Blue Mountain Review January 2022

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January 2022

Blue Mountain Review / January 2022


Louis Bayard:

Historical Fiction with Contemporary insight

Ashley M. Jones Reigns as alabama’s poet laureate Alice Hong’s Pure Pull into music

UCLA Extension spotlight: Ashley Griggs Joseph Fasano: A man of music Poetry & Prose finding bliss at meadowbrook inn

Skye Jackson OPens Heaven in New Orleans Scott Evan Davis Enlivens the earth check in with Buckhead’s Red Phone Booth

Catherine Mayer: Creating change in the UK

Discover philosophy of astronomy with lydia patton

Poetry, prose & visual art


Ashley M. Jones

Alice Hong

Skye Jackson


the poetics of a happy new year By: Ashley M. Jones When I was a child, I’d stay up until midnight waiting for the New Year’s Eve ball to drop at Times Square. Dick Clark was ever-present, and each countdown felt like a whole new life was waiting to explode all around me. All my glittering dreams could come true. The reality always was different, though, when midnight became 8am on January 1st and nothing had changed but the number I wrote at the end of the date. Those big ideas and big dreams were not guaranteed or automatic just because the year was new. I could not leave anything behind—it remained with me, in me, around me. How can we reconcile the past, present, and future? How can those hopes for fresh starts be made real? Because the poets always know, I turn, most years, to Lucille Clifton’s poem “I am running into a new year” which reminds us that the old year is still with us in the new year. That the faster we run, or the harder we count down to midnight, the louder our current selves and our past selves scream their eternal existence. Clifton tells us that our glittering wishes to turn over new leaves are never without those old leaves making compost for the new leaves’ nourishment. Everything feeds everything—there is only new life because it grows on the old one. These past two years have found us putting so many hopes and dreams on the new year—we’ll be able to go back to “normal,” we’ll have better politicians, we’ll finally put all this behind us. But what we forgot was Clifton’s wise reminder that the new year is still the old year is still every single year we’ve lived. We can only move forward with full acknowledgement of our past and full acceptance that the thing we’re racing to leave behind will still be there around the next corner. And that isn’t a tragedy. It isn’t a backpedal. It’s simply how we have to grow—whole and holistically. I find myself in a moment where erasing the past year would seem to be a gift—this year, I lost my dad, and that is something I can’t quite run from. No matter how many days pass, I’m forever in that horrific day when everything was impossible and wrong and unreal. But Clifton tells me how to keep moving—I can’t forget all the “before times” I had with my dad, and I can’t forget the feeling of losing him. Those are both pasts I must carry and honor. This new year is uncertain, and it is the first I’ll live without my dad on earth. And so much else is on the horizon in this year. It’s the first I’ll live as Poet Laureate of Alabama, with all its responsibilities and the



Blue Mountain Review / January 2022

historic nature of my appointment. This year will be a scary one, an anxious one, a sad one, but all those feelings can also feed the new leaves: happiness, joy, discovery, freedom. Here is an offering, as we edge into 2022. Clifton says: “i am running into a new year / and i beg what i love and / i leave to forgive me.” And I hope we can all practice that prayer this year and beyond.


table of Contents

. 1

Visual Art 77 Inam.......................................................... page 79

Music 9

Lakesha 82

Alice 11 Julie 15 Scott Evan Davis........................................ page 17

Special 83 Lydia 85 Meadowbrook 89 Greg 95

Literary 23 Louis 25 Ashley 33 Skye Jackson............................................. page 37

The Red Phone Booth .................................... page 103 Hemingway’s Dog 113 Book Review: 117

Ashley M. 39

Book Review: Color All Maps 121

Catherine 43

Faces of Faith: Ted 125

Malaika King Albrecht.............................. page 45 Frank X. Gaspar........................................ page 49 Jessica Dionne........................................... page 51 Monika Radojevic...................................... page 55 Joseph Fasano.......................................... page 59 Sari Fordham........................................... page 63 Meg Reid................................................... page 65 Eric Andrew & Genevieve 69 Claire Fullerton.......................................... page 73


M2 Public Relations ....................................... page 99

3 133 Bisbee’s by Lynne 135 Galveston Lifeguard by Kathleen Kimball-Baker...................... . page 137 Gig ‘Em by Kathleen Kimball-Baker......... . page 141 Opportunity Lost by Kathleen Kimball-Baker...................... . page 145 The Ceremonies of Discarded Ghosts by George Looney.......................... . page 147

Blue Mountain Review / January 2022

A Family Vacation Home

Reliquiae Diluviane

by Grant Kittrell...................................... . page 151

or, Observations on the Organic Remains

Funtown Arcade by Robert Petrillo..................................... . page 153 Cake by Stacey Forbes.............................. . page 155 Variation on the Third Law of Motion by Gerry Lafemina............ . page 159

Contained in Caves Fissures and Diluvial Gravel and on Other Geological Phenomena Attesting the Action of an Universal Deluge by Mara Adamitz Scrupe........................... . page 185 Saplings in a Dark Forest by Laura Metter....................................... . page 189

Summer Holiday by Rimas Uzgiris.......... . page 161

Frederic by Michael Steven Krug............. . page 191

Quartered by Rimas Uzgiris..................... . page 163

Sabino Canyon

July by Rimas Uzgiris.............................. . page 167

by Sandra Kolankiewicz........................... . page 195

Unfinished Sketches by Meg Freer........... . page 169 Open Letters to the Watchers 201

by David Denny....................................... . page 171

You Could Have Been the Love

On the Occassion of Another

of My Life by Suzanne Kamata. .................. page 203

Thousand Years by Ted Eisenberg............ . page 175 Ode to a Mattress in the Alley by Darren Morris.................................... . page 177 Night Fevers by Roberta Senechal de la Roche.............. . page 179 Cold Front by Roberta Senechal de la Roche............. . page 183 207 A Mother’s Touch by Jef Blocker ............... page 209 Blackout by B. Robert Conklin................. . page 215 Community Club by Karen 219 These Gray Years by Paul 227








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Blue Mountain Review / January 2022


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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

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

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music Interv 9

Blue Mountain Review / January 2022

c views


Interview with

Alice Hong BY: Andy Whitehorne

How do you view your place in this day and time? What keeps the magic in you? The pandemic posed a lot of serious questions for people in the creative field. How important are we to the big scheme of things when the world is globally faced with a life-threatening situation? Ultimately, I think the Edgewood String Quartet gained a new perspective of how necessary it is to keep creating and expressing during trying times.

It was surreal to be one of the first groups of musicians in the country - if not the world - to begin performing live concerts after the pandemic hit, and I guess our place then is the same as now: we’re here to serve our Atlanta community in bringing the joy that comes with intimate live music. Seeing the reactions from our audience, getting to meet them and feeling that connection with them is what keeps the magic in us. We’d love to spread our wings to other cities and places soon, but Atlanta will always be our home that we love to play for.

What effect does music have on you? That’s an interesting question. It’s not so much an effect as it is what I consider a life purpose. That might seem dramatic, but I think everyone feels that way about something or is searching for the thing that they feel that way about, and music is mine. I think everyone in ESQ feels similarly - we dedicated countless hours of every day of our lives to playing music! But it also depends on the kind of music. We get such cool opportunities to play a huge variety of genres - from Beethoven to Queen to Ariana Grande to Led Zeppelin, and we enjoy rocking out to it all; each piece/song has a different but equally awesome effect on us!

How did you choose the instrument you clearly master? I was a big Sailor Moon fan when I was a kid, and I loved watching Sailor Neptune, a violin virtuoso by day and a warrior by night, play the violin. I already played piano and my parents thought that was enough, but I eventually convinced them to start me on violin lessons after a few years of nagging.

Tell us about the unique nature of The Edgewood String Quartet? I think there are a few things that make Edgewood String Quartet stand out. We love playing music, but we also try to offer as all-encompassing and unique an experience as possible. We play an expansive variety of genres, and we try to dress the part.



Blue Mountain Review / January 2022


If you came to one of our Anime Theme concerts, you’d see Nezuko from Demon Slayer, Sailor Jupiter and Tuxedo Mask from Sailor Moon, and Kakashi from Naruto playing quartets for you. We love talking to the audience and bringing everyone onto the same page about pieces we’re playing, so sometimes it’s educational, not just for the audience but for us as well! I’m also into arranging, and once we’re able to secure a funding source, we plan on a fun recording album project with our own arrangements of songs you’d never imagine being played by strings, like rap and reggae.

What do you do away from the music? I’m a photographer, and I recently got my foot in the door with acting. I have no idea where that path might lead, but I enjoy learning about a different creative field and new creative approaches. It’s refreshing but also familiar; there are a lot of things actors and musicians do alike to make something a little more magical. All the members of ESQ have something outside of music that gives us joy: Joyce is an incredibly skilled and meticulous baker, Josiah is an unbelievable cook, and he sets his food on a beautiful table he built, and Adelaide is a superhuman at Orange Theory and a super mom at home.



Blue Mountain Review / January 2022


Interview with


You are from the world and of the world. How has your youth and travels sculpted you as a pianist? Being able to gather so many different views and lessons from different parts of the world has sculped me as a better musician, collaborator, and professor. When I was younger, I would travel around Europe with my family to different teachers and masterclasses to get as many lessons and guidance as possible. My family has played a huge part of my upbringing and musical life and without them and their support and guidance I am pretty sure I would be half the musician I am today. My mom used to tell us as kids that ‘discipline gives freedom’ and that has stayed with me all through my adult life and is something I try to live by to this day.

Who are you listening to now? Right now, I am listening to Gidon Kremer and Martha Argerich playing the Schumann piano and violin sonata in A minor since I must perform it next week. I like getting inspiration from such incredible artists before a performance. I also have Brahms Symphony No. 3 on repeat because that is some of the most beautiful music in this world in my opinion!

What invigorates you about life postCOVID? I think that COVID made me work even harder as a musician and organizer. In the beginning, when everything shut down so suddenly, I felt so defeated and gloomy after a whole year of scheduled concerts got canceled within a few days. But then I started organizing my own concert series together with Jens Korndoerfer at First Presbyterian Church as a live stream option, and they were so popular that we ended up organizing 5 of these concerts! Not being able to express myself through music is one of the most painful situations I can think of, so I am glad that there are other options to perform and make music. Now, with concerts coming back again with a live audience, I am more determined than ever to never take this wonderful career for granted and work even harder every single day to do it justice.



Blue Mountain Review / January 2022

What word of wisdom do you have for musicians hoping to attain the acclaim you enjoy? I would say “practice more”! This is said with a smile on my face! I am partly joking, but hard work and practice is some of the most important traits you can have as a musician. I would also advice to make friends and acquaintances wherever you go, and to try to have a positive attitude and frame of mind. Being a professional musician is hard work, and you wear a lot of different hats within your profession. So always try to learn and grow.

Who are your heroes? My family are my heroes!

How do we find you and keep up with you online? You can find me on social media @julienorway on IG or on Facebook. Or check out my website that I have with my violinist brother David at www. davidandjuliecoucheron. com All my upcoming concerts and events are announced on my website and social media.


Interview with

scott evan Davis BY: andy whitehorne You’ve recently caught lightning in a bottle. Tell us all about the hard work it takes to create a man a like you. I think you need to talk to my mother. I am pretty sure she worked harder……. but……I also don’t know if it’s lightning, but more like a slow spark. It’s been such an interesting year for me. I am very lucky to have grown the following that I have, but it’s also added a lot of new elements to my life.

As far as creating a man like me…my honest answer is…. I don’t think I’ve finished creating him yet. I do know that I work very hard and have almost an obsessive need to achieve…. but that’s a conversation for my therapist.

You’re a composer. How did that calling find you? I became a composer late in life. I didn’t write my first song until I was 31. I was a trained musical theatre performer who taught himself to play the piano when I was 12. I never really had the desire to write anything. But, while I was in college, I had a mentor who really believed in me and because I was a stupid kid…. we had a big argument one day and I moved on to other things. He passed away from cancer before we could resolve anything.

But, years later, I had a dream about him. He was sitting on a park bench and holding his arms out to hug me. We hugged and he was humming a short melody.

The next day I couldn’t get it out of my head. I played it out on the piano, and that became my first song. I’ve been writing ever since.

What is your philosophy behind living your best life? I think staying grateful for what you already have is a good place to start. Every morning I wake up and write in my journal. I’ve been doing that since I’ve been a kid. But these days, I start the first page or two, writing what I am grateful for. That really helps to put the bad stuff in perspective. I also think being on time, and doing the things you say you are going to do is very important. Holding yourself accountable has amazing psychological benefits. My best life changes every day.

I think the most important thing is to change with it and not hold too many expectations. Also…. don’t take yourself so seriously. Having fun is okay……especially these days.



Blue Mountain Review / January 2022


How has your Instagram fame changed your perspective or has it? It absolutely has although I still have a hard time calling it any of its “fame”. I have more followers now. That itself has changed my life. It makes you evaluate who you are a lot because you are constantly putting yourself in front of other people.

Sometimes people are lovely. Sometimes they aren’t. You learn a lot about yourself regarding how you handle it all. I think it’s been a gift really because I really love connecting with people, even though my content says otherwise.

It’s also been amazing to expose people to my music, after they start following me for the humor. I have also realized how we can affect people that we have never met. I have done that through my music, but never because of a social media presence. That part has been fascinating.



Blue Mountain Review / January 2022

Where do you go for fashion advice? I go to my partner. I know what I look good in, and I know what I like…. but I hardly ever know what is trendy or what is not. So, I generally, must ask about things.

I have never really been a fashion person, but these days…I’m realizing that I love clothes and more importantly…I seem to gravitate towards expensive ones. I love Todd Snyder clothes, but that isn’t something I can do for myself all the time.

What are your plans for the future? I have booked my first solo concert of my music for May 21st, 2022, in NYC. It will be an autobiographical show where I incorporate humor and music. I am looking forward to that. I am also doing a cabaret with Epic Players at Lincoln Center in April.

One thing that I am VERY excited about is that my first full musical called INDIGO is having its first production next Spring. I’ve been working on it for a long time, and it now has Broadway producers attached, so I am very excited to start working on that! I was to continue to expand my social media following and keep finding ways to keep it fresh and authentic.

How do we keep up with you online and or get our hands on merch? You can find me @scottevandavis almost everywhere. Instagram is what I use mostly. In my bio, there are links to merch and all things me, including my website, so feel free to check it all out!




Blue Mountain Review / January 2022


Litera Interv



Blue Mountain Review / January 2022

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Interview with

LOUIS BAYARD By: Robert Gwaltney

Your debut novel, Fool’s Errand, a romantic comedy set in Washington D.C.’s gay community came out June 1, 2000. Twenty-two years later, your tenth novel, Jackie and Me, will be released June 14th with Algonquin Books. When reflecting over these years and your impressive body of work, how have you evolved as a writer? In a way, I’m more struck by how I haven’t evolved. I keep expecting the whole writing process to get easier, but each book is its own pain in the ass, with its own unique challenges, and everything still has to be rewritten, sometimes extensively. So if there’s a rulebook that age imparts, I have yet to discover it. That said, if you’d told me 22 years ago that I would be writing books about Lincoln and Poe and Teddy Roosevelt, I’m not sure I would have believed you. The whole pivot to historical fiction was something I never expected to happen, and even now, looking back, it has the quality of an accident. Or maybe “providence” is the better word.

The New York Times said Louis Bayard “reinvigorates historical fiction,” rendering the past “as if he’d witnessed it firsthand.” This is no simple task. How do you pull this off? Well, I’m not always sure I do, but one thing I’m kind of vigilant about is keeping the research from swamping the story. To me, there’s nothing more deadly in a historical novel than when the story grinds to a halt so the author can slay you with his laboriously acquired knowledge. “Here’s what I learned about Parisian sewer systems. Here’s what I learned about Edwardian corsets.” I call it the Gold Star School of historical fiction. For me, the story always has to take precedence, and that often means the research has to fall away.

I read in an interview that after completing your historical research, you don’t do a great deal of outlining. Rather, you allow the story to develop organically. Within your writing process, how does a story develop organically? I pretty much have to let it develop organically because I’m not smart enough to figure out what’s going to happen. In fact, part of the fun of writing any book—for me, anyway—is seeing where it takes me. And, at the risk of sounding mystical, it does take me to unexpected places, and it educates me as I go along, and I’m often the most surprised person in the room.



Blue Mountain Review / January 2022


Of your stellar body of work, your recent novel, Courting Mr. Lincoln, is a particular favorite of mine. Within this story, you explore the origin of Abraham Lincoln and Mary Todd’s relationship and the third side of a riveting love triangle, Lincoln’s best friend, Joshua Speed. Your braiding of fact and fiction is masterful. What are your rules for portraying notable, historical figures? I learn as much about them as I can, but, at the same time, I treat them the way I would any other fictional character. What I mean is I grant them the autonomy they need to live on the page, and if that means making up dialogue for them or sending them places they never went, I’m good with that. In the climax of Courting Mr. Lincoln, for instance, Mary Todd travels to an island she never visited in life for the simple reason that I needed her to. Again, for me, it’s about serving the story.

Of the historical characters you have portrayed on the page, you were asked in another interview which one you would invite to dinner. You chose Abraham Lincoln because of his humor in the courtroom which most likely would translate to an amusing evening. If these same characters possessed profiles on a dating app, who would you swipe left, and who would you swipe right? Well, this is embarrassing. I’ve never been on a dating app, so I had to Google what “swipe left” and “swipe right” meant. So … this decision is all based on looks, right? In which case, I would definitely swipe right on Joshua Speed and (I fear) left on Lincoln. Right on 19th-century Teddy Roosevelt, left on 20th-century Teddy. Right on Poe, left (double left, if that’s possible) on Jack Kennedy. I’m now shuddering a little at the implications.

Your fourth novel, The Pale Blue Eye, is being adapted to film starring Christian Bale as Augustus Landor and Harry Melling as Edgar Allen Poe. Would you please share your thoughts on this experience? I’ve been a movie buff since I was a little kid, so it’s definitely a thrill to see an actual film come into being because of something you wrote. And Scott Cooper, the writer-director, has been wonderfully open to hearing my thoughts on the script, which he most certainly didn’t need to be. So that’s all been great. I will say there’s a curious displacement to hearing yourself congratulated for something you wrote 15 years ago—I mean, my job is long since done—and it gets to the perception in our culture—I’m guilty of it, too, probably—that you’ve only made it as a writer when your work is adapted to film or TV or some other medium. None of this takes away from my delight that this is happening.

You and I are both fans of Charles Dickens. One of my favorite characters of all time is Amelia Havisham from his 1861 novel, Great Expectations. Talk a little about your admiration of Dickens and how he has inspired your own writing.



I discovered him as a kid through a Classics Illustrated version of Oliver Twist. I suppose what first attracted me were those crazy, tangled, rhyming plots of his—the whole “What next?” feeling he gives you. Of course, Dickens wrote his novels in installments, so he developed a very keen, very

Blue Mountain Review / January 2022 commercial sense of how to keep people reading from month to month. But, once you dive in, you find yourself in this deeply imagined, always interesting world, which can’t help but feel more alive than your own. I forget who it was who said that, in real life, you’d be running away from Dickens’ people, but on the page, you can’t get enough of them. Miss Havisham is a great example, isn’t she? This creepy woman in her creepy house, with the mice gnawing away at the remains of her wedding cake. I mean, in real life, you’d call the health department on her. But Dickens invites you right in, and you never want to leave, and that’s a testament to the extraordinary fertility and energy of his writing. A book as massive as Bleak House, say, just rolls by like a dream.

Let’s imagine some years from now an author endeavors to fictionalize your life in a novel. It could totally happen. What might the novel be titled; and which elements of your life would you hope they emphasize, and which would you hope they ignore all together? God, I’ve never been asked this before. “The Not Very Interesting Creature of Habit”? Flaubert once said something about saving your wildness for your art, and I do think there’s something to be said—at my age, anyway—for getting a good night’s sleep, walking your dog, keeping regular hours. I suppose, back in my early twenties, I was staying out later and mixing it up with unsuitable guys, but I bowed out of that scene pretty early. So any author who wants to fictionalize my life will have to add a lot of fiction.


I am anxiously awaiting the release of your upcoming novel, Jackie and Me, a story about a young Jacqueline Bouvier. Earlier we discussed the organic unfurling of story. Where did this story take you that surprised you most? Well, it started when I stumbled across a photograph of these two 1930s collegiate males, posing rather flirtatiously for the camera. One of them was a very young Jack Kennedy. The other was Lem Billings, whose main claim to fame, in his and everybody else’s eyes, was being Jack’s best friend. He was also a closeted gay man and, as I soon learned, a witness to the courtship between Jack and Jackie Bouvier, so I figured he would be the ideal observer for this rather epochal crossing. And he turned out to be great company. In the course of writing, his voice and sensibility really took over, and I was happy just to be his scribe.



Blue Mountain Review / January 2022


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Blue Mountain Review / January 2022


Interview with

AshleY griggs with the UCLA writers’ extension program By: clifford brooks What makes Ashley Griggs comfortable in her own skin? I would say a cup of English breakfast tea, probably a baked good of some kind, fresh air, a lengthy walk, and a long conversation with my sister or a friend where we can completely be ourselves. Personality-wise, I’ve always been someone who lives right on that line of being an introvert and an extrovert, a listener and observer and a person bursting with things to say.

I know this amalgamation is what made me into a writer but, occasionally, existing in that in between space can leave you feeling a bit tense or stifled. I think my safe space and where I feel the most comfortable is when I let go of inhibition on the page in my creative work, but also through relationships with my loved ones where I can let my guard down.

How does identity work into your creative endeavors? When I first became interested in storytelling, identity meant something very different in my work. I imagined characters that were a collection of interests and experiences, emotions, and ambitions, but they were always devoid of areas of identity such as race, class, and cultural heritage.

As a black woman, I was so used to putting myself into the shoes of the characters that I read about or watched in film and television, even if those characters didn’t share my identity; and they often didn’t. So, when I began writing, I did as I saw or read. Sure, there are a ton of books and movies where class is explored, but, growing up, it was rarer to see race and culture depicted in an authentic way. I suppose I thought that identifying someone’s race, gender, class, etc, in a screenplay, for example, was what was needed to bring the people I was writing to life. Now, I recognize that you must fold those elements of identity into the story, through dialogue, plot, and setting, in order to make your characters and their experiences three-dimensional.

It is so important to me to create work that sheds light on the richness of women of color and people whose identities haven’t been front and center onscreen or on the page quite as often. I want to write characters that feel like people I know, or could know, or want to know, with the nuance and focus that they deserve.



Blue Mountain Review / January 2022

Where do you fit into the beautiful UCLA Extension program? How do you add your own energy? I joined UCLA Extension’s Writers Program and Entertainment Studies teams in late 2018 as a program representative. I help coordinate courses in creative writing, editing, and publishing, written communication, and now screenwriting as well. Essentially, I work closely with instructors who are experts in their fields—published authors and poets, produced screenwriters, editors, and publishing professionals— to help them translate their creative expertise and professional background into courses that can inspire others to pursue and improve their writing or professional aspirations.

I think the Writers’ Program is such a special place in that classes are open to anyone and the program truly values helping everyone grow in their journey as a writer or professional. Like me, everyone who works at the Writers’ Program on the administrative side is a writer, so we all care deeply about making space for people to pursue their writing goals.


I try to approach the day-to-day of working with our instructors and students with kindness and encouragement. I know how hard it can be to get up every day and just push forward with your writing, or pursue that career change, or edit that novel you need to get through. Our students are often working on a creative desire they have that’s extremely personal to them, something burning in their souls. Our instructors are often also dealing with the ups and downs of their own professional and creative pursuits while managing the stress that can come from teaching. If I can help make their daily grind a little more positive, I’m going to try.

What projects are you working on now? I’m currently working on a screenplay set in my home state of Virginia. I’ve wanted to write something set there for a long time, so I’m excited to have finally found the right story to do it.

What’s a question you’ve always wanted someone to ask you, but no one has? What’s the answer? I’ve always wanted to be asked where I like to eat in my hometown, Herndon, Virginia. Food has been important to me since I was born. My first word was “apple” and my love of all things delicious just kind of grew from there. I think what and where you eat can tell a story about your life, and I’ve found food creeping more and more into my writing for that reason.

