richard blanco on his role as miami’s inaugural poet laureate
ellen bass introduces her creative writing class rising Appalachia sits to swoon Poetry, Fiction, Microfiction, & Essays
Lettuce Let’s us in Zaina Zahra, the Siren of Fire Phil Klay’s Encyclopedic Take on His New Novel The woodbridge Inn & Tavern
A JOURNAL OF CULTURE
ardenby: Charlie Jensen
She woke that morning just after four o’clock, rousing me from my nearby bed with a full-body shake that rattled the zippers on her collapsible crate. I picked her up and carried her outside for what used to be a morning walk, but over the past two years had become more of a slow meander over one small patch of grass.
I gave her breakfast, adding some cooked chicken to the usual canned stew and, when she was done, I took her to the couch, laid her on my chest, and tried to stop time right there and then. She rested her head near mine and we just breathed together. I talked to her—I told her how much I loved her, and how much our years together meant to me, and how much I would miss moments exactly like the one we were sharing.
The vet arrived just after nine. He called my cell to be let into the building, directed to our unit. It was happening too soon. I needed more time. I needed that moment—the recognition between Arden and me that everything was ending for us. From deep inside her dementia, it wouldn’t come. I wasn’t even certain she recognized me, or felt comfort in my presence.
The ravages of mental decline don’t spare the pets who live long enough to suffer it. Arden was several months into her sixteenth year, still in good physical health. Her appetite seemed endless, and the only blatant indicator of her struggle was spatial confusion—she got lost in the condo, trapped under end tables, and even at times shut herself into the bathroom by wandering behind the door and pushing her way to the corner. With age came greater responsibility, I thought, and so during the time of the pandemic, when I was fortunate enough to be home with her each day, my routines and habits filled in the gaps of her abilities. But in the last week, I noticed a change. Arden crawled beneath the furniture, sometimes getting herself stuck. Dogs near death often do this as a response to the vulnerability they feel. Their instinct is to be out of view, hidden from predators. When it came time for a frank discussion with my vet, she described Arden as “a shell of a dog.” Had I waited too long? I had known so many other pet parents who could not acknowledge the ebbing away of their pet’s health, waiting to euthanize them until they were bedridden and unable to stand, or so incontinent their home had filled with pee pads. From the outside, the decision would seem so clear. But like so many others, I looked for any shred of proof that she was happy and thriving. That was enough for me, and it seemed, for a long time, like it was enough for her.
I took a deep dive into internet research on Canine Cognitive Decline (CCD). No way to reverse the effects, many outlets said. Medication can only slow the inevitable. By the time I learned this, it was too late to help Arden. I found another site that offered a checklist of common CCD symptoms. All but one of them applied to Arden. “Changes in vocalization” reminded me of the last time she barked—I wasn’t moving fast enough to get her leash on, and her bark was so loud it surprised us both. Or the night she woke me at 2 am howling at the top of her lungs, like she’d broken a limb. I scooped her up and carried her to the couch, checking her for injuries that weren’t there. She gradually lost interest in the world around her, which, unbeknownst to me, became unfamiliar to her. And the way each subtle change in her was easy to write off—she’s old, her joints ache, her bed is uncomfortable. All it took was a tweak in how I cared for her, each one so small, so innocuous, that I was never able to step back and measure how far she had drifted from the self-sufficient adult dog she had once been.
The euthanasia vet let me hold her, even though it made his job more difficult. I sat cross-legged on Arden’s bed, my back against a cupboard. My boyfriend and I told her how much we loved her. We stroked her ears and scratched her belly. I felt phony even as we did all of this, that these distractions were more for our benefit and not hers. The vet was quiet and respectful. I wondered how many families he’d visited. How many more families he would see that day. What it was like to witness so much unbridled grief. How he could live with himself.
I held her until she died, and then I held her a little longer. The unnatural slack in her joints. She felt like less. The vet waited patiently while I stretched the moment to its absolute limit, until he finally broke our silence and explained in the gentlest terms that he needed to move on. I handed Arden to him, cradling her head in my elbow out of an instinct no longer needed. He placed her body in a wicker basket and folded the four corners of a blanket over her.
In the weeks and months since Arden’s death, I struggled. To make sense of what it means to be alive. To contend with the only relationship in my life I have witnessed from birth to death. To be untethered from the responsibility of tending to her. A moment of happiness, however brief, summoned a concrete wave of grief that shamed me for daring to be anything but miserable in her absence. I discovered how much of my life, my way of being in the world, I built around her. How much she structured me. How, in some ways, raising her had given my life an echo of meaning.
She was my constant companion. Over the course of her life, we had twelve addresses, lived in six cities across three states. This kind of nomad lifestyle doesn’t contribute to the feeling of being home. It was only after she died I realized how I was at home whenever she was with me. We had moved to this newest place just over a month before she died, and I’m grateful to have had even these last weeks with her here. I can picture her here. There are moments when I hear what I think is the clacking of her nails on the hardwood, or the drumroll of her ears flapping when she shook her head. It only takes a second to remember she’s no longer here. It’s a dagger, that reminder. A pricking that won’t let me forget I’m still alive.
Lost by Heather Harris..............................183
Thief, a Nakedness,
Boat Far from Shore by Kelli
Name Is Mouth at Each
Too by Kelli Allen...............................................189
Story for Looking Over
Long Calf by Kelli
Spiritual Awakening That Will Happen to my Future Self by Kelli
a Dream, My Sister Became an Eagle by Kelli Russell
by Mara Adamitz
Waste by Mara Adamitz
Oaks Catalogue of the Collection 1946/ apolausis or enjoyment by Mara Adamitz Scrupe..........................................209
by John Robert
by Frank de Canio.........................................219
Winter Sunrise by George
Girls by Charles
Myself to Kill Another Living
and Bones by Annette
of a Plantation by Lynne
Roller Skates Saved
Life by Candice Kelsey..........................................237
the Plan of a Town by Todd
by Joshua Barnhart........................................243
in Hopkins Bottle by Sean
Richard Pryor’s Flesh: Sean Murphy....
Perhaps by Valerie Bacharach.....................251
Notes by Valerie Bacharach...............................253
For the 70’s Girls by Patty Smith................................259
Navidad by Brandt Scheidemantel..................261
Turn by James Penha..........................................263
by Anne Colwell.................................................265
Grief by Phillip Sterling.....................................267
You See on TV by Phillip Sterling........................268
by Phillip Sterling...................................269
by Joshua Beggs................................................273
by Tony Hozeny..........................................277
Paradise by Tina
Underfoot by Jonathan Odell...........................289
QurbaanBy Zaira Pirzada
ParadiseMarilyn Kriete Kimberley Cetron
Falling Up in the City of AngelsBy Connor
Spellbound Under the Spanish MossBy Connor Judson Garrett Kevin N. Garrett
Money Plain & SimpleBy Stephen J. Spence WINNER Finances
Fragrance of a ShadowBy Connor Judson and Kevin N.
A Season in LightsBy Gregory Erich Phillips By Douglas Thompson and Echo Montgomery Garrett
The Box Must be Empty By Marilyn Kriete
about the instructor
Clifford Brooks was born and raised in Athens, Georgia. His first poetry collection, The Draw of Broken Eyes & Whirling Metaphysics, was re-issued by the SCE Press in July 2020. His second fulllength poetry volume, Athena Departs: Gospel of a Man Apart, as well as a limited-edition poetry chapbook, Exiles of Eden, were published by the SCE Press, second editions, in August 2020.
Clifford is founder of The Southern Collective Experience, a cooperative of writers, musicians and visual artists, which publishes the journal of culture The Blue Mountain Review and hosts the NPR show Dante’s Old South. He is on the faculty of The Company of Writers, co-hosts This Business of Music & Poetry, and provides tutorials on poetry through the Noetic teaching application. In 2022, Clifford launched classes on teachable.com and hired to teach creative writing with the UCLA Extension program.
Join us for online courses
The Working Writer
From Inspiration to Publication
RICHARD BLANCOBY: NICOLE TALLMAN
You were recently named the first Poet Laureate of Miami-Dade County, Florida. Congratulations! Tell us what your plans are for that role.
First, I have to say how thrilled and appreciative I am, not only because it’s such a great honor, but also because such a role allows me the opportunity to connect communities and people with poetry in a meaningful, public way. You see, as an immigrant from a working-class family, I had very little access to the humanities, especially poetry. Having access to and sharing in the life-changing power of poetry is at the heart of all I try to do with my poems and with poetry in general. In that regard, I’m currently developing a city-wide project called Poetry Like Bread: Miami’s Favorite Poems Project People from all walks of life will be invited to share a favorite poem and the story of how that poem has changed their life. The title of the project was inspired by a line from a Roque Dalton poem: “…poetry, like bread, is for everyone.” I live by that as a motto.
You are also the Education Ambassador for the Academy of American Poets. What sort of educational initiatives are you working on for the Academy?
As I mentioned, I had very little access to poetry. And so being an advocate for poetry education has become very important work for me. But the call to do that work really began back in 2013, when I served as Presidential Inaugural Poet for Obama’s inauguration. After reading my poem at the inauguration, I received thousands and thousands of emails from people expressing how much they were moved by the poem. However, many of them kept referring to the poems as “my speech.” It dawned on me that that was probably the first time that they had ever heard a living poet and a contemporary poem that resonated with their lives.
It also dawned on me that that had been my experience as well. I had never read a living, contemporary poet until graduate school. And I thought, “No way, this has got to change.” So, I joined forces with the Academy of American Poets, which is whole-heartedly dedicated to poetry education. As Education Ambassador, I serve as a spokesperson and conduct workshops with K-12 teachers to share and advise on the many resources the Academy offers, including lesson plans, a monthly newsletter for teachers, and the syndicated Teach This Poem activities. These are all designed to help teachers quickly and easily bring poetry into the classroom in interesting and innovative ways.
What is it about poetry in particular that speaks to you?
To answer this, I’ll turn to Octavio Paz, who noted: “Reduced to its simplest and most essential form, the poem is a song. A song is neither discourse nor explanation.” I feel that poetry is more closely related to music and song than to other literary genres. It originated from oral traditions, including chants and prayers. We’d been listening to and reciting poetry for many hundreds of years before we ever began reading it silently. It’s part of poetry’s DNA. Poetry can shift our consciousness by stirring our emotions, rather than appealing to our intellect. For me, the first question to ask of a poem is not, What does it mean? but rather, How did it make you feel? Every time I write or read a meaningful poem, I feel something new arise in me about myself, about others in my life, the world, the human condition, etc. That’s what I love about poetry. That’s what keeps me addicted to it.
What does your writing life look like? Do you have a particular schedule, habits, or process? How do poems come to you?
Poetry was a second career for me. I didn’t start writing until I was 27 years old. By that time, I was already a professional engineer and worked full time throughout my years in graduate school and through the writing of most of my books. It was like being some kind of odd superhero with a double life—engineer by day, poet by night!
As such, I developed into a night-owl writer. Sometimes I start writing as late as midnight! Even though poetry is now my full time job, I still feel most inspired to write at night. I feel like a poetic sleuth doing my secret work, investigating the mysteries of life while the world is asleep. I also feel that writing is a spiritual practice.
I first meditate for just a few minutes to quiet my mind. I light a candle to honor and call upon the guidance of my family and literary ancestors as well as my inner child, who is the most authentic creator, as William Blake noted. I usually begin a poem without expectations, simply splattering words on the page and see what begins to emerge. Typically, at some point, an image, a phrase, or even just a sound bite leaps out at me and I “hear” my truest voice. It’s a starting point in which I feel I can trust or commit to the poem-to-be and begin writing and shaping it in earnest. I often compare this to a musician tuning a piano or guitar, when suddenly they hit the right note and can start writing or playing their song.
Do you have any specific muses?
What role do place and identity play in your work?
They say that every poet is writing one poem all their life, figuratively, of course. I take this to mean that there’s usually some kind of central obsession that informs the poet. In a way, their body of work examines that obsession in various dimensions. For me, that obsession comes down to a single word: home. And it’s no wonder. As I like to say: I was made in Cuba. Assembled in Spain. And imported to the United States. Which means that my mother left Cuba seven months pregnant with me to Spain, where I was born. Only 45 after, we immigrated once again to the U.S. As an infant, I already belonged to three countries, and yet to none.
Anyway, like love, home is a great big word that calls to mind all sorts of questions about family, community, place, belonging, and identities of all kinds. What’s more, I think the question or quest for home is a fundamental, universal human concern. It lives in some way throughout our traditions
of faith, literatures, folklores, and music. I mention this because I feel “lucky” that my work has landed a perennial, universal theme that I can speak to through the very personal.
I heard that you are working on a new book of poetry. Tell us more about it.
Yes! It’ll be a new and selected, tentatively called HOMELAND OF MY BODY The new poems are thematically centered on the various mortalities of people, places, and things. That is to say, an exploration of temporal human experience in the context of, and in contrast to, my lifelong yearning for a permanent, proverbial home and a grounded sense of cultural identity and belonging. To put it another way, I’m exploring the metaphorical ways home manifests in the metaphysics of my body, the ultimate homeland in which I have always existed, perhaps the only real homeland that ever was. It’s also been exciting to take a retrospective look at the selected poems from my previous four books and see how they indeed have been telling the story of my life over time.
Didn’t you also write a play? What is it about and where can we see it performed?
First, a little backstory. Growing up we had no books in my house—in part because my parents didn’t speak English, but also because we were a working-class family and reading was just not part of our lives. As such, I am a poor reader, I must confess. I can hardly get through a novel. Maybe that’s why I was drawn to the shorter forms of literature. I did most of my reports in high school on poems or plays. And I am an avid theater-goer. So, when Portland Stage in Maine commissioned me to write a play, I thought, Sure, that’ll be easy My, was I wrong! It was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to write. Mostly because a play is largely all about the dialogue, which is certainly not the stuff of poetry.
Anyway, I ended up collaborating with Vanessa Garcia, a brilliant American-born Cuban from Miami. The play’s premise is somewhat autobiographical. The main character, Bea, had moved for love to a rural town in Maine, but has since divorced and made a life for herself there as the owner of a bakery. Her dilemma is to figure out whether she should stay with the community she’s developed, or reunite with her estranged mother in Miami. Along the way, Bea explores what it means to belong as she cooks up the recipes of her Miami-Cuban childhood with the raw ingredients of Maine. As you can see, once again, my obsession with home informs the whole play. It opens January 25, 2023 in Portland, Maine, but I do hope it will be produced in Miami sometime. Incidentally, I’m also writing a TV series based on my memoir, THE PRINCE OF
LOS COCUYOS: A MIAMI CHILDHOOD It’s a sitcom set in the late ‘70s to early ‘80s, all about little Riqui’s (that’s me!) cultural coming of age as he negotiates his identities as a Cuban and an American.
What does a perfect day look and feel like to you?
I hate to use the word perfect. There are no perfect days, thank goodness! It’s the imperfections of life that draw me to create, and for that I am grateful, even when I’m woeful. Imperfection is part of the beauty and torment of the human condition. Or at least I try my best to see it that way as much as I can. I prefer to think of good days. A good day is any day that I create something—anything: a poem, a smile on someone’s face, a sandcastle, or any day I take in creation: the swooping flock of chirping birds, a cup of rain in my hands, a moonrise over the ocean.
How do we keep up with you online?
Instagram: @poetrichardblanco Twitter: @rblancopoet Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ RichardBlancoPoetry/photos Website: www.Richard-Blanco.com Sign-up through my website for a quarterly newsletter with poems, writing prompts, resources for educators, book recommendations, and much more!
Bio: Selected by President Obama as the fifth Presidential Inaugural Poet in U.S. history, Richard Blanco was the youngest, the first Latinx, immigrant, and gay person to serve in such a role. Born in Madrid to Cuban exile parents and raised in Miami, cultural identity characterizes his many collections of award-winning poetry, including his most recent, HOW TO LOVE A COUNTRY, and his memoir
THE PRINCE OF LOS COCUYOS: A MIAMI CHILDHOOD. Richard is a Woodrow Wilson Fellow, has received numerous honorary doctorates, is an Associate Professor at Florida International University, and serves as Education Ambassador for The Academy of American Poets and the Inaugural Poet Laureate for Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava.
CARMEN ACEVEDO BUTCHERBY: CLIFFORD BROOKS
What makes Carmen Acevedo Butcher’s heart sing?
Whenever I can take an hour walk through the marsh near our home, I’m in heaven. It’s healing. The snowy white egrets patiently stalk their lunch in the water, hunching gracefully, the open expanse of the blue sky opens to the Carquinez Strait, and the coastal hillsides rise gently to meet the scudding white clouds—these bring me peace. Even on overcast or blustery days.
Keeping it real, too, at the back edge of the marsh is the wastewater treatment plant, with a distinct fragrance on certain days when I walk past, and just beyond that are train tracks, with occasional freight train screeches, and frequent Amtrak trains traversing it.
My heart also sings, to hark back to my Southern roots, when eating my mom’s mouth-watering fried okra and creamed corn, made from vegetables from our garden, growing up, or a neighbor’s. They’re what I most hanker for and miss living in the Bay Area.
How and why did Carmen Acevedo Butcher come to be an award-winning translator?
I probably wouldn’t have been picked as a future translator, say, in high school. I had dyslexia and severe reading difficulties. I have such gratitude for patient K–12 educators who guided me when focusing was impossible while slippery letters moved, swapping places. This was when in Alabama and rural Georgia, where I grew up, we hadn’t yet heard of neurodivergence or dyslexia.
Oddly enough, gradually, and partly because words stymied me, I became one of those nerdy bespectacled people who loves etymologies or word histories. Their heft was reassuring. They even gave ballast to floating letters, helping me remember spellings, meanings, pronunciations. And because dyslexia meant to read I had to look repeatedly at words, they became quite beautiful, the way you cannot stand on the rim of the Grand Canyon, look once, and see it all.
What is this book you just released titled, ‘Practice of the Presence’?
It’s 180 pages of peace. Practice of the Presence is a spiritual classic in the Carmelite tradition. It was written in a Paris monastery by uneducated Brother Lawrence who spent decades cooking in the monastery kitchen, yet his book’s been in print over 300 years. Diverse people of all faiths, all wisdom traditions, and those beyond conventional categories have loved and do love it.
The practice of the presence itself is a form of micro-prayer done on the fly. A down-to-earth mystic, Brother Lawrence calls this portable prayer “easy,” says it’s a mini-conversation with God (or Love or however a person thinks of Mystery). He says it’s a brief “lifting up of the heart” to Love.
Because Brother Lawrence practiced what he teaches, his mind doesn’t work in binary ways. So rather than talk about sin and evil, his focus is on a kind Divinity who loves us always and wants a direct relationship with us. As with the medieval contemplative prayer classic The Cloud of Unknowing, which I translated for Shambhala, my
focus is on accuracy, readability, and faithfulness to the friar’s wise original teachings in French.
Brother Lawrence developed this simple prayer practice to heal himself. Injured in war, he was a disabled veteran who limped in pain for the remaining five decades of his life, and suffered from severe anxiety too. He teaches how we can get back up after we stumble, atone, return to love, and keep healing.
His voice in the text is incredibly calming. Just reading Practice of the Presence is a form of meditation. As calming to me as walking through the marsh with snowy egrets. And that’s what I hope for all who read it too, that you enter into that calmness, and learn simple ways to stay there.
How does teaching make a difference in your translating?
That’s such a good question because it makes a lot of difference. I work as an adjunct in the College Writing Programs at UC Berkeley. I teach firstyear composition, sophomore research classes, and public speaking to 200 students asynchronously online, with a friend/ colleague. Without listening to my students and trying to hear what their concerns are, I’d be totally lost. Even with the simplest things—I mean, I just learned how to make a story on Instagram, add stickers, all that.
Students have real challenges in their lives. Some of my students are experiencing homelessness or food precarities. Others lost parents in the pandemic. They don’t want school or religion or wisdom traditions or really
anything without a tangible, embodied connection to seeing how it is making the world kinder, more inclusive, and more equitable. I’m on the same page with them. Seeing how inequity impacts their lives and how bravely they work to change that inspires me to do my part. They change how I see the world.
That’s one reason I set up for a generous donation from the proceeds from each copy of Practice of the Presence to go directly from Broadleaf Books to the Women’s Prison Association in New York City. WPA is the first U.S. organization for women impacted by incarceration, since 1845.
How do we find your book online and keep up with you as time goes on?
That’s a great question. Visit me at my web site www.carmenbutcher.com, where you can order my book, Practice of the Presence, available from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Bookshop, IndieBound, and more. You can find me on Instagram at @cab_phd, Twitter @DrCarmen Butcher, or Facebook @Carmen AcevedoButcher.
Amazon sales link to Carmen’s book: https://www.amazon.com/ gp/product/1506478603/ ref=as_li_tl?ie=UTF8& camp=1789&creative=9325&cre ativeASIN=1506478603&link Code=as2&tag=carmace vbutc-20&linkId=ea0c 014c300554906a9603f3cb1de729
Bookshop (indie) sales link to Carmen’s book: https://bookshop.org/books/prac tice-of-the-presence-a-revolution ary-translation-by-carmen-aceve do-butcher/9781506478609
INTERVIEW WITH ELLEN BASSBY: LYNNE KEMEN
Welcome, Ellen. We’ve already decided that we are going to do more interviews. This time, let’s focus on your upcoming Fifth Living Room Craft Talk that starts on October 28. How did the Series come into being?
So the pandemic comes, and I’d always been reluctant to teach online. I didn’t see why I would want to. And then I had to. That was the only way I could continue. And much to my surprise I found that I liked it very much. And I discovered how adaptable poetry is to virtual learning. I started teaching some workshops and giving readings on Zoom–-my most recent book, Indigo, came out in spring 2020–-and then my wife suggested that I offer some craft talks on Zoom because there are generative workshops, but there aren’t that many places outside of an MFA program where you can seriously learn the craft. And she said, make them informal, call it living room craft talks. I talk to people, live, and I really enjoy that. It’s gratifying to share what I’ve learned over 56 years of teaching. And what I’ve learned from my own struggles writing.
And there was an immediate response!
I was thrilled that a lot of people wanted to attend and that we could offer scholarships. We have full and partial scholarships. You just need to ask.
What’s going to be offered in the 5th Series?
We’re going to look at the epistolary poem, which is a letter poem. And that’s a fascinating form that allows us–even leads us–-to say things that we might not otherwise find a way to put into the poem. We’re going to look at the elegy, which has changed so much over the years. We’re going to look at a very inspiring subject that I know a lot about from my years of working with survivors, transforming trauma into art. We’re going to study it from the point of view of craft–-what are strategies that you can use to work with traumatic experience–-personal and public–-and make poems from it.
We’re going to dive into metaphor more deeply. We talked about metaphor in the very first series, and now we’ll look at metaphors that aren’t set up in the most conventional way, X is like Y or X is Y; but where the metaphor is embedded into the syntax, as well as overarching metaphors and some of the other ways that metaphor can be integrated.
We’ll consider silences in poems, what isn’t said, and how we make room for that. If you say everything, there’s no room for the reader. If you say too little, the reader is confused and not interested, but if you say too much, the reader is shut out. And we’re going to explore the sonnet. Traditionally a sonnet is 14 lines and has a certain rhyme scheme, but the contemporary sonnet is proving to be very flexible and terrifically varied. Many writers are now letting go of rhyme schemes and meter. And yet there is a sonnet-ness in them. The volta–-or turn–-that the sonnet makes as it questions what has come before or swerves into a new idea. And so that’s really fascinating.
You always have such charismatic and talented poets come and speak-and it’s informal and welcoming for the participants.
Yes! I’m so grateful to the visiting poets. The craft is what we’re always looking at so they read a little of their
own poetry, and we talk about it. For the sonnet, we’ll talk with Diane Seuss, who just won the Pulitzer for her book frank: sonnets. For the epistolary poem, we have Ada Limón, who was just named US Poet Laureate. For the elegy, Chris Abani, a gorgeous, generous writer whose most recent book just came out, Smoking the Bible. For transforming trauma into art, we’ll talk with Donika Kelly, whose stunning, original poems truly accomplish that transformation. And for metaphor, we have Naomi Shihab Nye, one of the most beloved poets writing today. For silences, we have the brilliant Jane Hirschfield. I don’t think you could gather a more amazing group of writers.
Participants can either attend the live zoom lectures, or listen to recordings, or both.
Yes. The sessions are on Friday mornings, and that works for many people, but others just listen to the recordings later, when it’s convenient for them. And sometimes people like to go back and listen a second time.
The sessions are about two hours. For this upcoming series I said two and a quarter because I always run a little over! I want to pack in as much as I can. But I don’t want to make it arduously long. For myself, it would be easier to make it three or four hours because then I could fit in everything I’d like to share. But I think it’s like a poem. Some things hurt a little to take out, but the poem is better for it.
Ellen, thank you for this conversation. I look forward
more about Ellen’s
ERIN Z. BASSBY: CARMEN ACEVEDO BUTCHER
What are you reading and listening to right now?
I’m usually reading at least three books at once and am also in a monthly book club. We just finished Jane Eyre, which I have to admit I had never read and absolutely loved. She’s such a brave female character and an early feminist. I’m also reading Melissa Broder’s Milk Fed (I loved The Pisces), Jeffrey Eugenides The Marriage Plot and screening books for Deep South’s Fall/Winter Reading List. I don’t want to give too much away, but Barbara Kingsolver and Cormac McCarthy both have new books coming out!
In terms of listening, I’m a big fan of true crime podcasts and just listened to a new episode from The Vanished about Jake Latiolais, a young man who went missing from the Baton Rouge area. I especially look forward to road trips so I can have an excuse to binge a podcast. Slate’s Slow Burn about the rise of David Duke is also fantastic.
What advice would you give an aspiring young writer who is passionate to get published?
I would say just get your work out there. I know a lot of aspiring writers find us through listings on Duotrope, Poets & Writers, etc. Just send an email and see what happens. We’ve started doing themed calls, but I still get lots of emails from writers year-round, and I’ll take a peek at the first line or two of their attached story just to see if it grabs me.
As editor/publisher of Deep South Magazine, what is your philosophy of publishing?
I think publishing should be for everyone. We try to be friendly to authors, aspiring writers, interns, publishers, freelance writers, etc. I try to break down the barriers of publishing (that’s why we’re online-only) and just get stories out there any way we can.
What are some of your favorite pieces published on Deep South?
We have content going back over 10 years now, and I don’t want to play favorites, but there are some stories and pieces that have stuck with me. The Greatest Bromances in Southern Literature (https://deepsouthmag.com/2012/03/21/the-greatest-bromances-in-southernliterature/) from 2012 is still one of my all-time favorites. At the time, writer Hunter Murphy worked for the Birmingham Public Library and became a friend. He has since published two books and moved to Florida.
Nevada McPherson’s piece on Central State Hospital in Milledgeville, Georgia, (https://deepsouthmag. com/2015/10/13/inside-georgias-real-life-lunatic-asylum/) is a favorite of mine and readers. It’s from October 2015 and includes some great spooky photos and stories about Georgia’s real-life lunatic asylum.
On the Southern Voice side, I love “The End of the World Bar” (https://deepsouthmag.com/2018/08/30/the-end-of-theworld-bar/) from 2018 by Toby LeBlanc, who has a book of short stories coming out in September; Everything Must Go (https://deepsouthmag.com/2014/07/03/everything-mustgo/) from 2014 by Dan Leach, who published a book of short
stories in 2017; and Hot Grits, Cold Heart (https://deepsouthmag.com/2011/02/04/hot-gritscold-heart/) from 2011 by Donna Smith Fee.
Where are some of your favorite places in the South to travel?
There are still a lot of places I’d like to visit (the Outer Banks; Hannibal, Missouri; Virginia), but some of my favorite places I’ve been are Savannah, Georgia; Piggott, Arkansas (https:// deepsouthmag.com/2021/12/15/holidays-with-the-hemingway-pfeiffers/); the Mississippi Delta; Selma, Alabama; the North Georgia mountains; and Beaufort, South Carolina (https:// deepsouthmag.com/2014/06/04/town-of-tides-beaufort-south-carolina/). I also never pass up an excuse to go to New Orleans, which is just two hours down the road.
Bio: A resident of Lafayette, Louisiana, Erin Z. Bass has more than 20 years of writing experience and received her bachelor’s in Journalism from Louisiana State University. She has worked as a staff writer for The Times of Acadiana and Independent Weekly in Lafayette, Macy’s West communications department in San Francisco and been published in Coastal Living magazine, The Times Picayune, Southern Breeze magazine and The Current. An avid reader and book lover, Erin fell in love with Southern literature, and especially Southern women writers, during a class on the subject at LSU. She started Deep South Magazine in 2010, and it has been a dream to interview authors like Shirley Ann Grau and Dorothy Allison—and basically read for a living.
JACQUELINE ALLEN TRIMBLEBY: LYNNE KEMEN
Please introduce yourself. What makes you, you?
My first book, American Happiness, wasn’t published until I was fifty-five. I started writing poetry early, majored in English as an undergrad, and had hopes of becoming a writer/poet, but my mother died while I was in graduate school studying with Garrett Hongo, and I came home to Montgomery, Alabama, got married and started working. By the time I went back to school, I had a one-year-old boy and a three-year-old girl.
What I didn’t do very much of during this span of more than twenty years of studying, teaching and raising children, was write poetry. When I turned fifty, my husband said “You’re not happy because you’re not writing.” He was right. It was as if something in me awakened, something that had been hibernating. A few years and a stream of various workshops around the country later, NewSouth Books published American Happiness, which won the Balcones Poetry Prize. I’ve also written essays, episodes for a South African streaming soapie, Die Testament. My second book, How to Survive the Apocalypse, just came out.
How have you changed as a writer?
American Happiness (2016) was a collection in the truest sense—a series of poems written over a long period of time. Some of the poems I wrote as a twenty-two-year-old. I spent a lot of time then thinking about family, mostly grappling with my mother’s death. Some of the poems I wrote as a middle-aged mother, dismayed by the violence happening all around me. Those two poets had very different concerns, so there is a freewheeling nature to the book as it bounces from the personal, to the familial, to the public, to the political. How to Survive the Apocalypse (2022)was written over five years and constructed around the idea that people, African Americans in particular, have survived many apocalypses through creativity. I wanted to look at how art, in whatever form that takes—food, poems, fine art, music, protest—is key to survival.
Be unafraid. Don’t worry about writing something that is not good, or that is all-out bad, or that doesn’t turn out. That’s going to happen, but to write is to be fearless. Everything you write is successful because it is an opportunity to learn something you didn’t know before you wrote it. Becoming a good writer is like becoming a virtuosic piano player. You will know what it’s supposed to sound like long before you can produce the sound you want. That will take practice and nuance and experience. Everything must work together—your mind, your heart, your fingers, your instinct. This takes years. Never be satisfied. Keep writing, keep learning, keep playing.
You’re chairperson of Languages and Literatures at Alabama State University. What do you want your students to know about writing?
There is humor, compassion in your writing. Also toughness. How did you develop that voice?
Living. That’s the best answer I can think of. I am very serious about my work, but I have learned not to take myself too seriously, to laugh at myself, to understand that the more I know the more I need to learn. And I think the joy comes out of my curiosity about the world. I am interested in everything. I love museums, love going to new places, love seeing the unfamiliar. What I find in doing this is the wideness of the world. There are so many possibilities. People are ingenious, and I am never astonished by the world’s cruelty. That’s expected. And though I never forget or ignore that the world is often a hard place and people can be brutal, what I am astonished by is its kindness, generosity and beauty. It’s the beauty amid danger that keeps me writing and gives me energy. Creativity is a hopeful act, an act of love.
The last several years have been challenging. How do you deal with the lockdown, and the problems we’ve been facing?
