The Blue Mountain Review June 2021

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June 2021

Blue Mountain Review / june 2021


Chen Chen’s philosophy on life, poetry, & community p.12

Matt Pearce Helps artistic entrepreneurs find financial balance p.110

A lifetime of jazz wth pat metheny p.68

A word with the winners of the lgbtq chapbook contest p.18

a world of color & culture with natalia anciso p.98

The Struggle & triumph of celia lisset alvarez p. 38

The Study of afrofuturism with edward austin hall p. 46

lyrics born & cutso talk “anti” & the power within it p. 80

Jose Hernandez Diaz Speaks on Craft & Creativity p.30

interviews with luminaries in both lterary journals & Presses

Poetry, Fiction, Essays, & Microfiction


pat metheny

Natalia Anciso



getting back into a certain rhythm H. Van Smith, Esq.

The pandemic gave us the Great Pause of our lifetimes. A quiet veil of darkness descended around us. It seems natural to fill that time with a form of wondering aloud to consider questions with difficult answers. Answers that may compel us forward. This is the special duty of writers and truth tellers, to give expression for many during times of pain, when all search for words, direction, and meaning. I came to poetry at 28, newly married, laid off, and mired in the Great Recession. I was upset; the infamous “cheese” of leadership literature seemed not only to have been moved, but intentionally hidden. And in that angst, that bewildering search for next, I read poetry to get back into a certain rhythm with the earth around me. In my stumbling descent, I fought to regain balance, a smooth gait, a new fluidity. So, as we begin to grope beyond the fog of pandemic and season of chaos, what questions should we ask of ourselves to find surer footing on this winding road?

What should we place in our backpack for the journey ahead?

Where should we go?

What should we talk about along the way?

What trouble should we avoid?

What should we care about?

What should we remember?

What warrants a response?

What is best left ignored?

What action should we take?

When should we take that action?

Whom should we emulate?

What is our goal, our purpose, our calling?

How do I say what I think should be said?

What should I tell others to help them?

Who am I now?



Blue Mountain Review / june 2021 I recall in the spring of 2004 riding in a dust-covered suburban in Baghdad, Iraq when a sandstorm surrounded our convoy. We pulled into a four-story expat hotel, satellite dishes fixed to porch railings, to wait out the grit-spitting winds smacking us in the face, turning the views outside the windows a biblical shade of red, like bloodshot eyes. The light in the hotel lobby darkened as we approached the rudimentary bar, carpet worn on the stairs, quiet, except for the howl of the wind outside, and the shuffling of a few guests who seemed dressed for a violent fly-fishing trip. We poured a scotch over melting ice, grateful for the respite and cover. “This is as good as it gets, kid, in a place like this,” my older companion said as he poured from the bottle with a quick, dipping movement. His conversation suddenly switched to an inward place. “You know when I got divorced, I had to decide what I needed to take out of my backpack. And I had to be very deliberate about what I put back in. Life gets heavy, and if you aren’t careful, you’ll pick up so many rocks along the way, it’ll break your back. Be careful what you decide to put in your backpack, that’s all I’m saying.” I nodded, as he pulled a drag from his cigarette, exhaling the lesson and the weight of that memory. He scratched his temple with his thumb, staring down, as if seeing her face in the glass.

The storm cleared, and the dust settled, “Well, we better get going. We got a long road ahead of us”.


Post Script:

All will be well.

Recently after a long flight landed, my eight-year-old daughter took off her headphones. With ears not yet adjusted to the lower sound of her surroundings, she said loudly, “So, Daddy, the guy in this movie was trying to figure out the meaning of life, but it just cut off before it ended……., so Daddy, WHAT IS THE MEANING OF LIFE?” In the suddenly quiet cabin, a woman pulling luggage out of the overhead bin could easily be heard through her muffled mask as she said, “Let me know when you find out Sweetheart.”

“Well, Daddy?” I cradled her shoulder and whispered in her ear, “To love God and serve others.” ________

-H. Van Smith practices law at Smith Strong, PLC and lives in Richmond, Virginia with his wife, Katie, and two children. He can be reached at, or on Instagram @instavansmith.


table of Contents 2 Literary 8

Richard Neupert & Pamela Kohn ..................... page 112 Kelly Girtz. 116

Matt Gottlieb & Jackie Blyth Gottlieb. ................ page 118 Chen 12 Cynthia Elliot. 122 LGBTQ Contest Winners ............................ page 18 Kaleena Goldsworthy-Warnock. ........................ page 124 Emily 26 Kerry Magro. 128 Jose Hernandez Diaz 30 Jason 34 Celia Lisset 38 Concrete Cowboy Review. .................................. page 132 Diane G 42 Edward Austin 46 Mira 50 Pastor Trevera West. 138 Chip 52 Christopher 58 Josh 62 Dialogues with Rising Tides. .............................. page 146 Scar and Flower. 150 The Ways We Get By. 154 Pat 68 Pete & Dede 74 Lyrics Born & Custo...................................... page 80 How to Transcribe Thirty-Six 84 Hours of Audio Recording......................... .... page 160 Adam Gussow............................................... page 86 All In Perspective. 164 The Barn. 168 White Antiracist Allies in Training: Daniel 94 My Social Justice Workshop Troubles. ........... page 170 Natalia 98

Movie 130

faces of 136 book 144

Music 66 158

visual arts 92

Special 104 184

Spineflower by Annie Diamond. ....................... page 186 Ghila 106 The Summer I Was 20 by Annie Diamond. ...... page 188 Matt 110 Shavasana by Beth Copeland. .......................... page 190



Blue Mountain Review / june 2021

Novel Aloofness by Cathryn Shea ................ page 192 Stay, My Little Boy by the Barn, How to Make a Mojito One Overall Strap Dangling by Celia Lisset Alvarez .................................... page 194 by Sarah Anderson 236 After and Before by Christopher Nielsen ..... page 196 Open Eyes, Open Heart This Has Nothing to Do With Your Name by Susan Cambell 238 and How I Use It as a Key Self-Portrait with Ecdysis by Emily Jalloul 198 by Tara Ballard 240 Waiting for Locust by KB Ballentine .......... page 200 In the Cemetery by Tara Ballard ..................... page 242 Almost Shining by KB Ballentine ................ page 202 There Are Rooftops by Tara Ballard ............... page 244 Gonna Smack Those Teachers Ode to the Goldfinch in My Backyard by Frank C. Modica. ...................................... page 204 by Valerie Bacharach 246 Holywork by Isaiah Hemme. ........................ page 206 Sanctuary by Valerie Bacharach ...................... page 248 Untethered in Dixie by Jay Jacoby .............. page 208 The Butcher by Zachary Cahill ........................ page 250 Squirrel Hunting by Jesse Millner 210 Dove with Bloodstain by Kaitinn Estevez ... page 212 It’s the Sea that Pulls the Moon You Must Understand by Kaitinn Estevez 216 by Brian 258 A New Language by Kaitinn Estevez ............ page 218 What Would I Ask If You Were Portentous Dispensary Here and Not Dead After All? by Matthew Freeman .................................... page 220 by Denise Tolan........................................... page 266 What I Can and Cannot Say to Hector Bleached Bones by Karen 272 by Mo Corleone 222 Whatever Comes by Scott 280 Ameraucana by Neal Tucker. ....................... page 224 Dead Folk by Pamela Wynn.. ....................... page 226 Still as a Flower by Patsy Creedy ................. page 228 Inheritance by Ryan F. 286 Black Ash Basket Oh, Well by Claude Clayton Smith 288 by Rosalie Sanara Petrouske ........................ page 230 The Great Escape by Diya 289 Waiting by Sarah Anderson .......................... page 232 Adam by Sarah Anderson ............................. page 234 254 284


Learn Learnmore moreat



Asian American Poetry Chapbook Contest Southern Collective Experience presents

Blue Mountain Review / june 2021



1st Place: $200 & 100 books 2nd Place: $100 3rd Place: $50

Entrants must be Asian American or Pacific Islander. Former students and close friends of the judge are not eligible.

• The entry fee is $25.

• All place-winners will be

interviewed in the Blue Mountain Review and on the NPR show, Dante’s Old South.

• No more than 20 pages of poetry. A page of acknowledgements and dedication is counted in the 20 pages.

• Submission deadline is October 30, 2021.

• Please note in acknowledgements any previously published poems

• Winner and honorable mention announcements to be made on December 30, 2021.

• The contest is blind. Please put your name and contact information in the cover letter, but nowhere on or in the manuscript

Submission Link: bluemountainSubmission Link: mit/192468/asian-american-poetasian-american-poetry-chapbook-contest ry-chapbook-contest

Meet the Judge

Lee Herrick is the author of three books of poems: Scar and Flower, finalist for the 2020 Northern California Book Award, Gardening Secrets of the Dead and This Many Miles from Desire. He is co-editor of the anthology The World I Leave You: Asian American Poets on Faith and Spirit (Orison Books). His poems appear widely in literary magazines, textbooks, and anthologies such as HERE: Poems for the Planet, with an introduction by the Dalai Lama; Indivisible: Poems of Social Justice, with an introduction by Common; One for the Money: The Sentence as Poetic Form; and California Fire and Water: A Climate Crisis Anthology. His prose has appeared in Dear America: Letters of Hope, Habitat, Defiance, and Democracy, and elsewhere. He served as Fresno Poet Laureate from 2015-2017. Born in Daejeon, Korea and adopted to the United States at ten months, he has taught in China, in New York for Kundiman, and currently currently teaches at Fresno City College and the MFA program at Sierra Nevada University.




the poetry collections of Blue Mountain Review / june 2021

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

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

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

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

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

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


Litera Interv



Blue Mountain Review / june 2021

ary views


Interview with

chen chen By: nicole tallman


hen took some time out in May to speak to The Blue about his take on the state of the world, the grief of the present moment, the joy and necessity of collaboration, his writing, editing and teaching life, what he’s reading, the role of social media, what influences his poetry, and his idea of a perfect day.

How are you doing in light of everything that is going on right now in the world? Between the increased hate crimes -- especially the attacks on Asian Americans -- and the pandemic, this surely has not been an easy time for you. What keeps you going? It’s been difficult. Some days feel entirely steeped in grief. And with the way the 24-hour news cycle works, it’s hard to feel like I’ve had proper time (or resources) to fully grieve, on both personal and collective levels. Under capitalism, a griever is an unproductive worker—unless grief, too, can be commodified, and sometimes it is (and how does one grieve that?). I’m expected to grieve quickly, “move on” quickly, or just grieve while maintaining as high or even higher levels of productivity—clearly, this setup is unsustainable.

Lately my attention has turned, again, to Palestine. Others have made a similar point and I firmly believe this: there is no real Asian American politics without solidarity with and fighting for justice in Palestine. “Asian American,” as a term and as a radical practice, needs to once again be resuscitated from a flattened and flattening demographic descriptor (or a marketing category); those who gather and labor through “Asian American” ought to, I believe, remember the political history of the term, which is rooted in anti-imperialist, anti-capitalist, anti-racist activism.

What keeps me going is people, more and more people it seems, speaking up and speaking back to the dominant narrative, this euphemistic and horribly distorted narrative of “conflict” and “both sides,” when clearly, the state of Israel is upholding apartheid and committing genocide. What keeps me going is maintaining clarity in the face of so much fabricated nuance and empathy for oppressors. What keeps me going is poetry by Palestinians and Palestinians



Blue Mountain Review / june 2021 in diaspora, including Mahmoud Darwish, Ahlam Bsharat, George Abraham, Noor Hindi, Fady Joudah, Lena Khalaf Tuffaha, and Jessica Abughattas.

What does your writing life look like? Do you have a particular schedule, habits, or process? I have no schedule, no set habits, no rituals. I envy people who do. Patricia Smith, for instance, has talked about writing ten pages a day—these could be research/reading notes, lines toward a poem, prose, journaling, anything really. But ten pages. A day. I love that idea. And see myself abandoning the practice after four days. Maybe I could start with two pages every other day. I like the idea of that consistency, that commitment. But I’m so disorganized and resistant to routine.

I try to listen to my body and my imagination—I feel less myself when I haven’t been writing for weeks on end. So, I return; I tend to return when I’m at maybe 30% of my aliveness, and need to replenish, re-nourish. And then I’ll have these great bursts of activity. I’ll write three poems in a week; I’ll take each one from rough draft to developed draft to just about done in that short span. Or I’ll pause around the developed draft stage (maybe draft twenty), and step away for a while, come back to it in a month or two, or much later. If I’m stuck, I’ll phone a poet friend, discuss a draft with them. I’ll try not to fret too much. I’ll fret too much. I’ll fret myself into beyond any previous fretting. Then I’ll remember francine j. harris saying during a craft talk, “Everything is a draft.” I love that mindset. Try. Fail. Repeat. Risk.

What is it about poetry in particular that speaks to you? Oh, it’s different for different poems. This seems increasingly difficult to generalize about. I love many different kinds of poetry. I can say that I always want to be surprised. That could be linguistic surprise, imagistic, emotional, intellectual, political, etc. etc. I can say that I want to be moved into new clarity and mystery. Both. Aren’t some of the clearest things also the most mysterious? And there’s the type of clarity I spoke of earlier—clarity about power relations, clarity about injustice, clarity about justice. With every passing day, I seek more of that clarity, too.

You are the co-editor of UNDERBLONG. Tell us about the journal and your work with Sam Herschel Wein. You also collaborate with Mag Gabbert. How do these poetry friends and collaborations enhance your life and art? Thank you for asking about Underblong! I’m so glad. Underblong is a delight to work on. It’s also been a lot of work. Running a literary journal and insisting on doing it in your own way—I honestly had no real idea what that would take, in terms of time and energy and imagination, despite having worked on literary publications all through grad school. But Sam and I play the editors-in-chief position; previously I’d been a genre editor and a managing editor. With Underblong, it’s our vision, and it continues to evolve thanks to our brilliant team of readers, an interviews editor, and a managing editor. Last summer, Sam and I expanded the team significantly, and it’s become a little community, with regular check-ins and hangouts and a Slack account (of course). This community building has really made me aware of how much my writing depends on being in conversation with people. I used to think all I needed to do was prioritize my alone time, in order to write. Now I understand that I also need to prioritize conversations, friendships, pizza

Photography credit: Paula Champagne


parties (we had one earlier this year over Zoom to celebrate the release of issue 5). My writing, after all, tends to be conversational in tone/diction and about relationships of various kinds. I still consider myself fairly introverted and I need my alone time, too. But I keep thinking of the epigraph to Yanyi’s amazing first book, The Year of Blue Water—“Literature needs a lot of people. It’s enough to honor the project”—which comes from an interview with Susan Sontag. I wouldn’t be writing the ways I need to if not for Underblong, the journal as well as the community.

And collaborating on zines with Mag (who’s also a reader/ the interviews editor for Underblong) has been so much fun. Since my book came out in 2017, I’ve felt greater anxiety around publishing—it’s been like, oh, there are people reading my poems now! I mean, it’s a simultaneous giddiness, too—I’m glad people are finding the work; I’m blown away by their responses. And I get nervous about letting people down with a new poem that’s not as good. The zines remind me that my obsession with writing began with jotting down the stories that friends and I enjoyed to act out on the playground during recess. Writing began as a collaborative act of joy.

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. Teaching is an art form in itself and one which, to be completely honest, I don’t think I do as well as the writing. I do think I’m improving, thank goodness. My main teaching job is at Brandeis, where I teach undergraduate poetry workshops. (I’ve also taught Introduction to Creative Writing and a creative nonfiction workshop). The students are amazing. I’m immensely grateful to them for their insights, their curiosities and vulnerabilities. Their idiosyncrasies and gifts. It’s a giant gift, to get to work with them. This spring semester I got to advise an honors project, a chapbook manuscript—and it was a deeply rewarding experience. I also teach for the low residency MFA programs at New England College and Stonecoast, and I’m so grateful for those experiences, as well. It sort of boggles my mind that I’m now a mentor for these students, in particular the grad students, as I still feel sometimes that I’ve only just finished grad school—and well, I was in an MFA and then a PhD, so it took a while. Anyway, I’ve gotten to direct a couple MFA theses and wow, each one has been so wildly distinct. I mean, the writing and also the conversations. I feel very lucky to be teaching poetry, to be working with poets in these capacities.



All that said, I’m not sure if I want a full-time job in

Blue Mountain Review / june 2021

academia. Maybe eventually, if those still exist. But I went right from my MFA to my PhD and started at Brandeis while finishing the doctorate. I don’t like bureaucracy and paperwork and the overwork that’s often expected in academic jobs. I don’t like the many ways academic institutions are invested in gatekeeping knowledge and (severely) under-invested in supporting marginalized students. I try, in my classes and in my pedagogy, to create alternative models for knowledgemaking and sharing, for lifting each other up. Broader changes, at actual institutional levels, often feel like uphill battles; well, universities’ responses to activism are usually designed to frustrate and exhaust you. Once my visiting position at Brandeis ends next spring, I’d like to take some time before applying to another academic position like that. I want to re-prioritize my writing time in a bigger way. I’d also like to devote more time and energy to Underblong and to other collaborative projects.

Let’s discuss your latest book, WHEN I GROW


Which poem are you proudest of in that book and why? Are there any that you find particularly difficult to read to others?

Oh wow, proudest of…hmm, I’d say “Race to the Tree,” because it took the longest to finish. There are revisions to it that I’d make now, in fact, but I’m no longer the writer who wrote that particular poem. And I do still like it as it is. I started it in college—that early version would be nearly unrecognizable, compared to what’s in the book. After college, I put it away for a long while; I just had no idea where to take it next. I knew I wanted to write about that night—the night I almost ran away from home, at thirteen, because my parents, in particular my mother, had responded to my accidental sort-of coming out with such vehement, violent disapproval. Over time, that night became the central event of this book; several poems reference it, revisit it, even “revise” it, in the sense of retelling it from a different perspective or mode. “Race to the Tree” is the most directly narrative treatment of the memories. During my MFA, I found a new structure for the poem—I remember reading Jane Springer’s Murder Ballad in a class and becoming fascinated by the ballad form, how it allows for both story (a lot of story) and song in a poem. The connected quatrains and three sections came out of this engagement with ballads.

Then the poem went into my first chapbook, Set the Garden on Fire. Then into my MFA thesis. Then into this book manuscript. Then Jericho Brown, writer and reader and editor extraordinaire (he’d selected the manuscript for the A. Poulin, Jr. Poetry Prize), helped a great deal with the poem’s ending and with the pace of the first section. I remember Jericho emailing me, a couple weeks, maybe just two weeks, before the final manuscript was due (actually, it was already overdue!) to BOA Editions; Jericho told me to revisit the first section of “Race to the Tree” and to try cutting about 20% of it, mostly any instance of the verb “to be.” I was annoyed and tired, but as usual, Jericho was absolutely right to advise me to make those cuts. I think this poem took that long—about six years in total—because the subject is so emotionally charged. The night the poem’s about was a traumatic night. I didn’t consider it traumatic when I was experiencing it; I didn’t have that kind of language or framework, yet. So, it took a long time to recognize the trauma, to understand why I needed to write about it, and to find ways to protect myself from simply reliving it all over again every time I looked at the poem on my laptop screen. Though I still get emotional when reading it at events, I don’t find it difficult to read. Or, I’ve come to accept the difficulty, the pain this poem engages.

Let’s also talk about your second book, which I’ve heard is finished and should be published soon. Any preview you can give us regarding themes or subject matter? Yes! Your Emergency Contact Has Experienced an Emergency will be out next fall from BOA Editions. It’s not 100% finished; I’m still making edits (I’ve become such an obsessive reviser in these last several years), but I’m very glad to be at this stage, now, where it’s a whole collection; the poems are deeply in conversation with one another. Big thanks to Sam for the push to get my shit/this manuscript together. This new book examines many themes and subjects similar to those found in my first, from family and immigration to sexuality and community. There are also poems about gun violence, poems about teaching, poems about living in West Texas (where I did my PhD), bilingual poems (mixing Mandarin and English), and poems dedicated to specific friends I’ve made through poetry. In some ways, it’s a sadder book. And in other ways, it’s a funnier one.


What are you reading right now, and what poets (living or dead) most inspire you? Do you have a poetry mentor/mother/father? Right now, I’m reading my friend Muriel Leung’s stunning second book, Imagine Us, the Swarm, which the publisher Nightboat Books sent me. I need to get a signed copy from Muriel, too! And another copy (or three) to send to friends. This book consists of essays in verse, as well as some straight-up poems in its last section. I keep thinking about this moment in the first piece, “This Is to Live Several Lives”: I set out to write a book about [ ] but it was about [ ] instead. After he died, [ ] was all that was left.

Let’s talk about your social media presence. In addition to poetry and language, especially Mandarin, you seem to really love fashion, flowers, food, the moon (the actual moon and SAILOR MOON, your partner, your pug, and thirst traps. How do these subjects influence your poetry, if at all? Everything in my life can influence, can lead to a poem. I try to stay open. I try not to go, “Oh that can’t be in a poem! That’s not poetic!” I do think some transformation needs to happen, in order for a fleck or shard of something from the life to become a line, an image, a turn in a poem. But I try my best not to prejudge the experience/the thought/the whatever as not “poetic” or not poem-worthy. For instance, after seeing an Instagram post that’s a screenshot from an episode of Sailor Moon, I now want to write a poem titled “Wake up, warriors of love.” The character Tuxedo Mask is saying this in the screenshot; I don’t know to whom in the context of the scene; I know really it’s addressed to me and my fellow queer fans of Sailor Moon!

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? I’m thinking of something Jenny Odell says in her fantastic nonfiction book, How to Do Nothing; Resisting the Attention Economy. She’s at some tech conference and sneaks out to spend a moment outside, listen to birds. She says that while she may have missed something interesting at the conference, she’s glad that she took some time to walk around—and that ultimately, she knows that she spent a day on the earth. I remember reading that and starting to cry a bit, I was so moved. That’s what a perfect day would look like to me: that afterward, I know I’ve spent a day on the earth. So, spending some time outside (especially around trees) or otherwise feeling connected to the planet in some perfectly ordinary way.

How do we keep up with you online? @chenchenwrites on Instagram and Twitter. And my website is

Bio: Chen Chen’s second book of poetry, Your Emergency Contact Has Experienced an Emergency,

is forthcoming from BOA Editions next fall. His first book, When I Grow Up I Want to Be a List of Further Possibilities (BOA Editions, 2017), was long-listed for the National Book Award and won the Thom Gunn Award, among other honors. He has received a Pushcart Prize and a NEA fellowship. He teaches at Brandeis University.



Blue Mountain Review / june 2021


Interview with

sce lbgtq chapbook contest winners By: lauren ladner

first place


steven bellin-oka Tell us a bit about yourself. I’ve lived all over the North American continent, mainly because I’m married (now) or been partnered with a Japanese citizen for the last 24 years. Because same-sex marriages have only been legal in the U.S. since 2015, we had to live for two or three-year periods in different parts of the country and Canada so Kenichi could stay legally. We have lived this itinerant existence for most of our lives together—we first met in San Francisco, moved from there to Mississippi, Wisconsin, Arizona, Vancouver, Prince Edward Island, rural New Mexico, and now we’re in Tulsa.

I also translate contemporary Mexican poetry, I’m a Tulsa Artist Fellow in Poetry for the last two years, and I absolutely love new wave and post-punk music, as well as cats and dogs.

Why did you start writing poetry? I think I started writing poetry because I was always in love with music. I started playing the piano when I was six years old. But when my parents sent me to a private Catholic school for high school, there wasn’t enough money anymore for me to continue with private lessons. I think I turned to poetry because it offered a similar engagement with musicality, though, this time of language.



Blue Mountain Review / june 2021

What drew you to the Southern Collective Experience’s LBGTQ+ contest? I was drawn to the Southern Collective Experience’s LGBQT+ chapbook contest because I always look for queer-friendly outlets to publish my work, but also because Southern Collective Experience speaks to me as a native Marylander who spent several years living in Mississippi in the 1990s and 2000s.

What do you hope readers take away from your poetry collection? I’ve been a cinephile all my life. the last couple of years, I’ve been thinking a lot about the connections between film and poetry. I’ve also been drawn to ekphrastic poetry about film, poems in which films shape experience and shape the speaker’s image of the world. What I hope readers will take away from Tell Me Exactly What You Saw and What You Think It Means—that’s a line Grace Kelly has in Rear Window—is a deeper appreciation of the connections between film and poetry.

How do you stay inspired and motivated during COVID-19? Staying inspired and motivated during the pandemic is exceedingly difficult. Like so many other people, I struggled emotionally during the lockdowns. I think what helped me was working on this chapbook for so many months. Having at least vaccines in existence, even though their rollout has been so haphazard, means for me that a world without the threat of COVID is possible, and that keeps me going.

What advice do you have for those in the LBGTQ+ community who hope to one day find publication? I think the best advice I can give is to read widely in contemporary poetry and to keep writing and persisting. Don’t feel you have to write about queerness itself all the time. We see and experience the world differently than straight people. Bring that sensibility to your work!


Red Eye Steve Bellin-Oka Bright crimson smear in the sclera. Overflow of a miniature river’s cataracts into the ovoid pool of black pupil, blue iris, clear lens. I almost never look at my face in a mirror—so someone asks, what happened to your eye? What hasn’t. Violent sneeze, burst vessels. Once I abraded the cornea when by mistake I rubbed sand into it. Maybe I was trying to make glass. Sister, on the all-night flight from Vancouver to Baltimore where you lay dying, I took a window seat so I could both see and not see, hologram of the reading light fixed above the jet wing. In Polaroids of us at the beach as kids, our eyes burn red as coal embers, as unchecked fever.



Blue Mountain Review / june 2021

second place


andrea deeken Tell us a bit about yourself. I live in Portland, OR with my wife Paula and our seven-year-old daughter, Lucinda. I’ve worked at the public library here for almost 15 years. I grew up in Missouri in a cabin on the Osage River. I have a big, blended family: I am one of 10, though my siblings came later, from my father’s second marriage; I was an only child until I was 13.

Why did you start writing poetry? I’ve kept a journal since I was a teenager. In school I mostly studied fiction. I didn’t turn to poetry as a craft until after my daughter was born, when I discovered Marie Howe and Sharon Olds. Those women tore something loose inside me. I didn’t know you could write poems about your own life. When I went back to my journals, I was astonished to find rough drafts of poems, going back years.

What drew you to the Southern Collective Experience’s LBGTQ+ contest? It was the first time I had come across a chapbook contest for queer folx like me, so it felt like a great opportunity. I wanted to challenge myself to finish a longer collection of poems. I workshopped them with a poet friend of mine, which really helped my process.

What do you hope readers take away from your poetry collection? That there is beauty in the everyday, the mundane, the overlooked. The smallest moments are the ones worth examining the most. That authenticity can be a radical act.

How do you stay inspired and motivated during COVID-19? I turned 40 in the middle of the pandemic, which brought me a clarity of artistic purpose. I have more creative drive, but less time, which can be frustrating. I try to set small goals and work when I can, but I’ve taken the “shoulds” out of my practice. I go on nature walks with my daughter and our dog, and try to be grateful for this messy, beautiful time together. We are both learning instruments: piano and ukulele. Music helps me a lot.


What advice do you have for those in the LBGTQ+ community who hope to one day find publication? The power of representation is everything, in seeing ourselves in the art we consume. Keep going, even when rejection happens. Find a community of folx who can support you, read your work, give feedback. It is scary to be vulnerable in our art, but it can give wings to that queer kid out there who feels alone. You have a story to tell, and the world is waiting to hear it.

PS-- My daughter really wants you to know that our dog’s name is Papaya. :)



First Kill

Blue Mountain Review / june 2021

Andrea Deeken from my molting body, its pimpled Inside the deer stand

cheeks and long coltish legs

it was surprisingly small

for the first time in my life

the white bucket in the corner

I felt newly born.

wet sawdust and piss. The thrill of being alone

When my father returned with a doe

with him, this new brother I

calling and calling our names,

had gotten just weeks before

we scampered down

by way of a second

the steps like guilty children,

marriage, four days apart the

and I knew we would eat

two of us, babies born the same year.

like kings that night.

My father had taken us hunting. Anything could happen. I don’t know who saw it first but soon it was in our hands as we stood side by side holding the magazine curling at the edges all those women and our eyes on them like magnets. There had been soft rumblings in my body before and it would be years until I understood what they were trying to tell me but here in the deer stand the crickets loud in my ears the humid air sticking to my skin my new brother inches


Photo credit: Kahn & SelesNick

third place


ian spencer bell Tell us a bit about yourself! I’m a dancer, choreographer, writer, and teacher. I grew up in Virginia and attended high school at North Carolina School of the Arts. And even though I’ve lived in New York City for more than 20 years, if I’ve had a couple of drinks you can still hear my Southern accent.

Why did you start writing poetry? For decades in journals I recorded choreography and wrote prose poems and kept lists. Poetry—for breaks in time and space—started to feel like the most accurate way for me to write and think about dance. Then at Sarah Lawrence I studied with Marie Howe. One morning in conference she said, “You’re a poet. You’re a talker.” I can’t remember which she said first. They’re not dissimilar. Indeed, I had started to talk while dancing—which led to the poems in Marrow.

What drew you to the Southern Collective Experience’s LBGTQ+ contest? I want to share my work with queer Southerners. Poetry and performance are about swapping, shifting. I want more of that.

What do you hope readers take away from your poetry collection? I hope readers will feel transported, like under a spell. I want them to know about the people and places from my childhood. And in that feeling and knowing I hope they’ll recall that there is power and dignity in being—or at least trying to be—yourself.

How do you stay inspired and motivated during COVID-19? Dancing and reading helps.

What advice do you have for those in the LBGTQ+ community who hope to one day find publication? Write as much as you can, try new things, submit, be brave.



Blue Mountain Review / june 2021

IGA ian spencer bell milk. North of the town pool, iron truss, free lot, and an oak under a letter stick-up sign— placard, marquee (never knew the word). Ground

And at the far left, bread, that dawn baked. On the back of the cart I flew over polished floors while my mother singled out a meal for the night.

Chuck on S le, it’d say, and on the bays throwaways cemented under hometown savers, eyelids of notices for kittens, horses, tractors, nannies. For Sale, Wanted also, veiled avenues of Cascade, Glade, Land O Lakes, Tide, strips, breasts, and thighs, gizzards and hearts, Gold Medal, Kix, Bounty, Raid, Shout, and Scope, nevermind local produce— collards, yams, and leeks, cukes and shrooms, lanes leading to jock itch relief and family planning, decorative Band-Aids by cold storage. Shower chairs and canes parallel to goat and chocolate


Interview with

emily jalLoul editor-in-chief of grist By: angela dribben


rist is committed to diversity, inclusivity, cultural interchange, and respect for all individuals who are part of the literary community. We welcome submissions from writers in every stage of their career and are especially interested in considering work from emerging writers. More than 90% of the content of our most recent issues has come from unsolicited submissions. We love discovering new voices. Founded in 2007 by graduate students in the Creative Writing Program at the University of Tennessee, Grist is a nationally distributed journal of fiction, nonfiction, poetry, interviews, and craft essays. Published annually every spring, each issue is accompanied by Grist Online, which features some of the best work we’ve received during our reading period. In addition to general submissions, Grist holds the Pro Forma Contest every spring, recognizing unpublished creative work that explores the relationship between content and form, whether in fiction, nonfiction, poetry, or a hybrid genre.

Has being an editor impacted your own submissions, your writing, or how you read other journals? I think it’s made me way more empathetic to the people working on literary journals. I see how overworked we all are and how we’re doing this usually for nothing besides the gratification of



having done something cool. It’s made me way more patient too; now if I don’t hear back from a journal for months and months, I’m like, “that’s cool, it takes the time it takes,” as Mary Oliver might would say. It’s also made me more patient with myself; if I get rejected, I know that’s just how it goes and that it means my turn might be next. I see how often our readers turnover at Grist, and I know from experience it’s similar elsewhere, so if one set of readers didn’t vibe with my work, who’s to say the next won’t love it? Working as editor has unfortunately shown me how true those annoying platitudes are, the ones that are like “try and try again!” or whatever (I’m saying this with a joke in my voice! It’s a good thing to have learned). Annoying though they may be, it’s not wrong: keep trying, keep trusting in your work, and you’re likely to succeed.

How do you balance the importance of staff, readers, and contributors? This is hard for me to answer because I view staff, readers, and contributors as a sort of triangle of effective journalwork. Each are equally crucial to the daily functioning of Grist. Without one of them, none of it could work. Without our readers, who lay a foundation for all the rest of Grist, we (the editors) could never possibly read all the submissions we receive. Without our staff, we could never send out all the contracts and payments to our contributors. And without contributors, what are we even doing? Kind of like the red wheelbarrow, so much depends on each of these Grist-wheels, so to speak, in order to keep the whole thing moving forward.

At Grist, what path does a piece of work take after the contributor hits “submit?” So once the artist submits their piece, that genre’s respective editor will assign it to a team of readers, comprised of MA, MFA, and PhD students in English and

Blue Mountain Review / june 2021 Creative Writing at the University of Tennessee. After readers have voted on a piece, it gets read again by that genre’s editor and assistant editor, and then it gets read by me. We want many eyes on the work so that Grist isn’t simply dictated by the tastes of one or two or three editors.

My impression is that the Grist Masthead positions are filled by UTK MFA and PhD students. How often is there a turn-over in these positions and how does that or does that impact the energy of Grist, the carrying out of the mission of the journal?

on issue 13, for example, I read Diamond Forde’s poem “What I Have to Give,” and I was like, “this is amazing, we have to publish it.” It’s a poem that does such important work simply by existing. Our forthcoming issue, Kayleb Rae Candrilli is judging our ProForma contest, and they’re a poet who I admire so much and whose work I want to support however I can because it too does deeply important work just by existing. So I guess I would say that our core values revolve around making sure we’re publishing work we can stand behind. It’s super important to us that we publish voices from BIPOC and LGBTQIA voices, those who are routinely silenced or pushed aside. We love work that comes from perspectives we haven’t read before or heard from, stuff that challenges the status quo, stuff that speaks for the unspoken.

That is correct; we are run on the energy of grad students at UTK! We have MA students who work as reviews editors, MFAs who assist or lead genre editorial teams, and PhDs who work as editors or managing editor. We’ve recently begun accepting visual artwork as well, so now we have an MFA candidate in the art studio program as our assistant visual artwork editor. These roles turn over every year or so, though sometimes one or two staff members will hold onto a position for longer. Our mission at Grist is to publish the best work from new and established writers, especially those who are less heard from or who face some sort of disenfranchisement.

Being on a Masthead, especially EIC, puts a person in a position of gatekeeper. Do you have intentions for the way you want to work within the industry, core values you feel it is important to hold for the whole of Grist? Being editor means that I have an opportunity to help uplift and support other artists, and I love doing that. I love finding important work and publishing it or supporting artists whose work I feel more people should read—when working





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

Atlanta & Nashville


Interview with

jose hernandez diaz By: nicole tallman

Who is Jose Hernandez Diaz? What is it about your life that created the author today? I grew up in Northern Orange County/Southeast LA County border: back and forth. Grew up low-income, first-gen Mexican American. I was encouraged to write in high school by influential teachers: Mrs. Weir and Mrs. HoweUgale. A mixture of working-class, middle-class environments guided my work/upbringing, although we were always poor. Also, a mixture of cultures and subcultures in Southern California guided me/my aesthetic: Mexican, Mexican American, American, counterculture, etc.

What does your writing process look like? Do you have a particular schedule, habits, or process? I tend to write early in the morning. Sometimes with a coffee, sometimes before the coffee. I tend to write 1-3, sometimes 5 poems at a time, rarely more than that. Last poetry month in April, I wrote a poem every day for the first time. Loved it. I sometimes write in different series of prose poems: for example: The Man in the Pink Floyd Shirt, jaguar prose poems, skeleton prose poems, The Man in the Chicano Batman Shirt, etc.

What is your chosen genre and why does it still speak to you? I write poetry and prose poetry. For a while I also wrote flash fiction but found the genre very white and difficult to break into. Poetry and prose poetry still very much speak to me. I believe they will my whole life. It is like religion to me. The immediacy of it. The connection and opportunity for growth and creativity.

You are an editor of several literary publications. Tell us about those and how they fit into your life. I’m an Associate Editor at Frontier Poetry and Guest Editor at Palette Poetry. As an Associate Editor with Frontier, I’m working more in the everyday matters of the magazine: submissions, emails, posts, etc. As a Guest Editor with Palette, I’m dealing more exclusively with feedback letters, which are designed to help writers improve their writing. As far as how it fits into my life, I also work on other freelance projects, am applying for PhD programs in creative writing, and teaching writing online. I also like to hang out with my dog, Rufio, and watch LA sports: Lakers, Dodgers, Rams, LAFC, or any sport.

In addition to writing and editing, you also teach poetry. Tell us how teaching fits into your life and what you enjoy most about it. I will begin teaching a prose poetry course this spring during poetry month: April 2021. Teaching is new to me. However, editing with literary magazines, more specifically the feedback letters, has taught me a lot about craft and form/line, imagery, etc., which is useful in the teaching of creative writing. Also, I’ve probably done like 10-15 poetry readings on Zoom, so that has helped familiarize me with the online theatre of poetry.



Blue Mountain Review / june 2021

Let’s discuss your latest chapbook, The Fire Eater, which I adore. What poem are you proudest of in that work and why? Great question. Maybe the lead poem “The Fire Eater.” It was written during a tough time in my life and it was a way for me to speak about things I didn’t want to address directly; it was a mask of sorts or a metaphor for going out on one’s own to make one’s life. Other prose poems in the collection I think might stand out: The Fire, The Man and the Antlers, The Dragon and the Coyote, The Guitarist, The Skelton and the Book, The Skeleton and the Piano.

Let’s also talk about the flowers in The Fire Eater. You mentioned that the theme was intentional. How do flowers and nature influence your poetry? I tend to juxtapose flowers and city imagery: for example, in “The Sunflowers in the City,” literal sunflowers fall from the sky like rain as the metro howls in the background. I’ve always been a fan of flowers, but I need to learn more in terms of the names, etc. I love giving out flowers on Mother’s Day and Valentine’s Day. They are nature’s gift to all of us.

What are you reading right now, and what poets most inspire you? Right now, I’m going back and reading Baudelaire, Rankine, Kilbran, and Simic as I prepare to teach several prose poetry courses this year. As far as what poets inspire me? The ones that are not haters. The ones that show love. The ones that are confident in themselves. The ones that don’t expect everyone to write exactly like them. I used to feel like that in my twenties, that everyone should write in my style, but I thankfully grew out of that.