So, in terms of my answer, I do want to preface this by saying that nothing on this list will be earth shattering, but I stand by it all. A few of my favorite things to eat in Herndon are the bagels and homemade cream cheese at Bagel Café on Elden St. Specifically, the blueberry bagel with blueberry or chocolate chip cream cheese will ruin other bagels for you. Guapo’s, which is a two-minute walk from my mom’s dental office, has phenomenal rotisserie chicken and yucca.

Everything at Great Harvest Bread Co. in downtown Herndon is amazing— admittedly, this is a chain but it’s also the local bakery where they used to take us on field trips in elementary school for slices of whole wheat or apple scrapple slathered in butter and honey, and the people who work there have always been kind. Clyde’s in the Reston Town Center has been a favorite since I was little, and my parents would take us to get calamari and hot chocolate after ice-skating. That sounds like an odd combination but give it a try. My granddad ordered the trout parmesan every single time he came up from Atlanta to visit, so I always think of that as his dish. And finally, a longtime family friend, Judy Ferebee, has a business called Carrot Cakes By Judy, and I feel very fortunate that we were often gifted a perfect cream cheese frosted carrot cake during the holidays growing up, because it’s literally the best.




PROGRAM IN A 1920’S SPEAKEASY ATMOSPHERE Blue Mountain Review / January 2022

Atlanta & Nashville


Interview with

Skye Jackson By: Clifford Brooks Tell us how Skye Jackson came to this exciting place in poetry. What makes you, you? I love this question! Hold on a moment…let me go ask her! Seriously though…what makes me me is truth, vulnerability, sensuality, suffering…kindness and cruelty. I think that poets need to be cruel…it’s like when someone wakes you from bed when you’re sound asleep…they’re either saving your life because the house is burning down or sharing some sad, inevitable truth that needed to be conveyed to you.

I like to think that there’s also some semblance of joy wrapped within what I do and how I express myself to other people. If I had to categorize myself (or how others perceive me) I’d say that it all boils down to a very quiet joy tinged with a palpable, throbbing sadness.

How do you approach the editing process? I’m getting back to what it means to edit for myself. I just graduated from the University of New Orleans Creative Writing Workshop this past May and realized that I started to edit my work based upon other people’s notes and perceptions. I want to get back to a place of trusting my own instincts. I’m a very natural poet.

I rely a lot on sound and how it all feels. I want the poems to be accessible…for other people to see themselves inside of what I’m doing. To me, that’s what makes an impact. I edit based on sound and clarity…but I struggle with knowing when a poem is done or not. You know what they say…the poem is never complete; it’s simply abandoned after a time.

What are you reading and listening to right now? I’m listening to a lot of mellow music right now…soft rock and R&B. A lot of Fleetwood Mac and Sade. I always return to those artists. I’ve also been listening to a spooky podcast called Unsolved Mysteries. I’ll never understand why I’m so drawn to it! As a child, I watched the television show and now I find some sort of comfort in these mysteries.

The sound of Robert Stack’s voice never fails to lull me into a sound sleep. In terms of books, I’ve been reading the latest from Kaveh Akbar and Amanda Moore. I’ve also been digging into frank: sonnets by Diane Seuss. For fun and purposes of fascination, I’ve been reading Me by Elton John. I’m obsessed with rock and roll history and legends.



Blue Mountain Review / January 2022

How did you develop your poetic voice? Reading, mostly…and listening to other poets read their work. I always want to feel deeply affected…so much so that I become sad or angry or filled to the brim with joy. I just want a poem to make me feel something…or to make me think about something in a new, fresh and exciting way. I’ve mostly developed my own poetic voice by listening to other voices (whether that’s musical artists or poets) that I deeply admire and aspire to be like.

What do you consider success? For me, success means happiness – blissful unadulterated happiness. The idea of being content with the art that I’m creating and how that art is touching others. I’d like to make an impact in the world. I’m also a Taurus…which means that my base self thinks that success is being able to walk into a restaurant without any fear and order whatever expensive meal and wine I want on the menu. I think happiness is just being able to enjoy life…to travel, explore and be loved. It also means feeling secure in the love that you have.

How do we find your book online and keep up with you as time goes on? That’s a great question. My book, A Faster Grave, is available from Antenna Press at https://www. You can also get the I Am New Orleans Anthology, where one of my poems is featured from https://www. You can also keep up with me at, Facebook or Instagram.


Interview with

Ashley M. Jones By: clifford brooks Who is Ashley M. Jones on and off the page? I often wonder if they’re the same person, and at the root, they are, but the differences are this—on the page, I’m saying everything exactly like I want to say it, as loudly and as unapologetically as I want to say it. I am not afraid on the page. Off the page, I still feel some version of that confidence, but I’m a lot more cautious, and I keep a lot of thoughts to myself. The page is a place where my truths can bloom. The world is a place where sometimes, those truths need to remain silent. I hope a similarity between my on and off page persona is that I’m open and welcoming to everyone. I want people to feel comfortable when they enter my poem or when they’re in my presence. I want there to be room for everyone there. I want there to be a connection.

How has becoming the first African American woman and youngest ever Poet Laureate of Alabama changed you? I’m not sure I’m changed, necessarily, but I see myself a little differently. I have always worked hard to reach my goals and becoming Poet Laureate of my state (and hopefully later, my country) was always one of them. But to face that moment is different than all my dreams about the moment. When I was voted in and when I was officially commissioned, I felt something unmistakable and unmistakably weighty. Not heavy, you understand, but weighty. There is a huge responsibility in being the first person of color and the youngest Poet Laureate of my state—there’s that whole 91 years where there were no people of color holding the position, there’s the history of Alabama and its impact today, there’s my political poetry in a not-so-liberal state, there’s the great lineage of Black poets who made a way for me, there are the young Black poets and poets of color for whom I have to make a way. It’s a lot to hold. But I look at myself now as someone who has the privilege to carry something on for the next generation. It isn’t a burden—if my foremothers could feed us and nurture us in a land of death and terror, if they could escape from plantations, make feasts out of scraps, fight for liberation in our schools/jobs/cities/states/countries/the whole blue universe, I can certainly make more space for poets. There’s also the other side of this moment—I have gotten a lot of media attention, and that’s dizzying. I often look at myself on those interviews and I wonder who that person is—not because I’ve become a diva or something like that. No, it’s more that I’m finally able to see myself as others might see me— I’m grateful to see that my family’s imprint is all over me. The South is all over me. Blackness is all over me. Purpose and pride is all over me. I can see it in the way I smile, in the way I make jokes, in the way I fight for my people with each stanza. I’m excited to see what happens next!

How does teaching fuel your creative life? Where do you hold class? If I was not a teacher, I promise I’d be a much worse writer. And maybe the quality of the work might still be okay, but I just mean that my capacity to imagine and re-invent is fueled by my teaching practice. When you teach (and



Blue Mountain Review / January 2022

here, I mean teaching in a very authentic and committed sense, with one’s full heart), you have to humble yourself constantly. You will make mistakes. You can’t know everything, and there’s always a new way to see the work. Students show you that, daily. I’m always trying to make sure I stay aware of what’s happening in the literary world so I can pass that information on to my students. There’s also a way in which teaching reminds me of the joy and praise you can find in talking about poetry/literature at large. When I’m teaching about a piece, and I’m breaking it down, talking though the ways it works and the way it speaks to me, and I hear students give their take, and we’re all just wrapped up in the glory of the work, it’s so abundantly clear that the spirit is always moving in writing. That’s what keeps me coming back to the page to write and to read—it makes life so much more alive.

Tell us about the books you have out now. I have three books out now. Magic City Gospel (Hub City Press) is a love song to Birmingham, telling the history of our city and state at large, and telling the story of my childhood in such a magical city. dark//thing (Pleiades Press) is a book filled with fire and rage and a plea for this world to stop equating Blackness to thing-ness—we deserve humanity and every sort of freedom. REPARATIONS NOW! (Hub City Press) is a book which explores reparations (and its root word, repair) of all kinds—political and personal. This third book is one in which I felt the most confident, the most myself, and the least concerned with what the “literary value” of the book might be. That is, I wrote by purely listening to what was inside me, what the spirit led me to, and what I wanted to write. I felt, by this third book, I had proven what I thought I needed to prove, and I was able to now write on my own terms. This book has exploded beyond my dreams for it, and I think that may be due to the heart-work shining through it so clearly.


What are three hard truths that are worth the hard work to become a professional writer? I think the three hard truths I’ve come to know that have helped me to become a professional writer are: it’s hard work, it’s soul work, it’s not about academic praise. Becoming a professional writer is no easy task—although I’m relatively young, I have been working for a very long time at honing my craft, learning how to channel my talents into polished work, and studying writers to understand the history of the form and the places I can take it. There are long hours in the life of a writer—submitting work, re-submitting work, writing the work, etc. etc. etc. You must be prepared to work hard to achieve your goals in this industry. As much as there is technical preparation, however, you must be willing to listen to the soul-part of the work, too. It isn’t all iambs and perfect voltas—for me, writing is so much about listening to that thing that makes the poems appear. I call it the spirit, but you can call it whatever you like. You must listen to that thing, and maybe it’s also yourself, your authentic voice, because a technically good poem with no soul, no life, is just a collection of words. Finally, although we all have dreams of making it in our field and achieving all the goals the world tells us we should achieve, I find that I can’t let that be my primary focus. If I’m not writing because it’s necessary for my survival, if I’m not writing to express an otherwise inexpressible feeling or idea, I probably shouldn’t be writing. If it always comes down to thoughts like “I have to write this so I can win that,” or “I have to write this so I can be known by xyz institution,” I think that’s an unsustainable writing life. For me, I have to begin and end with the reason I write—to understand the world, to understand myself, to start a necessary conversation.

What is your philosophy behind editing your work? I am not a long-term reviser, which is maybe blasphemous in some circles, but I really believe everyone has their own process, and each writer should honor that process. Whatever works for you is what you should do. For me, I’m often editing while I write, which is tricky but it’s just how my brain works. I revise a little once or maybe twice, but I don’t like to over-revise. To me, the poem is a gift, and I don’t want to ruin the gift by overworking the piece.

How do we keep up with you online?



You can always check out my website,, or you can find me on Instagram at @cityofawoman, Twitter at @ashberry813 or Facebook @PoetAshleyMJones.

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Interview with

catherine mayer By: Clifford brooks

You’ve had a tough time but seem at peace with yourself. How did you get to that place? On the day my husband [Gang of Four founder Andy Gill] died, right at the start of the pandemic, I wrote a brief social media post: “This pain is the price of extraordinary joy, almost three decades with the best man in the world.” Even in that moment of torment—which came hard on the heels of the death of my stepfather and just ahead of the first lockdown—I recognised my luck in having known such love. This feeling sustains me still and always will. Also, I continue to direct my energies into doing things, for Andy—such as finishing and bringing out the incredible album he was working on, The Problem of Leisure, covers of Gang of Four songs by the musicians he most admired—and in areas I was already active. I’m an author and the co-founder of a political party, the (UK) Women’s Equality Party, and of a festival centring women and celebrating writing and performance of all kinds, Primadonna.

How did you and late husband Andy Gill meet? How do you describe that spark? I went to a glitzy party as someone else’s plus one, and met someone else there on the same, rather random chance. He was a ridiculously handsome man, standing by the buffet, cradling a giant bowl of trifle under one arm, and scooping the creamy dessert straight into his mouth with his free hand. After I laughed at him, we got talking and never really stopped for the next 28 years, though he did sing that night, after we went out onto the terrace. He serenaded me with Up on the Roof. A week later, we effectively moved in together and were never parted again. Until 2020.

Where in the arts do you find an exhilarating home? All arts, really. As I answer your question, music is leaking into my office from the recording studio that Andy built in our flat for his own use and that I now run as a commercial venture. I’ve always loved live music (even if I dislike the music industry) and Andy and I also shared a love of the visual arts. I did some work with Damien Hirst, who is, by coincidence, a big Gang of Four fan, and kindly created the wonderful artwork for The Problem of Leisure. I anyway come from a family that is heavily involved in the arts and entertainment. There are authors on both sides of my family, filmmakers, my dad is a theatre historian, one sister set up a talent agency, another is a screenwriter who wrote The Young Ones. My mother worked as a theatre and music publicist and now is working on a second book after we collaborated on a memoir, Good Grief: Embracing Life at a Time of Death. I’m working on another book too.



Blue Mountain Review / January 2022

What projects and programs do you have on the horizon that we should be aware of? You mean apart from writing another book, doing everything possible to change the political weather through the Women’s Equality Party, planning the 2022 programme for Primadonna Festival, continuing to sift through Andy’s huge trove of unpublished music, and campaigning for justice for the Covid bereaved in the UK? Well, I had a whole day of meetings yesterday about setting up another festival and I have quite a lot else on the go too, much of it TOP SECRET. And the paperback of Good Grief comes out soon. I’ve written new chapters that I feel sure will prompt a good deal of interest.

How do we keep up with you online? There’s a blog on my website www. and I’m a prolific tweeter @catherine_mayer. I am also on Instagram as @MayerofLondon and on Facebook under my own name.

How do you define happiness? As a series of positive negatives: Happiness is not wanting to be anywhere but the place you are; not worrying if there is anything else you should have said or done; not wanting or yearning or hungering unless for a person or experience within reach. Also and most importantly: never letting sadness or anger, your own or others’, corrode the past, pollute the present or dampen your excitement for the future.


Interview with

Malaika king albrecht By: Lynne Kemen Tell us about Red-Headed Stepchild, a very unusual poetry journal. 13 years ago, Deborah Blakely Averill, a good friend and wonderful writer, and I wanted to start a literary magazine. She and I both had similar backgrounds: teenagers in the 80s, part of the punk rock scene, really big on thrift stores, repurposing, DIY own style. Originally, we didn’t think of rejects. And, then at some point, I said we should only do rejects-like dumpster diving for poetry. It is the essence of what our aesthetics, our beliefs are. We have always loved the outsiders, the dark horse, the things that people pass on. I’m in recovery, and that’s a huge part of that aesthetic, as well. (Averill died in 2018). We got a ton of submissions when we opened. It shocked me how much it resonated. Poets and rejection go together like peas and carrots.

What is your acceptance rate? It’s so competitive now that we pass on 97% because I have set the limit at 13-18 poems. We only do it twice a year. We have open submissions in August and in February.

Who else is working with you? Rob Vance was one of my friends in grad school. He and I had worked together on the print journal Old Dominion Review, so I knew that he was a very diligent editor, and he reads voraciously, and I love that. So, I asked Rob to step in. Caleb Beissert, our third editor, is out in Ashville, NC and he runs open mic, does translations, a really keen mind. I like having a multitude of editors with different aesthetics. I like the fact that you can’t say RSC prefers narrative poems or wouldn’t take a haiku or isn’t open to Avant Garde stuff because having a magazine with three different editors means that we can have an issue with very different poems in it. Our only criteria when we’re working together is that 2 out of 3 of the editors have to agree on the same poem.

Who are your favorite poets? We have so many fabulous poets writing masterful work nowadays. Writing brave and courageous poetry. I think of Brian Turner’s “Here, Bullet,” and it’s so skillfully done. You want to ask, “How did you do that”? That is a perfect damn poem, and I have often said, “Read this” to my combat veteran friends. Some are people that would not read a poem to save their life. One friend said, “that guy has eaten the same dirt as me!”



Blue Mountain Review / January 2022 Joy Harjo’s Eagle Poem. I get chills every damn time I read that poem. I think how can that be? I know this poem. But she captures some beautiful equally vulnerable and equally powerful truth, and I love that. Love that dichotomy. I love that she has that. Evie Shockley, another poet who has written some poems that knocks my socks off. I use her work in poetry therapy. Ellen Bass ties into everything I am passionate about. The Courage to Heal is a lifeline, and her poems are such a gift. Can I just say a list of names? Wait. I just realized many of my poetry swoons can be found on our Redheaded Stepchild YouTube Book Launch Series for those with new books out during the pandemic: channelUC1NdsF3XHuSAHXjiYBK7PFA


Tell us about your own writing. You do a whole series on ghosts, on Alzheimer’s. It’s gorgeous, poignant writing. Lessons in Forgetting was my first published book, then Spill. Both of those books are very close to what people would call confessional poetry. I never thought that was a good term. I have nothing to confess. And just because something is true, it doesn’t mean that I am going to write about it. And just because I write about it doesn’t mean that it is authentic in the physical truth. Sometimes it is a figurative truth. With Lessons, I was writing in real time. Normally, I write years later. My first drafts are ugly. I am a rewriter.

In addition to RSC and your own writing, you work with addicts and survivors of trauma, veterans using Equine Therapy. Tell us about your not-for-profit. It’s called Mane Source Counseling ( We offer a series of programs for veterans with PTSD, for survivors of domestic violence, and we are working on a new program for substance use recovery, all using horses as partners in healing. Horses are co-therapists, we are not using them as a tool. They are a sentient being involved in the experience and we allow the horses and the clients to pick each other. The horse and the human build a strong relationship together. There is something very reparative about building relationships.

So, I am back to Redheaded Stepchild. Who are your disposables in your society? It’s all the same thing. To me it’s all the same things. Who are you saying is not worth something? Because I believe they are worth something. I want to take another look. I do.

How do we find your journal and you? RHS is Here’s my website: malaikakingalbrecht/



Blue Mountain Review / January 2022


Interview with

Frank X. Gaspar By: Lynne Kemen Who is Frank X. Gaspar? What is it about your life that created you as a writer? As odd as this might sound, I think I was a “writer” from my very earliest childhood. I remember filling paper with scribbles before I knew any letters of the alphabet. There was something tactilely pleasing about moving the pencil over the pad. I wrote “stories” as soon as I learned to read. I read voraciously. I loved reading. Circumstances were not happy, and reading took me to marvelous places. As I got older I found that trying to write my own stories and poems, such as they were, gave me a similar feeling of liberation and possibility. The concentration required to make something—I think perhaps any art--is not unlike certain kinds of meditation. It heals and affirms.

Can you tell us your three favorite poets (living or dead) and why you chose them? I’ll stick with the dead ones (and the great dead poets are hardly dead, are they?). Emily Dickinson. She wrote under the straights of circumstance that would have crushed any lesser person. She moved language around with scalpel and forceps (and with a sledgehammer and wedge, too!). Her best poems are heartbreaking and yet fierce. It was Harold Bloom, I think, who said we are a hundred years away from coming to full terms with her. He speaks as a critic. She speaks to us as one of our greatest poets. Oh, this could go on forever. Well, Hart Crane. His instruments are not as fine as Dickinson’s, but he hurls language the way some abstract expressionist painters use paint. His poems overwhelm sometimes with the thickness of his language, and then you take a half-step back, and you see how perfect they are. I have read “Voyages” my whole adult life, and certain passages still take my breath away. He is wild and yet behind the wildness is his own kind of perfection. Poetry

Renata Ferreira’s poems were composed in the final years of Portugal’s fascist regime, exposing and subverting the government’s draconian edicts against women’s rights, sexual freedoms, political dissent, and progressive thought. She worked in the resistance passing hand-typed bulletins and banned literature throughout Lisbon, yet her poetry is unmistakably ardent, tender, fraught, erotic, and Sapphic. Presenting the poems of this Portuguese-American writer and detailing their surprising rediscovery in 2015, Frank X. Gaspar fuses genres, flouts borders, and brings to life a voice that had been silenced. As his inventive narrative unfolds, Ferreira emerges, whole and mysterious, offering up her history, her passions, and her art.

“In his unique fashion, Frank X. Gaspar draws the margins of Atlantic culture closer: Salazar’s politics and the Carnation Revolution flow onto the shores of the Portuguese community of Provincetown and Bohemian New York. Along with the foreword and poems, a welter of notes extends the fictional romp with riddles of identity, history, myth, and the untraveled territories of the mind. The Poems of Renata Ferreira is vintage Gaspar—a deft and intriguing performance.” Teresa alves “There are poems pulled from a well, others dropped from the sky. What fortune that Frank X. Gaspar was there with his basket to catch the poems of Renata Ferreira, work that through his fingers emerges as a meditation on eros as resistance, the dangers of country, and the ghost hand of artistic influence. A love story, an animal howl, The Poems of Renata Ferreira is a song of saudade that I never wanted to end.” lindsay Whalen

T h e P oe m s of

Renata Ferreira

Renata Ferreira

You have published several volumes of beautiful poetry, among them: A Field Guide to the Heavens, The Poems of Renata Ferriera, Night of 1,000 Blossoms.Which themes do you keep wanting to revisit? How have you changed, if you have, as a writer over time?

T he P oems of

“A fascinating saga weaving desire and memory, war and beauty, lies, truth, and the persistence of art. Fernando Pessoa and José Saramago are certainly among Gaspar’s kindred writers, but I’m also reminded of Lawrence Durrell’s The Alexandria Quartet —I feel that same total immersion. I’m swept away. The Poems of Renata Ferreira is gorgeous and witty, wildly smart—even the end notes are pure poetry!” ellen Bass

frank X. Gaspar

I think I’d include Adrian Rich in this short list. She is someone, like the others, who you can go back to again and again. Her passion for social justice puts a finely-honed edge on her writing. Her poems can see and convey how our culture and the world can stray from virtue, but the poems give up nothing in doing this. Their beauty lies in her steady voice and the integrity of her sensations.

Transcribed and annoTaTed, wiTh a foreword by

frank X. Gaspar

FRANK X. GASPAR is a wonderfully gifted author who—luckily for us—happens to be Portuguese-American. The Poems of Renata Ferreira reminds me of the passion and outrage of Novas Cartas Portuguesas by the Three Marias. Like Novas Cartas, this is also a book that subverts genre, composed at it is of memoir, fiction, essay, notes, and, of course, Renata’s poetry. The result is a remarkable book that is sure to keep readers entertained for years to come. anTónio ladeira porTuGuese in The americas

Cover design by adam b. bohannon. Cover photo by Christopher Larkosh, Cravo vermelho/Red carnation, East Providence, RI, April 2019.

gaspar mech_003.indd 1



tagus Press

I don’t ever think of themes. I have a sense that theme (in literature, anyway) is a way of naming what the poet’s psyche needs to express, and that poet is bound to return to his or her psyche’s demands. I mean to say that this is not always—maybe never is—a conscious decision. My later poems are shaped, I think, by imperatives of the psyche that I was unable to reach—did not have the skills to reach—when I first began writing seriously. Or I could say that I have changed and my deep self may have changed accordingly.

12/13/19 7:02 AM

Blue Mountain Review / January 2022

Can you talk briefly about the MFA Program at Pacific University, Oregon where you are on the faculty?

I can’t do it justice by speaking briefly, but I will say that the faculty is brilliant (myself excepted—I’m happy to be among them). They all have dedicated their entire lives to writing. Ideas and methods are diverse enough so that students find many choices and approaches available, and the curriculum is designed to encourage students to take in as much as possible. The residencies, with their intensity, camaraderie, and complete immersion in an alter-reality, where good writing is everyone’s goal and pleasure, lead to life-long friendships and renewed dedication. There is nothing like them. I would suggest that anyone interested in finding more precise information contact the MFA office. The people there ensure the marvelous functioning of this hybrid program, and they themselves are all lovers of good writing. https://www.

How do we find you and your publications? With the Covid Plague, I have not been out giving readings and traveling. Normally I would be in various places here in the West and back East. I am hopeful we will pull out of the pandemic and we all can be more broadly mobile. My books are at Amazon and Barnes and Noble, etc. My poems float around the internet. Contact can usually be found through my publisher or through the University. It’s a weird time. Frank X. Gaspar c/o Mike Simms Autumn House Press 87 1/2 Westwood Street Pittsburgh PA 15211 Phone: 412-381-4261 Photo credit: Alexis Rhone Fancher


Interview with

jessica dionne By: clifford brooks What sculpted you into the creative presence we see today? I think I’d trace my creativity back to my mom. When my sister and I were younger, we would beg her to tell us these long, alliterative repeat-songs like “One fat hen, and a couple of ducks,” which she could do from memory, still can. She can recite the alphabet backwards and speed-read long novels over a weekend.

When she was pregnant with me, she worked at a Pizza Hut, and she wrote this epic poem describing each of her coworkers. I got my creative impulses from her. I’ve always been a reader, and majored in literature in undergrad, but it wasn’t until I took my first poetry workshop with the incredible Allison Hutchcraft in graduate school that things just clicked into place for me. She introduced me to the work of Marie Howe, Victoria Chang, Natalie Diaz, and others who showed me what is achievable through poetry.

