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Table of Contents Intro ........................................................................................................................................................... 5 Ingrid Bruck .............................................................................................................................................. 8 Jerry Rumph............................................................................................................................................. 11 Allison Grayhurst .....................................................................................................................................14 Amitabh Vikram Dwivedi .........................................................................................................................16 Ben Naka-Hasebe Kingsley ...................................................................................................................... 17 David Lohrey ............................................................................................................................................19 Mark J. Mitchell ...................................................................................................................................... 20 Mary Grace Mauney .................................................................................................................................21 Mikel K..................................................................................................................................................... 22 Pat Jewell ................................................................................................................................................. 23 Sandeep Kumar Mishra........................................................................................................................... 25 Scott Thomas Outlar ............................................................................................................................... 26 James H Duncan ..................................................................................................................................... 27 Chani Zwibel ............................................................................................................................................ 30 Autumn (art) & Chani (verse) Zwibel ..................................................................................................... 33 Wallace McLendon .................................................................................................................................. 36 Tom Larsen .............................................................................................................................................. 42 Samantha Canuel .................................................................................................................................... 49 Benjamin Carr ......................................................................................................................................... 52 Interview with Rising Appalachia ........................................................................................................... 57 Interview with William Walsh .................................................................................................................61 Interview with Gretchen Heffernan ........................................................................................................ 68 Interview with Todd Boss........................................................................................................................ 78 Interview with Kate Sweeney .................................................................................................................. 85 Interview with Fabrice Poussin ............................................................................................................... 88 Interview with Luke Johnson.................................................................................................................. 95 SCE Member Interview with Holly Holt ................................................................................................. 98 Interview with Kathi Harper Hill .......................................................................................................... 102 North Georgia Artist Interview with C. Larry Wilson .......................................................................... 105 Interview with Brenna Aldrich .............................................................................................................. 107 3|The Blue Mountain Review Issue 6
Interview with Adam Engel .................................................................................................................... 111 Musician Interview with Marco Seabrooks ........................................................................................... 114 Voices of Faith Interview with Dub Darville .......................................................................................... 118 Book Review: The Earthen Flute ...........................................................................................................123 Autumn Zwibel ...................................................................................................................................... 126 Brent Ellis ...............................................................................................................................................132 Outro ...................................................................................................................................................... 136
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Intro Winter is the time for comfort, for good food and warmth, for the touch of a friendly hand and for a talk beside the fire: it is the time for home. Edith Sitwell Winter brings us images of dwindling nights and glimmering lights; lights of all sorts. Lights that represent many views, beliefs, hopes and dreams that inspire creeds of all natures to be reborn and renewed. With the night comes the light and we must respect and appreciate all of Earth’s many beauties. As our blue planet changes, we must too. We must rest and put strong consideration into the upcoming seasons. Not at its simplest form of four seasons, but at its most complicated inner workings of how the world and all of its inhabitants; most of all, ourselves. This winter, in particular, has brought us many changes and we have found ourselves in a period of unrest. Many new changes have caused division, disagreement, and downright ugliness. As we venture into this season of rest and warmth, we find ourselves restless and cold to others that do not view the world just as we do. These actions are not the way of evolution as human beings. No, these actions are the way of many solstices ago before our mothers taught us any better. I have also fallen victim to these actions and beliefs, as all of us do. It is common, fair, and humanistic to have these ideas, as they portray who we are and what we stand for. I do not believe anyone should ever falter in their philosophies, but they should meager their pride enough to place their feet into another brother’s shoes. I, nor anyone, has all of the knowledge of the world, nor should any of us act as so. Philosophy - the study of the fundamental nature of knowledge, reality, and existence, especially when considered as an academic discipline. “The Study.” Hmmm - Life is a continuous study. We must study our surroundings, study ourselves, and most importantly, study what is right for all of mankind. I cannot define what is right politically, religiously, or economically. What I can define is what is right morally. In this time intended for rest, family, and rejuvenation, we must reunite and reconsider. Brothers and sisters, we owe it to one another to love, listen, and peer into one another’s souls, as well as our own. We must reach out our arms in embrace, rather than in plucking an eye because our eyes have been uprooted and our pride wounded. Let’s pickup our differences and form bonds through words of love. We all deserve our own opinions. We all deserve to be heard. We all must listen. The Earth has its changing seasons, but its continuous transformation is undeniable. All of the colors of the many lights of winter represent us as a species. We must love and respect them all. We must give and take, but we have all been much too focused on taking and not of giving. 5|The Blue Mountain Review Issue 6
I ask us all, including myself, to take this time of rest and renewal to do just that. Rest, brothers and sistersâ€” rest your hearts and your fights. Choose your battles and know that it is us who molds the clay of the globe. Not one man, not one political stance, not one creed or belief. Rest until the spring to be reborn and renew your endeavors. Fight for your beliefs, but not against your brothers and sisters, but against hate, oppression and division. Fight for your people, not for yourself. Fight for one another. Fore, one another is all we have in this world to fight for. Dusty Huggins
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Ingrid Bruck golden days sunlit grass in a wind dance, stinkbugs gliding on afternoon heat looking for a way into the house, tobacco drying in the barn, corn stubble warming the fields, crisp yellow leaves falling, silver rod waving on the roadside~ a fall constellation, my consolation.
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Mantle After a move from suburbs to mountains, mantle residents emerge from boxes: a carved wood chicken, a square head hammer, a sculpted bat made of copper, a kerosene lamp, driftwood that looks like gurgling water, a white feathered owl. All come to rest on top of the mantle, a rough slab of reclaimed wood with knots and cracks, supported on two square rocks set in a fireplace wall made of blocks of field stone. Silver glitters in sunlight on the wall, outside enters in. The sentries on the shelf have come home, they face a dairy farm across the road and connect the house to the land.
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my landscape I am the Blue Ridge Mountains, grass snakes and chipmunks live under my rocks, my eyes, blue as springtime, are Forget-Me-Nots. my ears, corn cobs with silken strands gather song from the the land. my nose, a tree, inhales sun and rain. my backbone rests on the timberline, gray rock exposed to open sky., I exhale hoar frost and ice in winter. I host an army of plants and animals, grow wildflowers, rhododendrons, and bushes. seeds, dead flowers and weeds wash down my paths, oregano sprouts next to a wildflower after a shower that drums on boulders and sinks into blueberry bushes. weeds decay on my flanks, my soil fog damp. wind brushes my leaves and juggles the yelps of critters that call me home. Men try to tame me, my falling timber splits in a scream, silence fills the woods.
Ingrid Bruck was raised in rural New York. She worked in multi-type libraries in USA, Guatemala and Mexico before retiring to Amish country in Pennsylvania. She grows wild flowers and follows the gardenâ€™s seasons in her kitchen and writing. She loves the old mountains along the east coat of America from Maine to Florida and the ocean that rims them. Whenever she travels south, you'll find her on the winding roads of the Blue Ridge Mountain Parkway. Current work appears in Mataroyshka Poetry, Halcyon Days and Leaves of Ink. Published poetry website: ingridbruck.com 10 | T h e B l u e M o u n t a i n R e v i e w I s s u e 6
Jerry Rumph Lions, Tigers, and Bears I love my daughter, But not enough, Not enough to put down the bottle, And to quit conjugating with cons. I had more time with her at the end of the divorce, But my ex old man and a judge took most of that away. They said I had to stop drinking Booze And keeping Criminal company. They said I could get more time later If I succeeded for just a year. I did it for a little while, but Chicago kicked another football And Detroit returned it ninety yards For a touchdown – A goddamn beauty – She sat next to me, But I couldn’t refrain. I shot a whiskey and chased it With a frosty, foamy six pack. My felonious lover was a Tiger in the sack And a Lion on Sundays, A disastrous duo, Especially, for a Bear like me. I smacked him in the face when he danced And celebrated the final score. I remember his retribution. Supine, my body was kept from the floor By a splintered glued pressboard table. Gravity pitted my stomach. I Couldn’t get up to get my daughter off the Lion’s back Before he flung her through the trailer’s front window pane. 11 | T h e B l u e M o u n t a i n R e v i e w I s s u e 6
Shining shards showered and stuck her skin. My angel laid bleeding in the grass. Of course, someone had to call the law. The mediator says my ex old Man wants me to relinquish all time with My daughter Or quit imbibing Entirely. Plus, I can’t pet my Lion-Tiger again. To prove my sobriety, I must wear a monitor on my ankle and Take pills that make me hurl if I drink. My lawyer encourages me to take the offer. But I know It’s a long season, and Chicago Isn’t that good. Besides, I need a man And My ex isn’t coming back. I tell the mediator to tell My ex “no” and let him go home. Yeah, I do love her, But not enough.