What scents or fragrances transport you, and where do they take you? I like the smell of perfume on a woman. Just a personal preference. I like to wear cologne. I didn’t always like to wear cologne, but my brother got me into it. Now, I love it. I don’t know where they take me exactly, but I just admire the sophisticated notes and appeal of the fragrances. Oh, and I like the smell of new books and the smell of sports cards remind me of my youth.


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? I like regular days. I like my life. Answering work emails in the morning. Maybe getting a publication email. Going to the library. Working on the computer. Having a salad for lunch. Talking to my therapist. As far as special days: going to an LA sports event. Going to a reading. Going to a museum. Going to the beach. Having a coffee with a poet I admire. Things I dislike: shopping, DMV, trendy nightclubs.

How do we keep up with you online? Twitter: @JoseHernandezDz, Instagram: @jose_hdz_dz, Facebook: Jose Hernandez Diaz.



Blue Mountain Review / june 2021


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

jason myerS echotheo

editor-in-chief of

By: angela dribben

When did you come on board with EcoTheo Review? With the thousands (possibly millions) of journals out there, what makes or made you feel like this is the place you are meant to be right now? How do you feel like you’ve grown (as a human, a writer, a leader) since taking on this position? I was invited to serve as poetry editor in 2015 by the founding editors of EcoTheo Review, Will Wellman and Nick Babladelis. They had launched a few years prior as a web forum for people interested in expressing, through art and writing, the intersections of ecology and theology. I first learned of their work from my friend Tyler Sit, who succeeded me as president of Candler Creation Keepers, the ecotheology student organization I founded at Emory University’s Candler School of Theology in 2009. Prior to my time at Candler, I had received a BA in literature at Bennington College, and an MFA in Poetry at NYU. The opportunity to curate poetry for a journal that recognized and celebrated the braided, entangled qualities of our relationships with nature, God, and creativity felt like pure gift. It still feels that way six years later, though my title has changed, first to Editor-in-Chief and now to Executive Director as EcoTheo evolves into a nonprofit that publishes a magazine, runs a reading series and a literary festival, and helps to facilitate the Starshine and Clay Fellowship. I have had the joy of collaborating with so many individuals and am astonished every day by the brilliance and generosity of the other leaders of the magazine, LOGOS, and the organizations we get to partner with. I’ve learned how to maintain spreadsheets and struggled to honor the countless hours of unpaid labor from our contributors and collaborators. I’ve become more responsible and more thoughtful thanks to the patience and care of everyone involved in our work.

We’d love to hear more about the Starshine and Clay Fellowship. How did EcoTheo Review become part of it? What is the mission? What will the journal bring to the fellows/fellowship in the year(s) to come? After the murder of George Floyd last year and the moral reckonings that followed, my friend Travis Helms (founder of LOGOS, a reading series informed by Episcopalian liturgy) and I reached out to our mutual friend Amanda Johnston, to express care, and also to convey our desire to do something tangible in support of Cave Canem (Amanda was president of the board at the time) and their mission to cultivate the artistic and professional growth of African American poets. Amanda connected us with Malcolm Tariq, who had published a reflection on the process of making his first book in the Spring 2020 issue of EcoTheo and serves as Programs & Communications Manager for Cave Canem. Through a number of conversations with Malcolm we decided to initiate a fellowship that would a) publish the poetry of four fellows in the Summer issue(s) of EcoTheo Review; b) give fellows an opportunity to travel to our Wonder in Wyoming festival and give LOGOS featured readings with Starshine judge Gregory Pardlo and others; c) receive prize money and opportunities for mentorship with Greg and other Cave poets.



Blue Mountain Review / june 2021

All Cave Canem awards and fellowships are named in honor of poets who have blazed trails, and we landed on Lucille Clifton as the poet we wanted to honor with this fellowship. I thought immediately of her famous poem, “won’t you celebrate with me,” and the wonderful lines about making it up, her life, on a bridge between “starshine and clay.” For me that phrase captures the mission of EcoTheo, to be rooted in earth, in the particulars, with an attention to the heavens, the sublime, the divine. So, we decided to use her words instead of simply her name.

I spent time reading through the social justice project at EcoTheo Review. How did this come to be part of the journal? What would you like to see submitted more often? What future do you dream about for this section? Thanks for taking time to visit that part of the website! This evolved out of conversations with an editor, Manik Perera, who has since moved on to other things. We envisioned holding space for art, writing, and conversations that addressed the entangled nature of nature, human and more-than-human. In addressing inequalities, injustices, and forms of violence and oppression experienced by particular individuals and groups in our human community, we recognize the injustices committed unto others and to other species, to flora and fauna, bodies of water, land. In her book Ecowomanism, Dr. Melanie Harris writes “Earth justice is social justice, and social justice is earth justice.” So this is something we want to examine, to lament what needs to be lamented, to celebrate what needs to be celebrated, and to inspire commitments to taking better care of one another and what the Episcopal Book of Common Prayer calls “this fragile earth, our island home.” Our current Social Justice Editor, Emily Ling, works at the intersections of agriculture and community organizing, and would love to see more visual art that makes tactile these questions of who is able to access or be in contact with earth as abundance. We would love to read more fiction from BIPOC authors that speak to and from their rich engagement with matters of faith and ecology.


If you don’t mind, tell us something about you as a writer, as a person. What are you reaching for? What have you done well or wish you could do again? This is a marvelous question. I want to give readers a sense of having undergone something, so that when they come to the end of a poem or essay or work of fiction, they feel not just that they have read something, but that they have had an experience which becomes as much a part of their imaginarium and sensorial memory as if they had taken a walk in the woods or sat at the bedside of a dying beloved. To be suffused with the wonder and agony and preciousness of being alive, a body on this planet. I think on a few occasions I have put words in a kind of order (I quibble with Coleridge’s definition of poetry as “the best words in the best order” even as I recognize their aptness) that has conveyed this. As a person, my goodness, I am reaching for kindness, for humor (is there a better sound in the universe than laughter?), to bring people around a table for convivial feasting. I want to enchant and be enchanted. Have I done any of this well? Ever tried, ever failed as Reverend Beckett says.

What are EcoTheo Review’s plans for the future? What percolates in the backs of the minds of the journal—staff and founders? What are y’all whispering about that’s coming but readers don’t know to expect yet? Y’all ask the best questions! I’ve already mentioned a bit above some of what we are up to, conspiring about, hoping for. We will continue to produce quarterly print issues and post new content weekly on the website. We are merging with LOGOS to form EcoTheo Collective and will host an annual festival in Wyoming where people will get to hear amazing literature while gazing at the Grand Tetons. There future Starshine and Clay Fellows will have opportunity to share and create new work alongside EcoTheo editors and board members. Most of our issues do take up a particular theme to explore. Our Autumn and Winter issues this year will focus on Sanctuary and Mapping the Sacred, respectively. We always have amazing book reviews, interviews, writing, and art in the queue for the website. In recent months we have welcomed an Ecology Editor, Michelle Kim Hall, and Theology Editor, Alysia Nicole Harris, and I am excited about the opportunity to really emphasize and expand these foci of the magazine through the writing, art, and conversations these two are curating. In the long-term we envision a particular place where we can office as well as host residencies and other forms of gathering to cultivate wonder for nature and the divine. The work of Image and Orion and Emergence inspires us for what is possible and what we might dream toward.



Blue Mountain Review / june 2021


Interview with

celia lisset alvarez By: clifford brooks

Celia Lisset Alvarez: You faced down pain and adversity by conquering it. How did you cultivate the warrior within and how can others gain a strong sense of self? It always surprises me when people talk about my strength or courage. I do not see myself as a conquering warrior. I see myself as a broken mirror; still serviceable, but never able to produce an image that is not distorted by the cracks again. Mourning, in general, is discussed as a process with a neat series of steps ending in acceptance/resolution. Psychologists have moved on from this model and acknowledged that the process of mourning is recursive, and possibly never-ending. Especially in a situation like mine, where the loss I suffered was unnatural (parents are supposed to die before their children, not the other way around), I think this is true. I have not and will probably never conquer my pain.

I did, however, try to keep it together for the sake of my two surviving children, and when I saw I was failing— screaming at them all the time, being generally aloof—I drove myself to a psychiatrist and asked for pills. Lots of pills. Pills are great. They have a pill for everything. And my sense of self comes from God. My faith has allowed me to keep on living, to submit to the will of God even without understanding it.

How do you make sense of the current state of the world? How do you stay sane during it? I am not a very political person. The first time I ever felt affected by politics was during the Trump administration. Otherwise, I have always felt like The Who, “meet the new boss, same as the old boss.” During the Trump administration, however, I felt censored for the first time. When he became president, I was teaching at a Catholic high school, very conservative, and was explicitly instructed not to discuss politics in the classroom, which was near impossible for me to do. I take a cultural studies approach to teaching literature, so discussing politics and history is a large part of how I help students understand what they read.

I quickly learned not to talk politics outside the classroom either. It had become impossible to tell who was on what side, and the wrong stray comment was capable of unleashing a maelstrom of anger, on both sides. I saw people who I’d thought were reasonable act like cult freaks. Thankfully the American people woke up and voted him out. Hopefully his regime will become a faint memory soon, although I do hope it leaves Americans with one lesson: Watch out. Political complacency can lead to chaos. It can affect you. So that’s how I survived Trump. Stood back and watched and shut my mouth.

And then came COVID. I never thought I’d live through something like this. And it came at the worst time possible, when everybody was raving mad, and you could trust no one. My response was the same. Shut up and shut in. Clearly, we had to go out for food, and then my husband was forced to work on site. But luckily my girls are still not school-aged, and I do my editing from home. We are still self-isolating. We wear masks if we must go out, not because of who says to or not, but because it’s common sense, something which people seem to have lost. We wash our hands. Open all the restaurants and malls you want, but me and mine will be cooking our own food at home and getting anything we need from Amazon until we reach herd immunity.



Blue Mountain Review / june 2021

Tell us about your books out on the market? What gave you the spark to give them life? Multiverses is the only one still in print. Well, actually, not until May 7th. It had been over a year since my son had died, and no one was talking about him anymore. My father had died just four months before the pandemic, and already it was as if he had never existed. I had all this rage and sorrow bottled up and I let it all go. I needed to bring the dead back to life. That’s why the multiverse theory is so interesting to me. In some parallel universe, my boy is alive, blue-eyed and golden-haired. In another, my father is able to see my daughters grow up to be ten.

I considered whether to publish it nor not; after all, it was intensely personal, at times even gruesome. But I eventually decided to do so because I wanted my dead to live outside of me as well. I deal with a lot of taboo subjects in this book—uncomfortable things like miscarriage, neonatal death, and unresolved loss. Despite being held up by my faith and my very supportive network of family and friends, I have felt very alone at times with my grief. This book has the possibility of opening up the Pandora’s Box that is grief, or at the very least help someone not feel so alone.

Shapeshifting and The Stones are both out of print. They both came about out of a desperate effort to get published; therefore, though they do have some good poems, as a whole they’re bad collections. They lack cohesion, and my voice was still that of differing poets I admire.

What are you reading now? On my nightstand I have Abandoned Vows by Susan White; The State She’s In by Lesley Wheeler; The Burning Where Breath Used to Be by Jen Karetnick; and Listening Still by Edna Small. I pick up whatever I’m in the mood for and read a little bit of that. Somehow I am able to compartmentalize the books in my head so as to be able to see them as a whole rather than as individual poems.


Who are your Top 5 Poets and why? Sylvia Plath and I don’t care who thinks it’s a juvenile or melodramatic choice. I think her life has obscured her poetry to such a degree that people have forgotten just what a wonderful poet she was. The intensity of her emotions, the startling aptness of her imagery, the technical proficiency of her work is truly outstanding. I would have never been interested in poetry if not for her.

Louise Glück. I was first introduced to her by the professor who made me a poet, Laura Mullen. She had me read The House on Marshland, and I was hooked. That first poem—“All Hallows”—so creepy and stark—I had no idea poetry could be like that. When my father died I read “Metamorphosis” over and over. That line—“intense love always leads to mourning”—Jesus, you could die after writing such a line. Though she doesn’t have the same amount of technical prowess Plath has, she shares with her that stark imagery and intense emotion.

Anne Sexton. Of course, you might say. But her gift was her unabashedly feminist, in-your-face voice. I think my favorite poem of all time may be “The Farmer’s Wife.” The way in which she could punch a hole into a psyche and take out something all of us can recognize (whether we want to or not) is fantastic. Without her Transformations, poets like Denise Duhamel, Jeannine Hall Gailey, and even Glück would not exist.

Denise Duhamel. Duhamel is weird and funny and deep and shallow all at the same time. She has a voice and style like no other. She seems to be babbling away some foolish nonsense and then bam! you get this amazing revelation that makes you fall off your seat. Hearing her read is a pleasure I’ve had, and she’s wonderful, has this rather highpitched, breathy voice, almost like a girl’s. And she reads just as fast as she writes. Her hair is this mass of red-blond curls, just like her poetry. Messy and quirky and completely enchanting.

Jeannine Hall Gailey. I’ve had a cyberfriendship with Jeannine for several years, ever since I reviewed a couple of her books. I went on to buy every single one. Jeannine is the poet I wish I could be. Like Duhamel, she writes about popular culture, another daughter of Sexton. She has poems on Wonder Woman and The Snow Queen, and a background in science that gives her poetry this almost steampunk vibe.

What projects do you have on the horizon? How do you stay motivated? I have a lot of poems about relationships that may turn into something. Nothing confessional this time! Rather, meditations on men and women and how we function in this world. I’m not sure what I’d call it, but those are the poems I’m writing now.



Blue Mountain Review / june 2021

What advice do you have for writers who plan to make the creative life their vocation? Get a real job or marry someone who has one. Read voraciously but well—it’s a damn shame the kind of garbage people are consuming these days. Read the best at the kind of writing you want to do, and take notes. Read about writing. There’s a vast number of books to teach you how to write well. Nothing gimmicky—if the title is Write a Bestseller in Five Easy Steps!—you’d be a fool to pick it up. THERE ARE NO SHORTCUTS. You must practice, practice, practice, and then revise until you’re left with a single amazing verb. You must always hate everything you write. The moment you allow yourself to walk around saying “I’m the author of 25 books” as if it were some sort of numbers game, you’re dead. You will never be an “author.” You must strive to be a writer.

An author is a fool; a writer is an artist. Teach if you can. There is no better way of learning how to write than by seeing other people’s mistakes and trying to figure out how to fix them. The same happens in workshops. But you have to try to stay away from the feel-good writers. You write a barely legible essay about how your mommy didn’t love you and everyone gushes over it as they cry with you, patting your back and calling you brave.

Run. You want a workshop where someone takes what you wrote and tears it in half in front of you and says, “Start over!” You may have talent, but writing is work. Words are your tools. If you don’t know how to use them, you’re just a poser. When you’re ready, submit and get used to rejection. Persist. But don’t expect anything from your success, especially if you want to be a poet. For every Billy Collins there are a million more talented and widely published poets who have never made a cent from their writing.

Journals usually pay you in contributor’s copies. Online journals in publicity. If you strike gold and get a book deal, don’t expect to be able to pay the rent with your royalties. If any of this scares you, don’t waste your time trying. Go into something else creative like advertising or whatever.

How do we keep up with you online? Best way is through my website, But you can also find me on Facebook and Instagram @hobomok, and on twitter as @CeliaLisset.


press feature Interview with

diane goettel black lawrence press editor-in-chief of

By: clifford brooks

Diane Goettel, at the helm of Black Lawrence Press you’ve provided the reading world a wide range of voices on an unflinchingly brilliant level. Give us a short rundown on the history of this institution. Black Lawrence Press was founded in 2004 by Colleen Ryor. In order to honor the Adirondack region of upstate New York, the press was named after the Black River and the St. Lawrence River. We started very small, just publishing a few books each year. As an imprint of Dzanc Books from 2008 to 2014, we were able to make significant growth. We’ve been an independent company for seven years now. We publish 24-26 books every year and our list includes poetry, fiction, creative nonfiction, chapbooks, anthologies, and translations from German.

What inspired you to write in your first creative days? What inspires you now? I’ve always known that I wanted to have something to do with the production of books. When I was just three, I started narrating books that my parents helped me to write an illustrated. I studied writing and literature in college and graduate school and my fascination has never waned. What inspires me now is the work of contemporary poets and writers. So much beautiful, edgy, ground-breaking work is being produced right now as I write these words.

What’s your philosophy behind running a successful press? There’s a great deal of work that goes into the running of a press. But, to summarize, we publish books that we love and do our best to get them into the hands of as many readers as possible. The first part is easy. We receive thousands of submissions a year and we always fall in love with more books than there are spaces in our production schedule. With the help of our authors, we do our best to market all of our titles—spreading the word on social media and through our newsletter list, setting up events, presenting our books at conferences and book fairs.



Blue Mountain Review / june 2021

Who’s on your team with Black Lawrence Press that keeps the machine running smoothly? I’ve got such a great team! And many of these people have been with me since I took the reins of the press over 10 years ago. Senior Editor Kit Frick is in charge of our chapbook series. Yvonne Garrett is our Senior Fiction Editor and also edits Sapling. Angela Leroux-Lindsey, also a member of the senior editorial staff, has her hands in many aspects of the press from copyediting manuscripts and updating the homepage on our website to spearheading our e-book division and overseeing special projects. Daniele Pantano is our Translations Editor and Abayomi Animashaun is our Anthologies Editor. We are also very lucky to have Associate Editors Gina Keicher and Julia Koets on our staff.

How do you stay optimistic in these turbulent times? I have a toddler at home; toddlers keep things in perspective and are always at the ready to administer doses of hilarity and levity.

How do you choose the artwork that adorns the covers of those you publish? Do the authors weigh in? Our authors are always involved in choosing the artwork that adorns their covers. They also weigh in on layout and design. We usually start by looking at artists’ online galleries. Saatchi Art is a wonderful resource.

What books are coming out soon that you’d like us to watch out for? I’m very excited about Fire & Water: Stories from the Anthropocene, an anthology of short stories about climate change. In Monica Drake’s blurb for the book, she calls it, “Beautiful, important work.”

This fall we will publish The Stone Sister by Caroline Patterson, winner of the 2020 Big Moose Prize. The novel is based on the author’s personal story. As an adult, she


discovered she had an older sister with Down syndrome who had been written out of her family history. In fact, that sister’s name was also Caroline Patterson.

Ananda Lima’s Mother/land, winner of the 2020 Hudson Prize, is focused on the intersection of motherhood and immigration and its effects on a speaker’s relationship to place, others and self. It investigates the mutual and compounding complications of these two shifts in identity while examining legacy, history, ancestry, land, home, and language. The collection is heavily focused on the latter, including formal experimentation with hybridity and polyvocality, combining English and Portuguese, interrogating translation and transforming traditional repeating poetic forms. These poems from the perspective of an immigrant mother of an American child create a complex picture of the beauty, danger and parental love the speaker finds and the legacy she brings to her reluctant new motherland.

Where do you see yourself in ten years? Hopefully doing exactly what I’m doing right now! Except I’ll have a young teenager in the house, distracting me with a different brand of antics.

What advice do you have for those thinking of submitting work your way? What will increase or decrease their chances of publication? First of all, we’d love to read your manuscript! And there’s no “trick” to getting published. Just send us the work that you’re the most excited about.

How do we keep up with you online? Check out our website! We’re at While you’re there, sign up for our newsletter. We’ll send you an email about once a week with news about publishing opportunities, events, and our latest titles. We’re also on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram!



Blue Mountain Review / june 2021

11:11 PRESS 2020 FALL TITLES Learn more at 1111PRESS.BIGCARTEL.COM






Interview with

edward austin hall By: hester furey

Hester Lee Furey:

Can you tell BMR’s readers a little about your new book, Dread Isle—including, perhaps, something of how it evolved?

Edward Austin Hall:

In terms of the novel’s evolution, slow would be the operative word. I opened the book to check its start and end dates—what should have been one of several nods to Samuel Delany, from whom I picked up the habit—only to notice for the first time that they were omitted from the first edition! That’ll have to get fixed in an edition to come. Suddenly, though, I’m questioning the dates in my manuscript, so a look at the journal at hand has a January 5, 2007 entry that addresses the surname Speed as being a real surname. Before that time, I’d clearly been thinking Speede but doubting the existence of that spelling. And with good reason. Speed is an old English family name, and it pertains because of what I’m consciously mocking here: the Tom Swift Jr. boy-inventor novels of my youth, books that I learned, at some point, had Werner von Braun—Hitler’s onetime missile scientist—as their technical consultant. At the outset, I’d say my formulation was that the Swift books were so relentlessly White because of Von Braun. The irony of such a conclusion, I learned much later, was that this designer of weapons for the Nazis became the greatest advocate for NASA to hire Black engineers and the like during the Space Race. An early concept for Dread Isle, one that will also have to wait for a later edition, dictated that one of its boy geniuses would be Black and one White, but the interior line drawings would never make clear which was which. That ambiguity manifests in the text through the omniscient narration’s total avoidance of my various characters’ racial backgrounds. The characters discuss race, albeit (as I like to say) tardily, but the all-seeing narrator is mum on this front.


: I know that you have been very involved in the emerging field of Afrofuturism. Could you define that briefly for our readers, and would you be willing to share any details about current projects related to that theme?




: A critic named Mark Dery usually gets the credit for coining the term Afrofuturism, but Afrofuturist art existed long before the label did. Typically it applies to science fiction or science-fictional work that revolves around Black characters and their concerns, or that stems from the efforts of Black creators. The bar Bill Campbell and I set for including stories in the anthology we co-edited, Mothership: Tales from Afrofuturism and Beyond (2013), was fantasticated ones by and/or for and/or about people of color.

Science fiction, or sf,*has spent most of its existence centering characters who are both White and male. Richard Pryor had a great-because-it-feels-true joke about sf cinema and how he never watched such movies (though he appears in a few …), given that the ones of his era had no black characters—as if, he said, White people were not planning on Black folk being present in the future. Afrofuturism seems to me to be a tonic for this ailment. You’re well familiar with a project of mine that sort of exists under this rubric, Lee: an alternate history spinning off one of my microfictions, “The Hugo Victors: Introduction to the First American Edition.” I have an idea for another story set in that continuum, one charting the evolution of Attucks & Gray, imaginary publisher of the imaginary book named in the earlier title. Just the other day, it occurred to me that a more accurate label for these stories would be Afroretroism,** but we’re already awash in names for such subgenres (Steamfunk, Sword and Soul, Rococoa …), and I like my friend Milton Davis’s advice on the subject: Never lead with the genre of your work. People who see themselves as nonreaders/nonviewers of (supply your unfavorite genre here) will stop listening as you start talking. *I shorthand science fiction as sci-fi exactly as often as I refer to my stereo system as a hi-fi: never. **A term I recently thought I might’ve invented, but Googleage shows a writer named Penelope Flynn used it in 2019, and my State of Black Science Fiction cofounder/colleague Balogun Ojetade did so even earlier in the decade.


What in your view is your most significant achievement in Dread Isle?

Blue Mountain Review / june 2021 Photography credit: forest mcmullin


EAH: What took me so long to figure out in the writing of Dread Isle had to do with preserv-

ing the identities of certain characters (see my remarks above that address the book’s evolution) and with the challenge of writing characters who are far smarter than I am. Kelley Eskridge, the novel’s initial editor, made clear the need for me to delve their interiority. My first reaction to that note of hers was, No, I don’t; my intent, then, was to focus on facial tics and other behavioral tells to underscore what my characters were thinking, without, you know, revealing what my characters were thinking. That notion started eroding after I saw George R. R. Martin’s comment that a novel which sidesteps interiority isn’t really a novel. Eventually, I settled upon the interludes that come between the chapters of Dread Isle and, indeed, probe the thoughts of various characters. What they don’t do is tell the reader exactly whose thoughts are being revealed. The character’s location appears in a header for each interlude, but elsewise, again, the narrator is mum. Of course, Kelley suggested I do this very thing in her notes, minus the anonymity, which was my innovation here.

HLF: You used to run Eyedrum’s Writers Exchange. Do you have a regular writers’ workshopping group currently? Or if irregular, please tell us about a good workshopping experience.


Alas, no, given that I did read Dread Isle aloud, start to finish, at WrEx (as I like to shorthand Writers Exchange). I suspect that other writers may have resorted to Zoom salons, but I lack any regular circle of my peers these days. Still, I have writer friends—in this case, paleontologist Anthony J. Martin and my fellow Weird poet Bryant O’Hara—off whom I’ve been bouncing ideas for my Dread Isle sequel. I’m at the string-saving stage on it, though, and I hope to do audio and other versions of the first novel before advancing it as a series.


You are the first friend I met when I moved to Atlanta 26 years ago. Over the course of our friendship, I have learned that you are an excellent source of information about cultural developments in the city. What in your opinion is the most exciting arts and culture event on the horizon as of Spring 2021? The greatest opportunity for rethinking?

EAH: As I write this reply, the annual ART PAPERS Art Auction has just occurred. Never-

theless, this fundraiser for one of my longtime copy-editing clients warrants mention for several reasons. For one, it happens annually, so BMR readers could check it out in 2022. For another, even before I worked for the nonprofit, I attended the auction and considered it my favorite recurring one-night Atlanta go-to. For what makes it a good cause, as well as an answer to the second part of your question, ART PAPERS proves itself to be a thoughtful observer of the culture, an observer willing to ask tough questions of its field and itself. Three recent issues of the magazine that had me rethinking assumptions of my own were the guest-edited Disability and the Politics of Visibility (pretty much everything about it), Art of the New Civil Rights Era (for which the publication’s style on capitalizing Black and White, in their racial meanings, got revised), and Monumental Interventions (which gave me new eyes for seeing public art and new ideas for weighing notions of permanence in that context). I never know what I’ll learn in the process of copy editing an issue of ART PAPERS, but I always know, going in, that I’ll learn something fascinating. And every now and again, I learn something life-changing.



Blue Mountain Review / june 2021


Established in 2015, Apricity Press publishes an annual issue of groundbreaking poetry, prose, fiction, art, and dance works from around the world

Embodying the obsolete word it was named after, Apricity aims to manifest the feeling of the warmth of the sun in the winter in all that it publishes. Apricity looks for work that does not sit quietly and remain in the grammatical/structural/societal constraints placed on its genre. We do not rely on outdated notions of what art "should" consist of, we meet art where it actually lives. Because we believe art is at its best when its accessible, all of our issues are free and available on our website, as well as EBSCO libraries across the United States. Take a look at our past issues to see the fantastic work we've had the privilege to publish! Interested in submitting poetry, prose, fiction, art, and/or dance to Apricity? Our submission period is September 1st to January 1st every year, and our submission guidelines can be found on our website. We can't wait to see what you have to share with us!



Interview with

mira mason-reader of apricity press

founder &


BY: laura ingram

What sparked the creation of Apricity? Apricity was born in July 2015, just a few months after I graduated from Mills College with a bachelor’s degree in English (and a minor in Dance). The creative writing program at Mills is so immersive, experimental, and incredibly supportive, and I wanted to carry that with me even after graduating. On top of that, I’ve been a dancer my whole life and while there are a ton of lit mags that publish a huge variety of writing, there really weren’t a lot of options for dancers to share their work in that way. With those ideas in mind and months of planning under my belt, I launched Apricity in July 2015, just a month before moving to Ireland to start my MA in Creative Writing program at University College Cork. Living in Ireland, where writing is seen as culturally important and necessary for the health of the community, was eye-opening for me. Even though I grew up with artists, the culture in the United States does not generally see being a poet as a worthwhile profession. I was blown away by the support for art in Ireland and it really reinforced my excitement for creating a space that felt as welcoming as that in Apricity.

What should those who submit know about increasing their chances of acceptance? The best way to increase your chances for acceptance to Apricity (or any lit mag) is to



actually read the submission guidelines before submitting! I can’t emphasize this enough. Reading the submission guidelines is good for everyone: it makes sure you know the perimeters of what to do for us, it shows that you actually care about our mag and have respect for us, and it makes it so that we can actually consider your submission. It’s a winwin! Every lit mag has different submission guidelines, so just make sure you poke around their website a bit before submitting to ensure you’re on the right track. And please, don’t ever send a mass email submitting your work to multiple lit mags at once. We always ignore those emails (especially since we don’t accept emailed submissions anyways), and it’s a very bad look on the submitter’s part.

What style of poetry or prose appeals to you the most? We’re partial to writing that doesn’t take itself too seriously. Don’t get us wrong, we love serious, honest, and direct work, but we’re not the biggest fans of writing that’s written just for writing’s sake. We love little investigates of daily life, totally nonsensical and abstract bursts, form (or no form), humor, and anything that feels genuine. Our editorial team doesn’t place any expectations on how AP issues should “look”, so we can keep open minds during our reading period. This helps make sure we’re choosing work that actually speaks to us, and not just work that “fits”. We love reading all types of work, and we want to see whatever you’ll send our way!

Blue Mountain Review / june 2021

How does your journal differ from others out there? Our inclusion of dance! That’s definitely our biggest distinction. Apricity was founded specifically to ensure dance had a space to be published, and I couldn’t imagine Apricity existing without it. Dance is so different from other art forms, yet the same, so it works so incredibly well in a lit mag format. While getting submissions for writing and art has been straightforward from the beginning, it has taken some serious work to get our name out there to dance communities. Every year we get better and better at getting our little mag out there, and every year we get more and more dance interest. It’s a long process, but we’re playing the long game and we’re loving every step of the way.

On top of that, another big distinction is our weekly inspiration blog called “the bud of the bud” (phrase taken from “[i carry your heart with me(i carry it in]” by e e cummings). “the bud of the bud” is full of fascinating things, from poems to cool Instagram accounts, to weird news articles, and so much more. We wanted to create a little space where folks can explore cool artistic things from around the world, while hopefully igniting their inspiration for their own work.

What new projects do you have on deck? We’re very excited to hold our very first virtual live launch of issue 6 this spring! We haven’t been able to do this before, so we’re beyond elated to show off our gorgeous new issue this way. This event will be a great way to meet our editors, meet some of our issue 6 contributors, and experience their incredible art in a really immersive way. Stay tuned for more details on this launch by checking out our website,! Another very cool new thing we’re doing is nominating our fantastic writers for the Pushcart Prize! While prizes/ awards aren’t an indicator of your quality or merit as an artist, we want to nominate our contributors for this prize because the more writing gets seen, the better. We’re very happy to have the capacity now to help broaden future opportunities for our submitters in this way.


Interview with

chip delany BY: edward austin hall


orn in New York’s Harlem neighborhood on April 1, 1942, Samuel Ray Delany Jr. (“Chip” to his friends) has spent his subsequent nigh-eight decades demonstrating that he is nobody’s fool, his birthday notwithstanding. At age four he attended the Vassar Summer Institute for Gifted Children; at five he transferred to the Dalton School in Manhattan. Later, at the Bronx High School of Science, he met his future wife, poet Marilyn Hacker. During their marriage, Delany wrote The Jewels of Aptor, which became his first published novel (though it was roughly the tenth he’d written by that time). He wrote about the marriage; his (and Hacker’s) numerous, extramarital, and sometimes-simultaneous/oftensame-sex affairs; and much else in his 1988 memoir, The Motion of Light in Water: Sex and Science Fiction Writing in the East Village, 1957–1965.

Among his many other books are Babel-17, Nova, Dhalgren, The Jewel-Hinged Jaw: Notes on the Language of Science Fiction, Tales of Nevèrÿon, Starboard Wine: More Notes on the Language of Science Fiction, Times Square Red, Times Square Blue, and Through the Valley of the Nest of Spiders. His multitude of awards and honors includes the Nebula, the Hugo, the Bill Whitehead, the Lambda Pioneer, and—for lifetime achievement—the Anisfield-Wolf. From 1993 till 2007 Delany took visiting academic positions at institutions including the University of Kansas, the Atlantic Center for the Arts, and the Naropa Institute Summer Writing Program at the Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics. He held a tenured professorship in the Poetics Program of the English Department at SUNY-Buffalo; he left that post in 2000 to become a professor of English and creative writing at Temple University; in 2015 he retired from Temple as a professor emeritus. Delany and his longtime partner, Dennis Rickett, live in Philadelphia.

Edward Austin Hall:

Chip, I know you adore Djuna Barnes’s novel Nightwood. Could you discuss a nonliterary or paraliterary work you hold in similar esteem?



Samuel R. Delany:

Comparing written works is a hard task. First of all, your request to compare works in different genres is itself a radical one, which you probably wouldn’t have thought of making, say, 25 or 30 years ago—and that’s because various genres, such as science fiction, literature, comic books, poetry, film, and television, have changed their positions so radically over the last 50 years (to choose an arbitrary number). Such things are themselves composed of memories, conscious and unconscious, around how you discovered them—as well, you’re comparing your knowledge of what other people have thought of a thing and when you learned of those judgments. I believe I first learned of Nightwood because a mentor of mine, Marie Ponsot, gave me my first copy, hardcover, sometime in the middle ’50s. A couple of years later—which, in my mind, feels like a decade—I ran into the softcover edition, put out by New Directions, with an author photo of Djuna Barnes herself on the back, taken in Paris in 1921. I was particularly struck by the cover, which I was sure must have been another photo taken somewhere on the pavements of New York, around Washington Square, with three leaves lying on the ground, though it could have been anywhere. Years later, when I read Cyril Connolly’s Enemies of Promise, first published back in 1938 (with a revised edition 10 years later), I was surprised to find him citing Barnes’s novel as a book that would certainly survive more than 10 years on bookstore shelves, along with many other books by people he’d gone to school with at Eton, even as he would go on to point out that there was not that much difference among the early styles of Orwell, Huxley, and Hemingway, using books written as early as 1926 and as late as 1937. It’s much easier to judge works in what Connolly calls the “Mandarin style” (which is everything in Barnes after chapter one) than it is to judge things in what he calls the “Vernacular.” My sense, at this point, is that Barnes, with her much more limited output than Joyce’s, is, today, almost as important a writer. The works by Theodore Sturgeon, whom I would class as one of the most underrated great writers of the United States in the same decade, fit into 13 hardcover volumes collecting all of his stories, and perhaps eight novels, none of which are more than 235 paperback pages. There is no way you can call Sturgeon’s writing “Mandarin.” A lot of it is dialogue, but he will do things like make one character talk in one poetic rhythm while another speaks in still another. The result

Blue Mountain Review / june 2021 is that you don’t need dialogue tags after a certain point because as soon as you hear the rhythm, you know who is speaking—even if you have not been paying attention but just listening to it in your head. Sturgeon uses metaphors regularly in his narrative—both in external descriptions of settings and in internal descriptions of feelings. Regularly he writes about how emotions feel as they move physically through your body. I can’t think of any other writer who does this—it’s neither the method of Proust nor of Henry James; one thinks of them and recalls Wilde’s observation, “The more characterization you write, the more your characters sound like everybody else.” Sturgeon has simply found a very economical way of avoiding this, which is one of the things that puts him in a writerly class closer to Barnes than to Orwell. Is there a single work of Sturgeon’s I’d say was comparable? Probably More than Human, with his first novel, The Dreaming Jewels, as a close second. But the virtues of both are to be found scattered through all of his stories in a way that, say, Barnes’s own newspaper human-interest stories— which have been collected and which are fascinating—don’t share with Nightwood, Ryder, Ladies Almanack, or The Antiphon (her 1958 play). Her newspaper tales are very much in the Vernacular, of which she was also a master. At one point, I owned pretty much everything Barnes had in print. A handful of moves later, and I’m down to five volumes, three of which are paperback Nightwoods, which I keep for my marginal notes.


Which of your books presented—or perhaps the better word is offered—the greatest challenge/s to you through its creation? I’m sidestepping the word writing to not make this a question strictly about the sitzkrieg that comes with a tome of a novel, and I also don’t want you to exclude your nonfiction as a possible answer.


By temperament, I’m a novelist, not a story writer. In that sense, as a writer, I’m the opposite of Ted Sturgeon. The paperback original, as it was conceived in the early ’50s and ’60s, was really a novella or a novelette. My single book of standalone stories—Aye, and Gomorrah: And Other Stories—contains only 15 tales; only five are under 6,000 words, and

Photography credit: Bill Wood


most are above 10,000. Part of that is the genre itself: a far-future story requires much more attention to the setting than a near-future one does—or, more accurately, the sentences devoted to setting have to do a lot more work in a far-future story than a near-future one. For me, science fiction itself is two genres, not SF and fantasy but near-future and far-future. Historical fantasy, when it gets further away than the American Civil War, begins to get mired in the same problems. It’s no accident that so many SF writers have been lovers of Medieval literature as well. When I first sat down to write The Fall of the Towers, which was conceived as a single work, I knew certain things that were going to happen throughout the whole story. They had little to do with the plot and everything to do with the structure. I knew it was going to deal with a war, and I knew it was going to deal with the side that lost. I knew that the first chapter of the first book (not counting the Prologue) and the last chapter of the third book were going to be mirrors of one another. I also knew that the second book, which would deal with the fighting of the war, was going to involve every other chapter being part of a fantasy-war novella; and it was that middle volume that I remember as the hardest book I ever wrote. Since then, I’ve started at least one book that I’ve never been able to finish (This Short Day of Frost and Sun), and at this point, I assume that I never will. There are some shorter projects that I have more hope for and that, for now, I will leave unnamed.


Imagine an Anything Box. This one is a human-sized cabinet, and its powers allow a user to extract from it a single person or thing lost to or by the user. Alternatively, the user can wish away a single human invention, foible, or behavior. Would you use such a device? If so, to what end?


Two things come to mind when you say this. There are a couple of things I’d like to see because they are impossible to describe: a gilt, hand-painted sewing box about 6 inches by 8 inches that my mother had, in which were spools of thread, needles, pins, a needle-threader, and some red cardboard squares that had punch-out food tokens we had to use during World War II. I used to play with it. I never stuck my finger on the needles, and I have no idea what happened to it when we moved into our new apartment, other than I never saw it again. Similarly, there’s my father’s old mechanical adding machine, which was four times the size of the sewing box and perhaps twice as thick. There was a digital clock that stood on our dining room mantelpiece I would love to see again, which never made it to our new apartment. Also, some purely mechanical combination salt-and-pepper shakers that had pewter bases, glass holders for the salt and pepper, and were small enough so that you put one at everybody’s place around the table. I suspect they were a pain in the ass to refill, but my grandmother kept them full for all the time my mother and my aunt Dorothy had them. They, or whoever was delegated to set the table, put them out at every meal at my aunt’s summer home in Greenwood Lake, New Jersey—we ate and played cards (canasta) on the screened-in porch on two sides of the house. We also had a set at my father’s much smaller, four-room house in Hopewell Junction, New York. As far as things to get rid of the unwanted, we already have one; it’s called an incinerator. We’ve got a door to it in this rather giant building I live in, halfway between my apartment door and the elevator. Dennis takes stuff out to it regularly. When I think of some of the things that have gone into incinerators over the years by accident, things that, if they had been kept, would have changed my life—Carey Reinstein’s drawings (“The Fall of the Towers”); an envelope full of letters between Marilyn and myself, and others between Jim Sallis and me; along with a first draft of a couple of documents (a final copy of “In Search of Silence,” an uncut version of “We, in Some Strange Power’s Employ, Move on a Rigorous Line”)—I can see my life being as different from the way it turned out as it might have been if, say, my novel Voyage, Orestes! had survived in toto and gone on to be published back in the late ’60s, when an editor, who remembered reading it, phoned me to ask for it again.