How does music play into your creative process? Typically, I don’t write with music playing—maybe a TV show on in the background, but I get distracted by good music because it demands my attention. I am often inspired by talented lyricists, though. Artists like Ray LaMontagne, Brandi Carlile, and Sam Cooke are always able to pull the emotion out of me. Sometimes, a single, mesmerizing line will take hold of me, and I will play a song on repeat just the experience that line again.

Tell us about your popular book review series. Why do you focus on mysteries and thrillers? Mysteries and thrillers are my favorite genre of fiction. Having a degree in literature, I used to think I needed to caveat that as a guilty pleasure, but I think we should be able to be proud of whatever makes us happy. When I first began posting about thrillers I had recently finished reading, I had friends who would reach out for recommendations and so the reviewing began there. I think the thrill of knowing a big plot twist, and knowing a friend is going to experience that same surprise is my favorite part of recommending a thriller to someone. I always tell people that Gillian Flynn’s debut “Sharp Objects” is a must-read for thriller-lovers. At this point, I have read so many I think I can spot the twist before it comes, but I am regularly surprised by the works of my favorite thriller and mystery writers.

Where has poetry taken you? As far as Albuquerque, NM! That’s a joke, but I did give my first reading on a creative panel at the SWPACA annual conference there, which is a great experience for creative writers looking to share their work. In a less literal sense, poetry has given me a drive that I wasn’t able to find in other outlets. It brought me from North Carolina to Georgia to pursue my PhD in English and Creative Writing. I feel like I am on the precipice of something, and I’m eager to see where poetry takes me next.



Blue Mountain Review / January 2022

How do we keep up with you online? What do we have to look forward to from you in the future? On Instagram @Jessicaldionne I share book reviews and memes, on Twitter @The_Writings_Of I’m snarky, and I just finished my website where you can find links to published poems at My chapbook Second-hand Love Stories is coming out soon with Fjords Press. I have a full-length project as well as another chapbook that I’m very excited about and hope to see out in the world.




“Ashleigh Bell Pedersen writes in a style all her own. The Crocodile Bride is a generous, tender novel with unforgettable characters and a perfect, transcendent ending.” —Carter Sickels



“This book is a prayer and a fist, a history and the hope that comes only from true reckoning, the listening that makes light.” —Ashley M. Jones

MAY 17


A JAPANESE IMMIGRANT IMAGINES WESTERN NORTH CAROLINA GEORGE MASA “Brent’s book transcends time with creative insights and reflections on the natural world that honor George Masa’s ‘Wild Vision.’” —Paul Bonesteel






Founded in Spartanburg, South Carolina in 1995, Hub City Press, is the South’s premier independent literary press. Focused on finding and spotlighting extraordinary new and unsung writers from the American South, our curated list champions diverse authors and books that don’t fit into the commercial publishing landscape. Hub City is interested in books with a strong sense of place and is committed to introducing a diverse roster of lesser-heard Southern voices.



Blue Mountain Review / January 2022


Road to the Sun showcases Metheny’s developed musical hallmarks in compelling new and bravely wrought compositions, expertly performed by kindred spirits and modern masters. All Music

Harmonically adventurous...beautifully nuanced... toys interestingly with a musical language shared by Debussy and Django presents significant additions to the solo, ensemble and transcription repertory from an unexpected quarter. Wall Street Journal


Interview with

monika radojevic By: clifford brooks What sculpted you into the poet we see today? Many things, but primarily my background, my politics, and the work I am most drawn to, which is political activism and campaigning. I have mixed heritage and am what’s known as a third culture kid, meaning my parents are from two different places and I was born and raised in third country unfamiliar to them. This background has given me a unique perspective as well as blend of three very different cultures, histories, and languages. I have always written, mostly to make sense of myself and life around me, and poetry felt like a natural form of expression due to its drama and intensity. I had been set on being a writer from the age of seven or eight, but the reinforcing message that becoming a writer isn’t a ‘career’ meant that I set that dream aside and pursed a very different path, until something happened to completely reset my understanding of what writing for a living could look like. In 2019 I entered, on a whim, a literary competition run by the grime artist and rapper known as Stormzy, with a single poem called 23AndMe. The poem detailed a compulsion I had to return to the DNA testing kit website 23 and Me, and go through the motions of ordering a testing kit and then backing out before I could actually go through with it. I was also 23 when I wrote it and was the first time I had explored my complicated feelings around home and belonging in my poetry. To my great surprise, my poem won the competition and I gained literary representation and a publishing contract with MerkyBooks, an imprint of Penguin Random House. That opportunity has no doubt changed my life, and I finally got it into my head that I can be multiple things at the same time - a perspective that really should have come earlier, considering my background! My debut collection, teeth in the back of my neck came out in May 2021, and between the competition and publication, I completed my Masters in Global



Development and entered the NGO and political sector. Alongside writing, I work in policy and communications for the UK’s only feminist political party, the Women’s Equality Party. All these experiences shaped the poet that I am today – my work is a mixture of personal and political, as I don’t believe the two can be separated.

What do you want readers to take away from your work? I want readers to come away after reading my debut collection, teeth in the back of my neck, as if they’re on fire – crackling with energy and motivation to act – no matter how niche or small. My work – like me – is deeply political, and I don’t shy away from using anger as a productive tool for action. I write about womanhood, the feminist movement, xenophobia, poverty porn, identity politics, grief and gender-based violence in the collection, and ask readers to pick apart and examine inequalities that are baked into our society. These same inequalities are upheld by our political, educational, policing and criminal justice systems, as well as the media we consume. I want readers to leave with a profound sense of injustice, but also with the hope and inspiration to do something about it. We are all capable of changing the world into a better place - even if that change solely happens within us - by reconsidering some of the harmful biases or prejudices we might have. If my poetry can prompt conversations about inequality, challenge the status quo and open the door into social justice movements for more people, I would consider that a far bigger success over sales or reviews.

What other arts do you dabble in? I love this question! I’ve always been quite artistic and recently taught myself digital illustration, so I’ve been playing around with that lately and started a small Instagram account, @illustratorofsnacks which documents my illustrations of food and striking or colourful food packaging. I also write both fiction and non-fiction and am focusing on my second book now, moving from poetry to a new genre. And finally, I’m embarking on some exciting new projects that are looking at new ways to connect political activism with creativity- including poetry.

Blue Mountain Review / January 2022

What projects do you have on deck for us to keep up with? The one I’m most excited about is called ‘Feminist Invoicing’. To explain it I start with a question: if you could challenge systems of oppression through creativity, what would that look like? My challenge looks like Feminist Invoicing, a movement and platform made up of 60 poets (and growing!) who have all been tasked with a challenge; to submit a poetic ‘invoice’ to the patriarchy detailing something they have lost, or are owed as part of a cathartic and empowering experience. The invoice format came naturally to me as a creative myself who is constantly invoicing for my work, and so I wanted to inverse that value system see what would come out of it. Pandemic willing, I’m hoping to take the project on tour and perform as a collective, as well as potentially host a few exhibitions.

My aim is to turn the project into a global prompt to encourage ‘invoices’ from around the world for a holistic understanding of what equality and justice needs to look like. Feminist Invoicing launches in early-mid 2022, and the poem I’ve included here is my own submission. If you want to get involved in it, drop me an email at

How do we find you online? You can follow me on Instagram @monikaradojevic, where I share more poetry, art and some of the political activism work I do.


the feminist invoice

By: Monika radojevic

Feminist Invoicing Concept Note Feminist Invoicing is a concept that allows the individual to ‘submit’ an invoice to the patriarchy to provide their own interpretation of hurt; an act of empowerment where they and they alone get to dictate the terms of their pain and conditions of their healing. The exhibition is designed to encompass a diverse and wide-ranging perspective, using art, poetry and the power of spoken word as an act of political selfexpression, and a demand for something better. Invoicing is a daily experience for creatives and freelancers, so the common format is being subverted not just as a critique on capitalism – the ultimate upholder of the patriarchy - but also to suggest that the collective experiences being submitted are beyond simple monetary value. It is a format that allows for great flexibility and open interpretation. Invoice #001 is an example of what the project will showcase.


TO: The Boy In The Bristol Nightclub It has come to my attention that you owe me. You owe me. You owe me.


Three times





DESCRIPTION the moment you cornered me in dark room with sweat dripping down the walls, hands up my skirt (short skirt, black dress, no tights underneath), I’d been laughing, all loose and euphoric forgetting how my most carefree is also my most vulnerable My eyes met yours in the moments the strobe light lit me up- a spotlight for a wounded animal- as my fingers scratched at yours, at my own skin, and you saw it clearly: no I said no I don’t want it-

I yelled it and you laughed, and I thought My god, nothing will ever break me quite as much as a plea ignored I thought – let myself think- I’ll go home I’ll go to bed I’ll wake up and there will be no bruise occupying my skin, no sour taste living in my mouth, no shameful throb between my legs – you can do this you can do this you can do this -





Blue Mountain Review / January 2022 Three times

Six times


She asked me if I was ok, with my fist pressed into my mouth, back against the bathroom stall as either side of me bodies painted the tiles in various shades of pink and red-


I swallowed and made my voice FLAT stared at the teeth marks on my fingers.


I croaked I’m okay. Just…Boy stuff. Oh yeah. I feel her knowing, sense her nodding, hear her sighing. Yeah babe, we’ve all been there.


They listen with unshocked eyes and open mouths – a silent lament when I tell the story to the girls, my loves, in the safety of the morning, our breath fogging up the window by the double bed

Four times


and, one of them draws her blanket around my shoulders, draws me into her sticky neck -

Six times

Infinite times


they apologise on your behalf, whisper that they’re so sorry, so sorry, so sorry for this world, for the darkness now living in my chest, for leaving me, for forgetting, for trusting a boy I smiled at, a boy who smiled back. And I cannot look at them. For I too have left them alone, dancing with the wolves, and told myself they’d be alright. And now, something is torn and I tell them I love them so much something sharp lodged in my throat.


A girl, untethered on the dancefloor somewhere has her body invaded and twisted into a usage she did not consent to, and when she breaks herself apart with her fists the world ignores her and moves on, moves on, moves on.


Incalculable. Immeasurable. Unending.


You cannot put a price on freedom.


Interview with

Joseph Fasano By: Nicole Tallman


oseph Fasano is the author of the novels The Swallows of Lunetto (forthcoming from Maudlin House, 2022) and The Dark Heart of Every Wild Thing (Platypus Press, 2020), which was named one of the “20 Best Small Press Books of 2020.” His books of poetry include Fugue for Other Hands (2013), Inheritance (2014), Vincent (2015), and The Crossing (2018). His honors include the Cider Press Review Book Award, the Rattle Poetry Prize, and a nomination for the Poets’ Prize. His writing has appeared in The Times Literary Supplement, The Yale Review, The Southern Review, The Missouri Review, Boston Review, Verse Daily, the PEN Poetry Series, and the poem-a-day program from The Academy of American Poets, among other publications and anthologies. He serves on the Editorial Board of Alice James Books, and he is the Founder and Curator of the Poem for You Series. He teaches at Columbia University and Manhattanville College. More information, poems, and media can be found at

How are you doing in light of everything that is going on right now in the world? What keeps you going? Without a doubt, we live in interesting times. This has always been the case. When ancient hunters came back to their fires at night, what was the world to them except a place of sacred dangers? Teeth, disease, thunder. What did they do? They picked up pigment, or stick, or blade, and they made. Making keeps us going—poems, stories, a life. I’m no different. I try, each day, to make something, to teach well, to learn, to be a good father, a good partner, a good maker of what’s to come. Each of us has a hand in that.

What does your writing life look like? Do you have a particular schedule, habits, or process? When I’m working on a novel, I wake early every morning, as the light is rising, and I step back into the story. Often the story has gone on without me, and I have to catch up. I usually work on the novel for the entire day, stopping only for meals and the beautiful voices of my family. This kind of period of intense work on a book can go on for weeks or months, but usually there comes a time when the first draft has been accomplished, and then I spend some time away from it, working on other things, letting the life ripen the work. I let it breathe, be, deepen. When I return to it, often I can see what needs to be fixed. Revision lasts years, years.

Poems are always with me, thank God. They begin, usually, with an image—expressed in a particular music— crystallizing from the chaos of the day, the wildness of the night. I set that image down on the page, and the poem begins, if I’m lucky, to form. My task is to listen. Sometimes a lyric poem of twenty lines may take seven years. Other times it may take seven minutes; it has ripened in secret, and it is simply there. Or it has always been. Always, though, I am working on many things at once. I carry the poems with me in memory—I’ve been blessed, cursed with an inability to forget—and I work on them—sometimes consciously, sometimes half-consciously—until I figure out what goes where, and how. When a poem is finished, it banishes you. For better or worse, there is nothing more you can do.



Blue Mountain Review / January 2022

What is it about poetry in particular that speaks to you? Poetry is the primal word of being. As long as language lives, poetry can never die. It can never be replaced by other media, as it is the solitary human voice finding the forms of its fellowship. It is the purest linguistic proof that form and freedom are one.

How does music influence your poetry? Although the lyric poem is never far from the lyre, songwriting and poetry are very different forms. In my own life, they occasionally inform one another, crossfertilize, help each other wake. But the music in a poem is there


in the words and the silences around them; it must create its own paradigm against which to counterpoint, while a song’s lyrics have the musical beat behind them with which to interact. That makes all the difference.

In addition to writing and editing, you also teach poetry. Tell us how teaching fits into your life and what you enjoy most and/or least about it? My students are incredible. To watch them navigate, adapt to, and find the beauty in an increasingly complex and shadowy world gives a teacher hope, radical amounts of hope. I often tell my students (and myself) that learning to become a better writer means learning to become a better listener—to others, to ourselves, to the ghosts in us—and what I enjoy most about teaching is that it helps me listen in ever deeper, keener ways. Everyone in front of you is trying to say something with a life, and to teach is merely to help each person hear that life—and to give the craft with which to say it. The form of that life’s expression, I believe, is already in the life. It only has to be woken.

Let’s discuss your latest book of poetry, The Crossing, and your novel, The Dark Heart of Every Wild Thing. Did writing the novel change your approach to the lyric poem, and if so, how? It did. I had never expected to write The Dark Heart of Every Wild Thing, or any other novel, but it came to me, and I was glad to do the work, to trust it, to follow it. In doing that work, in going deeply into a narrative structure, I found myself returning often to the lyric poem as a space of song, quite detached from the fugal narrative tensions my poetry had experienced in some of my other books, such as Inheritance. Freed from the obligation to be everything, a lyric poem could be one, precise thing. It could sing itself awake.

Do you have a poetry mentor/mother/father? What are you reading right now? Years ago, I studied with Mark Strand, and we became close right before his death. I think of him often and feel his guidance—not so much in the poems as in the life—whenever I feel I’m straying from the pure heart of the work.



I will also always be grateful to the late, great Lucie Brock-Broido, who plucked me out of the fields of Goshen, New York, and told me to come with my poems to Columbia, where the things I was singing would be heard. Richard Howard, too, heard me in those early days, trusted me, helped me trust that the poems would become what they had to become.

Blue Mountain Review / January 2022 I’m usually eclectic in my reading, allowing disparate things to talk to one another and form fruitful connections. At the moment, I’m reading Thomas Merton’s The Seven Storey Mountain, a memoir of his spiritual journey; Lydia Davis’ stories, which my Columbia students and I have been studying; Robert Lowell’s letters; Wittgenstein’s Lectures on the Foundations of Mathematics, which is its own kind of astonishing poem; and, of course, Your Baby’s First Year, which is a preparation for the deepest poem of all.

What does a perfect day look and feel like to you? In non-pandemic times, where would you go, what would you do, eat, experience? Galway Kinnell once wrote, “Half my life belongs to the wild darkness.” I feel that deeply. A good day is a day that honors both halves of existence—the sunlight on the faces of the ones we love, the dark pull of the river in the wilderness—and perhaps fathoms that they are two different manifestations of the same reality, although the way something is manifested is all.

I love to hike, climb, ride horses, smell the river through the trees. Give me a long walk through the woods and a book of poems to read when I lie down by the river’s edge—sometimes in solitude, sometimes with others—and I’ll call it a day well spent. Any day in which I can feel close to the mysteries is a day that hasn’t been wasted and annihilated by the wretched forces that want to commodify our souls and sell us our ideas of freedom.

How do we keep up with you online? When the pandemic set in, I started sharing recitations of poems as a way to keep some sanity and humanity in a maddening time. This grew into the “Poem for You” Series, a digital space in which people can request recitations of their favorite poems. We’ve had some wonderful readers for the Series—among them Jericho Brown, Robert Pinsky, Taylor Byas, and, of course you, Nicole. We continue to share good, common words in a rough, troubling time—to make the trouble sing.

What are you working on right now? My second novel, The Swallows of Lunetto, will be released by Maudlin House in November of 2022. It’s the story of a young Italian couple navigating their difficult love at the end of the Second World War. Fascism has done its brutal work in them, and they are fighting for each other’s souls—as we are fighting for each other, for ourselves, in our own time. I have spent good, long hours in the landscape of this book, where redemption is possible, and I don’t know if I want to leave it.

I am also, as always, working on new poems. My next collection of poems, The Last Song of the World, is reaching a point of completion, but I am taking my time and letting it ripen.

Beyond that, I’m working on being a good father, a good partner, a good teacher; I’m working on this feral foal of a soul, trying to guide it, to wake it, to strengthen it for where it has to go. I am also writing what I call a “living poem” to my son and posting it on Twitter, a few lines at a time, as it takes shape. My hope is that this poem speaks to my son and to all who still keep a seed of childhood’s mysteries in them. It can be found on Twitter at @stars_poem.


Interview with

Sari fordham, editor-in-chief & faculty sponsor The roadrunner review By: nicole tallman Who is behind the creation of your journal? What is its focus? The Roadrunner Review is housed in the English Department of La Sierra University and students work on it through a class. Our first cohort of student-editors helped establish the journal’s parameters. Our mission is to support student writers around the world by providing a beautiful publishing venue. We publish both graduates and undergraduates, and in each issue, we try to publish at least one writer attending community college. We know sending out work can get expensive and so part of supporting students is offering free submissions. Our journal title comes from the roadrunners that we see on campus. We think of them as mischievous birds, very specific to our location in Southern California. While our journal is particularly interested in big topics and pieces seeped in place, we are also the right place to send your odd-ball pieces. In every issue, we aim to publish at least one unusual animal story. “My Cat” by Lassiter Waith is a good example of what I mean. We just love that story.

What can authors and poets do when they submit to gain a better chance at acceptance? We encourage submitters to familiarize themselves with our journal before sending us work. All of our pieces are 1,000 words or fewer, and writers can see that we aim to give our audience short, vivid reading experiences. And of course, please read our submission guidelines. Most submitters do and we thank you! We follow the guidelines and staying within those parameters will give your work the best chance at acceptance.



Blue Mountain Review / January 2022

How do you stand out in the literary industry? Because our mission is to amplify student voices, our journal tends to have a really fresh take on big issues. I know there’s been a lot of discussion in literary circles about how soon is too soon to publish work on the pandemic. Our journal has decided that for us, it’s never too soon. We published our first Covid-19 poem, “A Wuhan Family’s Chinese New Year” by Kuo Zhang, several months before our editors went into lockdown. We are interested in how students around the world are experiencing big issues right now. You can see this in Ebuka Evans’ poem “How I See America from Nigeria” and Jessica Mehta’s “When we talk of stolen sisters.”

Where do you see your journal in five years?

I believe our mission is an important one and our international focus is unique. I hope that in five years, we’ve expanded to include an online reading series and that we host a yearly literary conference. And that all of these events are free for students and are a place where writers connect.

How do we keep up with you online?

You can find us on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and even Linkedin. And, of course, you can read us online.


Interview with

meg reid of hub city press By: nicole tallman Tell us about your life’s journey that brought you into the arts. I have two fine arts degrees in writing (a BFA and an MFA). I went to graduate school at University of North Carolina Wilmington with the hopes of making a career as a nonfiction writer. But I also chose that program because of its heavy emphasis on publishing education and its Publishing Laboratory setup. While in my MFA, I was introduced to every element of publishing, including book design. I had never viewed myself as a particularly artistic person (I cannot draw one bit!) but discovered in myself an incredible passion and aptitude for book design. For me it’s a fun puzzle that dovetails nicely with reading—you read a book and then come up with an image and text combination that will entice a reader to pick up the book. A good cover can enhance the reader’s understanding of the work, adding layers of meaning. I came to Hub City Press in 2013 after I graduated from UNCW. I served as Assistant Director for four years, transitioning to Director when the Founder, Betsy Teter, retired in 2017. I still do freelance book design in what little spare time I find.

How do you prepare your mind to write? What good habits have you developed to stay productive? To be completely honest, I almost never write creatively anymore. I do write all day at work. Sometimes that’s emails and press sheets, other times it’s actual editorial responses to my author’s submissions. So, I guess I haven’t figured out how to stay productive! When I first arrived at Hub City, my job was much more administrative and production-heavy. Over the past few years, I have moved more into the editorial realm. I find that my writing itch is scratched by working closely with authors on structural edits that impact their entire book. At first I felt really unprepared to edit fiction, but have grown to love editing novels. Maybe because, while I can’t say what works fullstop, I can say what people expect from a Hub City Press novel.

How do you tackle the editing phase of writing? With my own work, I find editing is the most pleasurable part of the process. I would love nothing more than to open a document and make revisions until I expire. I find the generative process much harder. A certain headspace must find me and push me to write new work. I think that’s why I enjoy editing others’ work so much—it allows me to spend a workday or two on my favorite part of the writing process—and there’s a healthy amount of distance that I can never have from my own work.



Blue Mountain Review / January 2022

What are you reading right now? Because we also run a bookshop, I have access to galleys. Right now, I’m reading Chilean Poet: A Novel by Alejandro Zambra, translated by Megan McDowell. I’m not too far in yet but so far, it’s really tender and deeply funny. It comes out in February.

How does Hub City Press stand out on the stage of publication? We see our work as being a very intentional corrective to the long-term erasure of diverse southern perspectives from the publishing landscape. The South is the most diverse region in the nation but for many decades, the only Southern books making it onto the Big 4 publishers’ lists were books that explored the same terrain—sweet tea, magnolias, the Civil War, etc. While those are real and worthy subjects, there was an intentional turning away from the true diversity of the region in favor of tired narratives and stereotypes. I think it’s incredibly exciting to be the only literary press in the world committed only to publishing and supporting lesser-heard Southern voices. This includes Black and Indigenous people, queer and trans people, immigrants, people with disabilities, as well as people from ethnic, cultural, and religious groups who have been historically oppressed and underrepresented by the corporate and academic publishing industry. As a literary press, we publish books not for their commercial value, but for their artistic value. This means Hub City books usually don’t sell as many copies as general interest books from for-profit publishers. But it also means we’re able to actively search for underrepresented regional voices—voices that might not otherwise be heard—and, through robust marketing and publicity efforts, enter them into the larger literary dialogue.

How does working with the press feed your creative process? It absolutely does feed my creative spirit. Because we are such a small outfit, my job has an incredible amount of different responsibilities. Some days I’m working in editorial, many I’m working on publicity, some others I’m in design, while still others I’m in finance, buried in sales spreadsheets. Realistically, most days I’m wearing all these hats. That’s unfortunately just the way things are. But the days I truly find the


most creative are the ones where I really get to dig into a single task—whether that’s editing a manuscript or designing a book cover. I really love to allow myself to spend uninterrupted hours doing a job instead of always being pulled away by administrative tasks. There’s nothing more beautiful than watching a book project take shape. It’s incredible to see something that starts life as an email, an attachment, a Word document, move along the path to being a physical object—the title, the cover design, even the flap copy. The way we publish at Hub City is incredibly creative and I feel very lucky to get to work in books every day.

What can writers do to boost their chances of acceptance? Are there things people should never do? The two most important guidelines I have for writers who are submitting manuscripts are: 1) know your book’s place in the market, which means understanding what makes your project truly unique, but also understanding comparative titles that show this is the moment the book needs to be published; and 2) be a good literary community member. That means supporting other writers around you, whether in your town, your grad school cohort, or your online spaces. Writing can be an incredibly lonely career and writers often find themselves plagued by doubt and jealousy. The only way to combat that is to earnestly support the folks around you. Then, when good things happen with your writing, there will be a league of people waiting to do the same for you! If you live in a place that doesn’t have a lot of in-person opportunities to create a community, it’s important to create one online. At Hub City Press we keep our list intentionally small so we can be highly author-focused and collaborative. If that’s the kind of experience you’re looking for when publishing a book, we might be a great fit for you. But because we’re so small, we must be sure everyone we work with is a good fit (both their writing and their personalities). We are incredibly fortunate to have a roster of wonderful writers that are also incredible human beings. While this is particular for Hub City Press and the authors we’re looking to work with, I think it’s advice for writers more generally—and those who are out on submission trying to sell a book to a publisher.