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Religious Hymns A Blue Ridge Christian valley Early on Sunday morn Sends up foggy notes of praise To its rising Son. Worship vapors shroud The other-wise seeing eyes Of Eminence. Son prays to Sun to remove the haze. So it can bare its faithful valeâ€™s witness. Once exposed by Sun to Son The valley bursts with colorful pretentions Until another holy opportunity To hide its true transgressions Behind foggy notes of praise.
Jerry Rumph is an attorney by day and a writer in all other light. He enjoys writing prose and poetry and integrating prose into poetry, i.e. producing prosetry. In his poetry, Jerry strives to pique thoughts on political and social issues. Professionally, Jerry has edited and published a number of works in law and business. When not lawyering, studying, or writing, Jerry enjoys doing what he loves most: spending time with his family. 13 | T h e B l u e M o u n t a i n R e v i e w I s s u e 6
Allison Grayhurst Used blanket Single rage returning entrapment pedestal, busted at the seams. Empty frame, roofless walls, poking out of some hole in the pavement. Underground gardens flourishing speaking of dandelions and tidbits of mercy left at the wayside to collect like a tossed-away overcoat I wear that overcoat every day, every evening curled inside of it, smelling the nuances of the places it has been, places of music and unrequited love beige now and stained dark grey. I long to regain the taste of its first wear, when I was the exodus maker, keeper of the icicle, explorer of a missionary salute, bowing down only to clean it, sure of my perfected individuality, saying something monumental with its sway. Those were days rich with equal fear and hope, underneath the canopy trees, looking up, past cloud ridges and bird flights. I look at the TV or at nothing, smelling the stains washed in mild detergent, with the hope that some scent of back then still lingers, covering my shoulders, hiding my hands. Everything that was me, in me, outside of me is already gone and I am not even 50, still able to walk, hold a book, a conversation, unable to return to a place of confidence wrapped in this faded cloth, overcoat completion.
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Collector Pale sleep, naked under eyelids and summer beating out the last of its heat, remembering the skin of stones I collected, hidden in boxes under mounds of typed-on paper. I will take them out, read them like a diary and soak myself with their flavours. Then maybe I will remember my inauguration into oxygen, a direction I can run in, leaving crutches in the alleyway. I can gather armour, carry armour, be rooted to victory and the purity of murder. The bitten moon, lingering, muscles forgetting how they travel, how love is contemplated and grows in sand, in cracked concrete corners even when the wolves are nearing. Trust. It is gathering. I will gather these colourful stones some tumbled sheen, others, raw and ready for flight.
Allison Grayhurst is a member of the League of Canadian Poets. Three of her poems have been nominated for Sundress Publications “Best of the Net” 2015, and she has over 850 poems published in more than 380 international journals and anthologies. Her book Somewhere Falling was published by Beach Holme Publishers, a Porcepic Book, in Vancouver in 1995. Since then she has published twelve other books of poetry and seven collections with Edge Unlimited Publishing. Prior to the publication of Somewhere Falling she had a poetry book published, Common Dream, and four chapbooks published by The Plowman. Her poetry chapbook The River is Blind was published by Ottawa publisher above/ground press December 2012. In 2014 her chapbook Surrogate Dharma was published by Kind of a Hurricane Press, Barometric Pressures Author Series. In 2015, her book No Raft – No Ocean was published by Scars Publications. More recently, her book Make the Wind was published in 2016 by Scars Publications. As well, her book Trial and Witness – selected poems, was published in 2016 by Creative Talents Unleashed (CTU Publishing Group). She is a vegan. She lives in Toronto with her family. She also sculpts, working with clay; www.allisongrayhurst.com 15 | T h e B l u e M o u n t a i n R e v i e w I s s u e 6
Amitabh Vikram Dwivedi Lovers Blessed with a huge slice of luck, Are those, who can make love Under pale moonlight Where their bodies move beneath A leafy tree. And when wind blows, All the leaves are arranged so much so To give a standing ovation For their perfect union. They bend and swayBackward and forwardTo perform a repetitive behaviour, Though stereotype Yet looks novel: rocking and swaying sucking and teeth-grinding twisting and twirling <<>> scratching and pinching head-banging and head-shaking Making love Undisturbed.
Amitabh Vikram Dwivedi is assistant professor of linguistics at Shri Mata Vaishno Devi University, India. His research interests include language documentation, writing descriptive grammars, and the preservation of rare and endangered languages in South Asia. He has contributed articles to many Science Citation Index journals. His most recent books are A Grammar of Hadoti (Lincom: Munich, 2012), A Grammar of Bhadarwahi (Lincom: Munich, 2013), and a poetry collection titled Chinaar kaa Sukhaa Pattaa (2015) in Hindi. As a poet, he has published more than 100 poems in different anthologies, journals and magazines worldwide. Until recently, his poem â€œMotherâ€? has been published as a prologue to Motherhood and War: International Perspectives (Eds.), Palgrave Macmillan Press. 2014. 16 | T h e B l u e M o u n t a i n R e v i e w I s s u e 6
Ben Naka-Hasebe Kingsley I. Newborn Angel Ezekiel I came out tumbling, birthed onto a sticky threshing floor behind closed door-to-door & at night from a corpse. Doctors said my mother had fallen from heaven too hard & the descent splattered her head. So I ripped my tiny talons through her instead & when I broke free I was muted blue as the many-elbowed Mississippi; umbilical tendrils strangling the last of my tiny breath’s divinity & by the grace of modern science, men unwound the stems of wings from around my fluid-lodged neck, “what a bloody little fallen angel boy,” a nurse said, but I was too busy drowning on my own mucus to agree. Then the men wrapped me in my dead mother’s wings & closed the door again.
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III. Elementary Angels Eventually I grew wings, bright orange ones out of my forehead, like dyed ant antennae or a Halloween jester’s soggy crown. & on the playground I watched while children of other fallen angels jumped from high off the double swings —flashing the wings of their backs in cobalt arches. Soon they would learn to fly. But my wings were too threadbare & brittle. Turned on fluttering when no one was looking & at night when I dreamed: of my trip down from heaven. An aborted doll sewn from God’s spinning mouth. Tomorrow everyone will look as I jump from the top rung of the rusty monkey bars & try to fly myself back into His arms.
Ben Naka-Hasebe Kingsley is a Michener Fellow, VONA: Voices of our Nation Scholar, and belongs to the Onondaga Nation of Indigenous Americans in New York. He holds an M.A. from the University of Pennsylvania. Most recently his work has been published in Prairie Schooner and Diverse Voices Quarterly. 18 | T h e B l u e M o u n t a i n R e v i e w I s s u e 6
David Lohrey LANDSCAPE WITH LEMONADE STAND Would you turn your back on the sun For a ham or tuna sandwich? You might say no, but I don’t believe you. We are not lovers of the sun, modern man. The sun is no longer something noble; It is nothing more than Earth’s heater. Would you prefer some apricot juice in a glass, Or one last glance at the setting sun? Something to cool you, or a last-minute look At the planet’s source of light? You’d take the glass, even if there were sand in it. Would you strap wings to your back and head out For the nearest star? Icarus was a damned idiot and you know it. He is seen as a fool, not a saint or a hero. We moderns get the message loud and clear; His death is seen as a clear warning, not a thrill. Wouldn’t you rather live in a cave than be left to wing it? We moderns know a thing or two, just ask Picasso. There’s a reason he painted men and women with clay feet. We are lumbering cave men carrying clubs, not birds of flight. Our instinct is to head for the fire and defend it, Not to fly away in search of hope. Would you pass up success for eternal bliss or honor? Where I come from such talk sounds ridiculous, even corny. There’s a reason our Founding Fathers favored the Romans. The Greeks were too willing to throw it all away for glory. We have to hold on to what’s on offer. We moderns know not To head for the sun but to line up at the table.
