of medical school. Fat – Jewish – woman – “flopping” -Baby wore no corset and “didn’t give a damn.” So they said, but she did. They made her dissect baby brain after baby brain. A brain is a brain is a brain unless it’s not. Rotations in the labor wards of black Baltimore, so she knew well where the bodies came from. After the blood incident Baby hired a welterweight to box with her. Later the famous art collector and poet claimed only “boredom” as the spur of departure, but in her notebooks remembered being sick in the yard after exams. She had written off being observant but could not quite yet shake the woman part, floppy as she was. There beliefs more than body held her back. Baby was



in love and writing about triangles, about hidden compulsions, perseverations, perversions, developing her own ways of studying the brain. The professors gave her one last chance, one last brain to model. Fossilized demon voices in the archive: “Can’t you find a six months’ infant for her?” After sixty-three pages of drawings and twenty-five pages of notes, fashioning a “fuck you” in plaster -- her only known sculpture – she sailed for Europe to study the roots of modern English, to help poetry escape the sentence. The jailbreak took some time. The lost lives of underseam Baltimore haunted her. She put QED away for a while, likewise Fernhurst. “Demonstrate” has a demon and a god in it. By Three Lives, she hit her stride rivaling her master, Cezanne. Her brother made her a coral brooch. Her pal Picasso painted her portrait. Yet another troublesome Mabel made a path-clearing to her growing fame before the flowers of friendship faded. Privately simply deciding to live as a man, Baby married an odd little bird of a woman, wrote weird book after weird book. Cutting her hair, she adopted a look somewhere between a monk and a Chinese emperor. She drove an ambulance in the war, composed an opera in 1927 for an all black cast; no other, not even Verdi, had ever done it. To beat back the blankness that arose after a best-seller and American lectures, Baby wrote a murder mystery, revisiting how a corpse can be interesting. Poet-soldiers named her “Marraine.” She named a generation, became a face of Paris. Her will lists her place of residence as Baltimore.

Blue Mountain Review / Feb. 2021

Hester L. Furey is a poet and literary historian. Author of Skeleton Woman Buys the Ticket (2019) and Little Fish: Poems (2010) and editor of Dictionary of Literary Biography 345 (American Radical and Reform Writers, Second Series), Furey specializes in archival research and hidden histories. She is assistant professor of English at Georgia State University, Perimeter College, and lives in Atlanta with her cat, Skillet.


the museum of hospital art By: anthony immergluck I swear I could spend weeks at the Museum of Hospital Art. I am not immune to the soothing of a pelican descending at sunset. Nor even to a lighthouse in graphite, grayscale, Fresnel lens trained south upon the isthmus. I am not above a pastel brook. I do not miss the shadows. I could practically live in this Palliative Wing. And I do get lost in the orbit of these murals. I pace for hours in the glacial pines acrylic. And I have learned to love the textiles donated by the synagogue. I have made peace with the tulips. And I could spend the rest of my long life in this one room in particular, mixed media, a seasonal installation. In this one room, this pageant of wires and readymade Jell-O, Where Rachel Maddow plays on mute and windchimes ring from the monitors. I am a model in this room. I am on display. A Polaroid portrait from my toddlerhood. Elsewhere, I am older, accepting my diploma.



Blue Mountain Review / Feb. 2021

And I could stare forever, this one forever night, at this one forever sculpture, cracked ceramic skin, a forearm spackled in purple nebulae. In its silent, abstract way, I swear there is something it’s trying to say.

Anthony Immergluck is a poet, critic, musician, and publishing professional originally from Chicago but currently living in Madison, Wisconsin. He received his MFA in Creative Writing (Poetry) at NYU-Paris, and he works as both the Senior Marketing Associate at Tupelo Press and as a Publishing Sales Representative at W. W. Norton. Some of his recent work appears or is forthcoming in Nimrod, Sequestrum, Beloit Poetry Journal, Sonora Review, Rumble Fish Quarterly, and World Nomads. Anthony loves pit bulls.


one day By: kenneth chamlee Peering into a mountain cabin you salute the window like a scout, spying trout cushions and carved bar stools. Safe on this vacant deck, the two of you spoon in a chaise, gazing down at a windless denim lake. After dark you drift the campground loops while small fires whisper and wink. Stars have sugared the sky and you could pour your voices into a crystal flute and drink. You pass the tent for now, touchstepping the dark to an empty site and table. Nothing has ever seemed so close, Not the bright city of stars nor the black intaglio of trees, not legs wreathed with yours nor a face warm in your palms, and if not these things then what is one day in all your life?



Blue Mountain Review / Feb. 2021

Kenneth Chamlee is Emeritus Professor of English at Brevard College in North Carolina. His poems have appeared in The North Carolina Literary Review, Cold Mountain Review, Ekphrasis, The Greensboro Review and many others. He has won the GSU Review (Georgia State University) National Writing Award in Poetry, ByLine Magazine’s National Poetry Chapbook Competition and the Longleaf Press Poetry Chapbook Competition. His poems have appeared in six editions of Kakalak: An Anthology of Carolina Poets, and in 2017 he was a finalist for the James Applewhite Poetry Prize. Learn more at


killing rain crows By: ron cooper My cousin Eddie, 10, told me, 8, that Granddaddy said The sumbitches are back and we’d get a dollar for each. From the shadow cast by the tobacco barn we scanned the catalpa trees for rain crows to light onto slender limbs. Worms eaten by what I later learned were yellow-billed cuckoos and believed by old folks to signal storms meant less bait. By the Pee Dee River we’d thumb the caterpillars in half then hook them, our fingers okra-colored from their innards, not even washing our hands when we fried and ate the catfish there on the bank as night winged in. We’d scored robins, red birds, blue jays, prized yellow hammers, seasonal waxwings, with our BB guns, but for this mission we were allowed a single-shot .22. “I shoot first,” Eddie said, “to make sure it’s trued in.” We coursed the cowl cowl and to a high branch and Eddie fired and missed and the bird flew off and would not release the rifle and reloaded and fired later at another and missed again and that bird winged off. (no stanza break) I stormed off to Granddaddy and he called Eddie into the house, less about the injustice than missing twice, leaving me to save the worms. Later a cowl cowl from a low branch



Blue Mountain Review / Feb. 2021

and I shot and hit. On the porch after supper I fanned the dollar bill at Eddie and he stomped off to the big road and I wondered if he’d looked up and seen the Little Dipper before he said he wasn’t by god going to hang around a little dipshit. I listened to the thunder approach and saw a shooting star and wished that I could catch and keep rain crows in pens, fatten them on catalpa worms, get them as big as chickens, fry and eat them in the dark by the tobacco barn. Ron Cooper was born and raised in the South Carolina Low Country and received a Ph.D. from Rutgers University. Of his first novel, Ron Rash said, “Hume’s Fork is one of the funniest novels I’ve read in a long time.” The Washington Post called the publication of his novel Purple Jesus, “a literary event of the first magnitude” and said that the book “is so perfectly written, it’s exhilarating to read.” His newest novel, All My Sins Remembered, his first set in Florida, was the Silver Medal winner in general fiction from the Florida Book Awards.


the end of activity in natalb By: chad foret



Natalbany is one town you don’t realize you’ve driven through, like the chill when a ghost borrows your body.

Sometimes a town rises over the hill like a dark comb for you to believe in & every wild animal

People get walked by wind & their dogs & there’s no land with everyone almost in robes & standing erect

around tries to crawl into your broken lap. You do handstands so birds might nest

pretending to know every sapling & insect they spot. There’s no passion quite like pest control, posing

among your sandals & glistening ankles. You never sit down except to seem more

in a yard without purpose until the paspalum starves. 2

like the strays eating from your soft hands. Statues have nothing to say except observe

The trains stop visiting & your heart collapses. The flashing signal lights faintly blemish your face

like an immortal man leaving his cave to see what taxonomy & train smoke have to do with

somehow even afterward. This of course is several years away & your hands still work like they have

a town being haunted by its own happiness.

all your life & no one’s passed through a parlor, seen you in an old photo & said with sad affection how handsome you were. You touch wisteria like rain stolen from a face that is just fine with it.



Blue Mountain Review / Feb. 2021


Chad Foret is a recent graduate of the Creative Writing program at The University of Southern Mississippi and currently teaches world literature and composition at Southeastern Louisiana University. Recent work appears or is forthcoming in Best New Poets, Bayou Magazine, Flock, Tupelo Quarterly, Spoon River Poetry Review, Barely South Review, Camas, Wild Gods from New Rivers Press, and other journals and anthologies.


Klansman By: edison Jennings One of my uncles was in the Klan, but I was never told his name because the Klan was trashy, according to my grandmother and the divers aunts and nieces and friends who counted themselves gentile and read The New Yorker, played bridge, and raised money for the right causes, but I had my suspicions, and the uncle I suspected was a vicious man, especially so when drunk, though my family tried to spare me our legacy of late-night outrage because they thought me sensitive, and my granddad had the notion to rid me of that affliction by getting me laid—I was eleven. We’ll go fishing, he suggested, and afterwards, well, he knew someone young and pretty, cupping his hands on his chest and winking. I just stared at him and he slipped me three tens. The next day I faked sick and got to keep the tenners along with my virginity. And so that long Georgia summer with my mother’s family passed, while I enriched my mind reading trashy mags like Weird Tales. My mother’s brother had stacks of them, but he was no Klansman, just a dipsomaniac who got sober and stayed that way for maybe 15 years, then blew his brains out with a .45 in his basement at 3 am where he kept my granddad’s taxidermied kills, skins and heads, horns and tusks, a suburban charnel of the wild, soaked with blood and splattered brains. What was he thinking at 3:00 am? oh what’s the point? And with no answer imminent, he goes to the basement,



get his fancy gun, plated chrome, ivory grips, and bang, his wife wakes like a corpse in Revelation, his wife who would’ve joined the Klan if she’d had a chance but didn’t because, as she explained, her husband was a pussy, a mousey little pussy, and when I asked, why the Klan? she said, “it’s that James Brown” (he lived nearby) “and all his friends and girlfriends—they need to leave.” Then she gave me a hippo-footed humidor, an amber dung-beetle, a lapis Buddha, and my uncle’s fancy gun, packed with tissue in a box, my name in sharpie on the top. They’re all dead now. My cousin was the last to go, the gay son who kept the stories straight because he was quiet and listened when they talked, the son of the uncle I thought might be the Klansman, and rightly so, because beneath the bed he died in was a suitcase filled with pornographic photos, letters, a diary, and stuffed into a burlap bag, a hooded robe, so frail it tore when handled, redolent as death, embroidered with a cross burning inches from the heart.

Blue Mountain Review / Feb. 2021

Edison Jennings is a Head Start school bus driver and school aide in Bristol, Virginia. His poetry has appeared or will soon appear in Boulevard, Kenyon Review, Poetry Daily, Rattle, River Styx, Slate, Southern Poetry Review, Southern Review, Southwest Review, TriQuarterly, Tusculum Review, and elsewhere. He is the author of two chapbooks, Reckoning (Jacar Press) and Small Measures (Wild Leek Press). Broadstone Books will publish his first full length collection, Intentional Fallacies, later this year.


hallelujah By: Robin Michel Beads spilling across the universe starry, starry night twin figures // two brothers scatter their letters on the Milky Way: alphabets & asterisks ampersands & apostrophes commas, commas, commas & (parentheses) no periods love and trust, love and trust, love and trust… do you hear me?

Call: Response:

Spare us heartache Cultivate joy!

trailing behind // she rakes stars // cleans up debris constellations r e c o n f i g u r e




loved ones living & dead who once were mistaken for ghosts tears spilling across her cheeks scattering the heavens Oh! I thought I would never see you again, and you, and you, and you…



Blue Mountain Review / Feb. 2021

Robin Michel’s poetry has appeared or is forthcoming in Aji Magazine, Comstock Revew, Ekphrastic Review, Rappahannock Review, San Pedro River Review, South 85 Journal, and elsewhere. She teaches high school English (most recently online) in San Francisco and reads her husband student poems while he tends to the worm compost in their backyard.