How do we keep up with you and Hub City Press online? I’m at @megireid on twitter. Hub City is @hubcitypress on Twitter; @hubcitywriters on Instagram; and @hubcitywritersporject on Facebook. We also have a great mailing list that try not to overuse—signing up for that is a great way to make sure you know about all the titles we’re releasing, as well as prizes, conferences, workshops, and other opportunities for writers we offer.



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Interview with

Eric Andrew Newman & Genevieve Kersten of okay donkey Magazine/Press By: Nicole Tallman

What brought about the birth of Okay Donkey? Well, the Okay Donkey empire (lol) all started as a small online lit mag. At the time, I was writing a lot of flash fiction and Genevieve was writing a lot of poetry, and we both wanted to try and find a way to get more involved in the small lit community we had just joined on Twitter. I was already working as a fiction reader for another lit mag and loved getting to read all the fresh, new stories that came in every week. Because of our respective interests, it just made sense that Eric would be the Fiction Editor and Genevieve would be the Poetry Editor. It all started out so very small (just two weirdos on the internet) and we never cease to be surprised at how big it’s all gotten…

Who is behind the wheel? Tell us about your team. The Co-Founders of OKD Mag/Press are Eric and Genevieve, and when we first started, we ran Okay Donkey Magazine out of our small one-bedroom apartment in L.A. Now, we run Okay Donkey Press out of a slightly bigger two-bedroom apartment, which is necessary to store all the boxes of books and shipping supplies we have lying around. Currently, our editorial team is Eric as the Fiction Editor, Genevieve as the Poetry Editor, Matt Broadus and Elizabeth Upshur as the Associate Poetry Editors, and Steve Chang and Joaquin Fernandez as the Associate Fiction Editors. We also want to give a big shout out to our first Associate Fiction Editor, Téa Franco, who recently left the mag and whose position was filled by Steve. Also, we’ve recently added a lot of new reading staff to help us keep up with the influx of new submissions now that we’re on Submittable. Our Fiction Readers are Rebecca Ackermann, Megan Garwood, Miranda Holmqvist, Veronica Klash, Meg Mulcahy, Christine Salek, Nedjelko Sapich, and Lucy Zhou. Our Poetry Readers are Katya Buresh, Adrienne Crezo, Adrian Frandle, Margaryta Golovchenko, Lytey Kay, Eric Lochridge, Jessica Nirvana Ram,



Blue Mountain Review / January 2022 and Kodi Saylor. We’re so excited to have everyone on board!

You produce a stellar magazine and a wellrespected press. How do you juggle both? Well, I don’t know how well respected we are, lol. One of our contributors once called us “Chaotic,” but I think they meant it as a compliment, as in Chaotic Good on one of those charts. And it is chaotic trying to juggle an online magazine and a small press, while also working day jobs, going to school, and still trying to find the time for your own writing and reading away from the magazine. The fact that we do have so much going on is the main reason why we only publish two OKD Press books year, one fiction and one poetry, while a lot of other small presses, some even a similar micro size as us, publish 6-12.


What advice do you have for those who want to submit their work? Read the magazine! It’s totally free to read as well as to submit, so you have no excuse! We have a unique sensibility as to the weird, off-kilter, and strange kind of things we like or strike our fancy, so the best way to get a feel for it is to experience it.

Since we only publish around 50 poems and 50 stories for a total of 100 pieces a year. we have a very low acceptance rate, around 2%, so if you get a decline, don’t get too discouraged! Just try again! We’ve accepted work from folks that we had previously sent 5, 6, or 7 declines to.

How do we keep up with you online? What new projects do you have on deck? You can always follow us on Twitter and Instagram @okaydonkeymag and visit us on our website at www.

Right now, in terms of OKD Press, we’re working on setting up our two new books for 2022. We just released our fifth book, Jennifer Fliss’s THE PREDATORY ANIMAL BALL, which we’re so excited about and absolutely love.



Blue Mountain Review / January 2022


Interview with

Claire Fullerton By: Robert Gwaltney

You published, A Portal in Time, the first of your four novels in 2013. How has your writing evolved over the years through the publication of your most recent novel, Little Tea? I wrote A Portal in Time in the third person, and my following three novels in the first person. As a reader, I prefer the first person for its personal and intimate immediacy. There’s a sense that comes with the first person of knowing who you’re listening to, so to speak, and it offers a similar experience as the one you have when you listen to someone tell a story. I like the idea of that both as a reader and a writer.

In another interview, you shared that you knew early on you were a storyteller. When did you first suspect you might be a gifted storyteller? The idea of my own story telling came from letters I wrote while I lived on the west coast of Ireland. This was before the internet, and I lived in a remote area of Connemara without a telephone, so I relied on the written word to give my friends and family an accurate feel for how my days were spent, who was in my immediate sphere, and what was going on in general. I discovered that what interested me most about rural Ireland was the people, their turns of phrase, and what seemed to me an overall consciousness that can only be described as quintessentially Irish. There’s a good reason for what seems to be general Irish consciousness: it’s part and parcel to Irish history. I was fascinated living as a stranger in a strange land, and I wanted to tell about it as best I could. What I got back from my correspondents was one encouraging comment on another along the lines of “feeling as if they were there.” And as I kept a daily journal while living in Connemara, when I returned to the states, I flipped through my journals and realized I had a good story about a single, American female moving to rural Ireland without a plan. I tried my hand at writing a novel inspired by my own experiences, and, in time, it became my second published novel, titled Dancing to an Irish Reel.

You hail from Memphis Tennessee and now reside in Malibu, California with your husband and three German Shepherds. How does physical distance from your Southern roots impact you revisiting the South in your writing? I think being removed from the South geographically brings to the fore a kind of nostalgia that carries a wistful quality to it. I celebrate Southern nuances, applaud what makes the South unique, and champion the South’s people because they are exquisitely individual. I’ve said it before, so I’ll say it again, what I like the most about Southerners is they definitely know who they are. Add to this Southern charm, reverence for history and the land, and the specific, overall culture and I can tell you right now I’ll never tire of singing the South’s praises. There’s a line in my 3rd novel, Mourning Dove, that reads “There’s nothing that will ensconce a Southerner more firmly in their Southerness quite like moving to a disparate land.” I stand by that. It is true for me.



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Share a little about your work in radio and the music industry, and how those experiences impact your writing. The common thread that ties them together is the art of communication, and at the center of each is story telling. Growing up in Memphis, music is part of the wallpaper, and it was a wonderful, educational experience to grow up in a musical hotbed. It seemed everyone around me was a musician, and I got involved in music radio because I wanted to be the one on the air talking about and playing what was then popular music. I worked at 5 different radio stations during a 9-year career, two non-commercial, one clear channel, one country music, and one albumoriented rock. I loved every minute of it and moved to Los Angles when I was offered a job basically taking bands to the record companies. As to your question, the impact on my writing has everything to do with commitment and following passion.


In your 2020 novel, Little Tea, you tackle family, female friendship, racism, and forgiveness. Are there any topics or themes you would love to address, but have been apprehensive to approach? Yes, and it’s ridiculous to admit that because nothing is outside the realm of human experience, which, I think, is a writer’s job to explore in the first place. I imagine you’d like me to name what, specifically, is the nature of my apprehension. I’m zeroing in on it slowly, but it has something to do with the spiraling and sorrowful ramifications of addiction in one’s family.

Share with me your writing process. It is centered on devotion and commitment to the project. Once I begin, I don’t stop, and I treat every project as a fulltime job until it’s finished.

What’s next for Claire Fullerton, and how can we follow you and your writing? Thank you so much for asking, I’ve loved all your questions! I am going through the stages of sending my 5th novel into the world, and the good news is I have no time frame, so I’m not weighed down with feeling rushed. In the meantime, my work will appear in 3 anthologies, and most everything I have worth reporting can be found on my website under my name, which is where you will find all of my social media links.



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Interv 77



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Interview with


By: clifford brooks

How would you feel about the contemporary art world? Are you hopeful or cynical? The art possesses some capacity to elicit a sense of pleasure in the viewer. Although, what is considered pleasing to the eye may vary depending on the viewer. Contemporary art’s popularity is growing rapidly. The new movements in art possess an adapt aesthetic value that can decorate many different venues vs. traditional art.

What drew y0u to the canvas? How do you create such unique, textured works? I use the thickets possible Linen Canvas (I think 500GSM). The best thing about this canvas is how it behaves and feels under the brush or knife. It’s like making love. Although my background is all in paper and charcoal, when I discovered canvas and heavy texture using pallet knife, all other mediums became secondary to me. Thick canvas allows me to express myself in almost 3D type paintings; impossible to be duplicated by modern machines.

If you could sit down with another artist for one hour, alive or dead, who would it be? What would you discuss? The artist that I am most inspired by is Sadquain. A renowned artist from South Asia (1930-1987), laureate winner of the Paris Biennial’s ‘Artist under 35’ category 1961. I had one session with him as an intern, only one day long in early 1980s in which I learned more about the soul of art than anyone else. He taught me how to express each stroke with a meaning behind. I wish I had the opportunity to spend more time with him.

What inspires you? It varies. Sometimes a beautiful face, rain and thunder in summer, wild nature, a heartwarming poem. Sometimes an art admirer looking at my work and “getting the message” I am trying to send across.



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What business advice do you have for those who want to pay the bills with their creative output? What do you wish someone had told you? Stay focused. Explore whatever you like and never stop learning but publicly represent one style and theme at one time. Don’t hesitate to price your art as high as you think it should be. I wish someone had told me this in the beginning of my career. I wish someone had told me that you are not an artist only but also a businessperson.


What is a question you’ve always wanted to be asked, but never have? What’s the answer? I guess the question would be “ What do you really want in life”. The answer? I guess I want to somehow conquer something inside of me. I mean - At the core of all human behavior, our needs are similar. Positive experience is easy to handle. It’s negative experience that we all, by definition, struggle with. Therefore, what we get out of life is not determined by the good feelings we desire, but by what bad feelings we are willing and able to sustain. How do I do that?

How do we keep up with you online? Where do we get our hands on your art? Best is through my website www.



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the featured work of LaKesha Lee LaKesha Lee was born in Birmingham, AL and currently resides there. She recently received her BFA from The University of Alabama at Birmingham. She is an artist that creates narratives about the history of African Americans, death, and her autobiographical struggle to connect with nature. She hopes that her work will help inspire others to unbox their past. Growing up in the deep south, I’ve experienced and seen racism my entire life. I am a native of Birmingham Alabama where black voices and stories have regularly been excluded yet are integral to the vibrancy and intersectionality of our community. My current series addresses lynching and the mistreatment of African Americans. Unfortunately, not much has changed through the years. Lynching has evolved into police killings publicly with no sentencing, random killings of black college students, and missing people found without their organs (disembodied). The series “See Me” began as a part of The Black Cherry Tree Project which addresses racial reconciliation through the memorialization of the 33 African American who were lynched in Jefferson County, Alabama. As I researched the victims that I was selected to portray, it opened a part of me that wanted to speak about the importance of African American men and how they are often falsely portrayed. I hope this series will be a powerful force in condemning injustice and encourage the viewer to seek ways of actively disrupting conscious bias, tackle unconscious bias, battle stereotypes, and eliminate racism and discrimination.


Specia Featu 83


al ure

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interview with

lydia patton

philosopher of astronomy with virginia tech BY: clifford brooks What in your childhood drew you to the stars? My father took me to amateur radio club meetings in West Virginia as a kid. I met firefighters, engineers, train operators who had used radio communications in their jobs and became fascinated with radio technology. Radio communication requires knowledge of what goes on in the atmosphere, phenomena including sunspots and ionization. Later I learned of radio astronomy used to detect stars and galaxies. Even humble instruments can make incredible discoveries - the first radio telescope was made from 2x4s. Current telescopes are much more sophisticated and powerful, and scientists are nowhere near reaching the limits of what they can do.

What facets of the human condition do you liken to the intricacies of space? The moon and stars are visible from the Earth’s surface. That gives us the impression that our viewpoint is a stable perspective on the universe as it is. But what we can’t see on a first look is much more significant than what we can.

How does teaching factor into your creative process? Does it feed your curiosity? Students are capable of so much more than they are usually asked to do. It is a privilege to try to give them the tools to see that for themselves.

I know this is a huge order, but: What’s the short explanation for a black hole? Stars ‘burn’ by processes like nuclear fusion and combustion that eventually consume the star’s material. Stars are so massive that they are associated with gravitational fields. When a star is dying, sometimes it will collapse to a



Blue Mountain Review / January 2022


very small, dense field, where the gravity that had been spread out over a larger area becomes concentrated in a very small area. The concentrated gravitational force is so strong that light can’t escape. That is a black hole.

As a philosopher, where do you believe the spiritual self meets the cosmos? Where does reason cross over into healthy abstraction? People who are truly looking, who are ready to challenge their own beliefs and those of their communities, can find beautiful puzzles everywhere. But if the aim is to find support for what you think you already know, studying the universe will teach you nothing. Briefly: Looking for confirmation of one’s own beliefs in the cosmos is a mistake but looking for new mysteries is not.



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How does music play into your every day? Music has the role for me that pictures have to other people - it’s how I remember where I’ve been and what I was doing. My mind is a sponge that picks up on whatever is playing in a restaurant, on the street, or in a cab. When I hear the same music, even years later, I will remember that place and the events clearly.

Is EM Drive real? If or if not, what kind of system is our best bet for interstellar travel? As I understand the EM Drive (and I don’t fully understand it), it is a search for something like a machine that works without propulsion. This violates the conservation of momentum, which is a scientific principle established following centuries of research into machines. As the physicist Paul Sutter points out, it’s not impossible for new experiments to demonstrate violations of principles like momentum conservation, but the evidence needs to be very strong (see The evidence for the EM drive is not strong enough, and it’s not clear if it will be. While the current EM drive seems unlikely to work, looking for it may lead to the development of something that does.

Right now, we can travel by observing the cosmos. Scientists can detect gravitational waves, merging black holes and neutron stars, and cosmic background radiation with advanced interferometers, including ground-based projects like LIGO and VIRGO, and planned space-based interferometers like LISA. And scientists are poised to observe and produce images of massive, distant black holes with the Event Horizon Telescope, the source of the first image of a black hole, which is currently planning a new generation of radio telescopes, imaging techniques, and scientific collaborations.

How can we keep up with you online? I have a website at and a philosophy and history of science blog, The Circle, with Twitter updates at and a YouTube channel:


a weekend with

meadowbrook inn BY: clifford brooks Vishal Savani, Managing Director What drew you to Blowing Rock, North Carolina? The Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina are among the most scenic locales in the US, with so much to do and see in the area. While there are many great towns in the mountains, we were particularly drawn to Blowing Rock as it is an idyllic village right off the Blue Ridge Parkway, nestled near popular hiking trails, ski slopes, and other outdoor attractions. As a town, Blowing Rock offers excellent dining and shopping venues along a quaint Main Street that is perfect for taking a leisurely afternoon stroll. Blowing Rock offers something for everyone and is easily accessible from throughout the Southeast. Since acquiring Meadowbrook Inn in 2017, we have also acquired a second property in town-- Mountainaire Inn and Log Cabins.

How does Meadowbrook Inn stand out in the area?

Meadowbrook Inn is unique in that while it is located within steps of Blowing Rock’s shops and restaurants on Main Street, the hotel also offers the comforts of a larger hotel. Unlike most of the inns that surround us, Meadowbrook Inn offers amenities such as an indoor swimming pool, fitness center, wine/beer service, and complimentary hot breakfast. We also have the largest meeting and event venue in the area, and so we are the perfect spot for small conferences, retreats, exhibitions, and celebrations. In fact, we are a proud 2X recipient of a Readers’ Choice Award from ConventionSouth for our meeting and event space. Meadowbrook Inn is committed to the long-term well-being of the environment and the community in which we operate. Our outdoor space is a Certified Wildlife Habitat by the National Wildlife Federation, and we have set up an educational heirloom vegetable and herb garden on the property, with the intent of providing our guests and the community with access to a space that showcases a variety of vegetables and herbs that have been grown in the area for generations. In addition, we are thrilled to have installed Blowing Rock’s first rooftop bee apiary and have been producing wildflower honey on property for two years.

What’s your long-term goal for this gorgeous property?

When we acquired the hotel in 2017, we immediately embarked on an extensive renovation of our Annex rooms, all of our guest bathrooms, our meeting rooms, and our public



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spaces. As we look at the future, we are planning a second round of upgrades to our guest rooms to continue to elevate the overall experience. Our long-term goal is to continue to offer an upscale boutique lodging option with all of the amenities and conveniences that allow guests to fully escape, unwind, and experience everything that the mountains have to offer.

Ali Borchardt, General Manager What’s your story, morning glory? How did you come to the helm of Meadowbrook Inn?

My husband was getting ready to retire and I was ready for a new challenge, so I began the process of looking for positions in areas where we would both enjoy living. We had vacationed in the Blowing Rock area for years and loved it, so the General Manager position at Meadowbrook Inn seemed perfect. I came on board in July of 2018 and never looked back.

How do you maintain order? What’s your style with patrons?

I am a firm believer in providing proper training and the right tools to our staff members and then letting them do their job. I try to touch base with each staff member on a weekly, and often daily, basis and actively encourage them to express concerns and make suggestions. We are very fortunate to have a team filled with smart, dedicated, creative people who take great pride in a job well done. One of the things I love best


about my job is getting to know our guests! Being respectful, friendly, and professional, but also genuinely interested in what the guest has to say, is something I strive for in all of my interactions.

How do you keep cool in these weird times?

The last two years have been a bit of a rollercoaster ride for everyone, but I find that keeping the end goal in mind keeps me calm and focused -- making sure our guests have a great experience and that our staff members know how much I appreciate everything they do to make that happen.

How does Meadowbrook Inn stay COVID compliant?

At the very beginning of the pandemic, a countywide mandate closed all lodging facilities for two months. In collaboration with team members from our sister property Linden Row Inn and our managing directors, we were able to have policies and procedures in place that exceeded both CDC and local requirements before reopening. As recommendations, regulations, and industry best practices have changed and evolved over the last 18 months, we have updated our COVID procedures and policies in real time. The health and safety of our guests, and our staff, continues to be a top priority.

Erin O’Hara, Director of Sales What about your position at Meadowbrook Inn gives you joy?

From family vacations to wedding celebrations, our guests come to Meadowbrook Inn for their most special events. I cherish my small part in helping them to create these treasured memories.

What’s your favorite spot to eat in Blowing Rock?

Blowing Rock has an abundance of independently owned restaurants. Each of them is so unique, selecting just one is a very difficult challenge. My top three are Twigs, Speckled Trout, and Foggy Rock.



Blue Mountain Review / January 2022 With one of the High Country’s top chefs and an award-winning wine list, Twigs is excellent choice for both special occasions or more casual lounge service. This elegant mountain bistro offers a fantastic menu with unique selections that make it a “must” while in Blowing Rock. Featuring a Fire on the Rock award winning chef, The Speckled Trout serves innovative Appalachian cuisine. With a marvelous bottle shop and seasonal menus featuring fresh and local ingredients, a trip to Blowing Rock would not be complete with stopping by the Speckled Trout. Their rustic mountain atmosphere, upscale American pub style menu, and incredible draft beer selection has made Foggy Rock a true favorite amongst Blowing Rock locals. Whether you are looking to catch a game or have an amazing family dinner, you cannot go wrong with Foggy Rock.

What can those who want to work in your field do to best prepare themselves?

Successful event planners come from a variety of backgrounds, but all share some common traits. Excellent communication, creativity, organization, and attention to detail top the list. Critical thinking is also a key component both in planning and making levelheaded decisions in a possibly very chaotic atmosphere. The ability to budget and anticipate costs is also key. An internship with an established venue is a great avenue to become an event planner.

What events do you have on deck for 2022?

I am excited for 2022! We have a wide variety of events scheduled including quilting and knitting retreats, Porsche clubs, jazz concerts, and of course weddings and reunions. This will hopefully be a year of reconnection. With so many wonderful activities for all ages, Blowing Rock is the perfect place for people to come together!

How can we keep up with you online?

Visit us on our website at or by following us on Facebook ( or Instagram (@meadowbrook.inn).


Explore Indulge Unwind in the High Country


711 Main Street, Blowing Rock, NC | | 828.295.4300 93

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interview with

Greg Hosmer BY: clifford brooks How does the man today differ from the one ten years ago? I think maybe the man 10 years ago was hopelessly lost and totally unaware and presently I’m aware that I’m hopelessly lost and working on being OK with that. I’ve spent a lot of time with my head down going through the motions of living - the mechanics of the modern-day American dream. I focused almost entirely on external success metrics and that, not surprisingly, was deeply unfulfilling. Eventually that emptiness brought me to a dire crossroads and fortunately I was able to find a hopeful way forward. That sounds dramatic, I guess. I am not great at talking about myself. Getting sober is also a huge part of my story over the last decade (putting it mildly) - I wouldn’t be anything with photography if I hadn’t gotten sober. I likely wouldn’t be doing anything at all. That’s dark but it’s true for me.

How does nature help you cope in a mad world? Getting out in nature serves as a counterpoint to so much of the omnipresent stress culture that we live in. It forces me to slow down and just exist for the sake of existing. The constant pressure of regular life is off for a while. My only goals are to get from point A to point B, eat, drink water, and hopefully find some cool spots to grab a few shots. It’s just so simple and it’s all out of my control - which is great. Watching a sunrise from a mountaintop, drinking a cup of instant coffee, and having literally nothing else on the agenda is the kind of freedom that is hard to find in my day to day. Its also a challenge and I like a challenge - the terrain, the weather, my fitness level - it kicks your ass a little bit and honestly, I need that as well.

Many bog down during cold months with short days. What good practices do you have in place to keep you between the ditches? I just must keep busy - Idle hands and all that. I try to keep my routine strict. Get up at the same time, workout regularly, eat right and all the other generally boring things. If I do those basic things, I’m usually close to between the lines. But also, I try to be nice to myself and cut myself slack. Sometimes I meant to do laundry and workout but instead I slept in and watched procedurals on Netflix - that’s OK too. I spend most of the winter mad about daylight savings time honestly. Who is the guy that wants it to get darker sooner? Madness.



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What are you reading and listening to now? I just finished Sapiens and that was a super interesting read and I highly recommend to basically anyone interested in how we got to this place as a society. I have specifically not been reading anything political and that has been a great improvement mentally.

As far as what I’m listening to, I listen to a ton of podcasts. I was really into Woebegone for the first few seasons. I also like The Opportunist. It’s about ordinary people that ended up doing some pretty messed up stuff just because they had an opportunity. Your Kickstarter Sucks is funny. When I’m feeling political, I will listen to Chapo Trap House or Trillbilly Workers Party.

As far as music its wide open as ever. Currently listening to a higher-than-average amount of Spose

Over a decade ago you built a company in an increasingly competitive market. How does being your own boss benefit your peace of mind? I don’t know how much peace of mind I get from being in charge. Honestly its probably the opposite. Being in charge gives me terrible anxiety. But being in charge does allow me a kind of flexibility that’s hard to come by in most work environments. These days i’m valuing time more than money so the tradeoffs work for me



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interview with

m2 Public relations BY: clifford brooks Marsha Archer, President & Founder: What in life shaped Marsha Archer? I was mostly shaped out of boredom, to be honest. Growing up as an only child created many opportunities to be creative with the constant pursuit of excitement. My career in PR checks both of those boxes.

What makes you happy? In general, sun, family and conversations with strangers make me happy. Anything ‘Chanel-branded’ never fails at putting a smile on my face.

How did you get started in the hospitality industry? How did that shape you? I started in the industry as a college student running a hotel front desk as a part-time job. This job absolutely met my constant urge for ‘conversations with strangers,’ and ultimately were some of my most treasured experiences that led me back to the industry after holding PR positions in retail and nonprofit PR.

Tell us about your agency. What sets it apart from others? M-Squared PR is a hospitality-focused PR firm with clients in the hotel, restaurant and tourism industry.

What truly sets us apart is the relationship we have with our stakeholders—clients, journalists, etc., along with our determination for client success.



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What is your philosophy behind a business run well? Do what you say and exceed expectations.