As I tell my students, one day at a time. Everyone is struggling, and many of my students, without the benefit of having lived through hard times before, cannot see an end to this. But I know, “this too shall pass,” one way or another. I have tried to be a support to those who have struggled. Look. I know how lucky I am to have a job that was not threatened by the lockdown and to have had the privilege of working from home, but I was very aware of the psychological, physical, and financial toll the lockdown took on all of us. I tried to be a resource to those who really struggled.
do we find you
INTERVIEW WITH JOHN ROBERT LEEBY: LYNNE KEMEN
Welcome, and thank you for talking with us. Who is John Robert Lee?
John Robert Lee is Saint Lucian by birth and residence, a writer (poetry, prose fiction and non-fiction), an ordained elder, a retired librarian, literature teacher, former radio and television presenter, and producer. Belmont Portfolio, Poems, is forthcoming from Peepal Tree Press, Leeds, in 2023.
Can you tell us about Derek Walcott and the influence that he has had on your own writing?
A big question. Derek was a mentor and friend who I came to know well in the second half of his life. He had been a name and distant presence for many years before that, even from my late teen years. I often say now that I am of the school of Walcott, even though I can claim the guiding influence of other Caribbean writers like Kamau Brathwaite and Dionne Brand and many other novelists, playwrights, essayists. But Derek gave me, and still gives me, a sense and understanding of poetry that is deep, rooted in the accomplished writers of the past and contemporary times. He remains for me the master of metaphor, not afraid to use language in all its richness and expansiveness. And he also opened my eyes to Saint Lucia and the Caribbean (and by extension, the world) through his painterly descrip tive-narrative depictions of what he saw and analyzed not only the physical landscape and seascape but also the history, culture, language, the people. As a Christian poet, I want to do for Christian poetry, poetry of faith, poetry of the metaphysical, what Walcott did for poetry to bring the Caribbean voice, imagery, and sensibility into the poems of faith I write.
I was fortunate to be at a (virtual) reading that you gave for Bright Hill Press a few months ago. I was so mesmerized by the delivery of your poems. Tell us about your performance background and how you think poetry should be heard.
I was involved in theatre for many years as an actor and director. I also worked in media, radio, and television for many years. So I bring to the reading/presentation of my poems that background of experience in drama and media. I often say to friends that I think poetry should be “presented” rather than “performed.” I say this with full respect for those who do “performance poetry,” and there are writers for whom that genre works well. When I read, even my own work, I try to follow the line, its rhythms, its sounds, its inner voice. I try not to impose myself on the line, to “perform” it in a way that may over-dramatize what is there. Is there place for taking poetry and making a “drama” of it, a “play” with voices and actors? Sure. I think many of my poems would lend themselves to that kind of dramatic extension. But for me in reading, I try to “present” the lines with their thoughts and ideas and music and voices, rather than “performing” them.
Can you describe your writing process? Do you find that you want to revisit certain themes? How much rewriting do you do?
Hmm. Ideas come in all kinds of ways. A line may come first. At some point I try to work out the idea in terms of logical development, form, images. For many years now, once the basic ideas are put down on paper, the necessary research is completed, I compose on the computer. Poems can come in clusters. My books are usually structured around themes, even though the poems are written over a period of time. All my poems represent one book, since from poem to poem, themes connect, if not always obviously. So in that sense I suppose I revisit themes from differ ent angles. As to rewriting, I do as much close editing as I feel is needed, until I sense it is done. I hardly go back to
old poems and rewrite or even make new edits. Unless there is something that obviously needs to be touched. I have been fortunate to work with good editors at my publishers.
I notice so much music in your writing. Could you talk about your relationship with the other arts?
I don’t have any music, don’t play an instrument. Neither do I paint. My visual art is amateur pho tography. But certainly, music is in my ear when I write, especially the rhythms and melodies of my Saint Lucian and Caribbean music French creole, calypso, reggae, folk music. In terms of art, I have been writing ekphrastic poetry for many years, responding to the art of Saint Lucian, Caribbe an and other artists, and that includes photographs and sculpture.
John Robert Lee has an ekphrastic poem in this issue See page 215
Thanks for speaking with us. How do we reach you on social media?
Follow my social media here: Facebook: @Thejohnrobertleeauthorpage Instagram: @caribbeanwriter Twitter: @Rlee_fan
INTERVIEW WITH KELLI ALLENBY: CLIFFORD BROOKS
How have the last few years changed your art?
In early 2020, as the pandemic hit hard, I left China with one suitcase in hand, and landed in South Korea before again trying to outrun lockdowns and worry, and landing, for a nearly 7 month stay, in a tiny village in Rawai, Thai land. Late Fall of 2020 meant a return to the United States to start life and work in a new state, new college, new home, while mourning the loss of an apartment full of art, books, mementos, and memories hastily left behind in Changchun. The writing that occurred in these spaces and moments was more urgent and visceral than in my pre vious stories and poems. Displacement leads to questioning, and questions lead to either resentment or revelation. I chose then, and continue to choose now, to focus my work on revealing and leaning closer to openness. The past two years have been both bruise and feather, clear water, and mud for sculpting. The work in the newest book is a reflection of wandering, but also of staying rooted within a body that so often refuses stillness.
What makes you happy?
A season before it shades toward green. Tidal pools and the oddities they allow. Cooking with the purpose to feed people I adore and listening to their stories when bellies are full and building a fire is almost a certainty. Knowing the sea is anywhere nearby. Resolving to meet grief when it comes and building something new when it leaves. Ani mals curled in sleep. Sweat gathering at the small of my back when I dance hard and well. My husband’s jaw-prickle meeting my bottom lip in a quick kiss. Myths and poems read aloud to me so that when I find sleep, I have company waiting.
Tell us how your new poetry differs from what came before.
Where and when I was curiously lonely in this body that carries me for such a pittance, I am now more fully awake and able to listen-in when the flesh has desires unmet. My new work flinches less, grieves without shame, and asks more questions. There are still oceans and karsts, post-coital proclamations, nods toward lost Russian heroines, and an emphasis on fingers, but the new stories and poems play harder in their lyricism to be ugly as often as beautiful. Losing Robert Bly last year means a grief I have yet to define and also means that my work is responding to Absence by being louder, more tenacious, and affirm ing “yes” and “no” while there is still time. I will keep “stealing sugar,” though, and working on my own castle’s plan.
You spend a great deal of time in China. How has that influenced your muse?
China is the most extraordinarily strange, wild country I have explored or called “home.” My writing while in China, and now being away, fre quently centers on the body’s experience under various cultural gazes
and what happens when the gaze is returned. I have long studied how the female body as vehicle of de sire has been honored on the page from Sappho to HD, Anais Nin to Anne Sexton, but while in China, I learned to shake my preconceptions regarding sex and desire like a squat snowglobe. I was shocked when the white cleared to find that in a written culture 3500 years old, notions of desire had very little to do with what I already understood. China allowed me (in a multitude of culturally specific spaces) to change the trajectory of what I most needed to write in regards to how my own body moved within and
through the mainland and what it gathered in the journey of being seen and seeing. China and Chinese poetry have massively challenged and altered the direction my new work has taken. The next book will take 5 years of questions and distill them into something like answers about the body as object and the body as fading totem. Spend ing so much time in China has also reinvig orated my love of Szechwan peppercorns and a proper all-day bone broth. Time in the kitchen feeds time for the page, too.
How do we find you online?
I have presence in the usual spaces: website: www.kelli-allen.com, Facebook: Kelli Coly er-Christian (Kelli Allen), and Intagram: Kelli Allen (@kallen21046). https://www. crpress.org/shop/leaving-the-skin-on-thebear/
What is your responsibility to your readers?
To be honest, even when lying, even when hiding is smarter, more elegant. I do not censor the Self on the page and I intend my work to be a path for others to feel embold ened enough to write, doodle, dance, har vest, and yawp their own need with what ever language is capital-t True. My contract with my readers is the word “Yes.”
INTERVIEW WITH LATOYA WATKINSBY: J.D. ISIP
One of the first aspects of “Perish” that really sets it apart is the deep world building you accomplish. You build a fictional location, a fictional family, and a fictional history, but every part of these feels real and lived-in. What was your process for building this world? What kind of research, if any, did you have to do to prepare? Was there any research you found yourself having to do in the middle of the writing process?
This story came about when I was looking for myself in a grad school program. A lot of what’s there—the place and history—is based on real places and real history. The characters, to some extent, are even based on people I’ve seen somewhere out there in the world. I talked to real people and listened to real stories BEFORE allowing my imagination to take over. Before I ever sat down to place the characters in Jerusalem, I sat with them. In the same way, Jerusalem was created as its own. I saw so many West Texas cities and towns that I wanted to write about it—tell the world about—that I decided to take characteristics of all of them and make them one place. And once I decided who my characters were and where I would place them, the story just kind of happened.
Helen Jean’s dementia plays a pivotal role in the novel, but it seems to emphasize our own relationship with the past – what is real and what is misremembered. Perish seems to be challenging both an American and a “southern” lauding of the past which, though not totally unwarranted, deserves the scrutiny. Was there a message or an idea about that past you had in mind or that you found yourself working through while you were writing? In your opinion, which of Helen Jean’s descendants has the most accurate grasp on the past? (This is me asking which one is you without doing so.)
Haha! At your parenthetical note, of course. My family has lost a lot of its members in the last decade or so. One of the only things that really makes me uncomfortable about death is how those left behind tend to rewrite the histories or the lives of their dead. One of the people I’ve recently lost is an uncle—my mother’s brother. He was quite dear to me and my siblings. In fact, he was a huge part of our lives. But I never saw him look upon others with the same kindness with which he looked upon my mother, their brother, and my siblings.
Throughout his life, he had children, parents, other siblings, a wife, and girlfriends, but I’d venture to say that we, my mother, her children, and that one brother, were the only people he ever loved. In my memory, he is delightful. He was kind and giving and made sure everyone knew that we, those he loved, would always come first in his life. But I liked to tease him—to remind him that when he died, no one outside of us would come to his funeral. See, he was mean. I don’t think there is any other word that I’ll ever use to describe what he was to those outside the small circle of folks he chose to love. I knew him as generous and kind and loving, but I saw his disdain, sometimes rage, and even violence towards other people, and I knew that he was something altogether different for them.
Since my uncle’s death, I’ve witnessed a shift in the stories folks tell about him. They paint him as kind, almost a saint. And that bothers me because I didn’t need him to be those things to love him. I made a choice to love him where he was and I don’t need to change him into something beautiful in order to continue to carry him with me. I think people often feel that they can’t love America if they’re honest about who she’s been allowed to be in the past.
I think that’s a human limitation placed on love and it unnerves me that we can only see a hero or a villain.
That’s a long way to avoid answering your question. I think each of Helen Jean’s descendants can only see the past from their own view. Because of that limitation, no one has an accurate grasp of it.
“Perish” has been compared to many Southern novels, and you have been compared to the likes of Alice Walker, Toni Morrison, and William Faulkner –all of which seems accurate in my estimation. However, you have built something in this novel that stands outside of those works and those authors. Black Texas seems like a place and people needing more of a voice in our literature. Were you consciously thinking about representation, and about Texas in particular? What goes through your head as a writer when your debut work is held in such high esteem? How’s that pressure working out for you?
I wasn’t consciously thinking about representation as much as I was fighting to learn about something that felt hidden from me. And when I found it, I wanted to tell others about it. I wanted to share bits and pieces of a quiet world that had and was still shaping me. I try to ignore the comparisons and the buzz around me as a writer. I think both positive and negative buzz
settle in the same part of the psyche and drain creativity. I don’t read reviews of my work, profiles of me as an artist, or listen to myself being interviewed. I share them because that’s what we’re told to do, but I don’t do much more than post the links. Maybe someday, when I’m sure of myself as an artist, I’ll go back and take a listen (or maybe I won’t), but I’m not quite ready to be molded by others. I think the only thing I can do right now is be the best LaToya Watkins that I know how to be.
You and I have spent some time talking about the work of being a writer. I know that you take this work serious, and yet, I also know you (as a colleague) to be a well-respected professor. Your students and colleagues love you. What advice do you have for writers trying to promote their work, improve their craft, love on their families, and continue a successful dayto-day career?
Keep at it. Keep going after “no”. Keep going after “yes”. Keep at it all. And love it all.
The teaching and learning and learning from the teaching… There is glory in all of it. A good calendar works too. I keep one calendar for everything. My students, colleagues, family, and writing are all in the same place, sometimes at the same time. This makes it all one thing to me: important. The goal is simple: Be great at it all.
You are proof positive that there is a path. What is it?
Finally, as we all know, the work never ends. What are you working on now, or what do you hope to work on when the touring and promotion for Perish subsides? And please let us know how our readers can find you on social media.
I’m working on two projects. A story collection (Holler, Child) that is out next fall and a novel that looks at the short life of a young Dallas man from 1956 to 1985. I’m on Instagram and Twitter as: @drlwatkins.
“Perish” is available at all major book sellers and is available in audio on Audible. It’s amazing.
Bio: LaToya Watkins’s writing has appeared in A Public Space, The Sun, McSweeney’s, Kenyon Review, The Pushcart Prize Anthology (2015), and elsewhere. She has received grants, scholarships, and fellowships from the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference, MacDowell Colony, Yaddo, Hedgebrook, and A Public Space (she was one of their 2018 Emerging Writers Fellows). She holds a PhD from the University of Texas at Dallas. The following interview is about LaToya’s debut novel, Perish.
INTERVIEW WITH MICHAEL CHANGBY: NICOLE TALLMAN
I know you don’t like to talk process, but are you willing to talk to us about your writing life at all? Do you have a particular schedule or habits?
Most of the time I’m studying, observing, thinking, deciding; the writing is the easy part.
Tell us about your latest book, ALMANAC OF USELESS TALENTS. What is it that you most want readers to take away from it?
I’m never prescriptive about what I want readers to take away from my work. It’s so silly when artists do that. Kind of embarrassing, really. I think readers should take away from ALMANAC what they need at a particular moment in time, and then come back for new insights later down the line.
One thing I will say is that my work lends itself so well to multiple reads: you tend to pick up different things on the fourth, fifth, sixth reads. Other poets write books that you read once, maybe don’t even finish, then regift.
Could you talk a little about such poems as BIG SHOT MANIFESTO, LE BAIN DE CRISTAL, and I ALREADY LOVE MICHAEL CHANG? I’d love to get some insight into your pacing, for example … it feels like rapid fire. I’m also viewing these poems through a lens of cultural critique. It’s like reading a review of the things you find wrong with the world, but in an entertaining way. I’d also like to know the role that beauty, desire, and pleasure play in your work.
I always try to have my poems come across as breezy and fun. The poems often tackle difficult topics, but in a fresh and approachable way. I don’t think readers like being lectured to. It’s just poetry. It’s not that serious. I want folx to have fun.
I want to make the work easy and accessible without losing the thoughtful, deliberative “craft” of it all. But I also want to challenge readers on their beliefs, and talking about desire/pleasure is a quiet, discreet way to do that.
I love how you approach language, and how you seem to invent your own lexicon in your poems. Talk to us a bit about that.
Since you’ve worked in politics a long time, you perfectly understand the likeability factor. The whole “who would I rather have a beer with?” thing.
I think a unique syntax or lexicon helps readers get to know me better. It also helps get my point across. I think it’s very important for poets (poetry?) to have a point-of-view.
I hear your next book is called SYNTHETIC JUNGLE. Any preview you can give us regarding themes, form, or subject matter?
Yes, SYNTHETIC JUNGLE will be out from Northwestern University Press in March 2023. For collections, I start with a loose theme, then write towards it, maybe around it so it’s not too on the nose ... the poems end up being theme-adjacent, building upon what came before, reinterpretations of familiar (to me) motifs, touching on current obsessions while proposing something new.
What are you reading right now, and what poets (living or dead) most inspire you?
My diet is pretty diverse. I read almost everything.
You are the poetry editor for Fence. Tell us about the work you do for that magazine, and what makes you accept or pass on a poem.
I’ll make a general comment about Fence and then speak specifically to my own editorial process. Fence famously doesn’t have a house aesthetic, so there exists a receptiveness to range and style that is totally absent from most other journals. There is also an affinity for experimentation and risk-taking, I think, at Fence. Speaking only for myself: at this point I’ve read enough poems to ascertain a poet’s voice pretty quickly,
and so I assess a poem’s confidence and fluency, determine what it’s really trying to say.
I admire poets who can keep mostly the same voice with slight shifts in tone/register to offer a nice range within the same packet ... I’m always attentive to how poems look on the page, whether the stylistic moves a poet makes has a clear purpose (vs “for decoration”) …
I like seeing evidence that a poet is familiar with what other people are doing. I think it’s critical for a poet to be aware of what’s going on in the world, and this extends to developments in the poetry world. This isn’t a cliquey comment. I don’t do cliques ... I just prefer poets who obviously care about what their peers and colleagues are attempting to accomplish, and then write in a way that is different from that. Like “hey, that’s cool, but this is what I’m about.”
What would people be most surprised to learn about you?
Probably that I don’t talk to too many people about poetry. It’s just a handful of people, and I share work with even fewer people than that.
How do we keep up with you online?
Buy my books! I am @mchangpoet on Twitter.
Bio: MICHAEL CHANG (they/them) is the author of several collections of poetry, including BOYFRIEND PERSPECTIVE (Really Serious Literature, 2021), ALMANAC OF USELESS TALENTS (CLASH Books, 2022), & SYNTHETIC JUNGLE (Northwestern University Press, 2023). Tapped to edit Lambda Literary’s Emerge anthology, their poems have been nominated for Best New Poets, Best of the Net, & the Pushcart Prize. They were awarded the Poetry Project’s prestigious Brannan Prize in 2021, & serve as a poetry editor at the acclaimed journal Fence.
BEDLAMBY MICHAEL CHANG
some poets claim they don’t want to reenact violence
& then write abt nothing but which is lovely cain being the hotter one with open eyes still nervous each time
“I’m the leak in your getaway boat”—Wayne Koestenbaum
INTERVIEW WITH PAULA DEITZ OF THE HUDSON REVIEWBY: LYNNE KEMEN
The Hudson Review (THR) is one of the country’s oldest literary magazines. Tell us what makes it unique.
The Hudson Review was founded in 1948 as a magazine of both literature and the arts with the goal of publishing new writers, many of whom have become famous over the years. In addition to covering the contemporary American literary scene, its early emphasis on translated works gave it a world view. With its openness to unsolicited submissions, it continually reflects trends among writers of poetry, fiction and nonfiction. Also, its staff critics cover current developments in the arts, including theater, music, dance, film and the visual arts.
You have been with THR as Editor since 1998. That’s a long tenure. What keeps it fresh for you?
Without exaggeration, every day at The Hudson Review provides an adventure of discovery that culminates with the gathering of material for each issue. As new works or assigned reviews arrive, I am always reading with an eye for originality of ideas and excellence in form. In a sense, this places me in a position of constantly learning, thereby keeping both my own mind and the magazine fresh with new perspectives.
As a long-time editor, how do you know when you have a piece that fits your magazine? The range seems to be quite eclectic, but is there something our readers should know about what you are looking for when they submit?
No matter the subject or the genre, a manuscript must express originality of ideas with clarity and elegance in the writing. We approach every submission or assigned review without any preconceived notions, hence our openness to a great variety of ideas and subjects, as well as points of view by our critics.
Who else is working with you? Tell us about their roles in the magazine.
As an independent quarterly, we share editorial and administrative duties. Managing Editor Ron Koury oversees the copyediting and production process, works closely with authors and controls outgoing funds. As circulation manager, Associate Editor Zachary Wood records incoming funds, including donations, and is responsible for the layout of the magazine. Assistant Editor Eileen Talone manages publicity, social media and website updates. I read nonfiction submissions, Ron and Eileen read fiction submissions and Zach reads the poetry.
You are also involved in a wonderful project- Writers in the Schools. Tell us about that.
We started Writers in the Schools in 2000, bringing authors like Marilyn Nelson and Wendell Berry to visit high school English classes in underserved neighborhoods in Newark and New York City. The students study the works in class, then discuss them with the authors. Over the years, it has become an arts program as well: our arts critics
accompany classes to the opera and museums after an in-class lesson. In March 2020, we switched to virtual visits. Happily, we are back to in-person visits, but we still offer virtual visits so that students can speak with our international writers.
In addition to both print and digital subscribers, we initiated many years ago The Friends of The Hudson Review, those subscribers who support the magazine with annual donations that add handsomely to our annual budget to publish the magazine and to conduct the Writers in the Schools program. In exchange, the Friends are informed of our activities and receive invitations to our public programs. We view this group as our literary community, representing our readers at large.
You accept unsolicited pieces. How do we submit them?
We read unsolicited work seasonally: authors can submit nonfiction from January 1 to March 31, poetry from April 1 to June 30, fiction from September 1 to November 30. For nonfiction and poetry, we only consider submissions by mail: send to 33 West 67th St., NY, NY 10023. You can submit fiction either by mail or through our Submission Manager (hudsonreview. com/submissions). There is never a submission fee. We strongly encourage authors of all backgrounds to consider submitting to The Hudson Review.
Your organization is a not-for-profit 501(c)(3). In addition to subscribing, how can readers support THR?
back. We witness a scene that is at once memorable and ordinary, but we do not know if it is an arrival or a leave-taking.
— Antonio Muñoz Molina, “Of Craft and Matter,” p. 182
But it’s pretty rare to pick up a novel and find a woman my age—someone solidly in her sixties, or even her late fifties—as a real mover or shaker in the plot. Miss Marple, I miss you. Olive Kitteridge, I’ll follow you anywhere. I don’t think I’m looking for assurance that women my age (or a little younger or a little older) are entitled to expect any par ticular plot turns—happy romances versus unhappy, fulfilling sexual encounters versus bedroom farces, happy families (all alike or not) versus unhappy, professional triumphs versus implosions and disasters—I’m just looking for the feeling that their lives still encompass the twists and turns of fortune, outrageous or not.
— Perri Klass, “The Sixties Heroine: ‘A mature and adult female of her species at last,’” p. 253
A gifted man like Samuel Pepys, for example, was only able to rise through government administration because of his connection with a powerful relative, Lord Sandwich. And as late as the mid-eighteenth century, Samuel Johnson, already one of the great men of letters of his era, was still chafing at his dependence on wealthy patrons and plotting his personal declaration of independence. It was four great revolutions, according to [Adrian] Wooldridge, that created the modern meritocratic world: the American, the Industrial, the liberal, and above all the French, which “injected the question of meri tocracy, like a shot of adrenaline, into the heart of European politics.”
— Brooke Allen, “Meritocracy and Its Discontents,” p. 309
COMING THIS SPRING FROM HUB CITY PRESS
THE CROCODILE BRIDE
ASHLEIGH BELL PEDERSEN
Ashleigh Bell Pedersen writes in a style all her own. The Crocodile Bride is a generous, tender novel with unforgettable characters and a perfect, transcendent ending.” —Carter Sickels
MARCH 29 THRESH & HOLD
This book is a prayer and a fist, a history and the hope that comes only from true reckoning, the listening that makes light.” —Ashley M. Jones
GEORGE MASA’S WILD VISION:
A JAPANESE IMMIGRANT IMAGINES WESTERN NORTH CAROLINA
Brent’s book transcends time with creative insights and reflections on the natural world that honor George Masa’s ‘Wild Vision.’” —Paul Bonesteel
ALSO FROM HUB CITY PRESS
Founded in Spartanburg, South Carolina in 1995, Hub City Press, is the South’s premier independent literary press. Focused on finding and spotlighting extraordinary new and unsung writers from the American South, our curated list champions diverse authors and books that don’t fit into the commercial publishing landscape. Hub City is interested in books with a strong sense of place and is committed to introducing a diverse roster of lesser-heard Southern voices.
INTERVIEW WITH TODD BOSSBY: CLIFFORD BROOKS
What is your responsibility to your readers? What is your responsibility as a poet?
My responsibility is the same as my cabinetmaker father’s: It’s to the craft. I just premiered a symphony in Tucson. One of the most rewarding things about it: Folks afterward kept coming up to tell me their favorite lines from the text—and each of them had picked a different line. I’m inspired by the fact that, if a text is written well, any given line might end up absorbing the neon of somebody’s highlighter pen. Or any neighborhood of people might highlight a different line, all up and down the street, till the whole poem glows in segments, like the street itself under its lamps.
I’m not talking about “craft” as a mere discussion of grammar or use of metaphor. Take the Eames chair, for example. You can’t highlight one aspect of it as the “keeper” feature. Its parts are all beautiful and necessary and inspired. I want to make a poem as perfect as the Eames chair. I want to make a book that perfect. A life. My relationships. Every part seated seamlessly with every other part. All of it adding up to something a master craftsman could feel good about. I’m talking about “craft” as workmanship. The sturdiness of a thing. Its artistic authenticity. The defiant and courageous shape it cuts in the world.
How do you approach the editing phase of your creative process?
At my best, it’s just about opening all the windows and doors of the little cabin of the poem I’ve built in my head, so that the rest of my brain can blow through it. The right and left brains are continuously checking each other: Every decision involves that instantaneous zip-zap of editing neurons. I get stuck when I start insisting one brain is smarter than the other one, and I screw down all the windows and lock the door and hunker down like a psychopath. That’s not a poem, it’s a manifesto. The editing process is a natural one, so the poet has to practice openness, willingness, letting go. Smell of cedar. Splash of sunshine. Drift of water music. These are cabin improvements.
Give us the highs and lows in your new collection of poetry? How does it stand out from those before it?
I’m not writing about windmills and milk buckets anymore, for starters. I embrace my bisexuality in this collection for the first time since the end of a 27-year monogamy. My 6-year estrangement from my daughter becomes a topic. Grief and I are on a first-name basis at long last. Prior collections dwelt on my farm upbringing and the heritage of my farm folk. But this one goes abroad, gazes upward from the navel, speaks from a place of global citizenship, and recognizes that soon we’ll all be nomads if we don’t get our ships in order.
How did Beethoven come to be a significant force in your life?
The day I got a commission to write about him. Before that, I hadn’t honestly given Beethoven much thought. I’m not a classical music nut. My friend Jake Runestad is. He commissions me frequently to write texts he turns into big choral/orchestral things. When he told me about the famous letter Beethoven wrote to his brothers confessing his hearing loss, I read an English translation, and immediately knew it was something I could adapt. I’d just lost everything I held dear, so I could relate. I woke in the middle of the night with the words “A silence is coming for me” and knew I had the terrible crux of it. And then—and I don’t say this lightly—Beethoven became an embodying force in my life. What I mean is, he forced himself into my skin. I wrote for the next seven hours on “A Silence Haunts Me,” visibly quaking. I was inconsolable, hot/cold, sobbing openly at times. I’ve never been haunted by a
writing experience like that, not so convulsively, not so deafeningly. I was a wreck through every consecutive re-write, for weeks. It was ridiculous.
To this day I feel a oneness with the man, a fraternity. He died with that letter on him, unsent. Who knows but that I gave it the reading he’d been waiting for.
INTERVIEW WITH PHIL KLAYBY: J.D. ISIP
From “Death and Memory” in Uncertain Ground
Though I continue to tell stories about Iraq, I sometimes fear this makes me a fraud. I feel guilty about the sorrow I feel because I know it is manufactured, and I feel guilty about the sorry I do not feel because it is owed, it is the barest beginning of what is owed to the fallen.
One of the things that strikes me reading this collection of essays is its immediacy, its sense of urgency – there is a bit of what Sacvan Bercovitch would call an American Jeremiad. Much like Joan Didion’s Slouching Towards Bethlehem, James Baldwin’s The Fire Next Time, and John Steinbeck’s America and Americans, you seem to be Jeremiah, our “weeping prophet,” mourning something. What would you say is being mourned in this book?
What is being mourned in the book is a variety of things, they happen at several levels. The first piece in the book [“Death and Memory”] is about death and violence done to specific people. Actually, there are several pieces that talk about this. When you are talking about war, I think the first thing that is to be mourned is always the direct and immediate human cost. I have a tragic sense of war. I talk in the book about the penitentials in the early Medieval period, where even if you served in a just war you owed penance for killing someone because you’ve killed another human being made in the image of God with whom you share a brotherhood. So, even in the best of circumstances war is inherently tragic. This is to say nothing of the innocents killed in war.
From “Tales of War and Redemption” in Uncertain Ground Military triage is a cold, logical process. If there’s no hope, you make the individual comfortable and move on to some other patient who might survive. But the doctors, who felt every loss keenly, would never just shove a dying person in a corner. They wanted someone to be there, caring for them until they passed. This was especially true when it came to children, and it was this responsibility that Chaps took upon himself. When there was nothing the doctors could do beyond providing morphine, Chaps McLaughlin used to hold kids in his arms and rock them gently as they died.
Speaking of those innocents, there is a particularly moving moment when you are talking about Chaplain Patrick McLaughlin, whom you refer to as Chaps. He takes up this admirable, almost saintly service, but he still feels terrible about his part in war.
Yes. He feels very much that he is complicit in war, that this is a moral and spiritual burden that falls on him as much as it does on any other Marine or soldier. And as much as it does on any other American, to be frank.
The other side of an American Jeremiad is a “calling,” a desire to call the people back to a better version of themselves, to call the nation back to an ideal. In these essays, you bounce around not only American, but also world history to remind us where we have gone wrong in your estimation.
There’s concern throughout the book with the failures through history for America to live up to some of the high-minded ideals that are very important to me, that are very much something I believe in. I think that wars really are a series of contestations between different images of America. Across American history, you can see that very much in World War I with the rhetoric that went into it, and with the political action and mob violence that came after it. You can see it in the ways that we have mythologized World War II, and our responses to Vietnam. There’s always this sort of contestation of American identity that never just stays in the realm of military policy and foreign policy, but often gets at issues of our sense of ourselves as Americans. It gets intwined to our relationships with violence, gun laws, immigration, national service, and a whole host of other issues. Our duties and obligations as Americans. It is difficult to look at the last twenty years and not see some very serious failures in that regard.
And we cannot overcome these failures if we don’t acknowledge them.
There’s an essay in the book called “What We’re Fighting For,” which talks about when people took on risks or fought honorably on the battlefield which are very meaningful to me, but it also talks about America’s use of torture. And the last essay in the book [“American Purpose
After the Fall of Kabul”] is full of rage, frankly, about the ways that American idealism has been misused. There was a real coming together after 9/11, and that social cohesion was harnessed for misguided wars.
To me, many of these essays force civilian Americans to contemplate war and service even If we are not on the frontlines.
I am very interested in people who accept responsibility. Some veterans, for example, tried to do everything they could for friends, interpreters when Kabul fell, but that is a responsibility too large for any individual to bear, and a failing of our government. I am interested in the ways we make political decisions, cultural decisions where we’ve allowed language in policy to obscure war making from us. That disconnect between the soldier and the citizen, it isn’t just the natural outgrowth of war because war is strange and very different from civilian life, but it’s also a deliberate creation of ignorance around war.
Sure, we hardly ever talk about war.
Look at the ways in which we no longer debate war because presidents rely on the authorization of the use of military force [The Patriot Act] since 2001. Biden is relying on that for the recent increase in troops in Somalia, a conflict that most Americans have no idea is going on. Or look at the choices we’ve made to obscure the costs of war like a heavy reliance on mercenaries. There are some bases where contractors outnumber American troops four to one. There were times during the Afghan War where a contractor was two-times more likely to die than an American troop, but those deaths didn’t really register with the American people.
Out of sight, out of mind.
It’s political utility. It doesn’t ask much of us. Because it is something that happens out of view. The Department of Defense doesn’t accept journalists who embed with our troops anymore, and they haven’t in a while. There are a whole host of ways we have made decisions as a country that allows people to feel less responsibility, or to not even consider things that we are responsible together for as a nation.
And these ideas you present about responsibility and war, civic duty, can be extrapolated out to domestic concerns such as homelessness, drug addiction, education, the pandemic, etcetera. We allow our leaders to make decisions, so long as we don’t have to give them much thought.
Absolutely. Margaret Thatcher famously argued that there is no such thing as a society; there are individual men and women, and there are families. Compare that to Camus who, in The Plague, says, “No longer were there individual destinies, only a collected destiny made of plague and the emotions shared by all.” I think Camus is onto something much more obviously true.