Bonefishing By: shelly cato

And she loved a man who was made of nothing. —Etgar Keret

Bent over the sand flats, a man in linen trousers rolled a stitch below his knees, tightlines a Marabou Lefty he tied at dawn. Soon, he’ll pole our longboat through turtle grass marred in arcs, scarred by props run shallow, crescent moon bones quavering in a seasick grave. From hat brim to femur, lip to tippet to finger, his length formed for me. Bone!, he hisses, Off the bow. Beneath a sky-enameled sea, the low flat light turns man to marl, marl to me. My thighs, like mangrove trees— fragment his ecology.



Blue Mountain Review / Feb. 2021


God By: shelly cato spills gas-blue sky across a fenceline, douses fiery longleaf pines. Rank upon rank of blackjack oaks monotone in anthem. His trope for twilight. The sunset flinches once and sears our sight.



Blue Mountain Review / Feb. 2021

Affectionately named Kudzu for her “go-everywhere, do every-thing” tendencies, Shelly Cato graduated UAB with a master’s in English (concentration poetry). She is currently an English instructor at UAB. Shelly has won several awards and gained much recognition for her work, even while being mother to 5 and a teacher.


bread By: carol barrett Fifteen years she’s been feeding seagulls at the Old Towne Apartments on Main Street, remembering the least of these. Pat Voit cuts up day-old bread from Safeway and carries it to the birds. At noon, the last of four daily feedings. Gulls wait on town roofs drizzled like gingerbread houses with white trails. They swarm down to her bag of crumbs. Come summer, sprinklers running and children shrieking, they’ll leave for the coast. But here in Battle Ground they wait the winter out. Cold streak, they feast on her corn, macaroni, and balls of fat. Once she made them peanut butter sandwiches. Folks wonder why she does it. They’re hungry she says.



Blue Mountain Review / Feb. 2021 Carol Barrett holds doctorates in both clinical psychology and creative writing. She coordinates the Creative Writing Certificate Program at Union Institute & University. Her books include Calling in the Bones, which won the Snyder Prize from Ashland Poetry Press, Drawing Lessons from Finishing Line Press, and Pansies from Sonder Press, a finalist for the 2020 Oregon Book Award in General Nonfiction. Her creative work has appeared in JAMA, Poetry International, Poetry Northwest, The Women’s Review of Books, and many other venues. A former NEA Fellow in Poetry, she lives in Bend, OR.


on second thought By: M.covert Payton there’s always a reason (sometimes two) to reconsider yer position on anything from aesthetics to cosmetics to how many eggs make a solid breakfast. & it breaks, fast, that last twilight when we’re saving up daylight for winter you know that light (yes, you know it well) you dwell upon – it wells up inside each time yer trying to hide the things you know illuminate; add the weight of that mathematics you’ve accrued; then, throw in the overstated confidence in all that’s come before. once more, you think, a second time (or is this the third?): is this the word i’m looking for? & your eyes, lowered, cut a glance at some imaginary door, & (of course) you ask again: what was that thing i came here for? and nothing could (or would) be worse than finding what you wanted (what you thought you wanted); rush home, gripping it in dripping palms; quivering, heading cross the threshold; dropping coat & shoes, and finding that the thing that you were fighting for is not the thing;



and thus, frustration settles down, tucks into some corner of the room, makes itself at home – perhaps (it is winter, after all) to take up residence; and then, you think (again) this time it seems yer trying to convince someone of something: something softly sad; somehow, there’s evidence this thing was thought before; once more you’re sure that you were thinking – thinking of something: shore or mountain; a forest path, diverging; perhaps some random highway roundabout. & when we try to go around this thing (maybe even up & over) that stands unbroken in between us – how will we recognize it, on our journey home? snatch it, naturally, in sweaty fingers, clutch it to our chest or breast, nestled in an intimate ambiguity? and then: can we commit to get it in the house? & even if we could (or should) provide a home, it’s unclear, for sure, of where to plant it – certainly, no site that’s luminous, or plainly unobstructed – wrought with overthinking – where we might navigate it, wide-eyed, day after night after day, never according it a second thought.

Blue Mountain Review / Feb. 2021 M. Covert Payton was born in the Midwest sometime in the ‘70s, eventually settling in the foothills of North Carolina (in essence, a son of the South). He graduated from Duke University in the ‘90s, having studied English and Film & Video. After yo-yoing up & down the Eastern Seaboard for twoplus decades, he has now made Atlanta his home. He heads up Covert Videos, an independent video production group aimed at helping local writers and artists. He is currently at work on his first full-length book of poetry.


poem 1 By: tricia-marie ward You have timed pauses and rewinds of monologues that graciously fill the spaces. If somehow the silence, played itself, then would you finally hear the shackles You keep.



Blue Mountain Review / Feb. 2021


poem 2 By: tricia-marie ward You raised a garden In places swore were barren Bloom always, my dear



Blue Mountain Review / Feb. 2021

Tricia-Marie Ward is a poet and writer in Los Angeles, California. During time away from the books she practices in the optical field and studies ornithology.


girl By: laura ingram if you ever cut your own bangs with kiddie scissors stuffed your purple training bra with pink Kleenex got asked out as a joke by a group of boys, always three, arms crossed over your flat chest, heart a knuckled first, pulse a knock on a locked door if you ever wrote a novel in a spiral notebook first bled in the back of algebra two, wearing a white skirt because of course you were, used one-ply toilet paper as a pad stood sunburned at the edge of the ocean, seaweed clinging to your feet flashing quick and white as two minnows-if your first kiss felt like biting your own tongue, unsaid, hands shaking like separate flurries of December snow swam clothed in a river with no name cried until you threw up if you ever hid a bad haircut with a worse hat had only your hands to cover your heart dreamed staccato as unnumbered opus, or didn’t dream, but stayed up to watch the sun scamper up the sky on all fours, a soft yellow dog morning has come again.



Blue Mountain Review / Feb. 2021

Laura Ingram is the author of four poetry collections; The Ghost Gospels, Animal Sentinel, Junior Citizen's Discount, and Mirabilis. She works as poetry editor for the Blue Mountain Review and her work has been featured in over one-hundred literary magazines, among them Gravel, Glass Kite


rudy giuliani By: fayllita hicks Rudy Giuliani Prepares His Famous Italian Stop and Drop Recipe for the NYPD “Under stop-and-frisk, New York police officers were empowered to detain and search people for often-vague pretexts.”--The Washington Post, September 26, 2016 Listen, kid. I learned to cook, standing elbow-to-elbow with the fishes, seven nights a week. Cost me damn near a million dollars, but I learned how to inspect, prepare, every kind of skin, on every kind of fish, with just a pinch of salt. Fish. You know what I mean when I say fish, right? Of course, you do. Thirty some-odd years later, and there’s no real recipe, of course, but there are rules. First, you’ve got to get the skillet very, very hot. You know what I mean when I say hot, right? Right. You’re gonna need hard iron or black steel depending on the size of the fish. You hear me, kid? Black steel. Or hard iron. I guarantee the skin won’t stick if it’s hot enough. We want it to brown first—but not burn. Yet. So get it to heat. I mean, skin sticks for two reasons, right? Either the pan isn’t hot enough, or the skin isn’t dry. The pen, I mean, the pan could always be hotter. And the skin is never dry. Fish come wet, right? Fish just fucking jumping off the ship straight into our harbor. That’s just how they are. Stinky bastards. So, of course, you’ve got to pat down the skin. Do it again. Again. Pat the skin hard, you wanna make sure this fish is ready for what’s coming, right? Keep the skillet hot. Hotter. Make it smoke. We’re going to season the flip side, with a neutral oil, some olive oil, or some shit like that. Neutral. Who even knows what neutral means? I don’t. And I’ll tell you-the chef-- I mean the “head chef ”--he doesn’t give a fuck either. It doesn’t matter. Whatever works. As long as it’s seasoned, right? Then press—just once—if you want crisp skin. But I like mine pretty much burnt. I like the way the smoke sits in my throat, so I press again and again until it’s good and flat. The proteins immediately contract when you do this; the fillet’s spine curves upwards, so you gotta press hard. Don’t worry about the fucking reviews, just press hard. If you do it right, that shit will come right off later. Press again on the flesh until the fillet flattens out—just a matter of minutes. Seconds. Flip at the end. Don’t mess with it. They’ve got camera’s now--don’t flip it back and forth. Just let it go. Inspect the skin while you wait for a plate and some utensils. That’s it. Serve the fillets. Ta da. Fish. You get the idea—don’t you, kid?



Blue Mountain Review / Feb. 2021

Faylita Hicks (she/her/they/them) is a queer Afro-Latinx activist, writer, and interdisciplinary artist. They are the former Editor-in-Chief of Borderlands: Texas Poetry Review and the author of HoodWitch (Acre Books, 2019), a finalist for the 2020 Lambda Literary Award for Bisexual Poetry, the 2019 Balcones Poetry Prize, and the 2019 Julie Suk Award. They have been awarded fellowships and residencies from Tin House, Lambda Literary, Jack Jones Literary Arts, Broadway Advocacy, and the Right of Return USA. Their work is anthologized in The Long Devotion: Poets Writing Motherhood and When There Are Nine, and has been featured in Adroit, American Poetry Review, the Cincinnati Review, HuffPost, Longreads, Palette Poetry, Poetry Magazine, The Rumpus, Slate, Texas Observer, VIDA Review, and others.



"Extraordinarily compulsive." —Booklist starred review "A must read." —J. T. Ellison "Intelligent and layered." —Brian Panowich

A southern-set tale of family, vengeance and atonement.

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Blue Mountain Review / Feb. 2021


embiggenating By:Jim Kourlas I was unemployed that spring, bereft and depressed, my son ashamed of me, and all efforts to shrink further into myself proved untenable, so I pivoted: I went big. I started with the bike pump on my garage shelf, but the gauge only climbed to 120 psi before my eyes bulged and my ears popped and the hose whipped me with a futile exhalation. The electric pump in the trunk of my Camry fared much better. I drove the nozzle down my throat and duct-taped it to my mouth and soon the air was popping air sacs through my lungs like bubble wrap, flooding my body with size. I was more bloated than big, however. My skin stretched taut. Determined to grow, I drank highcalorie energy smoothies until the tissues of my body loosened and lengthened and my organs drummed up against each other like water balloons in my distended belly. But my small bones held me like cage bars; no magic spells might grow them. Surgical implants, steel rods and joints, were denied by my insurer—I’d called. But I had an idea. I needed help, and who better than the preteen boy who was so obviously ashamed of my depressive tendencies? Though I’d hoped to reveal my bigger self to him in some grand unveiling—a press release, a catwalk, a catastrophe—the truth was we lived together half the time, and I couldn’t conceal my project from him any longer. He’d seen me growing, not just in size but in confidence. When I picked him up from school, my head poking from the moon roof, my elbows dipping from the driver’s side window to the asphalt, he skulked to the car, feigning embarrassment. But I knew he was proud of the strides I was making. The effort! Soon these efforts would bleed to him, and his grades might improve, he’d try out for a sport. Who knows, maybe he’d find a little girlfriend? By sheer example he’d see how we thrive when we focus on personal growth. After the boy completed his homework each night, we’d research medieval racks and other “torture” devices on YouTube. A whole subculture of enthusiastic amateurs was out there, building historicallyaccurate, hand-hewn devices. My fingertips were too large now to type the keyboard or hold a pen, so my boy dutifully followed my instructions, sketching out plans, ordering supplies for Home Depot to deliver to our garage: pulleys, rope, cinches, scaffolding. Soon laughter once again filled our home, the boy and I coming together as effortlessly as our creation. I was reminded me of better times with his mother, who’d since



Blue Mountain Review / Feb. 2021 married an insurance agent. I didn’t expect her to return to me, to restore our family, but at least she’d see me again. How could she not? And I was impressive. Then who knew what might happen next? The boy’s carpentry skills surpassed my expectations, and soon the device sprawled across the garage. We called it The Embiggenator. As he cranked the levers and turned the wheels, my ligaments stretched and tore and my bones at last, wonderfully, snapped. I laughed with delight. The pump did its work the entire time, filling me now with saline instead of air. I grew, I rested, I grew some more. How big would I go? I saw no limit. As I grew bigger and more confident, I would inspire others to grow as big as me. We’d patent our device and market the entire project as a lifestyle brand. My son would grow as big as me—that was essential. He was excited by the prospect. No longer would he be overlooked in the school gym, or bullied in the hallways. The only problem was, the device had grown in equal measure to my body, spilling out into the driveway. The boy didn’t fit. He would have to build his own device, but I was too large to help him construct one. Luckily, the neighbors had taken notice, curious and skeptical, but nevertheless willing to volunteer their services ebiggenating my prepubescent son just like his father. We followed the same regimen as mine but now with a veneer of rigorous scientific application to sway any social media followers who’d discounted my transformation as simple video tricks. The boy, however, would not grow. Perhaps he was too young. Perhaps his body hadn’t accumulated the necessary wounds of ordinary living that propelled a middle-aged man to achieve such heights as me. The poor fellow. He was bereft. When I picked him up—literally, with my hands—from his mother’s house, he no longer had the same enthusiasm for me or the project we’d shared. We needed a break, so we went camping. On the summit of Magnificent Hill, the sun setting, we gazed out over the river valley and the cornfields and the coal trains driving east and I told him no matter how small he remained, I was proud of him. But he wasn’t sure, he told me. He confessed that I seemed happy as long as I was growing, but my current stasis left him in doubt. He was afraid I was becoming depressed again. Then he suggested, sheepishly, that I was in fact shrinking. It was true. Though we were nearing twilight, the sun was rising in my vision. His voice, distant and far away at the beginning of our conversation, was growing louder. I was sweating, leaking saline down the hillside in rivulets that quickly built into a waterfall. My long bones snapped under the press of bodily tissue, gravity. I slumped beside him, unable to maintain my seat on the hill, slipping on my own torrent of leaking


fluids. I panicked. But before I washed away into the pockets of earth below, he grabbed my hand—a hand that fit his once again—gripping it with a surety and strength I had no idea either of us possessed.