David Lohrey was born on the Hudson River but grew up on the Mississippi in Memphis. He graduated from UC, Berkeley. He currently teaches in Tokyo. He has reviewed books for The Los Angeles Times and The Orange County Register, and has been a member of the Dramatists Guild in New York since 1990. His plays have been produced in the US, Canada and India. Recently, his oneacts appeared in translation in Croatia. David taught for many years in Saudi Arabia and is currently writing a memoir of his years living on the Persian Gulf. 19 | T h e B l u e M o u n t a i n R e v i e w I s s u e 6
Mark J. Mitchell Parzifal, Middle-Aged His grail was dusty—stuffed in his sock drawer behind mis-matched pairs—how the dust got there eludes him. He found it today before coffee. Perfect. He didn’t remember it being so heavy. The shape was more round, smoother—tall and daunting like the rook from his mother’s chess set. And that small door at its base seemed new. He chose socks to wear, black shoes, but he pulled the thing out. His grail could accuse him when he got home from work. He would face it then, after checking mail. He’d get to it. Then he’d wipe off the dirt. Set it on a stand. He would really look for it this time, knowing he’d still fail.
Mark J. Mitchell studied writing at UC Santa Cruz under Raymond Carver, George Hitchcock and Barbara Hull. His work has appeared in various periodicals over the last thirty five years, as well as the anthologies Good Poems, American Places, Hunger Enough, Retail Woes and Line Drives. It has also been nominated for both Pushcart Prizes and The Best of the Net. He is the author of two fulllength collections, Lent 1999 (Leaf Garden Press) and Soren Kierkegaard Witnesses an Execution (Local Gems) as well as two chapbooks, Three Visitors (Negative Capability Press) and Artifacts and Relics, (Folded Word). His novel, Knight Prisoner, is available from Vagabondage Press and two more novels are forthcoming: A Book of Lost Songs (Wild Child Publishing) and The Magic War (Loose Leaves). He lives in San Francisco with his wife, the documentarian and filmmaker Joan Juster where he makes a living showing people pretty things in his city. 20 | T h e B l u e M o u n t a i n R e v i e w I s s u e 6
Mary Grace Mauney The Christmas Tigers Santa had retired for a long time, leaving the business of toys to the factories and supermarkets that now stocked them en masse worldwide. But this Christmas, he came back. It's not sure exactly why. There was a story, of course, there had to be. Perhaps some bumbling but goodhearted sod had tried to replace him, or some starry-eyed naive child had searched for the true meaning of Christmas, and in their misadventures had brought him back. But whatever the reason, he was indeed returned. The reindeer, however, were not. He had left them to graze in Siberia when he had put away their bits and bridles for what he thought was the last time. He had assumed that flight would protect them from predators. But he had not counted on the pouncing capabilities of tigers, and how closely they could sneak up upon even the wiliest of creatures, let alone domesticated ones used only to elves trying to get an errant ride in as the worst they had to fear. Santa had also not anticipated that eating pounds upon mounds of magical reindeer flesh would imbue the tigers with their same powers. And that is how came to be that Santa now rode tigers, not reindeer. Great, massive tigers, larger than any ever seen, larger than any possible, two of them, bounding soundlessly from roof to roof in tandem, one with Santa upon its back, one with his toy sack. It was observed by those who witnessed his return that several details of his process also deviated from what has traditionally been told, though it is unknown if these are new, like the tigers, or simply what he always actually did despite popular belief. Namely, he does not go down the chimney, or enter the house at all. He reaches into the sack, and, without any digging or searching, grabs a present, always the exact right one, and simply tosses it upon the roof. Sometimes the tigers don't even bother landing, in fact, and he tosses it mid-air. But it does not hit the roof with the impact of a solid upon a solid; it sinks into the roof as though it had instead landed in a bog of marsh muck. It then continues to sink slowly through the layers of the house like a thick ghost, down through wood and fiberglass and linoleum, until it has reached the living room and settled under the tree in the perfect position. It is now unquestionable fact that good children are rewarded, and so they are all very motivated to perform perfectly for next year in hopes of earning a splendid bounty of holiday loot next winter. But, some do ask, what befalls bad children? And Santa always answers, with a twinkle in his eye, that the tigers still have to eat.
Mary Grace Mauney is twenty seven years old and has lived in the South all her life, most of it in Georgia where she majored in English at Agnes Scott College. She has always wanted to be a serious fantasy novelist. She is owned by a small menagerie of rodents, the membership of which is constantly in flux but currently consists of six rats and two mice. Her greatest inspiration is The Last Unicorn by Peter S. Beagle. 21 | T h e B l u e M o u n t a i n R e v i e w I s s u e 6
Mikel K I'm A Challenge To The Process I'm so dangerous, I'm a challenge to the process of evolution, revolution is my solution, not bloody, but of the mind. Be kind to everybody; don't screw your brother for a buck. Help those down on their luck. Fuck the millionaire and his money, he doesn't care about the man in the ghetto, wants to keep us all down. I'm no clown, got a family to raise. When I was younger, I used to run around in a drunken daze. See the malt liquor commercial on the billboard bordering the bad side of town. What's so dangerous about being poor and black? Cut me some slack. They killed the Indians. They killed John Lennon. They'll kill you and me for trying to get to higher ground. We've got to get it down. I'm so dangerous. I'm a challenge to the process. Judge's gavel can't bring me down. I quit wearing the uniform of conformity. You might not look normal to me. You might not like what I say, but I say it in the name of freedom, not for pay. I'm a challenge to the process. Mikel K is a poet and memoirist living in Atlanta, Ga. K was voted best Atlanta Poet three years in a row, by readers of Creative Loafing, Atlanta's weekly newspaper. He has a BS in English with a minor in Journalism from Georgia State University. He drank his way out of Florida State University one class short of a business degree. Poetry by Mikel K has, recently, appeared in: Subtle Tea, Inbetwen Hangovers, Your One Phone Call, Harbinger Asylum, Indiana Voice Journal, Dissident, Voice, Dead Snakes, Poeticus, Anti-Heroic Chic, Section 8 Magazine, drown in my own fears, poetic diversity, Zygote In My Coffee, High Coupe, The Blue Lake Review, Swimming With Elephants, Ceremony, Visceral Uterus, High Coupe, Fragrance Poetry Magazine, The Piker Press, Vox Poetica, Napalm and Novocaine,Ceremony. You can buy a book by K at http://www.lulu.com/spotlight/mikelkpoet 22 | T h e B l u e M o u n t a i n R e v i e w I s s u e 6
Pat Jewell The Faces of Cold 1. Air is cold in the long winter night dew on the grass freezes ’till tiny shards of ice twinkle and dance in the breezes Cats curl up together just to stay warm On the windows of cars ice crystals form Air is crisp A pleasure to breathe Soon sun’s hot disc will warm earth and seas 2 In the twilight fairies dance loving the lights reflecting off the grass. Wind blows Air, damp and freezing Clouds move in folds Dark and threatening Its a cold, icy rain more a nuisance than a problem Promise of snow remains warm sun all but forgotten Large snowflakes dance in the bright lamp light Some melt away while others cling to life. Ground turns white Fairies, no longer amused Disappear into the darkness to a secret refuge. 3 Howling wind drives moisture from the lake Air is frigid It’s too much to take The wind cuts to the bone slicing through to the marrow 23 | T h e B l u e M o u n t a i n R e v i e w I s s u e 6
Angry waves foam the animals burrow The snow falls fast, furious It sticks to the road people, forest, The wind blows the snow into deep drifts Road is icy It just wonâ€™t quit Drivers are blinded by the driving snow Making their journey dangerous and slow Harsh, unforgiving ruthless and mean Blizzard roars on Leaving an ugly scene No regard for the fairies Who take a curious peek They blow away in the wind and freeze in the street. About these ads
Pat Jewell is a former insurance professional who decided to give her left brain a rest in order to flex her right brain muscles. She currently works part time as a substitute teacher. Pat is an artist, writer, crafter and thespian. She serves on the board of directors for the local community theater, Tater Patch Players, where she is active both on stage and behind the scenes. Pat also serves on the board of directors as secretary of the Pickens Arts and Cultural Alliance. She lives in Jasper, Ga with her husband of over 40 years. Their daughter, Karensa, and grandchildren, Riley and Chiara live nearby. 24 | T h e B l u e M o u n t a i n R e v i e w I s s u e 6
Sandeep Kumar Mishra Descend into the Earth Death devoid of feet or form, How to trace his footprint? See its image in the mirror of vitality, Find its spirit in the body of life; Look! Death inside the flesh, Mount on the funeral pyre; Feel the body fabric burning; When we descend into the Earth But rise towards the Sky, Enter into a new home, Remember! When the Sun sets, the Moon rises.