I want to make it clear to readers that these essays are not just about war. You use the backdrop of war, the way Didion used the backdrop of social movement, the way Baldwin used the backdrop of race, the way Steinbeck used the backdrop of a road trip across America to say something that effects every American, every reader. To Baldwin, for example, it was necessary that white readers understand what he was trying to say. In these essays, I feel like it is vital that civilians understand what you are trying to say. The Camus reference gets at this, at our collected journey.
In times of extremity, your incredible reliance on others comes to the forefront. And this is very obvious in war. I note in the book that every order includes a “lost Marine” plan. A Marine on their own is not a significant
unit. In bootcamp, if you’re called “an individual” that’s an insult. You, as an individual, are not worthy. You only matter when you understand how to subordinate yourself in some ways to the larger group. The extent to which we rely on each other is often obscured. We like to tell stories about ourselves where we are more selfmade and independent than we actually are.
How do we make change? How do we right the ship of our collective destiny?
It’s not on any one individual to solve these problems, but every individual can join with others. Find issues of particular importance to them. There are any number of groups that whatever it is that bothers you about American civic life, they’re working to improve it. Sometimes in small ways, sometimes in larger ones. There are always avenues for chipping away at some of these problems. But you do so by joining with other people.
In this collection, you have several groupings for the essays: Soldiers, Citizens, Writing, Faith. Under the Writing grouping, you seem to challenge accepted narratives around specific wars, such as how the Modernists present WWI as pure chaos, and how WWII is presented as pure heroism.
I think I come down on the side of complex individual experience as not being reducible to these kinds of broader narratives. As a veteran coming back from war, you have to try to make sense of what you were part of, which is a natural thing. You quickly will find that there are all sorts of cultural garbage that you have to navigate your way through as you try to communicate your experience. That section is on writing, but it’s more about communication. How do we talk to one another? How do we find ways of having difficult conversations? It’s personally important. It’s important for us to be able to grow and change, to get a handle on what we’ve been through, to talk to people outside of our own experience. It’s also important politically.
It informs our choices, our votes. What does “good patriotism” look like to you?
Ralph Ellison talked about American as “an abstract, futuristic nation.” It is geared toward something rather than being a settled reality stretching onto the past. It is a nation that is turbulent and always changing. The kind of patriotism that appeals to me is not the sort of narrow, extensive notion of the country that is tightly anchored to a particular time or imagined time in America’s past. Rather, the patriotism that appeals to me the most is the one that is about engaging in the kind of “struggle to achieve the country” to embrace that turbulence and that messy democratic process which is there to enable us to move forward.
That struggle is not just war.
It’s engaging in the struggle of ideas of how to move our country forward. Engaging in that struggle is what makes us American citizens, not warfare.
From “Can the Trauma of War Lead to Growth, Despite the Scars?”
None of this would likely have surprised Ignatius of Loyola. In his tradition, suffering was at best a mystery: God never really answers Job, and Christ’s prayer to “let this cup pass me by” goes ungranted.
As a Jesuit friend recently told me, suffering is never a gift, never truly willed by God; suffering is real, and awful, and not to be forgotten. “Consider how the Divinity hides itself,” Ignatius’s followers have been directed to ask for hundreds of years, “how Tt could destroy Its enemies and does not do it, and how it leaves the most sacred Humanity to suffer so very cruelly.” But of course, that doesn’t mean that we cannot respond to such suffering with grace.
Your final essays in the collection are about faith, specifically faith in the face of human tragedy, especially war. Let’s end a little upbeat. Thoughts on faith, hope, grace, joy?
Joy is a tremendously valuable thing. Life is not all about grand political struggles. Sometimes, just sitting o the stoop with your kid and having an Italian ice… there’s a world of meaning in that. Klay, a veteran of the U.S.
Marine Corps and a father, observes his subject with a mix of anger, disappointment, guilt, and hope. In short, through these essays, he models what an entire citizenry might learn to do more of: give a shit.
If that seems a bit harsh, consider that just a year ago the United States finally pulled out of Afghanistan after more than 20 years of a war nearly nobody talked about. There were several urgent news reports about Afghan girls losing their rights to be educated, heartbreaking scenes of desperate men holding onto overstuffed military transport aircraft (some falling to the tarmac below), and, of course, the inevitable fall of Kabul to the Taliban. One year later, we have collectively moved on. Uncertain Ground closes with the essay, “American Purpose After the Fall of Kabul,” a reminder that perhaps we move on too easily, too often.
From Peguin Press
When Phil Klay, the bestselling author of Redeployment and Missionaries, left the Marines a decade ago after serving as an officer in Iraq, he found himself a part of the community of veterans who had no choice but to grapple with the meaning of their wartime experiences—for themselves and for the country.
American identity has always been bound up in war—from the revolutionary war of our founding, to the civil war that ended slavery, to the two world wars that launched America as a superpower. What did the current wars say about who we are as a country and how we should respond as citizens?
UNCERTAIN GROUND: Citizenship in the Age of Endless, Invisible War (on-sale May 17) is Phil Klay’s first work of collected non-fiction. In twenty-two of his most powerful essays, written over the past eleven years, he seeks to illuminate the weight of America’s soul after two decades of “forever wars” in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Unlike in previous eras of war, relatively few Americans have had to do any real grappling with the endless conflicts of the post-9/11 world; in fact, increasingly few people are even aware they are still going on. It is as if these wars are a dark star with a strong gravitational force that draws a relatively small number of soldiers and their families into its orbit while remaining inconspicuous to most other Americans. In the meantime, the consequences of American military action abroad may be out of sight and out of mind, but they are very real indeed.
This chasm between the military and the civilian in American life, and the moral blind spot it has created, is one of the great themes of UNCERTAIN GROUND. In the name of what do we ask young Americans to kill, and to die? In the name of what does this country hang together? As we see at every turn in these pages, those two questions have a great deal to do with each another, and how we answer them will go a long way toward deciding where our troubled country goes from here.
“[An] incisive collection . . . Enriched by the author’s military experiences and sharp turns of phrase (‘We’re America. We’re good at violence’), this is an astute and often enraging survey of America’s forever wars.” —Publishers Weekly
“Klay, a U.S. Marine war veteran, novelist, and National Book Award–winner for his short sto ry collection Redeployment, aligns his thoughts and experiences with the soul of a nation in an introspective collection of essays structured in four parts, ‘Soldiers,’ ‘Citizens,’ ‘Writing,’ and ‘Faith’ . . . In each essay, Klay’s distinctive ideas expose cracks in the ostensibly glossy but unmistakably fragile veneer of our culture . . . Klay’s reassuring voice offers truth, hope, and ways forward during a challenging, polarized period in America.”—Booklist
About the Author
Phil Klay is the author of the novel Mission aries (Penguin Press, 2020) and the short story collection, Redeployment which won the 2014 National Book Award for Fiction and the National Book Critics’ Circle John Leonard Prize for best debut work in any genre, and it was selected as one of the 10 Best Books of 2014 by The New York Times His newest publication, Uncertain Ground: Citizenship in an Age of Endless, Invisible War (Penguin Press, 2022) is a collection of essays examining what and where the project of the United States is at this moment, and what role each of us plays in determining what it could be.
INTERVIEW WITH SEAN MURPHYBY: CLIFFORD BROOKS
Why do you write?
Writing has always been a way for me to process and make sense of the world. Regardless of what I’m working on— essays or reviews, poetry or prose—my goal is to do the subject justice. With non-fiction, I’m trying to make a case, render a verdict, or interrogate an issue that, once written, can withstand time, trends, and repeated readings. With creative writing, the impetus is often solving or responding to problems I’ve created for myself or that I feel need addressing. Ultimately, you put it out there, and other people determine if the work in question works. So long as it’s original, honest, and satisfies that inner voice, everything else is secondary.
Aside from craft and commercial aspirations (ugh), for me art is an antidote to apathy, a way to remind each of us we should never feel alone. The great William Carlos Williams famously wrote “it is difficult to get the news from poems, yet men die miserably every day for lack of what is found there.” I’m certain that’s as true today as it’s ever been, and seems a good enough hill to die on, aesthetically speaking.
What do you want writers to take away from your work?
For me writing is always an act of communication, an attempt to initiate a dialogue—even an internal one. A piece of my writing having a positive impact on anyone else is the best gift I could give or receive. I’ve spent the last several years working on a poetry project (its first installment, The Blackened Blues, was published in 2021) exploring some of my personal heroes, many of whom remain far less venerated than they deserve to be. As it happens, many of them are musicians, hampered in various ways by discrimination, ranging from old fashioned racism to institutional and cultural indifference. Despite setbacks, they fought their battles bravely, in their art and in their lives, and the poems seek to capture something essential about their lives, bearing witness while also paying homage. If I’m able to introduce some of these worthy and iconoclastic geniuses to people who may otherwise have never discovered them, that makes me extremely happy.
BMR came to know you as a poet who runs a non-profit. Tell us about 1455 and its mission.
1455 grew from my recalcitrant belief that artists can support each other and create community. We work to celebrate storytellers and provide them a forum, and our mission is at once simple and profound: we can—and should—come together to honor those who entertain, inform, and inspire us. Social media has been a blessing in some regards, but it has also amplified some of the ugliest aspects of creativity and capitalism: breeding competition, groupthink, with tastemakers and gatekeepers (the old school elitists and the new trend chasers) holding sway. 1455 offers year-round free programs, ranging from our author interview series to our bi-monthly e-mag Movable Type, and our annual StoryFest. My goal is to let under-represented artists feel seen and build micro-communities within the infooverload default setting of 21st Century existence. Art can, and should be empowering, and as human beings we are changed for the better when we’re part of these connections.
How do we keep up with you online, and what projects and programs are on the horizon that we should be aware of?
I’m excited that Rhapsodies in Blue, a follow-up to The Blackened Blues, is forthcoming from Kelsay Books in 2023; my collection of short fiction, How Many Men?, is being published in early 2024 by Unsolicited Press. You can find me online @bullmurph, and seanmurphy.net has links to much of my published work, including poetry, short fiction, and hundreds of thousands of words about music, books, movies, politics, as well as the occasional tribute to single barrel bourbon and miniature schnauzers. To learn more about 1455 (or get involved, or help support its awesome mission!), check us out at 1455litarts.org or @1455LitArts.
Any Words of Wisdom or Encouragement for Aspiring Artists?
I’ve been writing for a long time and, while my list of publications has slowly, if steadily increased, it will never outnumber a pile of rejections as Big as the Ritz. The only way forward, I’ve found, is to emulate Samuel Beckett: Try again, fail again, fail better. I’ve endeavored to build a reality over the last couple of decades that eliminates the gaps between art and life, or creativity and commerce. I’ve accepted that hustle is the new normal for any writer, so those that can multitask will thrive: the key is to get the work done, pay bills by the least soul-sucking ways possible, and actively participate in— and promote—your literary/creative communities. Also, don’t be cynical. Find a charity you can feel good about supporting, endorse the efforts of our great storytellers, tell your parents you love them, appreciate—and savor—the friends who always have your back. Be good to strangers and be better to yourself: you deserve it.
The BLUE MOUNTAIN call for SUBMISSIONS
The Blue Mountain Review is accepting new submissions of Poetry, Prose, and Visual Art.
The Blue is a Southern publication, but we draw no boundaries or borders on that interpretation. “Southern” is a soul more than a spot on a map, and everyone is south of somewhere. We seek pieces that boldly create something new from the ether of the timeless, works that go beyond sparking interest to ignite something that smolders. Works that matter today and will still matter tomorrow.
Visit our submissions page at www.southerncollectiveexperience.com/the-blue-mountain-review
visual Art Interviews
INTERVIEW WITH ANNA RAZUMOVSKAYABY: CLIFFORD BROOKS
Please bring us up to speed on you. How has life created your genius?
Your question is right to the point and contains the answer. Life, or Providence, not me, developed my skill. In my childhood, I did not demonstrate an outstanding talent for art, nor was I obsessed with it, as many artists claim in their interviews and memoirs. But, slowly, in my youth and particularly in my university years, I was drawn to art. Subsequently, it became my intoxicating obsession, my fantasy world, which lives parallel to the real one. These two words coexist in my mind and somehow, in a mysterious and illogical way, communicate with each other and make my life a wonderful experience, for which I am forever grateful to the Creator.
What is your philosophy of “eternal” art?
This is the question I am frequently asked. To me, it is very personal, and the answer to it is not simple. You see, it is a continuation of my response to your first question. Many artists strive to bring to the canvas the injustice, tragedy, and horrors of real life or the complexity of the dark side of the human soul. I respect their art, but my art is entirely different. I try to show the best of life: joy, love, happiness, and all things that most of us experience, to one degree or another, in our life. In some of my paintings, a shade of sorrow could be noticed, but it always comes with the beauty of life, with its gift of art, music, and, I believe, a symphony of colors.
What do you call your style, and how did you develop it?
I consider my art modern impressionism, but it is hard to squeeze this concept into a simple definition. I am influ enced by many great artists from different epochs and cultures. I should mention that my style is inseparable from my main subject: it is a young woman who expresses the beauty of life, its dazzling harmony of colours, its joy, and symbolizes the happiness of being. Of course, many other spiritual components in individual pictures make up a particular composition.
What are you reading now?
I’m a voracious reader, but among many interesting books I have read, a few by great contemporary spiritual phi losophers stand out and influenced my artistic imagination: Eckhart Tolle and Jordan Peterson. But right now I am reading “Red notice” and “Freezing order” by Bill Browder.
Do you believe in GOD?
Yes, I do, and passionately so. But I am not a religious person in the full sense of this word. I am not a frequent churchgoer and do not adhere to rituals. But I believe, to the point of absolute conviction, that all things and events are connected in some mysterious, spiritual way. My artistic life is saturated with them. Here is an example. It happened in 2017 at the art show in Dayton, Ohio. The gallery owner interrupted my lively conversation with visitors and introduced to me the family of four: a mother, a father, and two daughters. I had a feeling that I had met them somewhere. At a closer look, I decided that there was no mistake: I had seen them somewhere.
“These people came from far away to this show. They have a good reason for that,” the owner said.
“We came here to see you because you painted us,” the father said. “You have been doing it for quite a while.” I looked around. To my surprise, the two girls were the models for some of my paintings. The degree of identity was impossible to miss. The puzzle was that I had never seen them before. They were the pure fruit of my imagination.
Who are the artists more people should know?
Oh, my God! It is so personal. Every one of us has a unique perception of beauty and spiritual significance. As the subject is huge, I’d rather mention only those artists who influenced my art of portrait painting. To me, it is one of the most, if not the most, com plicated branches of art. The resemblance to a person’s look is just one of the facets of a great portrait and often is not the most important one. It has to convey the essential features of the character: a troubled mind, kindness, or malicious thoughts, or anything else that visually expresses the person’s individuality. The more you look at portraits of great masters, the more you discover them.
In a nutshell, such a portrait behaves as the one in the novel “The Portrait of Dorian
Gray” by Oscar Wild. In this regard, I’d like to mention John Sargent, Philip de Lazlo, and Peter Rubens. Among Russian artists, they are Valentin Serov and Valentin Repin. And, of course, the Italian artist Giovan ni Boldini. Only a unique artistic mind, such as those mentioned, can look inside another human being’s soul and convey it to the canvas.
What was the most memorable art show of your works?
The one which first comes to my mind is the show that took place in 2012 in Glasgow. More to the point, it is rather the reception arranged for my appearance after the show. Bob, the event organizer, asked me what col or my dress would be. Bewildered but too tired to ask questions, I told him curtly: white. After the show, Bob took me to the staircase leading to the small theatre, where the after-show reception was supposed to take place. One step out of the door, and an uncontrollable ‘ah!’ escaped my lips: the whole flight of the staircase was densely covered by white rose petals, the color, and the shade exactly matching my dress.
What is your advice to the artists who, talented as they are, are not yet in the league of the successful ones?
Success is a relentless marathon. No matter how ahead of other runners or how tired you are, you have to run if you wish to win. You have to either ride on the wave or lose it all.
INTERVIEW WITH CYRIL CAINEBY: CLIFFORD BROOKS
Who is Cyril Caine?
I was born in the north of France to working class parents and have English ancestors on my mother’s side. I was destined to be a cartoonist when in high school I entered a drama class because of a girl (classic story...) I became a professional actor then a director, I had my own show on cinema on French television and one thing led to another, a photographer. I traveled a lot around the world, I lived a few years in the USA (Atlanta, L.A, NYC) and in Canada (Montreal).
When I came back to France after some personal dramas, I became seriously ill and decided to work on a big proj ect, a world first, to collect the testimony and take pictures of disfigured people in an artistic way, a shock for the art world, I just finished the first commercial for the acceptance of physical difference in France. This project is now over and I am looking for a producer for the feature film I wrote, social, important, vital, in a word committed. I plan to return to work in the USA and Canada in parallel on a new photographic series. So to answer the question “Who is Cyril Caine?” in a synthetic way, I would simply say that he is a committed and angry survivor.
Photography: What about this art form called to you?
Photography quickly became an obsession, the image in general. Photography was an excellent and much less expensive alternative to film at a time in my life when I was trained as an artist (painting, drawing), the frame and the light are primordi al, obsession is still a weak word. So I try to photograph as one would do a shot in a film, I take care of the framing and I want to give an atmosphere, a mood, that the image gives feelings, good or bad. Strangely enough I think that every pho tographer is determined by what he has seen in his childhood, he will reproduce all his life images belonging to his own memory, images from magazines, films, advertisements... It is quite obvious when you look back at his photos from the be ginning, the composition is often similar, the themes too. Photography is in a way reproducing buried memories, recomposing them with the losses, the blurs that our memory generates, that’s what attracts me, it creates a kind of vertigo like the images in Hitchcock’s films. The déjà vu.
How do you stay cool in this Post-COVID Era?
I find it quite difficult, everything has changed obviously, the world has changed, diseases, the planet is collapsing and now war... The COVID period was already difficult for me, I had a break up with my girlfriend and left Paris where I was living, I wanted to go back to Montreal but it was impos sible to leave the country, the inspiration had also disap peared and then with time it was necessary to get back on track, to put everything on the table and to decide what is important, I mean really important to be happy, to pho tograph bimbos or to try to work on important subjects ? To create a coherent work in accordance with one’s own philosophy of life by following the path of artists one ad mires, without worrying about the judgments of others. That’s the direction to take I think, be strong, determined because time goes by fast and go for it, don’t be embar rassed by people, by parasites. It’s time!
Who are your biggest influences?
My influences are diverse, many directors and cine matographers especially, Nicolas Roeg, Vilmos Zsig mond, Gordon Willis, Darius Khondji, Sven Nykvist... some movies like Klute, The Parallax View, Deliver ance, the deer hunter, The long Goodbye, Walkabout, Jaws, McCabe & Mrs. Miller, pat garrett and billy. Miller, pat garrett and billy the kid, invasion of the body snatchers, the swimmer, the loneliness of the long distance runner, look back in anger, English Free cinema... Raymond Carver, John Steinbeck, Flannery O’Connor, Joyce Carol Oates, William Faulkner, John Fante, J. G. Ballard. Some photographers like Doro thea Lange, William Eggleston, Stephen Shore, Joel Sternfeld, Luigi Ghirri, Robert Adams, Joel Meyerow itz, James Nachtwey, and Larry Burrows.
What advice do you have for those coming up behind you?
Go back to the basics to get away from them, don’t fall into the trap of taking pictures with phones and don’t give priority to the number of pixels in your cameras, don’t go to extremes either by using only old film cam eras. The ideal, in my opinion, is to find the camera that suits you best, as well as 2 fixed lenses, not more, and to use it constantly. Making series (even small ones) and building a universe is the only way to stand out from the millions of people who think they are photographers but who don’t choose anything in definition, they press a button, that’s all. You have to make choices, it’s imperative, framing, depth of field, iso, speed, blur…
Photography, although many people think it’s not an art, is demanding, it requires practice, you have to train your eye and your mind to succeed in saying something interesting, if that’s your goal. The market has never been tougher than it is now, no one wants to pay photographers anymore, so get out there, confront the subjects that interest you, define your style, get out there and photograph what is important to you. It’s a great medium, there’s no need to suffer in front of editors who only see what can please the most people to make the most money, photography is better than that, become an author and remember it’s ok to disagree!
How do we keep up with you online?
You can find me on Facebook: https://www.facebook. com/profile.php?id=100004971333061 or Cy Caine Photographer , Instagram: Cyril Caine (@cyrilcaine), LinkedIn, on Google, Youtube and Vimeo … and on my website! Feel free to contact me!
WHERE YOU COME FROM IS GONE: POEMSby Annie Woodford —Winner of The Adrienne Bond Award for Poetry—
“Annie Woodford is a poet whose task has been to confront the world of her formation, not to leave it behind, but to know it, to forgive it, and even to love it, because there is nothing else to do. Amid the broken darkness here is the unmistakable effort of the poet to strike the match and light the way, a testament to what poetry is and can be, the angel of clarity and compassion.”
Maurice Manning, professor of English and writer-in-residence at Transylvania University, and author of The Common man and RailspliTTeR
AGAINST THE WOODS’ DARK TRUNKS: POEMSby Jack Bedell
“Opulent in its attentions, tender in its explorations, this is a book that insists on being haunted by incongruencies, awe-limned humilities, the life which exists outside our hierarchical strivings. The poet speaks to what enchants him, what he cannot put to sleep. I read Jack Bedell to feel intimately inhabited by our humanity—to taste ‘questions before they pearl,’ to know what the pecan grove knows with ‘bones around its feet.’”
Alina Stefanescu, author of Ribald and poetry editor of Pidgeonholes
ACCORDING TO SAND: POEMSby Thorpe Moeckel
“I have been an admirer of Thorpe Moeckel’s poems for many years, searching them out as one looks for morels or thimbleberries in the woods, but here, in the brilliant aCCoRding To sand, is a book to subsist on. Moeckel is an utterly necessary poet at the top of his form, as fully manifested as a trillium in full bloom.”Chris Dombrowski, author of The RiveR You TouCh
THE EVANGELIST: POEMSby David Armand
“This is a beautiful collection. In poem after poem, David Armand recognizes the importance of the familial, the personal, and the ways in which memory lingers and creates new realities. The clarity of these poems—their unimpeded voice—reveals Armand’s greatest strength: to tell stories and to tell them well. Armand’s giftedness spans across genres: he is an excellent poet, one whose voice will sustain.”
William Wright, series editor of The souTheRn poeTRY anThologY and author of gRass Chapels
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INTERVIEW WITH KRISTINA SCHIANOBY: CLIFFORD BROOKS
Who is Kristina Schiano?
Hi, my name is Kristina Schiano and I am a 27 year old professional drummer and content creator from New York. To date, I have surpassed 1.4 million subscribers and 200 million views on YouTube. Over the last few years, I’ve worked with Google, LG Home Appliances, the US Navy, have appeared on Late Night with Seth Meyers, and more! Making content and performing is my dream and I don’t plan on stopping!
What drew you to a career in music?
I always knew that I could not work for someone or have a desk job. I needed to move around and be in charge of my own schedule. After graduating college, I had already been posting videos on YouTube for a few years and wanted to see if I could make a career out of it. I told my parents to give me 1 year to see if I could make it work. Luckily it did and I never looked back since!
How did you know drums were your calling?
As a kid, I played the guitar for one year but wanted something more exciting, so at 9 years old, I asked for a drumset and received one for Christmas! Drums were always the thing I turned to when I needed an outlet. If I was stressed, upset, happy...the drums were there for me to express what I was feeling. I honestly cannot imagine a life without drums.
Who are your biggest influences?
I’ve had many during different stages of my life. When I was new to YouTube, my influences were Cobus Potgieter, Casey Cooper, Meytal Cohen, and Luke Holland. Now I would say my influences are anyone pursuing their dreams. I find it fascinating when people turn their passion, whatever it may be, into a career. I follow a lot of lifestyle and van life creators that turned traveling into a career. There are also a lot of business channels that are super interesting and inspiring to listen to.
I found you through the Vivaldi and Beethoven covers. Why classical music?
Why not is a better question! I was approached by my friend Cole Rolland, who is a professional guitarist, to
partner up in a classical music series he was working on. He had the idea to turn classical songs into metal and I loved it! We also got Angel Vivaldi, who is an incredible guitarist, to feature in one of the songs as well. I find it to be a really freeing and powerful experience to turn an already beautiful piece of work into something totally different and in our own style.
How do we keep up with you online?
You can find me on YouTube, Instagram, Facebook, and Tik Tok simply by searching “Kristina Schiano!”
LETTUCEBY: ANDY WHITEHORN
We live in a pretty divisive time; how did the current status of the world impact your most recent release, Unify, both artistically and logistically?
The world needs more unification. We are blessed to make music to spread that vibe.
Do you feel the uncertainty of our world enhances your creativity and leads you down unknown paths, Or are those two things mutually exclusive?
We love to write, record, and perform with intention. We hope that our music heals and provides inspiration and comfort.
You’ve been a band for close to 30 years. What are tactics you’ve employed to keep the band functioning at their optimal level?
Everyone in the band is integral in both the music and business. Everyone is encouraged to play to their strengths, whether it’s writing more tunes, designing merch items, or picking other bands to tour alongside. Every one’s involved, and it feels like a REAL team.
How impactful has the loss of core and the addition of new members impacted the overall “Lettuce” dynamic?
We have gratitude and respect for our ex-members. We are extremely stoked to have found Eric Bloom and Nigel Hall to really complete our squad. They add so much to the music and vibe. The band didn’t start the HEAVY touring until they arrived.
What’s your favorite type of venue to play a show: eg. Amphitheater, Exotic locale (like Riviera Maya), Festivals, or Cruises, like JamCruise, or other and why?
Obviously we enjoy them all!! From festival plays in front of 20,000 people, to small venues like The Blue Note in NYC...we are grateful to get to play music together ANYWHERE!
CHLOE SMITH & LEAH SONG OF RISING APPALACHIA
BY: CLIFFORD BROOKS
What do you remember from your earliest years that made you happy? What were they? Does that magic still spark through your fingertips, intellect, and vocal chords?
We grew up in a musical family, so I have a bucket full of fond memories of being around my parents as they played tunes with their friends at festivals, house parties, and fiddle camps. They both played Old Time music, so I remember getting put to sleep in my dad’s velvet guitar case while he and my mom contra danced or played for various dances around the south. Those times formed a huge part of my identity as a musician, a southerner, and a young woman.
What are you reading now?
Two books : Once There Were Wolves by Charlotte McCoughany and Smokehole by Martin Shaw. They both are good, but I couldn’t speak more highly of Martin Shaw’s mythopoetic work and great mind of our times.
To hear you sing is as light as birdsong - steady, dancing. It eases heavy truths into your songs that linger. How do you create that spell?
Mighty kind of you, thank you. Song is a form of magic and has been for centuries. The singer conjures many things behind their eyes and heart when putting forth songs into the world. I always have felt that part of what is coming through is the authenticity of my own experience and upbringing… the bits and pieces of my mentors and my travels and my own magic as well as the unexplainable energy of the song itself. At some points, the song takes its own form and life in the world and you are simply the wrangler ! It’s a good back and forth, to share a solid piece of oneself while simultaneously getting out of the way and letting the music take its own form.
What core similarities or differences do you see in poetry and songwriting?
Personally, I’ve always found my poetic voice to come from a quieter, more introspective place. Candle light and books and the reading voice. My songs are meant to be shared and sung in a room of people, to be passed around the world. There’s a big difference between the two for me and I love them both equally.
Which song hit quick with fans that surprised you? Were their songs you toiled over for years that felt unheard?
Well, Resilient has always been my magnum opus since the moment it came onto the page. It felt powerful and all knowing, something tangibly rowdy and igniting of good fires. More people write us about singing and sharing Resilient than any other song of ours, and it’s a treat to see how it shapes itself in people’s spiritual, political, communal, and personal lives.
How does your new sound feel?
I wouldn’t say Rising Appalachia has a new sound per say, we are solid in our roots of folk music. However, we are always exploring and writing and learning from other musicians around us. Our last full length album, The Lost Mystique of Being in The Know, was our most exploratory and abstract album to date. We let loose in the studio because being in lockdown gave us the freedom to not know what was next and therefore explore more willingly and freely. That album has 10 minute songs, trance folk we like to say, and is not lyrically driven like so much of our other work. The instruments shine through as the leading force, lilting and peaking and taking our sound to new heights. We had a blast creating it.
How have the recent years honed it?
You lift us up. There’s a swirling and smile that keeps laughter close. The music never insists upon itself. How do you keep a smile on? How do you maintain serenity?
Love this, thanks for your curious and thoughtful questioning, which always makes our work and world so much more interesting. I LOVE good journalism. So let’s see, truly I don’t consider myself the most chipper of our bunch. I can actually tilt a bit more towards the melancholic poet painter lone wolf archetype than I might like to admit. That said, I do feel like the stage is a place of deep communion for me. I FEEL the audience, and I love to read the room, build the energy, and find the right way at the right moment to create catharsis in a communal space.
I think that place, that prism of a live show, is the place where I might touch one of my favorite places of serenity. There is a moment, a perfect peak that we all get to together. It’s one of the few places that I get to be a part of a group ritual, and although it might be a bit different to be at the helm of it that an active participant IN it, I still LOVE the places that it takes me. How else ? Hmmm. I take close comfort in the wild places I can wander to, and the quiet places that I can be held. I have a beast of a wolf companion and a small select group of humans that I am fortunate enough to call home. It’s a teeny tiny circle, but I am grateful for it.
Rising Appalachia is rare in its love for their fans. How have you kept close to your fanbase?
Aw, yeah, well in so many ways I think they have kept us. We have always said this is a project based on invitation, and so we go where we have been welcomed in. This has for so many years been in people’s barns, community centers, urban gardens, housing projects, school cafeterias, yoga classes, permaculture centers, cafes, dive bars, drag shows, circus tents, street corners and everything in between. We have never wanted to push the music on anyone. We are not driven by a top down, goal oriented blueprint. We have always wanted to go where the people are, and where the people invite us, and I think that for many many years has kept our work focused on the public good, and focused on the social components of music. And I SO much prefer it that way. We want to be distilling stories from the ground, and we can’t do that in a silo. We have to be out in the world.
Were there ever moments where you wanted to walk away from it all? If so, how or what prevented that?
Yes. There have been many moments when I have wanted to walk away from it all completely and be a tomato farmer or a potter or a middle school literature teacher. It can be exhausting and alienating,and there are plenty of social anxieties that come with the job. Plus we are all fairly simply folk who want some semblance of ritual and structure in our daily home lives, and that is a tricky balance. BUT I would say, honestly 2 things. #1: My sister has kept me from ever really walking away, because when I am exhausted she has the energy to hold it, and when she has run low I have extra gusto to keep it going for her. Our ability to hold the other one up (and really the whole band has helped step in and carry weight when there have been lean years) has given this project SO MUCH more ballast than it would have ever had on its own. I can’t imagine doing this work as a solo artist. I just couldn’t hold it all together. Nor would I ever want to.
But also, the second reason is that we got this HUGE and enormous break, the whole world did, called this global pandemic thingy that we are all still reeling from, and I cannot tell you how much I MISSED the world…
the sound of voices singing back up at us… the pulse of the stage... Nothing like having everything you have worked so hard to create pulled completely out from underneath you to get the gratitude muscles back up and running. We have missed our work and our world, and we are happy to get the gears back up and turning again.
Fashion: y’all are on point. How do you choose your armor? The accessories? How do you wear the clothes instead of them wearing you?
Haha. Why thank you. It is something we take seriously and artfully and with MEGA pride. First off, we were raised by a QUEEN of the Atlanta thrift stores. I mean, 4 times a year we would scroll the thrift store isles like wild foragers, and find the finest things for dollars, go home, mend them, dye them, cut them up, and pretend to be high flatulent fashionistas. Raised by a thrifty mama and a folk artist father who turned any and everything in the house into art, So style was simply another manifestation of creativity. That and now having dear friends who are all makers in the industry, we are often so lucky to be sporting hand spun threads or gathering wonderful oddities from the far corners of our touring worlds. And Voila: our patchwork style is born.