An Ohio native, Jim Kourlas lived in Chicago for twenty years where he earned an MFA in creative writing from Roosevelt University. He now lives in Omaha with his wife and son, and has a story in the current issue of Hunger Mountain.



Blue Mountain Review / Feb. 2021




Blue Mountain Review / Feb. 2021


oh, prometheus by: hunter carl Prometheus woke to rays of dawn creeping underneath the shades. Today was the day. His hand searched for hers, despite knowing she would be at work already. It didn’t make finding the sheets unoccupied less disappointing. The bathroom was in its standard state of disarray: lipstick and blush concealing the countertop, Revlon curler – still hot – lying in the sink, and the location of the toothpaste remaining a mystery, though certainly not where “it was supposed to be.” Prometheus found it resting on top of the shower head – that was new. He felt a smile form in the corners of his mouth, amused by how much chaos the Goddess of Peace could wreak upon a vanity. With his deodorant applied, face shaved, and curly hair arranged, he began to dress. Suit, a few shades lighter than navy: check. It was her favorite color, something about how it made his eyes look. Prometheus liked that she liked it, because his meetings always went better when he wore it. Brown leather shoes, the ones with the double monk strap: check. They shone from last evening’s polishing. Leather wristwatch, early by a few minutes: check. He looked at its face; right on schedule. Today was the day. He could smell the coffee wafting in from the kitchen. She had insisted one weekend on trying every flavor, and though he preferred French, Vienna Roast had been filling the pantry ever since. The pot had a sticky note near the handle: “Don’t forget to breathe – E.” He felt the stress melt from him while taking a large sip from his travel mug. He flew out the door to the black Malibu and soon was punching in. He eyed the attendance board and read, “Eirene – Start: 7:02 AM.” Good to see she had made it to work safely. At his desk, he pulled up the slide deck, and began making a few final touches. He had stayed up late the previous evening and, in a state of fugue, had un-bolded the title. Prometheus shivered at the idea of making such a blatant and obvious mistake. PowerPoint was artistry. “What’cha working on?” Prometheus turned his head to see Hercules. His biceps bulged underneath the sleeves of his half-untucked button-up, and some toothpaste had found its way onto the lapel. “Got that meeting with your dad today, Herc.” His fingers skipped across the keys. “Oh right!” he snapped. “Today is the day.” “That’s right.” “I can’t believe you actually have the guts to go through with this.” No one really knew the details of his presentation, save for Eirene. Sure, it wouldn’t be the first time, but he hadn’t proposed it for almost a century. Did everyone already know?



Blue Mountain Review / Feb. 2021 “Through with what?” Prometheus asked, attempting to remove the apprehension from his voice. “Trying to convince Dad to change anything!” His exasperation resembled someone explaining that the sky is indeed blue. “And only a week after Athena tried to convince him the wooden horse thing wouldn’t work a second time. You saw what happened to her, didn’t you?” Relief filled Prometheus. Herc didn’t know. With a coy smile, he said, “What can I say? Promoting the correct changes is why my department exists.” Hercules’s oblivious laughter caused a few employees to turn. “Man! Love that attitude!” Prometheus winced as Hercules patted him on the back. He turned back to the presentation. Where was he? Oh yeah, deciding whether or not the slide about ROF (Return on Faith) should go before his department’s recommendations. As he arranged them back and forth, an incoming instant message popped up from Hermes. Hermes: He’s ready for you now. Prometheus: Same conference room? Hermes: He is in 3518 actually. He took a breath, saved the presentation to a flash drive, and headed towards the elevator. Today was the day. Inside 3518 was a plastic laminate table with several empty chairs around it. The room had a teleconference station and a large TV at one end. At the other, three figures waited. Athena was behind her laptop in a black pantsuit, hooking an HDMI cable into its corresponding port. She still had the black tape over her mouth as punishment for the “horse fiasco” – the phrase Zeus had chosen to reference the incident in his company-wide email. Flying above a chair, a chain tethering him to it, was Eros. Prometheus wasn’t sure what Eros had done to deserve this restraint. Maybe the God of Love wouldn’t shoot a hard-to-get mortal that Zeus had his eye on? In fact, where was his bow? Prometheus hated how Zeus publicly humiliated those on the “Doesn’t Meet Expectations” list. It was intimidation, and it worked. Sitting on the chair imprisoning the fluttering god was Zeus. He wore a bright, white tunic cinched with a black leather belt. His beard was full and white, just like his long, wavy hair tied up in a top knot, and dark RayBans concealed his eyes. On a thin silver chain running around his neck rested Eros’s bow. “Prometheus!” Zeus proclaimed, standing. “Oh my Me! I had forgotten today was the day!” He walked over and offered his hand. “I have been looking forward to hearing from you for…well, for years!” Prometheus took the hand and shook it. Zeus hadn’t been in this good of a mood since the company retreat to Iceland. This was going way better than expected. “Well, let’s see it!” Zeus motioned to the screen. Prometheus went to the TV and began searching for the “ON” switch. It took him a bit longer than he would have liked, but he did find it. He headed back to the table and sat down, waiting patiently. Zeus reclined in the office chair and threw his legs on top of the table, his toes visible at the ends of his sandals. “Hygienic,” Prometheus thought, trying to hide his disgust. “Aren’t you forgetting something?” Zeus’s face went expressionless behind the shades. Prometheus’s throat felt dry. He tried to say something witty, but he just stared back at the three gods. Athena’s eyes were begging him to remember the obvious. “Prometheus,” Zeus sang, slinging finger guns towards his secretary. “Athena needs your USB drive.”


Standing a bit too quickly, he smacked the bottom of the table with his thighs and fell back into his chair. He scooted back and tried again, aware of Athena’s eyes watching him with disdain. He handed her the USB, careful to avoid her gaze. Painful, empty moments passed as the PowerPoint loaded. “Finally,” Zeus said, the smile returning. “Gotta love technology, huh P? Why don’t we go ahead and get started.” “Sure.” Prometheus cleared his throat. The title read, “Analysis of Faith Producing Investments.” It was followed by his name and the letters “R&D.” Next slide. “We began by looking at all the faith-building activities we performed over the past 20 centuries.” The next slide contained various graphs of all different colors. “Apollo’s databases were key here. If we wanted to guide humanity and receive worthwhile returns, we needed to have a large amount of data to pull the proper trends.” Not a bad start. “With all this data, it became necessary to categorize different faith events.” Next slide. “We chose three: 1) Miracles, 2) Revelation, and 3) Guidance.” “Did you guys examine Creation?” Zeus interrupted. “My personal bet was always on Creation as our best selling point.” “Yes, strange as it may sound (next slide) creation events, including the Cosmogony itself, did not generate the returns we would have expected. We lumped them together with miracles. Although sometimes these miraculous events appear to have had dramatic effects on a single believer’s faith, they never quite affect the whole population.” “Wait a minute,” Zeus exclaimed, leaning forward. “Are you telling me if I head down Olympus right now and produce a feast out of thin air for the people of Greece, that won’t affect their faith?” “Technically,” Prometheus replied. “It will have an effect, just not in the proportion you would expect. Plenty of people down there believe you can feed them. Plenty of people don’t. Those that did would still believe and those that didn’t would find another explanation.” Zeus looked a little downcast but couldn’t argue with the research. Faith was faith, after all. “Athena,” Zeus said, turning to her and rubbing his temple. “I’m curious, what do you think about all this?” She stared back daggers. Zeus laughed while tilting back in the chair. “Nothing? No brilliant insights like last week?” Another expectant, taunting pause while her face continued to redden. “Cut out my planned miracles for the next month. Need to rethink my strategy.” Athena exhaled through her nostrils and nodded, putting all her frustration into the keyboard. Eros let out a small sob as he continued to struggle with his chain. “Revelation,” Prometheus said, trying to remove the tension from the room. Next slide. “We defined that as any divine decree or knowledge given to a human, believer or not, that did not originate with them.” “You guys left out anything to do with their subconscious, right?” Prometheus stiffened. “Deep meditation on the world as it is and sudden connections where fragmented ideas become fully aligned have always been considered revelation by my department.” “Not exactly my favorite theory you guys have thought up.” “Yes, but the world is indeed structured by divine hands,” Prometheus nodded at Zeus. “Contemplating about that structure, or limitations within that structure, can lead to sudden discoveries of its mysteries –



Blue Mountain Review / Feb. 2021 ergo, revelation.” Zeus cocked his head, both flattered and impressed. It was the same reaction he had no matter how many times they discussed the point. A smile crawled across Prometheus’s lips as he adjusted the suit. “That being said, revelation has been more effective than miracles, but not by much. Humans have sometimes mistaken these revelations as evidence to believe in their own greatness, even when they’ve been undoubtedly supplied by the gods.” Distracted, Zeus pulled the bow off of his silver chain and began holding it just out of Eros’s reach. “Eros, how do you feel about the name ‘Cupid’? Marketing guys are working it up. Apparently, the Roman demographic loves it! I think it’s absolutely precious. OH! Maybe we will even make you wear a diaper!” Zeus, carried away in his laughter, placed the bow on the table and struggled to compose himself. The little god began crying, careful to keep his tears from landing on Zeus. “I have to say, P,” Zeus spoke, recovering himself. “I’m waiting for the good news. Let’s keep going.” Next slide. “Guidance is the good news. Getting the proper direction from a deity drives the greatest growth in faith. These mortals are trying to live their lives in a way that has meaning. That’s hard to do when you’re dead in such a short time, but they need direction! They need insight into your plan, Zeus, to see what all this is for. It’s those moments of intimacy that create the largest increases in faith, especially when paired with miracles and revelation.” “Oh, I get you,” Zeus’s smile went ear to ear. “You’re talking about all my sexual esss-CA-pades!” Zeus slapped his knee. “Hot Hades! I can remember Leda like it was yesterday. I cannot wait till I get to try out this bow!” Zeus laughed as Eros threw his head back in a silent wail, mourning the unholy use of his aphrodisiac. “Not…not quite,” Prometheus managed to choke out. HR always had its hands full with the way Zeus defined “consent.” “Oh, trust me!” Zeus wiped away a tear. “I gave her plenty of guidance!” “I’m thinking more along the lines of what Athena has done.” The atmosphere in the room became a vacuum. “Her work with the warriors. By giving them direction and strategy in battle, we’ve realized considerable gains and protected Greece from being conquered.” Zeus stroked his beard. “Similar to me revealing the coming storms to my prophets?” “Exactly,” Prometheus indulged, knowing it was not the time to debate the differences between guidance and prediction. “Right, so in summary, miracles are great for the status quo, revelation builds up pride, and guidance is the way to go. Have I got that right?” “In principle, yes.” “How are we going to capitalize? What’s your suggestion?” Prometheus closed his eyes and took a deep breath. ~ He was back at home in bed, reliving the night before. He was naked beneath the sheets. Eirene was lying next to him and playing with the long curls in his hair. Somehow, she could always untangle them without