Blue Mountain Review / june 2021

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“Poetry is always sublunary.”

Blue Mountain Review / june 2021

—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



Interview with

christopher megrath of mercury magazine


BY: clifford brooks

What sets Mercury Magazine apart from other hubs of encompassing culture? I would say there’s a genuine grit in our writing that not a lot of others have. There is this idea that everything must be meticulously covered as professionally as possible when, that’s just not what’s most engaging, especially for an entertainment platform. There is also the matter of quality over quantity.

We are by no means churning out nonstop stories everyday but the posts we do make all do incredibly well and that is down to knowing what the audience engages with and how to resonate with them. A lot of platforms dilute their content by posting everything they can and kind of lose sight of the core audience they have. Mercury has been able to maintain and grow its readers because we only publish strong, punchy content that we know readers will resonate with, be it entertainment or conversational topic, alongside finding that angle and sly jab to throw in some spice.

What is your philosophy in the design of your finished product? Something for everyone. We just launched our first physical issue and going into it, we really wanted something for everyone. Mercury Magazine doesn’t focus on a niche or one specific subculture and we haven’t for all the time we’ve been live, so when it came to the magazine, we tried to really focus on what our readers enjoy and include at least something that everyone can appreciate.

What is your responsibility to your readers? Apart from factual accuracy and sensitivity around certain topics, not much.

How did you develop such a gorgeous online presence? What inspires your approach to social media? I come from this new generation that really appreciates visual appeal of social media and know that if it’s not engaging, people won’t bother with it. We don’t necessarily go for something accurately representative for our featured images, but more so what will look good on our feed. There’s a massive between covering the Grammy Awards with a picture of the award compared to Meghan Thee Stallion performing on stage as the featured image.



Blue Mountain Review / june 2021

What are you reading right now? The latest issue of Mercury Magazine with our cover star AIRPORTS which is out now. *ding*

How does music play into your creative process? Massively. A large portion of Mercury is music and every Monday we have our Mercury’s Music Monday feature. I know when I’m writing there will always be some form of music on, and it honestly impacts how I write. A piece may end up completely different from what it began as due to whatever feeling the music gave me. We like to keep on top of what’s hot in the charts and industry world because it usually gives us some amazing content.

What are causes or charities you champion? We just recently became an official media partner with the Stonewall organisation and as a lot of our writers and readers are LGBT+, being able to work so closely with them has been amazing both personally and professionally.

We’re currently working behind the scenes with a Black owned magazine for something exciting coming up in August too. When it comes to causes and charities, I don’t feel like you need to be doing the most at all times because it soon takes its toll. However, Mercury Magazine has and always will show support for minority communities whether it’s through donating, publishing content or simply uplifting others in the industry because there’s absolutely no reason we shouldn’t.

How can folks reach out to you for potential interviews and/or story ideas? Is that something you’re open to? Absolutely. We have a contact page on our site, yet people never seem to use it and instead DM us with enquiries or send their pitches to the wrong email. If you have a strong view on your opinion piece or a pitch grounded in entertainment, I’d love to hear from you. All of our pitches are considered for the print version so who knows, you may end up with a by-line in a magazine.


Where do you see your Magazine in ten years? I’d love to see it grow immensely. That does not necessarily mean in terms of success, but more popularity. Of course, I would love to be raking in money bags from the platform but in ten years’ time, I think it’d mean more to me if people just really loved the platform and there was a buzz around it. It’d also be really nice if it ran somewhat automatically so I’m not constantly tired and can have a few days off!


Issue: 001


Cherry valentine

hello europe!

your full guide to

eurovision 2021

the drag raCe star Chats fashion, eliminations and the Crown

ryan mCmullan

an exClusive insight into the new album and upComing tour of ireland's biggest star

the aussie superstar taking off...

How do you want to be remembered? As a cool magazine. Simply I know. I don’t think I care if people remember us for our hard-hitting journalism or ground-breaking coverage. I’d rather people remembered us fondly the way they remember MAD Magazine. I’d love to hear someone look back and recall us as being this laid back and irreverent platform that they just really enjoyed that covered what we were all thinking and wanted to read.



Blue Mountain Review / june 2021


Interview with

Josh Rothes of sublunary editions BY: laura ingram

Who are you? What sparked the creation of Sublunary Editions? I am a writer. For a while I wanted that to be the title I identified most with, and there was an ever-creeping fear that, as the press grew, I would suddenly be known as publisher, even as cover designer before being known as a writer. But I’ve come to understand now that my role as publisher is an extension of my writing practice. I was talking to Kris Minta (translator of Rilke’s The Voices) not long ago about what all of the strange little works I publish have in common, and we settled on the word generative.

These are books with the strong potential to lead to other books, sometimes by way of a conceit that could be varied—thinking of Jessica Sequeira’s A Luminous History of the Palm or Pierre Senges’s Studies of Silhouettes—or works that are more formally radical—the prose of Osvaldo Lamborghini or Christina Tudor-Sideri’s essay Under the Sign of the Labyrinth—or even rough-around-the-edges, works that refuse to be polished—Mihail Sebastian’s Fragments from a Found Notebook. I am, in short, publishing books that are not only what I want to read as a reader, but what I want to read as a writer.

More broadly, however, I am a software engineer by day, an outsider to the literary publishing world, a jack-of-alltrades (and you know the refrain), endlessly restless, hopelessly optimistic, always stiff-of-neck.

Tell us about your love of translations. Who are your favorite translators? I don’t know that I have a specific love of translations so much as, more and more, the work I was finding that I identified most closely with happened to be available to me because of translation. Discovering writers like Clarice Lispector, César Aira, Merce Rodoreda, Hilda Hilst, Can Xue, etc. opened entirely new literary and mental frontiers for me.

Of course, working with translators over the last few years—and beginning to dabble myself—I’ve developed an even more intense admiration for the craft. The notion that there are writers whose voices will survive translation no matter who tackles them is an entirely false one… if you’ve ever said that the work of a translated writer really sings, or the rhythm is incredible, there is a translator to thank for that. They are always performing a sort of triangulation between faithfulness to the words themselves, between the mood evoked by the words, and how those words fit into a syntax that moves the reader along in a way similar to the original.

I would be hard-pressed to pick favorites. I work with some stellar ones—Jessica Sequeira, Frank Garrett, Christina Tudor-Sideri, Jacob Siefring, Chris Clarke, Kristofor Minta. And I’m excited to get to work with Natascha Bruce (Can Xue), Emma Ramadan (Yves Ravey), Magdalena Edwards (Julio Cortázar), and others over the coming years.



Blue Mountain Review / june 2021 Outside of my immediate circle, I would name Katherine Silver (Onetti, Cortázar, Aira, Moya, others), William Weaver (Calvino, Pirandello, others), Charlotte Mandell (Blanchot, Proust Endard) ... I’ll stop at three, knowing I could go on for a while.

What do you look for in the submissions you accept? I come back to the word generative. Or maybe Eco’s idea of the open work. I’m selfishly looking for works that make me excited about writing and the possibilities therein. A perfectly well-formed, enclosed, polished, etc. work can be enjoyable, but not at all for us. I need some ragged edges to pick at, some threads to pull, etc.

That said, words that never fail to pique my interest—and my fellow editors will tell you how very easy it is to do this—intertextual, pastiche, fragmented.

What one piece of advice would you give to other small press owners? I’m not against advice, but I figure most other folks will say something about being open to wisdom from your forebears. While this is true, a more important piece of advice is to sometimes approach problems and projects with a curious sort of naivete that allows for novel solutions. You have to strike a balance between not wasting time and/or money because you didn’t think to ask anyone and being open to off-the-wall solutions to problems that are unique to you because of your skills, resources, and mental model of the world. And whether in publishing or in life, I always find it helpful to react with indignant skepticism whenever anyone says you must do something a particular way.

How do we keep up with you online? Our website is sublunaryeditions. com. We are on Instagram @sublunaryeditions, but perhaps most active and engaging on Twitter @ sublunaryeds.



! n t a ha c t I x i f






(770) 894-3496


Blue Mountain Review / june 2021


music Interv 66


Blue Mountain Review / june 2021

c views


Interview with

pat metheny BY: george yandeLl & clifford brooks

Multi Grammy-winning, social justiceminded, guitar virtuoso, living legend Pat Metheny - asking for a brief rundown of your life and career seems a daunting task. Narrowing the scope of that question: If you had to state three moments in your life that galvanized your resolve to make a life of music, what would they be - and why? Like so many other kids around of that era, seeing the Beatles on the Ed Sullivan show was a turning point. Suddenly the guitar appeared on my radar not just as musical instrument, but as an iconic symbol of everything that was about to occur in the world. Not long after that, my brother Mike brought home a Miles Davis record called Four and More. That was like getting hit over the head with a baseball bat while getting struck by lightning at the same time. I became the world’s youngest jazz snob for about 5 years. I was 11 then. During the 4 or 5 years that followed, I began to play professionally around Kansas City with many of the best players in town. I really learned how to play from playing with great players. Each one of the great KC musicians I was around gave me a real-world insight into music and what it means to be a musician.

When you rehearsed and played with Joni Mitchell for ‘Shadows and Light’, what did you and Lyle Mays learn about her creative processes? And Jaco Pastorius’s? (What an amazing group she drew together!)


Jaco, who had been hired as musical director, called


me to join him with Joni to form a “string band” of the three of us plus drums and percussion. The rehearsals were kind of a mess. Joni had just gotten her first electric guitar and Jaco wasn’t around too much, so it was a lot of really loud strumming and drums. At a certain point it did all start to come together. Just before the first gig it was suggested that an LA piano player might come in to play on one song. I mentioned that I had recently hired a great keyboard player to be in my band and that maybe he would do it, and although Jaco didn’t know Lyle, he trusted me that he would be a good fit. Honestly, it was all kind of a weird experience. I really thought the best part was when Joni just played by herself.

What is the concept of “jazz blues”? How does this flavor of music allow you freedom? Free jazz throws off the idea of rules. Does jazz blues adhere to a particular construct? The issues of genre have always been a puzzle for me and kind of confusing. I see music as one big thing that is virtually borderless - or more to the point, it needs no borders - it exists within its own realm that renders boundaries meaningless. When I read articles about music and musicians, often it is more about the culture and politics that surround a musician than the music itself. It is kind of an understandable dilemma. I am probably like most musicians in that I became a musician because I am a fan of music. My immediate response to the music I love is an almost overwhelming desire to understand why I love that thing so much. I think, once again, I benefitted from growing up in a place where there were not a lot of indicators to me of what was good or hip or cool or anything - I just took music for what it was based on what I perceived in my limited 11-year-old Lee’s Summit, MO self as doing its thing on me or not. So John Philip Sousa and the Beach Boys and Ornette and Henry Mancini and Miles and the Beatles really had just one thing in common for me - and that was that they were people who I heard by way of record albums. Beyond that, I didn’t worry about it too much. It seemed to me that there

Blue Mountain Review / june 2021


was way more overlap than differences in how it was registering to my quite un-hip and really uninformed kid musical sensibility. Basically, my life from then until now has continued that process of trying to understand, with the added aspect of being able to get a chance to reflect back the things I have found to be true along the way. Included in that comes the requirement of developing a pretty intense relationship with the nuts and bolts of the way music functions across a pretty wide swath of what has been accessible to a musician who came of age during the years I did.

Who are your Top 3 Favorite Poets and why? From 6th grade on, I basically faked my way through school because I was working on music for literally every hour I could stay awake. I left Lee’s Summit functionally illiterate in a lot of ways. So, I don’t really feel qualified to give an informed or thoughtful answer. In a general sense, words seemed clumsy for me compared to the kind of natural relationship I have had with music. That said, every now and then I am impressed with how someone can use words to thread their ideas in a way that can explode beyond my somewhat limited perception of what language can offer. I thought the words Fiona Apple wrote to the the theme on The Affair TV show were great because she got so much information in such a small space. Does that count?

When you prepared to record ‘Bright Size Life’, how long had you and your bandmates been polishing the songs you recorded? By that time, I had joined Gary Burton’s Quartet, which had been my favorite band - it was literally like joining the Beatles for me. Gary had recently signed with ECM, a new German label, and he recommended me to the company, and then went on to produce Bright Size Life. But he encouraged me to wait until I really had the tunes that I wound up writing for that record. He had been a teenage musician himself and I think wished that he had held off a bit before making his first record. The extra time that I took to prepare made a huge difference. And he encouraged me to use my “regular” band at that time, which of course included Jaco, rather than the established players that the company had suggested.

I polled musician friends of mine for questions best for this piece. The overwhelming majority asked: Do you think, if you began your career in today’s world, would your style of instrumental composition be as big a hit?



Blue Mountain Review / june 2021 I would be the first to say how lucky I have been over the years, and it is impossible to say that if all the things that had lined up along the way from rural Missouri to now had been even a little different, who knows? However, I might add this. In all these years, I have yet to run across someone who has a truly strong and original voice, really in any art form, who does not get opportunities as they develop. I think the reason for that is that it remains a pretty rare thing that someone is trying to achieve a kind authentic and unique approach to things, and then is actually getting to something that is in some way unique and unlike what folks might have run across before. It always kinds of sticks out. I am not saying that I was in possession of such a thing, but I think there were a few older musicians along the way, especially in KC, who might have thought that I did, and on the chance of that, I was given opportunities to develop and learn. However, at each of those moments along the way, (some of them quite subtle I might add) those opportunities were the points in time where I really put in the extra work to dig deep and improve and to go hard on the things that I knew I needed to work on. I am in the 1% talent, 99% perspiration camp.

When you’re touring, do you pause to put down some new tracks? Touring is really about a very particular kind of discipline for me. My whole focus is on doing whatever it is that I must do to play as well as I possibly can that night. After each gig is over, I write a lot of notes to myself about how everything went, try to rest a bit, and then start focusing on the next night. I do warm up for 1 to 2 hours before each concert, and that is often when I get to discover new things on the instrument since I am playing so much and the physical part of what it takes to play well is kind of tuned in. It is exceedingly rare that I write music on the road, but sometimes it does happen that I stumble onto something and develop it later.

“Road to the Sun” feels optimistically thoughtful. The depth is in your voice, but its energy catches me from a higher dimension. What alchemy did you inject into this album that stands apart from the others? Someone once described the music I have been involved with over the years as “not happy, not sad…it’s just feels kind of like the way it is”. I took that as a compliment at the time, and I think I kind of know what the person was saying. But there is a term that I always kind of flinch at when I hear musicians refer to what they are presenting by referring to what they are playing or writing at the time as “my music”, as if it belongs to them as a kind of possession.


I don’t feel like “it” has that much to do with me in a way - but at the same time, of course, I know it does. But I do tend to think of it as an “it” that has been there all along. I do my best to extract things that seem to me to have been around forever in a way that is a faithful representation of what I perceive them to be. The truth is that I try to represent in music the things I love in it as a listener. My goal is to be honest and committed in trying to offer the things that I have found to be true and meaningful in life - in sound. There is a kind of authenticity that seems to grow from that impulse that is important to me too - to really try to tell a story that is coming from a personal point of view.

When you and Charlie Haden collaborated on ‘Beyond the Missouri Sky’, how did you choose the songs that neither of you wrote? There are so many things I miss about Charlie. He was my best friend for decades, as well as being one of my real musical heroes. He was beyond peer on many levels, but one area that might not get talked about as much was his amazing ability to find and choose great songs. He had a lot to do with picking the music for that record. There were a couple that I had in mind too, but he found a couple I never would have gotten to that were excellent choices. What was interesting was that I was concerned it was mostly ballads and that I was playing almost only acoustic guitar. That was Charlie’s idea and it turned out to be right; I know that record is a favorite for a lot of people. I have a couple of cult records. That one and Secret Story come to mind, where there are a lot of people who have lived with those records for good parts of their lives, births, weddings, funerals and all else. That is especially gratifying to me when I hear about some of the music that I have been involved in having that kind of privileged spot in someone’s life.

How do we keep up with you online and do you have any live concerts on deck? I am waiting like everyone for things to be possible again. Concert dates can be found at

What are your thoughts on the amount of natural and technical training needed to hone artistic skill? This is a tricky one. I believe 100% in fine craftsmanship and skill; It is fundamental yet secondary to the content that drives the artist. Creativity is the magic that happens when craft and conceptual purpose are fused. It is like synergy, when 2 + 2 = 5. The best or most profound ideas fail to speak without the conviction of the mastery of the medium, just as the simple mastery of the medium does not make it art.



I will tell you however, after 30 years of teaching art, I have seen so many students with skills that are beyond impressive, that in the end, fail to find the drive or need to create. Show me the kid that has the drive and a clear

Blue Mountain Review / june 2021 work ethic, remains open minded and teachable, and I will show you the one most likely to excel and succeed.

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

How do you use social media to your advantage? Mostly Facebook, not too much personal stuff, mostly art related reports. I have an Instagram account but am not good at the tagging etc. and consequently find it less interesting. Who are your three favorite visual artists? Why? I could provide you with a long list of artists and their work that I really enjoy. But more interesting to me would be the list of artist/musicians. I often tell my students that it is imperative that they look at lots of art, from our past as well as what is being created now. However, I find it healthier for a visual artist to be influenced by, or enamored with artists of a different medium, for me especially music. Such influences provoke the artistic mind with out being bogged down by the influential artists own images. Visual artist, Odd Nerdrum. A Norwegian, figurative, painter who makes compelling, beautiful, and haunting work that transcends time. Musicians, just to name a few: Laurie Anderson, Peter Gabriel, Kate Bush, Annie Lennox, Nina Simone, Einsturzende Neubauten, Heilung, Gary Numan, FM Einheit, Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, Bauhaus, Shriekback, Beats Antique, Billy Holiday, The Cure, Danheim, Daniel Romano, David Bowie, The Books, Doubting Thomas, Johnny Cash, Juana Molina, Lana Del Ray, The Talking Heads, Loreena McKennitt, Ray Charles, Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, Pink Floyd, Raffi, Brian Eno, Sinead O’Connor, Sisters of Mercy, The The, Tom Waits, St. Paul and The Broken Bones and whole lot more.

What advice do you have for aspiring artists? Find what drives you to create. Work long and hard. Hope and be happy.

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


Interview with

pete & dede dankelson BY: clifford brooks

For Pete: Tell us a bit of your life story. How does your unique condition help you blaze on the guitar?

performances on YouTube. Some of my favorite new bands and musicians are Jared James Nichols, Dirty Honey, Tyler Bryant and the Shakedown, Nick Perri and The Underground Thieves, and The Dust Coda. They’re all bluesbased rock bands with those 80s influences.

I was born premature with a rare craniofacial condition called Goldenhar Syndrome. I had more than ten birth defects including a cleft palate, single kidney, micrognathia (small jaw), spine and vertebrae anomalies, and microtia/atresia (missing left ear and ear canal). My jaw was so small that my tongue would fall back and obstruct my airway. I had surgery for a tracheotomy when I was just a few days old.

The last book I read was one that I frequently go back to because it’s about how to chase your dreams. The book is called Leave No Doubt by NHL Coach, Mike Babcock. I met him a few times when we lived in Michigan, and he coached the Detroit Red Wings.

Before I was discharged, I also had surgery to place a feeding tube. With the malformed jaw and cleft palate, I was unable to take a bottle. The feeding tube ensured I got the nutrition I needed to grow.

My birth was the beginning of Pete’s Diary. Mom kept a daily record of my four months in the NICU and sent it out as an email update every night. It became something of a viral read before social media existed. People loved following my story, and Mom found the writing was therapeutic.

When I was about ten, Mom and I were invited to speak first at hospitals and later in schools. Not being afraid to speak in front of large crowds is probably one of the reasons I love to perform. I’ve been on a stage my entire life, so I’ve never hid from my condition.

For Pete & Dede: What are you reading right now? What new music are you into? Pete’s Response: I was a huge reader before iPhones and social media, but now I primarily listen to music or watch



Babcock is a big reason why Mom and I continued building Pete’s Diary as a business. The first time we met him I was in second grade, and he asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up. I said something like, “I want to be famous.” He said, “That’s good. You can be what my Mom taught me to be. You can be a ‘Difference Maker’.” I was too young to really understand what that meant, but Mom took it to heart. “Be a Difference Maker” became a constant mantra in our house.

I think it’s important for influential people to know that small things they do, like inviting a kid from the hospital to a hockey game, can make a huge difference. Look what it did for me and my family.

Dede’s Response: I’m the avid reader in our family. I’ve always loved how stories build empathy and enrich your perspective. Bedtime reading is one of my fondest parenting memories.

The book that’s impacted our family the most is Wonder by R.J. Palacio. What initially attracted me to the book was that it’s about a 10-year-old boy born with a craniofacial condition. What made me love the story is that it’s more about the importance of family and kindness.

Blue Mountain Review / june 2021 For Peter, it was the first book he read with a relatable character. Auggie, the fictional character, became a hero for him. In addition to connecting with the social-emotional part of the story, Peter related to Auggie’s love of Star Wars, family, and dogs.

I serve on the Board of Directors for Children’s Craniofacial Association (www.CCAkids. org), and it was my idea to use Wonder as the foundation for CCA’s #ChooseKind program. Students read the book and then make a real-life connection with a CCA kid or adult.

Peter and I spoke with hundreds of schools between 2013-2020 before the pandemic ended things. Our presentation has evolved from focusing on Wonder to empowering kids to be their own rock star. Peter is a powerful example of how to embrace what makes you different and pursue your passion.

For Dede: The bond between you and Pete proves that there’s love out there that can’t be outgrown. What challenges did you meet with Pete’s development, and how did both of you not only live but thrive in the gorgeous place you two exist today? We’ve been together through 36 surgeries and now we have this business. It’s not a typical mother-son relationship, but we’ve never had that. The hardest times for me were when Peter was too little to understand the difference between going to the hospital for a surgery, a clinic appointment, or an x-ray. For a child, it’s all scary.


Peter had so much anxiety when walking into a dark radiology room that he would throw up. He called the operating room, “The White Room.” Labs were the worst. He was treated like a pin cushion on multiple occasions. I still have flashbacks to him being held down in a treatment room while they tried to get an I.V. started. After 4 attempts I refused to let anyone try again. They ended up sedating him in the O.R. just to place an I.V. for antibiotics.

My stress dropped immensely when Peter was old enough to understand the difference between a surgery and an x-ray. Things were better when we could have a conversation about an upcoming appointment or procedure.

Humor has always been our best coping mechanism, especially as Peter’s gotten older. We’ve been in so many situations where if you don’t laugh, you’ll break down and cry. I learned that laughing was often the easiest and most therapeutic way for us to get through some of his scariest medical issues.

For both of us, we rely on my husband to intervene when we inevitably disagree or need an outside opinion. Peter has the benefit of not just my influence but also his Dad’s, and I know he’s grateful for that male perspective—and occasional distance from me!

For Pete: Who are your Top 3 Guitar Heroes and why? Angus Young, Slash, and Gary Moore. Jimmy Page, Eddie Van Halen, and Stevie Ray Vaughan would round out my top six.

I love Angus Young’s energy, catchy riffs, and stage presence. He’s the reason I first picked up a guitar. With Slash, it’s catchy riffs and melodic solos. Gary Moore is blues-inspired hard rock. The first time I came across a video of him playing, I was hooked. It was blues music with hard rock shredding.



For Pete: What do you want people who share your uniqueness to know about succeeding in the music business? You can’t rely on your condition to be the reason you’re successful. It’s not about exploiting yourself. For example, I use humor a lot to educate people about my hearing loss. There’s a difference though between people laughing with you vs people laughing at you. You need to be careful that you aren’t belittling yourself for attention.

You also shouldn’t use your appearance or medical condition as an excuse. Success is a very subjective word. I’ve only been playing five years, and I’m not what I would consider successful. I’ve released one single, but I’m working on my first album. Success, for me, will be writing new music that people love and touring to share it live.

For Dede: How do you keep both feet firmly on the ground? I’ve been married for 24 years, and my husband would never put up with a big ego from either of us!

Everyone is equally important in our family. Peter is 20 and his brother, Jacob, is 16. They are very different, but we’ve raised them to always be there for each other. We take family vacations with just the four of us because those memories of being together, navigating new adventures and different cultures, are priceless.

What is your idea of a life well-lived? Dede: My idea of a life well lived is choosing to be your own hero. Circumstances don’t define your life; how you perceive them does. That’s how you influence your destiny.

Pete: My idea of a life well lived is being confident and proud of who you are and pursuing your passion without worrying about what anyone else thinks.

Blue Mountain Review / june 2021

How can we keep up with you online? Our website and blog is

You can also follow us on •

Instagram @Petes.Diary,

TikTok @PetesDiary,

Twitter @Petes_Diary,

Pete’s Diary Facebook Page, and our new

YouTube Channel (Pete’s Diary Official).

Photo credit: Marie Moore




Blue Mountain Review / june 2021


VISUAL POETRY | VISUAL ART To browse available work, visit:

Connect: Instagram: @writeroctavioquintanilla Twitter: @OctQuintanilla

click here to purchase


Interview with

lyrics born & cutso BY: clifford brooks

Lyrics Born: To begin, let me humbly say it’s a supreme honor to share your genius with our readers. To follow: Give us a rundown on the beginnings and soaring career of Lyrics Born. Thank you, I appreciate that. I started rapping in high school, Berkeley, CA, and “went pro” in college when I met the SoleSides crew, who later became Quannum Projects. I dropped my 1st single in 1993, and now here we are 15 albums later. Lol.

Many artists are different people onstage vs. who they show in their private lives. The sly trick of Mark Twain was he was no different on stage than he was Samuel Clemens on the street. How does that factor into your life? Is Lyrics Born any different than Tsutomu Shimura? What does “Lyrics Born” mean to you? That’s a good question. I’m definitely artistic, and look for the artful qualities in most things I partake in, whether it’s parenting, doing business, having conversations, etc. That said, it’s not all consuming, nor all-defining. I’m the Funkiest Rapper Alive, but not when I’m taking my son to get Boba.

Since changing your name in 1995, and spinning successful album after album over 26 years, how has the music scene changed? The scene has expanded and broadened as much as the music has, meanwhile the mechanisms and means by which we discover and consume music has completely changed. I love the access we all have now, but it’s nearly impossible to keep up with, or stay on the cutting edge of.

What are you reading now, and what books made the most impact on your life? Right now, the only thing I read is my horoscope daily. Virgo, baby. I’m that dude. Otherwise, I’m a huge biography fan. Malcolm X, James Brown, Fred Wesley, Miles Davis... All the great minds and spirits.

The Lyrics Born Variety Show Season 7: The Series Finale is a textbook on breaking into and sustaining a career in music. On that album you say things like, «People get wrapped up in the way things appear. It›s the sacrifice you give to your art that will sustain you your whole career,» and, “Every artist needs to own their own company as a launching pad or something to fall back on.” The album was funded by a phenomenally successful Kickstarter. You say, “If I couldn’t do it the way I wanted, I wasn’t going to do it at all.” Standing tall and an innovator



Blue Mountain Review / june 2021

and business-minded artist, what hard, practical truths can you share with those coming up in your shadow? Number 1 is create consistently no matter your circumstances. Stay as committed and devote as much time to the craft as you can. Be honest about what you are not good at, and build a team that has broader interests and is more talented and knowledgeable than you are in the areas where you are lacking or have little interest in. Number 2 is retaining as much ownership and/or control of what you create as possible. In the 90s and 00s, I was systematically locked out of the music business. When all my peers and friends were getting signed to major labels, I was told repeatedly I was “too hard to market”, despite genius-level talent, having more hits, radio play, ticket and record sales, and consistent releases. I soon realized “too hard to market” meant “too Asian.” It forced me to start Mobile Home Recordings and build a label so I could simply heed my calling as an artist. As fate would have it, I was forced into ownership, and here I am now with 25+ albums and counting, all my publishing, power to sign and release whatever I want, and no machine to answer to.

Photography Credit: Mark Chua

You planted both feet in hip hop, but you wear funk like a fur coat draped over Sly & the Family Stone. If someone listens and can’t groove, they have no soul. Who is in the pantheon of musical influences that got you in the groove in the beginning and today? Thats easy. James Brown, Curtis Mayfield, Rick James, KRS One, Rakim, Jay Z, Nas, Bob Marley, Kool G Rap, The 45 King, Q Tip and ATCQ, The Roots, Dr Dre, Kendrick, Cole, DJ Quik, Ohio Players, De La Soul, Buju Banton, Koffee, Chronixxx, Ninja Man, Shabba Ranks, Prince Paul...

Your new track, ANTI, is a roar for awareness in the anti-Asian violence across this nation. What event got


you back in the studio, who spun the track, and what do you want the song to achieve? Cutso was doing a livestream benefit for #StopAAPIHate and asked me to contribute a dubplate of an old song. We discussed it briefly, then decided we had so much to say about the issue, it became a song. We wrote, produced, recorded, mixed, shot the video, uploaded video and song, and launched the donation campaign via Cutso’s bandcamp (link in my IG bio) all in 10 days. Here we are 3 weeks later with 7K raised. It’s been incredible. If we’ve brought attention to the issue, and made folks uncomfortable in the process, we’ve done our jobs.

What is your responsibility to your fans? What’s your responsibility to the music? My responsibility to my fans and the music is the same as my responsibility to myself: Speak my truth, regardless of how difficult it may be to convey, how it may be received, or even change in the future.

What is your philosophy behind living a whole, fulfilling, useful life? I just do what feels right. Learning to trust yourself is a lifelong skill that requires discipline and repetition to become habit.

I read an IG post from you that said, “When you have kids, racism hits different.” As a family man, what legacy do you want to leave your children? I don’t want my son to experience what I did as far as racism is concerned. I’m hoping with ALL OF OUR efforts, his generation will be one step closer to just simply EXISTING. To just freely “be”, without being persecuted, doubted, threatened, or endangered, is a feeling we’ve never fully experienced thus far in the history of America. It’s been an exhausting and stressful life-long burden we’ve had to carry, in addition to just having to function and succeed in society as a normal human. It is not our burden alone, however. I need to be clear about that.

Photography Credit: Mark Chua



Within our respective cultural communities, we need to address any Anti- _______ sentiments as they come up in conversation and practice. It’s not enough for you to be nonracist, you have to be Ant-racist within your cultural and ethnic community, where you have cultural capital/credibility, and people will listen to you. No one is exempt.

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Cutso What inspired you to work in music? What effect does music have on you? Being a DJ for many years, producing music was a natural progression for me. Eventually, I started to get an idea of what I wanted to hear in a song, based on my favorite elements from the different types of music I played as a DJ. Music has such a profound effect on me, as it is always evolving. Discovering new and old sounds and implementing them into my production, as well as DJ sets, is what motivates me to keep creating. It’s always exciting to find new ingredients to add to the mix.

How did you and Lyrics Born connect for “ANTI”? I recently took part in a livestream fundraiser event benefitting Stop AAPI Hate that my bud’s Marky and Franboogie were throwing. I thought it would be a great idea to reach out to LB for a special custom version of one of his classics to throw into my mix. He suggested doing an entirely new song centered around the anti-Asian plight. This was also right when the mass shooting in Atlanta took place.

As people effected by anti-Asian discrimination, we had a lot to say on the matter, so “ANTI” came together quickly and naturally. The song and video were written, produced, and shot in a matter of ten days. The fastest turnaround for any project LB and I have ever done in our years of working together.

What are a few of your favorite projects over the span of your career? Creating music for the Jabbawockeez with my crew, The Bangerz, which has been the soundtrack for their numerous Las Vegas shows for the last decade plus. Rapp Nite, my collaborative album with Lyrics Born is also one of my favorite projects, as it was my first time having the opportunity to produce an entire album for an artist. My EP project with Big Hongry, TIITF, is also a favorite of mine. It was my first attempt at making the real raw rap record I’ve always wanted to make.

What advice do you have for those who want to make a vocation of music? Always do you. Don’t worry about following trends. Don’t go to them. Let them come to you. Stay weird. And don’t hoard your own creations as a result of perfectionism. Let the people decide if it’s good or not, That’s the only way you’ll evolve as an artist.


Interview with

amiena BY: clifford brooks

Amiena, who are you on and off the stage? How has life sculpted the person you are today? I grew up in deeply religious surroundings. When I left that world , I had a lot of catching up to do and in a way I still do. I was fortunate to grow up being actively involved in music so, in a lot of ways, that upbringing influences my writing and music. Music was always one step towards freedom for me. On stage, I am way more open than I am in my daily life. Whilst on stage, I lose myself in the songs, the lyrics come alive, and my band’s energy fuels me to give everything. Seeing people at my shows also pushes me to give more. In between songs, I can be found telling how the song came to life in between sips on my cosmopolitan. Off stage, I am pretty much a closed book. I keep to my routine, my same group of friends and do not really venture out much into public places where a lot of people are. A perfect day for me is when I can go for a walk with my dog, sit at the piano and play, read a book, have a few friends over in the evening for dinner and appreciate the simple moments in life. Weird, I know.

What is your approach to songwriting? What do you do to ignite the divine, blue spark? I do not have a formula when writing. I have a few notebooks and write in them. A lot of it does not make sense. I could just write a sentence or write about my day or simply “draw” something. Then there are times, when my producer, Lars Deutsch, will send me music and words are tumbling around in my head faster than I can write them. So, I will turn to the voice memo and starting singing. That instant connection when words, melody and the music come together are simply beautiful. That does not happen all the time yet, when it does,



I am walking around on a high for a few days. I enjoy writing in my garden area. I am not the type of creative person that schedules writing sessions with other artists. I love to write alone. Lost in my own thoughts, usually with a bottle of Malbec next to me.

What moment galvanized your resolve to make music your vocation? I think my first time singing in front of a group of people was when I was 5 or 6. I recall the smiles in the audience and being happy. Singing is my happy place. So, no matter what was happening in life, I could simply sing a song, write and listen to music and it soothed me. My first album in 2006, I remember thinking, why should I order hard copies of the CD, who is going to buy them? I quickly realized after I sold out of the first 1000 that this is what I was meant to do.

What inspires you? Life inspires me. The people I see. Stories I hear. For my current album “Flares & Halos” it was a mixture of hypocrisy of real life people, sometimes myself and the world, but also finding a way to take charge of situations that happened to me.

What advice do you have for those who want to follow in your footsteps? This is going to sound cliché however, with anything in life that is your passion, I would simply say never give up. You can take time to pause and gather your thoughts and create a new strategy yet, if you love it, keep moving.

Blue Mountain Review / june 2021

What is your philosophy on living a fulfilling life? I do not have a magic recipe. I would say that it is important to surround yourself with people who inspire, motivate and believe in you. Every morning I wake up and I say to myself, what are three things you are grateful for even if I must fall back on, “I have a pulse so, no complaints,” it is a start. I love life. I really try and look for the good in everything. Granted, I am not always successful in it yet, I try. I believe if you are a good person, you give back to the world and you make your bed every morning, positive things will happen.

How do we keep up with you online? A good place to start is AmienaMusic is my handle on Facebook, TikTok and Instagram.


Interview with

adam gussow BY: clifford brooks

The Life of Adam Gussow would have equal parts music, literature, and love hard-won. How did you grow up? How have events shaped you? Why don’t you like the word “bluesman”? I grew up in Congers, NY, a very small town about twenty miles north of New York City. Rockland County, my home county, was across the river from Westchester, where the rich people lived. We didn’t have much money but didn’t feel poor. My kid brother Seth (IQ 189) and I (IQ 165) were these two down-market brainiacs; Congers was a tough, working-class place, almost entirely white but with no overt racism, and the public schools didn’t know what to make of us, so each of us skipped a grade and that was that. My dad was an artist/environmentalist. He worked for RFK out in Oregon in ’68 and we were all heartbroken when Kennedy got assassinated. Martin Luther King, Jr. had been assassinated two months earlier on April 4th, the day after my 10th birthday. We carried a lot of sadness in our family about those two deaths. The moment I heard Don McLean sing “The day the music died” in his 1971 hit “American Pie,” I knew in my heart what he was talking about. Those childhood events shaped me profoundly. I am a blues musician, but I wouldn’t call myself a bluesman. It’s a word with a curious history—originally a creation of white folklorists, as it happens, although Little Milton and other black blues players have made it their own over the years. It’s just not a word I use.

You’ve been featured in a documentary about Robert Johnson. How did that gig come about and what connection do you feel to that haunted sound?



I got an email from a woman who was an executive producer for the “Remastered” series on Netflix; she’d gotten wind of my scholarly work and wondered if I’d be willing to take part in a new documentary. It was directed by Brian Oakes, who interviewed me in a little building on Dockery Farm near Ruleville, Mississippi, where Charley Patton used to play. In Beyond the Crossroads: The Devil and the Blues Tradition (2017), I argue that Johnson wasn’t actually haunted in the way that conventional blues mythologies want us to believe. He was irreverent, hungry to bed women, determined to place himself on the stylistic cutting edge. He didn’t believe in the devil; in

Blue Mountain Review / june 2021

this he was of a piece with the younger generation of black Mississippians—“young moderns,” I call them; the Deep South version of the Lost Generation--who embraced his music. He used the mythology as a way of saying, “I’m bad, baby.”

The harmonica blazes in your hands. How did you come into that instrument? What catharsis do you experience when in the music? I first picked up the harmonica in the fall of 1974 as a 16-year-old senior at the Rockland Country Day School, the small druggie semi-alternative school in Congers where my brother and I were the resident townies. Everybody in the senior class was crazy about “Whammer Jammer,” a harmonica instrumental by the J. Geils Band featuring Magic Dick on harp. Although I was known as a well-behaved nerd, the sort of person who wouldn’t smoke pot or drop acid, I said, “I’m going to figure out how to play the damned thing and blow their minds.” And I did. But much deeper blues were already calling to me: B. B. King, the Clapton of “Strange Brew” and “Layla.” (I was teaching myself blues guitar as well as harp.) Music is a calling; I was called by that music. As for catharsis: although I’ve always listened to at least as much jazz as blues, blues was the only music that spoke to the romantic yearning and desolation I felt back then. I made no distinction between “black blues” and “white blues.” The night my first girlfriend told me we were through, I came home, fell into bed, put on B.B., and sobbed. But Clapton’s version of Freddie King’s “Have You Ever Loved a Woman” spoke to me in exactly the same way. Blues has always been about more than heartache; it’s also about conjuring energy and renewal out of disaster. Since the beginning I’ve been fascinated by the tonal tension between major and minor—the blue notes, bittersweet, that cut into your guts like a knife, raise the hair on your neck, give you a chill of recognition.