How do we find you online?

Erica Sisti, Account & Social Media Coordinator: What lit your spark to work within public relations? The simple answer – people. I was first introduced to the world of PR from a friend in the industry. I didn’t have any background at all in public relations and really didn’t have any relevant experience. Even then, Marsha gave me the opportunity to get my start in PR and allowed a space for me to learn the dynamics of the role. It didn’t take long for me to fall in love with the world of public relations. While the events and photoshoots are glamorous, it is the relationships and connections made along the way that drive the desire to keep going.

How has travel shaped you as a person? How has seeing the world molded you? There are many, many benefits that have come from traveling. Not only do I love exploring new countries and cities, but the opportunity to learn and experience a culture different than my own has opened my eyes and given me a new outlook on the world. I’ve been very fortunate to have traveled to a multitude of countries and regions and have had an opportunity to connect with people in each. Because traveling can often take you outside of your comfort zone (if you let it!), this creates such a unique perspective on the world and allows you to be more open, accepting, and tolerant of those around you.

What do you enjoy most about M-Squared PR? The thing I enjoy most about M-Squared Public Relations is the individuality that each employee has, all molding together into one diverse team. Our president, Marsha Archer, truly celebrates our differences and recognizes that having people from diverse backgrounds and with unique perspectives affords us the ability to think creatively and ultimately lead to the best outcome for our clients.


What do you do to unplug from the world? Currently, it can be tough to completely unplug from the world. Though for me, I feel most relaxed, and fulfilled, when I feel tuned into the world around me. Some of my simple joys are meeting a group of friends for dinner and drinks, enjoying a cup of coffee in the morning as the world is still waking up or going for a walk through the park. Connecting with the people I love and getting out into the world is the best way for me to unwind.

Bailey Gulledge, Account and Social Media Coordinator: What kind of fire do you bring to M-Squared PR? I like to think of myself as the ultimate team player. I am always willing to help and assist with any task, or any colleague. Even if I don’t know the answer, I will help you get to the bottom of it. Need an example? I’ll send it to you. Need help figuring out if the comma goes before or after? I gotcha. I also just have an overall passion for public relations and our client roster. Every client is important to me. I want everyone to win and am willing to put in the work to make it happen.

What are you reading right now? I am currently reading It Ends with Us by Colleen Hoover. Now, if you’re on TikTok, especially ‘BookTok’, you know all about this book. I have finally given in! I am only a few chapters in so far, and I am already loving it.

What’s your five-year professional plan?



I hope to move up within M-Squared PR -eventually to Account Director of the Charlotte division. Throughout the next five years, I look forward to learning more about the Charlotte market and creating more relationships. Relationships are everything -- especially in PR. I am also looking forward to making M-Squared PR a household name in the city.

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interview with

Red phone booth

buckhead ATLanta, Georgia BY: clifford brooks Stephen de Haan: The Red Phone Booth creates a comfortable yet sophisticated ambiance. What about that natural attraction speaks to your nature? Behind the Red Phone Booth, we strive to make guests feel welcome and at home. It is intended to be a place for people to escape, where we have a true relationship with them, allowing us to exceed their expectations in service, curated products, and atmosphere. All this stems from a desire to share our warmth and hospitality. As it is from our hearts, it is a natural giving versus some stuffy, contrived pretentious attitude. Welcome home.

The idea for a Prohibition-era speakeasy was inspired by your family. Give us the rundown on that. My grandfather W.J. “Bill” Boortz was a pharmacist during Prohibition, prescribing alcohol for medicinal purposes. He was also an avid cigar smoker and entertainer. It was this pharmacy background and passion for welcoming friends that is the basis for the Red Phone Booth. Therefore, our extensive whiskey collection is the “pharmacy,” our curated wine list is “anti-oxidants” and cigars, “inhalants”. And now, during the era of Covid-19, a shot ordered at the bar is a “vaccine.”

What makes the new Buckhead, Atlanta, Georgia location different from the other sites? First, guests will notice the size. This location is approximately 20% larger than the second-largest site. There are slightly higher ceilings, as well. We have also been able to take the “Mafia Room,” the private event space in the rear of the establishment, to the next level. Behind the scenes, the extra space allowed us to take the air filtration much further. Our other locations clean or replace the air approximately every five minutes, but in Buckhead, we were able to get this down to nearly every three minutes. Lastly, the execution of the extensive cocktail menu was addressed through the addition of a second dedicated bartender, focused solely on our signature Smoked Old Fashions and neat pours.



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What’s your idea of success? Success for me starts with the team. It is about creating an environment with dignity and respect. This allows us to then focus our collective energy on exceeding guest expectations. When the Red Phone Booth creates a memorable experience that guests are compelled to share with their friends and family, then we have been successful.

Tell us what moved you to bring Amalfi into the mix. Greg Grant, Operating Partner of Red Phone Booth Hospitality Group, and I were touring what would become our first location in downtown Atlanta. As we walked into the future entrance of Amalfi, we felt as if we had been transported to the streets of Italy.

My wife, Sheri de Haan, and I were engaged in Rome in the year 2000. During this trip, we fell in love with the food, the culture and the people of Italy.


It was this love that led all of us to move to Napoli for nearly a month and stage in a 5th generation pizzeria, Pizzeria Mattozzi, founded in 1830. That was the conception of Amalfi.

What do you hope will be the legacy of the Red Phone Booth? I hope we can accomplish two distinct visions. For our team– a place to grow, with opportunities for knowledge and, ultimately, ownership. There are wonderful individuals throughout the service industry who give their souls to serve others. We hope the Red Phone Booth can create opportunities beyond those that exist today. While doing this, the legacy for our guests should be about experiences– the times they laughed, the people they met and the deals they created. Hopefully, we are a supporting part in some of our guests’ best moments in their lives.

Nicholas Lamb:



You once said that you’re a “bar baby”. What does that mean and how does that create the

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stellar manager you are today? I guess we in the service industry that had parents that also work in restaurants have coined that term. It comes from the experience of spending a lot of time in a bar or restaurant setting as a young child. My mother was the Operating Partner of a restaurant called Bay & Surf in Laurel, Maryland. I spent most of my summers walking the dining room, helping her set up and even filling water glasses as needed. A lot of my childhood memories are of very busy shifts in which my sister would be helping the hostess and I would be a water boy/busser. Lending a hand and doing anything that needed to be done– just as I do now.

What music are you deep into right now? I’ve been enamored with a band by the name of Nahko and Medicine for The People. Great music to come home and unwind with.

I’ve watched you work. It’s seamless how you bounce between customers and business emergencies. How did you hone such focus and patience? It comes with time. I’ve made many mistakes in interactions that I always bring home with me to digest and learn from. You must be the most level-headed individual in the building because people are always looking to you for guidance or leadership.

What magic do you bring to the Red Phone Booth franchise? The power of moments– I believe I bring to our group the vision that every interaction could potentially be very memorable. I strive to keep people talking about their experiences behind the booth.

How do you want to be remembered? Great question. I guess I could go with the cliché answer of the best restaurateur, but I won’t. What I would say is I’d really like to be remembered as the person people can count on. I’m always ready to take on a challenge but am also able to sit down and really listen to any person that needs it.


Chef Santiago: You possess an ability to share passion through your food few others lay claim to. How have you created such a genius in the culinary world? In order to create a great dish, you first need to understand the ingredients. Then, let Mother Nature inspire you. Don’t try to overcomplicate the art of cooking, but rather, make it simple and execute a dish to the best of your ability. When putting truth and love into your dish, that energy will always come across.

How do you describe the relationship you have with Red Phone Booth?



The Red Phone Booth is an interesting concept that truly inspires me to revive recipes from the 1920s and

Blue Mountain Review / January 2022

put a modern twist on them. The roaring 20s was such a fun time for food– the stories you hear really make you appreciate the simpler dishes that were offered in that era.

Who are your heroes and why? One of my culinary heroes is Paul Bocuse. I had the pleasure of working with him in a five-star hotel for a French Master’s dinner. He made a big impression on me at a young age.

How do you want to be remembered? I would like to be remembered as a kind and caring chef. Hopefully, I will be able to inspire many people and teach more individuals about the culinary world through my eyes.

To find out more and get involved with the Red Phone Booth follow the link below:


Red Phone Booth Installs State-of-the-Art Air Purification Technology One of Nashville’s newest hot spots, Red Phone Booth has installed the latest in air purification technology. Global Plasma Solutions’Needlepoint Bipolar Ionization (NBPI) technology purifies the air by eliminating airborne particulates, odors and pathogens. During the cleaning process, the NPBI technology attacks and kills viruses, mold spores and bacteria. The ions steal away hydrogen from the pathogens, leaving them to die, and leaving you with clean and healthy indoor air. The GPS NPBI technology also reduces airborne particles (i.e., dust and pollen) through agglomeration. The ions attach to the airborne particles and are then subsequently attracted to one another, effectively increasing their mass and size. The air filtration technology easily captures the larger particles, increasing the capture efficiency of the HVAC system.

This revolutionary air filtration technology is currently used in many hospitals like Boston Children’s Hospital, the Mayo Clinic and Houston Memorial Hospital Baylor UMC as well as The White House and major universities like Clemson University and Harvard University.

Red Phone Booth’s new cleaning protocols also includes frequent sanitizing measures of all surfaces and seating using healthcare grade disinfectant MonoFoil™D that kills 99.9% of bacteria on surfaces. This EPA approved solution bonds to most surfaces providing a germ barrier for 30-60 days. Other safety measures include member only reservations, staggered arrival times, half capacity, social distancing seating and frequent sanitization procedures.

“Safety for our members is of the utmost importance to Red Phone Booth,” said Stephen de Haan, Founding Partner. “We were already familiar with the latest in air purification because we offer an extensive cigar program for our members. We are excited to now have this new technology and we’ve implemented a number of new disinfecting procedures to help us provide the best experience possible.”

Owned and operated by de Haan and award-winning actor, whiskey and cigar enthusiast Michael Cudlitz, Red Phone Booth successfully opened its speakeasy concept in December of 2019 in the heart of downtown Nashville at 136 Rosa Parks Blvd. The upscale establishment has adjusted its hours to Thursday – Saturday from 4:00pm to 11:45pm. The exclusive lounge will once again be open to the public as the city allows for larger capacity. For more information about the Red Phone Booth visit



Blue Mountain Review / January 2022

More About Red Phone Booth Nashville: Showcasing the 1920’s speakeasy theme, Red Phone Booth’s cocktail menu features an extensive selection of rare bourbon, whiskey, scotch and Japanese whisky selections. Patrons will notice the finest attention to detail that provides for exceptional cocktails including 100% fresh squeezed juices such as blood orange, mango, and cranberry, hand chipped double-reverse pass osmosis ice, garnishes cut to order, a collection of some of the rarest liquors available and over a dozen tinctures, bitters and flavoring agents to help breath new depth. Red Phone Booth is also known for its tasting events where guests not only sample a flight of whiskey, but also engage and learn the spirits’ history from key leaders in the industry. Cigar enthusiasts can enjoy a wide variety of blends in a cleansed and refreshed air atmosphere. There is a 100% fresh outdoor air system accompanied by five 2,500 CFM air purifiers. In developing the humidor, Red Phone Booth prioritized quality and desirability of the cigars over quantity of any one brand, therefore will continually bring in fresh new inventory.

The 5,200 square foot venue features restored original brick and reclaimed tobacco barn wood floors, a honey onyx bar, intimate fireplaces, custom Italian leather couches, and hand-painted ceiling with back lighting. A private room in the back is also available to rent for private events.

Red Phone Booth’s goal is to provide each guest with the most memorable experience, always looking for opportunities to exceed each customer’s expectations, while maintaining a sincere gracious attitude. From the comfort of the seating to the training and knowledge of the staff, and the quality of the air, it is all of these things and more that allow for Red Phone Booth to deliver an unparalleled experience for its guests.

For more information, visit


Media Contact: Tresa Halbrooks, LEGACY PR 615-669-6058 |




Blue Mountain Review / January 2022

Sunset Calling Over Seven Thousand Miles Virago – dominate the expanse, reaching, wrenching the horizon loose. Torn from its moorings, cascading (she) tap dancing, toned, emboldened except what she carves out for others. Gnarled through fisted hands the past, the first days, forcing elasticity into time. Concrete shoes: C’mon girl, the shoes don’t fit. Lakes, the deepest hands go into earth, to water, to be seen, noticed, lightened, untethered from any harmful star. Three hours is too long. Distance doesn’t grant a pass on closeness.

from The Book of Old Gods


A Q&A with the infamous

dog of hemingway I wake up every day at 5am to scribble down 1k words. It’s my little way of squeezing in some precious me-time before I clock in for work at noon. Despite having all the best intentions to get my 1k words down, I find myself unproductive that early in the morning. I usually end up taking a nap or scrolling through Amazon and buying stuff I don’t need, like bulk toilet paper. Should I switch to writing in the evening so I’m more focused? This is a problem many writers face. The thing is - writing is a lot of trial and error. Who’s to say if it’s better to write in the morning or if it’s better to write in the evening? It really depends how you feel that day. Certainly, I wouldn’t advise trying to write in the morning after a hard night of partying. That’s just a waste of time. You’re better off sleeping away that nasty hangover. At the end of the day, it’s all about establishing a routine. And most routines stink.



Blue Mountain Review / January 2022

I am very active in the #WritingCommunity on Twitter. I constantly share other people’s stories and comment on them with things like “damn!” and “bro this is fire.” I like to think I’m supportive. But even though I’m engaging and hyping up my peers, I noticed that they don’t reciprocate when it comes to my own work. Should i quit the #WritingCommunity? I’m gonna let you in on a little not-so-well-kept-secret: Twitter is a literal dumpster fire. You should delete it from your phone ASAP. I guarantee your productivity will increase exponentially. Publishers love to see that you’re active on social media. Sure, you could be a good writer, but that’s only half of writing, ya know? The other half is you and your brand. How can you sell your brand if you’re nowhere to be found digitally? YOU CAN’T.

Just this past year I was nominated for 7 Pushcarts. Should I quit my job as a data analyst for Walmart and focus on writing full time? Lol, no.

I’ve been tinkering with this screenplay of mine for the past few years and I think it’s pretty good. I like to describe it as Cast Away meets Fast and Furious meets Toy Story. Do you think I need an agent in order to get it in the hands of Christopher Nolan? Agents can be super beneficial when it comes to getting your writing in front of the right eyes. Without one, it’s nearly impossible to get the right opportunities. That being said, you might want to pitch a different script. Yours sounds very confusing. No offense.

My five-year-old niece designed the cover for my latest book. It’s got a dope af butterfly on it with a dragon in the corner. Lots of greens and purples and abstract squiggles. It’s Picassoesque. However, it has only sold around 5 copies, and 4 of them were me testing out my new debit card. I’m starting to wonder if the cover is kinda bad. Should I fire my niece and hire a professional graphic designer? I don’t want any bad blood. This is a tricky situation. Most publishers would agree that covers DO sell a book. As much as we want to believe that the book’s content is more important than the cover art, it’s not. I suggest cutting your losses with your niece. Business is business, baby, and sometimes you gotta hurt some feelings in the process. That’s just Publishing 101.




Blue Mountain Review / January 2022


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


book review


BY: Rose McLarney BY: micah daniel mcCrotty


ew writers leave a trail of readers in silence quite like Rose McLarney. Coeditor in chief and poetry editor of Southern Humanities Review, she continues her tradition of stoic and honest poetry with her newest collection by offering lines of deeply rooted lyricism mixed with a global perspective. Winner of the Weatherford Award for a book of Appalachian Poetry, Forage explores themes of urban consumerism and the pressures of family and aging on young women while her speaker moves between suburban settings and harsh rurality. These poems cling to the readers memory as they address with poignance the many troubled questions of contemporary Southern life. McLarney’s first section tackles the connectivity between humanity and environment as the poems lean against anthropocentric views of the natural world. She recalls images of frozen horses and the preserved bodies of the extinct Carolina Parroket, questions the concept of animals as pets, and describes how an elephant came to hang from a crane in Erwin Tennessee. She seems to question the delineation between people and animals, even critiquing artistic consumption when opposed to the recognition of physical reality and contemporary consequences. Unified by the employment of water imagery, the second section acts as a salvo of political thought woven with her characteristic delicacy as McLarney addresses many social issues head on. Water rights, cultural homogenization, sterility of both people and environment, questions of social justice and race relations, rural voters, and the ever-increasing commercialization of small towns. In a voice as clear as Frost, “A Participation of Waters” describes how a river comes from multiple sources to create an assembly of springs and runoffs. Waterways have remained much the same since the time of Christ, the speaker mentions, then addresses other currents in history which seem to have failed any attempt at redirection:



Blue Mountain Review / January 2022 Another black American’s killing. This is happening today, so much the same, a stagnant refrain. And the rivers remain those that slave songs name. Trade routes

still trafficked, that can’t be crossed to another world, or wash anyone clean. (7-12)

Water functions as a metaphor for historical movement in this poem, with each runnel, spring, well, and stream a participation in an eventual flood of “the public road” (18). No watercourse, including the speaker’s own gutters, remain innocent. “Return Visit,” suggests that the arrival of global influences often comes at the expense of regional culture. Much like Jim Wayne Miller’s “How America Came to the Mountains,” McLarney depicts the arrival of commercialism as something of a great flood, carrying stores of life from other places into the Mountain South, deposited only when the local ground has become uninhabitable. She describes “growing up talking to oneself / in an uninfluenced accent, that once let a rural place / keep alive its ways” (13-15). The speaker then laments the temporary nature of much of modern life, describing her “urge / to unseal the sterile, individual package of every lonely / soap and peanut” (26-28). These two juxtaposed images underscore McLarney’s willingness to highlight tensions between financial progress and traditional commerce while suggesting that the gradual construction of chain stores and strip malls across Appalachia will continue.

Parts three and four return to images of countryside with environmental poems critical of frontier idealism and any attempt to hush or hide the diversity inherent in the South. Theories of how people relate to place run throughout the book, and the almost Berry-esque poem “Accrual” describes the mindset of land grabbing and how it slowly brought suburbia to the more wild places in the United States. The American West, she suggests, received so much artistic attention after the Civil War because it represented a location without history, offered a reprieve from the brutalities of slavery to painters’ brushes seeking mountains and prairies without baggage. But McLarney argues settlers brought their own histories with them, even to the seemingly blank mountains of the West. She writes: But what man has ever really lusted for the untouched except in the briefest of moments before he lays his own hands all over it? Surroundings that exemplify purity are unsettled, empty. (5-8) The comparison at the end of the poem highlights the eventuality of ruination for many ecosystems and the transportation of customary violence as settlers brought their pasts and traditions with them. “Spoil – that’s the word used for what builders of houses do / to once-wild landscapes they admire too much to let alone” (14-15).

Like many of the poems in this book, McLarney regularly calls her readers to look toward the future and consider the impact of actions in the present, suggesting that eschatology should inform current modes of conduct. Similar to the work of Jesse Graves, “Hearafter” reflects McLarney’s earlier collections and her continued employment of reservoirs as a powerful image of humanity’s influence on the natural world. The speaker begins by observing the deliberate sinking of automobiles to create aquatic structure in dammed up lakes due to the lack of natural habitat. Calling the reader to envision drowned city blocks as swimming holes, she writes


[i]magine all the swimming then, among wrecks filed along the freeways. An idyll of engines stopped utterly. No notion that a next life

above the one here is ever to be had. (10-14)

When water levels rise, she reasons, lakes will spread and offer fish more options for shelter among the flooded portions of humanity’s buildings and abandoned vehicles.

Forage represents a shift in McLarney’s writing, a gradual movement towards addressing classical art and broader national culture even as she remains grounded in the American South. Though a few of these poems feel detached in power and subject from the rest, this third collection adds to an already impressive body of work by a writer who continues to demonstrate her prowess as a leading poetic voice in the region. From wilderness to museums, from the killing of elephants to drinking martinis in the evening, McLarney demonstrates a willingness to search after the connective tissue of poetry in any format or occasion.



Blue Mountain Review / January 2022


book review

color all maps new BY: jack b. bedell BY: clifford brooks


ack Bedell pushes out of his comfort zone in his new collection, Color All Maps New. It is ecologically minded, yes. Awareness of our dwindling resources and hard hand on nature are here as in his previous work. However, here he works more as nature instead of one apart from it. As Bedell grows as a man his poet self takes on more of his Louisiana landscapes internally. In “Exhumation,” When the swamp releases them/from its silt -/mist off water,/ squalls of heron sound, the poet speaks as the swamp. He is an active movement in the earth that chooses to release or not release precious insight. There’s old faith in these poems. There’s a superstition par for the daily course of Southern folks who know better than poke at ghosts.

As a father Bedell says in “Space, Release,” I am teaching my son to throw into space. It is a strong father. The poet feels and sounds sure in this collection where in the past his stance wavered. He is brave and these poems are a call to save the earth as much as the soul. They are interconnected. His mother and her granddaughter sharing cooking after death. Death leaving us bereft but not forgotten. The land and spirit: Here the two are a single, forward, heartfelt motion. Let’s hear what the poet says of Color All Maps New

Quite a few of the poems in Color All Maps New explore ecological issues the people of Louisiana are facing these days. How did this topic become so important for you when you were composing the poems for this collection?


Like everyone else in south Louisiana, I’ve known about coastal erosion and wetland loss for a while now, but for me


Blue Mountain Review / January 2022 it was all abstract knowledge based on charts and maps until recently. A few years ago, a family member sent me a photo of open water. When I texted back to ask why he sent it, he told me it was a picture of the pointe we used to navigate the base of Bayou Decade. The last time I’d been in that place, it was land with structures on it. Now it was open water as far as the eye could see. That one picture made this whole issue personal and immediate for me. That lost land wasn’t color on a map; it was land from my own life. Writing about coastal erosion, preservation, and living through this crisis with our home intact became an urgent goal from then on. How we live through our current environmental crisis has a direct impact on how we’ll be able to maintain our senses of identity and community. We can’t spend all our time here waxing nostalgic about our coast. If we do that, keep writing poems that way, we’ll wake up surrounded by open water one day soon. We must do more than preserve memories; we must restore and preserve the beauty that’s all around us. We must find ways of appreciating what we have and what we can create, environmentally and artistically. I hope this is what my poems are doing, always.

How are these poems different than the ones in your last collection, No Brother, This Storm?

In No Brother, This Storm, I was really asking questions about loss of coastline, loss of traditions, and loss of family members just wishing for answers. There’s still a ton of hope in those poems, but answers are scarce. Just being hit with the dire urgency of our situation ecologically here in Louisiana and being hit with the loss of both my parents while composing the poems for the collection, I think I was stunned and searching through most of those lines. I really want the poems in Color All Maps New to have more certainty to them. To show acceptance of our reality, environmentally and personally, while celebrating real hope and real solutions. New maps.

As they have in all your collections to date, family stories play an important role in Color All Maps New. How do you feel you’ve evolved over the years as a son, a brother, a husband, and a dad? And how does that evolution show itself in these poems? Not sure I’m at a point yet where I can answer that one with anything solid! I’m still stuck deep into that journey. Even though both my folks have passed away, I wake up every morning trying to be a better son. Been married over 20 years and I’m still working constantly on being a better partner to my wife. Still falling short on that most days! And every single day I learn something about being a parent. None of that ever feels comfortable and set. I really think my family poems are another way for me to take stock in the environment. I’m asking a lot of the same questions in those poems, particularly in Color All Maps New, that I’m posing in the poems about our wetlands. How do we preserve this beauty? How do we keep restoring it for our future enjoyment?

Could you talk about the arrangement of the collection a bit? Definitely! I didn’t compose the poems for this collection around a set number of themes like I did for No Brother, This Storm. Instead, I used the “Lines for…” poems that open each section of the book to set the key for the section. The poems that follow in each section riff on themes established in those “Lines for…” poems in some way, shape, or form. I really love the unity you get from chapbooks, and I was hoping for the arrangement of the poems in Color All Maps New would re-create that chapbook feel somehow.

Where’s the best place to find your book? You can buy the book directly from Mercer University Press (https://www.mupress. org/Color-All-Maps-New-P1137.aspx) or at Amazon (




Blue Mountain Review / January 2022


faces of faith ted hackett BY: Clifford brooks Clifford Brooks: When I imagine the voice of God, I hear Ted Hackett speaking.

Boethius said, “As far as you are able, join faith to reason.” Hackett’s sermons are erudite and heartfelt. Each time he stepped up the congregation locked in to not only be spiritually renewed but educated as well. I am blessed to know the man.