making it hurt. “I don’t know what’s going on at work,” Prometheus sighed. “Zeus has taped up Athena’s mouth – again. I mean, what in Olympus is going on?” Though Prometheus stared at the ceiling, he knew Eirene had not changed her gaze or serene expression. “I feel worthless,” Prometheus raised his hand to his forehead and tried to push back the headache. “This will be the fifth time I’ve tried to convince Zeus. It’s the right thing to do, but he just doesn’t listen. I think he’s scared of them.” Eirene was singing. Nothing in particular. Nothing with words. Not even hums. Prometheus could feel his anger rising as nausea pooled in his stomach. “Are you even listening to me? Good Zeus, it’s like you don’t even care!” The singing stopped. He turned to look at her. Prometheus saw rays of moonlight creeping underneath the shades, bathing her figure in a translucent, white light. Tears welling in her hazel eyes, Eirene gazed at the hand now frozen in his curls, but those eyes were touched by intimate compassion, not the expectation of sympathy. She was not angry, nor hurt, nor displeased, nor judgmental, nor wrong. In that instant, his anger evaporated. He wished for reconciliation, or at least retribution. He wished those tears were an ocean. He wished to drown. Eirene looked deep into his eyes. “I stand with you, your sorrow is mine.” Eirene’s gaze moved back to where it had been, her fingers continuing their motion through his hair. Atonement. Nothing else existed. “Just remember, if anything happens…” Her cool lips pressed against his temple. The singing began again, and Prometheus did not hear its ending. ~ Next slide. An image of a bonfire. “No.” “Hear me out.” The presentation disappeared from the screen as Zeus seized Athena’s laptop and threw it at Prometheus. He dodged and the laptop crashed into the TV, causing both screens to crack. “We have data this time! We have the ability to hit on all three points! It will seem like a miracle to the people of Greece, a revelation, and what better source of guidance! Zeus, they’re practically blind down there!” “I SAID NO AND I MEANT IT! DAMN IT PROMETHEUS!” Zeus’s eye began to fill with red, a blood vessel clearly popping. “That is technology for the gods!” “We are gods! We don’t need technology! Why in Hades are we even dressed like this! Think of the good that can be accomplished with just a little bit of fire!” “HOW WILL THEY BELIEVE IN ME IF THEY HAVE ALL OF THIS!?!” “Zeus, they can’t even keep themselves warm! Belief is already waning! Mainly because you’re a prideful god



Blue Mountain Review / Feb. 2021 who doesn’t trust mortals with a sliver of your blessings!” That was the wrong thing to say. Zeus snapped his fingers. Suddenly the building was gone, and they were all floating, suspended in the astral plane. Purples and blacks whirled past as Zeus gathered them with his outstretched arms. He grew and grew and grew, until he could grab planets, stars, and nebulas throughout the universe and ground them together into a fine powder. He spoke in words heard but not known, and a new world in all its glory appeared in his palm. Zeus grabbed the planet with his other arm and banished it deep into the darkest parts of the universe - past the other planets of the Milky Way, past stars, past light - where it rested at the edge in cool nothingness. The rotations of the planets around them increased in speed and began to hum, hissing in the void, as Zeus worked maniacally, crushing more stars and planets. From within his grasp came the first rays of a newly formed sun. He took the chains holding Eros and bound him to the glowing disk, throwing the restrained, whimpering god deep into space. His prison collided with the darkened planet, resulting in a supernova that grew brighter until everything Prometheus saw was white. Zeus was taking long, sharp breaths, and his tunic was covered in thick, wet patches. He diminished in size until finally he was only about a head taller than he had been before. They were in the conference room again, where the laptop and TV lay still shattered, and Eros was flying above the office chair, still anchored by the chain. He smelled like smoke and his flesh was covered in dark burns. “Zeus, you should listen to him.” Athena had removed the tape from her mouth. The space around her lips was red and covered in adhesive residue. She was fighting against a small tremble starting in her left palm. Without looking at her, Zeus reached underneath his tunic, pulled out a role of black duct tape, and tore a small strip. With the care and devotion of a father placing a band-aid on his child’s knee, he covered her mouth and said, “Surely, Athena, you know it’s quite rude to speak up when the adults are talking? Love that energy though.” A tear rolled down her cheek and onto the top of Zeus’s hand, which he made an exaggerated effort to wipe off on the sleeve of her jacket. “Oh, Prometheus,” Zeus said, turning to the window and shaking his head. “What are we going to do with you. Can’t have my willfully disobedient employees go unpunished, can I?” He was silent for a minute, then looked at Prometheus. “Fine. I’ll give you a choice, an either-or, if you will.” A tyrannical smile lit the angry god’s mouth. Eros and Athena shot looks of terror and sympathy towards the doomed titan. Prometheus looked down, a nervous vertigo unbalancing him, and noticed he had somehow managed to put on black socks. He felt the chuckle escape before realizing he found dying with the wrong socks on not funny at all. Zeus’s smile carved deeper into his cheeks. “Eirene can never go back to Earth.” Prometheus snapped. “Anything but that, Zeus! That would doom them! They’ll be killing each other nonstop without the hope she brings.” His vertigo vanished as rage reverberated throughout his skull. “Then I guess it’s the ‘or’.” Hercules burst into the conference room and grabbed Prometheus, dragging him from his chair. He tried to hold onto the table, but a swift punch to his ribs quickly showed him the foolishness of his attempt. He coughed and tasted blood. “Oh! Yes!” Zeus exclaimed, clapping his hands. “I am VERY glad you chose the ‘or’.” “Zeus! Promise me she can still go to Earth!” “A deal is a deal, P. You know I’ll keep my word!” Zeus cracked his knuckles. Prometheus grabbed onto the chain holding Eros. “Where are you taking me!?!” Herc’s fist dug into his


right kidney, causing him to let go and spit blood. “Someplace where you will finally be of use, P! Fresh liver is just so hard to come by.” Hercules began dragging Prometheus over to the window where Zeus was standing. With a touch of the lightning god’s hand, the glass disappeared, and Prometheus was thrown through it. Twisting and turning, his vision became a blur of steel and glass. He closed his eyes to keep from vomiting. Then, it stopped. He found himself naked, save for a loincloth, with both feet raised off the ground and his gut protruding painfully. Four thick bands of iron pulled each limb along the sides of a massive boulder, arching his back along its curve and forcing his gaze directly into the sun. Prometheus heard the taunting cry of an eagle long before he saw it swoop down and perch next to his belly. ~ Eirene sat next to a campfire in her North Face jacket. She had a pheasant roasting in olive oil, and it smelled of rosemary and thyme. She went over to the thermos and poured herself another cup of French Roast. When she turned, standing at the edge of the fire’s glow was a human - a child. She moved slowly, keeping eye contact. She cut a section of the breast, saw that it was fully cooked, and handed it to the boy; he snatched it and ran off into the dark woods. The boy sat in some nearby bushes, chewing on the pheasant with delight. He had never had anything so good in his entire life! He would have to take his whole family to see the lady with the glowing circle that made food sing and taste warm. After finishing his meal, he sat resting and digesting, hidden by the foliage. He stayed watching the lady until the sky grew dark. Those hazel eyes were covered by a shaking hand, as vicious woe enlightened the icon of peace her power was to be given, not possessed. She spoke words the boy did not know, yet he and even the stars knew her sorrow. “Oh, Prometheus….”

By day, Hunter Carl is a member of the construction industry. By early morning, he is an aspiring author. Follow him @emotionalcarl on Instagram and Twitter.



Blue Mountain Review / Feb. 2021


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rhine maiden By: Kerry Langan

He wore funny brown sandals with too many straps. “He’s German,” my mother said when I

described Richie’s shoes.

“His parents are German. Richie was born in America.” How important I felt explaining this. My

mother said, “Well, Richie’s mother should learn to speak English. I saw her at the bakery yesterday and she had to point at a cake. She couldn’t even say, ‘cake’.”

I’d heard Mrs. Sterner speaking to Richie, strange syllables that sounded as if she were chomping

on tough meat. I learned that “Herkommen” meant, “Come here,” although Richie usually ignored his mother, pushing her away when she came near him to wipe his face or comb his hair.

I was almost five when Richie and his parents moved in next door and he was just a few months

younger. It was the early sixties and Kennedy was president. I watched him on television say, “Ich bin ein Berliner” and realized he sounded like Richie’s mother. I voiced this observation and my mother turned to my father and said, “Maybe we shouldn’t let Tommy spend so much time next door.”

My father’s eyes didn’t leave the TV screen as he said, “Richie’s a good kid.”

When the weather was nice, Richie and I played on the swing set in his small backyard that adjoined

ours. We stretched our legs out and pulled back on the chains to get as high in the air as possible, one of the supporting poles lurching out of the ground and pounding back in with a with a thrilling thump. I’d close my eyes and marvel, it’s not supposed to do that! When we got so dangerously high it seemed our feet reached the clothesline stretched across their yard, we’d jump from the swings, screaming, “Gerrr-onn-imo!” I didn’t ponder that word. It was just what you yelled when you leaped from a great height.

Richie’s mother was usually watching us from a window, eating some gooey pastry. Her eyes were

a glistening shade of pale blue. I thought of them when I wiped my hands on the towel in our bathroom, the same color. Her chin-length blonde hair was always neat, never a loose strand. Other mothers in the neighborhood wore Capris and Madras shorts, but Richie’s mother wore flowery dresses and stockings that scratched when she walked, her enormous thighs pushing against each other. The other mothers smiled at her, said hello, and Mrs. Sterner would nod and smile back. If she spoke English, I thought,



Blue Mountain Review / Feb. 2021 she’d have friends. Her husband, a machinist for Maytag, was shy, but he knew every word of English. He wore a permanent, tight smile that made me think he was about to say, “I’m sorry.” He was terribly thin and I wondered if Mrs. Sterner ate all his food.

Sometimes we played in Richie’s over-heated house and I always looked at the framed picture of

Richie’s mother, the only thing that hung on any wall in their house. She was sitting on a bench, her long legs crossed at the ankles. She was skinny then but her face looked only slightly different, narrower. Over her dress was a sash printed with words that Richie told me said, “Rhine Madchen.”


“It means ‘Rhine Maiden’.”

“What’s Rhine Maiden?”

He shrugged and continued working on his Pinocchio puzzle. Looking at the photo of his mother, I

whispered “rhine-mai-den” over and over, noticing the way my lips came together but then parted when I said, “mai”. I liked to stretch out that syllable, “rhine-maaaai-den.” Those three syllables were the key to Richie’s mother, I decided. The reason she was fat, the reason she didn’t speak English, the reason she wore dresses - it was all because of “rhine-mai-den.”

I told my mother about the photograph and she said, “Richie’s mother must have won a beauty contest.”

“Did you ever win a beauty contest?”

She looked up from her Life Magazine. “Well, I could have, if I’d entered one.”

“Why didn’t you?”

She put her cigarette to her lips, the tip of it a fierce orange ember. As the smoke left her mouth,

obscuring her lower face, she said, “It’s a nice day. Go play outside.”

After dinner, I was watching television when I heard her in the kitchen with my father. “Tommy’s

spending too much time over there. Today he came home talking about Rhine maidens.”

“Well, maybe he’s over there because you don’t spend any time with him here.”

The Maypo commercial came on. Even if the TV were at its loudest, I still could have heard my mother

shout, “The Germans killed my brother!”

“Jesus.” I heard the refrigerator door open and I knew my father was getting a beer. “Lots of people


died in the war. The Sterners didn’t kill Mike.”

“But the Germans did! They were the enemy!”

En-e-my. Another three-syllable word, one I’d heard many times before. It didn’t have the mystery of


My father’s voice, “Mary, if you keep this up, I’m going out.”

I ran into the kitchen, a phony smile on my face, and shouted, “I want my Maypo!” realizing that the

first syllable in the name of the cereal was like the “mai” in “rhine-mai-den”. It wasn’t the first time I’d imitated the commercial and it had always made them laugh. My mother strode out of the room and my father didn’t even glance at me when he said, “You already ate, Tommy,” raising the bottle to his lips.

A few days later, Richie and I were playing with Lincoln Logs on his living room floor, each of us

carefully setting the grooved wooden pieces in place as we built forts.

I said matter-of-factly, “You were the enemy in the war.”