Sandeep Kumar Mishra is a writer and lecturer in English with Masters in English Literature and Political Science. He has published 3 books1-Pearls (2002) 2-How to be a teacher (2016) 3-Feel My Heart (2016) This year his work has published in New England Review, International Times, Literary Yard, Ripen the Page, Poetry Nook, Forever Journal etc. 25 | T h e B l u e M o u n t a i n R e v i e w I s s u e 6
Scott Thomas Outlar Cracking a Path toward the Sun You found me sleeping on thin ice, so close to a trice with the scythe wielded by winter’s cold, black eyes – those orbs peeping down from the sky while they cried tears of snow that piled a mile high upon my shivering, skeletal bones as they heaved a final sigh. But, hark! a fissure, a crack in the plan revealed a flower near my hand, so I grabbed a pen and began to pierce lines in the frozen sand that sent a signal through the sky about how I was still alive – fully awake and alert from the burst birthed by a singing sun that scorched its heat through every pore of rejuvenated flesh ready to soar.
Scott Thomas Outlar hosts the site 17Numa.wordpress.com where links to his published poetry, fiction, essays, interviews, and books can be found. He recently received three Pushcart Prize nominations for his work in 2016. Scott is a member of The Southern Collective Experience. He serves as an editor for Walking Is Still Honest Press, The Peregrine Muse, and Novelmasters.
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James H Duncan The Closed Circuit of Poetry Turning words into comfort, weapons, and the most widely embraced artform of our time. During many of the most recent political shifts toward conservative nationalism, be it in Europe or in America, I have heard the call that artists must take up the mantle and create, that this must become a period of renewed drive, and that poetry, among the many arts we need now more than ever, will lead the way back to brighter times. I have my doubts. Certainly not about the power of poetry to provide solace in trying times or to lift the veil on hypocrites and racists. Instead I worry about poetry’s ability to do so in an effective manner. I should add that my doubts do not stand in defiance of trying, but if we’re going to turn our art into tools of comfort for allies and into useful weapons against oppressors, we’d better make damn sure we’re not working inside an echo chamber. I would argue that this has become a problem in every area of modernized society. Social media platforms and apps use metrics to narrow down what news we see, what advertisements appear before us, what books and pages they suggest, and so on. In digital life and in reality, we whittle away friend lists and acquaintances so we only interact with those whom we agree. Too many monitor only those news sources that align with what we’d like to hear about our world. We hear ourselves shouting into the void and the returning sound is a pleasing echo, and yet we are shocked in rare moments— and often important moments—to find that this echo does not match the reality that surrounds us. Poets, I fear, have long fallen victim. This is not a condemnation of poetry or poets, our work and our art is vital, but we have fallen into this same echo-chamber reality that haunts us in every other aspect of our lives. There are more poets and editors and publications and presses than ever before—this is a good thing. But I would argue that poetry is a very incestuous artform. Unlike acting, painting, or music, our creations are primarily read and heard by those who also create poetry. Not exclusively, but too often the poetry community feels like it’s found within a closed circuit. Readers of publications are often writers. Audiences at readings are often writers. I’d loved to be proven wrong, but I fear I’m correct. Few who do not write poetry have any interest in it or any knowledge about its continued existence. This, I insist, is the very practical basis of my doubt in poetry’s ability to become the force it could be. This leads me to ask me what we can do, all of us, writers and publishers alike, to make poetry a wider, greater force that is also an inclusive force. We must open our midnight carnival tent, turn on the bright lights, and welcome the locals to our outskirt field and barker them inside where they might discover that poetry does, in fact, have something to say and can change our world in meaningful, impactful, and practical ways. We must work to bring in those who wouldn’t even glance at the Poetry section of Barnes & Noble, much less enter a Barnes & Noble in the first place.
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To do so, I have suggestions. None are perfect, some may help, and all invite improvement and enhancement by you, my fellow poets. We won’t win everyone over, but we can make gains. Here are my ideas. First, we must understand that while poetry readers and writers easily grasp the power behind the words, lines, and stanzas that move us, your typical Jane and Joe Workaday (despite Bukowski-ite inroads into working-class readers) often find poetry both inaccessible and elitist, or at least not practical. Well sure, if we’re going to be practical about things, poetry doesn’t rank high, but neither does Shark Week, and everyone loves shark week. Poetry’s purpose, of course, is adding value to the practical day-to-day chores that make up our ability to exist. But while we writers see that value, it is harder for others not touched by poetry to see that amongst the bright lights and loud noises of Netflix, Instagram, cable news, and Spotify. And so accessibility is an issue—if poetry is not there out in the open, it will not be observed by those not seeking it. We need to do a better job of getting poetry in front of the non-poetic public, something beyond thrusting a book of Neruda or Ashbery into their hands. Something beyond the well-intended but baby-step-at-best method of putting poetry in places where people might see it and read it by accident—poems in subway cars, on the back of metrocards in major cities, on disposable products like coffee cups and beer bottles. We need to make poetry not just more accessible, but more immediate as well. We need to start inviting non-poetry readers to poetry readings. Now I know it’s hard enough to get poets to poetry readings, let alone their friends and family members who wouldn’t know Kerouac from Kellogg’s Corn Flakes, but I believe this would be a much more important and effective method of introducing the public to the power of poetry. So many of us were turned off from the same desperately minute pool of poets our teachers showed us in school. I was one. I refused to even read a poem until my mid-twenties after I left high school and seeing Robert Frost dissected so often that his very name made me cringe. Bringing someone who felt the same to a reading and letting them see you, their friend or son or sister, up on stage reading something to a rapt audience (let’s assume they’re rapt, ‘cause you write killer shit) will help them see the affect it has on you and others. It will be visual and aural, it will be personal. It will have an impact. Not on all. It might be a one night event for some people, but you’ve cracked the window. You’ve taken a brick out of the wall. Bring them back to a second reading, a third, fourth. Tell them you loved having them there. Let them become a part of how important poetry is to you. Not all will feel it, but some will. Let them join the ranks of those in the know. Experiencing poetry, however, does not alleviate the issue of not understanding poetry. Some of us write some pretty eclectic and avant garde material. I read submissions year-round for Hobo Camp Review and routinely see poems that, while incredibly written, fly so far above my head in content, meaning, style, vocabulary, etc., that I can’t help but feel dumb. Is that the poet’s fault? Not at all, and I’m not asking poets to write “simpler” poetry, but imagine someone who never reads poetry trying one of those on for size. Game over. Elitist bullshit. Not practical. Not useful. Forgotten. If we’re going to write for ourselves, have at it. If we’re going to try to impact the world with our poetry, if our goal is to create an arena where poetry can have more weight with the greater populace, then it is important to keep those readers in mind and find ways that meld our wildly varied personal styles and flair with our audience’s ability to translate that into understandable and meaningful insights and emotions. It is important to build bridges with our words.