Who taught you to dance?
I danced in my fathers backpack at the Atlanta Contra dances as a newborn babe. Then grew up folk dancing, then tap dancing, then gymnastics, modern dance, West African dance, salsa, swing, lindy hop, bachata, chachacha, buck dancing, and eventually acro yoga, acrobatics, aerial silks, fire dancing, and the whole nines. I would have SWORN that MY destiny was to be a backup dancer with Janet Jackson in the 90s. That was MY plan. Alas the world had another idea for me.
Are there writers, painters, sculptors, architects, poets - artists out there we should dig into?
Let’s see. In no particular order: Martin Shaw, Joy Harjo, Andrea Gibson, Mary Oliver, the Art Brut movement, our father Andrew Hunter Smith, Winona LaDuke, Walt Whitman, David Whyte, Adrianne Marie Brown.
For them both:
What is the grassroots truth, practical know-how advice you have for those new to the industry that save a boatload of heartache?
Ha. take your time. Be intentional. Keep a day job so you can move with elegance and not desperation. Do you. Notice what takes root. Lean that way. Learn to let go of what doesn’t stick. Just let it go, move on, try again, try something else. Don’t be precious about your art. Just keep making. -Leah
INTERVIEW WITH ALAN HINO UCLA SPOTLIGHTBY: CLIFFORD BROOKS
Who is Alan Hino?
I am a pretty simple guy. I love sports, spending quality time with my family, and volunteering for two main nonprofit organizations called Changing Tides and the Go For Broke National Education Center. Fun, random fact: I am a partial owner of the Green Bay Packers (I have one share of their stock).
How do you fit into the UCLA Extension family of gorgeous geniuses?
Blending education and technology while reaching an audience that can be local, across the country, or even internationally fascinated me. Finishing my master’s degree in Learning Design and Technology was challenging during the pandemic, but it made me a stronger Instructional Designer. I work in the Academic Technology and Learning Innovation department as a Senior Instructional Designer. I now help new instructors learn our Learning Management System and help existing instructors update their content.
What music digs so deep it makes you rise up?
I grew up listening to hip hop and R&B, but nowadays I listen to everything from Country to Rock to Acoustic to Jazz and almost everything in between. I’ve been on a huge Teskey Brothers, Johnny Cash, and Jose James kick, recently.
Why do computers fascinate you and how do they parallel the adoration of how words fit together?
Technology has been such a big part of my childhood. Video games and later computers were a huge part of my childhood. Building and troubleshooting computers scratched an itch and I love every frustrating moment of it. Satisfying that curiosity has always led to tinkering with new things or researching what’s on the horizon.
As a kid, my mom always encouraged me to read. Rather than reading one summer reading book, I’d read three or four. I got excited for the annual book fair at school. It’s a passion that has slowed down a bit over the years, but I think the two are linked in a weird way. I don’t know if it’s an escape, necessarily, but both technology and my love for words have been with me since I could remember.
How did you survive a heartbreak?
Man, I’ve had my heart broken a few times. I wish I could say it gets easy with time, but it doesn’t. I am an introverted person, so music helps; it provides that cathartic outlet that I need. It’s more of a quiet, reflective period.
What worked, what didn’t and how do I improve? That sulking usually lasts for a few weeks, but then I usually have that one outing with friends that tells me it’ll all be alright. Losing my father and both grandfathers by the time I was 15 is a heartbreak I don’t think I’ll ever recover from. I’ll be fine one day, talking about my dad, and the next time I think of him, I tear up. I persevere by living every day to make them proud. I’d like to think I’ve done a pretty good job in that regard.
How do you keep Clifford Brooks between the ditches?
Haha, this can be tricky at times. But in all seriousness, I think you’ve done a great job. You’ve grown so much from our first meeting. As I mentioned earlier, you have to meet your audience at their level and see what their needs are. I can craft a perfect plan for a new instructor that works for them, but that same plan won’t work for you or someone else. Then the challenge becomes how can I explain a (sometimes very) technical process to someone who has no interest in the mechanics? I want instructors to focus on the fun stuff of teaching and let me worry about the technical stuff.
Tell me about your identity and the family that gave you this life?
I am a fourth-generation Japanese American (Yonsei), meaning that my great-grandparents immigrated here from Japan. There is a saying, “Okage Sama De” that roughly translates to “I am what I am, because of you.” My family was sent to incarceration camps behind barbed wire in Rohwer, Arkansas; Jerome, Arkansas; and Manzanar, California. The saddest part for me was my family never talked about the camp. It was said in passing and I assumed when my relatives would speak about Camp, they meant summer camp. I had family that served in the army after being placed in these camps. Uncle Hobi served in the 442nd, in the Anti-Tank Company, and received a Bronze Star. He flew in gliders and helped with the Rescue of the Lost Battalion. Uncle Tom served in the MIS (Military Intelligence Service) and served under General MacArthur for many months.
Growing up, I read about 2 paragraphs about the camps and didn’t understand what happened. I asked my family about it, but the subject changed immediately and it was downplayed. I only had heard of Manzanar because my aunt was born there. When my Uncle Hobi passed away in 2010, I found out about his service and was shocked. I felt betrayed; why did my family keep this secret from me? It took me many years to understand the generational trauma that my family went through and how we’re still dealing with it today. I have tattoos as tributes to my uncles so that I can carry their story and their legacy. My family silently sacrificed so much and I now stand on the shoulders of giants. I transferred that anger into passion and a vow to never let what happened to my family happen ever again. I would give just about anything for an opportunity to sit down with my father or grandparents and just listen to them talk stories. I am the man I am today because of my family and everything that my family sacrificed to get me here.
What is your happiness?
Having dealt with my own mental health issues, happiness is hard to define sometimes. Being diagnosed with severe depression and high anxiety, my happiness can change quickly. I struggle sometimes to slow down and be present. My passions are often a source of happiness, but I am at my happiest surrounded by my family.
Explore Indulge Unwind in the High Country
INTERVIEW WITH JR COCHRAN
OF CALIFINO TEQUILABY: LOGAN MERRILL
How did you come into this position?
During a 30 year career as a bartender, his affinity for his craft yielded a connection with José Luna of the Luna Family, founders of CaliFino Tequila. The friendship quickly developed symbiotically from there.
Why did you choose CaliFino?
José spoke of the tequila as an ideal. Forged in the spirit of community and family values, it’s only natural that their passions harmonized. As a bartender the product is refined and versatile, making it a strong addition to one’s arsenal of libation.
What makes CaliFino unique?
It’s truly a craft luxury tequila, at such an approachable value. Made with 100% Blue Weber Agave, zero additives, the process of letting the agave reach maturity before harvest yields maximum flavor and supreme refinement. The wholesome family backbone, from origin to harvesters and distillers today.
How has your tequila influenced the market?
Tequila has become versatile enough to be used in the place of other spirits. The añejo drinks like bourbon, and is delightful as an old fashioned. The quality and flavor profile of CaliFino sets a new precedent, changing the reputation of tequila one sip at a time, rather than one shot at a time. This aqua vitae speaks for itself, with a double gold for their Añejo expression in the international spirits competition 2020, and listed in the top 5 tequilas globally in Forbes Magazine.
Is CaliFino more than a tequila?
So much more. CaliFino, while a spectacular spirit, was born in celebration of the finer things in life. Shared only with close friends and family, the recipe was perfected long before it made its way to the shelves. From family to friends, there’s an award-winning passion and dedication to quality, from source to sip.
INTERVIEW WITH DR. CAROL BARRETT UNION INSTITUTE & UNIVERSITY CREATIVE WRITING CERTIFICATE PROGRAMBY: HEATHER HARRIS
What are the criteria for acceptance into the creative writing program at Union Institute & University?
Admission to the doctoral program at UI&U requires a Master’s degree from a regionally accredited university in the U.S., or an equivalent degree abroad. The prior field of study is open, given the interdisciplinary nature of the program. Applicants submit prior graduate transcripts, three letters of recommendation (including at least one from someone with a Ph.D.), and a personal essay which identifies their preferred concentration, e.g., Humanities and Culture. (Alternative concentrations are listed below.) This personal essay also describes their plans for research and writing and discusses how the applicant sees their plans as fitting with our program structure and philosophy. The admissions committee reviews the written materials, and if persuaded of the merits of the application, sets up an interview to find out more about the applicant’s background and goals.
Can you give us a brief overview of the program, and what degree options are available?
The Creative Writing Certificate is an option within the Ph.D. program in Interdisciplinary Studies. Students choose one of our four concentrations Humanities and Culture, Educational Justice and Equity, Ethical and Creative Leadership, or Public Policy and Social Change. Most writers choose the first, but all four are available. In addition, students may also choose specialized training in Women’s and Gender Studies, Museum Studies, or Martin Luther King Jr. Studies. The doctoral program is a low-residency program, with invigorating discussions happening inperson during the first week of the term, and courses completed online thereafter. (Due to the pandemic, virtual residencies were arranged in the last two years, but these events are now again in-person. The July 2022 residency will be held in Cincinnati, Ohio.)
What sets Union Institute & University creative writing program apart from other creative writing programs?
There are so many distinctive features! The University is dedicated to social justice at all levels of instruction. I know of no other school with that consistent orientation. The student’s work may address any of a variety of inequities, including those based on gender and sexuality, ethnicity and race, social class or culture, religion or age, geography,
ability, mental or physical health, marital status or any other human variable which may yield disparities in services or resources. As a result, our students and graduates have educated a wide range of constituencies about the need for social justice not only in the U.S. but around the globe; they have had multifaceted impacts on a variety of institutions, formal policies and community practices. Their writings stand as testimony to the call to respect individual differences in our human endeavors, and to respect the earth’s resources as well.
Creative writing students may pursue any genre they wish, including poetry, fiction, memoir, drama, creative nonfiction, personal essay, multi-genre and hybrid forms. The program permits the student to nominate an outside faculty member to the dissertation committee, thereby extending the expertise of the committee beyond University faculty. Students may attend either part-time or full-time, without prejudice. They are supported in pursuing their individual research interests throughout the program, not only in the final project. A creative dissertation is one of the honored formats for the final work. Here the primary contribution is creative; this work is accompanied by an essay that contextualizes the original writing based on prior literature, both creative and scholarly.
The interdisciplinary orientation of the program is also a compelling feature, and offers a latitude in inquiry that more traditional programs do not provide. From the founding of the University 58 years ago, students have been encouraged to explore multiple disciplines that inform their subject. They often enlighten the faculty in these original pursuits. The community of learners is a vibrant aspect of the program, wherein we strive to learn from each other as topics are explored in-depth, with room for individual experience, vision and passion. I myself have been affiliated with the school for almost 42 years; it is this dynamic of learning from the vantage point of very diverse perspectives that continues to draw me.
Please describe some distinctive writing courses in the program.
I will mention several courses we offer that are not common in doctoral programs in the field of literature, in my experience. I teach “Poetry and Healing,” which examines writings that address a range of health issues including bereavement, alcoholism, Alzheimer’s Disease, the COVID pandemic, and cancer. Students have produced stunning new writing on such topics. We also explore how the healing nature of poetry is understood in both poetry therapy and psychology. “Memoir and Identity” is a course which examines the origins, evolution, and contemporary practice of life-writing with specific focus on personal, social, and cultural identities; students also
have the opportunity to develop new narratives. “Poetry and Politics” examines the explicit power dynamics in poetic language, including its use in supporting social movements both historically and at present. “Global Women’s Literature” focuses on multi-genre writing generated by women writers from around the world, and analyzes both their use of craft and their unique messages, situated within their distinctive cultures and lifestyles.
Please describe some creative writing projects at the University that have impressed you.
There are so many Union dissertations I have found exciting and enriching! Here are a few to suggest the vibrancy of our doctoral students’ contributions, offered not as formal summaries, but to highlight their unique offerings in my own words.
Gerry William is a tribal elder who wrote a novel for his creative dissertation, and placed it in the context of both First Nations and Native American writing; he also explored the historic mistreatment of these groups, including the arrival of smallpox with white settlers on the land, and the traumatic disruption of families as children were placed in residential schools.
Julia Miller has acknowledged a family history of bipolar disorder, and has written memoir and poetry to offer an original perspective on the subject, challenging the view that has been promulgated by medical literature.
Lawrence (Chip) Spann is a physician’s assistant who has worked extensively with heart patients; he compiled a collection of published healing poetry that is arranged by developmental stage from birth to death. He also documented the medical improvements associated with the use of creative writing by patients.
Don Mee Choi’s family moved to the U.S. from South Korea when she was a child, following threats to their safety and well-being; her father was a war-time photojournalist. She wrote her dissertation on translations of poetry from the Korean language. In 2020 she was honored to win the National Book Award in poetry for her book DMZ Colony. She has since won a coveted McArthur Fellowship.These dissertations or their summaries are available through the University library, as are those that follow:
Gariot Louima is a Haitian American writer whose creative dissertation of poetry and essays explored the meaning of sexuality for Haitian men in the diaspora, and considered implications for the Roman Catholic church.
Aiesha Turman investigated the Afrofuturism literary movement and wrote speculative fiction as a Black feminist, connecting this narrative to currents within the African American community.
Jonathan Eskridge grew up in coal-mining country, and wrote a series of essays portraying differing perspectives in rural Appalachia, challenging the reader to hold these disparate views simultaneously.
Kathleen Allen is an experienced Montessori teacher who did a deep historical dive into the women at Cornell University who helped create the Nature Study movement in the late 1800s and early part of the last century; she wrote poignant stories about their growing up years, as well as their professional contributions to the field of education. There are so many beautiful dissertations our students have written. For further recent examples, see the work of Enid Sepulveda, Ryan Scacci, Emery Francois, Lawrence Karn, Sally Kathryn Mathieson, Nicholas Serenati, Tammy NuzzoMorgan, Nathan Singer and Nancy Semotiuk. All those I mention have now earned the Ph.D., or will have, by the time this interview is published. As I write this, two whom I have mentioned are just now completing their journeys at Union Institute & University. I am so proud of all of them.
INTERVIEW WITH AUTISM DELAWAREBY: CLIFFORD BROOKS
Who is “Autism Delaware,” and what do you do?
We at Autism Delaware “paint on a broad canvas” because we comprise individuals with autism, the professionals who serve them, and their family members and friends. And because each individual with autism is unique and requires a unique set of supports, Autism Delaware staff strives to create an individualized “palette” for each person—and to support them throughout their life spans. Our vision is that all people on the spectrum have the opportunities to learn, grow, and live full lives as included and valued members of their communities. As an independent nonprofit with offices in northern and southern Delaware, our mission is to help people and families affected by autism.
How do you achieve this goal?
As any artist–painter knows, mixing your own colors can provide the best palette, and we at Autism Delaware “mix our own colors” to provide the best programs and services that we can offer. For example, when we first started meeting in our homes over coffee back in 1998, our children could access services through the public school system’s Delaware Autism Program (DAP), but when they aged out at 21, no adult services were available. And our resources were scarce. So, we turned to our friends and colleagues to create a fundraiser (which today is called the Drive for Autism). The result was seed money for an adult services program.
Today, our adult services program is known familiarly as Productive Opportunities for Work and Recreation (or POW&R, for short). POW&R staff creates networks that connect individuals with autism to resources that support their choices for how they live, work, and play in the community. For a job in a real work setting, a POW&R participant’s skills and job goals are matched with an employer’s job opportunity, and POW&R staff help teach the participant how to do the job as the employer wants it done. The participant is also matched with an Autism Delaware direct support professional (DSP) who provides ongoing support for quality assurance.
As a community-based vocational services program, POW&R is nationally recognized. For an opportunity to try something new or to give back to the community, a POW&R participant can also become an Autism Delaware volunteer and continue to be supported by a DSP. Volunteers are essential to the smooth running of our nonprofit organization. Depending on an individual’s skill set, a volunteer could lend a hand on one of our working committees, in an office, or at a recreational program or fundraising event.
How do you help families?
Like the painter’s easel, family members support an individual on the autism journey. We at Autism Delaware support the family in turn. For example, we upgraded our one-on-one family navigation program for both Englishand Spanish-speaking families. Now called the Autism Care Team (ACT), this program is based on the invaluable connection that can be made between a parent with a recently diagnosed child (or “new parent”) and the parent who has experience navigating the state service systems, the resources and help to offer, and the time to listen and be reassuring.
Each new parent is assigned an Autism Delaware family support provider (FSP) who coaches the family on how the
service systems work in Delaware, how to identify the steps for making informed decisions about services, and how to advocate for a child on the spectrum. The FSP will also help the family develop a plan that’s personalized with appropriate goals for the child, coordinate care among providers and agencies, and offer follow-up. Accessing all the benefits of the ACT program is easy with the help of the Autism Delaware intake coordinator.
Pre-COVID-19, Autism Delaware family support also offered social recreation (such as sensory friendly bowling and roller skating) plus parent education and support forums (such as family networking dinners, grandparent support groups, and coffee hours). We hope to increase these opportunities when we feel confident in our ability to maintain health and safety for both our clients and our staff.
Do you offer any other programs and services?
• As part of our POW&R program, we offer day-habilitation, social and wellness activities, and personalized supported living services as well as the previously mentioned community-based vocational services.
• We advocate for legislation that benefits people and families affected by autism. Recent advocacy effort was for the Michael McNesby Full Funding for Adults with I/DD (intellectual/ developmental disability) Act. And in June, Delaware Governor John Carney signed the FY2023 budget that includes full funding. (See the photo below for another advocacy success story.) Awareness efforts include an extensive online resource guide, social media, our quarterly newsletter, and our recently updated website, AutismDelaware.org.
• And we support education by awarding three post-secondary scholarships every year:
- Daniel and Lois Gray Memorial Scholarship for students who are enrolled in a University of Delaware course of study that will lead to a career in Delaware’s autism field Adult with Autism Scholarship for adults on the spectrum who live in Delaware and are pursuing college or another post-secondary educational experience
- Autism Teacher Certification Scholarship for practicing Delaware teachers who are pursuing autism certification
How did you get started?
Today, Autism Delaware is an independent 501(c) (3) nonprofit made up of individuals with autism, their family members, the professionals who serve them, and friends of people with autism. But 25 years ago, it was a small group of parents who consulted the Center for Disabilities Studies’ associate director, Theda Ellis, on how to mold their children’s multi-layered needs into one serviceproviding agency in northern Delaware. Then, in 2010, Lower Delaware Autism Foundation joined Autism Delaware to advocate for common issues, expand a full spectrum of services across the state, and share fundraising operations, all to improve the lives of individuals on the spectrum and their families. Now with offices in Newark and Lewes, Autism Delaware employees work with volunteers to maintain the range of programs and services needed throughout the entire state.
Clifford the poetry collections of 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 firstname.lastname@example.org and use “CCB3 Poetry Bundle” as the subject line. email@example.com
INTERVIEW WITH HANS RUEFFERTBY: CLIFFORD BROOKS
Give us a quick rundown of how you overcame a brutal medical diagnosis and treatment.
I was diagnosed with stage 3B stomach cancer on July 12, 2005 one day before my 33rd birthday, and just two weeks after taping the finale of Next Food Network Star. In the time it takes to flip an omelette, I went from being at the apex of my culinary career to literally fighting for my life. Over the course of 15+ surgeries, I lost my stomach, esophagus, gallbladder, ribs, muscle, and several feet of my intestine, but somehow never lost my “guts” and overall sense of optimism. I approached the disease and subsequent surgeries the same way I would climb a mountain: one step at a time, over and over until you reach the summit. Having a positive mental attitude doesn’t guarantee success, but it certainly doesn’t hurt.
How do you stay positive?
My father could appear gruff at first glance, but he was a stubborn optimist at his core. He taught me from an early age that HAPPINESS is not a person, place or thing; it is a DECISION! He would always point out those people who, despite having been dealt a bad hand in life, always made the best of each and every situation. I try to live by that philosophy, even when (or perhaps ESPECIALLY when) I don’t feel like doing so. My father would say, “If you look for shit, you’ll find shit!”. Conversely, if you look for joy, you will find joy. It may require some digging, but when you dig down deep, you’ll find plenty to smile about.
What do you love about preparing food?
There are few things in life that are as universal as the joy of food, and it spans every social and economic class, culture, race, and creed. The threads of food’s history, pageantry, and tradition weave together to create a tapestry so dense and beautiful that simply cannot be removed from our collective human experience. Every bite has the potential to create a lifelong memory, be it a slice of crusty homemade bread or the simple complexity of a ripe, fresh picked fig. I’m so proud when someone shares a memory of a meal I helped to create; an indelible moment on their timeline. Preparing food can and should be so much more than simply filling someone’s gut, and I love creating those memorable moments.
Who are your biggest inspirations?
I grew up watching the PBS icons like Graham Kerr, Justin Wilson, Martin Yan, Julia Childs, and Nathalie Dupree. Though I rebelled against him for years, it was my father Joachim “Joe” Rueffert that inspired my true journey into food. He had an almost childlike, enthusiastic love of food and ingredients which extended well beyond the confines of the kitchen. When we weren’t serving food in our family’s restaurant (The Woodbridge Inn), we spent countless hours foraging for wild mushrooms, picking berries, fishing for trout, diving for spiny lobsters, and more.
What is your responsibility to those who eat your culinary wizardry?
Since my health challenges, my focus has been turned toward that sometimes shifting intersection between FLAVOR and NUTRITION. Since losing my stomach, the connection between what we eat and how we FEEL has become a
major component of how I view food. Nutrition is paramount, but if the food doesn’t connect with someone on all levels (flavor, texture, aroma, visual), then who wants to eat it? I’m always trying to play in that overlapping space where healthy and delicious live together in harmony.
Tell us about “But I Digest.”
My dear friend and fellow Next Food Network Star alumni Steve McDonagh started our But I Digest Podcast (butidigestpodcast.com) in 2021, and it’s been a joy. The show is a celebration of the food in all of our lives, exploring the HISTORY, the HEROES, and all of the cultural HOOPLA surrounding it. The idea came to me in the hospital following a surgery in 2019. When you’re not allowed to eat food, the only thing you think about is FOOD! Each episode is a wit-filled deep-dive into a specific food or ingredient, and the format is unscripted, well researched, pun-filled conversation that, if nothing else, leaves the two of us laughing. If you’re interested in food, give it a listen.
Any new cookbooks coming out?
My first cookbook Eat Like There’s No Tomorrow sold out, and it’s well overdue for a revision/update. In the meantime, I’ve been writing for Georgia Magazine, exploring the bounty that the state of Georgia has to offer. There may be a But I Digest Cookbook in the future as well. I host a series of nutritional videos called the Gesundheit Kitchen in conjunction with the Gastric Cancer Foundation, and while my intended audience is gastric cancer patients, the information and recipes there are relevant to all humans who eat food (which likely includes you!).
How do we find you online?
My website is www.Hanscooks.com Instagram & Twitter: Hanscooks
But I Digest Podcast: www.butidigestpodcast.com Gastric Cancer Foundation: www.gastriccancer.org
INTERVIEW WITH ANGELA MCCLURE OF PLEASANT HILLS MONTESSORI SCHOOLBY: TARA DELBRIDGE
Tell us about yourself.
My name is Angela Mcclure. I am married to Jeff McClure and we have 2 amazing young adult children. Isom McClure, 25, recently married his forever love, Haley. Isom is a Fireman in Sandy Springs. Haley is finishing school to be a radiologist as she works as a dental assistant. Our daughter came home from China in 2010 at the age of 8. She began her school at PHMS and finished graduating from Connections Academy which she attended because they offered Chinese classes. Anna wanted to keep her Chinese language and she did. She is now 20 and attends Lanier Tech seeking her Cosmetology and business degree. They both attended PHMS.
I am just a small-town girl who had a dream of becoming a teacher. As I began my career in teaching I wanted to be a Spanish teacher in the primary grades however, at that time Spanish was only offered in high school. So conforming I did. I began my teaching career in Gilmer County as a High School Spanish & English teacher. I was 21 years young and was teaching 10th and 11th graders. They loved me as I was close to their ages and I enjoyed them. I had the best time however, as I taught, I felt a calling to younger children. This opened the doors for me to teach Title One which allowed me to teach all grades in Primary and lead me to Pre-K. From Pre-K I had a dream of opening a Montessori School in Gilmer County. This was a dream for sure and thought, how could this be? I would frequent the playground at the Seventh Day Adventist Church across the street from my house with my son to play.
One day I called the “Seven Dayers,” as they were honorably referred to by my neighbors who had been in the area longer than me. I met with the powers that be and they “insulted” me with a price for the buildings and land and I insulted them with my price. LOL! Well, we met in the middle and settled on a price and my dream began to come to fruition. For the next year, we began preparing to make this move to open Pleasant Hills Montessori School. I worked with the SBA in Rome to prepare a business plan. A lot of prayer and believing went into the next year as I began preparing to build a Montessori School. In August 2001 we opened with 3 students one being my own son. Today we are full. What is full you ask?? My philosophy is quality over quantity. So our full is 40 students. We now have a waitlist and I am proud of what we have to offer our community and surrounding communities.
What drew you to education, and Montessori more specifically?
I have always wanted to teach and knew I would be a teacher from a young age. Montessori came to my attention while studying for my Master’s degree at North Ga. College. I had a professor that had one child that attended Montessori and one that did not. He would compare and contrast the two and I was fascinated. This began my study and drive for all things Maria Montessori. I am living my dream!
Who is Mari Montessori to you?
Maria Montessori was a lady ahead of her time. She began her career as a medical doctor which led her to children and how they think and learn. She was brilliant with all of the hands-on materials that still today make learning exciting and fun. Maria Montessori and the curriculum she created inspire children to think and ask questions outside the box if you will.
What are your responsibilities to the students?
My responsibility to our students at Pleasant Hills Montessori School is to prepare each of them to be leaders in our society. Out-of-the-box thinkers, leaders for our future. These children are taught to slow down and enjoy learning. Why are we pushing our children to grow up so fast? Let children be children and learn at their own pace and they will surprise you every time. PHMS and all Montessori schools offer multi-aged classrooms that also promote leaders as the older children teach the younger. We are building future leaders for their future. 4 walls with no boundaries.
How does your program help build spiritual awareness, good self-esteem, and emotional wellbeing?
PHMS builds spiritual awareness, good selfesteem, and emotional well-being by first of all teaching respect for our peers and adults around us. PHMS teaches by example by allowing children to observe the environment around them. We follow the child and you will be amazed how much the children push themselves to learn and grow as they watch their peers. Multi-age classrooms are the best motivation for younger
children to want to learn and be like the older children and as they grow in this environment they take responsibility and build self-confidence. We also teach care and honor for our earth by gardening and harvesting vegetables and fruits. Partnering with Homeward Bound to teach care and respect for animals.
How do you stay calm in these odd times post-pandemic?
How did I stay calm in the odd time post-pandemic? I just knew it was something that had to be done. We are all met with adversities and showing children how we handle them is a testimony in itself. Staying calm we came together as a team and made it happen. PHMS has always had and has the best teachers that work well together. This school does not belong to me per say. PHMS belongs to God and I give HIM all the glory. I totally trust and know that He is in charge. Sometimes it is hard to trust in His timing but everything always works as it is supposed to and better than I could have ever imagined. All students and teachers at PHMS are here for a time and a season.
I don’t know what that time or season is but change comes to build a better school each time. It is hard to explain but it works. I am blessed beyond measure to have the staff and families we have today. Watch out because PHMS is growing and doing great things. Our students that have grown from PHMS have attended Georgia Tech, Clemson, North Ga. College, Lanier Tech, and Georgia Fire Academy, to name a few.
COME FOR THE STORIES, STAY FOR THE CONVERSATIONS...
Launched in 2000, Carve is an international quarterly and home of the renowned Raymond Carver Short Story Contest. Each print and digital issue features our signature HONEST FICTION − stories that use ordinary language to convey “immense, even startling power” − plus poetry, nonﬁction, illustrations, interviews, and more that aim to demystify the writer’s journey and inspire literary conversations. Whether a reader, writer, or both, we invite you to subscribe and discover all that we talk about when we talk about great literature. Subscribe at carvezine.com Use code BLUEMOUNTAIN to save 10%.
"Carefully treads the water between being a magazine for people who want to read great literature and for writers—and elegantly swims in the middle as one for both."
The BLUE MOUNTAIN call for SUBMISSIONS
The Blue Mountain Review is accepting new submissions of Poetry, Prose, and Visual Art.
The Blue is a Southern publication, but we draw no boundaries or borders on that interpretation. “Southern” is a soul more than a spot on a map, and everyone is south of somewhere. We seek pieces that boldly create something new from the ether of the timeless, works that go beyond sparking interest to ignite something that smolders. Works that matter today and will still matter tomorrow.
Visit our submissions page at www.southerncollectiveexperience.com/the-blue-mountain-review
INTERVIEW WITH WOODBRIDGE INN & TAVERNBY: CLIFFORD BROOKS Rob Jarrett, General Manager
How do you keep it together during the hectic rebirth of the Woodbridge Inn and Tavern?
We had our challenges… for sure! Supply chain, shipping delays, staffing… but my family is the glue that holds me together. Throughout the entire project and long hours working here and at home, they have supported and encouraged me endlessly.
What’s your story, morning glory?
I was born and raised in Jasper. My family owned the local farm and garden center where we were competing with the likes of Wal-Mart and Home Depot. My step-father instilled in me, at a very young age, that we can’t compete with their pricing, so customer service was our primary focus. When my now wife graduated high school, she literally started working at Disney the next day. It wasn’t long after that I moved to Orlando to be with her. That’s where I found my love and passion for the hotel industry. Through various leaders and mentors along the way, I spent my next 12 years working for Starwood Hotels, Omni, and eventually landing a position at the Westin Peachtree Plaza when my wife and I decided to move back to Georgia. My last hotel position prior to Woodbridge Inn was Director of Catering at W Atlanta Buckhead. After getting tired of the commute from Jasper to Atlanta, and that my wife and I were ready to start a family, I went to work at a local farm-to-table restaurant here in Jasper as their Operations Manager and did that for 9 years prior to meeting the new owners of Woodbridge Inn and Tavern.
5 years from now, my son will be 13! Hard to imagine, but I plan to achieve my life goals with Woodbridge and create a dynamic here of consistent amazing service, fare, and atmosphere. We want the property to be a destination for locals and visitors and not just a place to sleep or eat! Personally, I enjoy helping my son, who loves sports, set goals for himself academically and athletically and help him achieve those however I can.
Just the vibe! Obviously, having only been open for one month, we’re still improving ourselves every shift that we’re open and that will never stop as long as I’m here. We have an amazing culinary team, customer oriented service staff, and great leadership. As for the inn, I am constantly raving about the work that was done. We’ve created a big city “boutique” hotel feel, with small town flair right here in Jasper! Our housekeeping team and our Property Manager, Leslie are so detail oriented. It’s not uncommon to see one of them painting or caulking in a vacant room if something isn’t perfect. They make me look good!
Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
What’s your favorite feature about the newly reopened restaurant and hotel?
Dawson Faith, Chef
What drew you to become a chef?
As a child I grew up learning from my mother and yaiyai. When you’re a kid you don’t always see the big picture in the things being taught. When I got older, working in the kitchen started off as just a job. I had a thing for being a graphic designer, a painter, and illustrator. Under the right Chefs, I saw how cooking was just not cooking, but a form of being an artist (with a little mad scientist mixed in there).
How did the
Woodbridge Inn and Tavern lure you in?
I had been looking at the Japer community for a few years. I was coming up to find a place where I could open a restaurant. Then covid hit. The company I was with went on hard times and ended up selling out. New owners came in with a new idea and a team already in place. I came up and did some old school job hunting. Knocking on doors with a resume in hand. One thing led to another and my resume landed in the hands of the new owners of Woodbridge. After talking to them, I knew this would be a great adventure for me.