Richie looked at me. “The war was a long time ago.”

“Yeah, but you were the enemy.”

He swung his hand forward and knocked down most of my fort. Clutching a handful of the pieces, he

threw them at me. Most hit my chest, but one hit my mouth, my front tooth immediately starting to throb.

I jumped up and leaned over him, shouting, “You were the enemy! En-e-my!” I stamped my foot three

times to accompany each syllable.

At once, Mrs. Sterner was in the room, a chocolate stain in a corner of her lips. She grabbed my upper

arm and pulled me a few steps to their front door. “Go! You go!” She opened the door, put her hand on my back, and gave me a good shove. I stumbled onto their small porch and down the steps, strangely elated. No adult, other than my parents, had ever yelled at me with such energy, let alone pushed me! Was it rhine-mai-den that made her do it? She stood on their porch and kept yelling, “Go! You go!”

I ran across the lawn and realized Mrs. Sterner was shouting at me in English. English! I wanted to tell

my mother but when I got home, she surprised me by running her hand over my head, mussing my hair, and asking me if I wanted cinnamon toast. I sat in my chair at the kitchen table and watched as she poured a glass of milk and unfastened the Wonder Bread bag. She was humming a melody I didn’t recognize. All of this surprised me almost as much as Mrs. Sterner’s yelling at me. When she set the plate with toast in front of me, she kissed



Blue Mountain Review / Feb. 2021 the top of my head.

“When Dad comes home, tell him I made you cinnamon toast, okay?”

I nodded and bit into the sweet, warm bread.

Richie and I stayed away from each other for a few days but then he came over and told me that his

father got a new job, and he and his family were moving “a hundred miles away.” At our age, nothing was farther away than that, but when I refused to be astonished, Richie said, “When we get to my new house, I’m getting a big bike.”

A week later, the moving van came and took everything away but the swing set. I played on it by myself,

but without Richie, I couldn’t make the pole leap from the ground no matter how hard I pumped my legs. I still jumped out at the clothesline, though, and yelled, “Gerrr-onn-i-mo!” hoping my mother would appear in our kitchen window, maybe wave at me, but the curtains never moved. When my father left a few months later, I imagined he was following Richie and his family, that he knew where their new house was and from which wall the Rhine Maiden would smile down on all of them.

Kerry Langan’s fiction has appeared in more than forty literary journals including American Literary Review, The Antigonish Review, Cimarron Review, StoryQuarterly, Other Voices, West Branch, Rosebud, Yuan Yang, Phantasmagoria, Main Street Rag, Minerva Rising, The Seattle Review and others. Some of her short stories have been anthologized several times. She has published three collections of short stories: Only Beautiful & Other Stories, Live Your Life & Other Stories, and My Name Is Your Name & Other Stories. Her non-fiction has appeared in Working Mother and multiple newspapers.


t h e

d e b u t

c o l l e c t i o n

f r o m


hen scoliosis pushed her to retire from her career as a massage therapist, Angela Dribben still wanted to be of service, so she began doing legacy work through her local hospice. She felt she needed to gather skills if she was going to honor others, and she started an MFA program at Randolph College. From there her work made its way into journals such as Crab Creek Review, Cider Press Review, San Pedro River Review, Blue Mountain Review, and Crack the Spine. Her first mixed media piece is coming out in Patchwork. Her first collection, Everygirl is now out in advanced sales with Main Street Rag

angela Dribben “Angela Dribben’s poetry does not look away, even from difficult truths. She brings to the page a gift for sound and image, but it’s her compassionate wisdom that makes Everygirl a book like no other, embracing both indictment and forgiveness, suffering and gratitude, its music that of the phoenix the moment the flames in her throat become song. Bring your broken pieces, your trouble with the world. Everygirl is the best friend to whom you may tell everything, in the dark beneath a fistful of stars, and come away more loving, more loved.” -Rhett Iseman Trull, author of The Real Warnings, editor of Cave Wall “How can I believe Adam/ came first when the flower precedes the fruit?” Angela Dribben writes in Everygirl. Coming of age in a Virginia of hunting dogs, pick-ups, and hog farms, these poems, evocative in their details of men “smelling like labor,” food, such as gelatinous ham, military school life for young women, menstruation, rape, and including occasional photographs, bluntly acknowledge the destructive impact of male prerogative when social class and rural life leave few ways out.” -Susana H. Case, author of Dead Shark on the N Train and Drugstore Blue “Wordsworth wrote that any great writer must create the new taste by which they’ll be enjoyed. In Everygirl, Angela Dribben doesn’t just offer a new taste, she’s created an entire menu. From tragically vivid poems about surviving military school, to surreal poems exploring belonging, Dribben had me eating out of the palm of her hand. Dribben writes “To love and to see are not the same,” and I agree. But I do both love and see this book.” -Paige Lewis, Spacestruck


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Blue Mountain Review / Feb. 2021




salton sea By: babak movahed It’s quiet, more than James remembers. There is only the rattle of the train slowly trudging along, cutting through the breeze. The boxcar’s rumble, a little massage, is the sole comfort in his otherwise long and exhausting journey. That’s to be expected, no one says jumping the cars is easy. James carefully stands up and walks over to the open panel. The horizon bleeds reds and oranges of a sun-drenched desert. Its heat creating waves of illusionary oceans, nonexistent waves, but still a soothing spectacle. Does it do that at the actual sea? He hadn’t noticed. James made the trip before, many times before, and never again since. In the 1970s, it was a calm drive in his oversized station wagon that he inevitably filled up: coolers, towels, chairs, umbrellas, and his family. James turns back and looks at the umbrella. Held up pretty well. On the drives down, they’d listen to talk radio. The signals were shoddy, but Sarah and Max enjoyed performing their own lines between the static. Max was gifted, could’ve made a career as a commentator. And after laughing their heads off, they’d pull into the same parking lot, the one by a massive palm tree that had the best view of the Salton Sea. The kids would rush out of the car and toward their favorite spot. James and Vanessa always took their time, enjoying the blend of voices and sounds framed by a sun shining against a placid sea. They looked at each other and kissed before joining the kids on the beach. James rubs his eyes. Aren’t what they use to be. His thumbs are damp from either the sweat forming in his wrinkles, or tears; he’s not sure. The train and vista are lulling James to sleep, but he fights it, he has to jump soon and needs his strength to withstand the fall. Pacing the car, James sees shades of the past flicker by. The snapshots are fading and despite his efforts to recall, he can only discern hazy abstractions of images from his once cherished life. Max stood in their usual spot, it wasn’t hard to find because it was sandwiched between the lifeguard booth and a misshapen rock. He never waited for James to set things down, just grabbed his board and darted into the water. Just like his favorite hero, the Flash, Max would be gone in an instant. Vanessa said that he couldn’t wait to get away from his mom and dad. Sarah would play in the sand at first, but that changed too. She wouldn’t rush into the water, but she’d still disappear, usually a search for her friends, and even though it wasn’t the same, she too couldn’t wait to get away.



Blue Mountain Review / Feb. 2021 James would’ve kept drifting, but the smell brings him back. He’d read about it before starting this trek, but reading isn’t the same. The air rife with a stagnant sulfur odor, foul and ripe with decomposition, is the only unfamiliar feature to James. It was an aroma like saltwater and family. He pokes his head out, gazes down the tracks, and shudders at the vast expanse of blue. The sea has an aura of afterlife calm, a past miracle reduced to a facade masking a barren present. There it is, the palm tree he’d grown so accustomed to seeing. James has never jumped off a moving train, but he figures he’s got a minute to take the plunge. He quickly tosses his few items and watches them crash into the dirt. James isn’t afraid of the drop. What’s there to fear anymore? And in a misguided attempt to roll out, James falls in a heap. A cloud of dust rises and settles on his inert body staring up into the sky. The clouds look beautiful passing overhead. When Max was a boy, he’d lie next James on the beach and gaze up at the sky. They’d play their usual game of who can recognize the strangest animal. A giraffe with wings. A rabbit with a hat. And so on until Max’s imagination changed. He stopped seeing what wasn’t in the clouds and started dreaming about what he wanted. Maybe that was the beginning of it? James didn’t see any fictional animals, no revelations from God, just an empty sky. He slowly rises and feels his shoulder. It’s throbbing and appears to be out of place, possibly dislocated, but that doesn’t matter. James grabs his pack and umbrella. He brushes the dust off the umbrella and walks over to the lifeguard booth. There’s a faint echo of cars in the distance, families going to Palm Springs or just the drifters that live out here. But the Salton Sea is abandoned, no place for even a vagrant passing through, no place for anyone. James steps onto the beach and the smell fills his nostrils like a cartoon hand beckoning a character over to a delicious pie, but there’s nothing sweet on the other end, and the hand is a claw clutching James towards the putrid sulfur. He moves towards it nonetheless. There’s no returning, nothing to go back to, and nowhere else to be. Nostalgia is white noise in James’ mind, but his muscle memory senses its surroundings and leads the way. He passes the dead bushes and rattlesnake holes to the road directly adjacent to the Salton Sea Yacht Club. Hard to even fathom a yacht zipping around these forsaken waters. The face of the building is mostly intact, maybe one of the final vestiges of an era long deceased. There’s only a couple of broken windows and a few tags along the side walls. One is barely legible proclamation, “fuck life.” James nods his head. He goes to the left toward what remains of the lifeguard booth. The path is littered with once used objects of bygone beachgoers. There isn’t any trash of food or drinks. In its prime, the park rangers took pristine care to place numerous trash cans, but more importantly, all those that came to this idyllic oasis respected it enough to properly dispose of their garbage. James notices a deflated innertube, red, yellow, and white striped, still maintaining most of its color, but now speckled with soot. Sarah had one just like it. Her face was adorable


whenever she did her best to inflate it. Those tiny lungs couldn’t completely fill it, but she would go on huffing and puffing the best she could. Sarah wasn’t even big enough for the damn tube! Didn’t matter though because it was her favorite and no matter how difficult, she was going into the water with it. Whatever happened to it? Must’ve been another thing that Sarah just tossed as she got older. It started with inconsequential things like innertubes, but with the lethal cocktail of time and contempt (a lot of it), Sarah had no problem leaving behind the belongings she loved. James picks up the deflated tube, hooks his arm through its center, and continues towards the lifeguard tower. He glances over at the other beach items scattered about. Each of them is a story, but with every story there is an end and James doesn’t like any of their endings, so he continues on. Although the last stop is riddled with painful recollections, it’s the only place he needs to be, for himself, and for the few lingering vignettes from years gone. He crosses the threshold from concrete road and parking lot into the beach. The stench of death is everywhere, but it’s nothing in comparison to the sights. The sand is a canvas brushed by innumerable bones, bones, and bones. They’re mostly of the fish, which unlike the people, couldn’t escape the sea’s inexorable end. James initially tries to avoid stepping on them, but a mere few feet make it apparent that avoiding the remains is a fruitless endeavor. James reaches a point close to the misshapen rock, the end of his travels. He runs his hand across the surface of the rock. James leans in and presses his head against it. He sees, not sure if he wanted to, but he sees Max: two-years-old playing with the sand and a pail, six-years-old old throwing a Frisbee, nine-years-old eating the sandwiches they bought from his favorite restaurant down the road, elevenyears-old chasing after his sister with a handful of Sandcrabs – twelve running into the water, twelve swimming far out (so excited to show his improvement), a dot in the sea, an arm waving, a bobbing head – Twelve dragged out, CPR – Twelve carried off motionless, pale even against the white of the gurney. James leaves the tears in his eyes, it’s harder to see, but he’s seen enough. He places down the umbrella and the innertube, takes off his shirt and shoes. Still. There’s a melody in the waves, a comfort in the decay, a home not for the living, but needing a life. James walks away from his family’s favorite spot and into water.