You are also an educator. How does teaching keep you young? How does rank against playing music? Do the pieces play equal parts in your life?

I’ve been teaching in college classrooms for twenty-five years. But I’ve been teaching harmonica—privately, at a music school, and in hundreds of videos posted to YouTube—for a decade longer than that. The two sorts of teaching are driven by great enthusiasm; anybody who has studied with me would rank me high on the shares-his-passion scale. Underpinning my college teaching is a desire to help my students think more clearly and discerningly about a complex world; how to recognize mythologies and think beyond them; how to keep inquisitive liberal imaginations alive in a world in which ideological division and cancel culture are increasingly incentivized and monetized. When I teach instrumental performance, I’m more like Mr. Fun Guy crossed with the village explainer. Blues harmonica transformed my life in such remarkable ways that I want to share that gift with others. Playing music stands apart from both sorts of teaching because it’s when I turn the thinking brain off entirely so as to let other sorts of energies move through me, often primed with a little bourbon. And they do.

What are you reading right now? About a year ago, in the aftermath of George Floyd’s death and the extraordinary public demonstrations that followed, I lost my voice for a while. I didn’t want to go near my videocam and film yet another YouTube video about how to play cool licks on harmonica. I wasn’t sure what I felt. But as a writer who had done a deep dive into the deaths of Trayvon Martin and Michael Brown, and knowing as I did that what the mainstream media initially claimed in those cases was at variance with what turned out to be the facts, I found myself looking for people—independent, contrarian voices--to help me understand where America had ended up. Why did so many people on the Left feel that a revolution was needed? What sequence of events had set loose the currents of illiberalism I was sensing among those with whom I had always fundamentally aligned myself? Why were so many, and not just on the Left, reifying and hardening racial divisions under the sign of critical race theory and standpoint epistemology?



Thomas Chatterton Williams’s Self-Portrait in Black and White: Unlearning Race, hit me hard, in part because the insights he extracted from his interracial marriage resonated with my own familial journey. I consumed countless podcasts, videos, articles, and books by a cohort of black public intellectuals who hadn’t previously been part of my library: John McWhorter, Glenn Loury, Chloe Valdary, Coleman Hughes, John Wood, Jr., Wilfred Reilly, Eli Steele, Karen and Barbara Fields. But I also read the books they were arguing with, including Ibram X. Kendi’s How to Be an Antiracist and Ta-Nehisi Coates’s Between the World and Me. Having found my voice again, I’m more determined than ever to honor King’s concept of beloved community—a pressured concept these days, but something that has

Blue Mountain Review / june 2021 moved me since I first heard of it back in the 1980s. For the record, I applaud the outcome of the Derek Chauvin trial, which strikes me as a triumph of due process and procedural justice. Had I been a juror, watching the amply evidenced and brilliantly argued case put on by the prosecution, I too would have voted to convict on all three counts.

Of the musicians to play the blues, who are your Top 5 Favorites and why? AG:

I’ll start with two sax players who helped me find my own sound on harmonica: Houston Person and Hank Crawford, on tenor and alto respectively. Back in the mid-1980s, they got played a lot on WBGO-FM, the jazz station out of Newark. They just had something, that thing, that called to me. A bluesy, soulful edge. I copied their licks, played along with their records, worked up my own rough blues harp translations of what they were doing. On harmonica, James Cotton—and specifically the album 100% Cotton, which contained the masterful instrumental “Creeper Creeps Again,” just put the jump and the fire in me. It’s good time blues, not lowdown blues. Albert Collins, who I saw live in New York a handful of times, is an explosive guitarist with an immediately identifiable “icy” sound on his Telecaster. That’s four. And the fifth, of course, is Sterling Magee, the one and only Mr. Satan, who I was lucky enough to work side by side with over a period of more than three decades. He’s one of the greatest, most original guitarists who has ever played the blues, and he’s hands-down the greatest one-man blues band ever.

Who are some of the musicians you’ve worked with and how have they shaped the way you enjoy music? AG:

Playing with Sterling over an extended period of time, and especially the four years we spent on 125th Street in Harlem, a block from the Apollo Theater, taught me about the central importance of the groove, how much power and pleasure could be found there. He loved to play songs to death, ten minutes or more; it took me a long time to realize that his background in the black church had led him to see music as a tool for collective spiritual elevation, working the groove to produce a feeling and then keeping the feeling going. Once I figured that out, I settled down! But I’ve played with many others—including old-school masters like organist Jimmy “Preacher” Robins, who would slow things waaaaaay down in Showman’s Café in Harlem and get the women shouting by talking about how he was going to rub baby oil on his baby’s belly. Blues guitarist Robert Ross, a longtime stalwart of the NYC blues scene who happens to be a white guy, taught me that you’ve got to sing the blues, if you’re going to sing them, in your voice, not somebody else’s voice. The best white blues singers, including Bonnie Raitt and Tab Benoit, have nothing to worry about.


What is your philosophy on living a good life? AG:

After I had a minor heart attack in 2000, I spent two years at Interfaith Fellowship, a New Age church in midtown Manhattan. We read A Course in Miracles, which supplemented the books I was consuming by wisdom teachers like Pema Chodron, Jack Kornfield, Marianne Williamson, Deepak Chopra, Sam Keen, Robert Bly, David Deida. My life philosophy is ecumenical, oriented towards the spiritual challenges we confront when we choose to live authentically instead of playing at life. The most remarkable moment of that whole period came on the final day of the “Opening the Heart Workshop” at the Omega Institute in 2002, a couple of weeks before I moved from Manhattan to Mississippi. The workshop leader asked us to write down our heart’s desire on a piece of paper. A vision suddenly came to me. “I want to meet my beloved, get married, and live happily ever after,” I wrote. “I don’t know if she’ll be white or black, but she’ll be a Louisiana woman, and she’ll be wearing blue jeans and cowboy boots.” That’s what my heart told me to write. And by god, less than four months later I met my beloved through She was a forty-something black woman from Dallas; we drove 280 miles each to Monroe, Louisiana for our first date. When she walked through the door of my motel room, she was wearing blue jeans and cowboy boots. I hadn’t told her how to dress and had forgotten about my vision until that moment. Not exactly a Louisiana woman, but come on. And reader, I married her. That’s my life. Eighteen years later, we’re still happy. You can’t make this stuff up. Open your heart.

How do we keep up with you online? AG:

I’ve got several Facebook pages and a Twitter handle (@ AdamGussow), along with a pair of YouTube channels. But the best way of keeping up with my live appearances is to sign up for my Modern Blues Harmonica email list, which nets you one or two newsletters a month. html



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Interv 92



Blue Mountain Review / june 2021



Interview with

Daniel Mcclendon BY: clifford brooks

Who are you? What’s your story? Are you different folks from the man to painter? I’m Daniel McClendon and I’m a visual artist. I’ve been making stuff for as long as I can remember. I think I was just born with that itch… It gives me purpose. And I think that’s primarily why I decided to try and be a professional artist. If I had to have a job, it made sense to make it something that self-feeds, so to speak. I do what I love--create—then sell the byproduct—the painting in this case. Simple. In theory.

I got a BFA from Western Michigan University in 2007 then moved to Asheville, NC in 2009 to try and figure the career thing out. That ended up being a little trickier than I had hoped. I was doing my thing for a couple years, then freaked out, had a mild existential crisis, and realized I wasn’t happy with the work I was creating—exclusively representational painting—and decided to quit altogether.

Thankfully only 6 months later, I had another moment of clarity and in the middle of the night, March 21, 2011 I wrote down a concept for how I wanted to create. It needed to be authentic, impulsive, and organic.

I essentially went from a much more traditional painting technique that leaned hard on my craft of painting to a highly emotional, process-focused abstraction. I’m all about listening to instinct now and I’ve now being building this body of work for over ten years!

It’s funny to think about my identity as a person and artist. I think upon first glance, I don’t fit the bill of what folks think an artist would be like. This larger-than-life demi-god that’s a tornado of energy and personality. But that’s just based on stereotypes of famous artists… especially artists who embraced the celebrity component (i.e. Warhol, Picasso, Dali). I’m boring as shit compared to them.

That said, I’m pretty sure I’m crazy. Not more than the average joe, but I just express it more freely through my paintings.



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What sets you apart from your contemporaries? As cliché as it sounds, I think when you tap into your truth, you automatically find some level of distinction. We all have a (somewhat) unique voice. When I’m in the role of audience and I see a piece of art that awakens a real response in me, I suspect that it must have been created with a high amount of authenticity. If it’s flat, I assume they’re creating while still tied to a preconceived idea of themselves. I think that’s what sets anyone apart.


How would you classify yourself, and who are your heroes? I’d classify myself as an expressionist painter, I guess. Or maybe and abstract cave painter. I don’t know. I always say that as a joke but I think there’s truth in the desire I have to tap into the primal. My hero is the woman (assuming) who painted the pig in Indonesia 45,000 years ago. She got the ball rolling on this whole visual art thing.

What are you reading? I’m reading “Sapiens- A Brief History of Humankind” by Yuval Noah Harari. So far it’s amazing.

How does music play into your creative process? I paint with a rhythm naturally. So, music just reinforces and guides some of that rhythm depending on what I listen to.

How do we find your work online and keep up with new developments? My website is It showcases all 400+ paintings I’ve done, as well as providing further insights into my process. I also use Instagram (daniel_mcclendon) to immediately share finished work or news. And there’s



Blue Mountain Review / june 2021


Interview with

natalia anciso BY: clifford brooks

Natalia Anciso: How do you see yourself in the world? How is the way you see the world echoed in your art? I am a mother, an artist, and an educator. I think that artists are vital to remembering our collective cultural history and because of this, when I think of my role as an artist, I see myself as a visual storyteller and a historian. So much of the art that I create is predicated on realities and legends of my home. My works are visual records of family and community.

How do you describe your art? The colors marry function to keep the eyes in movement but not moving away from your work. In many of my pieces, I juxtapose colorful watercolor-drawn images of bright flowers against stark, monochromatic media images, meticulously rendered in pen. I offer the beauty of home against grisly depictions of violence and death. My work not only tells stories, but also creates dialogue and critique around critical issues that have affected/ continued to affect my community.

How do you achieve that strong, but delicate presence? Oftentimes I use pen and watercolor on domestic textiles such as handkerchiefs, pillowcases, and bed sheets, drawing upon what Amalia Mesa-Bains coined the domesticana. The familiarness and feeling of “home” works in drawing viewers in. I think that the use of flowers in my work also helps to achieve this. Many people solely think of flowers as beautiful and delicate, but there is so much symbolism in flowers.

Who are your three favorite artists and how did they influence your style? I have so many favorite artists that it is extremely difficult to choose just three! I will share two movements that have influenced my work. I started to become a little more serious about my artwork in high school. This was also the first time I learned about Impressionism. I fell in love with the artwork that came out of this movement and was inspired by Claude Monet, Edgar Degas, and Mary Cassatt’s use of color, light, and brushstrokes. As an undergrad at UT Austin, I took a course in Latin American Art history.

I learned about the Chicano Art Movement and was literally in disbelief that there were artists, female artists, who looked like me. I fell in love with the work of artists like Santa Barraza, Yolanda Lopez, Ester Hernandez, Patssi Valdez, and Amelia Mesa-Baines, to name a few. Their use of color, imagery, and the messages that their work sent, which ranged from embracing one’s culture to addressing oppression, discrimination, and gender stereotypes, was very eye opening to me. Their work continues to inspire and influence me, and I have been lucky enough to meet, work and show alongside these powerful artistas.



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How does music play into your creative process? I love all types of music and when I am creating art I have to have music playing in the background. What I listen to just depends on my mood.

What do you feel is your responsibility to society? How can art ease the hurt so deep in today? As I previously mentioned, I think that artists are vital to remembering our collective cultural history and because of this, as an artist, I feel that it is important to document and share stories, not just my own story, but the stories of those who live in communities that have been silenced.

I believe that art can help with healing and with bridging emotions with words. It is a tool that can be used to share your voice when words are insufficient. My hope is that my work


continues to create dialogue and sustain messages with socio-political connotations, connections, and critique. I would also like my art to provoke not just further inquiry around critical issues that affect marginalized communities, but action.

How do you keep the divine, blue flame of inspiration alive in dark times? To be honest, this past year has been extremely difficult. I was 9 months pregnant when the pandemic hit, and everything was turned upside down. Life in lockdown with a 3-year-old and a newborn is no joke and my artwork was put on pause. The emotional stress of the pandemic and seeing how it is affecting communities of color has been another obstacle to creativity.

I thought that being able to work from home meant that I would have a lot of time to create, but that was not the reality. Right now, I am trying to balance being a mother, professional artist, and full-time educator. It is insane at times, but what keeps me motivated and inspired are my children and their resilience.

What makes you happy? My two little boys make me happy and although it may sound cheesy, secret random acts of kindness make me happy.

How do we keep up with you online? The best way to keep up with my work online is through Instagram @nataliaanciso and my website



Blue Mountain Review / june 2021




Blue Mountain Review / june 2021


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Blue Mountain Review / june 2021

pecial features


interview with

ghila sanders

executive director of

roswell arts fund BY: clifford brooks

Tell us some of your life story. What moved you to take up the banner of this noble organization? I was born and raised in Rome, Italy, and have been calling Atlanta home for over 20 years. My background comes with an innate appreciation for the arts and for the thread that creative output sows across generations.

Art has always been a mirror of humanity, a vehicle not only for self-expression but for the expression of entire societies, and an unparalleled storytelling tool that keeps us connected through space and time. What drew me to Roswell Arts Fund was the focus on community, the founders’ desire to build a Public Art program reflective of Roswell’s culture and created by and for the people who choose to live, work, and play in this beautiful city.

Your use of social media is elegant and poignant. Never overpowering but eye-



catching. How did you hone this skill? Thank you for following us on social media and for noticing our efforts! First of all, none of it would be possible without the creativity, passion and curiosity of our small but mighty marketing team. Our posts follow some simple guidelines: we stay true to our mission, we highlight local news and initiatives from other organizations that we feel are important and relate to our field, and we show gratitude. As the designated art agency for City of Roswell it is important to us to keep the focus on our community and use social media to showcase this magnificent city and its assets, from public art to its beautiful parks and homegrown businesses.

What is your philosophy behind the Roswell Arts Fund? The belief that the arts are a fundamental and essential part of our culture, a time-honored way of learning, knowing, and expressing. The arts unify communities and boost the local economy, and by being physically and visually accessible and available to all, public art is a fantastic tool for cities to amplify their message, share their mission, culture and resources with residents and visitors alike.

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How do artists apply? What types of projects do you support? We release several Requests for Proposals and Calls for Entry throughout the year and spread the word through our website, email, and social media platforms in addition to different regional and national channels to make sure our opportunities are visible and accessible to all. Our initiatives always have a public component, and we strive to be representative, inclusive, and welcoming.

What do you hope to achieve over the next five years? We have three ambitious goals: The first is to broaden the quality and scope of the arts in Roswell by strengthening our partnership with both city departments and private developers to embed the arts into capital projects. The second is to move forward with the plans to build a Performing Arts Center in City of Roswell to serve as a hub for music and performance, arts education, and events; and finally, achieve financial stability and independence so that we can really plan and not limit our dreams to one year at a time!


How can we keep up with you online and/or donate to show support? Connecting with our neighbors and visitors (in person and virtually) is at the heart of our work and we would love to keep the conversation going! You can find us in a number of places: On the web: Instagram: Facebook: Twitter: LinkedIn: Via email:

We are committed to a vision of Roswell as a thriving city that welcomes residents and visitors for its diverse art experiences, communicates a sense of place and attracts talented workforce, entrepreneurs, and businesses. The generosity and partnership of donors is what allows us to continue making this vision a reality. Please consider supporting our work.



Blue Mountain Review / june 2021


Interview with

matt pearce

of the

georgia small business development center (sbdc)

BY: clifford brooks

Tell us about yourself, Matt Pearce. How has life led you to helping “small businesses owners” today? After I completed my MBA, I worked in financial management positions in the computer and freight and shipping industries. I then owned my own business. It was a powersports dealership – we sold motorcycles, ATV’s and jetski’s. Very interesting business. After that, I had the opportunity to work for the University of Georgia Small Business Development Center (SBDC). I really enjoy being part of this team. I get to use my background from both the corporate world and small business ownership to help business owners and people who are thinking about starting a business. One of my biggest personal goals is to keep people from making the same mistakes I made.

Please explain the UGA Small Business Development Center and the role it plays in helping folks in your community. SBDC is part of Public Service and Outreach at the University of Georgia. As the state’s landgrant and sea-grant institution, UGA’s mission



is to make the vast resources of the university available to people and communities throughout the state. The UGA SBDC has 18 offices around that state that provide educational services and information to business owners and people who are thinking about starting a business. Business consultants, like myself, work one-on-one with entrepreneurs and small business owners to help them get started or grow, among other things. There are more than 50 UGA SBDC business consultants around the state. These consulting sessions are confidential and are provided at no direct cost to the business owner. We also provide training in group settings. Since the beginning of the pandemic, those sessions have been offered through webinars rather than in person. We offer programs on marketing, human resources, finance, cybersecurity, international trade and more. The cost for these is nominal. I believe most people who attend our programs are very happy with the information they take away from them.

What are a few of the forgivable loans out now through the government to help with the crunch this pandemic created? Most of the programs are managed by the U.S. Small Business Administration (or SBA), with funding from Congress. The Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) provides funds with low interest and long maturities to businesses negatively affected by COVID 19. Businesses apply directly on the SBA EIDL portal. This loan must be repaid. It is not forgivable.

Blue Mountain Review / june 2021

Payments are deferred for 24 months for EIDL’s provided in 2020 and 18 months for EIDL’s provided in 2021. Interest will continue to accrue during this deferral period. The Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) is a loan that a business owner applies for through a bank. If the business spends the funds appropriately, with 60% going to payroll, the loan may be forgiven. If not forgiven, the business owner owes only 1 percent interest with up to 5 years to repay. The Shuttered Venue Operating Grant (SVOG) is geared toward performing arts events and venues. Movie theatres and museums are eligible, but must have fixed seating for an audience. These are businesses that were forced to close at the start of the pandemic and have been unable to reopen. The Restaurant Revitalization Fund (RRF) is being finalized. The application is on the SBA web site.

To find information on any of these relief programs, go to the U.S.Small Business Administration’s web site at https://www.

What are two misconceptions people have about applying for these loans? With EIDL, you must meet certain requirements to qualify – such as a minimum credit score. Keep thorough records to track how you spend the money. We recommend putting federal relief funds in a separate business account in order to better track how those funds are being spent.

Do you offer business mentoring? What other services does the UGA SBDC offer small business owners? Working with an SBDC consultant is not a one-and-done event. I have worked with some business owners for several years. We want to help you grow your business and improve your operating results. You are in it for the long term and so are we.

How do we get in touch with you for an appointment? You may find us at Look for the regional office closest to your business.


interview with

richard neupert & pamela kohn of cine BY: clifford brooks

What swervy road of life brought you to the reigns of Ciné? Pamela Kohn: In 2014 I had the pleasure of meeting with then Athens Films Arts Institute Inc/Ciné Board

Presidents, Hugh Ruppersburg (who served at UGA as Interim Provost, Senior Associate Dean, Franklin College of Arts and Sciences, and Professor of English, now retired) and Richard Neupert (the Charles H. Wheatley Professor of the Arts and a Josiah Meigs Distinguished Teaching Professor, who teaches film history and theory with special areas of interest in French cinema, narrative theory, and animation; who is also serving as the current Board President), to discuss the possibility of me coming on as Executive Director. It was an easy yes. I was invited to be on the Ciné advisory board, formed in 2006 alongside Richard, Carl Martin of D.O.C. Unlimited, an architectural design-build firm based in Athens, amongst others. Ciné Founder, Brigitta Hangartner, discovered the building and perfect location in downtown Athens, GA, and she formed the advisory board to give advice for the theater buildout for both the aesthetic and technical design. The advisory board also worked to introduce Brigitta to top industry professionals to oversee the theater auditorium technical design. There were other fun discussions, as well, about the programming line-up. It was great to see Brigitta’s childhood dream of building an independent arthouse theater become a reality. Needless to say, Ciné has a special place in my heart.

What’s the mission of Ciné within the backdrop of Athens, Georgia? What philosophy do you apply to business? Richard Neupert: Ciné was launched by founder Brigitta Hangartner to fill the gap for foreign and independent movies and documentaries in the Athens area. There was no arthouse cinema here. Athens was famous for music and arts venues, but there was a gap in the movie scene.

Once the non-profit, Athens Film Arts Institute, took control of Ciné, its mission had already expanded to include a wider range of community events. In addition to the two theaters showing significant movies, the lab space was rapidly becoming a space for everything from neighborhood meetings, poetry readings, special screenings, musical events, group discussions, and special guests from the University of Georgia, including partnering with the vibrant



Blue Mountain Review / june 2021

Willson Center for Arts and Humanities. Bringing cinema and the other arts together for the development of community interaction seems to have become our driving mission and philosophy.

What genres of film do you feature and what types of events do you host? Richard Neupert: Ciné is best known for presenting

independent American movies, documentaries, and foreign films. For instance, we showed Parasite long before anyone else in the area and we present award-winning movies from Sundance and the Cannes Film Festival, as well as the short films nominated for Academy Awards. Quite often we include introductions to these movies and sometimes special panels. For instance, when we showed the highly popular Black Panther, we also arranged a roundtable discussion about the special effects as well as the important themes. For the beautiful, ecological documentary, The Biggest Little Farm, one of the farm’s owners who was featured in the film, skyped in to talk about her life and the movie with our audience. We have also had local filmmakers such as James Ponsoldt and Craig Zobel and composer Heather McIntosh talk about their movies. It is common practice at Ciné to bring in guests or have introductions to both classic and new movies. When we premiered Beasts of the Southern Wild, the producer attended the show and even called the young actress who played Hushpuppy to take questions. It turned out it was her birthday, so the entire soldout audience sang Happy Birthday to her. The producers behind Amazing Grace also came to Ciné and met with the audience. Plus, we have regular live musicians come through town to perform over silent movies. Ciné presents engaging opportunities for audiences, which is why we have such a strong following from our devoted members.

How does the spring and summer look for Ciné with COVID finally releasing its grip? Pamela Kohn: We have been offering Private Party bookings the

last months and look forward to our grand re-opening towards the end of May. We will have near-to-normal use of the theaters, beginning with a 4 day a week screening schedule with a somewhat reduced capacity. We will be launching our new Ciné drive-in popup events towards the end of May, so there are lots of fun things to look forward to. We are incredibly excited!


Ciné hits its 14th year of operation this year. Congratulations! How have your grown over the years, where are you going, and how do people find out more about you/donate to your cause? Pamela Kohn:



Ciné has evolved and grown in numerous ways over the 14 years. Audiences and memberships have really grown with the expansion of introducing first run films that we often manage to book exclusively in Athens on release, like Parasite— 2019’s Academy Award winner for best picture. Events have also expanded as people are more familiar with what we can do at the venue and are utilizing it as a creative space. Our goal is to draw communities together, strengthen the

Blue Mountain Review / june 2021

livability, vitality, and economic stability of the city of Athens. And we are very grateful that Ciné can be a contributor to this important landscape. As we continue to keep to our mission to enhance cultural understanding, promote civic discussion and affect positive change in our community, we are proud to be a hub in Athens

for the connection of diverse populations with resources and opportunities through humanities programming. As an intersection and conduit,

these last 14 years and particularly during 2020 and this year as we slowly enter back to some kind of normalcy.

Ciné connects the human histories of Athens with the institutions of the university and the city government through screenings, performances, art openings and readings, which include all our local community in making new and diverse stories that we share together. We are so grateful for support over

To contribute to our Anniversary celebration please use this link: http://weblink. Cine2021Anniversary


the accidental politican an interview with kelly girtz BY: clifford brooks “As we crossed the Colorado-Utah border I saw God in the sky in the form of huge gold sunburning clouds above the desert that seemed to point a finger at me and say, ‘Pass here and go on, you’re on the road to heaven.’” Jack Kerouac, On the Road


ayor Kelly Girtz walks and abides with road-tested optimism. Educator turned politician, Girtz discovered an end to restlessness in Athens, Georgia. Like Jack Kerouac and Neal Cassady, Girtz traveled during younger days as a means of introspection, adventure, and instruction. Consummate music lover, Leonard Cohen, Los Lobos, and Joni Mitchel’s lyrics outlined his unique pilgrimage. Genuine and straight forward, conversation with him proved easy. “The accidental politician” works with purpose to build a city its citizens grow to love as much as he. Kelly Girtz grew up in a military household, and the family moved to suit. Wanderlust set in early, not despondency. From childhood he enjoyed a constant curiosity. A child of divorce, unease, the open road symbolized freedom. Girtz never complained to me. “Travel helped me keep an open mind. Experiencing other regions of the country gives me a deep appreciation for Athens.” Teen years and into early adulthood Girtz endured battles of sensibility and character. He channeled the best of the Beats without the bad habits and self-sabotage. Fascination with the human condition led him to earn a degree in Bachelor of Science in Sociology from Old Dominion University. During his undergrad years he worked in child advocacy alongside experiencing an eye-opening internship at Norfolk’s Child Protective Services Department. Good work with the underprivileged, specifically with kids, stuck with Girtz.



Blue Mountain Review / june 2021 A need to find resolution pushed Girtz back on the road again. He traveled along the Midwest, driving to Yellowstone in a hatchback – then on to Spokane, Washington. He kept his mind open and slept in a yellow blanket made by his grandmother. “On that trip I became aware, living in the moment, embracing the present. Travel is important to keep an open mind.” Instead of perpetually retroactive in child protective services, he decided to take a proactive turn in the road, “I was galvanized in those years with social services to become an educator. Providing young students with the facts and sense of hope gets them out of a societal rut.” Girtz brought his charisma and flair for performance into his 7th grade classes, “I’m used to jobs that make me sweat. Nothing makes you sweat more that teaching 20 teens.” For a decade he set his days on education. With a Master’s in Education, he went from W.R. Coile Middle School to Classic City High School to Director for Student Services at Foothills Charter High School. Teaching Georgia History put the political gadfly in his ear. First, he took on an administrative role with Clarke County School District, and then into the seat of Athens-Clarke County Commissioner. Remembering Ralph Nader’s speech after his defeat in 2000, Girtz couldn’t deny the call to step up and ask for his adopted city’s faith. “I came into my adulthood in Athens,” he told me, “Athens is the smallest city I’ve lived in, but it’s big on culture. Events, ideas, personalities – a world fits into

this town. It has a rare history and refreshing walkability. I fell in love with the place in six months.” Kelly Girtz went on the campaign trail and brought home a strong win. His initial term as Mayor began January 8, 2019. He’s still prone to wanderlust, but his roots drive deep into the Classic City. COVID made travel impossible, and Girtz took a hard stance to keep his citizens safe when the Governor’s office didn’t. Now, as life eases into a new normal, Mayor Girtz looks forward to stretching his legs. “Over the miles and trials of my life I learned that by seeing the world gives me a rare perspective on ‘home’,” he looked up from where we sat in a

park and at the city he loves, “Other regions show you how good you’ve got it and ways you may be able to improve it.” The political climate dawns a day unlike any we’ve seen in history. These days will take innovation, worldly wisdom, transcendent hope, and a poet’s way with words. Mayor Kelly Girtz wears all these credentials in style, brushed with humility, prepared for the long road ahead.


interview with

mark gottlieb & jackie blythgottlieb of

office evolution- roswell BY: clifford brooks What inspired you to branch out with Office Evolution? My husband and I wanted to start a business together. Our backgrounds are complementary so we looked for something where we could use our experience. I’ve always been in the marketing/advertising/sales type industries and Mark ‘s background is public accounting but has owned his own commercial real estate development company for the past 25 years.

We looked at various business opportunities but believed in a strong trend towards coworking even before Covid.

What sets Office Evolution apart from other communal workspaces? We looked at several different communal workspace concepts, but once we met the people at Office Evolution corporate, we knew it was the right fit.

We are part of a national organization with currently there are 73 Office Evolutions nationwide. The great



thing is each location is locally owned and operated, as well as located in the neighborhood and communities where our members live, close to schools and restaurants. We provide all the amenities of a big corporate office (secure internet, private offices, conference rooms, live phone answering, business address, coworking, and flex office space) but with high level of flexibility.

How do you stay Covid compliant? 1st we encourage everyone to follow current CDC guidelines. 2nd we installed an ionic filtration system throughout the air filtration systems servicing our stand along building. It purifies the air and kills viruses, bacteria, and molds. 3rd, we also apply a product called Disinfectant and Shield on common area surfaces that lasts 28 days even in high traffic areas. It kills viruses and bacteria by impaling them. It’s not a chemical kill like other products, which is why it lasts so long.

What is your business philosophy? How does Office Evolution make people feel at home? Our philosophy it to help people succeed at their business by providing them an safe environment that

Blue Mountain Review / june 2021 provides for all their business needs. They just show up and work. We are owners but we are also part of the Ohana (family). We strive to make people feel that they also have some “ownership” of their work home.

What are some of the ways your facility comes in handy that many might not consider? Office Evolution-Roswell is not just a place to “do business”, it’s much more than that. It’s a community of dreamers, risk-takers, and doers. Our members have that entrepreneurial spirit, they bounce ideas off each other, some have partnered on projects, and all of them have made new connections.

What do you want people to remember most about their experience within your walls? “I want to come back because I do my best work at Office Evolution-Roswell.”

How do folks get in contact with you for pricing and general questions?



Or visit:

Office Evolution-Roswell

821 Atlanta Street

Roswell, GA 30075



1 DAY FREE TRIAL! *Inquire within for further details

821 Atlanta Street, Roswell, GA 30075

470-514-1500 •



Blue Mountain Review / june 2021


interview with

cynthia elliott

jax coffee

proprietor of

BY: clifford brooks

Tell us about yourself, Cindy Elliott. What brought you to be the proprietor of Jax Coffee? I’ve been in-and-out of the restaurant business since high school. In the early 1990’s I was in school at Rochester Institute of Technology in New York where I worked at a funky coffee shop called Java Joe’s. I interacted directly with Java Joe and found that making coffee for people was a great way to serve the community and meet interesting folks!

Over the years I followed several different career paths, but always came back to specialty coffee. Between my experiences at privately-owned coffee houses and large coffee chains, I know I can do better. No matter where I worked, I always dabbled in entrepreneurial adventures. It’s in my spirit to own my own business slinging coffee.

What helps your business stand out from other coffee shops? What events do you plan to bring in once COVID allows? We pride ourselves on being friendly, approachable, and in no way coffee snobs. We’ve all encountered coffee services where we were made to feel foolish by the barista. That makes people uncomfortable, and let’s be honest - it’s just coffee! Jax wants to be your laidback community coffee shop, not a place where you must be well-versed in the product to drink it.

We currently hold book clubs, yoga classes, and live acoustic music in a safe environment. The future of events here at Jax, and possibly all Main Street, could be boundless once the pandemic allows: trivia nights, cornhole tournaments, a softball league, open mic nights, etc. It is especially important to us to bring our community together in more ways than coffee.

Tell us about your partnership with Rev Coffee Roasters. First and foremost, we pride ourselves on sourcing great Georgia-made products as much as is possible. We love Jasper and we want to keep it close. Rev Coffee has served North Georgia for over 13 years. They’ve been instrumental in helping Jax develop its signature House Blend.



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What is your philosophy behind running an ethicallysound business? We treat our customers fairly and with friendly service every time. Our employees are like a small family and we treat them as such. We bank local, have local vendors, local roasters, local bakers, and employees are all from right around Jasper!!

How do we keep up with you online for specials and events? We have a great website to keep up with our seasonal drinks and specials, Facebook and Instagram highlights our current baked goods and dates for events.


interview with

kaleena goldsworthywarnock of the

bitter bottle BY: clifford brooks What makes you happy? What makes you you? I’ve been very fortunate to have to have a lot of

passions in my life. From being a full-time touring musician, to starting my own company. Through a lot of travelling, a lot of working, and a lot of soul searching, I’ve truly come to believe that what makes me happiest is being outside in nature with my family (and yes, I include both of my dogs in that) and – even though it’s tough to admit - working.

I’m very driven and pretty hard on myself – so being an entrepreneur was probably in my cards long before I ever gave it a thought. I love what I do – and I think any of my friends or family members would agree that what makes me ‘me’ – and what makes me happiest – is exploring possibilities and opportunities.

Give us the rundown on The Bitter Bottle. The Bitter Bottle is a creative project of mine that



came together when three of my biggest passions collided: bartending and hospitality, herbalism, and agriculture. I started bartending with the intent of it being a short-term gig; one I thought was just a steppingstone from one path to another. I had no anticipation that I would genuinely enjoy it or that I would find myself making a career in this industry. The universe certainly has a funny way of changing your plans, doesn’t it? Within a few months behind the stick, I fell in love with the hospitality industry. I loved taking care of others, learning from them, and being a part of these unique human interactions. Beyond that, I loved flexing my artistic muscles in a new way: cocktail creation and flavor pairing. I began studying historic cocktail culture and drinks and was completely enamored by the fact that so many spirits and drinks found their roots in traditional herbalism. From one curiosity to another, I began studying herbalism. To quantify this knowledge in a more physical, tactile way, I began volunteering at a local urban farm. It was here that things really began to click for me.

I loved taking care of others. I loved working with different botanicals, understanding what they have to offer, what they taste like, and what we can do with them. I loved supporting sustainable practices – specifically in agriculture. And I loved history and tradition. As a bartender who was

Blue Mountain Review / june 2021 VERY into bartending, I was watching new trends come to light that overshadowed our purpose as hospitality professionals. I wanted to bring our industry back to its roots – even on a small scale.

It was almost like a lightning strike when I realized I could combine all of these passions – I just needed to find the common thread – the way to express everything in one, simple outlet. This is how The Bitter Bottle was created. The Bitter Bottle is an herbal bitters company created with the mission to take care of those who take care of us. We follow herbalist techniques to create all of our products (paying respect to the plants, supporting only sustainable, organic botanical suppliers) – and formulate all of our products to taste good, so as to find use by our beloved bartenders and chefs. It has been a challenge to get to where we are today

(including the need to change legislation, navigate confusion on our products, etc.), but we are doing so with strength and determination.

How did you find your way into such a brilliantly unique vocation? By accident, honestly! My plan was to move to Chattanooga for a year or so and find my footing in Tennessee. I was planning to apply to graduate programs for music composition in Nashville. I was told I was going to be a bartender about 2 weeks before we opened, and I took to it as if I were studying for a degree. As I mentioned above, I’m kind of one of those people who can’t seem to stop learning. One curiosity leads me down another hallway and I sprint down it enthusiastically! It certain-


ly has its challenges being a niche product in an otherwise niche market, but I’ve found that by sharing my story and mission, more people relate to it than not.

What is your philosophy behind maintaining a ethically-sound business? I want to run my business as an extension of who I am as a person. I created The Bitter Bottle because I deeply care about taking care of other people. We work to support botanical suppliers that source organically, fair trade, and ethically. Some botanicals we work with are at times endangered, so it’s important for us to only work with suppliers who understand this and only harvest when is best for that particular plant. As a business, we also work to support locally when possible, as building our communities is so important to us.

What are you reading right now? What music lights you up these days? Currently, I’m reading a book about maximizing your time and being more efficient (Called ‘Do Less.’). I thoroughly enjoy fictional works, but I find I’m drawn to books that can help improve my life or my business in practical ways. As far as music, as a former musician, I fear I’m the worst person to ask! I tend to listen to a lot of older music – and more than that, I’ve turned into a bit of a podcast person. Go figure, I’m intrigued with true crime and more often than not, you’ll catch me listening to My Favorite Murder, The Opportunist, or In The Dark.

What gives you calm each day? While I find it incredibly hard to stick to, I actively try to meditate daily and make it a point to get outside and go on walks as often as possible. Just getting outside and calming my mind feels like such a reset. It is often SO hard to turn off my brain, so exercising that is so important.

How can we keep up with you across social media and/or contact you for products? @thebitterbottle



EcoTheo Review + LOGOS Poetry Collective present:

Wonder in


LIVE Reading Events Free and open to the public.


Blue Mountain Review / june 2021

9 - 1 1 2 0 2 1

Jackson Hole, WY Broadcast virutally

Saturday + Sunday Workshops and Contemplative Meditations with Featured Poets Sponsored by LOGOS + EcoTheo In support of Cave Canem

Special Reading with winners of the Inaugural Sunshine + Clay Fellowship

Featured Poets Carrie Fountain Diane Glancy Joanna Klink Gregory Pardlo Spencer Reece Paisley Rekdal Mark Wunderlich

Poet-Organizers: Travis Helms Jason Myers Jeremy Voigt

Registration Information Contact: Travis Helms | (832) 279-2024 *Livestream on the LOGOS Facebook page: @logospoetrycollective

With generous support by hosting institution St. John's Episcopal Church and in support of the Palmer Scholars Initiative.


All programming to be hosted in accordance with CDC best-practice guidelines. In event that this in person gathering is unadvisable, reading and workshops will be hosted virutally.

interview with

kerry magro BY: clifford brooks

Give us a few details that outline your incredible story from a non-verbal twoyear old to earning your PhD. I have a viral meme where it says Nonverbal till 2.5

What are a few tricks of the trade you use to calm yourself in anxious situations? Sensory brush for self-regulation and breathing exercises (3 reps of 5 breaths inhaling till your diaphragm is full and then exhaling). Also having a daily routine. Structure is vital.

Diagnosed with autism at 4. Spoke in complete sentences at 7. Graduated college at 21 Best-selling author at 25. Professional speaker at 26. Doctor at 31. Sensory challenges were my greatest challenge once I started talking. I still have some challenges with them to this day, but thanks to 15 years of occupational, speech, physical, music and theater therapy I was able to overcome many of my obstacles.

What are the biggest misconceptions promoted by the media about those on the spectrum? That all autistic individuals are savants (Rain Man). While people like me may have full-time jobs, live independently, etc., there’s going to be others who need life-time care.