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This might even require us to explain poems to friends and loved ones—so be it, let’s make that one of our goals. Bringing them along to readings and talking about the poems afterwards is perfect, like talking about films on the drive home from the mall. Asking them why they did or did not like a piece and picking out words or phrases that stuck with them will draw them in further, whether they realize it or not. Writing a poem for someone you care about, especially someone who knows little about poetry, and then telling them all the reasons why you used this image or that line, it can’t help but make them see the power of your words. Asking someone to read a collection alongside you and talking about what they think as you go along is another way. Make understanding poetry a shared journey. Helping someone understand poetry leads easily into another suggestion—insert poetry into the every day in direct, personal ways. Leave small poems in lunches for loved ones. Jot a poem down on a PostIt note for a roommate. Leave them in pockets, on windshield wipers, in books, in the fridge, on the remote control. Sew it into the every day. Make it the norm. Make people look forward to those little poems. Ask them to write poems too. Once we begin making our passion personal for them, inviting them to readings, sharing poems, talking about them, let’s invite people to try their hand at it. They may be terrified, but imagine if your sister who never read a book after high school finally did write a five line poem. Imagine of she shared it online. Imagine if she signed up for an open mic with you. Imagine the world you’d open for her. It’s something I’d suggest we try with our non-poetic loved ones after we’ve already lured them in with the other suggestions I mentioned, but I believe it will also be the easiest step. Poetry, of all the arts, is the easiest method of creation, contrary to the ivory tower reputation. Unlike music or painting, there are no tools or instruments to master. Unlike writing a novel or acting in a play, there is no massive amount of time commitment necessary. You sit down and write your feelings in a handful of lines, stand up, and you’re done. You are a poet. You are inside the closed circuit. And if enough people brave that one act, even just one time in their life, the closed circuit will grow so large that it bursts open to leave no barrier broken. Then our words will truly be able to comfort or destroy with the power we need. Then and only then. Idealistic perhaps, but that’s a poet for you.
James H Duncan is the editor of Hobo Camp Review, a former editor with Writer's Digest, and the author of Dead City Jazz, Berlin, What Lies In Wait, and other collections of poetry and fiction. He currently resides in upstate New York where a sleeping dog and unsteady stacks of unread books keep him company. For more, visit www.jameshduncan.com. 29 | T h e B l u e M o u n t a i n R e v i e w I s s u e 6
Chani Zwibel All The Wishing Stars Into the void fall the stars, atoms of which unravel, explode, become us. We are the realized hope of ancient ones, fragile edge of moss on tree roots, tender element of fungus on a stump. All of us are waves falling against the shore, stirring up sand and tiny crustaceans. Dreams of the moon orbit together with our bold metal satellites, our fixation for measurement and communication. Give me all the wishing stars you can carry. Veiled in winterâ€™s cowl, Iâ€™ll not long tarry.
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Ancient Ache (featured on Danteâ€™s Old South on NPR WUTC Chattanooga July 31,2016) The siren song of the open road to that place "back home" is a vintage wine, dandelion, poured over the roots of Appalachia, a sinuous mermaid, her long tail furling down mountains, down hills in springs and rills, grey and humming. The spirits of the dead call me, resonating from the shady green valleys where their ancient bones sleep, they say "pick up your camp from the toes of the mountains, in the southern lands, and come back home, girl, come back home. Climb up hill and dell until you're back in that holler, back to Skillet Hill you go." I cannot say no, nor merely send my slumbering self. I must leave this suburban Georgian life on pause, bowls of ice cream in the sink, Buddhist magazine on the bathroom counter, crumpled, water-splattered, nearly all-read, lonely couch to keep the TV company, bedside water glass empty. What I find in Pennsylvania is a place unchanging as the old mountains. Faded white farmhouse on a faded grey road. Steam rises from the hollow, hangs over the horizon, spirits floating. I feel, but cannot see, ghosts walking next to me in the overgrown garden. Even the tractor is mourning, slumped & rusted in a wreath of water plants. Rain wet grass washes my feet where spider webs are shimmering shrouds. Grief, hot like a spider bite, burns just under the skin, stinging my eyes with fresh tears. My tongue lolls around my mouth for teeth it canâ€™t find; the heart has a similar probing for the dead. They are gone. But hold on, heartache is only the worst part; it gets better, it numbs out with time and soon you are as grey inside as the rain is outside and the wind whistling through your soul is still seeking even in the howling darkness. 31 | T h e B l u e M o u n t a i n R e v i e w I s s u e 6
Those exquisite diamonds of light sparkling on dew jeweled spider webs, the burnt crimson of a turned leaf lying in cold mud on the path, the warmth in the familiarity of the angles and beams in the old farmhouse. Home tastes like sorrow but it is the same companion it has always been. Nobody promises tomorrow: we battle for it, like Vikings. Heaven isn’t some dream; it is the little moments that don’t make it to the TV movie version of your life. It is the tea kettle singing merrily. It is the smell of incense and herb. It is the voice at the other end of the phone who loves you, and whispers “keep going.”
Chani Zwibel is a graduate of Agnes Scott College, a poet, wife and dog-mom who was born and raised in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, but now dwells in Marietta, Georgia. She is a member of The Southern Collective Experience, and poetry editor for The Blue Mountain Review. http://www.southerncollectiveexperience.com/chani-zwibel/ 32 | T h e B l u e M o u n t a i n R e v i e w I s s u e 6
Autumn (art) & Chani (verse) Zwibel Dreams In A World Of Fire On the other side of time is a city made of fire. You can get there through a red door. On the top floor of the house made of fire is a canvas on a yellow easel, where a painter is painting a green field, for in a world of fire, they dream of verdant pastures. Outside, a red sun is rising into the empty waiting arms of a red tree. An old woman with a pair of blue wings on her back is reading a book about whales, for in a world of fire, they dream of azure oceans. Next to the door is a golden angel with a fishhook in its talons. Water may be a dream, but it guards against any beastie that might rise from the depths. Upstairs, past the artistâ€™s studio, is a room with a red balcony where nobody goes, and only blue shadows bake upon the burning walls, for in a world of fire, they dream of cobalt dusks.
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My Grandparents’ Kitchen (previously published in Menopause Press April-May 2011, also featured on Dante’s Old South on NPR WUTC Chattanooga May 29, 2016) One dirty blue towel Red cherries and edge of tablecloth Jewel-blue of a potato chip bag Of a heart that was A beer Cardinal, capital, crush Sitting crossed-legged On a chair in my grandparents’ kitchen A dusty smoke-yellowed room 120 years old Branch lifts in the moonlit air In a bottle of drink The dream: Snow. One red jewel of a cardinal sitting on a branch in the snow.
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Wallace McLendon Closet It is after the river floods when the winds die down and past the final frost that grain sprouts and pigs give birth. In time, wheat turns blond and hard, the hogs are butchered as fall turns crisp and hens stop laying due to short days. Soon the river freezes beginning at the bank and etching toward the center but never solid except in 1948. It is the doldrums when late winter meets early spring that farmer almanacs and calendars remain on the kitchen table as the Seiferts wait for the weather to make up its mind. The downpours do stop, and the river finds its banks so that the cycle can begin again as if everything is new except for the screech of the barn door or the sound of the tractor alerting Robin and Walter to return to the barnyard to help. River valley exploration and discovery will have to wait for the precious days when everyone could be working, but the farm is quiet because it’s Sunday or Robin’s father takes a nap in the big chair facing the fireplace in the kitchen – stones warmed by fire in winter or chilled by summer’s lazy updraft. Walter never sees Robin's father, Mr. Silas, or Robin's mother, Miss Esther, reading. Instead, there is constant talking and sitting with a coffee cup. Whoever comes – family, friends, preacher or the farm agent – yields stories fueling related tales stretching into strings of fact then fiction, extending into evening. The Seiferts long ago chose to let "can't wait" chores wait because people are fleeting and can never be recovered. Accidental, unpredicted rains, unexpected snows, vengeful hail storms and cold fronts bearing down do and undo no matter if tasks are done or not, so people first. For over a year now, twelve-year-old Walter and his mother drive from the tired textile mill town of Oakton down into the river valley to visit the Seiferts - first, for his mother to reconnect with her childhood farm days and second, for Walter to spend time with his best friend, Robin. Just the week before, Walter and his mother cut their Christmas tree from the Seifert's volunteer cedars growing along the pasture fence. This week's return trip falls on Christmas Eve. On rare occasions when Robin and Walter miss signals – the screech of the barn door or the sputtering of the tractor – Miss Esther steps out on the kitchen porch, cupping her hands and yells in a high-pitched, sing-song yodel that carries up and down the river valley – "Rob-IN, Rob-IN." Robin cups her hands and hollers back, "COM-ing." Robin and Walter swing open the kitchen door and run into an aromatic cloud of allspice and cinnamon. "Ya'll sweep and mop the hall. We're square dancing tonight," Robin's mom announces. The hallway is bigger than any room in Walter's house in town. Walter's mother says old castlelike farm houses like the Seiferts’ were built with large hallways so visitors have a place to stack their trunks. Walter has never seen a trunk in the hall. He wonders if he and his mother are the Seifert's only visitors. Or perhaps it is the excitement Robin and her mother display when Walter and his mother pull the big Buick up to the kitchen porch that makes them feel like they are the only friends who matter. door.