Blue Mountain Review / Feb. 2021

Babak Movahed works as an Assistant Director for a private school. He maintains his writing practices by writing creatively in his free time. His recent work has been published in the latest issue of The Hungry Chimera.


sensory nerves By: rebecca andem “The city girl returns.” Mateo skimmed a lazy hand along the back of Neve’s thigh as she padded past his lounge chair. He didn’t bother to look up, and she didn’t bother to respond. It was that time of day when the whole world was sun drunk. Kicking off her flipflops, Neve tucked one foot under her hips and sank into the other chair. Soon after they arrived in Puerto Rico, she’d started wearing dresses to keep cool, but she’d also started sitting in positions her mother would have described as most unladylike. The incongruity suited her. Allowing her knees to splay open, Neve dropped her chin to her chest, and her glasses slid down the sweaty slope of her nose. On the drive from San Juan, heat and humidity had thickened on her neck like glue, but now the breeze lifted the tiny hairs that had escaped her braids, an animal sensation. There was a squall on the horizon, and the air was stirring. She’d seen the storm moving at an angle across the ocean as the público rounded into Rincón, but she wondered. Would she be able to sense it, the electricity in the air and the churn of the sea, when she couldn’t see it?

A spot of coolness blossomed on her neck, and she jumped. Something small and smooth slipped

down her spine, disappearing inside her dress, and Johnny’s laughter exploded above her head. He crowded onto the chair next to her, his wet swimming trunks a shock against her leg.

“Close your eyes and hold out your hands,” he said.

Neve didn’t bother to close her eyes, but she obliged and cupped her hands.

“Jewels for the queen.” Sea glass tumbled into her hands, a tinkling shower of blues and greens,

powdery cool. “You can make earrings to sell to the tourists.”

“In a little tent on the side of the road?” Mateo moved from his chair to Neve’s, his hot skin pressed

against her other leg. Laughing, he stirred a finger into the pool of sea glass and plucked out a sapphire piece. “Tesoro!”

Neve tried to push her glasses up with her shoulder, and automatically, Mateo helped her. They

had met in college, their last year at Purdue, each of them tired of Indiana winters and Midwest mentalities,



Blue Mountain Review / Feb. 2021 together willing to make their own definitions for life, for love. The yurt had been Neve’s idea, Puerto Rico Mateo’s. Living off the grid had been Johnny’s contribution. None of them had considered jobs or how soon they would max out their credit cards. But they figured it out. With his Chilean Spanish, Mateo found odd jobs, and Johnny started growing bamboo. In town Neve rented a room with internet access in order to teach online. She brought in the bulk of their income.

“Guys,” she said. They were holding sea glass up to their ears and against their fingers, almost giggling. Mateo lifted one

of her braids and tickled her chin with the frayed end. Johnny pulled her leg onto his lap. They were her guys. Passionate, idealistic. All of them still so young. “Guys.” Neve allowed the sea glass to cascade between her legs and grabbed their hands, Mateo’s thick and somehow soft despite the calluses, Johnny’s long fingered and broad knuckled. “Guys.” She squeezed their hands. “The ophthalmologist. In San Juan.” Closing her eyes, she lost their faces, but she could feel it, if she concentrated, their gazes, their attention. Suddenly, their fear. “It’s genetic,” she said, “my eyes.” She repeated the doctor’s words, progressive, degenerative, as if those ideas went together. She knew she was holding their hands too tightly. She knew she should let go, but she couldn’t. “Guys,” she repeated, “guys,” but already the word felt like a prayer, a hopeless prayer. Johnny pulled away first. She knew he would. Of the three of them, he was the most restless. Neve leaned back and straightened her legs. Beneath her thighs the sea glass was already losing its coolness, and she imagined a small piece adhering to her skin when she stood. Mateo’s hand was sweating in hers. “We can go to Miami,” Johnny said. He had found some living thing on the railing and was busy urging it back onto the banana leaves that brushed against the deck. “Find a specialist.” Mateo’s hand slipped away, and the chair rocked slightly as his weight disappeared. They’d made the chairs themselves from lumber bought in Mayagüez, and each chair was uniquely crooked, as well as the deck, the table. They were learning as they went along, and the imperfections became a catalog of their self-reliance, a source of pride. “There was a crooked man…,” Neve started. She glanced from one to the other, but Johnny ignored her, and Mateo shrugged. She wanted them to know her mind, to catch her thoughts like a wave, but they had their own. Mateo had moved back to his chair, only now he was perched on the edge, his elbows on his knees. His hair hung over his face as he stared at the splintered board between his feet. They’d never agreed on a finish, and the wood was already aging.


“They all lived together in a crooked little house.” Neve wasn’t sure if she said it out loud or not. It didn’t matter. The moment was stunned, immobile. It would hold until one of them had the courage to react. Offshore the storm was passing, the air still charged but settling. The light behind the squall had a shine to it, like something polished. Neve loved it. That first day, before they even erected their temporary tent, she’d parked herself on their newly acquired hill and stared at the ocean for eight hours straight. She’d never lived by the sea. She’d never known all its moods or that it would pass through them a hundred times over in the space of a day. She’d never known she could love the world quite so much. Neve took off her glasses. The light would remain, the doctor had assured her, even the shapes, around the edges at least. With extreme magnification, she might even continue to read. But the center would be gone. And there was nothing they could do. With more strength than she felt, Neve hurled her glasses off the deck. Johnny spun around. Mateo sat up straight. “Guys,” she said. She would do it. She would force whatever was going to happen next. Johnny sat down next to Mateo. There they were, both of them compact and lean, Johnny stringy and wild, Mateo smooth and still. Neve stared at them, at Johnny’s right arm stretched back, the way his elbow inverted, his leg so skinny jutting out of pineapple printed trunks, a fresh cut on his shin, his splayed toes. She studied Mateo’s left shoulder sloped down, the slight curve of his biceps fitted against his ribs, his thigh flattened against the chair, his toes curled under. She still had the outer edges of their faces, the details she loved so much, their brown eyes and sharp bones, elfin in their separate ways. But without her glasses, even with her glasses, the center was already fading, a slight blur shading toward grey. “You have to learn how to cut his hair,” she said, nodding toward Mateo’s shaggy curls. “I won’t be able do it much longer.” For just a second, Neve thought she felt Johnny’s fear like a shift in the air. But of course, his fear was something familiar to her. She knew that as reckless as he seemed, he thrived on routine. She knew how he secretly hated change but that he always came around. He would adjust. They would all adjust. She knew every expression that flitted across their faces. Now she would learn to read their emotions like electrical pulses, and like everything else, they would find their own way. They would create their own personal Braille. But then Johnny snickered. Neve thought she felt his grin, another shift in the air. She turned her head and caught his movement clearly in the edges of her vision. She watched as he pushed his long fingers through Mateo’s hair. “Nah,” Johnny said. “I think maybe a man bun. Like mine.”



Blue Mountain Review / Feb. 2021 When Mateo grinned, Neve was sure she felt it. She felt the movement between them. “That’s not a bun,” Mateo said. “That’s a nest.” Neve tilted her head. She watched as Mateo tugged on Johnny’s knot of salty blond hair. Johnny pulled Mateo’s face close. In the center they were blurring together. The heat was rising between them, so familiar, so certain. Relieved, Neve closed her eyes. They would be okay. It would all be okay. All she needed was to feel their arms, her guys. Home was there in the center, even if she couldn’t see it. She felt her own smile spread, the luxury of it. She waited for them to reach out to her. “Guys?”

Rebecca Andem earned an MFA from the Stonecoast program at the University of Southern Maine. She has a collection of short stories, The Estrangement Effect, available on Wordrunner eChapbooks, and her short stories have appeared in literary journals such as Upstreet, Hamilton Stone Review, Burrow Press Review, Petrichor Review, and Wilde Magazine. For many years she was a traveling English teacher in China, Vietnam, Thailand, and Russia. Currently, she lives in Tucson, Arizona, where she’s an active member of the Writers Studio and Old Pueblo Playwrights.


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Blue Mountain Review / Feb. 2021


the pirate’s ransom BY: libby copa “Pirating is a lost art form,” one of the men called to negotiators from the boat with the hostages and other loot. “We are taking it back.” As we are all aware, as humans we try to stake a claim to anything we can. It has become our nature. In some ways it always was. And we take even what is nailed down and what has not even the possibility of a nail. We once set out to find things we hadn’t seen yet, so we could claim that it was ours too. That is how now Kenyans, Somalis, Russians, Islamic extremists, fisherman, captains, reporters, and Americans all ended up in the middle of the ocean arguing over what’s what and whose who and why now and how much. Because water is the only thing on earth that seems just too much to keep an eye on. When asked if they were terrorists, one of the pirates is quoted as saying that there has never been a person in history that has openly called themselves by that name. That they were businessmen in one of the oldest professions and for all of us to remember that it is no easy work taking something that isn’t yours.

Libby Copa is a writer, editor, writing coach, and creator of Rebel Writing Courses. Her work has appeared in publications across the country, including Hanging Loose, Dash, Matter, and Quail Bell Magazine. She loves a good adventure.



Blue Mountain Review / Feb. 2021

the familiar predicament BY: phillip sterling You think the dog is smiling but he’s not. It’s the rawhide chew, clenched between his upper and lower canines, which makes him appear to be smiling. He has brought the rawhide to you because he doesn’t want it just now but also doesn’t want to put it down either. He doesn’t want to let it go. And there is no place to hide the thing in the house where another dog won’t find it. The other dog has chewed her rawhide treat already and would love another. Unsmiling, she seems to be napping on the kitchen floor near the water bowl that the two dogs share. Her eyes are closed, yet every so often her nose twitches in the direction of the dog at your feet, the smiling dog, the dog you feel sorry for—despite his apparent smile—for his predicament, you realize, is familiar: you yourself have clenched the possession of a thing you did not especially want but did not want to give up to someone else either.

Like a child.

Whereas the dog at your feet could be perceived as smiling in a gamy playful way, you have been fetched instead a bitter, unpalatable memory.

Phillip Sterling’s books include two full-length collections of poetry (And Then Snow, Mutual Shores), and five chapbook-length series of poems, the most recent of which, Short on Days, was released from Main Street Rag in June 2020. He is also the author of two collections of short fiction: In Which Brief Stories Are Told (Wayne State U Press 2011) and Amateur Husbandry, a series of micro-fictions narrated by the domestic partner of a yellow horse (Mayapple 2019).


the chair BY: jesse miller The neighbors are Labor Day loud now that the rain has driven them in from the golf course. Why must they yell and smoke cigarettes? I avoid everyone on my way to my car or the occasional trip to the dumpster where I see discarded chairs and mattresses piled up next to the trash where a broken-legged brown leather chair speaks clearly to me, its cushions worn and torn, drenched by afternoon rain.

Welcome, new friend, it says. And for a moment I imagine its wet embrace on my butt and back, imagine sitting like a new king among all the discarded things, my mouth open to the rain, trying to drink in the entire sodden sky, to fill my emptiness with clouds, rain, lightning, thunder, until I am a storm myself, vital with the fury of the elemental, until my eyes spark with the kind of light a passerby might mistake for fire, and might call 911 as she worries about garbage burning in the rain.

But I do not sit in the brown chair. I empty my trash and return to the apartment where I’ve been alone for months. The old refrigerator clicks and crackles as the compressor tries to keep up with the demands of milk, eggs, frozen dinners, and the sad Honeycrisp apples that have begun to turn brown in the cold. Occasionally, the fridge blares like a foghorn into the empty hours and I feel sometimes like I live on the shore of a river somewhere and the mist has covered the water as the lights of occasional boats seek a way through the darkness.

Jesse Millner’s story, “Last Night I Dreamed,” appeared in Best Small Fictions 2020. His newest poetry book, Memory’s Blue Sedan, was released by Hysterical Books of Tallahassee, Florida in April 2020. He lives in Fort Meyers, Florida with his dog, Lucy, who owns his heart.