What do you love to do outside of work?
Outside of work? You must have never worked in a restaurant. There is only time for work with a pinch of sleep. On a serious note. I usually work in my garden. Maybe a little fishing, or just catch up with my daughter and what’s going on with her.
Carly Culverhouse, Dining Room Manager
What makes you happy?
Happiness... well, I’ve learned over the years that taking the time to take care of yourself comes first, and being with my people is a huge part of my personal self care. I thrive the most when I am able to go out and experience life with the people I love the most. Especially while we are young and able.
What flavor do you bring to the Woodbridge?
My flavor I guess you could say would be that I am a very hands-on manager. I’d rather be out in the dining room helping my team in any and every way possible to make sure that our guests are receiving the best service.
Tell us a little bit about yourself.
I am 28 years old and a Jasper native. When I am not at the restaurant, I am teaching dance at the local studio in town, Get to the pointe dance centre. I have a love for traveling and plan to go out and see all that the world has to offer.
Adulting with Autism
Lectures and Mentorship on How to Thrive on the Spectrum
- About Your Instructor -
Clifford Brooks is founder of the Southern Collective Experience and Editor-in-Chief of The Blue Mountain Review. Aside from his business ventures he is also a poet. To date Clifford has two full-length collections of poetry, The Draw of Broken Eyes & Whirling Metaphysics and Athena Departs: Gospel of a Man Apart, Exiles of Eden is a limited edition chapbook available solely from its author. Over the last twenty years Clifford traversed the traditional route in publishing and learned how to create, sell, and market creative writing. Throughout his tenure as writer and educator, Clifford stands as an advocate for those on the autism spectrum. As board member of Autism Speaks, he is intimately aware of the need for greater community and understanding.
Here on Teachable, Clifford shares his wisdom on living the creative life and adulting with autism.
INTERVIEW WITH ZAINA ZAHRABY: CLIFFORD BROOKS
Bring us into the world of Zaina Zahra. Who are you?
I am best described and prefer to be referred to as a World Dance Artist. In other words, I am a cultural dance entertainer, choreographer, instructor, and talent booking agent. Personally, I enjoy performing as much as I possibly can. I also love to share my knowledge and skills with other by teaching dance, and developing skill in others. I create every choreography I perform but tend to improvise more than 95 percent of the time. Choreography comes into play for group performances, or when I am solicited to teach someone a specific choreography for a special event.
As a Talent booking agent, I enjoy booking cirque entertainers, musicians, and pretty much any and everything involved in taking on large corporate projects. These “productions” are relatively a new thing for me as a creative artist, and I have really been enjoying it so far. It’s challenging me in new ways, which allows for professional growth and expansion.
You dance like the wind around roses. How did you perfect your technique?
It’s been sixteen (16) years since I began my cultural dance journey, and like most, I started out a mere student. My passion has led me to explore every opportunity possible to learn about various styles of music and dance, and master culture and execution. I’ve traveled internationally to Egypt and Turkey several times to study and perform, which shaped the foundation of my career. I also study and perform various styles of cultural dance from all over the world, including Hula, Kathak & Bollywood, Samba, Makossa, Swahili Taarab & Chackacha, Soca & Tassa, and of course, the vast diaspora of dance styles that fall under the diverse category of Belly Dancing.
Fire Performance is another aspect that I added to my dance repertoire initially to make things more interesting. Over the years I’ve developed a sacred relationship with fire that has grown into about eight (8) different props and is ever growing because of my insatiable passion for the art form. What started out as a candle and tray dance expanded into fire sword, then fire fans, fire eating, fire belt, fire crown, fire baton (I was a majorette in High school), dragon staff and fire breathing. Though it may be hard to believe, I’ve taken only one class with a fire performer...and that was for fire
eating. Everything else I developed through trial, improvisation and basically throwing myself into the water--sink or swim. I do not recommend this to anyone as it is not safe. lol
You have a degree in history and are active in you community. Tell us about your passions.
I have a degree in history because I love history and culture. World history is my passion, which is the reason why I ever became interested in dance. The degree is more of a talking point, but it also helps me to research culture to develop a deeper connection with different cultural aspects such as language and expression. I’d love to be more active in the community. So far the pandemic has ruined contacts I’ve had in the past, such as teaching dance to after school programs. When it happened it was a great thing. Children develop best when they have positive influences to teach them about the world around them and beyond their reach so that they will dream and grow up to be
better equipped to express themselves and interact with others who are different from them positively and effectively.
What’s your philosophy behind a life well-lived?
For me, dance IS life. Dance makes people happy. Dance neutralizes hatred, fear, and other things that prevent people from interacting across social constructs like race, gender, and socio-economic status. When everyone is dancing they have zero inhibitions and only take in and exude love. If only I could keep everyone dancing 24/7 the world would be a better place.
How do we keep up with you online?
Website: http://www.globaldancegoddess.com Instagram: @zainazahra and @dancewithzaina Facebook: Globaldancegoddess Youtube: @zainaraqs and @dancewithzaina Twitter: @zainaraqs
INTERVIEW WITH MARIA IVEYBY: CLIFFORD BROOKS
Who is Maria Ivey?
Small business owner, dog mama, East Nashvillian, fan of Tom Douglas’ ‘sneaky cry lyrics’ and extended front porch sits, WSM radio lover (I hate that my car doesn’t have AM radio), auntie, wife, daughter, sister, a travel-to-eat kinda tourist, the defacto can-I-pet-your-dog person. My husband showed me a “Little Miss” meme where she had a New Yorker Tote and a bottle of wine, it was titled “Little Miss Natural Wine”. Sigh. It me.
Tell us about your job and how you slid into it.
I own a PR firm based in Nashville, we represent a variety of artists, bands, brands, and music festivals. I not so much slid but stumbled into PR because I worked for a brilliant woman named Tamara Saviano when I was in col lege. She is Kristofferson’s manager and publicist, same for Guy Clark when I was interning for her. Years later, she wrote Guy’s biography and did a documentary on him that went on to win a bunch of awards and praise, rightfully so. Both were so well done. I didn’t know it at the time, when I was interning for her, but that whole experience set my career in motion. I owe pretty much everything to her, I still call her when I don’t know what to do.
What are you listening to now?
New Orleanian Andrew Duhon’s newest record Emerald Blue is on repeat. He wrote this record about his time spent away from the Crescent City and how time in the Pacific Northwest gave him a new perspective. That’s powerful. And because he’s a monster songwriter, he was able to connect the color Emerald Blue to the waters in the Pacific Northwest with the colors of his partner’s eyes. Done wrong it would have been cheesy. Done right, we are looking for color connections everywhere. His lyrics are so smart.
What band(s) should more folks tune into?
The Local Honeys out of Kentucky are redefining Appalachian music, we should all be paying attention to whatever they put out. I saw Big Richard, an all female bluegrass band out of Colorado, at RockyGrass a few weeks ago. Amaz ing. I’m looking forward to hearing more from them.
What are your biggest problems keeping a band on schedule?
Everything post-COVID is tough. Our clients are touring really aggressively to make up for lost time during the pandemic. It’s not so much keeping a band on schedule as it is not enough hours in the day. Travel, soundcheck, delays at the airport, the bus breaks down, deliver a high energy show and connect with the audience...all while try ing to sleep, connect with family at home, be a human, stay mentally and physically healthy...it’s no small feat that
they pull it off. I try to have a lot of patience, especially right now, with reschedules and delays. Everybody is doing the best they can. Touring is really, really hard work, I’m not sure a lot of people know that. I also have really great clients, like THE best. I’m really proud of our roster.
What words of advice do you have for, especially women, who want to work in your field?
I’m not sure I’m old enough to be giving advice but this goes for all—learn to communicate. With your team, with clients, with journalists, with management, with fans. So much of PR is making sure need-to-know information gets shared from one party to the next but publicists have to deliver said info in a way that the receiving party can under stand and digest it. Which means there are infinite ways in which one could communicate. A good publicist under stands this. Also multi-tasking. Be able to do 12 things at once and not drop a spinning plate. For instance, right now I’m listening to a new record from a client, confirming an interview via text, and answering your questions. I hate Zoom calls because I can’t multitask without being rude!
For those who identify as women, I’d say to take zero shit. I learned this later than I wish but you don’t have to put up with, or work with, men who talk over you, who send inappropriate emails or say out-of-line comments. I have zero tolerance.
Sunset Calling Over Seven Thousand Miles
Virago– dominate the expanse, reaching, wrenching the horizon loose.
Torn from its moorings, cascading (she) tap dancing, toned, emboldened except what she carves out for others.
Gnarled through fisted hands thepast,thefirstdays, forcing elasticity into time.
Concrete shoes: C’mongirl,theshoesdon’tfit. Lakes, the deepest hands go into earth, to water, to be seen, noticed, lightened, untethered from any harmful star. Threehoursistoolong. Distancedoesn’tgrant apassoncloseness.
from The Book of Old Gods
MOVIE REVIEW EVERYTHING EVERYWHERE ALL AT ONCEBY: CHRIS TERRY
Among moviegoers, the term multiverse is synonymous with Marvel and DC’s colorful cavalcade of heroes. However, “Everything Everywhere All at Once” manages to reinvigorate a device that has become part of common vocabulary because of these films. The film’s writers and directors, Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert use remarkable redirection techniques to transform its modernistic usage of alternate universes into nostalgic warm fuzziness. By incorporating ludicrous ideas and cynicism into the more fantastical aspects, The Daniels take an absurdist path that transcends the realms of the comic-bound Marvel Universe. Writer-directors Daniels, who are best known for their work on music videos and whose feature film debut was the rather bizarre Swiss Army Man, started working on their concept more than ten years ago but were outpaced by Into the Spider-Verse, Rick and Morty, and the Marvel Cinematic Universe. However, their narrative—which centers on a stressed-out Chinese-American lady who discovers how to access her numerous parallel selves—is arguably the most unrestrained and limitless creative exploration of the multiverse notion to date. The irreverent humor of Everything continues in the incredibly imaginative vision of what can be done within limitless possibilities of infinite parallel worlds. There are absurd universes, such as the already-famous one in which humans evolved to have hot dog fingers, and while this is mostly played for laughs, these worlds are explored in greater depth than you might expect. It would be a grave injustice to try to adequately capture Everything Everywhere All At Once in words alone. It’s a journey that must be taken, felt, and surrendered to—just like the multiverse-jumping adventure that Evelyn Wang (Michelle Yeoh), the film’s central character, finds herself experiencing. It’s complicated but grounded, untamed but kind, and opulent but truly moving all at same.
The setup appears to be as uninteresting as it gets before the crazy fun begins. Evelyn is worn out. Even though this elderly Chinese-American immigrant has imagined a myriad of possible courses for herself, she is stuck on the least interesting one and is stumbling. She has ended up working as a laundromat’s continually irritated vendor, being married to the kind Waymond (Ke Huy Quan), and being the mother to the rebellious Joy (Stephanie Hsu). Additionally, she is struggling to compile receipts for an obstinate IRS auditor (Jamie Lee Curtis). However, the world actually turns upside down when Evelyn and Waymond make their way to the IRS facility to hand in their paperwork. In the elevator, Waymond transforms into a different version of himself, “Alpha
Waymond,” and he hastily informs Evelyn that every choice and error she has ever made has contributed to a multiverse of infinite threads, which are actually entire worlds, that is now threatened by a force of destructive chaos known as Jobu Tupaki. Evelyn must go to the multiverse, use the powers of the various selves she has created in each reality, and engage the enemy in battle if she is to have any chance of winning. If that doesn’t already sound daunting, then just hold on to your hats. Everything Everywhere completely explodes into a series of masterfully orchestrated, hilariously outrageous battles, a journey through various timelines and universes, and a staggeringly quick-paced series of inner discoveries and revelations when the threat eventually catches up with her. None of the places Evelyn enters challenges her as much as the things she has yet to learn about herself, her family, and her own past and destiny. They are simultaneously silly, tragic, AND weird. The cast is simply amazing. Yeoh portrays a character going through a serious midlife crisis in what might very well be her best performance to date. Yeoh not only does a fantastic job of capturing the emptiness of main Evelyn’s life, but she also makes each of her alternate selves feel distinct yet recognizable in the many decisions they made. Ke Huy Quan, who played Short Round in the 1984 film Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom and Data in The Goonies, may be the cast’s biggest surprise because of his demanding role, which requires him to frequently switch between personalities and affects while maintaining a constant sense of gentle longing.
Everything Everywhere All at Once takes place in a pop culture cosmos full of recognizable pop culture artifacts for aficionados of the genre: a little Douglas Adams lunacy here, a visual quote, concept, sentence, or mood stolen from a variety of other movies there. Although the Daniels make references to The Terminator and 2001: A Space Odyssey in different scenes, The Matrix serves as the film’s main literary reference, and not simply because Evelyn unexpectedly learns kung fu. In contrast to The Matrix, which is completely consumed by its own airless cool, humorless cybertech-Gothic style, and love of awesome tableau, Everything Everywhere has a sense of play and humor that makes all the existential philosophy easier to swallow. The picture occasionally slingshots from pathos to punchlines, then back again, swiftly enough to cause whiplash, which can be attributed to the storytelling’s hyper-rapidity. The alterations, though, don’t feel contradictory tonally in this society where anything goes. They only seem to be an admission that life is both painful and ludicrous, and that the conflict between the two contributes to the experience of being human.
And, make no mistake, this is an action film one of the best in years. Despite running for more than two hours, the camera never stops moving, acting as an extension of Evelyn’s undiagnosed ADHD, always frenetic and kinetic. With magnificent tributes to everyone from Wong Kar-Wai to Stephen Chow and Jackie Chan to Satoshi Kon and even some Wong Kar-Wai himself thrown in for good measure, Everything Everywhere All at Once is a celebration of Asian cinema influence. The end product is a mammoth movie that really does seem to cover everything, everywhere, at once. It’s comparable to how The Matrix absorbed all the anxieties and concepts of its era and transformed them into a chic action movie with lofty notions.This extends to the action/stunt performers, who benefit greatly from
the filmmakers’ unconventional approaches. The Daniels not only blend lo-fi techniques with high concepts to create something distinctively charming, but they also sought out unusual help with the numerous fight scenes: they turned to YouTube. Brothers Andy and Brian Le, along with comrade Daniel Mah, make up the smaller stunt group Martial Club, which is based in California. On YouTube, the group transforms other movies into kung fu masterpieces, imitates different combat scenes from movies, video games, and television, and demonstrates how they choreograph fights and plan stunts. They’ve been there for a while (their channel was started in December 2011), but thanks to work on THE PAPER TIGERS and Andy Le’s portrayal as Death Dealer in SHANG-CHI AND THE LEGEND OF THE TEN RINGS, they’re finally receiving more attention for their badassery. And, as an old-school Hong Kong film fan, I adore their work.
The multiverse in Everything Everywhere is a remarkably adaptable metaphor. It’s appropriate for expressing some common frustrations that we humans share, such as bad decisions and squandered opportunities. But, because the characters aren’t bound by reality or causality, it’s just as well suited for setting up a series of ridiculously badass action sequences in which literally anything is possible. Kwan and Scheinert use the central idea of the multiverse to allow their characters to change bodies, costumes, skills, and settings on the fly, in visually stunning and even overwhelming ways. But they set it all up with a clarity of thought and intention that makes it surprisingly easy — and thrilling — to follow. With Everything Everywhere All at Once, you’ll remember why you love movies. You will laugh, cry, and find it to be original and innovative. After watching a movie as original and thrilling as this one, you really won’t complain about a few pacing issues, even though its final act did feel a tad long. Everything is undoubtedly one of, if not the best film of 2022 so far, and is a must-see for any cinema fan.
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’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.”
“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.”
-Susana H. Case, author of Dead Shark on the N Train and Drugstore Blue
-Paige Lewis, Spacestruck
BOOK REVIEW PRACTICEOF THEPRESENCEBY: CARMEN ACEVEDO BUTCHER BY: TOM MCHANEY
In print for over 300 years, Brother Lawrence’s Practice of the Presence is a beloved spiritual classic that teaches the universal theme of love. Acclaimed translator Carmen Acevedo Butcher, PhD, known for her award-winning translation of the medieval Christian contemplative guide on prayer, The Cloud of Unknowing, and other works, recently published a fresh, accessible translation of Practice of the Presence with Broadleaf Books. Carmen’s translation offers the complete teachings of Brother Lawrence for the first time to a wide-ranging audience. With origins in the Discalced (Shoeless) Carmelite tradition of the Christian church, and written mostly in a monastery in Paris using a goose quill pen and oak gall ink, this deceptively slender, hand-sized book contains timeless wisdom especially relevant for our screen-interrupted, internet-dominated lives today. Published after the death of this humble lay brother who lived a deliberately hidden life, this powerful volume was born from a friendship between Brother Lawrence and the Catholic priest Joseph of Beaufort. After the friar died in 1691 aged 77, Joseph gathered together his friend’s spiritual maxims and surviving letters, since Brother Lawrence’s friends missed him and wanted to read these. To them Joseph added their conversations and other writings to help us understand what the practice of the presence is, how to do it, and its benefits.
Why is this book relevant today?
This book helps bring more peace into our lives. We meet an authentic person, Brother Lawrence, who spent his days mostly peeling potatoes in the kitchen and making soup and such, and later, mending his brothers’ sandals. He’s a kind, down-to-earth mystic. He was also a disabled war veteran who limped in pain for over five decades. In the middle of his physical suffering and severe anx iety, he developed a very doable prayer practice that helped him live in and from an abiding peace. In Practice of the Presence, the friar shows you how to develop
calmness like a muscle. Through his simple, portable prayer practice, we can live into more peaceful, more self-com passionate, and more loving lives. For anyone intrigued by how “praying without ceasing” might be possible, or any one plagued by what Buddhists’ name “monkey mind,” where distraction rules your day, this book helps you develop a calming mindfulness that translates into self-compassion and compassion for others. In it we learn how to practice of the presence, which Brother Lawrence developed for his own healing. He describes his practice in one letter: “In the middle of your tasks you can comfort yourself with Love as often as you can, in all these ways. During your meals and conversations, lift up your heart to God sometimes. The slightest little awareness will always be very pleasant. We don’t need to shout out to do this. God is closer to us than we may think. . . . We can make our hearts an oratory where we withdraw from time to time to talk with them there, gently, humbly, and lovingly. Everyone is capable of these familiar conversations with God. . . . Be brave.”
Who is the audience for this book?
Anyone. Practical Brother Lawrence has a following from diverse traditions including unaffiliated spiritual Nones, Roman Catholics and Protestants, meditation practitioners, Buddhists who appreciate his Zen approach, dis ciples of major religious groups, believers of other spiritual traditions, and those beyond the traditional categories, including many not usually interested in religion or spirituality. Philosopher Aldous Huxley said the friar’s practice of the presence “has enjoyed a kind of celebrity in circles otherwise completely uninterested in mental prayer or spiritual exercises.” Brother Lawrence is so wise, welcoming, and inclusive that I tried to honor that in every deci sion I made. As I translated, I listened for English words with authenticity, accuracy, and inclusivity, and I opened for paradigm-shifts and relevance, because his teachings are relatable to a global audience. As I translated I was also teaching, and it was the first summer of the pandemic. My students were experiencing much death in their families, precarities, and intense stress. So my translating includes my diverse students and has in mind their wellbeing and their hopes.
What has the reception been for your translation of Practice of the Presence? And can you explain the “revolutionary” in the title?
The reception has been overwhelmingly positive and joyful. I’ve spent much time simply being grateful, hands over my heart, saying oh-my-goodness as messages rolled in. Also, the new friends I’ve made because of this translation—they’re the best gift of all—the joy and companionship of others who wish to reimagine the world as a kinder, more equitable place. The revolutionary in the title was put there by my publisher, but I do agree with it. Or rather I came to agree with it. I didn’t at first. Because I didn’t set out to do anything different. I set out to see who Brother Lawrence was and what he had written. I didn’t commit to translating him until I had gotten access to his original books in the National Library of France and read them, to see if his theology was healthy enough to spend such intimate time with, translating. It was. Looking at him without preconceptions as I translated, I noticed that as a true mystic, he possesses a beyond-dualism mindset, which wasn’t being reflected in the past translations. Rather than seeing life as a simplistic binary of sinner vs. saint, evil vs. goodness, wrong vs. right, Brother Lawrence sees that we stumble—he uses the French verb tomber from which we get our “tumble.” Then we turn to the divinity who is Love, ask forgiveness, he says, make amends, atone, and try to do better, be self-compassionate, and love others in healthy ways. My translation also uses “they/them” pronouns for divinity. These were a surprise gift from the Spirit to me. They were there to greet me at four one morning in August 2020 when I sat down to the computer, with just bird song as company. These pronouns allow me to breathe more, owing to childhood trauma that makes “he/him” for divinity hard, and also they reflect the friar’s lived trinitarian theology and his beyond-binary mindset, while also inviting in all those marginalized by the historical power dynamic of the binary. All are welcome!
“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.
BOOK REVIEW INSTRUCTIONS BETWEEN TAKEOFFAND LANDINGBY: CHARLIE JENSEN BY: TOM MCHANEY
Charlie Jensen reigns as this generation’s Arthur Rimbaud. I dig the work of Jensen far more. Instructions between Takeoff and Landing flares into the surreal from common themes, but it fails miserably insisting upon itself. The poetry reads itself in pieces like “The Nihilist’s Gambit,” “Phantom Pain,” and “Two Hundred Channels and Nothing’s On”. Drastically different poems from the back to front. The story, Jensen’s story often tight-lipped, but never limping, carves “today” out of what reigned before COVID and the surreal ride thereafter.
Not specific to a theme, the book tapers off into sections that act as pieces in one symphony that’s brilliantly disjointed. Never an abrupt shift in winds, still the end result is calm albeit it with a nag to reach back. She scooped again and again into her wet lungs/like a fish/tasting air/and hating it. “Hospice” chokes me off. Picture your body as cake/Picture Botticelli’s The Birth of Venus or another classical nude./Consider the humility of the emperor penguin from “HOW WIVES SHOULD UNDRESS IN FRONT OF THEIR HUSBAND” follows me around.
Read it. Life is too short for ugly love and bad books. This is neither.
Here’s a jaunt with the author:
How does this book differ from your previous work?
I think this book is more resolutely personal than my other collections. I am often the “I” voice—or at least parts of me are. I used a lot of memories as content or inspirations for these poems. The poems that aren’t personal I think are in line with my personal views on the world around us and especially on American culture. That’s a consistent throughline from my past work. I also tried to let myself be funnier (?) in this book. My first collection was very sad and serious, and Nanopedia brought in moments of levity. I think this book is more emotionally textured.
Which poems hold a special place in your heart?
Gosh, I don’t know that I could choose. I tried to put poems in this book that felt resonant to me. The last addition was “Only Thirteen Blimps Remain on Earth,” which I snuck in right before copyediting started. “Mortality” is one I keep on my setlist for readings. “Poem in which Words Have Been Left Out” might be my most known poem—it was included in the Academy of American Poets’ Poem-A-Day series and seems like it ends up on a lot of reading lists. I get Google Alerts about student papers written about that one, which I love to read.
Are there poems that hurt like hell to pen?
“Hospice” is one that I can’t bring myself to read out loud. I can’t get through it. The images I used in that poem, or even the lines of plain speaking are so true to the experience of my mother’s death that they retrigger my grief.
Which pieces offer you peace?
That’s a tough question. I don’t think I look to poems to provide peace. I prefer them to disrupt and rattle. That doesn’t always mean the scale needs to be cataclysmic; I think tiny disruptions and tiny rattles are good for the overall texture of a collection. I think a poem’s job in part is to leave the reader changed by the end, seeing the world differently, even if it’s just a subtle shift.
INTERVIEW WITH JAY-DE-ROBINSON A.K.A. MR. CLASSICBY: CLIFFORD BROOKS
How did you get your start in the fashion business?
Fashion has always been in some way a part of my life. Growing up in church and play music in Jazz clubs, I was always around people dressed up, in what can be called classic style. Being a young boy, looking at my father in his three piece suits and the respect he commanded created a fondness for men’s classic style with a focus on suits. My mother was also a big sewer, creating patterns and designing little outfits. It wasn’t till later on, given the opportunity to style a few of my fellow musicians at the time did I realize how much I enjoyed it and decided to make a business out of it.
Being a fashion editor, how will your perspective differ from others in the same field?
I believe it is that I look at fashion in a different way than most in my field. When you think about fashion and style, your more so led to talk about what’s trendy and relevant, who’s wearing what and what designers hot now. I however view fashion from a different viewpoint. More so of how can ones fashion help elevate them in life. How did this particular individual use their wardrobe to make a statement. Whether in the business field or in society. How does the right suit get the attention of the right individual to land the big job. These are things I don’t see too often in the world of fashion and is something I would like to bring to the table.
In your best attempt, can you describe what you do as a Haberdasher?
So the word “haberdashery” is originally from the British, meaning: a store where small sewing items are sold. From buttons, zippers to thread. Anything having to do with sewing. On this side of the pond however, the word haberdashery is referring to a store which sells men’s cloths and accessories. A far more classier than saying a department store. So a haberdasher is simply one who runs a men’s one stop shop clothing store.
If you were to look into the future of men’s fashion, where do you see it heading?
Honestly, straight down the drain! I am truly saddened by how our men are dressing these days. Now women of course will always be on the forefront of the fashion world but if you look at men from back in the 20s to about the 60s we really cared about our wardrobe. Now a days you will see man and woman going out and she might be in a dress but when you see the guy, he’s in either sneakers, jeans and a t-shirt or a hooded sweater. I hear the statement all the time that “ I have it but I just don’t know how to put it together” so it ends up being a fall back to what’s comfortable and really a safety blanket. So to give a better answer, we are doomed in the mens fashion world if the proper education it not available.
What would you like for people to take away from your article?
I would like for an individual to receive not only the latest info in the fashion world but also advise on how to better yourself in fashion and really make it your own. Find your voice, get educated on how to “put it together”. How to create the person you want to be rather than settling for what was or what is.
Bio : Mr. Classic is the CEO and designer of Mr. Classic’s Haberdashery at Thee Manor in Atlanta Georgia. A one stop shop for all things in custom made and classic menswear. From hats all the way down to shoes. His focus, mainly being to helping individuals develop their personal style. Through the education of fashion and in custom garment designs, he has become the go to designer for the elegant and high class.
BEFORE THEY HEAR YOU, THEY MUST FIRST SEE YOUBY: MR. CLASSIC
Fashion, fashionable, fashion do’s and don’ts. What is this so widely mistaken, misused, misunderstood, and frankly misrepresented word fashion mean? Well as our good friends over at The Oxford Dictionary defines it;
“ A popular trend, especially in styles of dress and ornament or manners of behaviors.”
In my recent conversations I have found in the minds of the average dresser, when we talk about the topic of fashion, there is a deep disconnect. How does one become fashionable? What comes first ? Is it being fashionable, stylish or Image portrayal? I would like to refer back to our definition and pick out a few key points, starting from the end. “Manners of behavior,” This part of our definition is seeming to equate fashion to, for a better choice of words, how one carries themselves. Which will also entail, how they would like to be viewed, their identity. Next, lets look at style of dress, how you express that identity in your wardrobe. Are you a businessman or woman? Well, how does that style of dress look? Three piece suits, dresses or chinos and button downs? Lastly, popular trends, are you more on the vintage era of the spectrum or do you like to dance more modern, staying with the current happenings?
Breaking down the proper order of things, I believe will help an individual who we might say is lost in their journey of fashion, identify and create something tasteful and original for themselves. To become “fashionable” you must first define your identity, then your style.
“Don’t be into trends. Don’t make fashion own you, but you decide what you are, what you want to express by the way you dress and the way you live” -Gianni Versace
We often think about fashion in the sense of how we can express ourselves, but seldom do we think of how my fashion help can me elevate in life. This takes us back to our article title and my favorite quote “ Before they hear you, they must first see you, make sure what they are looking at is going to be worth listening to”. This quote has really become my war cry. It has been a great conversational piece, as well as a drop the mic ending to a speech. How did I come up with it, one might ask? Well, to tell that story I must first tell another. My start in the industry, for you see, fashion couldn’t have been further from my mind.
My Name, is Mr. Classic. Given due to my classically old soul mannerisms and wardrobe selections. Along with my obsession in classic men and women’s fashion. I am particularly fond of the 20s-50s style of dress, the Golden ages as I see it. Where men and
women really dressed to impress. It wasn’t entirely just for the ostentatious approach, but also a way of life.
I begin my fashion journey as a church and touring jazz musician. Seeing individuals’ parade through the doors of the church house in their “Sunday’s best” as it was known, resembled similar traits of a runway show. Whispers of sister so and so’s hat or brother what’s his names alligator shoes, whistled through the aisle like New York fashion week. It caused one to wonder, “What were we really here for again” regardless, it left a lasting impression. For me it was always the suits, my father, being a pastor and a New York City police officer I didn’t really have much of a choice but to admire a welltailored uniform. And that is what suits represented to me. The uniform of the highly distinguished gentleman. These setting, of church and jazz clubs led me to style some of the artists I worked with. There is nothing worse than your guitarist looking better than you, being the main act. From there I decided to make a business out of it. I found a sense of enjoyment doing this and a rather natural alignment to my life.
After years of being the guy that knew the guy, working with different designers and shops, helping clients pick out their wardrobes. I finally decided to become “The Guy”. Now how does this all tie back into my quote? Well, let me explain, understanding that it’s not always about what you know but rather who you know that gets you the seat at the big table. I began to elevate my image and wardrobe. I figured the best way to be in the company of the prominent, is to look and seem like someone of importance. So that is what I did. I now portrayed the person who didn’t just attend elaborate events but rather the person elaborate events were thrown for. Doing so allowed me to walk right into some of the most elegant of settings. Brushing shoulders with big names in the political arenas as well as in sports and film. Now having the opportunity to engage in conversation, I was able to show them , that what they were looking at would also be worth listening to. I pulled a straight up Anna Delvey, minus the money fraud thing.
So here we are, current day. I hope you can see now how this quote makes a bit more sense and holds quite a bit of weight. Before you are able to give the award winning pitch or speech of who you are, people have to first see you. And it’s not just about telling someone to be more fashionable or stylish to gain attention, but first defining who they want to portray in this play called life.
“All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players”
BOY TOYBY: ANNE CHAMPION
Men open me. I spring erect— a ballerina being dragged across a mirror in a music box. Locked in by her magnet, she’ll never escape— one pose, one dance, countless offerings. No one holds her—she needs only a bit of lace, layers of tulle, a simple song, your breath on her neck.
Anne Champion is the author of She Saints & Holy Profanities (Quarterly West, 2019), The Good Girl is Always a Ghost (Black Lawrence Press, 2018), Book of Levitations (Trembling Pillow Press, 2019), Reluc tant Mistress (Gold Wake Press, 2013), and The Dark Length Home (Noctuary Press, 2017). Her work ap pears in Verse Daily, Tupelo Quarterly, Prairie Schoo ner, Crab Orchard Review, Salamander, New South, Redivider, PANK Magazine, and elsewhere. She was a 2009 Academy of American Poets Prize recipient, a 2016 Best of the Net winner, and a Barbara Deming Memo rial Grant recipient. http:// anne-champion.com
HOW TO APOLOGIZEBY: ELLEN BASS
Cook a large fish--choose one with many bones, a skeleton you will need skill to expose, maybe the flying silver carp that’s invaded the Great Lakes, tumbling the others into oblivion. If you don’t live near a lake, you’ll have to travel. Walking is best and shows you mean it, but you could take a train and let yourself be soothed by the rocking on the rails. It’s permitted to receive solace for whatever you did or didn’t do, pitiful, beautiful human. When my mother was in the hospital, my daughter and I had to clear out the home she wouldn’t return to. Then she recovered and asked, incredulous, How could you have thrown out all my shoes? So you’ll need a boat. You could rent or buy, but, for the sake of repairing the world, build your own. Thin strips of Western red cedar are perfect, but don’t cut a tree. There’ll be a demolished barn or downed trunk if you venture further. And someone will have a mill. And someone will loan you tools. The perfume of sawdust and the curls that fall from your plane will sweeten the hours. Each night we dream thirty-six billion dreams. In one night we could dream back everything lost. So grill the pale flesh. Unharness yourself from your weary stories. Then carry the oily, succulent fish to the one you hurt. There is much to fear as a creature caught in time, but this is safe. You need no defense. This is just another way to know you are alive.
A Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets, Ellen Bass’s most recent book is Indigo (Copper Canyon Press, 2020). Among her awards are a Guggenheim Fellowship, NEA Fellowship, four Pushcart Prizes, and The Lambda Literary Award. She coedited the first major anthology of women’s poetry, No More Masks! (Doubleday, 1973) and coauthored The Courage to Heal: A Guide for Women Survivors of Child Sexual Abuse (HarperCollins, 1988). Bass founded workshops at Salinas Valley State Prison and teaches in at Pacific University’s MFA program.
LINES ON THE PORCHBY: STUART DISCHELL
She sat on the edge of the brick front steps. Her parents argued inside the house. Across the street was the elementary school. She saw Ms. Mimms in the parking lot And gave her a wave. Smilingly, she waved Back, and Ms. Mimms drove back to what
The girl imagined as a home like her own But with less fighting. Her dad was nice. Why did her mom like her new boss? Her dad was crazy. Sometimes he shouted Words in the street that made no sense
To anyone but family. Sometimes he said Foreign words from his childhood. It was His fault her mother took a job. No cars Remained in the parking lot. Mr. Bean, The custodian, removed the orange cones
So the skateboarders would not steal them Later. It was quiet inside. Maybe everything Would be all right, but nothing would ever Be all right. Her mother opened the screen Door, stepped on the porch, “ok, we’re going.”
Stuart Dischell is the author of Good Hope Road (Viking), a National Poetry Series Selec tion, Evenings & Avenues (Penguin), Dig Safe (Penguin), Backwards Days (Penguin), Children with Enemies (Chi cago), and The Lookout Man (Chicago) and the chapbooks Animate Earth (Jeanne DUval) Touch Monkey (Forklift), Standing on Z (Unicorn), and the forthcoming collabora tive work Andalusian Visions (unicorn). His poems have appeared in The Alaska Quar terly, The Atlantic, Agni, The New Republic, Slate, Kenyon Review, Ploughshares, and anthologies including Essen tialPoems, Hammer and Blaze, Pushcart Prize, and Good Poems. A recipient of awards from the NEA, the North Carolina Arts Council, the Le dig-Rowohlt Foundation, and the John Simon Guggenheim Foundation, he is a professor in the MFA Program in Cre ative Writing at the University of North Carolina Greensboro.
COLEOPTERABY: CELIA LISSET ALVAREZ
I remember when we caught that dung beetle or what we thought was a dung beetle— those mysterious lessons you used to give me when I took for granted you were everything: nuclear scientist, oceanographer, Indiana Jones. You were only thirteen, but I was nine and that made you adult in my eyes, capable of algebra and words like exoskeleton you rattled off like a politician in charge of my own country. I voted you in and voted you in. While you were technically no tyrant, you were master, might as well have worn a pompadour and stockings and had me trail behind you with your toilet and tea. When I saw you kiss her behind your parents’ big crepe myrtle, a revolution took place. Though I never did make off with your head I felt my own rolling down the steps that led to the guillotine of your back porch, your mother’s garden, the soft, black earth of our lost planet where no plant or beetle, no secret buried bones would ever be exotic again, or full of promise.
Celia Lisset Alvarez is a writer from Miami, Florida. She has four collections of poetry, Shapeshifting (winner of the 2005 Spire Press Poetry Award), The Stones (Finishing Line Press 2006), Multiverses (Finishing Line Press 2021), and Bodies & Words (Assure Press 2022). Her writing has been published widely, most recently in DarkWinter Literary Magazine, Last Leaves Magazine, and dyst. She has work forthcoming in the antholo gies SMEOP 2: HOT (Black Sunflowers Press) and The Book of Life after Death (Tolsun Books), and in Pink Panther Magazine. She has been nominated for both the Pushcart and Best of the Net Prizes.
GHAZAL FOR A BRITTLE FALLBY: ELIZABETH KIRKPATRICK-VRENIOS
Mountain streams play and lay on their backs greedily eating leaves, and October.
Ravens in dark robes silently stalk the chalk faces and dried-out tears of October.
They return, these dazzling ghosts, with a rush of dark wings to prey on our bones in October.
Small, tired stars one by one dive through the broken skies of October.
Darkness smothers the wooly sun under the smoky blanket of October.
Stunned and silent as the skin of the sea only some sins float free in October.
I am wide aloud craving something like love draped in the odd sparkle of October.
A torch that has learned too much of fire burns what it loves in October.
The moon that creases into the night shrouds Elizabeth’s brittle light in October.
Elizabeth Kirkpatrick-Vrenios resides in Mendocino, CA. Twice nominated for a Pushcart Prize, her poetry has been featured in such online poetry columns as: Ekphrastic Review, Abyss and Apex, The American Journal of Poetry, Kentucky Review, Form Quarterly, Scissors and Spackle, Folliate Oak and in issues of Poeming Pigeon, Unsplendid and The Edison Review. Her prize-winning chapbook, Special Delivery, was published by Yellow Chair Press, and her second chapbook, Empty the Ocean with a Thimble, by Word Tech Communications. A Professor Emerita from American University, she has performed as a solo singing artist across Europe and the United States.
ON PAPERBY: ELIZABETH LOUDON
On paper I come across better. I know from experience what not to say.
I drag coherence out of the spiky teeth of the afternoon, I salvage the couple on the bench
who gave me a dirty look, the hard-running dogs and children oblivious to the pitch and roll of tidal erasure.
On paper I’m sentimental as a ripe peach, gorgeous in a red silk skirt, my foot in the door of a party
so it won’t slam shut on the music. I dance like a flamingo ready to mate, stay up late and never skip the beat.
On paper I can defend my catalogue of sins. They’re arranged by colour, and the file includes
an original papal indulgence. It’s easy to miss, that one it looks like a scribbled poem from a morning hour that was clear before the day lost its well-made mind. It doesn’t look like forgiveness. It says nothing of heaven.
Elizabeth Loudon is a fiction writer and poet, with work pre viously published in the Gettysburg Review, INTRO, Denver Quarterly, North American Review, and South Florida Poetry Journal among others. Her debut novel, about an Anglo-Iraqi family in twentieth century Baghdad, will be published in spring 2023 by a University press (announcement forthcoming). Loud on holds an MA in English from Cambridge University and an MFA in Fiction from the University of Massachusetts Amherst. She’s taught English at Amherst, Smith, and Williams Colleges, and worked as a campaign strategist, writer, and teacher for NGOs and Universities on both sides of the Atlantic.
SWATH OF STARSBY: GERALD WAGONER
I bought a fry bread taco that brisk afternoon certain I came here to end something. Some poems are traumas in need of triage. You don’t know the number of nights I lay
certain I was now at the end of something clear that flows down from mountain snow. You don’t know the number of nights I lay swallowing galactic swaths of cold stars
that flowed down from mountain snow to lie awake in lakes on still crisp nights. I swallowed single galactic swaths of stars to smuggle back a batch of cold comfort.
They lie awake in lakes on still crisp nights unaware that land-locked salmon are there to smuggle back batches of cold comfort before wolfing it down under big city sky.
Unaware that land-locked salmon were there I bought a fat fry bread taco that afternoon. Greedy I wolfed it down under a bright city sky. Some poems are traumas in need of triage.
Gerald Wagoner’s childhood was divided between eastern Ore gon and Montana. He says memory and landscape are presenc es in these poems, but are not required to be factual. They are the multi-colored feelings triggering the imagination to recall sensations of the moment. With a BA in Creative Writing, Gerald pursued the art of sculpture. After earning his MFA moved to Brooklyn, NY where he exhibited regularly. He taught Art and English for the NYC Department of Education for 30 years. When retirement neared Gerald decided to devote himself to the art of poetry in order to express the poignancy in life’s arc, and explore how that journey gives us meaning.
BLUE HORSESBY: JULENE WAFFLE
When the slick-bodied boss mare stops in the blue-black night, the whole racing band stops too.
They see me, a mother-bodied being, two legs, all dough and bend.
We watch each other until I, too, run.
The rust of the earth lifts and flies in clods. The long grass cleaves under my weight, and when the silver in my mane gleams Milky Way, all the mares follow me.
Julene Waffle, graduated from Hartwick College and Binghamton University. She is a teacher in rural NYS, an entrepreneur, a nature lover, a wife, a mother of three boys, two dogs, three cats, and, of course, she’s a writer. She finds pleasure in juggling these jobs while seeming like she has it all together. Her works have appeared in NCTE’s English Journal, La Presa, Mslexia, among others. Her work also appears in the anthologies Civilization in Crisis, American Writers Review 2021, and Seeing Things (2020). Her chapbook So I Will Remember was published in 2020. Learn more at www. wafflepoetry.com.
HOLIDAYBY: LÚCIA LEÃO
My mother saves two fish fillets for Good Friday. Their frozen unscaled meat waits for the final gulp and release, but nothing leaves this world if it has been eaten, and some rituals are born to make us believe we will soon be gone.
Lúcia Leão is a translator and a writer originally from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Her poems have been published in SWWIM Every Day, South Florida Poetry Journal, Gyroscope Review, Chariton Review, Harvard Review Online, among others. Her work is included in the anthology Grabbed: Poets and Writers on Sexual Assault, Empowerment & Healing. Lúcia’s poems in Portuguese have been pub lished in literary magazines in Brazil.
ACROPHOBIABY: MONICA RICO
What they don’t say is everything looks small less harmful like this
river from above doesn’t seem big enough a speck of rapid
fuzz, shimmer of statice or suds whirring down the drain
rock chipped away the rotten root of a molar uneven edge I press
my tongue to or show it elongated
as in a dream where the volume muted and the silhouettes of words remain, my friend
mistook my echo as the tiny beads from wrist fell
the size of skulls.
Monica Rico is Mexican American and the author of PINION, winner of the Four Way Books Levis Prize in Poetry selected by Kaveh Akbar. She holds an MFA from the University of Michigan’s HZWP and is the Pro gram Manager Bear River Writers’ Conference. She has recently pub lished poems in Poetry Northwest’s Life List, Gastronomica, and The Missouri Review. Follow her at www. monicaricopoet.com.
SUMMERBY: PEGGY HAMMOND
We conquered grain silos hand over hand, slight but
sure, fast as black racers that startled in fields,
your father’s dairy farm a rich playground.
Long hair swinging, one dark head, one light.
Running through barns, vaulting into haylofts, dust spiraling in our wake, stopping only for kittens, we sucked summer days dry like taking marrow from a bone.
The escaped bull, pawing, bellowing, kept us penned on the screened porch, shrieking and laughing until your brother
gave an all-clear, free again, the next adventure urgent, stamping.
Those images sift like slides in a carousel, the past heavy in rose-scented air. Your folded hands, the disease late discovered, lungs too battered to fight.
Still, childhood years hover, a mist refusing to settle, not vague but shining, small treasures held in amber.
Peggy Hammond’s recent poems appear or are forthcoming in San gam Literary Magazine, Crosswinds Poetry Journal, Pangyrus, The Comstock Review, For Women Who Roar, Fragmented Voices, Burning word Literary Journal, Dear Reader Poetry, The Hyacinth Review, Boats Against The Current, Thimble Liter ary Magazine, and elsewhere. A Best of the Net nominee, her chapbook The Fifth House Tilts is due out fall 2022 (Kelsay Books). Find her on Twitter @ PHammondPoetry.
RAIN AGAINBY: RODRIGO TOSCANO
Forty minutes away they say Front bringing heavy bands This is a developing story
Couple things I want rinsed clean Foremost, the English tongue Followed by doom and the driveway
Thirty-eight minutes away These grasses know it, or don’t This is a developing story
Couple things I want washed This ear ringing - incessant And the din of mammal’s suffering
Thirty-two minutes away Flooding now in Lafayette Grasses know it there, or not
Where will our sudden streams flow? How long will our mucky puddles last? This is a developing story
Rodrigo Toscano is a poet and essayist based in New Orleans. He is the author of ten books of poetry. His newest book is The Charm & The Dread (Fence Books, 2022). His Collapsible Poetics Theater was a National Poetry Series selection. He has appeared in over 20 anthologies, including Best American Poetry and Best American Experimental Poetry (BAX). Toscano has received a New York State Fellowship in Poetry. He won the Edwin Markham 2019 prize for poetry. rodrigotoscano.com @ Toscano200
ARS POETICABY: SARAH IQBA
like the yo-yo gone berserk marionette teetering ceramic in the school cafeteria spun
like a rotisserie chicken gone & broke my classmate’s nose faced us then greasy-terrestrial
like returning sugar liquid crystal retched from a painted pony abstract in acid
like a tongue-stain to the ground that burst it a lesson unstomach an olive branch know
like my head after being taught a spider wraps the spotted gecko that dares barrel blindly through this sacred home
how big I am to eat this instinct that-which-knows-no-currency signals wildly
Sarah is a poet from Queens, New York and current MFA candidate in Creative Writing at Cornell University. She’s had work published in a few journals, including NYSAI Press and Ambush Review. Her poem, "My Muslim Father Seizes the Thing on My Nightstand," was featured on MasterClass, as part of Billy Collins' online course on poetry.
the redheaded stepchild a home for rejected poems visit www.redheadedmag.com for more information & submissions
The Redheaded Stepchild only accepts poems that have been rejected by other magazines. We publish biannually, and we accept submissions in the months of August and February only. We do not accept previously published work. We are open to a wide variety of poetry and hold no allegiance to any particular style or school.
ODE TO THE EARTH, MY GARDEN, AND SOUTH LOUISIANABY: PARKER LOGAN
O salacious dirt, with hips wide enough to swallow trains whole, here are my things, the quarters in my pockets, my dimes, my eighth, here are my fingers sifting love in your dirt like shrimp in the water. People are walking above you, finding hair extensions and instant attractions, safety in lipstick and fake eyelashes. Big planet, we all look gorgeous. Even our fathers say we are cute.
You can have those, too, all the fathers, take the skin on my bones. Take the nails in my feet. I’ll give you the pink on my tongue
so that I may never speak. If we build a house, don’t call it home. If it’s a temple, I pray we won’t sleep alone.
O rolling rock, carry me like you carry the others. I’ll make us a bed from the lavender and cover us in blankets of sugar baby watermelons.
Parker Logan is the poetry editor of the New Delta Review. Originally from Orlando, Florida, he has a BA in English in from FSU and is currently pursu ing an MFA at LSU. He resides in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, where he gar dens and writes with his friends.
SATURDAY NIGHT NEW TESTAMENT PENTECOSTAL REVIVAL SNAKE HANDLER’S FANTASYBY: RAMSEY MATHEWS
Oh The Sweet By & By that a cappella wisdom of venom in my veins speaking in tongues writhing with the Holy Ghost.
The first bite hurts. Don’t fidget. Rattlesnake. Cotton Mouth. Copper Head.
I tell a lie & the serpent judges with old time religion. The second bite is the shit. Hornet. Fire ant. Horse fly. I surrender all.
Granddaddy died in the bed I sleep in. Pine resin. Crappie. Mullet. Cat. Granddaddy was the two-mile swamp holler champ.
Rock of Ages cleft for me Gethsemane. Snapping turtle. Cow tongue. Pickled pig feet. Barbed wire.
In the tobacco fields of my mind Morning has Broken. Corn cob. Horse barn. Tractor. Hay bales. Sunflowers.
Granddaddy beckons me home. There is power in my blood. I fly away on the wings of a snow-white dove.
HALLELUJAH LOSTBY: HEATHER HARRIS
Night’s Vapor never postured so clear— as with sleepless songbird’s melody near; cruelly cadencing me with words and phrases, phrases and memories. Memories, hostaging me from dusk ‘til dawn, dawn ‘til dusk, twilight to twilight, and then some.
On that night, that sacred blessed night, the same sky that we’d ever gazed upon was no longer black, no, it was purple— poignant purple stippled with radiant jewels from heaven, as if God himself wished to glimpse this giddy, glorious, gala.
Oh, and the moon was so blatantly brilliant in all of its perfection: cocked, crowing, and clad in its clamor for crazy.
That magnetic magnolia breeze was no longer light and airy, calming minds, and refreshing bodies, no, it was burning breath lusting in our ears; moaning out the reflections of our intentions.
And I was no longer rogue restless, stranger, no, I was now steadied staunch, star-gazer. no other star blazed brighter than he, how my retina’s rejoiced; refraction free.
Knocking back Neptune’s nectarous notions: sipped in starlight, steeped in sin, saturated in Saturn’s halo around our celestial hair and skin.
Freely frolicking tongues, fresh fingertip explorers, eyes’ erotic examination, hips and lips making moist merger.
powerful potent, passions, plunged paralyzed wide my pupils, and made dedicated disciple out of me.
The harps of happy hearts did play, as I sang, “Hallelujah,” all the hours of the day. And for the first time, this word had a meaning.
I suppose the danger in truth, was that ancient unknown abyss of his: secret, slippery, and steep: adorned in all of the mysteries of God. A delicate distant dimension; a Perfect Pythagorean portal— of which I had no privy.
I’d come to learn that when the sirens of death would call, I was no match to their lying lullabies. They brought apples of which I’d never known, plumply, picked from The Garden of Eden.
They tempted him with knowledge of good and evil, with sparkling miracles, and Angel’s breath. I was left with only my prayers, swears and bated breath.
Breathing only upon his return; exhales came finally, usually— but not this time.
For, sleepless songbird, did sing me A treacherous tale of Death, an arduous allegory. I’m told of how he swallowed her whole, just to steal his glory.
And, now Night’s vapor never postured so clear— as with sleepless songbird’s melody near; cruelly cadencing with words and phrases, phrases and memories. Memories, hostaging me from dusk ‘til dawn, dawn ‘til dusk, twilight to twilight, and then some.
Heather M. Harris is an emerging writer of memoir, poetry, short-stories, children’s books, and an illustrator who lives and writes in the New Orleans area. Heather holds a Master’s of Arts and Teaching and a Bachelor’s of Arts and Sciences in Psychology both from Southeastern Louisiana University. Heather is a contributor for The Blue Mountain Review, and a member of The Southern Collective Experience.
A THIEF, A NAKEDNESS, A BOAT FAR FROM SHOREBY: KELLI ALLEN
My legs are apart, twin otters sharing a stone between them. No longer on the windowsill of my mother’s womb, this body is not her body. The minnows we vomit we swallow back down— These slithering selves too much under water. Once upon a time Everything ends—the village, the woodcutting, the orphans’ hunger, and their fullness, too.
YOUR NAME IS MOUTH AT EACH END, TOOBY: KELLI ALLEN
It’s a hidden, lungless stone, this waiting. Whitebait might be emblematic of an immaturity
you still carry in the bulge of your knees, the way you swallow after speaking, after nodding in agreement.
Tell me, iron smith, man of coals and grinding, what did you expect after I took you in, closed
your thin waist with the parenthesis of my thighs? The reflection between my legs ate you right on up.
We still tell each other into flatness, into a stream populated with sleeping trout. I am sending you away
with a quilt, a goat’s pure stomach, and rough lapis. The corpse of our longing gets fed after shutting the door.
A STORY FOR LOOKING OVER WHEAT’S LONG CALFBY: KELLI ALLEN
The back of your knee is a cochlea winding its own catalogue of steps toward bedrooms. We used to burst into loss the instant I pulled a cloth between my legs. Erasure, yes, and foam collecting to persuade the shore that sometimes there is more to wishing a family line be swept away, be the eye of any storm we can’t hear as close as we are
to dying anyway. Lovers come easily, breakfast late, and bushes stay still for swallows too low to wake when we choke louder, deny more. You and I forget please and it does not matter because the bottle holds our black ship in its belly and the contract we signed stays, killing no one, putting no one to sleep. Our table one leg short of steady, but feast-sturdy, smooth
enough to satisfy both appetites, or otherwise, grind this body into yours enough to salt the whole banquet twice through. Just think how many lips crack tasting what is left of us in their wooden bowls. I have hated climbing through windows to see others’ contempt for their wives. We are safe, turtle king, feather counter, director of our longest play, whether I cut my fingers washing your stein, or just pretend to.
Kelli Allen’s work has appeared in numerous journals and anthologies in the US and internationally. Allen is the co-Founding Editor of Book of Matches literary journal. She is an award-wining poet, editor, and dancer. Her fiction has appeared in The Best Small Fictions 2022 and she is the recipient of the 2018 Magpie Award for Poetry. Her chap book, Some Animals, won the 2016 Etchings Press Prize. Her chapbook, How We Disappear, won the 2016 Damfino Press award. Her collec tions include, Otherwise, Soft White Ash, ( John Gosslee Books 2012), Imagine Not Drowning, (C&R Press 2017), Banjo’s Inside Coyote ( C&R Press 2019). Allen’s latest book is Leaving the Skin on the Bear, C&R Press, September, 2022. She cur rently teaches writing and literature in North Carolina. www.kelli-allen.com
A SPIRITUAL AWAKENING THAT WILL HAPPEN TO MY FUTURE SELFBY: KELLI RUSSELL AGODON
Maybe it will happen when I’m in Florida, drunk on Reborn vodka, discussing my bravery with a crocodile and understanding I’m after a while with a smile. Or maybe I’ll be walking anonymously with mildew eyelids, searching for a scone but offered a saint.
Or perhaps, I’m making a donation to Women Who Hold Sorrow Between their Bosoms because I’ve seen Mary crying on the cheap wallpaper in my grandmother’s home.
Or maybe a flame will appear in my hard seltzer. Or a chaplain will kiss the back of my neck. Um,
I meant, A priest, a nun, and a rabbit walk into a bar and the bartender says, “I think I’ve discovered a typo.”
Maybe I won’t get the joke. Or I am the joke. Or maybe I’m wearing a scarf and reading the display screen to heaven: Mistakes go unrecognized now. Click here to accept all cookies. Most likely I’m working at Mrs. Field’s understanding how the trays are so heavy they burn my arms, but there’s always a white-chunk macadamia nut with my name on it. Perhaps I’m not
ready for enlightenment and am a shadow of a folding chair, still I try to hold the moon in my bosom, knowing we are all lost and blue from so much rising.
IN A DREAM, MY SISTER BECAME AN EAGLEBY: KELLI RUSSELL AGODON
and steals her baby’s song, stores her baby’s tears in her nest atop an evergreen. There are no headlines in dreams, but if there were it would read: Silence is for the birds. It doesn’t surprise me she was tired of crying, a Lite-Bright was on the table along with a half-eaten sandwich.
When my sister was an eagle, she carried her wet sheets through the sky like a kite.
She wore a hat made of feathers and a skirt made of clouds. There are no headlines in wind current, but if there were it would read: Eagle is Tired of Being in Charge of Laundry. Make your own bed today, is what the garden said violets.
Make your own life is what my sister says to the salmon in her talons. As an eagle, my sister wears a t-shirt of an American flag and her own face. She was an endangered bird
until 2007 yet also a national symbol, but fuck the manatee, the Florida panther, the Woodland caribou. We don’t have you on our currency, so you’re a sidenote.
My sister the eagle suggests I worry too much about what’s dying. She said, You should fly away with me, leave the world that brings you pain
When I told her I am still human she suggests I dream myself with wings.
Kelli Russell Agodon’s newest book is Dialogues with Rising Tides from Copper Canyon Press. She is the cofounder of Two Sylvias Press where she works as an editor and book cover designer. Her other books include Letters from the Emily Dickinson Room (Foreword Indies Book of the Year in Poetry), Hourglass Museum (Finalist for the Washington State Book Award in Poetry), The Daily Poet: Day-By-Day Prompts for Your Writing Practice (coauthored with Martha Silano), and Fire on Her Tongue: An Anthology of Contemporary Women’s Poetry. She lives in a sleepy seaside town in Washington State on traditional lands of the Chimacum, Coast Salish, S'Klallam, and Suquamish people where she is an avid paddleboarder and hiker. She teaches at Pacific Lutheran University’s low-res MFA program, the Rainier Writing Workshop. Kelli is currently part of a project between local land trusts and artists to help raise awareness for the preservation of land, ecosystems, and biodiversity called Writing the Land. www.agodon.com / www.twosylviaspress.com
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INCAENDOBY: MARA ADAMITZ SCRUPE
The common name for Marmota monax – woodchuck – derives from the Algonquian wuchak meaning digger; in tribal legend Grandmother Woodchuck teaches patience & wisdom. i. the marmot’s cavil
I’m exegesis of dark-land huddle exquisitely homely in my intimate geography/ at crepuscular dawn’s stepball-change I’m a good but sleepless farmer’s
* kick & spit *
I put my head down * & dig * not – for now – questioning what does flesh want as certain instincts bring me at one fell swoop – melancholy & joy but in every best & worst aspect I’m
* dappled burn & spellbound * set alight at daybreak in this hole under the house I’m affliction beneath your floorboards my incisors grown longer/ sharper every day – I tease the cat behind a pane of glass/ as hoary a ghost’s firm scuttling my pig whistle’s
your warning – overhead your young play * Dvorak by heart * – as like to two groundhogs touching fiercely ardent/ nose to mouth one to another in naso-oral * contact * I’m the grandmothers’ legends of horse sense & hilarity in shivering seed heads in hope of grace I’m every old woman’s
mother/ spotted as the wrinkled skin I don’t try to hide across the foreheads of your hills/ obscure/ unpolished I’m the furry warden of your fallen places/ your ruins burrowed in the ground & who but me wants to live here anymore/ it’s too hard to sell or even sort the stuff you’ve left behind at your worst & mine/ at my * upshot * I’m feed for your cosseted carnivore pet: * ground-beaver meat * * ground-beaver bones *
* my heart/ my lungs my liver *
….the agony and the despair of spreading bones, the hard girdle in which lie the outraged entrails of events. William Faulkner, As I Lay Dying ii. in cloudless light
I said go down to the citadel & give word away undimmed as in an old Christian lady’s umpteenth trip to China each time smuggling forty pounds
of bibles in her backpack – the beatific officer-in-charge takes half the haul & keeps one for himself –
* for themselves *
my father & stepfather each said see you around to me the last time I saw them as they lay in the same room in the same wing dying one year apart
* see you around * * & where’s the wisdom in *
Cosmesis is the preservation restoration or bestowing of bodily beauty. iii. also cherry plums though invasive in some parts & also a piece of your hair I saved it/ seventeen inches long & lustrous my mother wrote * remember that *
also trees hoarding slews of our cuts & scars
I don’t know how much/ how many * yield & pine * & no one especially not me the wiser redressing my disfigurements my defects/ cosmesis after the incision true
I come from a place where people don’t round off the edges where every wound’s a lucky piece & a bluff’s a slant worked up to pitch & cherry plum puree’s also a recipe for beauty: four ripe plums a half glass of purified water a tablespoon of olive oil grind ingredients to gruel & refrigerate 24 hours spread the mask finely then wait 20 minutes rinse with warm water for smooth & naturally glowing
/// * burn fire ignify inflame *
& also my grandmother’s hundred-year-old walnut dropleaf table – agleam in sunlight raked through sashed muff -glass windows –
has seen more of this world than she ever did
& also & despite & yet I ascend a tenant of this fevered class but captured by my past & in it coffered – square nails & plain planed ash – & by these times this profane
maze of eos
I vow the opposite of revanche from the Latin revindicare – to claim or avenge – I rest the moral high ground/ purblind as a bellflower & in my humbling I’m emancipated
Look ahead as you follow signs. Animals take the paths of least resistance. – Chris Stall, Animal Tracks iv. defenseless laid bare
as the bright red path of a beast wounded & tracked/ front foot opposite hind I’m too tuned into mortal vice yet insufficiently
versed in the book of fine wild & mystery fingering grandma’s jet beads in churchy perfections in rosary merger
* of flower petal paste rolled & set in pot metal * * strung on lengths of ragged thread *
exchanged for prayers spent with a soundless * thud *
traded for a rude & precious message * kindling lighting up* these wretched times – still – advanced by raw degrees or stymied this is who I am & beyond in * spirit temper shade * * spit on an index finger/ check the way of the wind *
I’m imposter adrift or battered & bettered fractionally by hours days months & years/ paroled at this late
stage yet chambered in word & light/ from faith I take the rise room the only one available
AN EMBROIDERER’S GLOSSARY & NOTHING GONE TO WASTEBY: MARA ADAMITZ SCRUPE
alongside reminiscences & the picturesque/ in voice & parlance a land song of polygonal estate – that parcel northmost bounded by virtuosic waterways at division’s broadest expanse/ the James & the sinuous lesser River Slate –
study/ speculate/ reckon with * aqueous highway * * harbor asylum * * serous kinship *
chant hum croon east & downstream a strain cadenced to shake-a-leg rapids hastening to the sea stop & start again
Prunus cerasifera/ cherry plum/ Mirabella Plum śliwa wiśniowa – ours an ancient gnarled specimen far longer-lived than its allotted thirty years – & here’s your recipe for cherry plum jam: morning & evening cull the fallen in a five-gallon bucket
don’t mind the squirrels & bunnies they have to eat too –
refrigerate until it’s time for stewing fill a 10-quart kettle with your plums & add an inch or two of water & simmer three or four hours until the fruit releases its juices
push the mixture through a sieve mashing the stew with your hands to remove
pits & skins & return to a clean pot
add sugar to taste – Mirabellas are notoriously tart –& reduce down to your desired consistency for at least a full day hot or cold pack your harvest/ your product in shoulder-less jam jars for canning or freezing
then give it all away
/// alongside seductions feel for narratives – twined in stringed snares of mastery & subjugation – of these riverways’ quondam traders & runaway slaves & widow women escaping expectations/ an atlas of dividends
bearings by which I check my rectitude –in the tiniest anatomies/ the commonest decorative stitches:
* straight cross chain & fly * * running whip stem & feather *
in half-light of my fifty Appalachian piedmont acres/ the maximum I can reasonably care for/ for all this isn’t mine fruit trees arbors gardens & hardwood old growth
* replenish * * fill *
* backstitch *
an embroidered storyline of largesse after a parsimonious design/ an embroideress’s lavish adaptation in silk floss on loosely woven linen
* satin split darn or couch * for a civilized bathing-room rug or a fire screen or in my girlhood a handsewn linen dress a dark brown bodice pleated & fitted set off with ecru lace gathered & belted full skirted
at my waist or commence with impending ambition in roundels of animals in unfolding confrontations/ motifs with flourish & consequence/ Adam & Eve beforehand in the pale / a mossed forest composed of shadows sewn in hope that all this land the bounty
of it is not forfeited & unredeemed & counting my coyote blessings & granting benedictions on all those that once roam this land quotidian/ connected
* animal to animal *
& in attraction & revulsion/ in the imminent & the offing of naked beast & human slate wiped clean
& nothing gone to waste
DUMBARTON OAKS CATALOGUE OF THE COLLECTION 1946/ APOLAUSISORENJOYMENTBY: MARA ADAMITZ SCRUPE
* Plate 127 * pictured a woman’s byzantine parure/ brilliant set
* with pearls rubies & sapphires * * fastened with roundels of gold * * linked in chain of braided gold & prime emeralds *
* Plate 103 * pictured an ornamented flabellum
* a breath of mobile phalanges in partial gilt * * cherubim dressed in parchment & silk * * bordered in serpentine peacock feathers *
& imagine sitting at a dais with fans the size of a raptor’s wings at either hand waving away
* insects from the unconsecrated *
& imagine never ever again to work for what I want no more
* tables to serve * * toilets to clean * * griddles scrubbed shiny with a grill brick * imagine target practice any day hard
& tough as core
the source the cost –
* & all I have is this .22 * * & buckshot just inside the bedroom window *
/// * Plate 247 * pictured
boar hunt in Coptic wool
* a right-paneled figure one hand upraised the other grasping a bow & arrow *
* the blue-eyed bushy yellow-haired archer draws & aims for the wild boar *
/// * Plate 185 * pictured Apolausis or Enjoyment
* the bust of a girl holding a flower * * veil earrings necklace bracelet * * enclosed in a border of guilloche * * sinuous interlaced ribbons * * a mosaic with inscription forming the bottom of a bathing pool *
* Work of Unknown Provenance * not pictured
reticence & regrets & shames belied by good manners hammered into the have-not & for honor or more to the point indulgence is the downside of this meritocracy clasping laurel leaves at the summit’s base & no higher
& imagine the purplish bruise of heaven as berm to the chased – or a child’s or a grandchild’s abandonment of one who raised her made her –an unspecified female animal of some breed burrowed deep asleep/ insentient/ oblivious after a long hard slog through an entirely unmarked snowfall not a footprint in sight –
& at the end a tiny tea served solitary
in my auburn-haired Polack grandma’s three glazed whiteware cups & saucers– missing one –saved from her girlhood a present from Papa incinerated in a boiler explosion in 1910 & imagine living in that doll house/ thirsting & spinning & sooner or later at ninety-seven & barely breathing shrunk to a blind bald incontinent old woman dreaming in a child’s bed
Mara Adamitz Scrupe’s poetry and essays have been published in literary journals worldwide, her environmental installations, sculptures and artist books are held in international museum collections and her documentary films about rural places have won significant awards. She has received numerous creative grants and fellowships including MOZAIK Foundation EcosystemArtX Future Art Award, National Endowment for the Arts/CEC ArtsLink fellowship, District of Columbia (Washington, DC) Individual Fellowship, Virginia Museum of Fine Arts Fellowship and the Virginia Individual Artist Fellowship. She is a fellow of the MacDowell Colony and the Tyrone Guthrie Centre (Ireland), and has been awarded residencies by the Montalvo Arts Center, the Irish Museum of Modern Art Residency Programme (Dublin), and USF Verftet-AiR/Bergen (Norway). She is Dean and Professor Emerita of the School of Art, University of the Arts, Philadelphia.