Ted Hackett:

Hello, Cliff: I’ll do what I can with this interview. Some questions are a little like the famous Oxford exam, “Describe the Universe in detail and give two examples.”

I went to college at Brown University and got very involved with radio. Upon being graduated I worked in Radio and T.V. for a few years. I was a D.J. at a 50,000-watt station in Buffalo N.Y. with a very big listener ship. I found it terribly shallow. I couldn’t imagine doing that at 50 years old!

I thought about Seminary. I got an offer to go to New York but had to take it then or get out. I got out and went to Berkeley Divinity School, the Episcopal seminary at Yale. After being graduated with a master’s I was in Parish Ministry for less than three years and went back to school for a Ph.D. I was back in Parish ministry again for three as rector of an Atlanta church. After three years there I returned to School and wrote my dissertation. Following getting the degree, they asked me to stay on at Emory...and I did, teaching for nearly 35 years, mostly history. In the process we started an “Episcopal Studies Program” to prepare people for the priesthood. That is still going. I am not sure I got a “sense of peace” from teaching...though Christianity did, at least often, offer that. Teaching was satisfying (most of the time) and I loved both research and teaching.



Blue Mountain Review / January 2022

Asking me to describe Jesus the Man is a rough question. Scholars have been engaged since the 18th century in trying to “paint” what we call: “The Historical Jesus.” That very large effort has produced very little consensus. What consensus there is suggests a kind of rough Palestinian blue-collar guy who had a radical vision about the nature of the coming “Reign of God” which, according to most Jews in the First Century, would transform the whole cosmos into a place of love and harmony. If that’s all he was, of course, he failed. The Reign has not come and ever since the Church has tried to deal with Jesus’ non-appearance. You see, all this research has been predicated on the idea that Jesus was not in any sense divine. Certainly not God incarnate. But exactly that has been the contention of Christians since at least Paul (ci. 50 C.E.). If he is God Incarnate or the Divine Son of God (the subject of theological debate since very early on), he is 100% divine as well as 100% human. How he can be fully divine and fully human has been the subject of debate after debate and five General Councils of the Church. But seeing him this way makes an enormous difference in one›s relationship with Him. My favorite Book of the Bible? That is not possible for me to answer. They all have their special riches, though certainly some more than others. The Revelation of John, the last Book of the New Testament has always seemed to me simply “over the top.” I am attracted to Luke. It has so much good reference to the Eucharistic Community of Christians, and it also gives women more visibility.

The issue of “ethics” and “Morality” is debated. Theologians are not even in agreement about which is which. I am inclined to think in terms of “Character Ethics”: that is, one’s ethical or unethical behavior is a product of one’s “character.” “Morals” are certainly part of the human character.

Plato’s old issue of the “Life well lived” never goes away. It can be extrapolated from some interpretations of Christianity but is a Socratic question. I agree with Plato: a Life well Lived is a life of constant questioning. This questioning produces yet more questions than answers. In that comes humility and a certain peace since we know that not knowing is our ultimate fate. Searching is part of the human destiny. Knowing is ultimately for God alone.




Blue Mountain Review / January 2022

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Blue Mountain Review / January 2022




www. the-blue-mountain-review



“Poetry is always sublunary.”

Blue Mountain Review / January 2022

—Julio Cortázar

New & Forthcoming

The Posthumous Works of Thomas Pilaster Éric Chevillard

Homecoming Magda Isanos

A Cage for Every Child

Vagaries Malicieux Djuna Barnes

Heinrich von Kleist


The Last Days of Immanuel Kant

Morsel May Sleep

Three Dreams

S. D. Chrostowska

Thomas De Quincey

Ellen Dillon

Jean Paul & Laurence Sterne



poetr 133



Blue Mountain Review / January 2022


bisbee’s By: Lynne Kemen

The sign said, E.S. Bisbee, general store. Also Post Office. A flag flung, one person always leaning on the railing. Everett or Burt were fixtures.

The glass said groceries; it was mostly canned goods, dry goods, rubber boots and car parts. And candy! Bubblegum cigars, red lips, wax mustaches, penny candy and a long low freezer with popsicles.

Competing smells made me giddy: cheddar cheese wheels, salami, ham with pink and green-colored chunks, potatoes that still smelled of earth. Apples or peaches piled next to animal cages and feed.

Gasoline and kerosine mixed with the scent of wooden floorboards.

The Post Office had little boxes you could peer into. Doors with brass filigree, a knob with numbers, the secret code. Gram let me open it while she traded. Once the door opened, a “post-officy” smell of paper and glue.



Blue Mountain Review / January 2022

Photo Credit: Tim Duerden Delhi (NY) Historical Society

The heart of the community, Bisbee’s, stood until April of 1976. The furnace failed and the whole place flamed into a funeral pyre. Ruez Bisbee was in his 70s then, too. Too tired and too heartbroken for his melted antique cash register.

Lynne Kemen lives in the Great Western Catskills of Upstate New York. Her chapbook, More Than A Handful (Woodland Arts Editions) was published in October 2020. She has been published or has forthcoming poems in La Presa, Silver Birch Press, The Ravens Perch, Blue Mountain Review, Fresh Words Magazine, The Ekphrastic Review, Poetica Review. She is on the Board of Bright Hill Press in Treadwell, NY.

If I remembered Gram’s secret code, I could scoot back to where little meant everything.


Galveston Lifeguard By: Kathleen Kimball-Baker With my ballet body, oiled and sunlit, I leaned over to loosen from the water’s edge a tiny winged shell, pale and pliable as a baby fingernail. I did this to coax you off your throne of wooden stilts, awash in white. I wanted to fasten your sea-colored eyes to me.

In time, this worked.

Lengths of waves braided the shore, salt spilled across the night sky, dark fish breached and slapped the water. And when we parted, you handed me this: a shark tooth—angled like a cat claw. But what I wanted was the Nautilus, that luminous whirl with the roar of wild.



Blue Mountain Review / January 2022



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Blue Mountain Review / January 2022


Gig ‘Em By: Kathleen Kimball-Baker In a dark swamp tonight, we hunt for dinner. Someone hands me a trident of sharpened branches, taller

than me. One of the men lends me rubber boots. Another, who calls me city-girl, says I’m going to love the taste,

just like chicken. Someone shoves a flashlight into my hands. Warns me not to fall into the swamp

or I might never be seen again. The boots swallow my feet. I try to keep up. I try not to slip into the dark gumbo.

I want to go home. I want my mom. I want to cry. I’m hungry. I’m told the only way I’ll eat tonight

is if I catch my dinner. So, through the wet dark, I follow adult shapes, their bodies stinking of thrill.

* Circles of lights shock the water, thick clumps of bubbles quiver, a stick plunges into the muck, and up comes



Blue Mountain Review / January 2022 a wriggling, green thing, wood spikes piercing its white belly, thighs grotesque, too big for its size, eyes bulging, webbed hands and long feet flailing, body twisting, going nowhere; and men pumped, cheering, lusting for more.


In the bare--bulb light of the kitchen, the lower halves of bodies

splayed open, footless, thighs like mounds of flesh at the base of a thumb, naked,



I peel from the bones greasy, gray-white meat shot through with black threads that here and there


dangle limp from the torn flesh. I try to think of the meat as chicken, try to force the horror

down my throat with gulps of water from little dixie cups. And I know

all my life, I’ll pay for this night in dreams— of gigging bullfrogs in the dark,

a lower jaw opening, closing, as if trying to scream, as if struck speechless.



Blue Mountain Review / January 2022


Opportunity lost By: Kathleen Kimball-Baker I rarely do this. I’m more the strap slipping off the shoulder type.

But last night, after rain dampened the garden just outside our dark bedroom, I saw you asleep, chest exposed, the rest lightly draped like sculpture

So I did what I do not usually do: I slipped between the sheets naked.

In the morning, as I showered, you came into the bathroom to kiss me goodbye.

145 I fluttered


Blue Mountain Review / January 2022

Kathleen Kimball-Baker is a Minneapolis writer and editor and Texas transplant. A three-time finalist in Minnesota’s Loft Literary Center Mentor Series (for fiction and creative nonfiction entries), she received an honorary mention for her 2012 essay on dogsledding. Her poems appear in Mockingheart Review, Lines & Stars, Red Wolf Journal, and the Southwest Journal. She escapes to the north woods of Minnesota often, whenever possible with a team of Alaskan huskies and a dog sled.

the curtain—maybe a half-second exposure—and said:

This is what you missed last night.


The Ceremonies of Discarded Ghosts By: George looney after Walker Evans’ Savannah Negro Quarter, 1935

You could pull to the side of this road and die of thirst. It’s not that anyone expects things to get better, what with no work and none coming anyone can see. One local likes to don flamboyant pants and shirts, some brash suspenders and a bow tie that’ll squirt anyone close by, cover his baldness with a red wig and his face with white paste in which he draws a smile’s red gash,

and put on gloves his human hands can’t fill and shoes that flop wild as he waltzes and tangos, spinning at times so rapid his body’s a mostly comical blur. Then the clown starts in to twisting balloons into the vague ghosts of dogs and giraffes, anything to allay the sorrow of what is whispered on the stoop of what looks to be a convenience shop set up near shanties that house extended families with backyards



Blue Mountain Review / January 2022 where broken women sweep the filth of porches into holy auras around their flesh. Not even the promise of ice-cold Coca Cola can soothe the throats of these women who hum elaborate hymns as they dance the dirt they’ve stirred up. The discarded ghosts of dogs and giraffes bounce and drift at the feet of threadbare children who laugh, toothless, as the clown pretends to be a mime trapped in a box no one can see. Exits,

the clown knows better than most, can be quite harrowing. Even impossible, the clown would tell anyone who’d listen. Folks here know too well how hard it can be to get out. Of the somber sky cut by telephone lines punctuated by sparrows in the early mornings, they say it is far enough off it can’t forgive a single soul. The clown dances the streets and laughs, baptizing folks with his gaudy bowtie.

George Looney’s books include a collection of stories, The Worst May Be Over, which won the Elixir Press Fiction Award and was just published, The Itinerate Circus: New and Selected Poems 1995-2020 which was also just published, the Red Mountain Press Poetry Award-winning What Light Becomes: The Turner Variations, the novel Report from a Place of Burning which was co-winner of The Leapfrog Press Fiction Award and was published in September 2018, Hermits in Our Own Flesh: The Epistles of an Anonymous Monk (Oloris Publishing, 2016), Meditations Before the Windows Fail (Lost Horse Press, 2015), the booklength poem Structures the Wind Sings Through (Full/Crescent Press, 2014), Monks Beginning to Waltz (Truman State University Press, 2012), A Short Bestiary of Love and Madness (Stephen F. Austin State University Press, 2011), Open Between Us (Turning Point, 2010), The Precarious Rhetoric of Angels (2005 White Pine Press Poetry Prize), Attendant Ghosts (Cleveland State University Press, 2000), Animals Housed in the Pleasure of Flesh (1995 Bluestem Award), and the 2008 Hymn of Ash (the 2007 Elixir Press Fiction Chapbook Award). He is the founder of the BFA in Creative Writing Program at Penn State Erie, editor-inchief of the international literary journal Lake Effect, translation editor of Mid-American Review, and cofounder of the original Chautauqua Writers’ Festival.


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149 | University of Tennessee-Knoxville

Blue Mountain Review / January 2022


a family vacation home By: grant kittrell Franklin, NC Arriving, we sniff around the place, check-boxing memory that all’s where it’s always been, where it should be. That we are also where we are: together, oddly enough under one seeping roof--some changes are impossible to ignore after a seasoned step away: the linoleum snakes its skin along the corners of the bathroom floor, unearthing yet another stratum of linoleum, a lineage spiraling further back than any ownership we can claim of it. Outside, the same birdhouse, unpainted, is doing what raw things do when left undiagnosed in the Carolina ebb and flow, but it’s still standing, and the birds are just everywhere. And now, the faucet runs creek clear again. The fresh siding burns barn red again, and a gutter hangs ready to deflect another summer storm, once we’re gone, home to our distances. And here, already, in our driveway farewells, the burgeoning sun scribbles new watersheds into our faces, topographs our trajectories, which, like everyone’s, are downward like rainfall, which both rots and carries breathe, muddies for a while the creek we’ll walk again, with luck— we, whoever we may be then—leaving it mineral-flecked and clear as our thirst for it.



Blue Mountain Review / January 2022 Grant Kittrell was the recipient of the Philip Booth Poetry Prize. He is the Poetry Editor at Flock Literary Journal (CLMP’s 2018 Best Debut Magazine). He recently served as the Writer-in-Residence at Randolph College. His work has appeared in Salt Hill, The Common, The Carolina Quarterly, The Normal School, Gigantic Sequins, Construction and Magma Poetry, among others, and in his collection of prose poems, Let’s Sit Down, Figure This Out (Groundhog Poetry Press). He received his MFA from Hollins University and now lives in Lynchburg, VA with his fiancée Hannah and their bird-crazy hound, Margot.


Funtown Arcade By: Robert Petrillo At 17, my brother held a job on the Casino Pier in Seaside Heights, NJ. He was the dunk tank clown on a bench inside the cage. Boardwalk goers on a date would pay 2 bits to pitch 2 balls at a brightly circled metal disk that folded when hit and sank his ornery ass into the drink. He was the best to do this job, the line of throwers growing long. He gave them ample cause to want to put this motherfucker down. His hardened taunts were on the mark more than the softballs that they hurled at him. He had a special gift, as I knew well, for he could make a mild-mannered boy become a raging ace of Yankee spite whose only goal was putting strikes onto that blasted disk. Oh, he was cruel and took no pity on the fool who dared to step up to that line and throw his money down. Come on you big-eared oaf, he cried, you couldn’t hit me if you tried. And so


the quarters turned to bills, he drained


Blue Mountain Review / January 2022 their pockets, no need of shills. Your girlfriend looks like she can handle balls, why don’t you let her try. Oh man, he made that arcade owner rich as poor guys on their ruined dates laid down their weekly hard-earned dough to teach this son of a bitch the lesson he so clearly needed, not knowing what he already knew, the power that his mama shared with him, her gift of piercing tongue he learned so long ago when he was young.

Rob is a retired high school English teacher who currently leads a poetry workshop at The University of Southern Maine/OLLI and co-edits the OLLI Art and Literature Journal. His poems and essays have been published in Sky Island Journal, The Blue Mountain Review, Frost Meadow Review, The Portland Press Herald, Reflections, and the anthology A Dangerous New World: Maine Voices on the Climate Crisis. He lives in the present in Westbrook, Maine, with his partner and their cat.


cake By: stacey forbes And for my fifty-second birthday – bats with a crush on my car, drawn from the dusk by the drowsy bug hum of my engine. Bob Dylan singing Tangled Up in Blue. Sun falling asleep on a back road home and me a little lost. White lights warming a stranger’s backyard and wild poppies bowing their heads to sleep, or to pray they will open their apricot hearts one more time in the morning. This is the kind of beautiful that hurts. I drive slowly because I know how fast this magic will go somewhere I’ll never find it again. There is a cat named after the moon who waits for me in the window and still lights at the sight of me, though we are both older now. There is the steady gaze of a man, warm and dark as a summer night’s rain. There is the sister-friend who hangs old pictures on new walls for me, no matter how many times I move. There is love from a cousin I thought I had lost long ago and my mother’s small voice on the phone,



Blue Mountain Review / January 2022 her hair turning white as the birches that surround her like a house I haven’t visited in years. Birches like candles on a cake that is smothered in somebody’s love. How does a life become such sweetness? Soft as frosting, evening falls as the sonar, the radio waves, the voices I’m straining to hear slice right through me.

Stacey Forbes writes professionally for Roche Diagnostics, serving a mission to improve the lives of cancer patients through creative leadership in marketing. Her poem “Speaking of trees” won first place in the 2021 Plough Poetry Prize judged by Roger McGough and her autobiographical poem, “Polaroid of a girl from Pennsylvania,” was shortlisted for the 2021 Fish Poetry Prize. Inspired by the way the natural world illuminates humanity, she is published in Barren, Channel, and The Adirondack Review; with publications forthcoming in The Sunlight Press and Entropy. Born in the white birch woods of Pennsylvania, Stacey now lives in Tucson, Arizona.


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Blue Mountain Review / January 2022


variation on the third law of motion By: gerry lafemina Some say David Hume is still relevant, others talk Newton, especially in my neighborhood, especially when a fire engine sings its solitary note on Main Street and thus sets the first Shitzhou barking. Then, down the block, a Malamut chimes in, followed, further away, by a German Shepherd, a cascade of barking with a few elongated howls as if in imitation of the alarm. The cat in the window jumps down. You stutter alert ask what’s wrong. There’s a hurricane delivering a series of body blows in the Bahamas & farmers in the Midwest sit in diners discussing soybeans slowly growing moldy in silos. It was only a fire engine, some emergency somewhere far from the refugee camps, from ISIS safe houses where conspiracies are being shaped, plans made; far from the crying girl with the black eye, from the pillow-hidden pistol. Our neighbor is telling her dog to behave, to quiet down. Everything we know about heartache in the tremor of her voice. The evidence suggests you’re done with sleep—it’s in the restless pulse, the cat now seeking solace beside you. The mailman will deliver requests from the Food Bank & Red Cross,


from St. Jude’s & the Wounded Warriors. Like a storm


Blue Mountain Review / January 2022 Gerry LaFemina is the author of several books of poems including 2018’s The Story of Ash, numerous books of prose poems, a short story collection, and Clamor, a novel. In 2014 Stephen F. Austin University Press released his latest poetry collection, Little Heretic, and a book of his essays on prosody, Palpable Magic. His textbook, Composing Poetry: A Guide to Writing Poems and Thinking Lyrically, came out in 2017 on Kendall Hunt, and a new collection of prose poems, Baby Steps in Doomsday Prepping, was just released by Madville Publishing. The recipient of numerous awards and honors, he is a professor of English and serves as a mentor in the MFA program at Carlow University.

surge need overwhelms, it’s what directs the does to the backyard—they’re out there now— despite the dogs barking, despite the traffic. In their want they come for the windfall apples that lie among the grasses, waiting to be grazed.


summer holiday By: rimas uzgiris Children gambol through the fragile fresco of shadow and light shifting over the lawn.

Pipes groan cold, then pitch to scream: O like an anguished thing, in a crowd, alone.

A fiery August morn, a cerulean sky: an osprey sends soundings from on high

as fledglings screech replies from guanostained tiles – shearing light. Minnows

teem in the channel at low tide. Mud flats reek like diapers. But it’s my spawn who now shriek

on the lawn: wet and wild, while I sweat, write, or just flick my pen, afraid of what might bite.



Blue Mountain Review / January 2022


quartered By: rimas uzgiris Footsteps at dusk, the stealth of whispered wind – A fisher cat ghosts through tenebrous space From the swamp across South Main Street: A shadow becoming umbrage in the shade Of bushes, copses, limbs – hustling for meat.

My wife was woken one night by a strangled scream. It was not a baby’s cry, unless one – write it? – died. It could have been a dog run down on the road. It could have been a rabbit, squirrel, or chipmunk Clutched in the fisher cat’s maw. Or was it a dream?

Our neighbor came by and said her cat was gone. She said her husband spotted a fisher cat before He shipped out to Iraq for another tour. I don’t know If her husband came back. I had seen her yellow cream Feline stalking rabbits in our yard, before the scream.

Fish die silently, vainly gulping air like soldiers With perforated lungs. I have seen this on screen. I have seen this on the town dock, pulling flounders And scup from the brine which like a one-armed bandit Surrendered its bounty, sea worms writhing, in quarters.



Blue Mountain Review / January 2022


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Blue Mountain Review / January 2022


july By: rimas uzgiris bleary-eyed after last night’s

long trip the little boy

runs across sun-stanchioned

dew-dimpled grass

to retrieve the paper for his grandfather

who won’t read (for him)

what’s in the news just yet

the ocean sighs over the horizon

at night the stars


explode in our eyes


Blue Mountain Review / January 2022 Rimas Uzgiris is a poet and translator whose work has appeared in the Paris Review, Barrow Street, Hudson Review, Poetry Review (UK) and other journals. He is author of North of Paradise (Kelsay Books), Tarp (poems translated into Lithuanian, shortlisted for Poetry Book of the Year), translator of poetry collections by Ilzė Butkutė (A Midsummer Night’s Press), Gintaras Grajauskas (Bloodaxe), Marius Burokas (Parthian), Aušra Kaziliūnaitė (Parthian), and Judita Vaičiūnaitė (Shearsman). Uzgiris holds a Ph.D. in philosophy, and an MFA in creative writing from Rutgers-Newark. Recipient of a Fulbright Grant, a NEA Translation Fellowship, he teaches at Vilnius University.


unfinished sketches By: Meg Freer Early Sunday morning under Venetian clouds, the slap-slap of blue-black water against Renaissance palazzi. Ripples remember their ancient river’s course. High tide levels and artwork etched on worn Istrian stone, floating fruit markets. History’s secrets in dim alleys. Shadowy maze-like tunnels open to bridges. The scirocco blows Adriatic seawater into the lagoon. Dreams of returning twist into place like tangles of yellow flowers framed by sheer white curtains in an arched window high above the canal. A thought, heavy as a September fig— home as ‘when’ not ‘where’.



Blue Mountain Review / January 2022

Meg Freer grew up in Missoula, Montana and studied musicology in Minnesota and New Jersey, where she also worked in scholarly book publishing. She now teaches piano, takes photos, enjoys the outdoors year-round in Ontario, and wishes she had more time to write poetry. Her photos, poems and prose have been published in journals such as Ruminate, Vallum, A3 Review, Poetry South, Eastern Iowa Review, and Rat’s Ass Review. Her poems have been shortlisted and have won awards in several contests in both the U.S. and Canada.


OPen Letters to the watchers By: David Denny The bulbous spider in the corner of the window waits out the sun, grows fat on shadows.

Scattered about her web, detritus neatly wrapped— bits of moth, fly, gnat, ant, silverfish.

A plump rat on his back in the side yard— did he fall from the roof or did he eat our poison?

I am glad to seal him in a baggie either way and drop him in the garbage at the curb.

I have learned to count the bare branches that criss-cross in front of the winter moon.

And when in spring the pink blossoms burst along their length, I hope to observe the squirrels

who devour them whole, one by one. Where you live, how does your December pass?



Blue Mountain Review / January 2022

David Denny’s poems have recently appeared in Catamaran, Chariton Review, and Concho River Review. His most recent books include the poetry collection Some Divine Commotion and the short story collection Sometimes Only the Sad Songs Will Do, both from Shanti Arts. More information: www.


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Blue Mountain Review / January 2022


on the Occasion of another thousand years By: Ted Eisenberg Each stone recalls a battle lost and won, and what has not been shed in blood along the stairway to this parapet? A graveyard beyond this crenellated wall cannot contain a fraction of the slaughter. Rain runs down stone, follows blood’s path, forms a stream, which if adduced, leads back to the foundation stone, pulled to its spot by slaves. Bones track where pennons, occasional as breezes, still flap, as if clapping.



Blue Mountain Review / January 2022

Theodore Eisenberg is married, with four children and seven grandchildren. He retired from the practice of labor law in 2014 to write. He managed the firm for a number of years, which gave him the opportunity to learn something of how the world works out its practicalities. He also credits aging as a mentor. When words seem too restrictive, he paints. His poems have appeared in The Aurorean, Poetica, Thema, Rattle, Halfway Down the Stairs, Slipstream Press, Crosswinds Press, Lighthouse Literary Journal, Main Street Rag, concis, The Ragged Sky Anthology, Philadelphia Stories, Aji Magazine, Every Writer, Valley Voices and The Ekphrastic Review. His chapbook, “This,” was published by Finishing Line Press in 2017.


ode to a mattress in the alley By: Ted Darren Eisenberg Morris When we are always at home, the civility of home-life disappears. So we go out walking, masked for plague past the painted sheds along gravel alleys. And there, the mattress off the way. All body, it harnesses a bodiless grief. Hollows are its cargo. Mud-caked, stood on edge, slumped like a shot soldier over a fence. Awaiting final transport, nothing is less enthusiastic about being. Stripped of skin, the rain cannot wash the golden aura of its former passengers, contour uncertain of all but the absolute. It holds ten thousand restless sleeps. Blood, urine, tears. Sweats & fevers. Fantastical emissions & functional submissions to sexual urge & pain of ecstasy lessened. Depressions swamped by sudden pleasure. Unaccounted sheep lost. Dander of deterioration. Oils & worry. An accumulation like a nimbus pregnant with offense. Repetitions ruthless as spring. The ache of rising for a graveyard shift. Hangovers like an inescapable brier. A pushing back. A firmness in the will, the mindless persistence of the inanimate, caving. Relenting. Once, abandoned by god, I lay supine upon a thorny hedgerow outside a hotel & pled with the stars. And the stars answered the same way they always do, as this mattress does now: Behold, this is my flesh given unto you.