Robin and Walter begin sweeping the spacious hallway. A stairwell rises just inside the front "Have you ever been up?" Walter asks, his eyes following the rising rail. 36 | T h e B l u e M o u n t a i n R e v i e w I s s u e 6
"My Daddy says parts of the ceiling are sagging and the floor is rotting in places. â€˜Only a matter of time before leaks make their way down here,â€™ Daddy always says. 'Gotta get up there and fix it,' he says every fall when it turns dry, but I think the roof is too high and too steep for Daddy's bad knees and hip. Doesn't stop him from his annual 'Gotta do this' and 'Gotta do that.' And my mom doesn't seem to worry or be in a hurry. 'God made buckets and pans to catch leaks when the time comes.'" "So Robin, Great Explorer of the River Valley, is not the least bit curious?" "Sounds like you are. Go ahead and take a look. Watch where you step." "No. That's okay." "We live in 4 of 12 rooms. I read about castles in Europe and they do the same thing. Hard to heat a dozen rooms I guess. I'd rather spend my time in the valley and along the river," Robin says as she sweeps, rolling up dust balls. "The band will play in the space right there beside the front door," Robin says. "When we finish the floor, let's get some wooden pallets and make a stage for the band." "Yeah," Walter says. "A real stage!" "Yep, a real stage." Halfway down the hall, a large oak wardrobe rises out of the floor as if it grew there to seal the back of the staircase and support the stairs. Walter runs his broom underneath. "I don't think anyone has ever swept under here." He points to a cat-size ball of dust. Walter kneels down. More dust. He lies on his stomach and stretches until his broom reaches all the way underneath the colossal cabinet. It brushes up against a wall, causing the rattling of a latch somewhere behind the wardrobe. He pulls the broom out to study the floor beneath with one eye. "Robin. Come here. Look! The bottom of a door. There's a door behind." Robin slides in to lie beside him. "Is that a door under the stairs?" "You're the one who lives here. You never seen this?" "Never!" Robin and Walter spring from the floor and pull and tug the cabinet, trying to walk it out into the hall. It will not budge. "Glued tight," Walter says. "Like set on varnish before the floor dried," Robin says. The two squeeze between wardrobe and wall. Wedged in, there's just enough room to push the cabinet base with their feet. 37 | T h e B l u e M o u n t a i n R e v i e w I s s u e 6
"Again," Robin orders. "Again. Push! Again. Push!" Robin commands and the cabinet snaps free. The duo lower their shoulders and slide the hulking furniture. Robin and Walter stand in front of the short door hidden beyond memory. "A closet under the stairwell? Mom and Dad never said anything about this." "Do you think they know it's here? You say this house goes way back to your great-grandfather. Maybe the wardrobe does too." "Of course they know. Mama grew up here. Of course she knows. Don't you think?" Robin asks. "This is what you get for living in four rooms of a castle," Walter says. Robin punches him in the arm. Robin reaches for the handle expecting the door to be stuck as well, but it springs open as though something pushes from inside to get out. Robin steps back. The small cave is dark and darker. Robin runs through the kitchen. Her mama, standing by the stove, turns to look over her glasses as her galloping daughter disappears out the porch screen door and returns with a flashlight in hand. "Don't slam the door," her mama says as Robin lets the screen door bang shut. Robin presses the flashlight switch and shakes the metal tube until there's light. She aims the beam at the closet's ceiling, intrigued with patterns made by the underside of steps, and follows the parallel planks down to where they meet the closet floor. No dust, none at all, and no cobwebs. Everything is pristine as if preserved in the deepest chamber of a pyramid. Large framed photographs of groups of people under spreading oak trees or standing on porch steps lean against the sides of the closet. Robin and Walter jump as the light encircles a brass-buttoned gray coat on a dressmaker's dummy. The chest swells at attention while arms trimmed in black velvet hang empty. Two shoe boxes – one tied with blue ribbon and the other tied with a brown shoestring – sit just inside the door. Robin lifts the ribbon box and backs out into the hallway. She turns the box in her hands and sniffs it. She pulls until the bow disappears and ribbon falls to the floor. She lays the lid face down. The box is full of thick letters, their upper edges yellow. She pulls out the first one and holds it in her palm. She avoids looking at the address. She pushes against the envelope’s edge and the letter opens. Robin slides out a single sheet folded in half. The paper is as rigid as starched canvas. She begins to read out loud: Dearest Esther, Robin stops. She motions for Walter to retrieve the other box, the one secured with a brown shoestring. The brown twine is knotted tight. He pulls and stretches the string around corners of the box and lays the tied cross on the floor. He lifts the lid. The envelopes are not as smooth or as yellow as Robin's. They are stained and swell in waves as if once caught in a sudden downpour. The tear 38 | T h e B l u e M o u n t a i n R e v i e w I s s u e 6
along the top edge is dirty, rough and frayed, opened by a finger. Walter pulls a folded sheet from the envelope and reads out loud: My Dearest Silas, Robin nods for Walter to continue. Walter guesses what comes next where the ink runs and fades like water colors. My Dearest Silas, Oh how I miss you. I'm good. The cows and the chickens are good. Vernon comes by and helps out a lot. He reminds me so much of your grandfather. It's his chin. He sits and drinks coffee with me after the chores and he writes these letters for me. He's always saying, "Don't you want to say something mushy" and laughs not expecting me to answer. I'm sure I turn purple (Silasshe turns beet red. V.) We just got news that Ned's boy was killed. I don't know the details. It seems like yesterday that he went to Fort Macon. Vernon thinks we got the best chickens around. He also really likes your mule. He says you got an eye for picking animals. He says I was your best pick. Isn't that sweet, but I feel fat. (Silas She's not fat. V.). We had one leak in the roof last week and Vernon wedged a sheet of tin between the rows of shingles. It stopped. He's so good to me. We owe him some hams when you get back. We are making bandages at the church after worship tomorrow. We are going to a covered dish and work in the afternoon. I can't believe Martha said we shouldn't work on Sunday. I opened my mouth and shouldn't have, but I said that God would forgive us for saving lives because God saves lives all the time. She said she would make her bandages on Saturday and bring them on Sunday. Nothing more was said. I do think she is smart in the way she worked around her dilemma. I told Vernon not to listen to what I'm going to say next. (Silas, I ain't listening. V). You know that soft nightgown I use to wear? I've packed it up and am not going to wear it until you get home. (Silas- I didn't hear a thing. I swear. V.) Be safe. Take care of your rifle and it will take care of you. Don't worry. We are all doing fine. All my and Jesus' love and the corn is beautiful. Esther Walter folds the letter and puts it back in the wrinkled envelope. Robin begins to read aloud: Dearest Esther, 39 | T h e B l u e M o u n t a i n R e v i e w I s s u e 6
A long time. We are huddled. The snow stopped. The fire feels good. Sam is snoring beside it. His mouth wide open. We drink coffee and eat rations. Yesterday was hard. We took the hill. Lost 4 men. Then we were moved back to the river. Lost 3 more men. I like being next to the river. There are no rocks. None. The field has briars. May have been farmed years back. I stare at the river and look for fish. It is still except for a ripple here and there. Just enough to make some sound. Quieter than our river. A farm is up the road. When we walked by I could see one milk cow and two chickens. His barn was half the size of ours. A loft. He did have a kitchen porch. His dog barked. No one came out. Saw motion behind a curtain. Don't blame him. If it was a family, they didn't have much. I fired into men yesterday. Couldn't see. They shot us and we shot them. Don't worry. The rifle I have is better than mine in the closet. It should be. It's heavy. I don't know much about how we are doing. Take a minute at a time. Don't know about tomorrow. Frankie is writing this down for me. I hope you get this. Can't wait to see you. How did the corn do? Silas Robin and Walter sit in silence. They have no interest in exploring further. The treasure is found. With the bow retied and the shoestring forced around corners, they set the boxes back where they found them. Robin and Walter rock and walk the armoire back and forth until the cabinet is tight against the closet door. "Vernon was a good man," says Robin. "I wish you could've known him. He carved toys out of shingles for me." Robin and Walter finish sweeping the hall and, not ready to dance with each other, they dance with their brooms. That night, the Seifert farmhouse is filled with fiddle and banjo music as girls with freckles and tan men with sweat dripping from their chins follow the half-singing, half commanding caller: First you whistle, then you sing All join hands and make a ring. Skin glows as flirting eyes compete with laughter soaring above swirling dresses. Tops of men's shirts come unbuttoned as hair curls and become wild in the heat and humidity from near-hurtling bodies. Husk that corn and husk it right Pull your sweetie up close and tight. 40 | T h e B l u e M o u n t a i n R e v i e w I s s u e 6
Rhythm holds everyone captive as spinning and skipping strains calves and thighs. Feet and hands are lost in changing directions as eyes watch, along for the ride. Promenade around the room Ask your honey to jump the broom. Some stop, some hug, some pick up their girls and swing them around and then they all cheer and clap for the caller and the band. Doughy chicken stew and the smell of spiced cider wrap weary dancers in a warm, soft quilt. Soon there will be perfect first, second, and third kisses on the porch, in the yard or down the cedar row. After turning and spinning to dance calls, couples look deep into each other's souls by the glow of kitchen lights sweeping out onto the porch and yard and the nearby field. Some couples will be in love for the night while others commit to the touch of a worn nightgown made soft by time. After helping Miss Esther cook and serve all night, Robin and Walter sit at the kitchen table for their late dinner. Robin's knee touches Walter's, and they stay pressed together through dessert and time.