What words of wisdom do you have for those diagnosed late in life with autism? Embrace who you are! I know many who think learning about their diagnosis as life-changing after years of misdiagnoses and not know about some of their strengths and challenges.

Where do parents go to find out more to help their children on the spectrum? Definitely recommend checking out my private support group Kerry’s Autism Village where you can give support and get some support back too. I post all my webinar videos on my journey growing up there and have several focused on my road as an autistic child (picky-eating, nonverbal autism, toilet training, etc.).

Blue Mountain Review / june 2021

How can adults find a therapist to help them with a late diagnosis? Definitely recommend reaching out to Autism Society’s affiliate chapters ( in your local area if you are based in the U.S. Many of these chapters have several autistic adults who can help provide resources on what this may look like!

BY: clifford brooks

How can we support and keep up with your mission online? Have me speak at your next event: http://kerrymagro. com/speaking/ Make a one-time donation to our nonprofit: Join Kerry’s Autism Village to give support and get support back too: groups/aspecialcommunity Consider doing a free fundraiser to support our self-advocate video series: http:// Check out my books on autism to potentially purchase: product-category/kerrys-books/ And follow me on… Facebook: Twitter: Instagram: Youtube:


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n Hollywood movies and American culture in general, the conventional inner-city narrative usually plays out predictably: absentee fathers, mothers on welfare, children ending up with drug addictions, or getting shot on the streets. Westerns are the stuff of American popular culture, as well, with heroes mainly living on their own and in control of their destiny (John Wayne and others of a similar stoic white male background).

American cowboys have a distorted history that has been whitewashed by the Hollywood narrative. Cattle farming was originally introduced to America by Mexican vaqueros, who later used it by slaves and free black people. The Black cowboy tradition and its history of self-determination have mostly been lost to history, despite some Western movies that focus on emancipated slave migration to the West, including 1972’s Buck and the Preacher and 1997’s Buffalo Soldiers. Netflix’s Concrete Cowboy offers a corrective: it’s an urban Western drama based on a famous community of Black cowboys in Philadelphia.

The film’s co-writer/producer, Dan Walser, spent months learning the history of Fletcher Street Stables and establishing relationships with the riders, who are positive role models for North Philadelphia children. There’s no denying that authenticity is at the heart of Concrete Cowboy, adapted from the Greg Neri novel. As the film’s beating heart, the stables reveal the level of dedication. It deftly and fluidly juggles a crowded narrative that includes both an open-hearted father-son reunion and a depiction of the perils of running the streets. Staub makes an impression at his directorial debut with powerful visuals and heart-wrenching moments. It’s not difficult to see why these horsemen are so inspiring -- they ride down streets, race through parks, and even chill around corners at a sidewalk campfire. An unforgettable slo-mo sequence in which a child watches these Black cowboys outpace the bus is truly breathtaking. One of the most impressive performances comes from a real-life cowboy who gets back in a saddle in a sensational sequence. West-Philly’s cowboys make captivating characters that more than compensate for moments of narrative inertia in Staub’s story.

In Concrete Cowboy, cinematographer Minka Farthing-Kohl uses beautiful outdoor shots and natural lighting to create a visually splendid film. The film’s contrast between nature and urban life is striking. Riders graze their horses in a field beside rundown buildings and hose their horses down next to weathered surroundings. Fletcher Street represents something that’s out of this world for the average American, yet the scenes seem to be as real and vibrant as ever. As I watched the warm, dream-like imagery of the film, I was left nostalgic for my own childhood summers. As Harp and the gang wrangle horses under the fading magic hour sun, you almost feel the summer humidity on your skin.



Blue Mountain Review / june 2021 The film follows Harp (Idris Elba), a Fletcher Street rider who turns his life around after getting out of prison. As his estranged son Cole gets into trouble at school and his stressed mother gets tired of his behavior, she has no recourse but to leave him with his father. All of Concrete Cowboy’s performances are excellent, with Caleb McLaughlin carrying the emotional story and Jharrel Jerome playing a charming, temping Smush with a perfect combination of vulnerability and pride. Nancy Toussaint of Orange Is the New Black fame is the strong tough-love matriarch of the stables. In addition to the professionals, members of the Fletcher Street Stables community are cast as well. With their extensive experience with horses and stalls, Ivannah Mercedes and Jamil “Mil” Prattis bring authenticity to the experience. As a group, the Fletcher Street members also act as a Greek chorus providing commentary on Cole’s adaption to working in the stables.

A few aspects of the film are lacking, including Cliff “Method Man” Smith playing a cop who came from the stables. Despite his loyalty to his community, he has a conflict between his career and his loyalty to the job. Also, considering that the stables scenes have a greater impact than the father-son storyline, it seems fair to ask whether the film would be more powerful as a documentary. The stables themselves are compelling enough to feature the story of the grown riders rather than a fictional composite of how the stable keeps boys out of trouble. Concrete Cowboy shares many plot characteristics of Boyz in the Hood. However, the film lacks the depth of that 90’s classic. In spite of its faults, the film works because it isn’t fabricated. It is firmly rooted in reality — even if some of those truths have been buried.

An earnestly beautiful invitation to a community that has endured for decades, Staub’s film illustrates unchained freedom that eludes resources and support. In addition, it is a bold affront to the prevailing Hollywood formula that tends to incorporate tropes from the Western genre. In this film, we are presented with a bridge between the common Western narrative and what hasn’t been told. Concrete Cowboy pulls this off well, albeit sometimes with a heavy hand, but never insincerely.

*8/10 stars



AUTISM SPEAKS Autism Speaks is dedicated to promoting solutions, across the spectrum and throughout the life span, for the needs of individuals with autism and their families. We do this through advocacy and support; increasing understanding and acceptance of people with autism; and advancing research into causes and better interventions for autism spectrum disorder and related conditions. Autism, or autism spectrum disorder (ASD), refers to a broad range of conditions characterized by challenges with social skills, repetitive behaviors, speech and nonverbal communication. According to the Centers for Disease Control, autism affects an estimated 1 in 54 children in the United States today.



Learn more about Autism Speaks or how you can get involved at

Blue Mountain Review / june 2021

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

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

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

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

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



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Blue Mountain Review / june 2021


the unexpected: an interview with

pastor trevera west By: casanova green


hen I was asked to do this issue’s Faces of Faith column, I was given specific instructions on who our editors needed. Typically, I rack my brain thinking and praying about the best possible choice. I did not want someone who fit the mold of a person of faith especially in the times we live in. They needed to be doing work totally against the norm of modern religious expression while still having a heart for people. My answer has an office across the Fellowship Hall from my office. Pastor Trévera West serves as the Executive Pastor of True Vision Christian Community in Lancaster, OH, where I serve as Lead Pastor. Among her responsibilities, she assists me in the day-today business of our church; works as a liaison to resources in the Columbus, OH area; provides pastoral care to our local and international members including hospital visits and check-ins; and administrates our Abundant Harvest Outreach and Food Pantry. Ministry and service has been a major part of her life. She has led liturgical dance groups, directed choirs, led praise and worship, worked as a church administrator, and has served on several community boards for many causes. She has won several pageant titles in adult pageants and is considered one of the pioneers of modern plus sized pageantry. While she still competes, she also coaches aspiring pageant participants of all genders and sizes. All this work is grounded by her life experiences. A young mother at 16, she worked to defy the odds stacked against her through hard work and strong faith in difficult times. Along her journey, she found out she was HIV+ during a blood drive sponsored by her then employer. Rather than live in her sadness, she used it as an opportunity to help others by creating her Real Talk sessions. She has presented her Real Talk sessions for several groups as well as The Ohio State University and Ohio Northern University. Also, she was



featured by CBS-affiliate WBNS 10TV for HIV/AIDS Awareness. I have the honor to have a front row seat to her life because she is my older sister. Her story is truly a testimony of how to overcome with grace and dignity and inspires people to know that victory goes to the unexpected. She took a moment to sit down with me and answer a few questions.

Tell us about yourself. Well, I am as basic as you can get: 39-year-old wife and mother. I am a pageant queen educating and advocating on HIV/AIDS awareness for 16 years (as long as I have been diagnosed). I love to read, write, sing, and make candles.

Growing up, we did a lot in terms of ministry work and service work. How did that correlate to the work you do now? The work we did growing up gave me the foundation to be selfless not selfish and taught me that love and care go a long way. The work I do comes directly from the ministry and service that were “made” to do.

Can you tell us more about your work with Hope Inspiration Vitality Positively? Hope Inspiration Vitality Positively was created to give me a voice in speaking on HIV/AIDS in public and in pageantry. I am a resource to the newly diagnosed and an ear for those who have been diagnosed for a long time. Under this, I have also held educational sessions about HIV/AIDS and real-life issues in churches, colleges and schools.

One of the things you are most known for is your many pageant titles and now you are preparing for your own pageant. How has pageantry helped you? What lessons can you share with us? Awesome question! Pageantry has helped me in many ways. It

Blue Mountain Review / june 2021 gave me a voice at a time in my life where I felt alone, and no one listened. It has also saved my life as well by reinforcing the value that the Heavenly Father has placed on me. The lessons I have learned are many. The biggest one is that the only person or thing you must defeat is yourself. Also, that you must win and lose gracefully. And my favorite lesson is being you is always best because I am EPIC!

Now that we’ve set a baseline, let’s talk about our foundations-- faith. When I asked you to serve initially as our Administrative Elder and now as Executive Pastor, you tried everything in your power to get fired and I didn’t budge. You said and still say “I’m not your normal pastor.” Can you discuss with people why you say that? I am still trying by the way. I say that because I am a real human being with feelings and emotions and want actual real relationship and conversations with people.

One of the things we discuss is the intersection of your faith and your advocacy work and how what you do is needed in the faith community. I


know the biggest question you get is “How do you integrate faith into educating people about sexual health and why should churches allow you to speak?” Do you mind unpacking that? Faith, sexuality, and health all go together. We are told at a young age not to have sex but are never told why. So, it becomes this deep, dark, and delicious secret. Man, like myself in situations that seem hopeless with nowhere to turn within the household of faith. So, people get educated in other ways that may be contrary to the word of God and the law. Sex and sexual health shouldn’t just be taught in schools; the church also has the responsibility as it has repercussions on the heart, mind, body and soul. Churches should let me come in and speak and teach because my testimony and the lessons I give come from a place of love, hope, and transparency.

With your story and background, what do you believe the world needs to see from people of faith? The truth! That we are flawed people who serve a flawless Savior.

What advice do you have to those who feel unqualified or inadequate to serve in the church as a leader? Be humble and do it! If he called you, he will equip you.

Switching gears, we are PKs on both sides. However, our formative ministry years were spent working with our mom, the late Evangelist Von Woods. What is the best advice she gave you and how do you use it to do the work you do? She told me that my work was a specialized sort and not to relent Go out and speak for all those who can’t speak for themselves. And if churches don’t want to hear me take it directly to the people!!

What is next for you? I am competing in a pageant next year as well as starting my own. And staying the course God has set for me.

What do you want your legacy to be? A legacy of love with no fear! You can contact Pastor Tré at



Blue Mountain Review / june 2021


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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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the latest work from

Laura Ingram 143

book review 144



Blue Mountain Review / june 2021




ialogues with Rising Tides came up last year, and in a Zoom interview I asked Kelli Russel Agodon to admit something about herself that few knew. She immediately answered, “I have a beef with gingerbread men.” A laugh caught in my throat because her face said she’d seriously thrown elbows with misogynistic cookies. Then her eyes eased, and a smile split across her face to let the light out.

Like then, Agodon, in her new book, keeps the same sense of humor, shoulder against yours, jibing you, goading you to see through her kaleidoscope, Tonight under an unkissed moon -/the recipe is disappearing, a dialogue/with rising tides and a lightship/crashing against a blue shore of healing. /When I struggle in a diorama/ or traffic, I become the silver orb/ in a city’s pinball machine (“Lightvessel”). Dialogues with Rising Tides is a nautical device the poet uses to direct the heavens to you. A rockstar “swallowing the spotlight,” so she is in her poetry delivering deadpan honesty and a dead-bang Swiftian take on society. Agodon is critical of herself and the art of poetry. A titanic effort goes into bringing that up new, but, We are quiet birds under the morning/ glory – jacket pocket – in the near-heart of the dying/ hydrangeas. Damage creates the thought/ of brokenness my ocean never has enough/ songbirds, my life never has enough/ song (“How Damage Can Lead to Poetry”). I never felt I had to wash off her work. It’s safe to sit back, relax, and not worry what’s stuck to the seat of your pants. “Getting an IUD on the Day of 45’s Inauguration” pinpoints a gut-deep invasion, trepidation, acquiescing to time, A woman holds the device to slip inside me,/ to stop the bleeding, to stop the babies,/ to offer the progesterone my body is refusing to make. My body is a flag woven in the metaphysics of bleeding. The poet gives us vulnerability, acutely aware of its price, and brings a ballast soon thereafter in “Americano,” April is not the cruelest month, / but the cruelest barista/ who didn’t smile back,/ who misspelled my name/ and rolled her eyes/ when she thought customers weren’t watching. Of her body of work, Dialogues with Rising Tides stands the most expressive in way of political theory. Never judgmental or heavy handed, poems like “Heartland,” “SOS,” and “What I Call Erosion” set aside laughter and insists you pay attention. Agodon pays intimately close attention to her ebbs and flows and knows something similar courses through her. It’s that precious connection she creates and maintains.

What sets Dialogues with Rising Tides apart from your previous work? It’s hard for me to say, but I tried to risk more in this collection than in any other book I’ve written. The poems definitely swan-dive into vulnerability more than any other book I’ve written—I really tried to “put myself out there”



Blue Mountain Review / june 2021 as they say and hold up difficult topics and look at them through a prism. When I began this book, personally I was struggling a lot, so I tried to allow the space for these poems and to be okay with whatever they were trying to speak toward. Sometimes it seems easier to not acknowledge the parts of ourselves that aren’t as pretty or to ignore the messiness of life, but I wanted to explore that, to say—we all go through difficult things at varies times in our lives and it’s okay if your life is not the perfect Facebook photo. It’s okay if your life has an unsewn hemline and hanging threads. I’m more interested in what isn’t photoshopped, I’m interested in the real and the complexities of being here on this planet together.

Who are you within this collection? I am the deer. But sometimes the sea. I am always the mermaid.

You tackle insecurities with a Swiftian flair for irony. What about you, and indirectly society, did you home in on within “At a Cocktail Party, I Am Given a Drink Called, Life is Fleeting and the Olive is Short-Lived” I wanted to acknowledge the temporariness of the human condition and how we love pleasure but sometimes avoid it or put it on hold with the belief there will be time for it in the future. I liked the idea of a moon being an olive and rolling down into someone’s cleavage and I wanted to speak to the fears we don’t always share—how we worry about being too passionate, but also that we are so limited in our time on Earth and we don’t always acknowledge that. I’m interested in “borrowed time” and how sometimes people believe they will have as much time as they will need to live the life they want to live—but as the poem suggests, “our only guarantee is made of dust.”

How did “Hold Still” develop into the poem we read now? Did it spin out in a

rush or were there too many entries for subtext to tackle them all at once? The poem “Hold Still” was inspired from a van road-trip I took with friends in 1996. One of my friends had this book called, The Book of Questions, and while we were driving, he’d ask questions to all of us from the book. He arrived at one question that asked if you would pull the wings off a butterfly for a million dollars or an all-expense paid vacation. I said no. And my friend challenged me—he was frustrated by my answer and in fact kept saying it was wrong and I would do it and in fact should do it for the greater good (I could help more butterflies if I killed one to save many). I kept telling him that it wouldn’t be worth it to me to harm a living thing, despite how small, for any amount of gain. But he couldn’t buy that. At the time I was flustered, I couldn’t explain why I wouldn’t do it. I just knew nothing about it sat right with me. He kept challenging me on it—Would you pull the legs off of a spider, would you step on a cockroach? The poem grew from wanting to respond to him and all the questioning, but also, a memory I had as a child where we were supposed to make a “bug box”—where we killed insects and pinned them to Styrofoam. I realized the beetle I thought I had killed with ethyl acetate didn’t die and I remember watching his legs move while he was pinned to my board. I realized then, for me it didn’t matter the “size” of life, I did not want to

take part in harming any living thing.

If folks walk away with one thing from Dialogues with Rising Tides, what do you hope it is? That they are never alone in the world and that despite that sometimes life feels unbearable, it’s also incredibly beautiful and we can exist in all places—love, sorrow, light, dark, beauty, pain—we do not have to go searching for perfection, we can be okay in the gray areas. And we do not need to be perfect. We can do our best and try to love a flawed world.


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148 | University of Tennessee-Knoxville

Blue Mountain Review / june 2021


scar and flower BY: lee herrick BY: Clifford brooks


ee Herrick works from a place of inner quiet. From his space of creative composure, the reader benefits from a symphony. Music pours from his hard-won peace to flesh out a search for family, cultural identity, and a remedy (or at least a heightened awareness of) social injustice. With surgical precision, Herrick delivers razor thin pieces of himself in Scar and Flower.

Scar and Flower gains traction with few words. What happened to your patriots? / When my heart broke, / tiny clouds / poured into my hands / then turned into more tiny hearts - / cut the hair / from my body / and prepare me for your story, (“Flags”) makes no mystery of Lee’s disdain for America’s current situation. “If I Held You” injects the strength craft gives in the face of adversity, madness, and politics. Of our books, like a book, considered dialogue / and plot development / while I read you, / would we know if we’d fallen? / When holding a book, / our hands like prayer / or an open rose, / forgiveness / at the halfway point. That halfway point is where the artist meets their reality, the divide where citizens rectify the past, and (again) a safe place of calm. “How Music Stays in the Body” resonates in a determination to retain cultural identity and sense of place. I’ve been told Mothers don’t forget the body. / I can’t remember your face, the shape or story, / or how you held me the day I was born, so / I wrote one thousand poems to survive – “one thousand poems to survive” sticks in the craw of anyone whose spent every bit of themselves to get back that which they can’t catch. Lee doesn’t look in vain. He looks with purpose. There are tangible threads throughout a luminous work discussing ghosts. My country fell apart. / What I mean to say is: / we forgot about the stars. / We forgot about the moon. / We asked all the wrong questions / about our founding documents, / all burnt wire and fray (“Decomposition”). Midway through the journey of life Lee works through his poetry as his Virgil. Uncomfortable questions are asked but the poet doesn’t hurl them at you. He doesn’t make judgements or leave accusations without a resolution. He keeps the present in his crosshairs and won’t apologize for expressing disgust, joy, or talk of hollowness left in the absence of clear heritage. I felt at home within Scar and Flower. Empathy, outrage, homesickness, homecoming, family, and our dark passengers of what we can’t find – or hounding us for consideration – walk without bumping into one another, each theme taking its turn for your attention. This collection is important. At its end, this book’s cohesive story of one man allows us to better understand our own.

Scar and Flower: How did the title come to you, and what period of your life does the book encompass? Scars are admirable, beautiful evidence of trauma and survival. I wrote Scar and Flower during the years of 20132018, when I was deeply moved and affected by American gun violence: the shooting deaths of unarmed black men, women, and boys such as Tamir Rice and so many others before and after him; the mass shooting at Pulse Nightclub



Blue Mountain Review / june 2021 in Orlando; the mass shooting of twenty first graders at Sandy Hook Elementary; suicides of people I knew and some in the Korean adoptee community. I was overtaken. The book is an attempt to honor the dead but also the survivors. How do we navigate trauma? I thought grace must be part of the equation. Flowers became that vehicle in the title.

There’s an elegantly pointed search for identity, and a sense of unrest when that definitive place isn’t fully discovered. Is that a fair summation of one of this book’s themes? How does the search feel now in the current social unrest? Yes, this is a fair summation of one of its themes. When a definitive place isn’t fully discovered--in this case, let us say the location of birth or first parents as an adopted Korean person--unrest will ensure, longing or sadness, too. It might correlate to the current social unrest, for example, if the victim’s family does not receive justice of some kind, in the form of a conviction or a proper sentence. In some ways, some racial justice eludes us as a country, that unrest is ever-present. Herein lies the importance of persistence, faith, hard work, as well as finding the place where one can also be simultaneously at peace. It’s a difficult space to hold, but the grounding helps me continue the work.

“How Music Stays in the Body” is one of my favorite poems on the planet. Give us some background on the onus and development of that poem. Thank you for saying that. I was asked by an adopted Korean poet who was living in Korea in 2017 to write a poem about birth or first mothers, or more specifically, about my own first mother. It was published in an anthology titled The Motherland, edited by Laura Wachs. It included poems by adopted Koreans as well as short poems by Korean unwed mothers who had placed children for adoption. It’s an incredibly powerful anthology.

I struggled writing the poem at first, but it broke open once I found the music (literally and figuratively). There is a reference to Philip Clay, the adopted Korean who was deported from the US back to Korea and committed suicide, leaping from the fourteenth story of a building. I also wanted to speak directly to her while remaining fixed in the lyric, so the lines about the quiet bar, the simple room, and her opinions about angels, this came through me like a song might come through a musician, a song that has always been in them but is born in this new way. To be honest, I felt like I was in a trance during the first drafts of the poem. It was revised about ten times until the closing came to me.

Were there poems in the book that surprised you? Unexpected revelations? Which ones and what did they provide you at the back end? This was the most difficult book I’ve ever written, so there were many poems that surprised me. Some of the poems continue to haunt me, given their subject matter. I have been working in social justice and racial justice most of my life, but writing so specifically about certain deaths leaves a deep imprint. I still think about Michael Brown, the 49 people killed in Orlando, or (for the love of God) the first graders who were killed in Newtown. I suppose then, to your question, they provide me even more roots---to suffering, to the evils of racism, to the trauma of homicide or suicide, and dare I say, a wider sense of the human condition. It’s also deepened my sense of joy that we are here, that we can live with compassion, fight for change, and know joy all at the time. We have the capacity for it. This is also part of the human experience I want to know. er-9781625492944/9781625492944




Blue Mountain Review / june 2021


Marco Rafalà SCE



oo k Club Pi

“ “ “

“ “ “


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 yourcopy copyhere here purchase your


the ways we get by BY: joe dornich BY: Clifford brooks


ou find a wide curve of experience in the writing of Joe Dornich. Multiple lives told exceptionally well in one book. The Ways We Get By rests in the author’s erudition and awareness of the human condition. You believe his characters. The absurd, the homely, an artist of internal organs falling in love just in time to die. Dornich doesn’t blow sunshine and rainbows. This cat sits squarely among Kafka, O’Connor, and Wallace. The jest here is: Laugh, or it’ll kill you. Pacing feels natural. The control over words to guide readers within the speed limit is a delicate, deliberate task. The story is the thing. Dialogue drives our understanding of each other, and in this book dialogue mimics life. No tiresome asides or overindulgent exposition, you take away the lesson you’re looking for. Peaks of insecurity break clouds of a sour widow paid to cry at funerals.

Words aren’t wasted. You find doubt, a resurrected electric chair, and father who pays child support as Superman. It’s life – odd, quirky, infuriating life. You never feel the sun full on your face. For a chapter I spent time in a theme park run for Jesus. Carving out uncomfortable moments, there is often redemption – but it’s never cliché. Dornich’s work takes time. Time to write, the precision to pull of the magic trick, and time for the reader to catch the author’s tongue-and-cheek satirical sense of humor. Not a struggle to get into, but a fight to get out. The Ways We Get By is time well spent.

The Ways We Get By: What does this book mean to you? It’s a validation. So much of writing is done in solitude and, over time, doubt and insecurity and the sense that what you’re doing is awful start to creep in. Or at least they do with me. And so, when someone reads your stuff, sees what you’re trying to do, and likes it enough to help you put it out into the world, it means everything.

Now I get to see if the things that I thought were funny/interesting/sad/weird are shared by other people. A friend of mine who recently read the book told me that she found herself howling with laughter in one moment, and in the next wondering if I needed a hug.

What drew you to the divine art of short stories? It began as a logistical need for graduate school workshops. It’s much easier to read and critique something that is self-contained, like a short story, than something that is still being written, like a novel draft.


However, once I began to read and study short stories, I grew to appreciate the form. It’s hard enough to create a be-


Blue Mountain Review / june 2021 lievable world and populate it with characters that readers This was another research-heavy story where I spent will sympathize with and root for but doing so within four days on Hollywood Boulevard talking to as many the span of a few thousand words is an entirely different costumed characters as I could. challenge. Coincidentally, these two stories have been the most “successful,” winning the majority of contests and fellowships.

“The Yellow Mama Experience” is a short story that encompasses a vast, feminine experience. How did this story develop, and how do you create such vivid characters?

As I read more and more short story collections and was imagining what I wanted mine to look like, I knew I wanted to vary the narrators as much as I could. With “Yellow Mama” I wanted to tell the story from the perspective of a teenage girl, see if I could convey that interiority and social dynamic. Making Orbach a woman gave the two of them a mentor/mentee relationship while also allowing me to play with the perspective (and sometimes the lack of perspective) of an older woman.

Tell us about the cover’s artwork. It’s what first snagged my attention across the universe of social media. The cover is the work of Deb Weiers, an artist from Alberta, and in true Canadian fashion, one of the nicest people you’ll ever meet. I have an affinity for faces – most of the art in my house is faces/bodies – and so I spent a lot of time online looking for that kind of image. When I stumbled upon Deb’s work, I was hooked. All of her pieces hit you with this penetrating gaze that commands attention. As a first-time author with no name recognition, I knew I needed a reason for people to stop and look at my book. Deb’s art gave me that reason.

I, initially, set the story in a kind of Cabinet of Curiosities because I was drawn to all of the fun visuals and setting details I could get from the various objects. Then, as Orbach tries to increase business with her exhibits, it allowed me to introduce even more odd objects, which led To get a bit nerdy about it, the image also represents the makeup of the book. The Ways We Get By is comprised to the electric chair. of nine, linked, first-person narrators. They are the “we” As they story was coming together it kept reminding me of the title, and so the collage-like aspect of the face is of Needful Things, the Stephen King novel about the a nod to those individuals coming together to create shopkeeper who has the perfect object for each customer something bigger than themselves. and uses their desire for those objects to cause chaos.

What was your experience with Black What, if any, stories within The Ways We Lawrence Press? Get By are your quiet favorites? Are there It’s been amazing. Diane Goettel (the Executive Editor any surprise favorites from your readof BLO) and her team couldn’t have been more engaged and supportive. Whether it was the rounds of edits and ers? revisions, finding artwork and designing the cover, or All of the jobs in the collection, no matter how strange, exist in our current reality. And so whenever I could, I traveled to interview these people, and occasionally, perform the job myself. This led me to be a volunteer camp counselor for a nocturnal summer camp for kids suffering from Xeroderma Pigmentosum. This disease, the children and their families who fight it, and the camp that allows them to commiserate but also celebrate life, is how I came to write “Camp Vampire Kids.”

promotion for the book, they ensured my ideas and concerns were heard, that I felt championed.

Even when it came time to find people to blurb the book, Diane reached out to past BLP authors and many of them took the time to read it and offer such kind and thoughtful comments.

Another favorite is, “The Reluctant Son of a Fake Hero.”




Blue Mountain Review / june 2021


essay 158



Blue Mountain Review / june 2021


how to transcribe thirty-six hours of audio recording by: athea natalga sumpter


rom 2005 through 2007, I interviewed a dozen 80- to 90-year-old elders from the Coosawhatchie (coo-sa-HATchee) Community Senior Center in Jasper County, South Carolina. The center served the elders of the region through daily activities, devotion and meals. My insider standing was established when I first met with the larger group, since I am a descendent of the Gullah Geechee culture from St. Helena Island, South Carolina. I told them the story of their cultural links to West African ethnic groups, coupled with the memories they hold as the descendants of enslaved families and their knowledge of growing rice on the plantations that have since become communities on land now owned by their families.

Once the twelve elders gave me permission to sit with them in their homes, I collected everything I needed for their interviews into a field kit devised from a high-end photography bag. I made pockets and sockets from the Velcro spacers for a digital camera, film camera to shoot black-and-white film only, audio cassette recorder, accessories and every power backup source possible. There were even slots for the journal I used for note-taking as each interview progressed, along with copies of the release forms for participants to sign. Note the use of cassette recorder, which failed during a couple of interviews because the battery died. Sometimes an electrical outlet for a/c power was too far away – next time, remember a longer extension cord.

Other issues with the cassette recorder included the need to flip the cassette when one side ran out. I constantly kept an eye on the tape counter in preparation for the turn -- distracting to the person being interviewed. Switching to a digital recorder made the interview process much easier — until the digital components began to crash. Digital corruption is not good. I ran two digital recorders for redundancy the last few interviews. No single recording device worked 100 percent of the time.

Since I am a TV producer, people have asked to see the video of the interviews. There is no video, only audio and still photographs. I always give the explanation in my jovial techno-style of storytelling. Usually the listener has a blank stare, or kindly pretends to listen, until I get to the part of blowing up the house of an elder. Shooting video requires a lot of electricity to create worthwhile quality image.

An elder’s home might still have screw-in glass fuses, and the power surge from lighting gear and video camera could cause a fire. Why bother? Besides, most people alter their talking style when they see a video camera pointed at them. (‘Oh, I am on TV. I need to look like and act like one of those people.’) An audio recorder with still photography is the method of choice. There are many documentaries that use motion action on still photos with voice track.



Blue Mountain Review / june 2021 After each interview, I had the film developed by a now-defunct photo shop that still used black-and-white photo chemicals in the darkroom, and I filed all of the digital photos and paperwork according to an archiving method I used for this project —research title, sub-files for each elder, internal files for audio, images, writing. Once I started using the digital audio recorder, the audio interview was easy to download into the file for each interview. Easy. Why not start transcribing approximately three hours of audio after each interview?

The rite of passage for anyone who would dare place a microphone in front of anyone’s face is to type the recordings into MS Word before you write. Should be done. I did not do it. I played the audio and got hooked on the images. I snapped away with the digital camera to get the elder used to seeing a camera in my hand. One hundred or so images per session gave me selections for the time spent with them. At some point I would switch to black-and-white film -- I did not use a flash -- in order to feel when to take the image that would become the signature photo for each story. Shooting film meant a lot more calculation for light and shutter speed. I did end up selecting a digital image converted to black-and-white for a couple or so of the elders instead of using an image shot with black-and-white film.

Two years of interviewing between 2005 and 2007 then led to full-time teaching, diving headlong into work as a federal commissioner for the newly-formed Gullah Geechee Cultural Heritage Corridor. Then my left thumb doubled in size.

De Quervain’s Tenosynovitis Syndrome – Wait, What?!

I like using interrobang [‽] whenever given a chance. It is now the right punctuation to express the combination of WTF and “Are you crazy?” It seems the combination of writing a lot and the advent of texting caused the tendons in my thumb and wrist to inflame. I faced a setback. A cyst in the joint of my left thumb added to the swelling, not to mention the extreme pain. Then the right hand went the way of the left, sans the cyst. Wrist tendinitis was the reason I gave for the black wrap around both wrist for six months, instead of describing de Quervain’s Syndrome.

De Quervain’s tenosynovitis (dih-kwer-VAINS ten-oh-sine-oh-VIE-tis) in the end became a jutting bone on my left wrist that led to some arthritis. I needed to find another solution for transcribing audio other than typing. Using a transcription service meant as little as $5 per typed page up to $150 per hour of audio. Thirty-six hours of audio and no funding for this project placed another hold on writing. Grants are rarely given to independent scholars, especially those unaffiliated with a research institution. The search for funding never stopped because the signature images of the elders were always staring at me in my home office. Then someone suggested using transcription software.

Gullah Geechee Accent Meets Transcription Software

I knew that by 2012 software was coded well enough to convert speech to text. The hunt was on to find the correct type of software, one that did not cost a fortune. One suggestion after another led to a possible solution in 2018. Dragon Speak did well after the setup paragraph was read so that the software could identify the individual speaking pattern. Multiple voice versions were out of my price range. Most of the elders had died by this time, so reading a standardized paragraph was not going to happen. A friend then mentioned DeScript and that it had the algorithm to convert three hours of audio into text in approximately one hour. Solution found! Stop.

I read the conversion of one audio and realized the software would not be able to do the job for most of the elders.


Even though English was the primary language spoken, the algorithm was not designed to understand Gullah Geechee accent. Dour emotion ensued. Plus, the Windows version of the software was going to cost five cents per minute, after 30 minutes of free time. Below is a portion of an email I sent to the CEO of the company:

DeScript does not understand Gullah Geechee accent. It is a designated

language as well, but the elders were speaking English. There are some West

African loanwords mixed in, which is why anyone who helps on this work must

also know the phonetic alphabet.

Here is a sample of what DeScript converted. I know the corrected information,

but can you make out any of this?


From Software Transcription:

Oh, they had three he loved her. So he took a left left my grandmother and the doors day women have nothing to do with outside the men in charge of everything. So he left she was at a loss or she’s not cooking washing already babies and she know about translation. Cotton Gin Mill a Mill and a big stool and and 1800. That’s my grandmother bear. That was um, his wife beautiful. I thought my grandmother she gonna go back. What was her name again. She was a buzzy. Margie mod and Buffy. Oh, she married Laura. It was telling of him was going now that that leave it as my mother died. That’s what I knew and cut the did she died. I never know how to school you want. Let me hit me. Never. Have you the dirty word? Drink a can of liquor bed my entire life. In fact, I never saw that I don’t like ever my elders was like, you know I Uncle Jeb any and all all like family on the plastic on the hood. So I put that business house. I had to behave like I said my dad I got the grave. The same thing so I’m kind of shield in all of my life and my uncleand then all night. What else what else hook?


. . . now, what am I to do? I no longer see paying for the use of this software. The algorithm is likely based on prestige English as spoken by a white male. I Had hopes, but I was now back at the drawingboard.

I complained to a friend about the search for solutions and the software problems. We reminisced about the Dictaphone of the old days when a foot pedal was used to control the audio cassette as you typed -- on a typewriter, at first. No need to stop and start the computer player running the digital audio, to then activate the Word document to type. Then go back to activate the audio file in order to move forward. So forth and so on. What could possibly be out there?



Blue Mountain Review / june 2021 My old cassette Dictaphone had been put away in a box a couple of decades ago. I searched online. Whoa -- an audio software controlled by a foot pedal that looked just like the one from the olden days! I ordered the unit immediately. Within days, the USB- connected foot pedal was at my door, and after hours of installation and setup, functioned with the same precision I used decades ago. I began to transcribe again, even if it’s with a keyboard and digital audio software. Yes, there is an audio-to-Word conversion option, but with the same DeScript problem. Back to square one. I will just have to take it easy with the arthritis and the de Quervain’s tenosynovitis. But now I know I will get it done.

Bio: Althea Sumpter is a researcher and scholar who uses her expertise as an ethnographer to document cultures and preserve the Southern story of the United States. With her native Gullah Geechee culture as a prototype collecting the oral histories of elders, she teaches ways to research the cultural history within a community, then how to use documentation technology to memorialize and preserve the stories of a community for future generations. Dr. Sumpter presents talks and workshops on documenting cultural history for others wanting to preserve stories in their own community or the cultural story of a family. Information:


all in perspective by: clementina ojie


few short weeks ago, I discovered that I grew up in the hood. My best friend had mentioned this a time or two before, but I always rolled my eyes and told him, Of

course we don’t. We just live in a city that has its good and bad. Sure, I lived in apartments while growing up. But to me, my best friend had been a prime example that

we were far from the hood. He was one of the few people in our high school who had a MacBook Pro—the height of luxury in our youthful minds—and lived in a new suburb a mile from my apartment. After high school, I moved to the South to attend a historically black university located in an actual hood with homeless drug addicts parading down the streets and yelling insults at passersby who refused to entertain them. He went on to attend a predominantly white institution in our home state. With three years of sociology classes, he learned about food deserts and how impoverished neighborhoods often lacked access to fresh fruits and vegetables. Indeed, our neighborhood didn’t have a Whole Foods or Trader Joe’s or other stores that proclaimed our gentrification. We did have a Shoppers and a Walmart in close proximity; but apparently, we had more fast food restaurants—Popeyes, McDonalds, Burger King, Bojangles, Carvel, and a Chinese buffet all within a one-mile radius—than fresh food outlets. This meant that the Black and Hispanic residents of our city would be doomed to forever climb an avalanche-ridden mountain of malnutrition and obesity. He met classmates who hadn’t grown up around our way and they told him they couldn’t visit his home—a place that ten years later I still thought of as a suburb—because they were too scared to walk down the same streets that we grew up on. I told him his new friends were overly dramatic. Afterall, there weren’t shots getting popped on our block or tied-up sneakers hanging from some streetlamp like I saw on TV. There weren’t boys patrolling the streets and striking fear in passersby, or drug kingpins demanding tithes from neighborhood store owners. He said that was just the media’s way of blinding us so that we never realized that we lived poorly, and therefore never aspired to get out of it. Then, just a few weeks ago, my bag was stolen right out of my rental car in front of his house, and with it, my laptop, my favorite lululemon sweater, and my new purchase of $200 worth of skincare products from Sephora.