Blue Mountain Review / January 2022

Darren Morris lives in Richmond, Virginia, holds an MFA from Virginia Commonwealth University, and edits poetry for Parhelion Literary Magazine. His work has received a fellowship from the Virginia Commission of the Arts. Much of his work is about losing his vision and how that affects the imagination. Poems have appeared in The American Poetry Review, The Missouri Review, The Southern Review, New England Review, Poetry Ireland Review, Best New Poets, and others.


night fevers By: Roberta Senechal de la roche At first you said you liked a flower with a little darkness to it, slightly imperfect, a small blemish, maybe bruised. That it helped you remember the form as a whole when you navigated your architecture of sleep. You left out how you felt about fresh violets on your pillow at bedtime, or your hypnographic moves in the deep through stages of the night, or heliotropes placed to move with every breath to help you turn to light at dawn. You woke and said you were tired still, worn by a recurring dream where you try to catch a golden horse of memory but find your feet slowing down in dust. You said you did not recall my hands upon your face as night fevers broke. I did not ask how falling petals sound, or fire as damp invades its coals, or which moment in your book of days was illuminated, free of rust, or who it was that you invoked in sleep to hurl a perfect rose beneath the churn of fleeting hooves.



Blue Mountain Review / January 2022




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Blue Mountain Review / January 2022

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cold front By: Roberta Senechal de la roche Someone always seems to ask about September, how to weather ice, what if anything we can carry off. A clutch of stones, perhaps pastiche of flowers pressed pastel inside a book.

What words to speak at winter’s threshold, when northern skies begin to churn in thickening circles, blue to gray to black. What covers to arrange for rest as things get dark, what to confess.

Street corner sybil slips down to subways when business gets too slow and days too short, pulls up a shawl of snow across her face, speaks in tongues to passersby:

No picture that really matters lasts here now, protects us from our cherished wounds, or opens doors of silence as it turns cold. In this season, all lines metaphysical thin and blur, and sleep alone prevails.



Blue Mountain Review / January 2022 Roberta Senechal de la Roche, Professor Emerita at Washington and Lee University, is an historian, sociologist, and poet of Mi’kmaq and French Canadian descent, born in western Maine. She now lives in the woods outside of Charlottesville, Virginia. Her poems have appeared in the Colorado Review; Vallum; Glass: A Journal of Poetry; Yemassee, and Cold Mountain Review, among others. She has two prizewinning chapbooks: Blind Flowers (Arcadia Press) and After Eden (Heartland Review Press, 2019). A third chapbook, Winter Light, and her first book, Going Fast (2019) are published by David Robert Books.


Reliquiae Diluvianae Or, Observations on the Organic Remains Contained in Caves Fissures and Diluvial Gravel and on Other Geological Phenomena Attesting the Action of an Universal Deluge By: Mara Adamitz Scrupe before that day but long after the great flood came in silence the resilient ones reliquiae diluvianae/ the penitential & solitary of breakwater

& tumuli

a cloak pin/ a pair of faceted glass & copper

fibulae/ our personal ornaments’ commonest forms from which we fashioned an exhaustive

archive of buried passions of our orifices’ delights through which molten metals poured sunken gold in outrage or worship I took the rude figure of a supple swan you tip-

toed the blade edge of a flake knife long after Asclepius of the curing cult wove ropes of cloth around us


fibers of roots & stolen stems carved from mimosa pudica/ shy

leaf touch-me-not sculptures decorating saucer barrow tombs/ we whittled elfin bone scratchers/ vanished from parts of pigs or some other unidentified

animals wild or tamed worked the middling zone



Blue Mountain Review / January 2022 of stone to bronze as red-blooded daffodils bijouxed in sun-dappled fields & in the bundling we made nothing

of Medusa’s blood/ one was poison the other raised the dead in punishment shining in tides of slicked flesh we boiled & ate the imbricated scales of milk snakes essential

for healing & fix for our aggressions our elegance & civility/ ambrosial remnants hungover from something of lesser rigor of proof & accountability

we regarded intrinsic versus extrinsic/ the more we got the less we held

passed down & present

at birth we tackled the diachronic framework

of language

thought aloud in quotidian in commodities

renderings of insects & animals on cave walls we investigated zipped-up in woolen

jackets sipping tumblers full of bourbon down by the lake or later shacked-up cheap & abundant in a travel

trailer of tin & aluminum

of bona fide

vernacular alloyed with the aggressiveness of rat snakes & belligerence of forgotten

females/ slatterns shrews & furies we railed against minor metals the flimsy mix of manganese nickel zinc & nameless other compounds/ arsenic phosphorus

& silicon

still in bounds & ill-exalted against

assumptions of our desirability of our abundance


& strand our ashes stacked & lastly packed in a basket preserved


in a stone box in a tomb in which a like creature curled her fingers & flexed the cervices of her neck/ pulled her bear fur stole around her (from a species extinct at least

a thousand years) bowed her slight of clavicle/ curved scapulae/ in diadem shroud/ in silver-gilded rein & gave to us

her bones

bound round

*Title borrowed from William Buckland, Reliquiae Diluvianae Or, Observations on the Organic Remains Contained in Caves, Fissures, and Diluvial Gravel, and on Other Geological Phenomena, Attesting the Action of an Universal Deluge



Blue Mountain Review / January 2022 Mara Adamitz Scrupe is a poet, visual artist and filmmaker and the author of six award-winning poetry collections: : in the bare bones house of was (Brighthorse Press 2020), Eat the Marrow (erbacce-press 2019 UK), a daughter’s aubade/ sailing out from Sognefjord (Middle Creek Publishing 2019), Magnalia (Eyewear Press 2018 UK), Beast (NFSPS Press 2015), and Sky Pilot (Finishing Line Press 2012). Her poems have been published widely in national and international literary magazines and journals including London Magazine, Mid America Review, Rhino, Maine Review, Comstock Review, Yemassee, Southern Humanities Review, Off the Coast, Narrative Magazine, Cincinnati Review, Bare Fiction, Matador Review, Ruminate, Crosswinds Review, Crab Creek Review and Sentinel Quarterly Literary Review (UK), among others. She has won or been shortlisted/ nominated for many international poetry awards and prizes including Canterbury International Arts Festival Poet of the Year (UK), Forward Prize for Poetry (UK), Pushcart Poetry Prize (USA) Rubery Book Award (UK), Brighthorse Poetry Book Prize (USA), Grindstone International Poetry Competition (UK), Fish Prize (Ireland), Aesthetica Award (UK), erbacce-press Poetry Book Prize (UK), Plough Prize (UK), Ron Pretty Prize (Australia), Periplum Book Award (UK), Cornwall Festival Competition (UK), Canberra Vice-Chancellor’s Award, (Australia), and National Poetry Competition (UK). She is a marathon runner, an accordionist, and with her partner co-directs Low Rent Pictures an independent film company producing documentaries about rural America. A writer about place and human ecologies, Adamitz Scrupe was born and raised in Minnesota, and for the past thirty years she has lived on a farm in the piedmont of the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia.


saplings in a dark forest By: laura metter When we hid from home, we chose the pine trees.

Our tiny fingers rubbed raw against branch bark

their needles latching onto our shirts, taking

the forest with us when we returned.

I helped pick them off, no evidence of our departure-

like how I taught you to climb- let you step over

my shoulders, the mud of your footprints tacked

onto my sleeves. Eventually these limbs could not bear



Blue Mountain Review / January 2022 your weight, your footsteps too heavy, needles too many-

so we left the forest behind. You claim you hate nature,

but sometimes I catch you staring out the window

your shirt still sticky with sap.

Laura Metter is an aspiring fiction writer, poet, and overall speculative enthusiast. Her work has been previously seen in Stat of Rec, Literary Orphans, and Adanna Literary Journal. She has received her MFA in Creative Writing from Emerson College and lives in Boston with her cat.


frederic By : Michel Steven krug Frederic hummed, resonant in composition, crushing opium on the shine, a closed fall board, careful not to be seen by Sand but she and his entourage knew that when euphoric tones rose from the keys the converging phlegm confounding the depression followed, so the opium drops were added to his tea, the doors of creativity depressed into keys, and nocturnes rose from his board like sentient fog, treating despair with melody.



Blue Mountain Review / January 2022 Michel Steven Krug is a Minneapolis poet, fiction writer, former print journalist from the Johns Hopkins Writing Seminars. He’s Managing Editor for Poets Reading the News (PRTN) literary magazine and he litigates. His poems have appeared in JMWW, Cagibi, Silver Blade, Crack the Spine, Dash, Mikrokosmos, New Verse News, North Dakota Quarterly, Eclectica, Writers Resist, Sheepshead, Mizmor Anthology, 2019, PRTN, Ginosko, Door Is A Jar, Raven’s Perch, Main Street Rag and Brooklyn Review.




Blue Mountain Review / January 2022


sabino canyon By: sandra kolankiewicz At dawn the bus dropped us at the top of the canyon to follow the river trail to the bottom, our lone companion a saguaro dominating the stripped horizon, for we knew where we stood had once been sea, the parched cliffs in the distance a submerged waterline with fish darting in and out among cracks. One world can replace another, and ours was shifting, migrants dying fifty miles south in the valley, trying to follow a stream which vanished, hid itself underground in an attempt to survive, seeking that first ocean. The human body leaves minerals behind, perhaps a stain on the ground underneath, but for those seeking water all bones dry quickly before they scatter. There, we talked in whispers as we descended, except when the river roared between boulders to silence us, the only visitors to begin the journey so early, and to take so much time coming down, the last ones to return so the rangers could go home.



Blue Mountain Review / January 2022 Sandra Kolankiewicz has recently had poems accepted by Fortnightly Review, Galway Review, The Healing News, New World Writing and Appalachian Review.


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introducing Blue Mountain Review / January 2022

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.”

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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.

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Blue Mountain Review / January 2022

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


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Blue Mountain Review / January 2022


You could have been the love of my life By: suzanne kamata I didn’t go to that party, the one with the ironic cheese ball where you jumped into the lake. I didn’t go shopping a month later at Home Depot, or I might have bumped into you then, next to the nails. I didn’t go to Happy Hour at the Dewdrop Inn on any of the nights that you did. I didn’t stand in line behind you at the bank or the ticket kiosk or the grocery store – not once, not ever. I didn’t happen upon your charming personal ad in which you mentioned your ability to make a perfect pie crust. I didn’t go to that other party, the one with the disco lights where you met her, because I was watching horror movies in my flannel pajamas, sipping chicken soup, and blowing my nose during an epic cold. I didn’t go to that dinner I was invited to a couple years later, after your divorce, where I would have been seated next to you, mesmerized by your impeccable manners, your magic tricks, your tales of African travel. I didn’t accidentally bend your BMW fender, giving us a chance to exchange insurance information and phone numbers over a cup of coffee. I didn’t stop to pet your Springer Spaniel when we passed each other in the park because I was race-walking to Japanese pop music on my iPod. I didn’t answer the phone that one time, and when you left a message on my voice mail telling me that a mutual friend had encouraged you to contact me, I didn’t call you back. I have never met you at all.

Suzanne Kamata is an American writer from South Carolina currently living in Japan. They are the author of several books, including the novel THE BASEBALL WIDOW (Wyatt-Mackenzie Publishing, 2021) and a forthcoming chapbook of storiesin-verse, WAITING (Kelsay Books, 2022).



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Blue Mountain Review / January 2022


a mother’s touch by: Jef Blocker


f only Claire had been able to explain why she couldn’t leave Malachi, maybe Jeremy wouldn’t have gone. But how does a mother describe the maternal bond in words that a man could understand when he had nev-

er experienced the sensation of life growing inside him? How does she make the invisible visible?


had always hoped that Jeremy would grow to love Malachi as his own son. Instead, his eyes regarded the five-year-old with jealousy, while Malachi regarded her lover with suspicion—neither wanted to share her. Claire rinsed the glass and set it in the drainer. She peered through the window into the backyard where Malachi meandered aimlessly across the grass. His jacket had fallen off one shoulder. Claire’s first notion was to go outside and adjust it, but it would probably hang off his shoulder again before she got back inside. Besides, Malachi always hated when she fussed over him; he was so much like his father. Gus had been in Afghanistan when Claire gave birth to their son. Other than the photos she had sent, her husband had never seen his boy, although his joy was evident in his e-mails, which she had printed and kept in the drawer of her nightstand. Claire had cradled Malachi in her arms every night and whispered the number of days remaining until Gus returned home to meet him. As she fell asleep, her thoughts often turned to the pleasure of imagining her husband cradle the baby against his bare chest, while she snuggled up to him, tracing the Superman symbol tattoo on his upper arm. A Taliban gunman had other plans. Gus came home in a coffin, or at least what remained of him. # Opening the nightstand drawer in her bedroom, Claire removed a snapshot of their wedding day. Her chest tightened as if someone had packed it with cotton. She stuffed the photograph back in the drawer and slammed it shut. What did it matter now? Gus was gone. And so was Jeremy. Now, all she had left was Malachi.




Blue Mountain Review / January 2022 Claire stared through the glass patio door at her little boy. He sat still, his legs splayed out. What was he thinking? she wondered. At age five, Malachi no longer welcomed his mother’s embraces and kisses. Her arms ached to touch him. Surely, the feel of she and Gus’ creation in flesh and blood would give her strength ... # Out of habit, Claire reached to press the power button on the radio, but she stopped. She doubted she’d hear anything but the same old crap. # Although it was just after lunch, she poured herself a glass of wine, shaking the bottle to ensure she got every drop. She sipped the Merlot as she returned to the bedroom. She opened the closet doors and moved Jeremy’s abandoned clothes, still on their hangers, from right to left. Her fingertips glided over the western shirt that Jeremy had worn the night she met him at the Silver Spur Saloon in town: tall, lean, with a thin nose, dark eyes, and crooked teeth. He had been so bashful when he asked her to dance. And although she had told her girlfriend Val she would never do it, she invited him home that night. The babysitter’s eyes admonished her, but Claire gave her a wad of bills and sent her on her way. Claire led Jeremy into the bedroom. They tore off their clothes and weaved their hungry limbs around each other, pulling their bodies together for an urgent release. She had been hungry for the rough hands of a man on her soft skin for far too long, the stubble on his chin, the wild hair on the nape of his neck that needed to be tamed, and the feel of his hips undulating with his own need, a gasp, and then a silent stillness. Claire sent a prayer of thanks up to Heaven and petitioned God to make him stay. But her mama had been right: A man is like a cat, and there’s no way to make them do anything but what they want to do. The next morning Claire had awakened with a start. Malachi, who had just turned four, stood screaming and pointing at the naked man in Mommy’s bedroom. After she had calmed her son, and Jeremy had tugged on his clothes, Claire made them breakfast. The man and boy stared at each other as they buttered their toast. It never improved; they just got used to the situation—or so she thought. Claire drained the glass and wiped her mouth. She gazed at the clear goblet in her hand, studied it, and then threw it against the wall. It shattered in a cloud of tiny translucent pieces. Claire cursed. Malachi probably heard the noise and would soon be banging on the patio door.


The sobs stampeded out of her, and her body quaked. She fell back on the bed. She wanted her mama, but she was gone now, too. Claire was tired of the quarantine. She was tired of being alone. She was tired of being unable to touch her son. It was all too much. # As she lay on the bed, Claire contemplated painting the bedroom, perhaps a buttercream. When the authorities announced an end to the quarantine, she would stop by Harley’s Hardware and pick up some color samples, maybe a peach, even. Claire glanced at the clock/radio. The red numbers blinked at her. The power had gone out again. She pushed it off the nightstand with her foot and into the wastebasket; she had grown tired of resetting it. Everywhere she looked she saw something to depress her: the shattered wineglass, the packed suitcase, and Jeremy’s dirty clothes. On the morning that Jeremy had left, he had woken her with sex. Neither of them said anything, though, they watched every reaction on the other’s face, as they caressed, kissed, and held each other. Jeremy’s spontaneity seemed to snap them out of the sludge of routine they had been wading through over the past couple of months. Claire wouldn’t’t have called it making love, yet passion was definitely the fuel for the fire between them. And when they climaxed, there was a desperation in the way their arms clasped each other that made her feel that everything was going to be all right. Then Malachi had screamed from the backyard. # As the sun set, the sky melted into a deep purple, pink, and orange that reminded Claire of Malachi’s watercolor masterpieces taped to the refrigerator. She stared through the sliding glass door, now smeared with his saliva. In the background, the radio poured static into the house. No authorities spoke to her from any of the numbers on the dial. There was no one left to tell her what to do. She made no move to turn off



Blue Mountain Review / January 2022 the radio, even though she knew she should conserve the batteries for the unknown future. The power had gone out again hours ago, longer than it had ever been. The tap had gone dry, too. Claire wrapped the quilt tighter around her tiny frame. Malachi’s jacket hung even further off his body. Claire wondered if he felt cold. She shivered. Claire finally admitted to herself that no hope remained for their rescue. She knew it the day she had decided to walk down the mountain into town for supplies. Claire had left early that morning, just after sunrise. Shortly after nine o’clock, she had made it down to the fork near Old Man Henderson’s place and found Jeremy’s truck, windshield smashed, driver’s side door flung open, the seat shredded, and the keys still in the ignition. Beside the truck, she found a piece of the flannel shirt he had worn when he left. Claire knelt and picked up the torn piece of material, rubbing it between her fingers and trying to determine if she saw a stain on the red flannel. She knew what this find meant, but she didn’t want to believe it. When Claire heard the crunching of leaves and a low moaning wind from somewhere in the surrounding woods, she ran all the way home, never stopping or daring to look over her shoulder. By the time she had returned, Malachi’s eyes had opened and were covered with a milky white film. His chest no longer rose and fell with his breathing. Warmth had left his body, and his flesh had begun to stink from patches of decomposition where Mama had bitten out chunks of meat from her grandson. Once Malachi began to move, Clair slipped a jacket onto his arms covered his head with a knit hat and sent her little boy out to play. A week had now passed. A week since Jeremy had knocked Mama facedown in the grass and chopped off her head with a shovel as if she were a snake. A week since Jeremy had run a hot bath for Claire, scrubbed the splattered blood off her skin. He spoke to her in soothing tones, explained his plan, what they had to do. She nodded slowly. She didn’t know what else to do. While Claire had sat beside Malachi’s motionless body, she heard Jeremy yanking open drawers and


tossing clothes into her suitcase and his backpack. Later, in the darkness of their bedroom, she heard the click of the door’s lock as Jeremy came to bed. They clung to each other, a wan smile on her face as she noticed the same roughness of his hands, the stubble on his chin, and the wild hair on the nape of his neck that still needed taming. In the morning, after they had dressed and prepared to leave, Claire heard the moan from Malachi’s bedroom. She was sure Jeremy had heard it, too, because he glanced away and grabbed their bags. “Jeremy ...” She pleaded at him with her eyes. He took a deep breath, and when he spoke, his voice cracked. “Claire, it’s no use.” Tears ran down her face. “He’s my son ...” “He’s infected.” Jeremy looked her in the eye. “There’s nothing we can do for him.” “But he’s my son,” Claire said. “If he was your son—” “I would leave him.” Tears were in Jeremy’s eyes, and after he had wiped them away on the back of his arm, they turned from blue to stainless steel. This time Claire turned away. She imagined Jeremy wetting his cracked lips before he said, “You have to choose, Claire.” Jeremy waited for a moment before he realized that her indecision was her decision. As she heard Jeremy start his truck, she walked back to Malachi’s bedroom. The sound of tires rolling across gravel faded by the time she had picked up the picture book and began reading to her son. # Claire pressed her hand against the sliding door. Malachi pressed his mouth against the glass, smearing a mixture of saliva, mucus, and pus. She could see his small tongue moving inside his mouth through the hole in his cheek. The static from the radio faded as the batteries went dead. This is it, Claire told herself.



Blue Mountain Review / January 2022 Gus is gone, and I’m no longer a wife. Mama’s gone, and I’m no longer a daughter. Jeremy’s gone, and I’m no longer a lover. All I have left is Malachi ... and I’m still his mother ... After a week’s isolation, Claire could no longer bear her loneliness. As the last rays of light disappeared over the tree line, she slid the door open and hugged her little boy for the last time.

Jef Blocker is a UX writer, life coach, and native Texan living in Atlanta, Georgia. He is a Lambda Literary Foundation Fellow who studied with Alex Sanchez, David Fulmer, Joshilyn Jackson, and Orson Scott Card. For more information, please visit


blackout by: B. Robert Conklin


hen the lights went out the second time, we stepped into the hall to see if the blackout was affecting our apartment alone or the entire complex. The night manager yelled up the stairway that he

had tried calling the power company, but the land lines were dead, as well as our smart phones, which were limited to emergency calls only. Standing at the balcony rail, I had the sensation of being on a sinking ship. The teenage couple across the hall stood hand in hand outside their door, their clothes disheveled in the thin yellow flame of the candle that Mrs. Klibinsky held in her palsied, shivering hand. Mr. Lombardi had also stepped out to see who else had noticed the sudden blackness, even though he himself was blind and wore dark glasses. The teenage couple—we didn’t know their names—had only moved in the previous week. The young woman had asked Lori for money outside on the curb before she had recognized her as a neighbor. Her buttons mismatched their buttonholes. Her shirt was only half snuggled into her pants—a French tuck. Her feet were bare. Her half-crescent smile seemed the leftover sign of lovemaking. Mrs. Klibinsky allowed wax to dribble from the tilted candle onto the hardwood floor of the hall. She placed the butt of the candle into the puddle of wax, letting it cool before taking away her hand. She was the first to sit down. Strange for a woman her age, she sat cross-legged, Indian style, hands at her side with opened palms, as though preparing to lead a séance. Lori followed her lead, and then the rest of us sat around the candle in a loose circle, Mr. Lombardi feeling his way into a vacant space as though by sixth sense. “Well,” Mrs. Klibinsky said, casually, comfortably, “here we all are.” “Yes,” Lori echoed, “here we are, all right.” We had only moved in together the month before—a new apartment, fresh living quarters, a symbol of hopefulness for a shared life on equal terms. A month later, we were still navigating the awkwardness of close encounters in such a small space as the studio provided. The “his” and “hers” towels were her idea, meant as a joke. In reality, we were still jockeying for territorial rights in the medicine cabinet, the closet, the mirror when brushing our teeth.



Blue Mountain Review / January 2022 The teenage couple looked at each other and giggled. “I could get my trombone,” Mr. Lombardi suggested. “That won’t be necessary,” Mrs. Klibinsky demurred. We had all been victims of Mr. Lombardi’s trombone practices workday evenings and weekend afternoons, during which the notes vibrated with an agile nervousness, sliding in improvisation to the accompaniment of a low-volume jazz recording on Mr. Lombardi’s turntable. One of the teenagers—the young man—lit up a joint and passed it to his girlfriend, back and forth. They seemed lost in a universe of their own design. Lori nudged my arm, and I looked at her and smiled. Her face looked tragic and serene in the flickering flame. I held her hand. A moth, awakened out of some cobwebbed corner, wrapped itself in violent orbits about the candle. Outside, we could hear the lootings begin: the crashing of storefront windows, the shouts of encouragement, the sirens. A couple of gunshots popped distantly like firecrackers. Rubber bullets, we hoped. Screams of terror followed, either feigned or real. Curious about the noise, the teenage couple padded down the hall toward the window at the landing. They stepped lightly, like innocent cats, and, done with their joint, stood hand in hand, staring out the window, like balcony patrons of a scripted performance, a poor man’s opera. “The candle will not last much longer,” Mrs. Klibinsky said, sadly, tenderly, her voice full of a blueedged regret. We stared at the flame, at the wax overflowing onto the floor. Our eyes followed the course of the moth, still frantically searching for a point of entry. Mr. Lombardi stood up and walked to his room, after bowing to each of us in turn, then bidding us all a good night. Mrs. Klibinsky also asked to be excused. “I have my first student tomorrow at eight o’clock sharp.” Mrs. Klibinsky taught voice to preschoolers—future wannabes on The Voice. “I will leave you the candle,” she said, by way of parting. Lori and I stared at the candle as though it were the dying symbol of a civilization. From Mr. Lombardi’s room, the trombone lifted its dark, somber voice. Lori put her hand on mine, giving my fingers a squeeze. “Let’s go back,” she suggested.