Wallace McLendon grew up in Oakboro, North Carolina. He studied English and creative writing at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. In 2015, he founded Chapel Hill/Carrboro Fiction Writers. â€œClosetâ€? is excerpted from Red Clay Redemption, a draft literary fiction novel. 41 | T h e B l u e M o u n t a i n R e v i e w I s s u e 6
Tom Larsen Sippin’ at Bell’s Two guys walk into a bar. One’s bald and the other isn’t, though they’re brothers and share the same name, first and last. The bald one works with me at the meat packing plant. Like much of the old guard, the Cheety brothers are Irish, and like most Irish they love to hear themselves talk. The boys can go on about pretty much anything, but what they go on about best is Senior. I join them in midstory. “So Georgie and me, we’re kids, maybe six and seven,” the unbald George signals the barmaid. “Senior liked to tip back a few after work and our mum would have to go get him for supper. Old Senior’s a mean drunk, isn’t that right, Georgie?” “A holy terror,” the bald George concurs. “Half the time he’d have his nose down some floozie’s blouse and the rest he’d be sitting alone radiatin’ menace.” “A walking time bomb, he was. And wee mum was like this,” bald Georgie signals wee level. “She’d wade right in and take him by the crook of the arm. She had the heart of a lion, our mum.” “Your mom dragged him out of there?” “Well,” unbald George smacks his lips, “Senior could be stubborn.” “She could never budge the bastard,” Georgie confirms. “But that didn’t put her off none. All it did was make her mad.” “This high?” I cut mom down even further. “Teensy.” “But capable of anything.” “A formidable woman,” the boys assure me. “As payback she’d send us down to fetch him.” “It was horrible,” Georgie shudders. “It was like putting a gun to your child’s head and pulling the trigger. Tell him, Georgie, …” George jabs him, “about the time Senior killed that woman. Right in front of our eyes.” “Oh Christ, it was horrible.” “The kind of thing you never really get over,” 42 | T h e B l u e M o u n t a i n R e v i e w I s s u e 6
“Killed?” The word catches in my throat. “Georgie wet the bed for years.” “She was a big old thing with Dolly Parton hair and cleavage that could swallow you whole” “Amanda, her name was.” “We come in the door like a pair of orphans and just stood there blubbering.” “Scared shitless, we was.” “Everyone in the place gawking like we’re a fucking apparition, except Senior,” George looks to Georgie. “He just sat there throwing back shots and mauling Amanda.” “Not that she minded. Them old hoors would set ‘em right on the bar if you was buyin’.” “But Amanda had, well, a sense of decorum, I guess. When she saw us, she slapped the old man’s hands away.” “I’ll never forget the sight of it. Big old titty staring us right in the face.” Georgie shakes his gleaming head. “White and wondrous as a full moon, it was.” “Like a mountain of ice cream with a cherry on top,” George claps a hand on my shoulder. “It would be years before we saw another like it.” “The genuine article. Not like the blow up balloons you see these days” “Daddy’s a tit man to the soles of his shoes.” The barmaid sets us up while the brothers stare holes in the seat of her pants. I stare as well, though it’s a bit of a load. “Tits and ass, Jesus,” George heaves a sigh. “If you could have back half the time you spent on ‘em you’d get to live another lifetime.” “And where does it get us?” George throws up his hands. “They’re never really ours. Piss ‘em off and they’re on to the next guy.” “Pussy and poison ivy. You can scratch it till you’re bloody, but the itch comes right back.” “It’s on my mind as we speak.” “So what about Senior?” I nudge them back to the subject. “You’re not gonna tell me he murdered the old girl right there in the bar.” “I’m not gonna tell you that, no,” George leans back and fires up a smoke. “This is my bother’s story. He’s got a flair for it, isn’t that right, Georgie?” “Where was I, anyway?” 43 | T h e B l u e M o u n t a i n R e v i e w I s s u e 6
“You had Amanda’s tits on the bar.” “Creamy is the way I remember ‘em, lush and creamy as egg custard. Senior kept pawing at ‘em and she kept knocking his hands away. A few times she managed to stuff them back in her dress but he’d lug ‘em back out again, snickering like a madman.” “We were frozen to the spot.” “That’s what did it, I’m convinced. We didn’t run and didn’t know enough to look away. The old bird finally couldn’t stand it anymore and gave Senior a crack in the face.” “The wrong move, by any measure.” “Suicidal, at the very least.” Georgie wipes beer foam from his lip and leans in close. “Senior just looked at her, but everyone could see the blood pressure risin’ and the left eye twitchin’ like something deranged. Amanda started whimpering for forgiveness, but it was too late. There was a long moment of silence and then BAM! Senior’s backhand cracked like a whip and the poor thing’s head went bouncing down the bar!” “What?” I try to recall hearing of a barroom decapitation. “She was wearin’ a freakin’ wig, you see?” George pounds me on the back. “But we didn’t know that! Big old blonde thing rolling by and me eyes are poppin’ out of me skull!” “We know what he’s capable of, you see.” “And here the fucking thing’s screaming like some poor dyin’ animal. Jesus, my blood turned to ice. The next thing I know Georgie’s got me by the hand and we’re running down the Avenue wailing like banshees.” “An unusual sight but not without precedent, given the old man’s volatile nature.” “Inspires one to run away, you might say.” I take it all with a grain of salt. The only thing the Irish excel at more than drinking is stretching the truth. I’ve heard Senior stories before, and if they’re all to be believed, we’d be waist deep in the carnage. Like the train robbery. That George Senior was the last man to attempt one is a matter of record, but some of the details have that ring of embellishment. The haul, for instance, find me a Rolex on the Frankford El and I’ll take it apart and put it back together for you. What can’t be disputed is the prevalence of the old man’s name in the annals of crime, resulting in the arrest and detention of more than a few Cheety brothers (six, in all) on charges ranging from arson to armed robbery. Senior’s no fool in that respect. The more George Cheetys are out there, the less likely they’ll nab the right one. “That’s a true story, Tommy lad,” George insists. “And not the first time the old bastard came close to murder.” 44 | T h e B l u e M o u n t a i n R e v i e w I s s u e 6
“Tell him about the showdown, George.” “Showdown?” I look them back and forth. “Like what … a gunfight?” “In the classic sense, mano on mano, or however the woolies say it. Tell him George.” “As it happens it was the same tap room - Sammy’s over by the power station. Fella comes in with a chip on his shoulder, starts harping on the barman about the beer. They serve it by the can at Sammy’s, you know. Then he made the mistake of looking Senior’s way.” “Poor soul couldn’t know what he was getting into. You make eye contact with Senior at your peril and this old boy thought he’d risk it.” “When folks start edging away from the bar you know you’re in over your head.” “Shit out of luck, if you’re lucky.” “ … So?” I prod them. “The regulars spread out and the place goes quiet as a tomb. The two of ‘em glaring at each other like looks could fucking kill,” George’s face tightens in the telling. “This was years ago now, but I can see it like it was yesterday.” “You were there?” “We was at a table in the back. Even full grown we knew not to crowd him.” “What about trying to stop him?” George looks to Georgie. “We keep forgetting. You never met the old man.” “It woulda been useless, Tommy, like trying to stop the sun from shining.” “Besides, it was then the poor fool made his second mistake. Right in front of a dozen witnesses he turns to Senior and snarls, ‘What the fuck are you lookin’ at old timer?’” “Just like that, low and surly. I thought the roof would surely cave in.” “’What the fuck are you lookin’ at, old timer?’” George says it again. “I swear the words just hung there drippin’ blood.” “Folks started sidestepping toward the door. They knew Senior was dangerous even at a low ebb, but no one had ever seen him singled out for ridicule,” Georgie smacks his lips. “It looked comical, man. The lot of them set to make their escape, but nobody actually leaving. Seein’ Senior get what’s coming to him might cost them their lives, but not a one was willin’ to miss it.” George lowers his voice. “The old man didn’t say a word. When the tension hit just the right pitch he reached in his coat, pulled out a pistol and slid it down the bar. A gasp went up and then silence so deep you could hear the light change out on the Avenue.” 45 | T h e B l u e M o u n t a i n R e v i e w I s s u e 6