Writing a B ook? Blue Mountain Review / Feb. 2021

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Blue Mountain Review / Feb. 2021


bsing with god by: garry cooper

I’m sitting in Jackson Square in New Orleans, a perfect sunny day in the City That Care Forgot, The Big Easy, without a worry in the world that I cannot effortlessly bat away. I take a selfie of my giant face blocking everything but one small corner of St. Louis Cathedral, and I post on Facebook: Jesus: God = St. Louis Cathedral: me Then I think: what if there IS a God and this post dooms me to perdition? No, I tell myself, if God exists, He will have a sense of humor. But my father often told me, not appreciatively, “You never know when to joke and when not to.” Well, maybe I can explain to God that joking is my way to quell my sorrow and apprehension about mortality and my position in the cosmos. “Yes,” God might answer, “But knowing this, you had the option to go back and delete your Facebook post. Instead you played the fool and put it out there for everyone to see.” “But,” I will argue, trying to cop a plea, “I wasn’t concerned with just myself. I felt compassion for others’ existential sorrow and apprehension too, and I wanted to comfort them by helping them laugh.” I imagine huge thunderheads starting to mass and God’s brow furrowing, putting an ominous wrinkle into the universe. “Now I’m getting angry,” He says. You’re lying and taking Me for a Fool. You had better consider this issue seriously. Do you know what kind of eternal torments—and I mean both eternal and torments--await you?” And He rattles off a list of excruciating torments involving pain which will never quite bring my body into merciful shock or my mind into grateful numbness. If I weren’t so scared about making another joke, I’d tell God He was beginning to sound like a Fundamentalist. I’ve never believed in heaven, but I’m desperately interested in avoiding Hell. Now I’ve got to figure out how to respond without pleading, which even at this crucial moment I can’t bring myself to do. Another nail in my coffin: pride cometh before the fall. Behind me in Jackson Square someone actually begins singing a spiritual. Then the St. Louis Cathedral bells start ringing even though my watch says it’s still fifteen seconds before the hour. These are some cause for concern. So with eternal torment waiting in the wings, I suppose I’d better be honest with God, and besides there’s probably no way I can get away with lying. Ergo, I may have to confess (yes, Jews confess too, viz. Leopold and Loeb) that my FB post was partly seasoned by my contempt for true believers, which I now hope I can seriously repent, though that’s a tough sell even to myself. I am often contemptuous of believers because their belief in a deity adversely affects me. Rather than their actually trying to do something about climate change, for example, many of them sit back and expect that God will take care of it because they believe that precious us are at the pinnacle of His pyramid. What would God think if I confessed that if I’m in a lifeboat with some of them and it springs a leak and the only thing we have to plug it with is their family Bible, they’re either going to cough it up or get pitched overboard? “Not that I want to argue with you,” says God, “(I have absolutely no need or desire to persuade you of anything, you insignificant egotistical turd) but many of these believers believe in Me because they’re as sorrowful and apprehensive as you are. Their belief is merely a different defense than your humor. So maybe you don’t care as much for them as you profess to.” Never try to argue with God. His memory, plus the fact that He makes the rules, make it impossible to win. What can I say? Like most human beings, when my own back is up against the wall, I can’t muster genuine compassion. Who in Hell can? Maybe God will give my commitment to honesty more weight than my kowtowing to orthodoxy, though there I go again being contemptuous of His ovine worshippers. I really must learn to temper my adjectives and metaphors if I want to avoid lakes of fire and a permanent diet of brimstone flakes seasoned with excrement of cholera victims.



Blue Mountain Review / Feb. 2021 Perhaps it will be enough to tell Him that I always tried to exercise fidelity to truth by choosing logic over faith, and is that really deserving of eternal torment? Which reminds me, I’m opposed to capital punishment, and I hope that God will give me points for that, assuming He’s renounced His younger Old Testament days. “That was Jesus who renounced killing, not Me,” He says, reading my thoughts, and now I have to worry that I’ve pissed Him off with my sloppy scholarship. I can’t win. Maybe humility, accepting that I can’t win, is the way to avoid Hell. Getting rid of the tar baby of having to be righter and smarter than everyone else. Giving up my armor-plated ego. But that would mean renouncing and destroying my FB post, which I like very much. Would a merciful God tell someone to drown his baby in a bathtub, the Abraham and Isaac incident notwithstanding? What is the Old Testament God’s attitude about cajones in relation to humility? I suspect that He wants us to have backbone: He didn’t make Eve out of one of Adam’s vertebrae, right? What’s He really up to right now? Is He testing me, toying with me? How on Earth can we ever hope to read God’s intentions? The question has bedeviled people for centuries. Maybe the answer is, you shouldn’t try, that if you have enough faith you just know His intentions. But isn’t that the trap that abusive parents lay for kids, punishing them for doing things the kids didn’t know would piss their parents off? Even worse, abusive parents can suddenly change the rules. If you accept God in your heart, people say, you will automatically know how to do the right thing. But look at Son of Sam, though I suppose one could say that a God ordering David Berkowitz to kill people by talking to him through a dog’s mouth wasn’t the real McCoy. But how was Berkowitz to know? There I go again. My father was right; I don’t know when not to joke even if my flippancy may flip me right into the fiery abyss. Which brings up another demerit against me: I didn’t have nearly enough respect for my father and, although I didn’t realize this until a few decades after he died and a lot of therapy, he was well-intentioned and all too human and really didn’t deserve my lack of respect. I was just angry that he wasn’t more how I wished him to be. God knows that one, I’m sure. “Excuse the joking about Son of Sam’s dog,” I say to God. “It’s just father transference.” “So now you’re going to hide behind your transference?” says God. “That’s a very dangerous game and don’t expect Me to be as understanding as your therapist. I don’t have the patience (though I certainly have the time) and, believe Me, I don’t need your money like your therapist does. In fact, sometimes I don’t trust her judgment.” Great. Now I’ve dragged my therapist into this and gotten her into trouble. It’s like I’ve fallen through a hole in the ice and in trying to pull me out, my poor innocent therapist is sliding toward the abyss herself. “Good,” says God. “You’re starting to feel some compassion for others. That may be a start.” I’m pleasantly surprised that God is mistaking my guilt for compassion; it won’t be the first time I’ve snuck in somewhere with a phony ticket. But He immediately picks up on my thoughts. “I SMELL GUILT!” God roars, and the terrible vibration makes me piss my pants. “AND NOW SHAME TOO! Guilt and shame! Guilt and shame! Created in My image, My Royal Ass. Your very existence is an insult to Me!” Instead of worrying about going to Hell, now I find myself wondering whether I’m already in it. Then I decide no, not yet, because beyond a flushed face, thighs already starting to chafe, and a growing nausea in the pit of my stomach, the physical punishment hasn’t yet risen anywhere near hellish levels. I decide to try a little dose of honesty. “I haven’t been perfect,” I say. “I don’t always give to the homeless. But I do sometimes give to the ones with creative stories, and I almost always give something to the ones with a little kid even though I wonder whether they’re playing me for a chump.” God doesn’t respond, and I worry He’s completely unmoved. What if He really does favor the Republicans and He thinks giving to the homeless encourages dependency? Another liability of mine: I always think more in terms of strategizing than genuine atonement. Instead of pouring straight from my heart, my emotional truths are often refracted through humor and filtered through my prefrontal cortex, so when they finally appear they’re like enriched white flour. When people ask me if I observe Yom Kippur I always reply, “No, I’m atone deaf.” My atonement is almost always an amalgamation of guilt and strategy, well short of pure compassion and deep regret. Do I really need to be like this in front of God? Since I can’t fool Him or out-strategize Him, I should be honest. But just thinking about all this has contaminated any spontaneous honesty that was about to leak out. “You really do have a constipated soul, don’t you?” says God, and I wonder whether He’s saying it sympathetically or preparing to disembowel me. I cast my eyes downward, appearing humble but really trying to hide my strategizing eyes as I ponder what to say next. “And just where do you think you can hide from Me?” He asks. For a brief soul-damning second I think about putting a finger to my cheek and scratching my head to comedically act as if I’m seriously considering His question, but I quickly squelch the impulse. God however sees the flicker of


clownishness, and He is on me like a swarm of flies around garbage. “You can’t even stop joking to save your soul, can you?” He snarls. “I’m trying, I’m trying. You can’t expect me to change a lifetime of habit and defenses in a moment, can You?” I say, hoping He can sense that I’ve verbally capitalized the “You”--something I refused to do throughout my life, I hope He doesn’t remember. “Maybe you need a little more time to change,” He says. “Like eternity.” “Oh, fuck,” I think, managing to corrupt my fear with obscenity. “He’s really acting like an asshole,” I think, further corrupting my fear with blasphemy. “You know why I don’t want you in heaven?” God says. “Because I’m afraid one day I might accidentally step on you and get some of you on the bottom of My shoes.” A glimmer of hope: God has a slight sense of humor. Perhaps we have found a connection, and He is a kindred, albeit infinitely greater, Spirit, a moderately compassionate plea bargaining District Attorney corralling me toward a holding pen in Purgatory where instead of vicious torture I’ll merely get bombarded year after year, decade after decade with emotional threats and evaluated on how I respond. Not a great deal, spending indeterminate time facing sorrow and apprehension without making any jokes. But I console myself, if I do end up there, I’ll eventually figure out a way to sneak in jokes every so often, and maybe one day He just might like one of them well enough.

Garry Cooper: As a writer/psychotherapist, Garry Cooper interested in asking questions and undermining the too-easy “truths” to which psychotherapists, writers, parents, and lovers are occasionally prone. His essays have been published in Triquarterly, Fatal Flaw (inaugural issue July 2020), Perigee, Bloodroot, Another Chicago Magazine, Psychotherapy Networker and Rockhurst Review. He has been shortlisted in the international NottingHill Editions 2016 Essay Contest and was published in their book, Eulogy for Nigger and Other Essays (2016).



The Blue Mountain Review

Blue Mountain Review / Feb. 2021

A Journal of Culture




on tomatoes by: Megan Baxter

I cup each tomato in my palm, give it a little squeeze, and then twist it from the stem. With my thumbnail, I dig out the calyx and stem and place the tomato blossom side up in a black crate, one at a time, like a family heirloom. The fruit circles back in on itself, rooting wherever it senses the ingredients of life. Taste sun and soil and water in them, a balance of acid and sugar. They are jewels to August, just as strawberries are to June. And I am woven into their story through my labor, through careful pruning and trellising, through my watchful harvest. I know them as seeds in my palm, poured from their packet, then later as tiny arching seedlings in their neat germination flats, then finally as tall, draping plants, shading out the bright fruit in their hearts. Inside the flesh, in the brilliant gems of their interior chambers, packed tightly around the raw, slick seeds, they contain all those memories of my labor, as well as the sunlight of every day, the huge night sky that is unknown to me, the rain from each storm felt on my skin also, dew from summer dawn’s rising, nitrogen alchemized from lightning strikes and clover roots, groundwater from the basement of the land, and water from the slow, brown river.



Blue Mountain Review / Feb. 2021

Megan’s first book ‘The Coolest Monsters, A Collection of Essays’ was published in 2018 by Texas Review Press. Her debut novel ‘Farm Girl’ is forthcoming. Megan has won numerous national awards including a Pushcart Prize. Her work has been listed in The Best American Essays of 2019. Recent publications included pieces in The Threepenny Review, Hotel Amerika, The Florida Review, and Creative Nonfiction Magazine. Megan serves as a mentor to young writers and loves developing cross-genre and innovative creative writing pedagogy for her workshops and classes. She is currently conducting research for an environmentally themed novel as well as writing personal essays and poems. Megan lives in New Hampshire where she loves walking her dogs, running, and cooking with local foods.




Blue Mountain Review / Feb. 2021


to grow before spring by: ed mccourt I. It is mid-January and the grass is beginning to grow in Northeast Florida; it has reached at least 80 degrees for three consecutive days. In a recent class, a writing exercise led us to a book on gardening: a good rule is to begin fertilizing the heartiest shrubs as soon as the grass begins to grow. How long before the botany texts will be rewritten? It is an exercise in empathy, to watch these unthinking wildflowers and ornamental trees bloom; to them, it is nothing unusual. The sun is strong, the ground is wet: bloom, without reservation. II. There was a stretch of forest north of St. Augustine where I used to hike when I moved here just a decade ago. “Preserve land” is what they called it. The road had been recently paved and lined with trees, magnolias and clusters of palm. Turns out, the area comprised a section of what was 20 mile road, a stretch known for its clandestine use by runaway slaves. The developers said that they hadn’t realized it was historic until the mandated archeological study, and that because of it, they would not develop portions of the 15,000 acre parcel. What land, I wondered, was bereft of history? This forest was the first place I’d seen a pileated woodpecker, which, when mounted to a tree trunk and perpendicular to the ground, seems just a bit larger than a housecat. I have encountered no less than five species of snake there, was visited by a gopher tortoise, and sat beside two piglets who, though invasive, endearingly tested the limits of their young legs. When they inevitably cleared the land to invent a ‘town’ named Nocatee, they left scarcely a tree. The beige homes sit on otherwise vacant lots, scorched. The forests they took were mostly second growth: the previous ‘developers’ of the land had been lumber companies. I’ve come to resent the very word ‘develop’, though before moving here, it only reminded me of a darkroom. The film has been pulled from its stop bath: a chance to see an image we’ve seen our whole lives as if for the first time. III. Using an old atlas, my father found a stream that holds native brook trout several miles into the rock-patched blueberry grounds of Downeast Maine; he navigated by way of tying cut lengths of moving straps to saplings along otherwise unmarked trails. The cold section of the Mopang he found was not by atlas, however, but by wading the stream until he felt the shock of icy sand under the diminished August current. Centuries of steady trickle have carved the bank out in that spot, though low-hanging branches obscure it. When we visit, we fish the spot until the brookies are too wary to bite and release them to catch another time. An angler catches fish not because he is smarter, but because he has put in the time, and because fish, like people, are predictable. If a hole holds, and nothing too drastic happens, it will continue to hold. If a fish has food and can breathe well enough, there he will remain, even as it declines, until the very day the heat has depleted the oxygen. Demonstrable patterns we too have yet to overcome.