Blue Mountain Review / june 2021 At first, I couldn’t believe it. I was used to suburbs where I could leave my car open all night long and find it the exact same manner I left it. So, I went back into his house and asked him if he had taken my bag from the car and brought it into the house without me knowing. He said no. I went back to the car and checked every seat and the trunk, hoping against hope that my eyes had just glossed over the items in absentmindedness. Nothing. My prized items were gone. I was shocked but thankful that at least I had taken my wallet and cellphone into the house with me that night, and the rental car hadn’t been damaged. I guess I forgot. I forgot that when I was in the tenth grade, the Hispanic guy who once sat behind me in my English class got stabbed at the top of the hill right as he was leaving school for the day. I was at cheerleading practice when the principal announced that the school was on lockdown. Like my teammates, I shrugged it off like one of those random events that no one ever pays attention to, like a fire drill. I heard from inside the cafeteria a helicopter whirring above our school and I wondered what we had done to merit such exalted notice. My teammates and I carried on practicing toe touches, game day cheers, and our vowels. Go, fight, win—never mind that we barely won any games and we had to practice in the cafeteria because we had only the one small gym and of course, the basketball players took precedence. The next day, I learned that it hadn’t been just some random fire drill or lockdown. The helicopter had been from a news outlet reporting on the tragedy. The boy had joined the Brown Pride Locos at some point between middle school and the tenth grade and he was stabbed by a rival in the MS13 gang. I forgot about the gangs. We had the bloods, the crips, and MS13. I thought they were silly, especially those gang members that I saw on TV who actually volunteered to be jumped in order to join and avenged imagined slights back and forth with guns and fists solely on principle. At my school, they walked together in a group, graffitied the bathrooms with their gang names and skipped class often. But I enjoyed my friends who were members of those gangs. I remember once when I was riding the Metro bus. One of those friends sat at the very back of the bus—the cool kids’ spot—and I joined him there. In the middle of our conversation, he stopped and said, “That’s an interesting color you got on.” It took me a moment to get it. I had tied a blue bandana around my hair to match my blue jeans because back in those days, we matched our clothes with accessories like bandanas. He was a blood and took exception to my fashion statement. I rolled my eyes at him and we kept on chatting until he got off the bus. I forgot that when I was in the eleventh grade, my best friend got jumped by another classmate. He was assaulted for his iPod in front of the Chinese carryout across from my apartment complex by a boy who had once hit on me when we were in the eighth grade and asked me if I would go with him. It was the same carryout that the boys from around the way had chosen as a hangout spot. They used to meetup and chill in front of the carryout so much so that eventually they called themselves the Carryout Boys. My best friend was hospitalized for a week and


his parents pulled him out of school for over two months as they searched with no avail for a different school for him to enroll in. His attacker was imprisoned for his crime at the age of 16 and we never saw him again. Every now and then when I reminisce about our high school days, I wonder what ever happened to him. When I visit this old neighborhood, I’m amused by the “No Loitering” and “No Trespassing” signs posted in front of the carryout. I forgot…or did I ever really know? My mother was a 40-year-old widow with two children newly arrived in America from Nigeria, where she held an MBA and worked a cushy job as secretary to the Chairman at an oil company. After we arrived in Indiana, she connected with the pastor of a growing Maryland branch of our Nigerian home church and he encouraged her to move to Maryland. This church became our community and my mother took their guidance to abandon her business degree and start all over to become a nurse—first as a Certified Nursing Assistant, then as a Licensed Practical Nurse, and finally a Registered Nurse with a Bachelor of Science in Nursing at the age of 51. We went from squatting with church members to three of us bundling in one bedroom of a two-bedroom apartment we shared with another Nigerian. At some of the apartments we lived in, roaches infested the kitchen and my mother blamed it on dirty neighbors. She instituted a regimented weekly house cleaning that I often implemented because I was the daughter of the house, and it was my job to keep it presentable while she was at work. With our cleanliness and frequent calls to the leasing office for extermination services, we got the infestation under control, at least most of the time. I found out only recently that one of those apartments was classified as affordable housing. We rarely had guests because my mom worked all hours of the day and night, and she was too cautious and private to have people come to our place. Even when we visited other church members who lived in spacious two-story homes in the higher-class counties, I shrugged it off because many of them had lived in my neighborhood, or similar, before moving on up in the world. I understood that they had years on us to establish themselves here in the U.S., and often two incomes to hasten that establishment. To me, we lived in those apartments because they were our steppingstones, building us back to the middle class living we’d enjoyed in Nigeria. Eventually, we would own our own little slice of suburbia. But more significantly, in my Nigerian arrogance and in my ignorance of U.S. social nuances, I always believed that because I was there, because my family and I lived there, it could not possibly be the hood. As if my family and I were the arbiters of good taste, our presence in each neighborhood we lived in confirmed that it met a golden standard of living because my mother would never take us to a subpar neighborhood, much less the hood. So, like a ninja forced into the limbo dance of war, slowly weaving left and right to miss the flaming swords of oppression directed at her heart, I missed all the signs.



Blue Mountain Review / june 2021 In a way, I count myself fortunate because that arrogance and ignorance did then and continues now to propel me. For a long time, I was unencumbered by insecurities that stem from knowing that I came from less means, because I did not know that I came from less means. I only knew that we were biding our time as my mother established herself in this new country, until we entered into our rightful means as ordained by God. In a way, I realize now that I have gone through life like an adolescent who knows solely that she is kind, she is smart, and she is important, and therefore, everything she aims for, she will attain. Today, I stand disillusioned about the homes of my youth. My perspective is forever changed. Like Martin Niemoller after when First They Came, I no longer view my childhood neighborhood with the scales of optimism covering my eyes. But I realize that without that illusion, those scales, I may not have reached as far and as high as I have in my life, resting my faith solely on my merit and not on my circumstance.

Bio: Clementina Ojie is an emerging writer and filmmaker. She was born in Nigeria and moved with her family to the United States when she was 10 years old. She recently graduated from Cornell University with an MBA.


The barn by: megan baxter


y the river, the fields get full sun all day, with only the small shadows of birds and tomato stakes wheeling over the furrows. Across the road, morning breaks the mist slowly and the ground remains wet as the wall of cedars casts the northern half of the field in shadow until that too stretches into itself and pulls back across the road. A hot day is marked by heavy mist in the morning, a rainy day by a clear sunrise. When the rain comes it comes from the northwest down the river. The clouds grow fatter and more bruised as the heat of the summer wears on, the white clouds of May give way to the purple thunderheads of August. You will soon forget that once the cornfields were bare and that you could see clear out to the riverbank. You will forget what it is like to be cold until one morning in September your breath is as thick as your cigarette smoke and your bare feet sting. The barn is old. It is home to animals, wanted and unwanted, junk and useful junk, seed potatoes, ripening tomatoes, stores of pints and quarts and baskets and bushels. In the rafters above the hoes and shovels, there are fly rods strung with cobwebs. The horses of past years have left the wood of the stales polished by thick necks and sweat, floorboards pressed by thousands of pounds of utility and beauty. The dust here is deadly but there’s no way around it. When the lumber is lifted out the big doors that reach clear to the roof you stir it up. You stir it up rummaging for WD-40. You stir it up moving sacks of potatoes or bags of feed. The dust is the ground mice shit from a history of mice, the droppings of generations of pigeons, the crushed bodies of winter freeze wasps from winters no one remembers, sawdust from the teeth of the big saws that hang on the walls, and the new circular ones. The dust is dirt from every field on the property, it is organic and chemical, the cigarette ash and chew spit from field hands who are buried in the North Thetford Cemetery and those who sit on the lip of the concrete foundations for a ten o’clock smoke. You will soon forget that once the cornfields were bare and that you could see clear out to the riverbank. You will forget what it is like to be cold until one morning in September your breath is as thick as your cigarette smoke and your bare feet sting.



Blue Mountain Review / june 2021

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


White Antiracist Allies in Training: My Social Justice Workshop Troubles (and Yours) by: adam gussow

If we–and now I mean the relatively conscious whites and the relatively conscious blacks, who must, like

lovers, insist on, or create, the consciousness of the others–do not falter in our duty now, we may be able, handful that we are, to end the racial nightmare, and achieve our country, and change the history of the world.

--James Baldwin, The Fire Next Time

I’ve waited almost two decades to tell this story. I’m not particularly eager to tell it—my wife and I have

been happily married for seventeen years; our biracial son, who just turned fifteen, is tall, strong, and beautiful—and several good friends, concerned about the unforgiving tenor of our public culture, have counseled me not to. But this isn’t about me. It’s about the country we want our children to inherit. That America--the prophetic America envisioned by Martin Luther King, Jr. and kept alive by John Lewis--needs more of us to step forward and say, gently and without rancor, “We can create the beloved community. We can bring a more just and equitable world into being. But the path you have chosen is the wrong one, doomed to divide and dishearten us, and I can’t remain silent any longer.”



Blue Mountain Review / june 2021

Some people, when they’re cornered, fight, or flee. I did both those things at the time. After I got home

from Seattle, I dumped everything in a drawer, all my research materials, and tried hard to move on. I did a good job of erasing the names and faces of my antagonists. But I can’t forget the primal scene: how it felt to be silenced and abused by a circle of my fellow citizens. That memory has gained power through the years, haunting me like an omen, slowly coming into alignment with the present moment. The virus I confronted back then—not the virus of racism, but the virus of a certain kind of blunt-force antiracist work, engaged in by those convinced of their own righteousness—has spread so rapidly across our country that it is threatening to swallow us all. So I’m going to share my story, reconstructing it as best I can from the materials I’ve got on hand. (I have changed the names of the principal actors and altered several relevant details, including the location of the workshop, in order to preserve anonymity.)

When people survive trauma, their memories are often fragmented, discontinuous, incomplete. What

happened to me out in Seattle hardly merits the term traumatic. Nobody laid a hand on me. It was just angry talk. Considered in that light, my “troubles” are laughably trivial—the epitome of white fragility, some will surely say. I don’t have nightmares, although I get weirdly skittish when I hear people proclaiming the critical importance of being “a good white ally.” Considering the long tenure of my interracial marriage, considering how passionately I’ve always cared about the cause of racial justice, that’s a curious response. But what happened was disturbing enough at the time to the two white women who ran the workshop that they yanked the proceedings to a stop. Holding up their hands to silence us, insisting on a time-out, they seemed puzzled, disconcerted. This wasn’t how things were supposed to go. They apologized privately to me later, after apologizing to the group.

I heard the term “struggle session”–the humiliations vented upon hapless citizens of Communist China

during the Cultural Revolution--for the first time only a year ago, not long after George Floyd died with a knee on his neck out in Minneapolis and Ibram X. Kendi’s How to be an Antiracist was trading places with Robin DiAngelo’s White Fragility at the top of the bestseller lists. When I saw the photo of a cringing Chinese man surrounded by his sneering fellow citizens, a light went off.

“Holy shit,” I thought. “That’s what it was.” I’d never had a word for what happened to me back then. It felt

marginally better to have a word for it. But I still felt sick. And I feel a duty to warn. Because where I found myself, almost twenty years ago, is where we are all rapidly headed. If they could do to me what they did in that workshop classroom, given the life I’d lived up to that point, they are going to knock you flat. But I did resist, and it made a difference.

The events I’m about to relate took place in the fall of 2003, when I’d had my tenure-track job at the Uni-

versity of Mississippi for about a year. I’d moved down to Oxford from New York City--a blues musician and scholar of African American literature with a first book on southern violence and the blues; a single man, age 44, looking to get married. Although compelled by the subject of racial violence, I’d also reached a breaking point. I’d learned far more about spectacle lynching—Jesse Washington and Henry Smith in Texas, Claude Neal in Florida—than I’d ever


wanted to. Extended ritual tortures at the hands of white mobs in the service of a hardened racial order that inflicted terror to maintain black subservience. I’d been hospitalized with a minor heart attack while writing my dissertation, but I’d also had the support of a New Age community, Interfaith Fellowship in New York, and I was suddenly yearning to reorient my research in the direction of healing, rather than worrying, racial wounds. That’s when I’d begun to outline a book on the range of ways in which Americans, black and white, were engaging in the project of racial reconciliation in turn-of-the-millennium America: the post-Rodney King, post-OJ era in which President Clinton had staged his “Initiative on Race” and jazz musician James McBride had published The Color of Water: A Black Man’s Tribute to His White Mother.

Many Americans at the time were pursuing this sort of transracial fellowship work, a surprisingly broad

range of approaches that led my literary agent to ask for a book proposal. I called it Dreams of Beloved Community: Racial Healing in Contemporary America and had no trouble working up a table of contents from the materials I’d already accumulated:


I Had a Dream: Beloved Community and the American 1990s

Chapter One:

Brothers on the Mend: Christian Racial Reconcilers

Chapter Two: Sharing the Light: African Ancestors and New Age Racial Healers

Chapter Three: Racial Disease, Racial Sobriety: Whiteness and Racial Recovery

Chapter Four: You’re Chocolate, I’m Vanilla: Interracial Families, Biracial Children,

Chapter Five: Open Doors, Unquiet Ghosts: On-Site Reconciliation and the Challenges

and the Domestic Scene of Racial Healing

of Public Memory


Reconciliation Now, Reconciliation Forever: The Challenge of the 21st


Racial healing? Beloved community? What was I thinking? It all seems so quaint now, so early-2000s. (Google Ngram has 2002 and 2007 as the peak years for “racial healing” and 2004 as the peak year for “beloved community.”) But I was nothing if not sincere. I fervently believed in Martin Luther King, Jr.’s dream—an America where racial brotherhood was a reality and integration, “genuine intergroup and interpersonal living,” was made flesh. I knew we could solve America’s problems if we could just establish that sort of common ground: rout the lingering shadows of the color line and forge a thoroughgoing spiritual commitment to each other’s well-being. There was nothing we couldn’t achieve if we did that.

I’d met an African American woman from Dallas, as it happens, who wanted the same thing. This was



Blue Mountain Review / june 2021 shortly after I’d moved to Mississippi and signed on with By the summer of 2003 we were engaged: one more swirl couple in an America where, as of the year 2000 census, one could self-identify, if one wanted, as black and white. Which was kind of great. After so much bitterness, violence, and division, race—racial polarity, racial division--was finally beginning to loosen its hold on the soul of America. We felt blessed to be living at this particular moment. Our child, the son or daughter we planned to have, would have choices.

I had lived a version of that integrated, reconciled life during my prior career as a touring blues musician,

teamed up with an older, Mississippi-born guitarist whom I had first met on the streets of Harlem in 1986. I’ve written at length elsewhere about Sterling “Mr. Satan” Magee; our three-decade relationship would later be depicted in a Netflix documentary titled Satan & Adam, the name under which we performed on blues stages across America. I mention this other life now because the creative partnership Sterling and I sustained over the years, with its fierceness and laughter and occasional rough edges, an unlikely father-and-son act animated by a power-sharing arrangement based in mutual respect, taught me something about the true dimensions of the possible within America’s tortured racial purview. I planned to carry forward what I’d learned there into the sweeter, gentler project of making my new marriage work.

Of all the modalities of racial healing I was researching back in 2003, the one that left me most skeptical was

the one grounded in a desire to reify racial difference, to make it a “thing,” rather than ameliorating and dissolving racial difference in a way that facilitated brotherhood. By that point I had read Elizabeth Lasch-Quinn’s scathing critique, Race Experts: How Racial Etiquette, Sensitivity Training, and New Age Therapy Hijacked the Civil Rights Revolution (2001) and, at the other extreme, Derald Wing Sue’s Overcoming Our Racism: The Journey to Liberation (2003), with its hectoring evocation of microaggressions and white privilege. I was familiar with, and approved of, the insurgent academic discipline of whiteness studies. But I also couldn’t help but be unnerved by a weird congruence between those self-styled diversity trainers who reified whiteness and its hardwired sinfulness as a way of somehow--eventually, mysteriously, far down the line--getting beyond whiteness, and, on the other hand, Nazis and other retrograde white identitarians who proudly claimed their whiteness rather than stigmatizing it. These two cohorts were diametrically opposed in every other respect, but on this one key point they had a common interest: they were determined to keep White People alive.

Skeptical or not, I thought it was my duty as a researcher to investigate this quadrant of the contemporary

race-healing beat. I settled on a workshop called “White Antiracist Allies in Training,” held out in Seattle at Education For Progress, an organization founded by John Mott, a legendary Quaker activist. The workshop was being run by a pair of white female facilitators, Jane Holloway and Leah Benowitz, who had come to “the work,” as they called it, from somewhat different points on the social justice spectrum. Holloway, a native of England, had been involved with community organizing and direct action, including a stint with the antinuclear protestors at Greenham Common. Benowitz came from the world of nonprofit and corporate diversity training and was a certified Reiki practitioner. I’d attended a handful of workshops over the preceding decade, all of them at the Omega Institute in Rhinebeck, NY—the Opening the Heart workshop, Marianne Williamson on A Course in Miracles, David Deida on sacred


sexuality—although none of them had focused on race. But I was generally familiar with, and comfortable with, the encounter-group model, the idea that doing the work required a willingness to take risks, go deep, expose wounds, sit with discomfort, shed tears.

Holloway and Benowitz were warmly receptive when I emailed them, told them about my project, and asked

if I might join their October workshop as a participant/observer. It was important to all three of us that I show up wholeheartedly, an equal among peers, not simply sit on the margins and take notes—something that would increase participant self-consciousness and interfere with the work. With a few basic ground-rules in place, we were ready to go. I paid my registration fee and bought a round-trip ticket to Seattle.

Before I describe what follows, I need to make clear that I harbor Holloway and Benowitz no ill will. Quite

the opposite: although I disagree with their methods, I respect them highly. They aren’t just competent professionals but exquisitely attentive to the complexities of the antiracist work they have trained themselves and many others to do. In our recorded telephone postmortem, conducted two days after I arrived home, they spoke with me for almost two hours, thoughtfully and in good faith. It’s impossible not to admire these women.

But I’m also struck by a paradox and the questions it raises. How could two such skilled antiracist facili-

tators nevertheless have precipitated such a trainwreck—short-lived, to be sure, but with effects that have lingered through the decades? And if this could happen under their supervision, what sort of havoc is being wrought across contemporary America when less skilled, less thoughtful and resilient facilitators engage in the same sort of work? Or is the work itself the problem? What if “white antiracist training,” as they conceived of it, is critically flawed in some way, so that what might at first glance appear to be a bug is in fact a feature, a fatal error in the program?

By the time we’d all filtered into the conference room for our Friday evening start, there were twenty of us

sitting in a large horseshoe-shaped circle.

“Welcome, white people!” Jane and Leah said cheerfully, standing in loose formation at the blackboard.

Jane had an English accent and a gentle, soothing voice with some residual tensile strength. Leah, dark

haired, had a hint of urban tough girl, South Philly or Brooklyn, but with edges carefully smoothed. We were four men and sixteen women, most of us in our late teens or early twenties, except that three or four I’d initially taken to be young women were considerably more gender-indeterminate than that: skinny, boyish, wearing baseball caps turned backward. Nowadays I would recognize them as members of the trans/non-binary/genderqueer spectrum and would be unsurprised if they said their pronouns were “they” and “their.” Back in 2003 I had no such words. I simply took note of their presence, part of the variegated cohort that had shown up for the workshop. I was, at forty-five, one of the oldest people in the room.

Our text for the weekend was a 100-page spiral bound notebook authored by our facilitators, “White Anti-

racist Allies in Training: A Workshop Manual.” Paging through it now, I’m simultaneously impressed by the way it anticipates our current moment, consolidating and synthesizing so many dimensions of racial justice work that



Blue Mountain Review / june 2021 have surged into view during the Kendi/DiAngelo era, and depressed at the sociotherapeutic blitzkrieg it represents: micro-subdividing and problematizing every conceivable way in which somebody labeled “white” might relate to abstract conceptions of racial difference (e.g., stereotypes) and actual people of color. The highly compressed 10part summary of U.S. history subtitled “Histories and Practices that Formed the U.S. Concept of Race and Racism,” which begins with “Colonization” and “African Enslavement” and ends with “The Civil Rights Movement” and “The Struggle Continues,” contains some notable factual inaccuracies. “By 1800,” the authors write, “10-15 million African slaves are in North America” (the U.S. Census of 1800 lists 893,605 enslaved black people, most of whom were born in America, not Africa; only 388,000 African slaves were shipped directly to North America in the course of the slave trade, with another 60-70,000 imported from the Caribbean). “Africa,” they claim, “lost up to 50 million people to slavery” (the actual figure is roughly half this large, and only if one supplements the 12 million enslaved people shipped from sub-Saharan Africa to the New World with 6 million sent across the Indian Ocean to points East and 8 million “lost” to slavery within the African continent, including Muslim North Africa).

I didn’t notice these inaccuracies at the time. What I did notice, and what gave me pause, were the mis-

spelled names of two African American notables: Carter G. Woodson, the originator of Negro History Week (later Black History Month)--his last name was “Washington” in the manual--and the singer Pearl Bailey, whose last name was spelled “Baily.” What quickly became evident, both in the casual initial chit-chat among participants and in the responses we made as Jane and Leah worked their way into the manual’s densely-packed material, is that few of my fellow workshoppers had much lived experience with actual black people. Nor were they conversant with African American history and culture in the way that I’d managed to accrue by dint of my academic training—including two years at Vassar in a visiting Africana Studies position--and my career as a blues performer. This didn’t surprise me. Wasn’t the whole point of the workshop to help inexperienced white people push beyond stereotypes, fears, and fantasies in a way that prepared them to deal constructively, rather than incompetently, with their fellow black citizens? Maybe I could be of service here.

What did surprise me, as self-disclosures slowly painted our collective portrait, is that a number of my fel-

low participants—young, female, more LGBTQ than not, highly politicized, brittle—seemed to view this workshop as a way of exploring grievances, especially those revolving around gender and sexuality, that had nothing much to do with the lives of black people. This bothered me, to be honest. It felt like veiled narcissism: using our nominal topic to do some other kind of self-focused work.

Just as curious was the way in which my own conversational style, which owed a great deal to the call-and-

response aesthetics and ritual affirmations of fellowship that lay at the core of my blues musician’s life, seemed to grate against the sensibilities of my fellow workshoppers, especially those who saw themselves as most analytically distinct from me on the intersectional grid in which we’d been schooled early on. One of the worst things I could do as a white ally in training, I discovered, was to say “I hear you” or “I can imagine how that must feel” when somebody confessed to a wound or shared any sort of negative experience. This was considered presumptuous. Even worse was commiserating—responding to such a share not just by verbally validating it, but by confiding a wound or negative experience of my own, one white person to another. To do this was actually to invalidate the other person, rather than affirming them, by daring to suggest that my straight white male pain was in any way comparable to their gay white female pain.


Here I need to backtrack and talk about that intersectional grid. Although most people in American uni-

versity communities and some in the general population are familiar at this point with the basic outlines of intersectionality, a theory of social power and subjectivity propounded by critical legal theorist Kimberle´ Crenshaw in 1989, 2003 wasn’t 2021. I wasn’t yet familiar with the term, although I’d caught inklings of intersectional thinking while a graduate student at Princeton in the mid-to-late 90s, and neither Crenshaw nor the word “intersectionality” were mentioned in our training manual. But one of our first lessons, the fourth out of fifty-two encompassed by the multi-workshop training protocol, put forward what I can now plainly see was a simplified version of intersectional theory. Jane and Leah framed our entire weekend’s work through the lens of a single page headlined “Power Grid & Social Rank.” “Each of us,” it began, “has many group identities in society. These group identities determine our social rank in U.S. culture. Following are some examples of group identities and the relative power those identities are given.”

Across the top of the chart were the categories “Race,” “Class,” “Gender,” and “Sexual Orientation,” plus

“Etc.” Running down the left side of the page were two categories: “More Power” and “Less Power.” The quadrant bracketed by “Race” and “More Power” contained a short stack of words: “European,” “American,” “(white).” You’re already familiar with this particular declension; I knew where we were headed the moment I saw the chart. “Upper,” “Middle,” “Male,” and “Heterosexual” fill out the “More Power” line. “African American,” “Latino/a,” “Asian,” “Native American,” “Working,” “Poor,” “Female,” and “Homosexual” fill out the “Less Power” line.

It was a primitive, brutalist reduction of intersectional theory; it doesn’t capture Crenshaw’s foundational

point, which has to do with the way in which a black female legal complainant’s intersecting blackness and femaleness may effectively place her beyond the legal protections conferred separately on blackness and femaleness. Nor does it make a space for trans and genderqueer identities. But the chart, sketchy as it was, did what it was designed to do. It took a room full of self-identified white people and, rather than joining them in community, taught them to slice and dice themselves and each other into component parts. As Jane and Leah worked the chalk board, I could feel everyone making macro- and micro-assessments about where each workshop participant should be placed in our new hierarchy of virtue. Since we were all white people—surprise!—race couldn’t be a part of that process. We were guilty as charged there: cast helplessly into the “More Power” quadrant. This clarified the activist-in-training pecking order. (Presumed) class, gender, and sexual orientation suddenly took on preternatural importance.

If I’d brought with me any residual notion that a workshop called “White Antiracist Allies in Training”

would ground itself in a shared desire to find common ground with one’s racial peers as a way of raising our collective game and being a credit to our race, that quickly evaporated. We’d been thrown into a state of nature, a Hunger Games training ground for edgy activists. Dr. Gussow—white, male, Princeton educated (and therefore presumptively Upper or Middle), presumably heterosexual, twice as old as the median workshopper—had drawn the short straw. How does it feel to be a problem? asked Du Bois. There was a weird kind of frost in the room, a shiver of stigma that the researcher noted silently, intrigued. It wasn’t yet clear to me how all this was going to play out. I did, however, find myself protesting silently—not the first straight white guy in my position, I suspect—about the degree to which the harsh contours of the Power Grid (and the subsequent lessons on “Rank Awareness” and “White



Blue Mountain Review / june 2021 Privilege”) couldn’t begin to map the way in which race, power, privilege, and rank had actually functioned in the spaces that had formed me.

As a half-Jewish Princeton freshman with no trust fund or prep school connections, vividly sensing my

exclusion from the socially rarefied world of the Prospect Street eating clubs, I’d peddled hoagies door to door at night—“Hoagie Man!”--and cleaned filthy dorm bathrooms as part of the custodial crew in order to pay bills, working my way out of remedial writing class to become an English major. One of my junior year roommates, installed after the two lacrosse-playing sophomores I’d signed on with were booted for physically threatening me, was a pedigreed gay black man from Atlanta with two middle initials and a hyphenated last name, charming but aloof, who clearly viewed me as the most hilarious sort of downmarket suburban primitive. My harmonica teacher during the mid-1980s, Nat Riddles was a black New Yorker, six years older than me and far more accomplished, who saw something worth nourishing and took me under his wing like a kid brother. During the decade I spent as a working blues musician in Harlem and on tour—the first four years in an all-black space, the last six years in predominantly white spaces—I was the junior partner to a voluble, indomitable black man who called most of the shots, wherever we were. My dissertation director and the editor of my first book, Arnold Rampersad and Erroll McDonald, were intimidatingly urbane and erudite black men who had far more class and access to power than I would ever have. My entire adult life had been shaped by accomplished older black men: men who intimidated me without trying to, held the keys to new worlds, modeled dynamism and finesse, inspired me to excel and persist, taught me some of what they knew, and let me figure out the rest.

I didn’t need training on how to live and work with black people. White people, on the other hand, could be

a challenge.

The trainwreck, as I’ve called it, occurred mid-morning on Saturday, the second day of the workshop. Three

months later, I wrote my literary agent a succinct description:

I am, by most reckonings, straight, white, and male. When I described during a “circle share” the way in which I had willingly surrendered power to several black students during an African American literature class I was currently teaching and the exhilarating outcome for both the students and myself, my remarks ended up precipitating not merely anger among white female workshop participants but an improvised show-trial in which Holloway and Benowitz allowed me to select one ally (gay and female and a genuinely supportive advocate, it turned out) and then deliberately arrayed the entire circle against me so that each member could express and “process” their anger. The outcome of this exercise surprised and dismayed everybody in the room; Holloway ultimately apologized to the group, and to me, for her miscalculation, one that did at least as much to exacerbate as to heal whatever wounds, racial and otherwise, we had brought with us to the workshop.


This compressed narrative raises as many questions as it answers. What sorts of thoughts, experiences, fears, wounds, were my fellow workshoppers sharing before I shared my own story? Why did that story, of all stories, an account of fruitful interracial collaboration intended to inspire and instruct, piss everybody off? By what rationale did Holloway and Benowitz think it was advisable to silence me, forcing me to sit quietly in my chair, defended only by my hastily-appointed “ally,” while each member of the group was invited to have at me, at whatever length and in whatever fashion they felt moved to do so? And, crucially, just how bad did things have to get, and in what way, to convince Holloway not just to stop the proceedings, but to apologize to all of us for what suddenly felt to her like a mistake, a significant professional misjudgment?

Many details remain hazy. This is what happens when people go numb and shut down. But I do remember

a few things.

I remember the story I shared. It was about a classroom experience at Ole Miss, something that had taken

place literally the day before I flew out to Seattle. My English Department colleague, Ethel Young-Minor, was on maternity leave that fall; she and my chair had asked me to step in and cover the African American lit survey. I was honored to be subbing for my black colleague, understandably concerned that the predominantly black class might not accept me in that role, yet eager to share my perspective on a range of classic texts—Their Eyes Were Watching God, A Raisin in the Sun, Dutchman, Beloved—and just as eager to hear what my students had to say about them. One young woman, a spirited, bluntly outspoken black Mississippian, was so inspired by Hansberry’s play that she told us all a story about a café in Winona, on the edge of the Delta, that was still segregated.

“Still white-folks-only in the year 2003,” she said. “Do you believe that shit! We ought to take a bus down

there, all of us, and integrate it. I’m serious.”

I knew she was. “Come up with a plan,” I told her after class. “Find out a little more about what’s actually

going on down there. I’ll give you the floor at the beginning of the next class.”

She did, and I did. I slid to the side of the room and she jumped up from her desk, skipped down the steps,

and took the stage along with a male friend. She had a big gleeful smile.

“Brothers and sisters,” she announced, “we have a plan.”

She roused the class like a preacher, call and response style. People were hooting and giving Black Pow-

er salutes. It was a revolutionary moment; it energized us for the Black Arts Movement writers we were about to discuss. We never did go down to Winona. But the fact that we thought about going down there like freedom riders—whites as well as blacks—and that I’d given Lashonda the space to share her dream with the class, loosened everybody up and made us feel like a team.

It quickly became clear after I finished telling this story that I had managed, and mightily, to offend several

of the gender-fluid young workshoppers with backwards baseball caps.

“That’s so white savior,” said one of them. “You realize that, right?”

“White what?” It took me a moment to understand. “White savior? Heck no. I was trying to empower my

black students, not save them.”



Blue Mountain Review / june 2021

“The inspirational teacher,” snorted another, glancing at Holloway for confirmation that she’d pegged me

correctly. “Your students must love you.”

I was their antichrist, as defined by the Power Grid: that was my first thought. The edgiest among us, they

needed to keep me locked in place so their own lives made sense. The story I’d told violated their sense of control over the flattened caricature of a straight white man they’d been taught to see by our facilitators. Or maybe they, like me, felt ill-served by the rigidities of the grid, their in-betweenness unacknowledged. Given the right spiritual prep-work, we might have seen each other as complex but flawed strivers doing our best to make the world a better place. But that’s not how Jane and Leah had set us up.

As anger and offense rippled around the circle, as the workshop quickly spiraled out of control, I shivered

awake. We had all been spring-loaded to detonate by that godforsaken grid. It was almost preordained, what was happening—although I still couldn’t figure out why the story I’d told had precipitated quite so much disdain. Wasn’t connection across the color-line and a shared sense of liberation something we should be striving for as activists in training? I had surrendered power, not wielded it, and my black students had benefited. How could that not be a good thing? This structural collapse, in any case, felt weirdly inevitable, like water rushing down a narrow gorge when a badly-engineered dam gives up the ghost.

Then came the main event. The suddenness of my silencing was shocking, almost surreal, as was the quiet

earnestness, the conviction of rightness, that animated both Jane and Leah as they explained what was about to happen. I’d read enough Kafka and Arthur Koestler to have some sense of the bind I was in. Only recently have I come to understand that the deep structure of this ritual derives not from Esalen and other forms of encounter-group work, but from Maoist struggle sessions during the Chinese Cultural Revolution of the 1960s, an outgrowth of earlier “speak bitterness” sessions in which landlords were put on public trial, forced to sit in town squares while one peasant after another stepped forward to accuse, curse, and harangue. I have no reason to believe that Holloway and Benowitz were conscious of this parallel, much less deliberately adapting it to their needs. I was unaware of the origins of this ritual pattern when we conducted our telephoned postmortem two days later, so I never asked them about it. But I’m familiar with the muckraking investigations of Christopher Rufo, and I know now that what I was briefly subjected to represents a beta version of the humiliations that well-intentioned diversity trainers have recently inflicted, among others, on white male employees at Sandia National Laboratories California and white teachers in the San Diego Unified School District, and that student activists at Evergreen State used against their hapless president, George Bridges. “No, fuck you, George,” a student told Bridges as he tried to reason with them. “We don’t want to hear a fucking thing you have to say. You talk so fucking much. No, you shut the fuck up.”

Antiracist Struggle Session 1.0: that’s what I was introduced to one October morning eighteen years ago. I

was an unwitting pioneer; a test-pilot for the United States of Wokeness that we are rapidly becoming. The dark side of this work is real, and it does violence to the truth of our existence. When rich and granular human lives are stretched across the rack of the Power Grid, when compensatory fantasies of revenge, conscious or unconscious, are licensed against those who, suitably labeled, are imagined to “oppress,” people will get hurt. The world most of us want to bring into being, or that we used to want to bring into being--the vision that King set forth in “I Have a Dream” and John Lewis embraced to the end of his days, a just, soulful, and equitable America worthy of E Pluribus


Unum—will fail to materialize as our nation, fractured beyond repair, veers downward into darkness, marinated in the zero-sum politics of grievance and payback.

So how did it end? The letter to my agent quoted earlier suggests that I was fortunate in my choice of a gay

white female ally, and I do remember that she seemed genuinely concerned on my behalf, although I can’t remember how she spoke up for me. Nor do I remember how, or even whether, she and I were allowed to communicate. Were we granted a brief colloquy? How else would she have known enough to defend me? I just can’t remember.

At some point Holloway and Benowitz grew alarmed by what they had unleashed in the room. What does

evil sound like, once set into motion? What does it feel like? I have avoided confronting that question for the past eighteen years, although I knew even as it happened that the scapegoating I was being subjected to was wrong in a way that couldn’t possibly contribute to the building of a more just and equitable America. I certainly didn’t use the word “evil” during our telephone conversation two days later. We were all making nice at that point. Our voices were mellow and well-modulated. A mistake had been made, a sincere apology had been publicly tendered. The ship had been righted, the workshop rescued from disaster. By the time we left Education For Progress at 5 PM on Saturday, after a break for lunch and an early afternoon reboot, the dust had settled and everybody was more or less okay. I’d managed to pow-wow outside the back door with Chris, one of my antagonists, and we’d made peace— shared a brief hug, in fact. I’d probably talked a little more than I should have early on, we agreed. Holloway, Benowitz, and I chuckled about this on the phone: the professor’s eternal sin. No hard feelings.

But it was hard feelings—my hard feelings—that had turned the tide. This I remember well. I broke the

spell of the struggle session in the simplest possible way: by getting pissed off.

Because as I sat there in the circle, silenced, allowing myself to be silenced, slowly chilling with fear, playing

along with the ritual, trying to be a good boy as the solicited bitterness of my fellow workshoppers poured down on me from all sides, there came a moment when something inside me suddenly sparked and I thought “Wait a minute.” In that split-second, the slippage between the actual magnitude of my offense, whatever it was, and the volume of anger being funneled in my direction became impossible to ignore. I was being crucified for the sins of American history, transformed into a convenient dumping ground for every disappointment my fellow citizens had brought through the door. This was the work?

My heart flamed. I’m not a rageful man, but I’ve got a fuse and it occasionally melts. I may have risen to my

feet; I may have leaned forward in my chair. I can’t remember. But I remember what I said. It was a strange thing for a white guy to say. But it was true to the life I had lived, including four years as a street musician on 125th Street, one block down from the Apollo Theater.

“You couldn’t do this in Harlem,” I said loudly, suddenly furious, waving my hand at the circle, shocking

them into silence. “That’s just not how things work down there. Everybody gets a chance to say their piece. You want me to be silent while you dump on my ass? That’s the whitest goddamn thing I’ve ever heard of!”



Blue Mountain Review / june 2021

I said more, but that was enough.

After I got back home to Oxford, after the agreed-upon phoner with Jane and Leah had been taped, I kept

puttering away on research for my book about racial healing. Something had shifted in me, though. Once I got married in June 2004, once my wife and I actually began to live a life outside the Power Grid—a joyful, playful life of shared purpose—the book project came to seem secondary, even unneeded. I wrote one long article, a study of New Age visions of racial healing; the peer reviewer for American Literary History mocked it so viciously, claiming I was trying to hoax the publication, that I finally got the point: nobody was interested in the subject. Racial healing? Come on, dude. You can’t be serious.

So I gave up on the book and fled from what had happened out in Seattle. I’d always considered myself

politically progressive—I’d cared deeply about racial justice as long as I could remember--but I knew that what I’d encountered in that activist community wasn’t something I wanted any part of. So I pivoted once again, around the time our son was born in 2006, and spent the next seven years writing a book about the devil and the blues. I bought my son a trumpet, then an electric bass, then a trombone, a sax, a high-tension marching snare drum—any instrument he wanted—and watched him blossom: a kid who could read sheet music like a pro and sing any melody with perfect pitch. I taught him the blues scale. He taught me how to hear the marches of John Phillip Sousa in a new way. I pulled out my parents’ old Herb Alpert records; he sputtered through “Tijuana Taxi” and “Spanish Flea” while my wife and I drank margaritas on our shady back porch, looking out at the creek and reminiscing about “The Dating Game.”

Even as my family and I lived out our own little Mississippi-style experiment in beloved community, I

watched our country slowly come undone. I watched the promise of the Obama years—”There is not a Black America and a White America and Latino America and Asian America; there’s the United States of America”—dissolve in violence and rancor, beginning with the shootings of Gabby Giffords and Trayvon Martin. Sandy Hook Elementary School was next, then Michael Brown and the others. You know their names. The litany of our lives. Obama was followed by Trump. We know how that worked out.

I sympathize with young people, including my 15-year-old son, who must wrangle the world we’ve be-

queathed to them. I applaud the work of those determined to give a fuller and more accurate accounting of American history, one that avoids triumphalist cliches and acknowledges grave failures. We’re living through a time of mourning, engaged in a national reckoning about race. People are finally waking up to the iniquities that have warped our criminal justice system, the lack of police accountability that haunts many communities. These are good and needed developments. But the question of how to create the humane multiracial America that most of us want to live in remains vexed—far more vexed than the legions of diversity trainers, equity assessors, and critical race theorists would have us believe. This is why I’ve decided to speak out.

Where will they place our son, our beautiful brown son, in their Power Grid? That’s what truly haunts me.

Will the National Museum of African American History & Culture decide that he shows “signs of whiteness” like “in-


dividualism,” “hard work,” and “delayed gratification” and find him deficient for that reason? My wife exemplifies all those qualities. Will they banish her from the village, too? Or summon her to a state-sponsored struggle session? Will they send someone to knock on our front door and teach us, calmly and self-assuredly, that we are not, in fact, members of the same human family, bound in holy matrimony and committed to mutual care, but representatives of distinct races, each with its own historical inheritance and appropriate cultural manifestations, each carefully slotted into pre-approved levels within the prevailing hierarchy of virtue?

I’ve read and taught Toni Morrison’s Beloved; I’m familiar with Schoolteacher, the well-educated white man

who arrives at the Sweet Home plantation in Kentucky in the 1850s to take charge after the master dies. He studies the slaves, assaying their “qualities” with a pseudo-scientific precision that Morrison means us to see, through the eyes of an enslaved woman named Sethe, as sickeningly inhumane. “No, no,” Sethe overhears Schoolteacher tell his two nephews, “That’s not right. I told you to put her human characteristics on the left; her animal ones on the right. And don’t forget to line them up.”