“No, let’s sit here awhile.” It felt extravagant—so much space to ourselves.

B. Robert Conklin is a native Ohioan with a teaching background in dramatic literature, he enjoys the unpredictable moments of family life with his spouse, three Gen Z kids, four cats, and two ferrets. In spare moments, he is continuing to post original cartoons to his Tumblr account until someone begs him to stop.



Blue Mountain Review / January 2022


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community club By: karen toralba


he Monahatchie Community Club found itself on a typical Tuesday in May with a newcomer. Rachel Dewberry, the town’s newest transplant, poured herself some tea and sat down, waiting

for the meeting to commence. Ever the confident extrovert, Rachel knew that getting to know people took time and effort, both of which she readily possessed. “Well, who do we have here?” The genuine smile from Linda’s plump face assuaged any uncomfortable feelings. “Hi, my name’s Rachel, Rachel Dewberry. I’m new to Monahatchie.” “Oh honey, we figured that out already. We can sense fresh blood a mile away,” Margaret sauntered up, joining the conversation in her grand voice, her fire red hair glowing. “Our tiny little town is seeing more and more new residents, but no one ever comes to join us. You’re our first recruit in ages!” She put her warm, wrinkled hand on Rachel’s shoulder. Rachel relaxed and listened as the meeting began. “Let’s begin with our motto, ladies,” Margaret, the president, said. The seven original members, six of which were distinguished seniors of the community, chanted with monotone pride: “Be the change that you wish to see in the world.” “Oh, that’s nice,” Rachel said, “a Ghandi quote.” “It’s not a quote; it’s our motto,” Ruth clarified, sneaking a piece of fruit from her bag. “Ghandi. Your motto. It’s a quote by Ghandi.” “Sugar, that’s our motto. Maybe he got it from us.” Margaret winked and laid the conversation to rest; she continued the meeting without noticing Rachel’s ever-increasing eyes. “Martha, honey, can you inform the Club of last week’s activities?”



Blue Mountain Review / January 2022

“Well, let’s see,” Martha said, shuffling through her notes, “the fence down by the cemetery was fixed. Wayne Lane mended the small hole from what looked like armadillos digging under it, or possums, I’m not sure, and he wasn’t sure either, but he filled in the hole—for free—and said to call him if we needed anything else like that. It didn’t take him but a few minutes, he told me, and he said he wouldn’t take no money, so don’t even offer. I ain’t been round to check it, so I can’t say what it looks like, but Wayne always does a good job, so I trust it’s done right.” The ladies nodded their approval of Wayne, and took a moment to contemplate their respect for him. Martha then read the brief article she would send to the newspaper, and when all agreed by vote of its acceptability, the club moved on. When asked about any improvements for the upcoming week, the ladies sat with furrowed brows and pursed lips, eyes searching their minds for an answer. “They’s a pothole outside’a Jiffy Mart on Main Street. Gets me ever’time.” Eunice, the oldest member at 82, drawled with a faint voice. Her stoic face, carved by experience, barely moved as she looked ahead, though her transparent, thinning hair in smoky swirls atop her head waved with the wind of the fan. Martha took determined notes, underlined “pothole” and “Jiffy Mart,” and asked for suggestions on who could fix it. Rachel answered first. “That’s a job for the city, right?” Linda replied, “Yeah, but you know they take forever and a day to do anything. Well, I’m not sure if they’re fast where you come from, but here, they’re slow. I bet ole Mr. Wesley could send his boy over to fix it, and he lives just down the hollow from me, so I’ll ask him, if that’s approved by everyone.” With a motion to approve and a second to confirm, and with no other business at hand, Margaret moved to close the official meeting which opened the casual conversations. The ladies tidied up the center and asked Rachel questions, which she happily answered, feeling more at home with each one. Martha and Ruth washed the dishes, and as they wobbled out of the kitchen, Ruth said, “Well, yeah, I’m tired, and I know I look frazzled, but my Lord, my neighbor’s dog is driving me crazy. Wakes me up all hours of the night. I can’t stand it.” “Not the dog!” All bodies and eyes turned to Mary, and with quaint smiles, they resumed their chats until 11 a.m., when, as every week, they departed. ***


“I mean, they don’t even know Ghandi. And they’re…old. I wonder why they didn’t just make this a little old ladies’ church group.” Rachel snapped her carrot stick. “They’re sweet ladies, but I’m not sure they’ve ever gotten out of this place or have any kind of view of the outside world.” “Well, can’t fault them for that, eh? If you don’t want to continue with your senior group, then don’t go.” Her husband Drew, pragmatic as usual, annoyed Rachel with his sensibility. “I don’t know what’s wrong with a group of seniors doing good for their community, do you?” Rachel’s feelings shifted throughout the week, and by Sunday evening, she decided that perhaps some elder knowledge and camaraderie would not be a terrible thing, and going to a meeting would get her out of her isolated house. *** “Welp, I clean forgot to ask Mr. Wesley.” Linda chuckled, which shook her whole body up and down. “Put it down for this week. I promise I won’t forget.” She began searching for any type of paper in her purse to write herself a note. As the Club decided years ago that it would handle only one task per week, the news of Linda’s mental lapse abbreviated the meeting time, and Margaret moved to adjourn the meeting until next week and insisted the ladies try her lemon bars. “Well, you look better this week, no offence to your face last week,” Martha commented to Ruth as they snacked. “None taken. I been sleeping like a baby! I heard the neighbor’s dog ran away. They ain’t too happy, but I sure am!” Ruth beamed and caught the approving eyes and smiles of several members. “Well, that must be nice,” Eunice added in her wispy, sloth-like voice. “I got a boom box truck that runs up n’ down my road so loud it shakes my winders. Seems the Taylors’ kid got a new boyfriend. I think the boomin’ gets louder ever-day. Goodness knows I need my beauty sleep.” “That’s unfortunate. Someone should do something about that.” Margaret’s said. Rachel, remembering that the Club didn’t usually go through proper city channels, masked her sarcasm. “Are there any special people you call for that?” “I’m sure there’s someone.” Margaret winked a reply.



Blue Mountain Review / January 2022 “Poor boy,” Mary muttered while no one listened, picking a stubborn ball of lint from her stained sweatshirt. *** Rachel drove past the Jiffy Mart on Main Street on a smooth patch of road, and she whispered, “Mr. Wesley’s boy.” Tuesday brought a soft rain that slowed traffic, and with the delay, Rachel noticed some improvements that could be made around the town. At the community center, she arrived after Mary and Martha, but the rain had impeded the arrival of other members. Margaret drove up shortly afterwards, and the other members trickled in with the rain. “Well, the pothole on Main is fixed,” Rachel said after the meeting began late. Linda shot her a noticed glance. “Yes,” Margaret replied. “Linda, sweetie, please cut Donnie a check for his services. Any suggestions for this week’s town improvements?” Rachel answered quickly as she sat more erect. “I do. I saw that the First Baptist Church’s sign was broken; it may be the responsibility of the church, but I figured that we could fix it anyway.” Silent stares replied to her comment and dampened the atmosphere. “Brother Ken is aware of the sign and has asked someone to fix it already.” Margaret broke the stillness. “I talked with him on Sunday.” Ruth further cut the heavy air with her suggestion. “Harold’s Farm Supply’s flowers’re getting pretty puny again. You know he won’t change them out. They been like that for a couple of weeks now.” “Speaking of, the flowers in the town square are full of weeds. The flowers were changed for spring, but I guess nobody cared to pull the weeds, or they’re trying to grow both,” Martha noted. “Weed’s good!” Mary shouted as she stared at the back of a chair without expression. “Mary! Shut your pie hole!” her mother, Martha, snapped with a swat to Mary’s knee. With two suggestions and only one slot for renovation, the club members, excluding Mary, who never raised her hand anyway, voted. The town square flowers won by a landslide, and with a suggestion for Barbara Ann at the nursery to help with this botanic assignment, the meeting concluded.


Conversations meandered their way to Eunice who, when asked by Jean about the loud truck mentioned last week, answered in her signature way: “Well, he don’t come round no more. Regina Taylor said her girl ain’t going with him no more. They’s just kids, ain’t got no business being more than that.” “Well, I’ll tell you who’s not a kid.” Linda’s voice lowered to just above a whisper, burdened by the weight of the gossip unwittingly masked as sympathy. She glanced around to find a few trusted members listening. “My sister’s husband has been messing around with a prominent person’s wife and she’s none too happy about it.” The gasps supported the gravity of the situation. “I can’t tell you exactly who, of course— you may know her—but she is a leader’s wife, and she goes to my church.” “Are you sure? Those are pretty heavy accusations. We don’t want to spread gossip that isn’t the truth.” Margaret leaned in to tighten the circle. “My sister saw some messages, and it’s a pretty sure thing. She confronted him, and he just turned around and left for the night. She’s so upset she threw all his clothes out on the driveway. I had to convince her not to set them afire.” “She’s a goner,” Mary mumbled. The Club members drove home on the steaming pavement, as Rachel pondered the secret conversation she overheard. *** “I can’t figure them out, Drew.” Rachel began with a sip of wine. “They take initiative to fix things that other people should fix, but when I mention something that needs repairs, they give me the death stare and shut me down.” She gulped. “You’re still learning how they work, babe. Give it time.” “Still, something seems weird. Something’s not right.” *** The following week’s Community Club meeting, abbreviated by a funeral appointment, lasted only 15 minutes, and Rachel wondered why they would even meet at all. Barbara Ann had the flowerbeds at the square devoid of weeds, and the new order of business moved to Harold’s Farm Supply’s dilapidated flowers. With the newspaper article approved, the meeting quickly closed, and members busied themselves with



Blue Mountain Review / January 2022 tidying up so as not to be late. “Good Lord, who has a funeral at 11:00?” Martha said to herself as she moved the chairs back to their place. “Don’t speak ill of the dead, Martha. She didn’t plan her own service.” Ruth chided her friend with a quirky frown and a wink. “I still can’t believe it. She shot her head clean off! Poor Mayor Cole. I heard he ain’t slept since she did it,” Linda said, her eyes glazed with thought. Margaret added her insight. “Well, it really is a shock to our community, so I’m sure he’s more distraught than we are. Linda, honey, you did send some flowers from the Club, didn’t you?” Linda nodded, tears welling in her eyes. Eunice, too old for a filter, stated what all were thinking: “Well, I ain’t saying she deserved it, but you can’t be acting that a’way and expect to have a clean conscience.” Linda’s strength faltered, tears now burning down her face, and she burst. “My sister don’t know what to do. If she goes to the funeral, it looks like she’s gloating. If she don’t go, she looks cold hearted, and not everybody knows the story, so they won’t understand.” “Well, Ronnie ain’t going for sure, so if he doesn’t go, then she doesn’t have to go. She should probably take him to a hospital, in another city, of course. He’ll need some help after this, not that she’s obliged to help him.” Ruth consoled her dear friend with a warm arm around her shoulders. Rachel absorbed the conversation, trying to connect happenings of unfamiliar people. As the members departed, Rachel sat in her car thinking. She put the car in drive and headed to the sheriff’s office. “Sorry, ma’am, he’s not in right now. He’s at a funeral,” the deputy lowered his head in condolence. “Of course he is. Well, I’d like to file report. There are some strange things going on at the Community Club here in town.” “Oh they’re a bunch of sweet ladies, ain’t they? My Aunt Jean goes there.” This piece of information paused Rachel’s determination, but she persevered to the wide eyed, head wagging, disbelieving and finally judging manner of the deputy, who, out of duty took notes for a potential report. When she left, he shook his


head, “City folk. Sheriff’s gonna get a kick outta this!” The following meeting of the Monahatchie Community Club began as usual with the recitation of the motto: “Be the change that you wish to see in the world.” The Club approved the newspaper article of Harold’s Farm Supply flowers being updated and a new task of repainting the base of the town square statue. With business aside and fresh pound cake in hand, the ladies began the other side of their meeting. “Shame about Rachel’s house. Bless her heart,” Jean said. Martha added, with spongy cake splintering from her mouth, “Well, that was a very old house, and I suppose they didn’t think to replace the wiring. Of course it’ll get overloaded with too many appliances and gadgets and whatnots plugged in.” “Yes, it sure is a shame. That was a lovely property,” Margaret said. I heard they salvaged what they could but high-tailed it out of town.” “Margaret has fire on her head,” Mary said to no one.

Karen Toralba is an American working as a school administrator in Bangkok, Thailand. She has a master’s degree in English from William Carey University and has worked in education for 20 years. Her fiction has been accepted in The Dead Mule School of Southern Literature, Fiction on the Web, The Fictional Café and Buddy lit zine.



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d e b u t

c o l l e c t iBlueoMountain n Review f / January r o2022m


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

to learn more & purchase visit:


these gray years By: Paul Oliver


t my door I had a man telling me I had filled out a form incorrectly, and this man said he had some questions about that. I kept one hand on the door, warily, so I could slam it if necessary.

The man continued with his questions; I continued with my answers. He glanced at the visible part of my arm attached to my hand on the door, and I should have paid more attention to this glance, but a glance can mean anything, a glance may only be a glance. The man eventually said he had asked enough questions but he quite urgently needed to use the bathroom, and his office was some distance away, even with his car—could he use my bathroom? And this is the moment when I should have thought about that glance at the exposed part of my arm, but I said yes and swung open the door. The man, of course, did not need to use the bathroom—he grabbed my arm and said my answers to his questions about the form had not been sufficient. In fact, your answers were insufficient, he said. He added that insufficient answers like mine indicate criminal behavior in many cases. I asked the man if he was saying my answers, the answers in my case, were indicating criminal behavior—was I being charged with a crime? Is that what he was saying? I asked him this, and he didn’t reply. He just tightened his grip on my arm with his hands, his large man hands, and led me to his car. Am I being charged with a crime? I asked again, and still the man did not answer. He only repeated that my answers on the form I filled out had been insufficient, and my answers to his questions at my door had also been insufficient, so there were other people whose questions I would now need to answer. But it was just a form, I said. A piece of paper. How many people even see a piece of paper these days? These days a piece of paper carries a lot of weight, said the man. The man himself carried a lot of weight—he was a slow, heavy man. Rotund. I couldn’t have wrapped my two arms around his belly if I tried. And slow, heavy men need tricks like the trick he used to get through my front door. It’s not hard to imagine that a slow, heavy man might urgently need to use the



Blue Mountain Review / January 2022 bathroom. I could easily picture a hard turd percolating down there, but I felt utterly foolish for letting him trick me, and now it was too late, now we were at his car. He unlocked it and allowed me to sit in the front. There was a bag of chicken nuggets by my feet and a cup of soda in the cupholder. When the man sat in the driver’s seat his little sedan wobbled from his weight. He reached an arm down between my ankles for a chicken nugget. Want one? he asked. I shook my head, he shrugged, he ate the nugget, sipped soda, and turned the key in the ignition. The car smelled like fast food and body odor and curdled milk. We were on our way.

We arrived some time later at a squat gray office building. There were dead plants in the lobby. Someone forgot to water those, said the man. The receptionist smiled at him and he smiled back at the receptionist. She pushed a button to open the little gate between us and the elevators. The man lumbered forward and I followed with tender footsteps. He carried the fast food smell from his car into the elevator, breathing through his mouth. From the elevator he led me to an austere conference room—board table, simple chairs, covered windows. Frigid like a meat locker. My arm hairs bristled. I sat in one of the chairs, and the man left the room. A woman entered a few moments later and seated herself across from me. She was exactly the type of woman you might imagine sitting in a cold conference room. Do you know why you’re here? asked the woman. Something about a form, I said. That’s right—the form you filled out had a clause about insufficient answers, she said. Do you remember that clause? I told her I did not. Well, she said, by telling me you do not remember that clause you have given another insufficient answer, and I will have to note that for the official record. At this point she brandished a pen from her pocket and scrawled broad, loopy letters on a yellow legal pad. Her handwriting involved too much height, too much width, too much roundness and openness—I had expected narrow, angular letters, and this discrepancy discomfited me. She perceived my unease at her writing immediately—although I must have appeared uneasy from the moment she saw me—and she offered me a glass of water. Her voice was so flat that I knew she was not really asking a question and a glass of water was already on its way, and, yes, there was my earlier companion, the slow, heavy man carrying a tall glass of water. He placed it just beyond my arm’s reach and sat beside me. I pitied the man—I knew men like him were not paid for what they did, they volunteered to do what they did out of misplaced righteousness. Men like him had weathered too many lies, sustained too many lumps on the head, and all they could do was try to resolve some of their confusion through the honest work of relentless


volunteerism. The man had coffee for himself and a slice of pie for the woman. It was funny, wasn’t it, how even adversarial people, sinews taut with hate, still pretty much agreed about the good and necessary things in the world, like coffee and pie. The woman started eating her pie. She said she felt bad for eating pie in front of me like that, but she had low blood sugar, she said, and pie was the best way to keep her blood sugar at the right levels, especially since her favorite bakery was just across the street. I told her I didn’t mind, and she sighed, feigning relief, as if my perception of her mattered at all. She asked where I was born and I told her the answer, even though she certainly already knew the answer. She and her employer already knew everything about me, everything about everyone. So she knew the right questions to ask, the right ones to rile me: How did you meet H——? Why didn’t you get married? How did you feel when H—— was in the hospital? Why did H—— move so far away from you? These questions had nothing to do with the form I had filled out, but that was the nature of the situation these days, nothing had anything to do with anything anymore. The woman barely blinked while she broke me. I told her everything. I knew the consequences cooperation would bring, but it felt good to just talk, to just release everything. And with the slow, heavy man sitting beside me, what choice did I have? Everyone had heard stories about what these men did to you if you didn’t cooperate. And it just felt so good. To tell the woman everything that had happened, everything I had done. The things I had done to H——. I let it all out. I smiled harder than I’d smiled in a long time. I even laughed a few times while I talked. I ran my fingers through my hair and scratched my nose and smiled and talked, and the woman listened.

I received the best possible outcome. The woman appreciated my honesty. She told me only a political offense would be added to my record—she would omit anything related to H——. She signed a few forms and that was that. She left me alone with the slow, heavy man, and he grabbed my arm and led me back to the elevator. We descended together to the basement where he locked me in this little gray room.



Blue Mountain Review / January 2022 As I sit in this little gray room, surrounded by cold concrete, earthy air, the only way I can console myself is by thinking of guilt. I think about what I did to H——. I know my situation is officially about a political offense related to the form I filled out—a ridiculous piece of paper—but the only way it makes sense is to think of H——, to think that I deserve this for what I did to her. She’s out there in the world somewhere, with her hair, her hair the way it always was, and I’m here in this little room where I deserve to be, where I belong. And I hope H—— never makes mistakes on her forms, I hope she never ends up in a little room like me, I hope— desperately, desperately—that she is okay somewhere. She belongs somewhere happy and warm, cozy on a soft sofa, cat atop her lap, someone behind her in the kitchen cooking a hot meal. She always liked when I cooked, especially pasta from scratch. I think of H—— and her hair, her long hair, and I think of eating a hot meal with her in my apartment. I was never one of those gregarious people crowding a sidewalk lunch table or strolling along with a big dog loping behind me; no, I was hardly involved with the world at all, I didn’t participate in the community, whatever the community was, so it’s not such a loss for the world that I’ll spend years alone in this little gray room. There’s nothing left to do but wait, wait for someone to open the door to my little room and release me. Like everyone else, I know the new laws. The new government passed a law limiting the confinement of political prisoners to six years. Yet I also know nothing political is really political anymore—to call something political these days is just a euphemism for something related to the algorithm, the one they perfected, the one that determines which people are good and which people are bad. The government, the algorithm—all the same now. It decided I am one of the bad people, and the woman endorsed its decision with her signature. Everyone knows the algorithm is never wrong. The new government very much likes itself and its laws. I do not doubt its commitment to following the law precisely, so I know, for certain, that I have only six years to wait for release. A part of me does wonder, though, whether the government will pass a law increasing the number of days in a year. But either way—whether or not the years get longer or stay the same—I know my muscles will atrophy, I know my brain’s tendrils will loosen and possibly untwine altogether in here. I know what happens to people confined to small gray boxes with no sunlight for years. Yet I’m glad to be in this little gray room—I rejoice—I’m glad to receive misery after what I did to H——. I deserve the pain. I welcome these gray years, this new gestation from which I will emerge—oh, I will emerge and I will be something new, a new thing, no longer myself, no longer a person who thinks of H——, no longer a person who fills out forms, but something else entirely, maybe a copper pot or a desk drawer or a cupholder, something empty and good and necessary like this little gray room.


Paul Oliver graduated from NYU in 2019 with a BA in English. He was born and raised in Utah, where he won regional and state prizes for writing about his experience surviving brain surgery and meningitis in high school. He has one short story published in West 10th, NYU’s undergraduate literary magazine. Recently he was named a finalist in the 2021 Driftwood Press Short Story Contest. He lives in Brooklyn.




Blue Mountain Review / January 2022



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Blue Mountain Review / January 2022

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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 Aaron Burden Averie Woodard Debbie Ducic Eduard Delputte Ethan Hu Guillherme Stecenalla Hannah Busing Jacek Dylag Jon Flobrant



Kelly Sikkema Ian Gao Mike Kotsch Nong V. Paola Chaaya Cottonbro Koolshooters Lilartsy Olya Kobruseva

Ron Lach Shivkumar Sd Zachary Debottis Pine Watt Sixteen Miles Out Thought Catalogue Viktor Mogilat Will XD Ye Jinghan

Zero Take Original Cover Image by: Anna Carson

Blue Mountain Review / January 2022

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 is the Music editor of the Blue Mountain Review.

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.

edward austin hall contributing editor

Edward Austin Hall lives in Atlanta, where he writes whatever he can get away with.



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.

jess costello

contributing editor

Jess Costello is a fiction editor, writer, counseling student, and indie music nerd based in Massachusetts. In addition to The Blue Mountain Review, her work has appeared in Boston Accent and iO Literary, and she covers local art for Boston Hassle. She is at work on a novel.

Blue Mountain Review / January 2022

asha gowan

contributing editor

Asha Gowan, poetry editor, hails from Chapel Hill, NC. She writes poetry, fiction, and non-fiction. Her subject matter usually revolves around matters of the heart, but natural world and its imagery also figure prominently in her work. She has publications in The Coraddi, Blue Mountain Review, The Gathering of Poets, and other magazines and journals.

nicole tallman

contributing editor

Nicole Tallman is a ghostwriter and poet. Her professional writing has appeared in The New York Times, Miami Herald, Los Angeles Business Journal, and Al Jazeera, and her poetry is featured or forthcoming in the Train River COVID-19 Anthology, The Blue Mountain Review, Wrongdoing Magazine, and others. Born and raised in Michigan, she currently lives in Miami, works in the office of the Mayor of Miami-Dade County, and serves as an Associate Editor for South Florida Poetry Journal. You can find her on Twitter and Instagram @natallman and at

Chris terry

contributing editor

Chris Terry draws from his fanatic love of films & music when crafting his reviews. After receiving his Master›s in Fine Arts from the Savannah College of Art and Design, he’s gone on to work on numerous independent and major films along with producing film scores and music for a wide variety of genres. Chris is currently working with the film production company Fifteen Studios on upcoming projects.

lynne kemen

contributing editor Lynne Kemen lives in Upstate New York. Her chapbook, More Than A Handful (Woodland Arts Editions, was published In 2020. Five of her poems appeared in Seeing Things Anthology, Edited by Robert Bensen. Her poems are in La Presa, Silver Birch Press, The Ravens Perch, Blue Mountain Review, Fresh Words Magazine. She was Runner Up for The Ekphrastic Journal’s competition of Women Artists. She is on the Board of Bright Hill Press in Treadwell, NY.

slade gottlieb

contributing editor

Slade Gottlieb is a fiction writer born in Atlanta and raised in Milton, Georgia. He received his BA in creative writing from Oberlin College and his MFA from California College of the Arts. He’s published short fiction in print editions of the Plum Creek Review and Wilder Voice. Slade currently resides in Oakland, California, where he is at work on his debut novel. He currently co-edits fiction and poetry for The Blue Mountain Review.

Hester L. Furey

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


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