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.
A r t A r o u n d S c u l p t u r e s B i k e R a c k P r o j e c t R o s w e l l i n P r i n t P o p U p P e r f o r m a n c e s P o p I n S e r i e s L o c a l A r t i s t s M a r k e t p l a c e M u c h m u c h m o r e !
R o s w e l l A r t s F u n d . o r g
E x p e r i e n c e R o s w e l l , G A t h r o u g h i t s p u b l i c a n d p e r f o r m a n c e a r t o p p o r t u n i t i e s !
ENDINGSBY: JOHN ROBERT LEE
“Time has no future” (Toni Morrison)
endings. not conclusions. yesterday’s memoir. tomorrow’s fantasy. today’s fraying edges of old lace. democracy’s partisan tyrannies. logic and reason: assassins hunted. your tattooed body like a Basquiat graffito. going to fat. distanced and masked. among supermarket shelves, news of another gone to Sheol. alone with modest groceries. grown shy of eyes and chatty mouths. so many fallen apart like decaying brown leaves under breadfruit trees in the abandoned garden. past passions tune themselves on the car radio with Marvin Gaye. how see each other again beyond duty and polite inattention. how fill our lips and arms and legs with each other,
again. endings. memoirs. fantasies. waiting now for the epiphany of our selves, beyond loneliness, beyond desire for the passing, the trifling, already forgotten endings. not conclusions...
SHALLON FADLIEN, WITHIN 2021
John Robert Lee is a Saint Lucian writer. His Collected Poems 19752015 (2017) and Pierrot (2020) are pub lished by Peepal Tree Press. Shallon Fadlien is a Saint Lucian artist resident in Os hawa, Ontario, Canada.
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 www.autismspeaks.org/get-involved
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
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 thecalliopegroup com
AMERIKABY: FRANK DE CANIO
America! You’ve tagged me like a Jew in Nazi Germany; invoked the Star of David as I stumble in review before your “tempest-tossed”; smug avatars of jeering mobs that commandeered the streets at Kristallnacht. No twisted cross whose “might makes right” with jackboots and goose-stepping feet could demonstrate a stronger appetite for blood than those who wave your stars and stripes. What suffering Son of Man could shoulder shame, defamed by Satan’s brownshirt prototypes, as I do, persecuted in His Name? No book-burning of pagan hordes compares, as brands, with merciless, self-righteous glares
of torch-bearing Christians. What hopes remain for me when the casement of my prison flashes stained-glass seraphim that ordain perdition through prisms of Christ risen? Am I to fight against a plight deemed right, and thus, expel myself from paradise?
Or submit in manacles, out of sight, till brought before God’s throng for sacrifice? And what striped uniform of red and white that girds the hapless with its brutal taunt could so consign one to relentless blight as democratic laws that just men flaunt with impunity? Even though you let me walk untouched, I tremble. For you set
the dogs of fear on me which, more than guards, can sense seditious thoughts, reporting plots occasioned by my torturers. Graveyards are my lot, and my mother’s patriots vandalized together with her tombstone. You’ve built a concentration camp of dread round me, America; squeezed my breastbone into knots of terror that jolt my head as if convulsed with poisoned gas. But worst of all, America, you’ve fixed a gloss on hate; a base for darker lights to burst upon with self-styled right. The stars, the cross, the swastika, the burning at the stake; what difference does it make, if the bones break?
Born & bred in New Jersey, Frank worked in New York City for many years. He loves music of all kinds, from Bach to Amy Winehouse, and attends a philosophy Café Philo, (in lower Manhattan, New York). He loves Dylan Thomas, Sylvia Plath as poets and Shakespeare as a playwright.
ANOTHER WINTER SUNRISEBY: GEORGE PERRAULT
if most of my dead haven’t, my daughter’s been gone now longer than she lived.
the light easing through yellows calling up what the trappiest said, your father building a rock wall:
you have all the time there is.
easy to think it means no rush, find the right place, stone by stone, but it’s a pebble in my mind
how the stream rounds us off working toward sand, working toward the dark bed of the ocean,
no sweet bye ‘n byes, just down here with our dead daughters and all that time ever is.
ARIANDEBY: FLORINDA RUIZ
Looming pain and fear have twisted old fibers in your body with the knots of an entangled jute rope. You have collapsed into a trembling heap, an old ball laying there disheveled on the ground, limp and thwarted.
But Ariadne inhabits you to unbind, to untie, to unravel without scissors, to weave out frightened strands, to unfurl the coarse yarn, to knit a soft silk ribbon and glide out of the maze into a newly braided world. Dionysus will join you at Naxos.
Florinda Ruiz is a native of Salamanca, Spain, and a college professor in southern Virginia. Although her writing is mostly academic in nature, her lifetime practice of poetry writing as a personal meditative tool has taken a public turn accompanying her photography in recent anthologies: Voic es on the Move (Solis Press, 2020) and Collateral Damage (UVA Press, 2021.) The submitted poems come from a new journey and a larger body of work that aims to unensnare the cascading emotions of facing and trying to survive a serious illness.
COACHELLA GIRLSBY: CHARLES JENSEN
In April they migrate west to the desert, drawn by cheugy Airbnbs, a ferris wheel, some band you’ve probably never heard of. They burrow into the sand for a sound bath of sound waves, wide-brimmed hats and crocheted tops tanning waffle print on their skin. The valley embraces this bounty. They put a stamp of LSD in the passports of mouths, travel light. They want to spot someone famous. They want to be Instagrammed like quail in nature, seemingly unaware of the lens that swallows up their soul, but looking like a million borrowed bucks. Luxury cars, their beasts of burden, wear faint veils of local dust pressed aside by windshield wipers into glyphs. Who will live laugh love when the weekend ends? The desert gives each body back to their city. Wind licks away their footprints. The rewilding takes minutes. Nature is a patient predator—she waits as long as it takes. What’s alive can’t outrun time. The Coachella girls know this about themselves. All things must die. But first, wine.
AFTER I WATCHED MY MOM DIE, I COULDN’T BRING MYSELF TO KILL ANOTHER LIVING THINGBY: CHARLES JENSEN
Even flies, even spiders. I scooped them up in a cup to liberate them on the free side of the patio door.
Each life felt essential. The housefly’s twenty-eight-day existence equal to a cycle of moon, so
each slice of face would be seen just once, its wax and wane an unfathomable miracle. Twentyeight days was how long I lived in my parents’ house before she passed. I cooked her meals
and we watched Drop Dead Diva but I will always remember we searched the closet for photos
of my grandmother in her youth to send back to her. In one box with the pics my mom had tucked
her workout gloves. Don’t throw those away, she told me. I’ll need them again. In five days she’d be
dead. But we didn’t know that then. Instead, I believed her and have never forgotten her courage. Flies slow down
before they die, making them easier to swat. It seems sometimes like they invite the act. Spiders live for years.
Maybe they keep track based on webs, or fertility cycles, or changes in weather. They weave over and over the same design. I read spiders fear their prey, which is why they trap their food, sealing
it in web so they can liquefy it like a protein smoothie. Sometimes I think cancer did that to my mom: wrapped her in dry-leaf skin, melted organs into a nondescript mass until she couldn’t breathe. I held
her hand when she passed and found it hard to let it go. Just a week before I believed she’d survive it all. Just a week.
She dropped her fork while taking a bite of lunch. That was how the end began. With a clatter. And the end
of the end was a breath. Do flies breathe? When they fly into a web and catch, do they know what’s to come? At the end of Psycho Norman Bates is dressed like his mother in custody. He sits alone in a holding cell. We hear her voice express how she will fool them all. A fly lands on his hand, scurries around. Look,
Norman imagines the police will say. She wouldn’t harm a fly. She, too, has seen how death obliterates.
Flies love the dead. They eat flesh and plant their babies in the body’s ripe soil. Death is their beginning.
In the midst of flies, we are in death. Let them live. One day we will welcome them into us.
Charles Jensen (he/him) is the author of the poetry collection Nanopedia and six chapbooks of poems. His third collection, Instructions Between Takeoff and Landing, was published by the University of Akron Press in 2022. His poetry has appeared in American Poetry Review, Crab Orchard Review, The Journal, New England Review, and Prairie Schooner, and essays have appeared in 45th Par allel, American Literary Review, and The Florida Review. He hosts The Write Process, a podcast in which one writer tells the story of crafting one work from concept to completion, and with Jo vonnie Anaya co-hosts You Wanna Be on Top?, an episode-by-episode retrospective of America’s Next Top Model.
BODIES AND BONESBY: ANNETTE SISSON
after Maggie Smith’s “Good Bones”
Life can break a child’s mind, sever its small avocado lobes. Others, who also know the world’s hurts, are adroit, nerved for survival.
Until his wife died, we didn’t know my grandfather’s appetite for girls. At three I tattled about bodies, then wallpapered the morning in a bright floral. There, it waited decades for the paste to crack open.
Some days are more than half terrible. The world vaunts its bad bones, bodies stranded in deep mud. Other days the world rises, grasps for the daylight, ropes, water wings.
My three-year-old son witnessed Mallards mating in a March lake, inquired. I narrated reproduction as if reciting a family recipe. Oh Mommy, I’m sorry— that must have hurt. He patted my arm, crinkled his forehead; I envisioned scars, his skin so mild. Six months later on the Nature Channel, owls coupling— new round, the same questions.
Sell the young the world in bits? Maybe. A boy—your son, or mine— outside with his dog, doesn’t hear the neighbors’ dispute or catch the reek of the garbage truck. He is enthralled by a praying mantis, triangle head turned at 180, copulating with a female, her mandibles cleaving him in two, down to the thorax, consuming his meager body ecstatic and alive.
Annette Sisson has poems in numerous literary journals including Nashville Review, Typishly, One, The West Review, HeartWood Literary Magazine, and Sky Island Journal. Her full-length book, Small Fish in High Branches, is forthcoming from Glass Lyre Press (2021); her chapbook, A Casting Off, was published by Finishing Line in 2019. She was named a 2021 Mark Strand Poetry Scholar for the Sewanee Writers’ Conference, a 2020 BOAAT Writing Fellow, and won The Porch Writers’ Collective’s 2019 Poetry Prize. http://annette sisson.com
dragon of a plantationBY: LYNNE KEMEN
I start to think you stink like Beowulf.
Strong, spattered with sugar or salt or death. The fault of your lust and disgust for even the accolade of king-climate change indeed, clambered, clamored, and enamored you to no one.
I dreamt we hoped then saw no hope-no feet attached to spindly old-man legs. Can’t fly away, can’t take none of it for granted. But you planted your bastard son, the gold dragon of a plantation.
I decide desire, destiny drawings dropped kiss, soft as a feathered angel’s wings a’ flutter. Brave, guarded, glance, grin. I wish we’d died, grinning sightless eyes.
Be it Beowulf or Grendel, Anglo-Saxon drawn disassembled. Anaphora resolution, resolute. A disgusting hero’s revolution.
It is a bird.
It is a man.
Norman warrior or warbler.
“UNTITLED” BY ROSE MARY BOEHM (PERU, B. GERMANY) C1980S
Lynne Kemen is a citizen of Upstate New York. Her chapbook, More Than a Handful, was published in 2020. She is published in Silver Birch Press, The Ravens Perch, Poetica Review, Spillwords, Topical Poetry, and Blue Mountain Review. Lynne stands on the Board of Bright Hill Press. She is an Editor for the Blue Mountain Review and a lifetime member of The Southern Collective Experience.
PURPLE ROLLER SKATES SAVED MY LIFEBY: CANDICE KELSEY
I want off this tilt-a-whirl called middle age.
The spun sugar melts & life, like all good amusement park rides, falls into one of three categories:
Gravity rides, whose youthful roller coaster thrills shoot from no fixed point & flat rides, whose parallel planes keep the axis centered, movement grounded & vertical rides, with their skyward thrusts, pendulum farewells.
I’ve spent my tickets on gravity rides, youth’s water slides, & I am not ready to throw both arms above my salt-sprayed head in the final Ferris wheel turn.
These bumper car fifties, my carousel marriage— I am ready to cut loose the neon band from my wrist & drive fast into a vast and startling stillness.
Except suddenly today an adventure: A friend called me away from work & toward her car to give me a surprise. She had forgotten it in the trunk this morning; a box of purple roller skates just for me.
My gravity heart now tilting vertical.
Whirling across the Rite-Aid parking lot in our hall-of-mirror costume heels we laughed like children tugging their parents’ hands come on toward the arcade.
Soon, I was popping balloons with darts & tossing my heart like a red ring back into this life.
Candice Kelsey is an educator and poet living in Georgia. She serves as a creative writing men tor with PEN America’s Prison & Justice Writing Program; her work appears in Grub Street, Poet Lore, Lumiere Review, and Poetry South among other jour nals. She is the author of Still I am Pushing (2020) and won the Two Sisters Micro Fiction Con test (2021). Recently, she was chosen as a finalist in Cutthroat’s Joy Harjo Poetry Prize. Find her @candicekelsey1 and www. candicemkelseypoet.com.
SOMEDAY THE PLAN OF A TOWNBY: TODD BOSS
—right down to its sidetracks and back alleyways—will match—or so goes the dream—with some identical patch of neural network your rogue thoughts roam in—overlay it like those musculoskeletal transparencies with which anatomy textbooks come bound—and you’ll be at home in its dogleg jointwork of cobbled kinks—and your body will resound at every fork, tuning-fork-like— and every road you ever rambled will be re-scrambled to appear to have brought you here where you fit so perfectly, where you can practically predict where to find every bench or postbox, and where you can cue every little old lady who leaves her flat to buy bread—as if she were locking up a little room in your head and trading your idea of money for your idea of food before returning to wipe her shoes on the mat your mind’s laid flat and fit her flat key to its shoulder into the strike plate keyhole through which you daily romance her as she grows older— that worn, dome-topped slot that looks as if two question marks met on the road to kiss and mate and make one question opening, opening—each forever the other’s only answer.
Todd Boss is a poet, lyricist, and inventor, who sold all his possessions in 2018 to become a nomad. His most recent book of poems is Someday the Plan of a Town, published by W. W. Norton & Co
TENDERBY: JOSHUA BARNHART
I don’t know it yet— their marriage will end, we’ll move, and I’ll wonder whatever happened.
Mom is in the garden, pulling weeds, tilling earth, while I wander barefoot, chomping carrots, eating dirt.
I like to crawl around in the muck of the yard, pull plants apart and taste directly from the ground.
Mom sings spiritual songs while she works,
I am the sky, mother, I am the sky… her gloved hands seizing every last intruder, her joyful focus an infectious lead.
I steal a radish, run along the lettuce, rows of corn, the fog almost reflecting the color from the yard.
I can’t help but brush the nettles with my legs, the red, stinging shock, the precipitance of pain.
Joshua Barnhart is a poet and musician from California who performs music under the name Strange Pilgrim. They currently live in Corvallis, OR, pursuing a poetry MFA at Oregon State University.
LIGHTNIN’ IN HOPKINS BOTTLEBY : SEAN MURPHY
He was Lightning in a bottle: that’s how it happened—to him & so many other unacknowledged kings of the idiom we know, now isn’t all the rage, if it ever was. Maybe they drank excessively to endure the indignity, or embrace the fact that they couldn’t survive; a little medicine to assuage the pain.
Not all of them needed the nectar; consider Howlin’ Wolf hectoring the unrestrained Son House, saying you had a chance with your life and holy hell if that doesn’t hit harder than white lightning, or anything that lightens the load, lights up this world: that’s what art does; what music is; what the blues are.
RICHARD PRYOR’S FLESHBY : SEAN MURPHY
Every man who tells the truth has to take the heat: Face it, eat it, bathe in it, and pour lighter fluid on the flames—this is just what a genius does.
Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering… You see, the gods demand abnegation, their alms. Mere mortals can put cash in the basket, but certain sorts of men pay a different way— the kind of currency that leaves singed skin and scars: that’s the price of admission.
When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned… How? Bodies are only boats, surrounded by the spirits. Why? If you have to ask you’ll never know. Prove you mean it, that means you’re real. This life only hurts because you’re alive.
Sean Murphy’s The Blackened Blues published in 2021. His second book of poetry, Rhapsodies in Blue, and This Kind of Man, a collection of short fiction, are forthcoming in 2023. He’s been nominated three times for the Pushcart Prize and twice for Best of Net. He is Founding Director of 1455, a non-profit that celebrates storytelling. Visit seanmurphy.net and 1455litarts.org.
Ready to Make Your Brand a Best-Seller?
GRATITUDE, PERHAPSBY : VALERIE BACHARACH
Some days it is right before my eyes; sky transformed to canvas, all lavender and rose, punctuated by Venus and a solitary crow.
Once my husband and I hiked along the Gros Ventre river as it curled its way through rocks and trees, water so clear we could see small fish, gleaming
tumbled pebbles. Cumulus clouds piled on top of razor-edged peaks as swallowtails scored the sky.
A group of starlings is a murmuration, like a thousand-thousand hearts beating as one.
Some days, gratitude hides, unrepentant in my body’s dark interior: remembering my mother’s voice unmooring from her body, my father lifting an empty spoon to his mouth, my son’s shadow as it vanishes.
Yet look. A red-tailed hawk erupts from a towering oak, skims the curves of my roof, its body a silver sheen in sun.
Once, my husband stood by a turquoise lake in New Zealand, caught ice freed from a glacier 20,000 years old, held the past in his hands.
Isn’t memory, sometimes, a type of gratitude? A blessing?
The way it sparks the mind, flushes the heart with thrumming blood.
GRACE NOTESBY : VALERIE BACHARACH
What is the secret to loving this world?
Perhaps to simply remember, to notice fragile white blossoms opening on a tree whose name I can’t recall,
or the azalea in the courtyard, covered with blooms as purple as the grape popsicles of my childhood, my mother breaking them in half, one for her, one for me. Our stained mouths, mingled laughter.
And here, a cardinal, brilliant as a lit match, preens on a branch, moss greens on stones, euphorbia grows new leaves of orange striped with bronze.
Each morning, while the sky is still dark, a robin sings me awake, punctures dreams I can’t recall.
I think of my son, gone from this world too soon. Wonder, will we find each other again? Will our atoms transform, become part of this spinning earth, mix with new-born leaves, the roots of onions, an earthworm plodding in darkness?
The wind gentles into breeze, carries the scent of spring rain, of nourishment. Small puddles reflect budding trees.
Valerie Bacharach’s writing has appeared or will appear in: The Ekphrastic Review, Vox Populi, Whale Road Review, The Blue Mountain Review, EcoTheo Review, Kosmos Quarterly Journal, Amethyst Review, On the Seawall, Poetica, Minyon Magazine, One Art, and Writer’s Foundry Review. Her chapbook Fireweed was published in August 2018 by Main Street Rag. Her chapbook Ghost-Mother was published by Finishing Line Press in July 2021. She has been nominated twice for a Pushcart Prize.
NEW FROM BESTSELLING HISTORIAN
“A gripping account of the politics that led to Southern secession, war and the abolition of slavery.”
The New York Times Book Review
“Mr. Brands…offers a lesson that has never been timelier.”
The Wall Street Journal
“A book that deserves to become foundational reading for America’s new reckoning with slavery, race, and racism.”
Harold Holzer, author of The Presidents vs. the Press and winner of the Gilder Lehrman Lincoln Prize
The epic struggle over slavery, told through the lives of John Brown and Abraham Lincoln.
The Ghost Gospels
the ghost gospelspoems by: laura ingram
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 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.”
This is a collection that will break your heart and hand it back to you illuminated between the cracks, for like Kintsugi, the Japanese art of using gold to highlight the cracks in repaired pottery, Ingram’s poems embrace wounds and imperfections rather than glossing over them, modelling that through careful attention and reflection, the selves we can create after we have been broken can be stronger and more beautiful than before.
To puchase your copy or contact the poet: firstname.lastname@example.org
Each copy $10
the latest work from
FOR THE 70’S GIRLSBY : PATTY SMITH
The seventies girls were always wanting. We wanted jewels and fancy dresses, shoes to go dancing in. We wanted jazz and wailing saxophones, parquet floors and afternoon sunlight filtered through six-foot windows. We wanted everything we knew we would never have—no Prince Charming, no rich relatives to save the day. It wasn’t as if we weren’t happy. It’s just that we imagined that everyone else lived lives of abundance, like the ones we saw on T.V. and we couldn’t imagine how to get what we wanted.
So instead, we caught fireflies. We rode bikes to the dead end and skipped rocks in the creek. We held secret meetings in the bamboo forest and we pretended it was enough.
And later, when we cooled off in the sprinkler and tanned on towels in the grass, we listened to songs that made us long again, made us want with fervor, made us wish that instead of the back yard, we were in bikinis on a beach, lighting someone’s fire like the lyrics we loved, that voice on the radio we wanted to be singing to us, only to us, we knew we would always be wanting.
Patty Smith is the author of the novel
The Year of Needy Girls. She currently teaches American literature and creative nonfiction at The Appomattox Regional Governor's School in Petersburg, VA. I live in Chester, VA with her wife and she is at work on her second novel.
JOYEUX NAVIDADBY : BRANDT SCHEIDEMANTEL
Carolina Gonzalez Rojas Rivera Wertheim of Buenos Aires attended the Sorbonne in Paris. Outside a café on Rue Mouffetard, François de la Anatole Diaghilev bummed a cigarette off Carolina.
“Merci,” said François. Carolina blushed. “De nada.”
Carolina boinked François. Their bodies were young and hungry. Carolina and François had never felt more alive, and they probably never would again. They shared cigarettes in bed, and Carolina scribbled in her hip, cosmopolitan, multilingual journal: soul on fire
That same day, Carolina’s older sister Hermana La Carlota, genuflected before the shrine of the Virgin Mary in the Easter Island Parish of the Roman Catholic Church. Hermana La Carlota prayed for deliverance. “Bless me Lord for I have sinned,” she pleaded. She connected with the Holy Spirit. “Today, I gave in to lust. Today,” she whimpered, “I gave in to hate.”
Poor Hermana La Carlota had run into a pair of Mormon missionaries named Brice and Stephen. As God did flood the desert, so did Stephen’s gaze flood Hermana La Carlota’s white, virgin panties. Stephen and Carlota made the beast with two backs.
“We’ve thrown away our religions,” Carlota lamented. “They weren’t any good anyhow,” said Stephen. “Maybe not yours,” she said, and slapped him.
At Christmas in Buenos Aires, La Carlota and Carolina drank red wine on the balcony of their family apartment. Mom and Dad were cooking inside.
“I lost my virginity,” said Carolina.
“I lost my religion and my virginity,” said La Carlota. “One-upping slut.” “Wannabe bitch.”
Carolina and La Carlota clinked their glasses. Joyeux Navidad
Brandt Scheidemantel is a freelance writer living in Playa del Carmen. He studied Romance Languages at Duke University. His fiction has been published by Grindstone Literary.
STAR TURNBY : JAMES PENHA
I was ten years old in the mid-1950s when I appeared on a live TV kiddie quiz show hosted from New York coastto-coast by one-time B-movie (The Walking Dead with Boris Karloff) and serial (The Spider) actor Warren Hull and a 14-year-old Vanna White of a co-host. Not The Vanna White; a Vanna Whitish little girl dressed in a party dress who alternated with Warren to ask me questions—all of which I answered correctly!
I won a Sylvania television set with its halo light, a set of luggage, a gift certificate to use from the Spiegel catalog, and a cocker spaniel puppy Vanna cradled in her arms before handing it to me. The dog licked my fingers, and I smiled. “I bet,” Warren said, smiling, “you’d rather have a kiss from Vanna than from that pup.” Vanna approached and puckered, ready to give me a peck, but I turned away, reddening although the home audience, watching in black and white, couldn’t see the color of my embarrassment. “What’s the matter, son? Shy?”
“Not shy, Mr. Hull. And I’m sorry, Vanna… but I like boys.”
It was Warren and Vanna’s turn to blush. Warren tried to reroute the program back to the network’s Standards and Practices. “Of course, you do, son. But in a few years, you’ll like girls too. Trust me.”
“No, I like to kiss boys. My best friend Joey and I kiss each other all the time.” Joey, watching at home, would, at this point, have seen a test pattern on the TV as I was ushered off the stage of the New Amsterdam Theater.
But Joey didn’t see the test pattern. He didn’t hear the first queer to come out of the closet on national television. He saw me allow Vanna to kiss my incarnadined cheek.
Expat New Yorker James Penha (he/him) has lived for the past three decades in Indonesia. Nominated for Pushcart Prizes in fiction and poetry, his work is widely published in journals and anthologies. His newest chap book of poems, American Daguerreotypes, is available for Kindle. His essays have ap peared in The New York Daily News and The New York Times. Penha edits The New Verse News, an online jour nal of current-events poetry. Twitter: @JamesPenha
VERBBY : ANNE COLWELL
She wasn’t surprised to see him there on the dusty shoulder of the Pennwood Road, though she was fifty years older and he was exactly the same age he’d been the last time she’d seen him.
The late afternoon sun slanted across the windshield, and she knew him by the way he angled his head down, hands in his pockets. When the car passed into the shadow of the oak, he lifted his face and he raised his eyes to hers. He wore a flannel-checked shirt, though it was August and hot. His hair fell in fine dark bangs across his forehead. She didn’t not stop or turn around,but kept looking after him in the rearview mirror as she passed. Some women would have tried to explain it: the onset of dementia, a ghost, an omen or angel. Some would blame the light, a trick of the eyes, the years of remembering without knowing what became of him. Not Ellen.
She drove to the diner and waited there, sitting at the counter sipping her coffee until their booth was open. When she sat, he slid in across from her.
“Have you been here all along?”
He didn’t answer but wrapped one hand around her coffee cup as they both watched the steam rise from its dark surface.
“I live here all my life.” She understood then. This would be the language of the new place. Verbs with no tense; straddling the now, stretching long, like a shadow, in both directions.
Anne Colwell is a professor of literature and creative writing at the Universi ty of Delaware and has published two books of poems, Believing Their Shad ows (Word Poetry 2010), and Mother’s Maiden Name (Word Poetry 2013). She received Established Artist Awards in fiction, poetry and nonfiction from the Delaware Division of the Arts. Her poems, short stories, and essays have appeared in numerous journals, includ ing: Bellevue Literary Review, California Quarterly, Southern Poetry Review, and The Madison Review. She has been a member of the staff at Bread Loaf Writers Conference and a visiting professor at the University of Granada in Spain.
GOOD GRIEFBY : PHILLIP STERLING
The idea of a grief competition was bad enough, but the fact that his own mother had entered the contest was proof that she was beyond help and it was up to him to do something.
It’s all in good fun, she’d said. For a good cause. To raise money for her group leader’s non-profit: Grievers Against Grieving [G.A.G.]. Not to mention the Grand Prize—a weekend get-away to a luxury spa in the Berkshires. Your father’s stroke has surely given me an edge, she continued—not to mention Nana’s cancer last summer and your sister’s disappearance the spring before. Besides, Second Place is financial counseling for six months—and your dad’s left the accounts in a mess. How could I go wrong?
Mother, he said. Even in italics the word fell short of his exasperation.
I know, she said. I know. But suppose something would happen to you—not that I wish for that, Sweet heart, you understand—or even the dog.
It’s always been the family dog, Jerry. I mean, who cared for him when you were at college? Who fed and brushed him for those two years? Who took him to the vet’s?
Seems to me, said Jerry, Dad did.
Exactly, said his mother. And where is your father now, in my time of need?
It was a logic that could not be refuted. Jerry’s father was indeed dead. And his mother was clearly beyond grief. He would have to be more careful from now on. He would have to make sure the gate was secure and the dog kept safely in the yard.
LIKE YOU SEE ON TVBY : PHILLIP STERLING
What it was about, if you can imagine, was in fact a wooden spoon.
Not the fancy, hand-tooled kind, but the kind one buys four-for-$8.99, in assorted sizes, at Target. The kind that some people—I won’t mention any names—put in the dishwasher just the same, while others wash by hand. Did you know they are supposed to be washed by hand and not put in the dishwasher according to some people? I didn’t.
Some people rub them with oil, I hear, every so often, after so many washes, like cast iron. But wood is nothing like cast iron. You know better than to put cast iron in the dishwasher. Wood is wood and that’s what it was about. Or so I heard.
You can’t believe everything you hear.
Still, it was not about him, she said, not about the words or her throbbing breasts. Not about her sobbing or the color of the paint, not about her change of mind, though you might think that. No. What it was, was about the spoon, a stupid wooden spoon—, Goodness!
—and the hands of the painter, the awful color of the paint spattered on his knuckles—someone else’s paint, she’d said—on the well-muscled but thin-haired hands of the painter, who just happened to be there at the time . . .
And all because of the spoon?
All because of the spoon, yes. Or so I heard. But she never said which size. She never said if she was sorry.
PANTOMIMICBY : PHILLIP STERLING
Harriet was in a mood, wanting something that would burn softly. She looked up smoldering online. She read: “To undergo slow or suppressed combustion.” She read that one of her neighbors was cited for burning leaves during the drought, and the minister of the Presbyterian Church was asking that the congregation pray for Deacon Stilbreath, who learned on Friday that his wife was suspected to have smoldering myeloma, “A precursor stage of multiple myeloma.”
She learned that myeloma was considered to be active if ‘CRAB features’ were present, and that Dungeness crabmeat was expected to be scarce and pricy this year. She read: “Hatred smoldered beneath a polite surface.”
She read that despite several months of containment, fire officials in California warned that small embers in remote areas may still be viable. The Red Cross was seeking contributions to that end. Harriet donated through PayPal.
She ordered six different scents of incense, a gross of each, charged her husband’s debit card. Harriet put the kettle on for tea, under a low fire. She was in no hurry. She knew he would return in a few days, and any packages by the front door would signal that an apology was in order.
SAVEDBY: JOSHUA BEGGS
“We are gathered here today,” Father Enders begins, and already, already I get chills. “To cele brate not an ending, but a transition: from life, to Life Eternal.” Goosebumps.