Blue Mountain Review / Feb. 2021 IV. Small game hunting taught me to pace my gait by year: if I cannot hear the low whirring of the forest, I am moving too fast. Most days are hikes only; I do not fire a shot. Though brutish in its intent, walking through the woods armed and prepared to take game awakens something essential. The late capitalist male: a consumer, alienated from himself, from the very arrangement of molecules 4 billion years in the making. The code remains, yet it serves little function, save excretion and the urge to reproduce, both of which he overemphasizes as crude vestiges for what he has lost. As ineffectual as it might be to pass a dozen grocery stores on the way to the woods, he is there not to kill, but to remember something that feels like a dream his DNA suddenly awoke from, and cannot entirely recall. V. There are those of us, made from the same carbon as the grass, who have no sense of this thing. We do share DNA with the grass: a homologue of the aptly titled “Eyes Absent” gene first found in fruit flies. Perhaps they “see” something divine in the majesty of this place, as if it were willed and could be built again – a sandcastle reformed at the next low tide – but appear unimpressed by its rareness. The distance a beam of light travels in thirteen billion years and, so far, only this gravid orb. It is not that they do not comprehend it; who among us does? We sense the power of this place the way a dog senses someone at the door. He cannot tell at first whether it is man or wind, and if man, where he came from or why. He senses it nonetheless. So it is for us when we consider dark matter, the vacuum of time before the bang, really anything that approaches the infinite. Once it is sensed, other sensations become secondary. When facing a threat to the only growing, breathing place we have observed in those thirteen billion light years of space, any debate is trite morphology. And for that reason, those who haven’t sensed it become unintelligible to us. And for that reason, how can I talk to a man about the world when he does not hear or see this thing? What can I reserve for him but the empathy I give to the grass or the lily who will issue forth only to freeze and never bloom come spring?

Ed McCourt is an associate professor of English at Jacksonville University where he specializes in creative writing. His work has appeared in the Red Booth Review, Little Patuxent Review, Citron and many other literary mags, as well as in the recent anthology “Sanctuary”.


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Blue Mountain Review / Feb. 2021


Contributing EDITORS shannon perri

angela dribbens

contributing editor

Shannon Perri holds an MFA in Creative Writing from Texas State University and a master’s degree in Social Work from the University of Texas. Her writing has appeared in various newspapers and literary magazines, such as Houston Chronicle, Austin-American Statesman, Joyland Magazine, and fields magazine. Her short story, “Liquid Gold,” was a finalist for the 2019 Texas Observer Short Fiction contest; her story, “The Resurrection Act,” was awarded a 2016 Joyland Magazine Publisher’s Pick; and her story, “Orientation,” was nominated for a Pushcart Prize. She lives in South Austin with her husband, son, and menagerie of pets.

contributing editor Angela Gregory-Dribben lives with her two favorite redheads down in a bottom in Southside Virginia where they are hard at work growing the fattest sandwich tomato in the Piedmont’s trademark red clay. Her poetry and essays can be found or are forthcoming in Main Street Rag, Deep South, Blue Mountain Review, San Pedro River Review, Motherscope, Crab Creek Review, Crack the Spine, Cirque, decomp, New Southern Fugitive, and others. A Bread Loaf alum, she is currently a student in Randolph College’s MFA.

robert gwaltney

dusty huggings

contributing editor Robert Gwaltney, a writer of southern fiction, is graduate of Florida State University. He resides in Atlanta Georgia with his partner, where he is an active member of the Atlanta literary community. By day, he serves as Vice President of Easter Seals North Georgia, Inc., Children Services, a non-profit supporting children with disabilities and other special needs. Robert’s work has appeared in such publications as The Signal Mountain Review and The Dead Mule School of Southern Literature. He is represented by Trident Media Group, and has completed his first novel, The Cicada Tree.

music editor

Dusty Huggins is a family man, musician, writer, and lover of literature. His interest in writing surfaced during his freshman year at Young Harris College due to an English professor nurturing his interest, stimulating passion, and building the confidence required to find his way as a writer. Dusty is the founder of the Atlanta blues-based, Southern rock band The Ides of June, and also performs as both the lead vocalist and bassist. He is a member of The Southern Collective Experience acting as the music editor for its journal of culture The Blue Mountain Review. In his spare time Dusty enjoys touring with The Ides of June throughout the southeast.

photography credits Brooke Lark Colton Duke Erik McLean Hannes Wolf Milda Vilkelyte Analogicu Burst 374 Cottonbro Daniela Constantini Daria Shev Eberhard Gross Gastegiger Elina Sazo



Elti Mesh Flo Mader Fotografie Furkanfde Guilman Gustavo Fr Idina Risk Irina Iriser Jen Healy Jessica Ticozzelli Juan Vargas Kat Jayne

Life of Pix Lisa Fotios Luizclas Mareks Steins Masha Ra Matthew Thomas Monika Ludvigsen Oleg Mag Oles Kane Olya Kobruseva Pixabay Sebastian Voortman

Sharon McCutcheon Snapwire Sofia Aleja Sovit Chet Spencer Selover Suzy Hazel Vijay Bhas Yuting Gao Gladis Lkuilne Syd Wachs Trisha Downing Alex Kozlo

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Blue Mountain Review / Feb. 2021

clifford brooks


Clifford Brooks is the CEO of the Southern Collective Experience and Editor-in-Chief of the Blue Mountain Review. He is also the journal’s content editor. Aside from these duties Clifford is the author of The Draw of Broken Eyes & Whirling Metaphysics, Athena Departs, and Exiles of Eden. These collections of poetry can easily be found online.

andy whitehorne

contributing editor

Andy Whitehorne is a writer and live music fanatic residing in Atlanta, Georgia. He spent two-and-a half-decades regularly attending live concerts and working in the hospitality industry. He holds a BFA in theatre, currently works in customer success, and now writes for the Blue Mountain Review as a contributing editor in food, music, and film.

casanova green

Contributing editor Casanova Green is a writer, singer/ songwriter, educator, and pastor. He is a 2010 graduate of Ohio Northern University where he earned a BA in Language Arts Education, with a minor in voice. In 2018 he earned an MFA in Creative Writing from Reinhardt University located in Georgia’s Etowah Valley. Casanova is a member of the Southern Collective Experience, often serving as a contributing editor. He has been published in several publications including The Blue Mountain Review, Raw Art Review, and Fredericksburg Literary and Art Review. In 2019, Casanova published a mini-chapbook of poetry entitled Whispers & Echoes, and his first book of poetry Things I Wish I Could Tell You is scheduled to be published in 2020. Casanova has done extensive ministry work since the age of nine, and has served as both a worship leader and choir director for over twenty years. He released his first album A Worshiper Mentality in January 2016, and his second album Songs from the Journey: Part 1, in August 2019. He is currently working on his third album Songs from the Journey: Part II, which will be released in 2020. Currently, he is the Owner of CGCreate LLC and serves as the lead pastor of True Vision Christian Community in Lancaster, OH, where he and his family reside.

Emily Kerlin

contributing editor Emily Kerlin has published poems in Intima: A Journal of Narrative Medicine, Bridge, Cider Press Review, Storm Cellar, The Pittsburg Poetry Journal and Blue Mountain Review. Her chapbook, Eighteen Farewells, won second place in the 2020 Women of Resilience Chapbook Contest. She attended Antioch College and holds a Master’s degree from the University of Illinois in Bilingual Education. Her current home is in Urbana, Illinois where she works with international students and families. You can find her at

tom johnson

contributing editor Tom Johnson was born in Roswell, Ga. He went to college focused on a career in Information Technology but to make ends meet, he worked in a few demanding sales jobs that taught him the ins and outs of marketing. He had always loved writing and he found that marketing gave him an outlet as well as a way to pay the bills. He enjoyed those aspects of his work so much that, after college, he decided on a career in sales instead of going straight into IT. Within a few months, he studied for and passed the Georgia Real Estate Exam. For the next four years he worked for Remax and later Lindsey and Pauly as a seller’s agent. After that, he became the Director of Marketing and Residential Support for a computer company. There he helped them to increase their visibility, develop new leads and on occasion, write content for client’s websites. In late 2009, he decided to go solo as a freelance copywriter for a wide array of clients. In recent years, he has been branching out into fiction and entertainment writing. His first book is slated to be published in 2020.


Megan baxter

contributing editor

Megan’s first book ‘The Coolest Monsters, A Collection of Essays’ was published in 2018 by Texas Review Press. Her debut novel ‘Farm Girl’ is forthcoming. Megan has won numerous national awards including a Pushcart Prize. Her work has been listed in The Best American Essays of 2019. Recent publications included pieces in The Threepenny Review, Hotel Amerika, The Florida Review, and Creative Nonfiction Magazine. Megan serves as a mentor to young writers and loves developing cross-genre and innovative creative writing pedagogy for her workshops and classes. She is currently conducting research for an environmentally themed novel as well as writing personal essays and poems. Megan lives in New Hampshire where she loves walking her dogs, running, and cooking with local foods.

rebecca Evans

Contributing editor

Bio: Rebecca Evans earned an MFA in Creative Nonfiction at Sierra Nevada University. She’s hosted and co-produced Our Voice and Idaho Living television shows, advocating personal stories, and now mentors teens in the juvenile system. She’s the co-host of Writer to Writer podcast on Radio Boise. Her poems and essays have appeared in The Rumpus, Entropy Literary Magazine, War, Literature & the Arts, 34th Parallel, and Collateral Journal, among others. She lives in Idaho with her three sons.

kaitlyn young

design & layouts Bio: Born and raised in the land of peaches and peanuts: Georgianative, Kaitlyn Young is a freelance graphic designer-specializing in both print and digital editorial designs. With a Bachelor’s degree in Communication and a minor in Public Relations from Kennesaw State University, she has worked in the marketing field professionally for nearly a decade. While marketing is her full-time occupation, her true passion is turning ideas into functional and informational works of art by designing magazines, invitations, business creative collateral and more. Kaitlyn lives in Canton,Georgia with her husband, daughters and labrador, Dolly.



jennifer avery

Contributing editor Jennifer Avery is an editor and writer from the foothills of Northwest Georgia. Her poetry has been published in the Blue Mountain Review and featured on Dante’s Old South. She spends much of her time attempting experiments in skincare and wordcraft. She is currently working on her novel, Ezra in Every Dimension.

Mildred K. Barya

contributing editor

Mildred Kiconco Barya is a writer from Uganda and Assistant professor at UNC-Asheville where she teaches creative writing and world literature. Her publications include three poetry books as well as prose, poems or hybrids in Tin House,, Poetry Quarterly, Asymptote Journal, Matters of Feminist Practice Anthology, Prairie Schooner, New Daughters of Africa International Anthology, Per Contra, and Northeast Review. Her nonfiction essay, Being Here in My Body won the 2020 Linda Flowers Literary Award and is forthcoming in the North Carolina Literary Review. She received a Ph.D. in English from the University of Denver, MFA in creative writing from Syracuse University, and B.A. in Literature, Makerere University. Visit her blog:

Laura Ingram

contributing editor

Laura Ingram is poetry editor and social media manager for the Southern Collective Experience. She has had work published in one hundred journals and magazines, among them Gravel and Juked. She is the author of four poetry collections: Junior Citizen’s Discount, Mirabilis, The Ghost Gospels, and Animal Sentinel.

Hester L. Furey

contributing editor

Hester L. Furey is a poet and literary historian who lives in Atlanta

Blue Mountain Review / Feb. 2021


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