Sethe, pregnant with her fourth child and beaten mercilessly for helping her two sons and daughter escape

Sweet Home, flees the plantation not long after this. She’s haunted by schoolteacher’s chart. The columns that divide, with considered precision. When Schoolteacher later tracks her down in Ohio, she slits her daughter’s throat rather than allowing her to be taken back to a place where she will be subjected to that Power Grid. She knows it is evil. I share her revulsion. When something like that has you and your family in its sights, your flesh and blood, the people you would kill for, you do what you need to do.

Those who have recently brought intersectional theory into the public square after developing it in academic

and activist circles over the past thirty years would have us reconstruct the sum total of our social relations in line with its dictates: in K-12 schools and universities, in the corporate and nonprofit world, at all levels of government, in every conceivable quadrant of organized social life. I think that’s a recipe for disaster. I’m convinced we can do better—and must. But of course I’m just a straight white cisgendered male, and an aging one at that. And I live in Mississippi. So nothing I say should be taken seriously.

What do you think? More importantly, what will you do when you find yourself in the charmed circle? Will

you be fragile, or fierce? Will you speak up, or remain silent? I feel for you.

My family and I are right here, waiting for you.



Blue Mountain Review / june 2021

Adam Gussow is a professor of English and Southern Studies at the University of Mississippi and a blues harmonica player and teacher. He has published a number of books on the blues, including Mister Satan’s Apprentice: A Blues Memoir (1998), Seems Like Murder Here: Southern Violence and the Blues Tradition (2002), and Beyond the Crossroads: The Devil and the Blues Tradition (2017), which the readers of Living Blues selected as "Best Blues Book of 2017." His latest book is Whose Blues? Facing Up to Race and the Future of the Music (2020). His music longtime musical partnership with Sterling "Mr. Satan" Magee is the subject of an award-winning documentary, Satan & Adam, which is currently screening on Netflix.


poetr 184



Blue Mountain Review / june 2021


spineflower By: annie diamond

Two main kinds of stroke first sorted 1923: bleeding and scarce blood flow.

Annie like Hannah, Hebrew for grace. Certain grace confounds me since: fine

motor grace, the grace of chopsticks, shoelaces, cash registers. I can make

them all work still, but these demand now. Two classes of motor skills fine and gross.

Once I am asked to count backward from 2,023 subtracting 17 each time,

am told I will be corrected if I make a mistake, but I am perfect at this. Chorizanthe fimbriata:

the name attracts me at the Harvard Glass Flower Collection: for fringed spineflower.

Collection the work of Leopold and Rudolf Blaschka of Bohemian borderlands. I think



Blue Mountain Review / june 2021

of Leopold and Rudolph Bloom, wonder if Blaschka has to do with Bloom: seems

possible given the flowers. Consider what would have replaced Blaschka

at Ellis Island. Rudolph Bloom born Rudolf Virág, a Hungarian Jew, near Austria. Virág

Hungarian for flower. Grace in this name, flower in those:


the summer i was 20 By: annie diamond I wore a back brace, went to PT twice a week, worked part-time at the same coffee shop where I worked full-time the 2 summers before

Customers would ask: most assumed a car accident, but I set them straight I remember one who did not ask, who stared and stared I wish I said,

Hon, I had brain damage, but not so much that I cannot see The brace looked horrible, must have been the design of a Swedish man,

for it was plain charcoal plastic and left no room for breasts, and it was summer in New England beside an espresso machine so of course I

wanted to wear as little clothing as possible There was no



Blue Mountain Review / june 2021

Annie Diamond is a Connecticut native living and working as a bookseller in Chicago. She has been awarded fellowships by MacDowell, The Lighthouse Works, Luminarts Cultural Foundation, and Boston University, where she taught creative writing and earned her MFA in 2017. Her poems have appeared and are forthcoming in Yemassee, No Tokens, Tar River Poetry, Rabbit Catastrophe Review, and elsewhere.

covering up

I helped one customer

who had a scar like mine across his throat

One of us asked the other about it He might have pulled out his t-shirt neckline to show it Whenever I see scars like that, I want

to ask, to punctuate the question with a finger on mine as an excuse for being rude I hate to pretend that what is there is not there


shavasana By: beth copeland Lying on the yoga mat in corpse pose, I want to levitate above all suffering, to return to a summer long ago when I lay flat on my back in a turquoise pool with eyes closed. The swim instructor said, I’m letting go but you won’t sink. When I opened my eyes, white clouds billowed like the bleached sheets Mother hung on the line to dry above fresh-mown grass and clover or like a flock of sheep grazing on a muscari-blue pasture of sky. Lately, I don’t know if there’s any hope left, if there’s a lifeline reeling us back to shore or only a frayed rope pulling us farther out to sea. But as I deeply breathe, I become a child again, eyes open to heaven, held on the water’s shimmering surface, adrift in that moment of wonder when we know nothing is holding us up and we float



Blue Mountain Review / june 2021

Beth Copeland is the author of three full-length poetry books: Blue Honey, re-cipient of the 2017 Dogfish Head Poetry Prize; Transcendental Telemarketer; and Traveling through Glass, recipient of the 1999 Bright Hill Press Poetry Book Award. Beth lives in the Blue Ridge Mountains where she owns and runs Tiny Cabin, Big Ideas™, a retreat for poets, writers, and artists.


novel aloofness BY: cathyrn shea Small midnight miseries like unpaired electrons discharged in a dialect cruder than my mother tongue. The good blank dirt unquiet. My spine laid bare when I sleep. Feeling the stems of roses sprout an elegant flesh turned chromium. No threat like in a B Mafia movie, my bandit-masked reflection confronted. Root-buckled asphalt, a mirage that shines with a demonic gloss. Now find myself stalled. Alone under the threadbare sky of celestial blue, a magnificent hat. Each and every time, a failed attempt to go back to how things were. My salutation under a kind of banner, this mask draped across the battlements.



Blue Mountain Review / june 2021

Cathryn Shea is the author of four chapbooks, including most recently “Backpack Full of Leaves” (Cyberwit, 2019) and “Secrets Hidden in a Pear Tree” (dancing girl press, 2019). Her first full-length poetry collection, “Genealogy Lesson for the Laity,” is forthcoming from Unsolicited Press in September 2020. Her poetry appears in Eastern Iowa Review, Tar River Poetry, New Orleans Review, and elsewhere. See www.cathrynshea. com and @cathy_shea on Twitter.


how to make a mojito By: celia lisset alvarez

When you said that joke about how many Cubans it takes to build a raft I thought you were oh so clever! Clever also that you said it to me. You showed me how to make souvlaki and I thought you were so well-traveled! You quoted Marina Tsvetaeva—in Russian—“I know the truth—give up all other truths!” We read Foucault and though I could not understand the soul I thought that I had freed my body and you said that sex is nothing but a ruse, sex is nothing! Later you made me show your friends how to make a mojito and I heard myself italicize it. I heard you tell the joke about how many Cubans it takes to fill an island and I thought it takes one, just one.



Blue Mountain Review / june 2021

Celia Lisset Alvarez is the editor of Prospectus: A Literary Offering,and has three collections of poetry: Shapeshifting (winner of the 2005Spire Press Poetry Award), The Stones (2006) and Multiverses (2021). Her writing has appeared in How to Write a Form Poem, Pensive: A Global Journal of Spirituality and the Arts, and many other journals and anthologies. She also has work forthcoming in the Catamaran Literary Reader. She lives in Miami, Florida, with her husband and two daughters.


after and before By: christopher nielsen Early in the dark morning worried, thinking , but not sleeping in the pre-dawn.

From the southern states to Caledonia milling around in the backs of my mind.

Pondering my concerns and losing any slumbering. Slowly dozing off into hazy

territory varied thoughts. Inside my front room crying and laughing

with each other. Holding, our words together, but forgotten them before.

Tears, trinkets given,



Blue Mountain Review / june 2021

Christopher Nielsen has resided in California. He is a photographer and writer. Traveling the many back roads of California has provided a wealth of inspiration and he feels most at home out in nature. Photography started at the age of ten years old. Poetry has become his primary form of written expression. He is currently working on a book of photo-poetry. Christopher has been a featured poet at Kern Poetry’s Open Mic at Dagny’s Coffee Shop. His poetry or photography has appeared in Barren Magazine, Mojave Heart Review, Rabid Oak, Writing Sound, Writing Fields, West Texas Literary Review and others. Author website:

feelings not amiss, dreaming misting.

Clear at the time, a moment or hours, not sure a dream lasts.


this has nothing to do with your name and how i use it as a key By: emily jalloul

—after Ben Clark

Snow dusts maples. This small corner of Appalachia turns white, melts quickly. Letters go unsent. Say I’m sorry. Or, I miss you. Or, I dreamed of live octopus, tender and wet; I dreamed of sharpening a chef’s knife; I dreamed of salt water rushing over my face. I check the weather where you are: bitter frost, wind. Cold and hard. Every morning your name in my throat is a bee staggering from a peony. Whoever you are now, I hope you’re sated, that your dreams smell like beach fire, burnt brine in the wind.



Blue Mountain Review / june 2021

Emily Jalloul is a Lebanese-American poet and PhD candidate in English and Creative Writing at the University of Tennessee where she serves as editor for Grist: Journal of Literary Arts. Her previous work has been published or is forthcoming in Bodega Magazine, Blue Earth Review, Pittsburgh Poetry Review, Juked, and The Offing, as well as others.


waiting for locusts By: KB ballentine New Year’s Day 2011; Beebe and Ozark, Arkansas

Wind sculpts birch and redwood, smears the sky white. A willow leans, dips tresses in the frosted pond. Above the ridgeline, man and dog trudge, slicing the light as they climb.

The air throbs with silence, no bird song devours the dawn. Coop’s field aches in a flood of decaying blackbirds. Flies storm the shiny sea of feathers, flesh. Across town, Dale’s Diner windows a bevy of beaks and wings fixed in flight, small heaps of muscle and meat on the pavement, in every street.

A hundred miles away drum fish fracture the lake’s surface, scales glazing the light as they pile around rocks, along banks, eyes glaring at the heavens in silence. So much silence.



Blue Mountain Review / june 2021


almost shining By: KB ballentine

Spring still brittle,   chill grips the early morning,

flings the bleak season back at us   while we hide behind daffodil smiles,

new-green leaves shivering the trees.   Cotton-clouds scatter wishes

across the blue, above furrows fractured   with cosmos dreaming, still

dreaming, in the half-light.



Blue Mountain Review / june 2021

KB Ballentine’s seventh collection, Edge of the Echo, is scheduled to launch in the Spring of 2021 with Iris Press. Her earlier books can be found with Blue Light Press, Middle Creek Publishing, and Celtic Cat Publishing. Published in Crab Orchard Review and Haight-Ashbury Literary Journal, among others, her work also appears in anthologies including In Plein Air (2017) and Carrying the Branch: Poets in Search of Peace (2017). Learn more at


gonna smack those teachers By: frank C Modica After Jack Coulehan because they look at me like I’m stupid when I question frequent restraints for my autistic daughter. They think

I’m disrespecting their professionalism-like I don’t notice when they text each other during parent-teacher conferences. They won’t

cut me slack even though I come to every meeting, bite my tongue at every veiled judgment, respond

to every insulting email without losing my temper. I might not have a teaching degree but I know my kid; how to calm her down

when she comes home scared after those teachers time her out in a closet for hours. I got scars on my heart from those teachers screwing up

my kid. Listen, one more useless phone call, one more do-nothing conference, one more smart-ass


text, and we’ll have a real problem on our hands.


Blue Mountain Review / june 2021

Frank C Modica is a retired public school teacher who taught students with special needs for 34 years. Since his retirement he volunteers with a number of arts and social service organizations in his community. His work is forthcoming or has appeared in Beyond Words Magazine, Literary Yard, Spindrift Literary Arts Journal, Slab, Heyday Magazine, The Tishman Review, and Black Heart Magazine.


holy work By: Isaiah Hemmen The mantis has perfect posture when she preys or is preyed upon. Even with threat and prospect gone, how resolutely she leans on her sprig as upon a psalm, solemn, devout, dignified, calm as an inscrutable question poised in perfect faith void of confession, even animus—

yet with all survival’s gravitas she remains grafted there, a counterfeit, alas, green on inanimate green within the deepening geometry of grass. A lithe, gothic silhouette made in the likeness of those leaves stirs as they stir—now docile, then hostile— according to the mutable gospel of the breeze. And what better praise of The Collage than pretense,

camouflage. So enmeshed is subject in object, self in other, it makes one wonder, gives one pause—this holy work of deception—for in so doing she could not be more genuine.



Blue Mountain Review / june 2021

Isaiah Hemmen is co-author of the chapbook Abstractions, Liquor, & Nudity (2008) and author of the forthcoming collection (TBA) Survival of the Fittest Descriptions. A graduate of Middlebury College and The New School for Social Research, he resides in Seattle, WA and teaches at Bellevue College, where he’s a lecturer in English, including fiction and poetry.


untethered in dixie By: jay jacoby Ten years of marriage finally gone South and so, to my greater surprise, will I.

Despite early vows otherwise, I will now traverse that Mason-Dixon line though still haunted by Life’s images from childhood: Emmett Till, Little Rock, Pickrick’s Drumsticks, and bodies managed so easily with firehoses and vicious dogs. My pride and prejudice now also managed, worn down by the promise of a paycheck.

An itinerant Pennsylvania Yankee will soon descend to serve in Queen Charlotte’s court.

Farewell Steel City, a.k.a. “City of Bridges,” all four hundred and forty-six of them spilling us into ninety-one enclaves. Gert Stein, your native daughter, was right: “A Holubky is a Gołąbki is a Golubtsy.” A cabbage roll by any other name would smell as sweet. In Blitzburgh, they’d tell me, “These lines need fixed.”

So I roll down from your sooted hills



And into the khaki piedmont flatland.

Blue Mountain Review / june 2021

Jay Jacoby is a retired English professor, having spent most of his teaching career at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. Following his retirement, he moved to the mountains of western North Carolina, where he has lived for nearly twenty years. Jacoby’s work has appeared in such journals as the Asheville Poetry Review, Main Street Rag, Cold Mountain Review, Meat for Tea, and the Ekphrastic Review.

Hello Queen City, a.k.a “City of Churches.” There’s one or more at every intersection, all ready to serve me country ham biscuits, seven-layer salad, Cheerwine or sweet tea. I am now a stranger in a strange land, like Geronimo stranded among the white-eyes Indeed, everyone is blond; here we cannot sing of ochi chyornye or schwartze oygen.

I explain that I am a recent transplant, happy to exchange my “yinz” for “y’all.”

I am amazed by all this southern charm. I wasn’t expecting Deliverance, but this? People even bless my heart—for no reason other than my asking “What’s Cheerwine?” At every 7-Eleven, they all invite me to “Come back and see us.” And I always do. I asked myself why I stayed north so long? In a year or so I would have my answer.


squirrel hunting By: jesse millner Gush and silence of creek rippling over face and shadow of the afternoon my uncle

and I went hunting squirrel in high Virginia woods. White oak running toward the sky, branches revealing wind

or rodent feet, and if the latter, my uncle would bring up the twelve gauge, blast that sucker into a falling grey rag. He had

a burlap sack for their broken remains, was almost gentle as he lowered the bloody fur into itchy darkness. Later my grandma

or another of the women would skin the little beasts, bring them to a nakedness nature had not intended, then chop

them into pieces that cackled in the welcoming lard of the frying pan. Browned like chicken,



Blue Mountain Review / june 2021 Jesse Millner’s latest book of poetry, “Memory’s Blue Sedan,” was released by Hysterical Books of Tallahassee, Florida in April 2020. He lives in Fort Myers, Florida, with his dog, Lucy, who is a good girl.

served with collard greens on my grandma’s pretty china-bone plates bearing the freshly dead

over frail geometries of blue.


dove with bloodstain By: kaitinn estevez After our unrest, the sun still gives the courtesy of rising. In communion with the last living of its kind, I wish to wear the ache the same way. The sulu runs into the undergrowth at dawn, bedrock refuses the currents’ touch to keep itself intact - I want that same knowing of when to hoard and when to sing.



Blue Mountain Review / june 2021


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Blue Mountain Review / june 2021


it’s the sea that pulls the moon By: kaitinn estevez I’ve collected enough driftwood to build us a shelter and we won’t need to bother with lights

since the gaps will let the sun crawl through. And, yes, when it rains water will pour in

but we will need it to put out the fires when we have lit too many spoons ⸻and that fire

is my heaven, especially when it is blue

and licks my nail as I hold it. I never want it to swell full to orange. If we could just keep it

blue maybe our place won’t burn. When we’re ready to be swallowed, I’ll go first taking you

by the whole, holy hunger ⸻I would spend my whole life mining the gold embedded

in the blue of your iris, even if all I find is dust.



Blue Mountain Review / june 2021


a new language By: kaitinn estevez Hold the v in forgive, find out how far its valley goes

Become a builder to carve it out, turn it over make it the roof of our home

Bend my body to mold to its shape making me easier to cradle

Remember, when hiding, its arrowhead will jab me until I look

It’s only smooth when it hangs in my mouth Sounding it out, hitting teeth then lip, hums

splitting syllables, the point to a needle that hems

I will hold it here, hidden in my cheek



for as long as you need

Blue Mountain Review / june 2021

Kaitlinn Estevez recently graduated with an MFA from Columbia University with a concentration in poetry. Estevez currently works and lives in New York City.


portentous dispensary By: matthew freeman When Ladylove took me back to Carbondale for Christmas the first thing we did was hit the dispensary and when they took him into the inner sanctum I was left out with the receptionist and the security guard and everything was quiet and charged when suddenly the receptionist said, “Order for Matthew ‘Cross’” and she and the guard were just cracking up and I was so still and she then said “I just had to do it” and I knew right then light as hell it was going to be my annus mirabilis because I had outlived all of my influences and time was up and I saw clearly through some kind of screen and then Ladylove came out with the dope and we split.



Blue Mountain Review / june 2021

Matthew Freeman’s latest book is called Ideas of Reference at Jesuit Hall, and was published by Coffeetown Press. He also has a new chapbook, Exile, which was brought out by 2River.


what I can and cannot say to hector By: Mo Corleone A friendly hola tumbles out a casual assumption on my part welcomed, returned so genuinely I gamble on a stranger exchange Likely unwise, a sidewalk stowaway but his smiling eyes are true and kind I answer with truth instinctively Voy a caminar a Lake Merritt When he asks permission to join I oblige, try atrophied Spanish ¿De donde eres? (México) ¿Y donde vives? (pointing: allí, allí, allí...) His meaning makes it through alrededor del lago The stories stay buried in thousands of wrinkles sculpted by sunblast Linguistic limits laughable we hobble with contrasting handicaps still, certain subjects are universal violencia de la policía Makeshift queer ballroom event



Blue Mountain Review / june 2021 Mo Corleone is an emerging poet based in Northern California. Her debut chapbook “Around the Lake” captures a raw mixture of bedlam and beauty unique to city living. A spirited collection of place-based poems, all works in the chapbook were composed along the shores of urban lakes. Her chapbook earned an honorable mention in the LGBTQ Chapbook Contest sponsored by The Southern Collective Experience. It is also being published by Finishing Line Press with a release date of June 4, 2021.

our lakeside amphitheater greeting No school, no restaurant had prepared me My best: “gay dance with judges” The depth of understanding of consent in his response, the opposite of macho vastly more beautiful than my takeaway me gusta, te gusta, no problema Neither can I translate the pride prize - too real a taser in a purse for self-defense Creo que el mundo sería mejor sin violencia I wish I could tell him we all agree


ameraucana By: neal tucker Black Jersey Giants drip brown like Plymouth Rocks, like the Barred, the Black Copper Maran. The darker markings a metaphysic. move over, Like good fences they must be painted white. A few claim to have seen, to have held, shouting and shed-sharp, the birth of a nation, and alight for it. look, The land wasn’t ours to begin with, and now the plumes are coming off. We scribble on cartons as if all these specters will simply go their own way, but Believe it or not they go on without asking for resurrection. No need. Stones are as deep as Ameraucana Olive Egger and Mutt. The yolk runs gold, and listen, Have you ever heard a Black Star speak? Hold it to your ear. That’s a drum atop a floating box. Mouth open on the water. Eyes like

224 bolls.


Blue Mountain Review / june 2021 Neal Tucker is a writer in LA. His work has been published, or will appear, in Coffin Bell Journal, Route 7 Review, Writ in Dust, Allegory Ridge, and others. He’s the Editor-in-Chief of The Festival Review.


dead folk By: pamela wynn Man’s heart is a ditch full of blood. The loved ones who have died throw themselves down on the bank of this ditch . . . the dearer they are to you, the more of your blood they drink. —The Narrator, Zorba the Greek, Nikos Kazantzakis

Sky threatens to do its worst. Then does. Straight-line winds strip leaves from bronzed beeches yellow birches.

Freeway pile-up. Heart attack. Suicide. Housefire. Names added to rolls of the dead.

So many dead folk.

They like to visit. They don’t know they’re not welcome.

No one wants the dead inside. Having lost all manners they take every chair, leave no room for the living.

Shut them out, they’ll chatter amongst themselves until dawn outside your bedroom window. It’s not their fault.

Abandoned and stored in rows in cold hard ground, interred in vaults or scattered to the dust from which they came.

Don’t let them drag you away.



Blue Mountain Review / june 2021

They’ll try. Can you blame them?

They’re lonely without you.

Author of Diamonds on the Back of a Snake (Laurel Poetry Collective, 2004) and editor of the anthology of poems Body of Evidence (Laurel Poetry Collective, 2012), Pamela Wynn’s poems have appeared in numerous publications including Bryant Literary Review; The Comstock Review, The Writer; Water~Stone Review; Askew Poetry Journal; Pectoriloquy—Chest: The American College of Chest Physicians; ARTS: The Arts in Religious and Theological Studies; Spiritus: A Journal of Christian Spirituality; Minnesota Monthly Magazine; Christian Century; The Ragged Edge: The Disability Experience in America; Kaleidoscope: International Magazine of Literature, Fine Arts, and Disability; and


still as flower By: patsy creedy Bubble white Color of its own Transmitting something else Invisibly carrying The face of the moon

Pink Lady flowers of August Common as Beige ruffled curtains Leaking out a kitchen window Hot afternoon wind pulling Them back in

Please transform this house

grime of poverty Of mind grime of smallness Of the world pink petal trumpets

Lipstick in a clear plastic cap Define the petal On this face Marked now Still as flower



Blue Mountain Review / june 2021

Patsy Creedy is a native Californian living in San Francisco. She has published poetry and creative nonfiction in various places such as eMerge, Transformer, Inlandia, Dragon’s leap, RKVRY Quarterly. She has a memoir coming out this spring, Without Her, Memoir of a Family, with Atmosphere Press.


black ash basket By: rosalie sanara petrouske My daughter and I weave black ash strips over-under, over-under, dip them in water to keep each pliable. My fingers smell like soil, like tree. Side by side, our shoulders brush, our hands grow tired from pulling each section taut. We take our place amongst generations of Ojibwe women. who sat in circles alongside sisters, mothers, aunts. Although, we wear jeans and sweaters, and when we break for a meal, we go to a cafeteria to fill our plates with fried rice and fortune cookies from the Chinese vendor. Our teacher is a fifth-generation weaver – she keeps us on task, sets the rhythm, over-under, over-under. My fingers smell like fiddlehead ferns, like work. My daughter hums, breathes softly, our elbows touch. She is proud of her creation – we shape the weave gently between our palms so the baskets keep their form, Then over-under, over-under. My father’s mother is our blood-link. Was she a weaver too? Do we have her nose, eyes, or high cheekbones? We’ll never know. My fingers smell like sweetgrass, like memory. Our forearms touch as we reach for the last strip of bark. Over-under, over-under, we are almost finished.



Blue Mountain Review / june 2021

Rosalie Sanara Petrouske is the author of What We Keep (Finishing Line Press, 2016). Her work has appeared in many literary journals, including Passages North, Red Rock Review, Rhino, Southern Poetry Review, Third Wednesday, Sky Island Journal and Lunch Ticket. In 2020, she was one of six finalists in the Jack Grapes Poetry Prize sponsored by Cultural Weekly. In her writing, she stays true to the teachings of her Ojibwe father, who taught her how to respect her natural surroundings, whether a woodland or urban landscape. She is a Professor of Writing at Lansing Community College in Lansing, Michigan.

Born on Sugar Island on the Fourth of July, my father’s mother, Helene, died at forty-two, no grave marker mentions women like her, expendable. Her children left motherless, a name on a census roll. Ancestral pain runs deep in my veins, in waves like the big lake, gichigami. It floods in my heart, in my daughter’s— that lake of our births, but unlike those before us, we shall let our voices be heard, rise up to speak the rape and desecration of our pasts— and we will weave power into our baskets, place within them flowers, pebbles, feathers, beads aglow with light.

After the workshop, we admire each other’s handiwork, exclaim over perfectly woven rows. Smiling, we pose for a picture. Our fingers smell like cedar, like hope.


waiting By: sarah anderson

Through the woods across a field across the road from my house, a train shakes the trees like a load of wash.

My family has everything but the lake here and we believe in a clean slate here. A jagged piece from other woods tells us from the kitchen wall in white chalk which animals ran through here. My twin sister waits

for a baby girl, an hour’s drive. A baby girl. I pace the floorboards. I remember each creak, each river. Nothing will mess with my sister’s heart. My niece arrives. The days shine with sharp clarity. The nights hint at fall.



Blue Mountain Review / june 2021


adam By: sarah anderson With a tongue that didn’t know itself - - lost animal - - his mouth opened - - eyes squinted. Dimples

like our grandfather’s but without the agile body. Adam’s hands were pale - - reaching always in the air - -

a button, Arcturus. My friend’s older brother weighed more than his little sister - hoisted her on his shoulders.

Adam’s muscular dystrophy made this impossible - - erased strength and sinew.

Doctors thought he would live to be fifteen (he lived to 24). Upper body swagger - -wheelchair

backward rock - -laughter unhinged. The screen door slammed those summer nights

until my mother fixed it. We flinched - our eyes and ears expecting a sudden door


the way she expected his special school to call


Blue Mountain Review / june 2021

daily. She waited until it came -- a voice telling her of his fever. We waited for his life to unspin itself from the swing set chain.

I loved that rush, sneakers scuffing a sandy oval until I sat steady -my eyes adjusting. Oak tree -- complete gold.

I knew my brother in the silences. Flecks of silver mica peeling from stone. Meteor shower. Black lake --empty bed. I remember

the first Christmas my mother didn’t hang his stocking. I watched her pull it from light and ornament tangle

in the dented box that reached her waist -shake it --fold it in half --and put it back.


stay, my little boy by the barn, one overall strap dangling By: sarah anderson Long underwear, sweat-drenched, freezes to the wooden deck rail. Bent at the waist, one leg folds over the other, the silhouette of a man under ice. The long underwear, from EMS, came in the mail boasting one hundred percent guaranteed protection against cold, against the elements, against the way time wears everything away. The tag said the fabric would never wear thin. Military Thermal Underwear and long johns, silk weight, heavy weight. That is what anyone on the receiving end would expect. But what comes is never expected. It may have been lightweight, but this weight is too much to bear tonight under the moon spreading across the snow. He’ll be a fourth of July firework ember falling into water. Every year passing. Major Steven Reich was on a rescue mission in Afghanistan when his helicopter was shot down. All 16 personnel on board died.



Blue Mountain Review / june 2021

Sarah Anderson’s poems have appeared in North American Review, December Magazine, and Raleigh Review, Sarah Anderson’s poems have appeared in North American Review, December Magazine, and Raleigh Review, among other publications. Sarah earned an MFA from Warren Wilson College in 2011, and has been a high school English teacher for 18 years. Sarah also owns and operates a venue in Exeter, New Hampshire, called The Word Barn -- a gathering place for poetry and music. •


open eyes, open heart By: susan campbell Honesty is midnight’s will-of-the-wisp …

As specific as the dog’s white paws, more elusive as the pale fragrance of rain first tamping down the garden dirt, awareness births the world. The tow-headed toddler (grasping the parent’s little finger) practices balance and learns gravity, learns the trustworthiness of sun and cloud, and just like that, we admit the blood link with victors— physicians astronomers tyrants and the near-same DNA as victims— who is to name them? From Syria, from Myanmar, from Oklahoma, from Seventh Street —sisters, brothers.

Some cannot say Amen So Be It in the language of the local news, the world report, the texts of history ….



Blue Mountain Review / june 2021

Susan Maxwell Campbell grew up in Dallas and is retired from teaching languages in public schools. Her principal activities are gardening, birdwatching, and singing. She has two degrees in French and a degree in creative writing from University of North Texas, where she received the University Writing Award for Graduate Poetry. Her poems have appeared in several publications. Her collection Anything You Ever Wanted to Know was selected the 2015 book winner of Poetry Society of Texas.


self-portrait with ecdysis By: tara ballard

after Natan Zach’s “Self-Portrait at Night”

I am flightless in a grove of roses. Skin of a snake whole at my feet: diadem: he has forgotten himself empty on soil red

as capsicum: shed a scroll longer than my wings outstretched. The artifact he gives is fragile: honeycomb and myrrh, crackle of fire.

Two sheep pinch into the space of a hatchback at a nearby gas station. I cannot see them for the trees, nor can I confirm their existence. Despite this

fault of mine, the afternoon is sweet with fruit. Eggshell hush of the snake lingers, his path beyond a film like milk. Is this shiver

through sun-tied roots the only map toward being whole?



Blue Mountain Review / june 2021

If yes, then what does it mean

to leave the body behind, to step outside of oneself?

Rays gnaw at my lips, and I am left to debate the absence of feathers. Somewhere close the snake dreams a molasses of grapes, respite of a ledge.


in the cemetery I.

By: tara ballard

I. My love and I meander along brick-laid paths where headstones are cloaked in moss: 1869, 1886. Our breath clouds the October morning like the sky does above branches. Both doors to the church house are closed, art-stained windows unlit. We point to maple leaves: their blush of red deeper than persimmon, a leap like blood to skin. Oaks a sonata of pumpkin and honey, and a tree we don’t yet know by name, it leaves an offering at its roots, chartreuse as starfruit. We linger at family plots, above-ground tombs and beds no longer than our nephew is tall. The years confirm each childness. When our toes become too cold, we circle back, remember following the Freedom Trail to the burial site of Foone, how my love spoke then of Amistad, and we stood there: weeping willows a lampshade for recollection.



Blue Mountain Review / june 2021


Two swans glide across pond water so still, their feathered bodies barely ripple the mirror, necks arched. One dips her beak into glass. They lift their wings and hold their pose, and we are quieted by their composure, their shape: a hollow of love. They show us what it is to be beautiful, and I wonder whether I have ever felt with my eyes before.


there are rooftops By: tara ballad

a cento

Mid-sentence, we remembered the eclipse. a cento

We aged a hundred years and this descended: the black water, the songs we join in. Now footsteps on shingle. Make of it what you will. Seabirds roost when I walk. If this is a fracture across time and place, nothing is nothing. Afternoon burns everything off although a tide turns in the trees. When bones and flesh have finished their business together, some feel rain. Some feel the beetle startle that twig of light, that branch, that— Facing the wind of the avenues, I stumble down

around torn peaks.

I run high in my body. The scent of burning wood holds two pages to a grape fable.



Blue Mountain Review / june 2021

Tara Ballard is the author of House of the Night Watch (New Rivers Press), winner of the 2016 Many Voices Project. Her poems have been published in Consequence Magazine, Diode, Michigan Quarterly Review, North American Review, and elsewhere, and her work won a 2019 Nazim Hikmet Poetry Prize.

Pour O pour that parting soul in song—

I sit with my railroad face and ask God to forgive me. My eyes turned to salt in looking back.

NOTE: The lines, including the title, are drawn from John Yau’s “A Sheaf of Pleasant Voices,” A.E. Stallings’s “Sublunary,” Anna Akhmatova’s “In Memoriam, July 19, 1914,” Lloyd Schwartz’s “Nostalgia (The Lake at Night),” Marge Piercy’s “The seder’s order,” David Harsent’s “Tinnitus: January, thin rain becoming ice,” Matthew Zapruder’s “American Singer,” Michael Symmons Roberts’s “Nativity Scene in Bullet-Time,” Katie Ford’s “November Philosophers,” Jake Adam York’s “The Second Person,” Jacob Polley’s “October,” Sarah Lindsay’s “Shanidar, Now Iraq,” Joanna Klink’s “Some Feel Rain,” Nick Lantz’s “The Prophecies of Paracelsus,” John Haines’ “The Sweater of Vladimir Ussachevsky,” Cedar Sigo’s “$$$Expensive Magic$$$,” Aracelis Girmay’s “St. Elizabeth,” Ofelia Zepeda’s “Smoke in Our Hair,” Philip Lamantia’s “The Islands of Africa,” Jean Toomer’s “Song of the Son,” Ray Gonzalez’s “Railroad Face,” & Pierluigi Cappello’s “Staying.”


ode to the goldfinch in my backyard By: valerie bacharach Sparks from a just-lit match Moon arcs Crayola tips Sunlight streaking windows Clementines in cobalt bowl My grandmother’s amber brooch curves, swirls Bee belly pollen Rice blessed with turmeric Rue de Rivoli: silk scarf in lamplight. Honeysuckle blossoms at dusk Ripe peach slices dripping juice Yellow light I glide through on my way to the store A havoc of Aspen leaves October afternoon Honey drips from a spoon Water lilies abloom in the cemetery’s pond The curved bottle of my mother’s perfume Ripe apricots spilling scent My wedding ring’s round gold gloss



Blue Mountain Review / june 2021


sanctuary By: valerie bacharach

My husband works his holy place. Cuts back ivy, clips dead branches from rhododendron, picks three ripe tomatoes bright as my mother’s lipstick, Dior’s Iconic Red.

Wisteria stretches tendrils toward the ginkgo. In the courtyard, bamboo rockets through soil.

Laundry, warm from the dryer. Socks, t-shirts second drawer, towels sorted grey and blue.

I watch my hands tuck fresh sheets on the bed, plump pillows the way my mother did, as if movement flowed from her body to mine— double helix of touch.

My husband kneels before the magnolia, pulls weeds, the tiny clover that seems to reappear overnight. The back of his shirt sweat-stained, his body scented with grass and dirt, head bent as if in prayer.

So hot these last few weeks, earth feverish with virus and protests. Herbs flourish—



Blue Mountain Review / june 2021

Valerie Bacharach is completing her MFA at Carlow University and is a member of the Madwomen in the Attic poetry workshops. Her writing has appeared or will appear in the following publications: Pittsburgh Poetry Review, The Tishman Review, Topology Magazine, Poetica, Uppagus, Voices from the Attic, The Ekphrastic Review, Talking/Writing, Rogue Agent, and Vox Viola. Her chapbook, Fireweed, was published in August 2018 by Main Street Rag.

mint and oregano, rosemary and lemon thyme, summer savory, dill. Each day I add bits to salads, braises, fish, and chicken, my hands perfumed.


the butcher By: zachary cahill As I pray over the lamb’s mute possumed muscles the blood finds itself to my wrists and apron.

It’s the last prep for tomorrow.

I’m an amen from switching off the neon and a steep climb on these yearling’s knees upstairs to my gas range, my recliner and tv tray.



Blue Mountain Review / june 2021

Zachary Cahill lives in Michigan and currently attends Vermont College of Fine Arts’ MFA program in poetry. Zachary’s work has appeared in Great Weather for Media, Gravel, West Texas Literary Review, and others.



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Blue Mountain Review / june 2021


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Blue Mountain Review / june 2021


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Blue Mountain Review / june 2021

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You must understand By: Brian Quinn

There was always a stack of newspaper, tall, about chair height, in the kitchen, and another in the up-

stairs bedroom. Yellow, moist, newspapers. Nothing else in that extra bedroom, just the tall stack of papers.

Mother had polio. Debilitating. It was like she was being erased, removed, slowly, bits and swirls at

a time. Her arms were paper thin. He legs, simply, would not obey her commands. She would pull herself across the floor, drag herself into the fields, the garden, the barn. She would rest in the yellow-green hay, watch Father work, raise, in twisted hands, one of the kittens, always, it seemed, teeming in the barn.

The barn was at the crest of a gentle rise. Part of our farm.

Father was a man of the land. Tall. Silent. A huntsman, partial to plaid jackets, heavy boots. He sus-


pended his rifles by their leather shoulder straps from pegs driven into the wall. Always carried a sharp blade, tobacco for his pipe.


Words were not important.

Mother and Father would spend hours together, not speaking. He, seated at the kitchen table, back to

the window, sunlight spilling across his shoulders, illuminating the pale underside of peeling wallpaper, the rise of his pipe.

Not a word.

Just the soft sucking patter of his breath dancing a flame atop his bowl.

Mother, back turned, cooking, seated on a stack of newspapers, the only insurance against another

uncontrollable release of her bladder.

I knew when she had moved through the house, could follow the tortured progress of her legs, her




Blue Mountain Review / june 2021 hips, her feet, dragged through the brown-grey dust that powdered the wooden floors. In the center of the room, angled sunlight, a rectangle, filtered through rippled glass panes. On the sill handprints, mother reaching to view the frozen landscape.

“Albert,” she would say to me,“please dear, help me into this chair, would you?”

I would lift her frail body. A trifle. Weightless. Settle her into place. She would, nestle a kitten on her

chest, cupped in the palm of her hand, bury her nose in its soft, smokey, neck. Tickle stiff, pointed, ears.

She would sit for hours at a time in the kitchen by the iron stove, kindling and splits of hardwood

stacked beside. Insects would emerge from the wood, crawl on the floor. Crawl beside my mother. She had her papers, and a few beaten magazines, many times, and her ledgers. The farm so small, hardly productive. Subsistence farming.


I found a dagger sheathed in brown leather hidden in a trunk in the rafters of the barn. Beneath the

knife a folded greatcoat, grey, worn, and a steel helmet, heavy, with leather chinstrap and leather lining. Etched on its side, an eagle in flight, lifting an unmistakeable emblem, all corners and angles.

The sheath extended to the very top of the handle, a fold over buttoned-clasp wound around the

deadly grip, beneath it a belt loop. In the center of the handle a white and red diamond shaped pattern, and again, the emblem.

I grasped the handle, my fingers snug against the guard, drew the weapon out. The smoke-grey blade

was pitted, etched in cursive. I tried to pronounce the inscription, Blut und Ehre!, hefted the steel in my hand, waved it forward, turned a circle in the air, snapped my wrist down, then quickly, back up. Licked my lips.