It’s always a beautiful thing, the service for somebody’s passing—solemn, but beautiful. The lilies, dozing around the room. The table, shrouded and set with silver. Father Enders, leading it all, robed in white.
It makes me shiver now, thinking that I almost missed my chance for Life Eternal. When Fa ther Enders first knocked on my door, I barely cracked it open, ready to slam it shut again and throw the latch as soon as he’d opened his mouth. I’d heard promises of eternal life before—everyone has.
Advertisements for salvation on highway billboards. Operations run out of strip malls and renovated fast-food restaurants. Flyers tucked under windshield wipers with slogans like Even YOU can live forever and Unlock eternal life TODAY.
But Father Enders’ brand of salvation, it was nothing like anything I’d ever heard of before. He wasn’t offering eternal life—he was offering Life Eternal.
You could hear the difference, in the way he said it. Clear and cool and weighty. It froze me in place in my open doorway. He handed me a pamphlet, told me to read it over, said it was an invest ment in my future. “Your eternal future,” he told me, winking one glittering, glacier-blue eye, smiling to match his picture on the pamphlet, the same clean and close-lipped smile he’s wearing now, up at the lectern.
“She shall go to her resting place in peace,” he reads from the paper in front of him while I follow along on the copy in my lap, “finding comfort in the promise of Life Eternal.”
We hold the silence for a few moments before Father Enders nods towards the ivory baby grand piano. Jenn, his partner, plinks the high opening notes of a requiem. One of my favorites. My sniffle echoes crisply in the cool air—Father Enders glances down from the lectern, piercing me with his gaze. I blink and pretend I’ve been watching Jenn this whole time. Jenn and I first met at the outreach potluck. I’d arrived still clutching Father Enders’ bro chure, wrinkled and creased from all the times I’d tossed it in the trash and pulled it back out again. Every other person there was already a member—I could feel their cold stares as I sat down at the only empty folding table, placed in the dead center of the room.
My heart nearly stopped when someone tapped my shoulder. But it was only Jenn. “Hiya,” she greeted me, spinning the metal folding chair around on one leg and straddling it backwards. She’d won me over, instantly, with her hiya, with her snow-soft smile, with her gelled-up white hair. Jenn had brought the frosted sheet cake, and never stopped apologizing for it, saying the edges had come out crispy, the center had gone goopy, the frosting was practically melting, just look at it. I took a slice, to be polite. It was the most delicious thing I’d ever tasted.
“Do you have these outreach things often?” I asked, gesturing to the tables draped in white and crowned with pitchers of iced tea, the serving counter with my casserole steaming between Jenn’s glistening cake and Father Enders’ shimmering aluminum trays of cold pasta salad and blue Jell-O.
Jenn shrugged modestly. “Every once in a while, but visitors are welcome at any of the ser vices. Always nice to have a fresh face to liven up the place.” She chuckled at her own joke.
“And the…um, the members.” I looked down at my empty glass of tea, rolled it between my
palms, watched the ice tumble around inside. “They wouldn’t mind visitors, either?”
Jenn only threw back her head and laughed. “Do they look like they mind?” When I hesitated, she sighed through an open-mouthed grin. “Oh, come on. They’re just people.”
She took me around the room and introduced me to the Nguyen family, the Gonzales sisters, the Patels and their adorable little toddler. She told me their professions and hobbies and funny stories about how she’d convinced them to become members, just like she was sure she’d convince me. I still wasn’t sure I believed in Life Eternal—much less that I’d want to spend my time there with them—but, by the end of the day, I could at least look the members in the eye and smile. Sometimes, I even thought they might be smiling back.
That was over a year ago, though. Now, it’s hard to imagine how I ever felt uneasy around them. Where else have I ever seen so many people, so at peace? The men and women and children, all dressed up, standing serenely while Jenn sings through the piano. Turning their heads ever so slightly to listen. Tightening their faces into the most delicate smiles. Humming along, under their breath, just barely too soft to hear—or maybe that’s just my imagination.
The last notes from Jenn’s song hang in the air like chimed icicles. Watching her massage the stiffness out of her fingers, a horrible thought melts over me. How long will it be before Father Enders is up at the lectern leading the service for Jenn’s passing? Five years? Ten? God, I’ll miss her. Even though I know we’ll be awakened in Life Eternal together, I’ll still miss her, for all that time in between.
“Thank you, Jenn.” Somehow, Father Enders’ voice preserves the stillness. “Let us continue with the reading.”
Closer to the front of the room, the Patels’ toddler is standing on her chubby legs, staring at me with her giant doll eyes. Her parents smile down at her from either side—I smile at her, too, and wave from the hip. She just keeps staring, blank-faced, the way kids sometimes do. She doesn’t understand what’s happening, but that’s okay. She will, someday.
After the outreach potluck, I came to the first service I could. I felt certain the members’ eyes were all following me as I’d entered. During the service, while Father Enders was busy up at the table at the front of the room, Jenn snuck over and slid into the seat next to me. “Glad you came,” she whispered. I hugged my arms tight around my body. “Th-, thanks.”
Jenn patted my thigh. “Don’t be nervous. If anything, you should be excited to get to know the people you’ll be sharing Life Eternal with.”
A chill sprinted up my spine in icy stilettos. “Me? I only came back to visit because—” “Exactly.” Jenn clamped her spindly pianist’s fingers around my knee and gave it a squeeze. “You came back. And you wouldn’t have, if you weren’t really interested.”
She’d seen right through me. I did everything I could to stay skeptical, I couldn’t resist coming back, sometimes for services, sometimes just to visit. Breathing in the bracing faith all the other members exuded. Soaking in the cool resolve seeping out of them and into me, all the way down to the bone. Feel ing my certainty solidify each time we listened together to Father Enders up at the lectern, just like we are now.
“She will never have to know death,” he’s saying, his eyes a brilliant blue-white under the fluo rescent bulbs, not reading anymore, just sharing the good news, really selling it, like he did that day he handed me the brochure. “For her, the price of death has already been paid. Passing on while so young, it’s nothing to be afraid of. It’s admirable—it’s enviable! Can you imagine, being frozen for eternity in the full bloom of youth?”
Eternity. The stone-cold solidity of that word! A point for hope to latch onto and grow, fanning out in crystalline fractals. Even though I don’t take my eyes off Father Enders for a second, I still imagine all the other members nodding along with me.
If only everyone could understand, like they do. The only people I’ve ever invited to a service were my parents. I’d thought they’d be delighted to see Father Enders’ brand of radical hope for themselves, to meet all the new friends I’d made.
We haven’t spoken since.
Not since my mother grabbed me by the wrists in the parking lot and sobbed that I was throw ing away my time—my money—my life. Not since my father said, “Those people in there…” then held a fist to his mouth, turned away, and gagged.
They were what decided me, my parents. If they didn’t want to share Life Eternal with me, well. I knew a whole room full of people who would.
Father Enders found me waiting for him outside his office as soon as my parents had left. “I’m ready to become a member,” I blurted, even though his arms were still full of the silver he’d used in the service, the back of one hand still flecked with wine-dark stains.
But Father Enders worked with the same clean efficiency as in his services. He called Jenn into the office to be my witness, right there and then. It only made sense. She’s Father Enders’ busi ness partner, after all. She took my payment, wrote me a receipt, and with her hand on my shoulder, I signed my name, then watched as Father Enders did the same, his white sleeves rolled up to keep from smearing the contract. The same contract I have a copy of in my lap. The same contract he’s just finished reading, now, up at the lectern. This is the service for my passing, after all.
Father Enders takes off his glasses, wipes away the condensation. “Do you accept these terms?” he asks, his breath fogging in the air.
Around the room, all the members hold their breath, all the people I’ll share Life Eternal with. Louise and Francois, Tsukiko and her seeing-eye dog, the Patels’ toddler with those enormous, unblinking, glassy eyes. Such a welcoming community, even in these windowless white walls. Such vibrant love, even from so many blue, bloodless bodies.
I stand from my seat, shivering, and I answer, “I do.”
Father Enders straightens his white lab coat, smiling that cool, close-lipped smile.
He helps me up onto the procedure table, shrouded and set with silver: syringes, scalpels, foil packets of gauze. He snaps a pair of gloves over his hands and flicks on the surgical lamp overhead, and after that, everything becomes a blur. The anointments, the injections, the final consent. Father Enders leading me to one of the steel capsules ringing the room, the one right beside the Patels. Jenn smiling proudly from the piano as I step inside, her music cutting off as the glass door slides shut, clear and cool and weighty.
Thick fluid worms through the catheter in my arm. Cold mist whispers through the vents down my sides. The glass frosts over, blurring the outline of the words etched there, the same words printed on Father Enders’ brochures: Life Eternal Cryopreservation Services.
Joshua Beggs is a 2019 graduate from Hendrix College and a current MD candidate at Kansas University Medical Center, with publications appearing in Bamboo Ridge, MAYDAY, Fleas on the Dog, Chestnut Review, and elsewhere. In his free time, he volunteers as a Spanish interpreter at his local free clinic, makes a podcast (which his mom says is awesome), and maintains an ongoing writing portfolio at his very imaginatively named website, joshuabeggs.com
ACCIDENTSBY: TONY HOZENY
Crystal and her new man had taken his two sons, Kevin and Tanner, to Chicago for a pro-soc cer game, and they were staying overnight. So Tom was facing a long, empty weekend. He decided to fill the time with something familiar, the Jefferson Summer Festival.
The festival grounds were bounded by a gravel access road, the railroad line, and the Rock River. He estimated the crowd at 300, all ages. A country band played on a small stage, and mid dle-aged women danced the two-step. Most of the the men lounged at the edge of the beer tent. He wandered along the small midway, past the Rifleman Booth, where he’d once spent $22 to win a three-foot-tall stuffed pink bunny for Crystal. The boys loved the bumper cars, crashing into each other and giggling when they got each other stuck. Year after year, Tanner begged to go on the tilt-a-whirl. Finally, Crystal let him, warning him he’d probably get sick, and he did.
Tom started back to his truck, but a sudden commotion stopped him. Five young men, all clutching beer bottles, encircled a sixth young man, laughing and cheering him on as he chugged a beer, then another. “Awesome!” shouted the big blonde guy. Another man slapped him on the back, nearly knocking him over. Trying to steady himself, the drunken man wobbled and slid against the big guy, who caught him enough to let him gently slide all the way down to the grass patch near the curb, where he passed out, his head lolling weirdly back over the curb. His buddies, still laughing, turned away and shuffled off toward the beer tent.
Tom walked over and looked at the man: red matted hair, red face, black “Party Hardy” tee and new jeans. He thought he should at least move the man’s head to the grass.
“Don’t touch him!” snapped a woman who’d come up next to him. She was fine-featured with hard blue eyes. She wore cutoffs and a green tank top.
“Just help me get him up out of the curb.”
“No! I used to be a CNA. You move him wrong, you could paralyze him. I’ll call 911.”
“What if he starts vomiting? He might not be able to breathe.” “I know what I’m doing.” She brushed her puffy blonde hair away from her face and called. Tom and the woman stood in uncomfortable silence until the ambulance picked its way down the gravel access road.
“We didn’t touch him,” she said.
Both paramedics were sweating and red-faced. The tall man said, “we just come from a big accident out on Highway 26. Real bad injuries. Some damned drunk hit an old couple in a minivan head-on.”
“Them old people, I don’t think they’re going to make it,” said his partner. He checked the unconscious man’s vital signs.
“Now we got this piece of shit,” said the tall man. “The town drunk. For the millionth time.”
The paramedics loaded him into the ambulance and drove away.
“That wasn’t very nice,” said the woman. “He can’t help himself.”
“They’re having a rough day. And he better straighten up before it’s too late.”
She put her hands on her hips. “You don’t know what you’re talking about. I’m a recovering alcoholic. I know. It’s not that easy, believe me.”
“I guess you know everything.” He turned away.
“I didn’t mean it like that.” She thrust out her hand. “What’s your name, big guy? I’m Megan.” “Tom. Nice meeting you. But I should go.”
“I’m hungry. I’m going to get a couple of sliders. You can come along if you’re not doing anything else.”
“Why? All we’ve done is argue.” But he found himself smiling. She smiled back. “Boy, they really cleaned up this riverfront.” She stuck her hands in her pockets. “I remember when it was a total mess.”
“Well, I think you want to get a few more benches closer to the river.”
At the booth, he bought four thin burgers and a lemonade, and she bought two and a Coke. They sat un der a birch tree. “Sure has been dry,” Megan said. “All the leaves are pointing down.”
“I forgot how good these sliders are.”
She sat back against the tree and crossed her long legs at the ankles. “I wonder what’s going to happen to that kid.”
He took a sip of his lemonade. “I have two boys, 8 and 10. I thought about how I’d feel if one of them turned out like that kid.”
“I quit because I didn’t want to end up like my dad.” She looked at him. “You’re lonely, aren’t you?”
He folded his arms. “Man, you just blurt everything out. No filter. Yeah, I’m lonely. My boys are with their mother this weekend. Are you lonely?”
She stood up, pulling down the hems of her shorts. “I’d better go. I have to take my mother shop ping for shoes.” She glanced at the river. “You can have my number if you want it. Give me your phone.”
She tapped in her number.
“But I’m good at reading people. You’re never going to call me.”
He didn’t know what to say to that. She waved goodbye. He watched her slowly stroll away, hands in her pockets, until she was out of sight.
Now he didn’t want to go home and do yardwork or prepare for his project meeting with the boss on Monday. The country band was suddenly too loud. He walked up the hill and around the block to the Landmark Saloon, where he had two beers and watched the Brewers lose.
On the way home, he rolled down the truck window to catch the good breeze, the sweet smell of alfalfa blowing in. The clouds had moved on; the sky was that hot light blue of midsummer. He turned south onto Washington Road. A beat-up blue SUV was crawling along. Tom tapped his horn once. The SUV pulled onto the shoulder.
A few minutes later, Tom saw the SUV in his rear-view mirror, gaining fast, still gaining as he reached the first long hill. The SUV pulled out as if to pass, so Tom slowed down, but the SUV matched its speed to his. When Tom accelerated, so did the SUV. He glanced over: two young men in dirty yellow tee shirts, the wild-looking passenger yelling “pull over, pull over!” Tom didn’t see a gun, but he rolled up his window and moved his seat back to make a smaller target.
Halfway up the hill, the SUV moved back across the yellow line to ram him off the road and may be jack his truck, but Tom hit the shoulder fast and pulled ahead. The SUV caught up, and just over the
hill, in the oncoming lane, was a huge green tractor pulling a trailer full of hay bales. In his rear-view, he saw the SUV heel over tightly and bounce into a field. Tom floored it, 60, 70, 80. Half-mile ahead, the road curved and looped sharply downward. If he could make that curve, he knew there was an abandoned barn where he could pull in behind and hide and watch the road.
The SUV roared past, cresting the next hill and disappearing.
He took deep breaths until his heart stopped pounding. He was soaked with sweat. He punched in seven numbers, stopped, and then completed the call. Megan answered on the first ring.
“It’s Tom. Do you want to have dinner with me tonight?”
“What changed your mind, big guy?”
“I never said I wouldn’t call, Megan.”
She laughed. He liked the sound of her laugh. “Well, good. I’m sure we can find something to argue about.”
Tony Hozeny is author of the novels
Driving Wheel and My House Is Dark and numeous short stories. He has an MFA from Johns Hopkins and taught creative writing at four colleges. Over the past two years, he has placed 10 stories in literary magazines. Three of the stories have been anthologized.
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BIRDS OF PARADISEBY: TINA MITCHELL
At first I was annoyed a couple of mockingbirds built their nest in one of the six ferns hanging from my porch. I noticed the construction in the early morning, when Louisiana’s mild temperatures lured me outside to write. I sat in the shade of the cascading asparagus fern and beside the cat palm with column-tall fronds, but I hard ly wrote because a lively liturgy was unfolding. The lemon blossoms flared like the mouths of hungry birds. The an oles, chameleon-like lizards that appeared drunk on chartreuse, rained from the evergreen billow of the loquat tree that had branched passed the pediment. The mockingbirds, industrious scavengers of sticks and string, squawked and swooped and constructed their nest in the rabbit foot fern hanging on the southwest corner of the porch.
Although I enjoyed watching the birds, I hoped they’d relocate when the automatic irrigation switched on. These many-tongued mimics favored the grating languages of blue jays and yowling tom cats. I also expected the birds would become messy—would eat the berries of the Virginia Creeper that had snaked up the rotting chicken tree complicating the property line, and polka-dot the porch with purple scat. But the birds didn’t relocate, and I wasn’t going to shoo them away, so I resigned myself to their company and was glad I did after I peeked at their speckled eggs. Soon enough I’d see baby birds, all down and mouth, hungry for the world.
One night, the female nested in the haze of the green porch light while I drank red wine and rocked in my chair beside a citronella candle. The sky was like wet asphalt in the heat-anchored air, and cicadas zinged like the pow er lines stretched across the oil-blue horizon. The streetlights beamed satsuma orange, and roach wings flickered in the fresh clipped grass and in the Japanese boxwood that hedged the front of the house. Then I saw a pulse of a silhouette neither roach nor palmetto. It took the uncanny form of ancestral dreams—a figure portended in DNA. Using my phone’s flashlight, I saw it was a snake, mottled moss and taupe, flexing up the giant bird of paradise that stretched past the roof like a cluster of champagne flutes. The snake was hunting mockingbird. Its forked tongue mimicked fire as it licked the air and tasted the humid, gamey scent of feather, flesh and bone.
The female was spring-loaded in her nest—her scapulars tensed ready for flight. The snake moved as though patience were sport, silently muscling from stalk to broad leaf, giving me time to snap and text pictures to a biologist friend. He identified the serpent as a rat snake and said I could safely move it to another tree, but I didn’t have the nerve. I imagined its cold fear flexed in my trembling hands and its primal response to danger. I’d hesitate when going for the grab, and the snake would lunge—cause me to catch its middle and give it the length needed to whip around and bite. I imagined the fiery sting vividly enough to almost feel it, so I asked my friend to help, not realizing he was two hours away at work.
The snake continued upward, slithering like velvet and leather—a slow hunt that caused a strange urgen cy to hiss in my gut. The snake levitated to the leaf nearest the porch, as if Newton’s laws had never been written. Magus Serpentinus was a loose thread pulled from the scripture of space, a fleshy rope stretched across an invisible current, rising his brawny scales like an unholy spire. The snake floated into the asparagus fern adjacent to the nest, and the male mockingbird sprang onto the chain-linked fence and squawked. I snapped pictures to strobe the flash of the camera, but the snake lifted its head and leaned into a mock strike—a startling warning that caused me to laugh and back away, feeling the static charge of a bedsheet-clung-sock fresh from the dryer. Now, with only the soft glow of candle and green porch light, the snake retreated into the fern near est the house and waited for the birds to forget the danger lurking in the porch canopy.
Still buzzed on adrenaline and wine, I sat in the rocking chair but knew I wasn’t ready for another serpen
tine dance. Besides, who was I to starve a snake? I grabbed the wine, blew out the candle, and finished the night indoors. In the morning, the nest was empty. I attempted to write but instead I replayed the events of the night before as I stared at the property line—mesmerized how the chain-linked fence had been enveloped by the chicken tree. The fence disappeared into the trunk and reappeared out the other side, like the blade of a magician that splits a lady in two yet leaves her intact.
* * *
A few months later, clouds broke like eggs and rained four trillion gallons in 48 hours. Rivers rose and steeped towns, crested cars, lapped eaves. People awaiting rescue watched caskets float into their yards. What meteorolo gists called a “thousand-year rain” displaced ten-thousand people, damaged more than 140,000 homes, and washed away lives. One woman caught in the high water drowned after swimming her toddler to a tree where he cried until he was saved.
I was far away in the Northwest and learned about the August flood from the news. Reporters said cotton mouths and moccasins lurked in the silted water. The snakes were like poisonous eels ready to strike. Officials asked citizens to stay out of the water. They said to be wary on land too. Snakes also sought high ground. There was no where to go but up.
The yard had unfurled thick fresh growth by the time I returned to Lafayette. Seeded stalks sprung from the lawn in thick clumps, and all the ferns tendrilled past their baskets and enclosed the porch in a breathing wall of green. Although the little gem magnolia lost its wilted head in early summer, the unusual rainfall helped the tree regain its height plus several feet, and it was nearly impossible to say where it began and the chicken tree began, especially because the Virginia Creeper had vined around everything.
I worked for two, six-hour days to turn what felt like chaos into designed disorder, and while I trimmed the verticillium-rusted boxwood, a strange shape emerged, as if all at once, from the bird of paradise’s thatched trunk. Told the plant wouldn’t bloom for ten years if ever, I was thrilled to find this maroon-speckled bud—a vegetal canoe with a sepal-covered hull that had coursed from hidden waters of ancient springs.
For two weeks I waited for the bird to bloom. I gardened words and drank vine in the path of citronella smoke. The man across the street siphoned gas from his work truck into a red plastic tank. The musician next door rehearsed with his band, filling the air with honkytonk and western swing, and dog-walkers strolled in the yard of the abandoned mansion on the corner. When the flower finally emerged, sharp white petals splayed from the husk over which a pair of blue petals cradled the style and dripped translucent sap like water. This flower was every bird—a silver eel turned dragon blooming blue-fire breath. The petals had emerged from the flood like silent flames—a deceitfully beautiful warning of the heat still to come.
Tina Mitchell is co-editor of Kept Secret: The Half-Truth in Nonfiction (Michigan State University Press 2017) and co-founder and editor of The Turnip Truck(s). Her work has appeared in Eastern Iowa Review, Whale Road Review, and elsewhere. tinamitchell.info.
PEARLS UNDERFOOTBY: JONATHAN ODELL
When I was a child, my parents often spoke using country expressions. I detested their language, embarrassed to be associated with such backwardness. But when I became an author who was interested in local color, they became invaluable! I made trips down to Mississippi and followed my parents with pencil and pad, trying to catch the pearls I had trod so roughly on when I was younger.
For example, on a certain morning every fall, when the temperature suddenly dipped, my mother wrapped her arms around herself, shivered dramatically, and gleefully declared, “It’s hog killing weather!”
As a town-raised child, I remember being thoroughly disgusted.
I felt the same with my dad. When he saw that I was productively occupied at something and not as his disposal, he would tell me, “Go on ahead with your rat-killing.”
What the hell did that mean? I wondered.
I would shake my head in disdain. “I am not one of these people,” I remember telling myself.
There was a countless number of these mysterious and thoroughly crude chunks of language. Like my mother calling certain children “porch babies” or “yard babies” worst of all, “titty babies;” or my father saying somebody was “as happy as a dead pig in the sunshine,” or telling me angrily when I went against his will, “You better get your bull in my pasture.”
None of these things made any literal sense nor were they pleasant to imagine. But somehow I got the message. I guess people would have called them colorful Southernisms.
But now my parents became fascinating to me, not as parents but as characters.
When Mother talked about how the farm she grew up on operated, how chores were distributed among the children, she told how she was responsible for the porch babies.
“Oh, a porch baby’s not big enough to be allowed off the porch. And a lap baby’s too little to let crawl around and a yard baby is big enough to run around loose in the yard but too little to work in the fields. Course a titty baby is still nursing. A shirt-tail child can go all the way into the barnyard.”
The phrases weren’t just colorful country drivel. These terms were directions to a girl on how to care for her younger siblings.
And rat-killing? Dad had to think for a minute, never having had to explain the term before. Everybody just “knew” what it meant.
“Well, it means you’re busy. Like when you got corn in the barn and the rats come out at night to eat it. As kids, we had to sit up in the loft with a rifle and a light and listen for them to begin rustling around in the dark. When they did you had to shine a light and shoot mighty quick. You didn’t have time for nothing else. You had to keep your mind on your job or you didn’t eat.”
That phrase revealed to me more about my father and his childhood than all the years as his son. I now understood better the genesis of his fierce vigilance and his intolerance of those who made careless mistakes.
And one October while I was staying at my parents’ house my 75-year-old mom stepped out of the house onto the porch, grabbed herself and squealed, “Oh, Johnny, it’s hog killing weather.”
“Mom, what does that mean? Hog-killing weather.”
“Oh, Johnny! Don’t you know?” She said it like I was missing out on the best thing in the world. “On the farm, when there was a cool day like this, that’s when we would hang the hog and slaughter him.”
“Why a cool day?”
“So the blood don’t clot.”
Charming, I thought.
“It was more fun than a church dinner-on-the-ground,” she said. “All summer long we worked in the fields and never did see our neighbors much. They all lived miles away. But when somebody would kill a hog, then everybody would come from all around to help. It was the best time! The children squirmed and squealed waiting for the pork rinds to be done. Families shared the meat to put up for winter. They would all stay late. The men would sip whiskey out under the chinaberry tree. The women would tell stories, show off their lap babies, and everybody would be laughing.”
Mom looked over at me and smiled slyly. “And there might be some flirting going on between the older boys and girls. Boys liked me a lot.”
I could see her as that freckled-faced, stoop-shouldered teenage girl in her family’s ancient photos, impatient for life to begin, hungry for her dreams. Excited by the possibility of being pretty and desirable and getting the hell out. At that moment, it was all there in her face.
Instead of saying something primitive like “hog-killing weather,” I guess a more sophisticated person would have said, “It was a delightful time” and be done with it. But one is mere fact, the other is truth. All this time my mother had been saying, “Joy, Johnny! Joy!”
I had missed the primary purpose of my parents’ weird and wonderful kind of language. It wasn’t necessarily for the efficient communication of their thoughts. Ultimately, it was for the revelation of the truth of their lives.
In those words and phrases and sayings and inflections were maps to a world that I had missed, a world that defined them and in turn, despite my best efforts, had shaped me.
Jonathan Odell is the author of three nov els, The View from Delphi (Macadam Cage 2004) The Healing, (Random House 2012) Miss Hazel and the Rosa Parks League (Maiden Lane Press 2015). My essays appear in various publications (Commonweal, The Bitter Southerner, etc) Raised in Mississippi, he presently lives in Minnesota with his husband.
CONTRIBUTING EDITORSShannon Perri 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.
J.D. Isip is a full-time professor at Collin College and a writ er. His poems, plays, fiction, and essays have appeared in a variety of national magazines and journals. His first collection of poems, Pocketing Feathers (2015), was released by Sadie Girl Press, and his second collection,Number Our Days, will be released by Moon Tide Press in 2023. He grew up in Long Beach, California, served in the U.S. Air Force, and worked for Disney before he started teaching.
Ulvi SafariAngela dribbens 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.
Dusty huggings 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.
clifford brooks editor-in-chief
Clifford Brooks is the CEO of the Southern Collective Experience and Editor-in-Chief of the Blue Mountain Review. He is also the journal’s content editor.
Aside from these duties, Clifford is the author of The Draw of Broken Eyes & Whirling Metaphysics, Athena Departs, and Exiles of Eden. These collections of poetry can easily be found online.
andy whitehorne contributing editor
Andy Whitehorne is a writer and live music fanatic residing in Atlanta, Georgia. He spent two-and-a half-decades regularly attending live concerts and working in the hospitality industry. He holds a BFA in theatre, currently works in customer success, and is the Music editor of the Blue Mountain Review.
Casanova Green 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 emilykerlin.com
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 Re view 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. Re cent 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 con ducting 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.
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 Sa vannah 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.
jennifer avery Contributing editor
Jennifer Avery is an editor and writer from the foothills of North west 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 Dimen sion
Mildred K. Barya contributing editor
Mildred Kiconco Barya is a writer from Uganda and Assistant pro fessor 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, poets.org, Poetry Quarterly, Asymptote Journal, Matters of Feminist Practice Anthology, Prairie Schooner, New Daughters of Africa International Anthology, Per Con tra, 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: http://mildredbarya.com/
kaitlyn young design & layouts
Born and raised in the land of peaches and peanuts: Georgia-native, Kaitlyn Young is a freelance graphic designerspecializing in both print and digital editorial designs.
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 serves as Poetry and Interviews Editor for The Blue Mountain Review. She is the author of Something Kindred (The Southern Collective Experience Press) and Poetry Ambassador for Miami-Dade County. Find her on Twitter and Instagram @natallman and nicoletall man.com.
Debbie harris contributing editor
Debbie Hennessey was named AC40 Female Artist of the Year by New Music Weekly and scored a Top 20 Hit on their AC40 Charts. A song she co-wrote recently hit the Top 5 on Roots Music Report’s Americana Country chart. Her songs have been honored by Great American Song Contest, International Song writing Competition, Billboard World Song Contest, and others. Her music and videos have aired on USA/UHD Networks, NBC, GAC, Extra, and The Next GAC Star. She has over a dozen releases on her label Rustic Heart Records and is a voting GRAMMY member. In addition, Debbie was the managing editor of LA411 & NY411 for Variety and has created several magazines and directo ries for various industries over the years. Through her company Entertainment Editorial, she works with a diverse range of clients to meet their editorial needs. She also writes for Dante’s Old South Radio Show blog and the Blue Mountain Review.
You can find Debbie at www.entertainmenteditorial.com and www.debbiehennessey.com.
lynne kemen contributing editor
Lynne Kemen lives in Upstate New York. Her chapbook, More Than A Handful (Woodland Arts Editions, was published In 2020. Five of her poems appeared in Seeing Things Anthology, Edited by Rob ert Bensen. Her poems are in La Presa, Silver Birch Press, The Ravens Perch, Blue Mountain Review, Fresh Words Magazine. She was Runner Up for The Ekphrastic Journal’s competition of Women Artists. She is on the Board of Bright Hill Press in Treadwell, NY.
Heather Harris contributing editor
Heather M. Harris is an emerg ing writer of memoir, poetry, short-stories, children’s books, and an illustrator who lives and writes in the New Orleans area. Heather holds a Master’s of Arts and Teaching and a Bachelor’s of Arts and Sciences in Psychology both from Southeastern Louisiana University. Heather is a contributor for The Blue Mountain Review, and a member of The Southern Collective Experience.
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.
slade gottlieb contributing editor
Slade Gottlieb is a fiction writer born in Atlanta and raised in Milton, Georgia. He received his BA in creative writing from Oberlin College and his MFA from California College of the Arts. He’s published short fiction in print editions of the Plum Creek Review and Wilder Voice. Slade currently resides in Oakland, California, where he is at work on his debut novel. He currently co-edits fiction and poetry for The Blue Mountain Review.
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.
edward austin hall contributing editor
Edward Austin Hall lives in Atlanta, where he writes whatever he can get away with.
Jay-de-robinson contributing editor
Mr. Classic is the CEO and designer of Mr. Classic’s Hab erdashery at Thee Manor in Atlanta, Georgia. A one-stop shop for all things in custom made and classic mens wear. From hats all the way down to shoes. His focus mainly being to help individuals develop their personal style. Through the education of fashion and in custom garment designs, he has become the go-to designer for the elegant and high class.
Hester L. Furey contributing editor
Hester L. Furey is a poet and literary historian who lives in Atlanta.
jess costello contributing editor
Jess Costello is a fiction editor, writer, counseling student, and indie music nerd based in Massa chusetts. 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.
Carmen Acevedo Butcher contributing editor
Carmen Acevedo Butcher is the translator of The Cloud of Unknowing, a Georgia Author of the Year Awardee, and Practice of the Presence by Brother Lawrence, among others. Her dynamic work in spirituality and the power of language has garnered interest from various media, including the BBC and NPR’s Morning Edition. A Ful bright scholar at University of London and Fulbright Senior Lecturer at Sogang University, Carmen currently teaches in the College Writing Programs at UC Berke ley. Online at www.carmenbutcher.com and https:// linktr.ee/carmenacevedobutcher
logan merill contributing editor
Logan Merrill: Born and raised in a small town, I’ve made my way through trade. From dry wall to drumset to bartending, I fell in love with the power of experiences; the dormant potential of every moment. We’re all humans, being the best we know how to and I believe life is meant to be enjoyed.