At harvest we would trade. Each year a single boar, a pair of sows. Three months, three weeks, and

three days later, the two would produce litters.

Father walked me out to the barn each morning.

“We must zee if da sowz is rest-less,” he would say, “See if day is paw-ing da ground, ready do far-


We would stand together in the soft light, breath them in.


“Sqveez dem,” he told me.


“Zee teets...sqveez dem.”

I grabbed a firm point. Pulling produced a white milky fluid.

Sows pass bloody fluids when their time is near. The bloody fluid is followed by small green pellets.

“Doze pell-ots,” Father said, shifting the end of his pipe from one side of his nearly toothless mouth

to the other. “Means she is ray-dee.”Father knelt down, rubbed the sluggish animal’s utter until she lay on her side, ready to birth.

In less than an hour’s time the sow produced four piglets, spotted, like their mother. Ears back, eyes

closed, covered in membrane, they lay immobile. We cleared the mucus from their mouths, rubbed them down with rags. The tiny piglets shook, pale, bluish, took their first hesitant breaths, forced oxygen into their lungs, struggled to stand, find their mother.


I spoke to no one about the trunk in the rafters. I returned to it, time and again, when Father was in

the fields and Mother in the kitchen on her stack of papers.

The fieldcoat was much too large for me. I wrapped it round, felt the weight of it, ran my fingers down

the double row of large black buttons. I would turn the collar up beneath the heavy helmet so deep I had to raise the brim just to see. I wore my belt on the outside of the greatcoat, admired the threatening look of the dagger hanging from my hip.

All this without my parents’ knowledge.

Twelve to sixteen piglets, every three months, three weeks, and three days.

But not that sow. That sow is in trouble.

In pain, she stopped birthing. The first of the brood had all found their way to her swollen teats, suck-



Mother appeared in the doorway, dragging herself across the dirt floor, her dress trailing behind,



Blue Mountain Review / june 2021 Father did not turn. He was watching the sow, her labored breaths, her kicking rear legs.

“She is bree-ched,” he said.


Father nodded, took a long pull on his pipe, exhaled through his nostrils.

“One of da pigs is stuck-ed,” he said, reaching forward, prodding her swollen sex. “Will not coom out.”

Mother was halfway across the barn, still trying to reach the pen.

“Go to da howse boy, get me bucket of vasser, lye zoap, unt dat bo-tell of oil unt-der the kitch-en zink.”

I turned, ran out.

Mother grasped a fence post, pulled her torso out of the dirt.

The sow was on her side, breathing hard. The newborns suckling.

Father and I entered the woods in single file, stomped through the crusty snow toward the brook. Fa-


ther had been salting the bank for years.

We wait patiently in the stand he built in the crotch of a great Elm.

Deer buck then they are hit. Some drop on the spot. Others leap forward, run for their lives.

Always a single shot. Father draws the bolt action and ejects the spent shell.

He hands the rifle to me, I sling it over my shoulder. We climb down, one at a time, both of us watch-

ing the animal, eye the white tail bounding off.


In time I grew bold. Carried the blade down from the rafters, tucked it under my bed.

I vanquished imaginary enemies late in the night. Lead fellow soldiers through battlefields innumera-

ble. All in my red union suit, scabbard hanging on my side. All this while my mother and father slept.

I wore the dagger beneath my coat, my own little secret. Enjoyed it’s brazen heft, there, in the swell of

my back. I would walk the woods alone, draw the dagger out, lightening fast, just in time to save my life, my comrades, the little blond haired girl I’d met at the edge of town just as the Nazi’s dragged her howling mother


away never to be seen again.


We follow the deer at our own pace. No rush, no worry.

Father’s shot was well placed. The deer ran a short time then collapsed against a tree, mouth open,

tongue slacked, drooping.

Killing is ritualistic.

I carry the hemp rope, Father his blade, in a sheath of its own.

Together we drag the lifeless body through the snow, expose the last brown remnants of fall hidden

beneath a sugary coating. We loop the rope around the buck’s neck, hoist it, hand over hand. The legs droop. The white underbelly shines.


Father did not explain himself until his hand was deep inside the sow.

“’dis lee-tle one,” he told me, “is bree-ched. Faced de wrong way.” He was feeling his way inside the

animal. “heer is de feet... all wrong vay.”

Mother was slipping, loosing her grip on the split rail. She did not have the strength to hold herself up.

“Ahh ,” Father said, “I gut boot legs.”

He pulled the little creature out feet first. It slid down to the dirt floor, helpless. Father wiped it off

with the rag, cleared its mouth, but the piglet was not breathing, not moving.

“Oh my,” Mother said.

Father patted its back, rubbed its side. Tried to coax a breath.


He ran the rag over its face, down its neck, its back.

I leaned in close, watched him reach under its stomach with both hands and pump up and down.

Finally its eyes fluttered, blinked.

Father picked the sticky birth membrane from its ribs, ran the rag down the length of its body one



Blue Mountain Review / june 2021 more time, straightened up, chewed his pipe.

The little piglet, legs splayed, took quick, shallow breaths.

Father drew his knife, exhaled, the moisture in his warm breath visible in the air. He grabbed a fold of


the deer’s furred skin, near its hip, tugged that fold up and stuck the tip of the knife into the white underbelly, ready to start the incision, run it the length of the animal’s torso.

He stopped, lifted his head, turned toward me.

“Boy,” he said, “joo du dis.”

I paused. Shocked.

This was Father’s kill. Father’s well placed shot. Heart stopped, stomach and contents intact. A clean

shot deserves a clean harvest. Surely I would spoil it.

Father should separate skin and membrane.

Father should reach deep into the ribbed cavity, sever muscle, gouge out stomach and intestines, flop

the entrails on the ground, kick them aside.

Forgetting myself, loosing all sense of reality, I drew out the smoke-grey blade from under my coat,

and stepped forward, ready to eviscerate the deer hanging from the tree.

Father froze at the sight of it.

“Fahrtenmesser!”, he hissed through clenched teeth. “Where did joo get dis boy?”

“I...I...found it in the barn,” I stammered, looking down at the suddenly foreign object clenched in my


“Dis is not for joo! “Geeve it heer! Now!”

Newborn piglets must be clipped.

Their teeth shorn to prevent damage to the mother, infection. The mother must be removed from the


pen before her babies start screaming, it’s the only way to keep her calm.


Father grabbed a piglet, one hand across its snout, pulled the jaw up.

“ ’ere now,” he showed me, “wit’ joor tumb, pull down de jaw.”

The mouth was pink, angular. The baby teeth, sharp, white.

Father tipped its head to one side, careful not to let the shorn tips fall into the baby’s throat.

I passed a squirming piglet to Mother. She cradled the little animal against her chest. I watched her.

She was content, eyes closed, cheek pressed against pink flesh, breathing in the fresh, new born scent.


Father threw the fahrtenmesser on the table, turned, without a word, and left the house.

I sat, still dressed in my winter coat, heard the back door slam and the sharp snap of the screen door

against the lintel.

Mother reached for the long blade wrapped in brown leather, used both hands to lift it, turn it. She

studied the red and white diamond pattern, all angles and corners.

“Your father...”, she said, clasping the knife against her breastbone, speaking slowly, quietly, “this was

once part of your father’s life.”

I pulled my cap off, dropped it on the table, uncomprehending.

“He was a boy. Like you are now,” she said, “he grew up in that world, that terrible world.”

“The war time?”

“Yes. The time of war,” she said. “He lost everything. Did you know that?’

I shook my head, staring down at the table.

“His mother and father. His sister.”

The hardwood cracked and popped in the stove.

“He does not speak of it.”

“Father does’t speak much at all,” I said.



Blue Mountain Review / june 2021

“He is a strong man. Stronger, I think, than you and I can ever know. He came to this country after the

war, to escape, to forget the past.

“This knife...”, she said, “you must understand.”

The following morning there was smoke in the yard, and fire, just outside the front door. A small fire,


tended by Father. I watched him from my bedroom window, a few sticks was all it took, a splash of kerosene.

He dropped the greatcoat into the flames.

I ran down to the kitchen. The table was empty. Mother, seated on her newspapers, looked up at me,

tears in her eyes.

Father watched the coat turn to ashes.

I stood in the doorway, let the cold air flood the kitchen, watched him study the flames, then turn, walk

away. I could feel his heavy boots breaking through the crusted snow, taste the curl of pipe smoke dancing above his head. His mother. His father. A sister.

He’d never said a word.

Brian Quinn is a TV News journalist living in Manhattan who spent thirty years covering news in New York City and overseas. Much of his work if rooted in those experiences.


what would I ask if you were here and not dead after all? by: denise tolan I’d ask how it looked when you made decisions about which pieces of your life to hand me and what parts to tuck away. Did it look like my mother holding out cantaloupes at the grocery store, one in each hand like a hungry lady justice; judging their heft, smelling each one deeply before deciding which to toss back in the bin? Or was I the recipient of the kind of truth that lands on you accidentally, like taking on the splash from a puddle left by an earlier rain. To be more specific, I’d want to know about the evening you took me to your parent’s home for dinner. Did you know the old lady would be there? This is Mrs. Apple, you said, hugging her so quickly I couldn’t tell if you were surprised. I shook Mrs. Apple’s hand softly. She began to cry before my fingers left her palm. Her tears fell on the empty dinner plate like tiny, frozen peas. Your mother led her away from the table. Then your father coughed, a cough of affectation. I dated my high school English teacher. While I was still in high school, that is. The summer after I graduated, a car hit her while she was crossing the street. Cough. She died. Cough. She was killed.



Blue Mountain Review / june 2021 Cough. Mrs. Apple is her mother. Was her mother. She was my high school teacher’s mother. Your father sighed. He picked up a few pieces of silverware and left the room. Did you know she’d be here tonight? Of course. Her name was Karen. My girlfriend, her daughter. Karen Apple was an important part of my life. I wanted her mother to see me happy, so I was glad for you to meet her. From the kitchen, the sound of silverware hitting the floor. Then, the cough. You never thought to tell me any of this before. I wanted to see where we were going, you said. This isn’t an easy story to share. I nodded, because anything more might call out the cough. If you would stop being dead, I would ask you if meeting Mrs. Apple was a cantaloupe or a splash? Because it matters.

Or maybe, if you were here and not dead, I’d ask how you knew exactly where the bathroom was in the apartment of the girl who moved back to town. She pulled up next to us in her light blue car and began tapping her horn lightly, motioning for me to roll down the window. Veronica, you said in the voice reserved for when we ran into someone important on campus. Women named Veronica are never safe, I said, after the window was back up. We went to dinner at Veronica’s apartment. We ate food, drank wine, talked about Karen Apple. The past flooded the room like a window left open in a storm. Remember how you always played an Irish ballad before you signed off for the night? Signed off? I asked. At the station. Mark was a DJ at the University radio station for a few years. You must have known. No? Mark! She didn’t know? My fingers began to work an imaginary rosary crafted with beads of what I thought were important things


you’d told me. Had that information looked better in your hands than the DJ news you threw into the bin? Neither of you sang an Irish ballad that night, but like a practiced folk-dance, you cleared the table in harmony. She took the plates, you the glasses. I wasn’t about to touch the silverware. When you walked out of the kitchen, you rubbed my left shoulder like you were tweaking a child’s nose. Bathroom, you mouthed, then walked around the corner without considering whether to turn left or right. Right was toward her bedroom. You went left. Actually, consider the question about Veronica’s apartment answered.

Did you see my mother and me walking around the park that late April night? She had flown in for a short visit. You were too ill to join us. After dinner, we walked to the city park where we saw you were well enough to push Veronica in a swing. Is that him? My mother asked. Yes, but speak quietly, I said. I was ashamed for you to see me, as if I were the guilty one. Parlons français, my mother said. He’s not sick, Mom. Shhhh, my mother reminded me. En français. Elle n’est pas jolie. My mother was right. Veronica was not pretty. Still, she was in your hands, on a swing. The chosen fruit. Fresher than Karen Apple. The next night you kissed my mother goodbye on both her cheeks. We sat on the porch. Teach me French, you said. One last night. One the way to a movie, you turned off on a dirt road. The sky was dark, the air cool and unburdened. I’ve had this fantasy since I was a teenager, you said. It involves a night like this, me driving, your head in my lap. It wasn’t a difficult thing to do. We were already on a dirt road. The car moved so slowly it hardly seemed possible to call it driving. The next night you brought me an album of Irish Ballads.



Blue Mountain Review / june 2021 I love this record, you said. I want you to have it. When I started throwing up, you left.

I heard your voice on the radio. From midnight until four am, I decoded every song you played. Were there messages hidden in the musical rubble? If you were here and not dead, I would ask you this: Did you purposefully sign off each night with a song by a French singer, Edith Piaf or France Gall? Did my tongue in your lap outweigh the Irish Ballads and cancel the dead? If I asked you that question, would you lie and say the songs were all for me? It matters.

Denise Tolan’s work has been included in places such as The Best Small Fictions 2018, The Best Short Stories from The Saturday Evening Post, Hobart, Lunch Ticket, Sonora Review, and was a finalist for both the 2019 and 2018 International Literary Awards: Penelope Niven Prize in Nonfiction.




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bleached bones By: Karen lethlean While such an admission grated against her feminism, Sue tried to chew away sensations Terry knew best, waving away information centre guidebooks, whispering, ‘don’t want them, they’re rip-offs.’ Since their earliest email, Sue called him The National Geographical. Always on as if, he alone possessed greater knowledge, than she did on a range of any given subjects. Particularly local flora, fauna, environmental issues and wilderness expeditions. As part of what he called research, they went into the wilderness photo gallery. Police possessed this information. There’d be CCTV footage of rooms full of reverent visitors, and an agitated Terry. Coming across as an agitated David Attenborough, except without the old guy’s amicable personality. No, Terry made everyone feel inferior. Hushed people filled gallery space, awe struck by huge landscape photographs; valleys shrouded in mist, sunlight glistening in dew droplets, rocky towers, brooding skies broken by intense lightening hits. Images making everything, to Sue, look mysterious and full of dark majesty. Yet Terry walked around uttering barely suppressed irritation. ‘Look at this – showcase of Australian contemporary photographic artists, wankers, more like – see that?’ An agitated thumb directed at one offensive image. ‘Curators wouldn’t know an altered image if bloody things jumped up and bit them.’ She cringed, tried, with no avail, to ask Terry to keep his voice down. How soon would security be called and they’d both be ejected. ‘Photo-shopped for sure. Most people could not tell. Whoever’s running this place wouldn’t know a good landscape photograph if they fell over it.’ Sue watched Terry stride around the gallery, his arms folded. No way to make conversation through his domination. Often Terry displayed a kind of privilege. Like the way he showed his card to a woman at the Hobart gallery and she’d taken them into a special vault. ‘What good are work contacts if you can’t milk them?’ He said. Barely constraining mirth at her



Blue Mountain Review / june 2021 requests, they use cloth gloves to handle valuable artefacts. Out walking trails Terry dropped his constant light touches on her elbow. Stopped asking, ‘you ok. Not too much?’ Sue felt reduced to acquaintance status. No matter what shape her face too, he didn’t get visual hints and stop annoying pokes to point out details or huge scenery aspects. Things like a purple flower. ‘It’s an endemic problem. A South African invader, but you did know that, right. From researching Conservation websites, I told you about.’ And so on. Sue relished Terry’s changed attitude. Finding a comfortable pace, without conversation peppered with pauses where Terry expected replies. A running commentary that also echoed through their strolls in local museums and exhibitions now vanished. ‘He will be your Buddy,’ the trek leader said as he pointed at Terry with a curled-up finger. However, Sue could only think about how army-like the guide’s khaki outfit. Enhanced by an order like tone. “Buddy!” With misplaced equality implied. ‘Wasn’t Terry Budge your buddy?’ Police asked. Difficult walk, this trail; climbing long, steep inclines with a pack on, into fierce winds. Sections were mere chains linked into poles, requiring super-human strength to pull body and pack upwards. A lot more difficult than Sue anticipated. Back when she experimented a being a trekker, plonking about in her lounge Sue’s biggest concerns were noises causing downstairs neighbours to get their knickers in a knot, again. As if she frequently made sinister night noises, heaved things, trudged across vinyl floors. Snobby pricks! Never got a chance to mention their early alarms going off and frightening her from warm relaxation. Or overzealous love making, ruining more than one weekend night. Her pack had felt, then, like something easy to heft. Now loaded items bit under her arms, pushed against hard against her collarbone, pulling her rib cage apart. Resembling a nasty imp squatted, no, attached to her back. She evoked a mantra, push through aches and pains, you are strong… As fellow walkers slogged up an incline overshadowed by Crater Lake, steep canyon walls, her pack morphed into bricks, all sharp edges. Terry told her to practise with a daypack loaded with telephone directories. Over-kill, with hindsight, dismissing his advice, not her best idea. More about how such suggestions were made, delivered similar to a lecture by a bad-tempered university professor, or out of patience, missed afternoon nap toddler.


Straps rubbed her shoulders too, foreboding chaffing. ‘I have snakebite kit, and antiseptic cream for inevitable blisters. Cream for sunburnt lips. Does not matter how worn in your boots. Oh, and I have lanolin for those inescapable pressure points.’ Terry’s litany; a chemist shop stock take, rang in her ears. Sue imagined him in a floaty, white (or whatever colour sterile outfits came in these days) nurse’s outfit, dispensing pain relief. Again, such diatribes continued to grate against exposed nerves. Surely, quiet shuffles of walker’s boot-falls would vibrate enough to frighten away any snakes. And, no matter how long his list, Terry could not possibly prepare for everything. Another mantra emerged, …shoo fly, don’t bother me. By mid-afternoon, they encountered light drizzle. Rather than soak in, moisture sat on surfaces and gave everything a damp smell. When was that?’ More than one uniformed or khaki clad person asked. Time vanished from her being, didn’t wear a watch anyway. Wouldn’t bother to get out a phone to check. This walk started in tussocky grass, ‘Button grass. Remember I showed you those pictures on National Parks website.’ Terry said. Yes, she did recall seeing them, but walking here, sensi-surround, nothing like gazing at pictures. You simply couldn’t get real on the internet. Later she found seeds trying to plant themselves in her socks, even breaking through to tender skin. A mere scratchy twitch compared to how her boots pinched and rubbed. Hyperconscious of a delicate, pristine environment, Sue wanted to stop. Pull in deep breaths; make all this cleanliness part of herself. Nothing in this part of Tasmania carried slightest urban hues, cleanest air on the planet, tour guides touted. Up from nowhere gurgled a new understanding of why those Greenies fought so hard with preservation efforts. Knew such efforts beyond her station in life, Sue felt glad someone chained themselves to earthmovers, camped in mud and up trees to stop clear felling of old growth timbers. Small things drew her attention; how snow gums wore patterns, a bark patchwork, largely flame shapes. A creek tinkling off in a nearby gully, Cicada hums, light twittering from some invisible bird. Smells of burnt nutmeg, lemon tinged. Further, along the trail they passed some bushfire damage; pale almost colourless windswept grass, craggy rocks and dead trees sticking out like skeletal fingers. A landscape corpse with no flesh, just bare bones, left behind. Tree trunks completely bare and bleached white by sun’s glare through this thin mountain air.



Blue Mountain Review / june 2021 Halloed in sun, walkers rested beside a tiny stream. Finally, able to take their shoes off. Sue remembered this clearly. Aside from sensations of blessed release, her legs retained memories of earlier strides. Ghosts of repeated action pushing forward even as she rested. White toes might be mistaken for grubs wriggled about in icy water. This breather felt so good; blood, fluids and even nasty swollen feelings drawn away. Still she wondered why Terry did not removed his shoes. Wait, were they even his feet? Walking again, she peered up at a track, forming a scar. Other brightly clad walkers strung out, made tiny by vistas. No point holding up your phone to get a picture, this place overwhelmed tiny screens. No photographs, ‘no digital proof,’ others said. Even those dramatic images in the wilderness photo gallery fell short of being here. Sue experienced a sensation akin to dropping into a calendar, no, more like a giant frieze. Nothing captured smallest fragments, making up entire awe, no matter how much access to Photo-shop apps. Up at the lookout, grateful to let her pack slip ground ward, Sue gazed out over views rolling off to a vanishing point beyond lake edges far below. She felt dizzy, slightly high. Sky pressed down and ground pressed up, jamming her between like a tiny speck, no, a minuscule troublesome piece of dust. As if she’d become something tossed up from a sea bottom bothering a huge oyster. When she looked down Sue felt you could step off this fragmented rock edge and bounce like a pearl gestating speck, right down to infinity. A weird momentary desire to jump brushed against her. Sloping distances tilted up in a sly magnetic invitation, reaching out to pull Sue over and down. How would it feel? Not clean, like bungy jumping leaps off buildings or bridges; swan diving through empty air, nor shades of 9/11 falling man images. She pitied his decision to select such a death. Aware here, amid these peaks a fall would connect, over and over, breaking bones and organs with each impact, real, unstoppable agony. Imagine shocking friends and family. Learning she possessed enough courage to take a step, over edges, to jump, voluntarily, as distinct from a push; they would not understand. Much discussion about what might have caused such a leap. Back and forth about, ‘didn’t know she possessed such strength.’ Looking up at spines of rock-ringed crater above, Sue imagined a dragon’s backbone. Breaking through, must be tales by first people about such a creature born of sky, free to peek through misty clouds. Stunted trees looked in pain. Wind, snow and storms must weigh them down similar to Sue’s pack. Currently laid in dirt, as if a discarded limb, abscess growing amid tiny moss, minuscule white flowers dotting. Damn thing appeared to grin back as if anticipating inflicting another round of pain. She felt defeated but knew it would be wrong to give up, cede before really beginning of her grand adventure.


‘We’ll go do the Overland Track,’ Terry suggested, months ago. ‘That’s four days, walking, in mountains. I don’t … well I’m not so used to country.’ ‘It will be epic,’ He insisted. ‘A real challenge. You’ll be right, tough girl like you.’ Such a thing enveloped in too much daring, too physical, but now her efforts headed toward worthwhile. A catalyst -Terry fading fast, almost invisible. Not even worth a thought compared to hot tingles in Sue’s nerve ends. This landscape and air impressed in a way Terry never would, nor any lover, ever. That frame of mind probably why Sue failed to notice Terry’s disappearance. Not my problem, she told herself. I have heard often enough how he can take care of himself. Probably stopped somewhere to have a quick pee. Part of his earlier commentary skirted around the benefits of being a man in that regard. Anyway, missing walkers were something for guides to contemplate and make any required responses. She paused to take in the breathless hush. Just listen to the wind, and slush of her own breath. In her mind, Terry shrunk to become just another human walking clearly gouged trail through this magical country. Minimalised even further, until no longer there. Good job no one saw inside Sue’s mind! She paused to take in breathless hushes. Listen to wind, and plot connections with her own slushing breath. In her mind, Terry kept reducing, nothing more than another mere human walking clearly gouged trails through this majesty. Before they began, Terry inspected her bag. In that dowdy little B & B in Hobart. Making such a noise as he tossed things out. ‘You won’t need that!’ The response to so many things Sue thought essential. Through this dissection she could only stand loose limbed while Terry chided, ‘I can’t believe you actually brought polyester underwear. I told you only cotton and wool. You will be uncomfortable.’ Early this morning they argued. She threatened to wander off, alone. Sue wanted to – but knew how stupid this idea. They paid money to do an organized trek. Being lost up here, beyond imagination. Stumbling through shrubs, tripping on rocks, yelling at un-answering emptiness. Why would she? Yet Terry didn’t appear to be afraid of becoming lost. Another annoying aspect of his impervious personality, in keeping with notions of full on instruction mode, he knew best aura. Away from a designated track Sue imagined continuing to avoid efforts to push through thick brush, scratches on arms and legs, and encountering a sinking panic not being able to identify locations of tracks. Any signs of humanity vanished, consumed by bush. No wonder escaped convicts, back in earliest days of colonisation, stooped to cannibalism, or preferred returning to their cells, suffering punishments rather than



Blue Mountain Review / june 2021 stay, alone, trapped out here. Trees, scrawny besides trail edges, fringed with unexpected sinister broodiness. Made her skin tingle more. Along with vanished whispers, came questions about what she had or not done? Why she said nothing, when Sue missed Terry? Wasn’t she his buddy? Alone in her tent, Terry missing, she heard gurgling, scary threats invisible to humans. Sounds guides reassured came from possums or Tasmanian devils. Sue thought of these noisemakers as scavengers, ghosts, or ghouls; embodying perfect attendants for Terry. He obviously preferred these dark corners alive with these scratching more than her company. Someone, she didn’t know for sure who, some greenie, a kid on work experience planting trees, maybe a chronic unemployed person working for benefits by repairing trails, or a farmer, perhaps another walker or one of those sticky-nosed uniformed type would eventually find Terry’s bleached bones. By then Sue’s presence, no more than eucalypt haze in everyone’s memory.

Karen Lethlean is a retired English teacher. With previous fiction in the Barbaric Yawp, Ken*Again, Pendulum Papers and has won a few awards through Australian and UK competitions. Almond Tree received a commendation from Lorian Hemingway Short Fiction competition and was published in Pretty Owl Poetry Journal. Karen is currently working on a memoir titled Army Girl. About military service 1972-76. In her other life Karen is a triathlete who has done Hawaii Ironman championships twice.


t h e

d e b u t

c o l l e c t i o n

f r o m


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

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


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Blue Mountain Review / june 2021




whatever comes By: scott nadelson

She had me up early again, the little monster, so I strapped her into the baby carrier and trudged

outside, though it was well before dawn, late February and steadily raining, the creeks swollen close to their banks. As soon as we made it to the sidewalk she quit crying, chortling instead at pigeons on a power line, a row of dark blobs barely visible overhead. Around the corner a pair of orange dots glowed on the porch of a halfway house and then faded, and a pickup hydroplaned down State Street. Otherwise, the world was still. She was content beneath the umbrella, which was too small to cover us both, watching a curtain of droplets and bouncing with my strides while rain soaked through the back of my jacket and rolled into my underwear.

I walked for more than an hour before she fell back asleep. By then I’d made it all the way down-

town, and the clouds had begun to gather some light. Cornices of old buildings took shape against the gray sky, and cars pulled into the garage next to the courthouse, lawyers and defendants and sleepy citizens called in for jury duty. I slipped into the nearest coffee shop, one that catered to the pierced and tattooed crowd, which was sparse first thing in the morning. Several tables were open, and I took one in the corner farthest from the counter, easing us down and pulling a paperback from my inside pocket: Turgenev’s Sportsman’s Sketches, which I’d started rereading soon after I’d become a parent and found myself, like the book’s narrator, wandering the landscape at all hours. Twenty minutes of peace, I thought, that’s all I ask, but before I managed to read more than a page about the beautiful July weather in Bezhin Lea, a voice started up behind me, young and eager and a little desperate even as it tried to sound casual. “Hey, man, how are you, been a long time, haven’t seen you over at the square much, things good with you?”

I couldn’t see the speaker’s face, nor that of the person he was talking to, who responded with

a brief, throaty greeting, hardly an acknowledgement, before the first went on. “I been over there every day,” he said, “just trying to stay focused, you know, skating like crazy, wearing myself out till my whole body aches. Only way I can sleep, you know? It’s been hard, man, ever since shit went down with Stacey. Seen her around? I haven’t talked to her since I got out. They told her she can’t have any contact with me, but that’s bullshit, you know, I got every right to see her. She’s got my kid inside her. I know it’s mine,



Blue Mountain Review / june 2021 man, I don’t care what anyone else says.”

I kept reading the same sentence and stopping halfway through: On such days all the colors are soft-

ened; they are bright without being gaudy… Every time I told myself I should quit listening, give him some privacy, his words broke through my concentration, the tight black letters going blurry in my vision. The little monster was breathing that deep whistling breath of contentment I wished she were breathing in her crib, her cheek mashed against my chest. Her hat had slipped back to show the soft crown of her head, skin taut over the fontanel and pulsing like a tiny drum struck from the inside. I tried to crane my neck to see the speaker, but all I could catch was a long skinny arm, a black pattern etched into pale flesh from elbow to wrist.

“If they’re right about how far along she is,” he said, “and you count back, I mean, that’s got to be last

September, when we were down in Utah. Things were going really well then. She was happy, hardly using, and man, we were doing it all the time, like five times a day, you know what I mean? Those were the best weeks we ever had. And I swear, the desert, you think there’s nothing out there, but it’s beautiful, man, all that sand and rock and sky. What’s missing is all the bullshit. You could just fucking breathe there, you know, and the sunsets just about made you want to cry. Anyway, if it started last September, then it’s definitely mine, there’s no doubt about it. I’ve always know it’s mine. But Stacey says she can’t be sure, not a hundred percent, says maybe she wants to do a paternity test, which is fine by me, I say let’s just do it and get it over with.”

The throaty voice said something then, too low for me to distinguish any words. But they made the

speaker pause and let out a long breath. When he started up again, his voice was slower and strained. “Thing is, even if it isn’t mine, I don’t care, I love her, man, I’d take care of her and the kid both. Says it could be Runt’s or Adam’s. Maybe someone she doesn’t even remember. When she’s high, she’ll open her legs for anyone. That fucking H, man, it messed her up so bad sometimes she didn’t even know who I was when we were going at it. And I don’t blame those guys, beautiful girl like Stacey gives herself to you, you’re not gonna turn it down, even if you know she’s been with your friend forever. But I swear, man, the kid’s mine, and even if it isn’t, I’m the only one gives enough of a shit to take care of it. I still love her, even after all this mess. And we would have gotten through it all, too, everything would’ve worked out if we hadn’t gotten busted, and now her goddamn probation officer telling her she can’t have anything to do with me, like he’s got the fucking right, like we’re in fucking China or something, and he can tell her who she can and can’t see.”

His voice had sped up at the end, and risen, too, and I moved a hand toward the little monster’s ear to

block the sound. But then the throaty voice spoke up, and for the first time I heard it clearly. “Easy, man,” it said, and from the other came another big breath, followed by a surprising laugh, higher in pitch than I’d expected but humorless.


“You don’t get to choose who you love, man. You’re just stuck with whatever comes.”

He went quiet again, but this time the throaty voice didn’t respond. I wished it would offer some

words of comfort or support and hoped at least there was a sign of understanding on the face I couldn’t see. Either way, the silence was excruciating, and I was relieved when the speaker finally broke it.

“She knows I got clean,” he said. “Her p.o. knows it, too, and so does her fucking mom, but she’ll al-

ways hate me no matter what I do. Two months now, not a single fix, skating every day. I’m healthy, I’m ready, I’d do anything she needs, even if the kid isn’t mine. But I don’t know where she is. She’s not at her mom’s place, and even if she was, that bitch wouldn’t let me anywhere near her. I been looking for her at the bus mall every afternoon, riding all the way out to Lancaster and back, hoping I’ll just get a glimpse of her, but nothing, and her sister won’t tell me, and all her friends keep avoiding me.”

He paused once more, but this time there was no sigh, no need to get himself under control. Instead,

the silence seemed calculated, a little feint before he spoke again, his words now calm and direct.

“You sure you haven’t seen her?”

I suddenly had no doubt that the owner of the throaty voice knew where Stacey was, and no doubt,

too, that the speaker had guessed it all along. But we both knew he wouldn’t spill now. His response wasn’t much more than a grunt, and the speaker went on in a bright, false voice more brittle than his previous laughter. “If you do see her, you gotta tell her to cut the crap and call me. Promise?” This time he didn’t wait for an answer. “It’s really good to see you, man. Maybe I’ll catch you at the square sometime soon. I’ll be there every day, riding that shitty bowl. Board’s the only thing I got now,” he said, and then came the smack of wheels hitting the wooden floor, the churr of them rolling away.

The little monster’s head jerked up at the sounds, and before her eyes were all the way open, she let

out a squawk. I drained my coffee, tucked the book back in my pocket, and stood. The door had already swung shut, and all I could catch of the speaker was a black hood speeding down the sidewalk and out of sight. I tried bouncing a little, but before long she started howling for real. At the table behind us sat a squat guy in his early twenties, with thick-rimmed glasses and messy auburn hair. He was typing on a laptop. A skateboard leaned against the wall beside him. He glanced up at me as I passed, at the infant crying on my chest, her crinkled red face, tiny bald head covered again by a hat with a fabric rose, and gave a look that was more weary than indifferent, though closed off, I thought, to any further suffering, or maybe immune to it. I had the umbrella halfway open before we stepped outside. The sky was hardly lighter than before, no hint of the rain letting up any time soon. But the thrum of it overhead quickly settled the little monster down,



Blue Mountain Review / june 2021 and I started walking without a thought of direction or destination, knowing only that I’d keep going as long as she needed, and as far.

Scott Nadelson is the author of seven books, most recently the story collection One of Us, winner of the G.S. Sharat Chandra Prize for Short Fiction. His work has appeared in Ploughshares, New England Review, Crazyhorse, AGNI, Chicago Quarterly Review, and Best American Short Stories 2020.


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Blue Mountain Review / june 2021


inheritance BY: Ryan F. love Charlie watched the storm. I imagine he ate roast chicken, potatoes. When the flashes made him nervous, he studied the Lord’s Prayer and a monochrome family picture on the wall. He’d seen his Uncle Leroy just in that photograph and the distance. He only knew his uncle’s farm was across their field, with much more land and many more cows, and that his daddy never uttered Leroy’s name.

It happened as mama washed dishes. Lightning cut the darkness, simultaneous thunder

shook glassware, and fire blazed from the roof of Uncle Leroy’s blasted barn.

“Get my coat,” his daddy ordered. Charlie dashed for it, and still throwing on the coat, his daddy ran into the storm.

“But we don’t like Uncle Leroy!” Charlie exclaimed.

“Sometimes that doesn’t matter,” his mama said.

I was never inside my dad’s childhood home, which we passed once on a country road I can

no longer find. I also never asked if storms bothered him as a boy, or why he went by “Charlie” over “Charles.” Over the years I filled in details of that memory as I ransacked it for answers.

Dad told me that story three times. Once, at a family reunion, when I asked why everyone

cried as Grandpap shook his brother Leroy’s hand. Once at Grandpap’s funeral. Once more when cancer had nearly finished with him. I resented that telling. Dad knew how short his time was, and of all the stories that were about to die with him, he repeated one I already knew.

He did tell me the feud was over land, some clause in my great grandfather’s will.

Driving backroads in Middlesex Township one afternoon, I saw a rotting barn with a tobac-

co ad on its side and pulled over. I imagined lightning and what I might have done.



Blue Mountain Review / june 2021

Ryan F. Love teaches high school English in the Finger Lakes region of upstate New York, where he earned a degree from Alfred University. His work has been published in Blue Lake Review, The Copperfield Review, Sleet Magazine and Blue Heron Review.


oh, well BY: Claude Clayton smith A few weeks after we moved to the Blue Ridge we received a letter from the Virginia Department of Public Health stating that the water on our ridge was unhealthy, substandard, having flunked its most recent test for whatever it is they test water for. This alarmed us because our son Owen was an infant. We’d been on city water back in D.C. Here, however, the two-dozen ranch homes along the ridge were served by a single well. Ted, our rather laid-back country neighbor, was unconcerned. “Ever see that bunker-like thing in the bushes when you come up the hill?” he said. “That’s our community well, and it’s never up to snuff. Once a year we get a notice about the bacteria level.” “What happens then?” my wife asked. “Ol’ Rodney dumps a couple gallons of Clorox down the hatch, tests it again, and we’re good for another year.” I ran into Rodney when I was taking our Chevy in for an oil change, although I didn’t realize he was the guy Ted had told us about. Rodney had walked into the Chevy dealership with five quarts of his own oil in a brown paper bag. He wanted his car to be lubed but wanted to change the oil himself. He was refused. “He prob’ly dumps the dirty oil down the well,” Ted laughed, when I told him about the encounter. “Rodney’s a good ol’ boy, for sure.” Good ol’ boy or not, we were stuck with Rodney as our well inspector, an annual chore he seemed to relish because it increased his stature in the community. I don’t know if he got paid or not, but we never received a bill for that Clorox he dumped down the well every fall—a Pyrrhic victory of sorts, I suppose.

Professor Emeritus of English at Ohio Northern University, Claude Clayton Smith is the author of eight books and co-editor/translator of four others. His own work has been translated into five languages, including Russian and Chinese. His website is



Blue Mountain Review / june 2021

the great escape BY: Diya Mukherjee

The prisoner struggled to move, to stretch, to breathe. For days he had been trapped, too weak to escape, too scared to try. But at last, he was ready. He banged his head against the cage, contorting his body until the walls began to crumble. Light poured in and the prisoner savored the sweet taste of freedom, hungry for more. Summoning all his strength, he pushed one last time, shattering the walls that had constrained him for so long. The hatchling stood amongst a pile of broken eggshells, basking in his new world for the first time. At last, freedom.

Diya Mukherjee is a high school student who lives in Sunnyvale, California and enjoys writing as a hobby.


Experience Roswell,GA through its public and performance art opportunities! Art Around Sculptures Bike Rack Project Roswell in Print Pop Up Performances Pop In Series Local Artists Marketplace Much much more!

Roswell Arts Fund, an independent 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, is the designated arts agency for the City of Roswell, GA. Roswell Arts Fund is funded in part by the City of Roswell, the Fulton County Board of Commissioners, the Imlay Foundation and the Community Foundation of Greater Atlanta.



Blue Mountain Review / june 2021




Blue Mountain Review / june 2021


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Blue Mountain Review / june 2021


Contributing EDITORS shannon perri

angela dribbens

contributing editor

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

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

robert gwaltney

dusty huggings

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

music editor

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

photography credits Alexander Krivitsk Alex Blajan Aniket Bhattacha Benjamin Davies Callie Morgan David Clode Emiliano Vittorio Fanning Tseng Feliphe Schiarolli Frank Albrecht Gayatri Malhotra Isreal Palacio



Javier Allegue Klye Glenn Kyle Mackie Kyle Peyton Ludovica Dri Michael Humphries Michael Murphy Adrianna Calvo Alain Frachette Alexas Fotos Anna Louis Bruno Feit

Washarap Binyo Sam Hojati Tim Foster TJ Holowaychuk Umesh Soni Fran HDybvbr Tomolo Uji

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Blue Mountain Review / june 2021

clifford brooks


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

andy whitehorne

contributing editor

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

casanova green

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

Emily Kerlin

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

tom johnson

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


Megan baxter

contributing editor

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

rebecca Evans

Contributing editor

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

kaitlyn young

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



jennifer avery

Contributing editor

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

Mildred K. Barya

contributing editor

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

Laura Ingram

contributing editor

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

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 / june 2021

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.

Hester L. Furey

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

edward austin hall contributing editor

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


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