Georgie leans in from my other side. “‘Pick it up’ Senior told him. The stranger looked at the pistol layin’ there. Behind him you could hear grown men whimperin’ and Hail Marys to beat the band. I prayed the poor fool would let it pass but he just kept diggin’ himelf in deeper.” “ ‘What’s wrong old timer? You tired of livin?’ the stranger sneered. Holy Jesus! Sammy himself peed his pants on that one.” “There was nothing anyone could do for the stranger now.” “ ‘You tired of livin?’ just as plain as day. Old Senior reached in his coat, pulled out another pistol and set that one next to his beer can. ‘Nope,’ he leaned over and spit on the floor. ‘Just tired of listenin’ to you.’” “That’s when it dawned on the man he was gonna die there. You could see it flicker in his eye.” “That did it for the regulars, too. In seconds the place was empty except for Senior, the stranger, George here, and me.” “What made you stay?” I ask. George shrugs “He’s our flesh and blood, and no matter how it played out we wasn’t about to walk away from it.” “We’re talkin’ history in the making, here.” “Bearing witness, you see.” I have to laugh. “You wanted to see him get his head blown off.” “Fucking right, mate,” Georgie howls. “His noggy brains splattered hither and yon.” “But all of a sudden the stranger is having second thoughts,” George slams the table. “He knows now the old man is crazy and crazy can be hard to kill.” “And just like that he hits the door runnin’. BOOM! Nearly trampled the hopefuls gathered outside.” “It was over before you could blink an eye,” Georgie laments. “And the old bastard’s laughing like it’s the funniest thing ever. Slappin’ his leg and lettin’ loose like he won the fucking Sweepstakes, you know? Me and George waited a few minutes then joined him at the bar. George here picks up the first gun and checks the chambers. All of ‘em empty. I didn’t have to look to know Senior’s was cocked and loaded.” George holds a hand up to heaven. “Every word true, on our mother’s grave. ” I check our tab and toss a few bucks in the kitty. “You never did mention what he does for a living, your father.”
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“Scrap metal,” George slips my bills from the pile and stuffs ‘em back in my shirt pocket. “He used to run a car crusher over by the airport, but one of ‘em still had the owner inside and the company thought it best to let him go.” “That freight train that wrecked in Port Richmond last year? That was Senior’s work.” “You sayin’ he scrapped a whole train?” “Just the tracks. Those old rails go for a premium, Tommy.” “And they didn’t put him away for that?” “Knowin’ somethin’ and provin’ it are two different things, lad. The feds rattled his cage for a while but they had to give it up.” “You get rousted as much as Senior does, you get to know your rights.” “Anyway, that was child’s play for a man of his salvagin’ talents.” George produces a pint flask and three shot glasses from inside his coat. “In his prime, he was the Human Magnet. If it was metal and meltable he’d find a way to liberate it.” “That old battle ship they have at the naval base?” I nearly choke. “Just the anchor,” Georgie sneaks me a shot. “Forty fucking years the old tub’s been in mothballs,” George jerks a thumb in some vague direction. “Got a bunch of em’ anchored in a row off the base. One morning they found one sitting in the middle of the channel. The Minnesota I think it was. Just a few sorry links of chain danglin’ from the side,” “The thing is, after the anchor was cut somebody had to push that rust bucket out there,” his brother explains. “No way a battleship just drifts by itself.” “Someone with balls of brass.” “Wait a minute,” I hold up my hand. “You can’t expect me to believe this.” “Course not,” George pours me a refill. “Nobody could winch a ten ton anchor onto a stolen flatbed and drive it halfway across town in a bloody snowstorm. Not with THAT blood alcohol content.” “Not fucking possible!” Georgie gives me a wink. “Hell, he didn’t even make it through Grey’s Ferry!” “They found the rig off of Creek Road. The anchor, the chicken crates, the whole shootin’ match. Busted an axel comin’ over the toll bridge, Senior did. Took ‘em half a day to clear the highway.” “Chicken crates?” 47 | T h e B l u e M o u n t a i n R e v i e w I s s u e 6
“Took a corner too close by that Asian Market. Feathers and bird shit every damn place.” “SWAT team came for him at three in the morning. He was back in bed by sunrise.” I finish my beer and check my watch. Georgie fingers a photo from his wallet, a grizzled gent with a barrel chest staring down the camera with a look of pure malice. “It’s a pose, you see,” he tells me. “The man’s very image conscious.” “Looks to me like he wouldn’t hurt a flea,” I lie. “Na, he’s hell on fleas,” George assures me. “A stickler for personal hygiene, Senior is.” “Shaves his crotch so the crabs won’t get him.” “Tell me something,” I slip my coat on. “You seen him around lately?” “Just last week we found him parked over by the U of P. It ain’t like you could miss that old pickup of his, right Georgie?” “Still has the bullet holes in the back window. The man’s hell on vehicles too.” “Had some cow in the cab with him. Past seventy and he’s still sowin’ the seed.” “Could be we ain’t seen the last of the Georges yet.” “Tell him what he did when he saw us comin’ Georgie.” “Old Senior waves us over, flips up the old girl’s top and hollers ‘LOOK AT THEM TITTIES BOYS!’” “Na, they don’t build ‘em like the Senior anymore,” George chuckles to himself. “Knock on wood,” they point to each other and pound on the table. My watch says it’s time to call it a night. I push away, shake hands all around and slip the barmaid a twenty on the way out the door. A pizza pie moon hangs low over Two Street. Halfway home, I can still hear ‘em yowling.
Thomas Larsen has been a fiction writer for fifteen years and his work has appeared in Newsday, Best American Mystery Stories, Puerto del Sol and the LA Review. His novels FLAWED and INTO THE FIRE are available through Amazon. 48 | T h e B l u e M o u n t a i n R e v i e w I s s u e 6
Samantha Canuel Stella & Cruz A young woman perched herself on the windowsill and applied black lipstick to her otherwise peach lips. “Here’s Stella, she’ll pierce whatever you want.” A ragged old Indian with long braided hair appeared behind the mirrored puckered lips. An apparition of what was once a woman. Fear ran through the giant brown baby eyes as the young woman turned around to meet Stella. Stella was the piercing specialist at the reputable Tattoos & Snuff, a tattoo parlor where you can smoke whatever you could find. Stella’s old skin sagged on her weary bones. Her loose jowls seemed to pull her lips downward into a permanent frown. She stood silent in front of the plump twentysomething. She quietly raised her metal piercing gun into an upwards fashion, poised to strike. “I’m gonna go. I think my parents were right.” The once-tough black-lipped young woman took off outside, hopping into her almost new Bentley - an obvious goth phase gone wrong. A smirk almost rose to Stella’s frown, the edges temporarily softening as she put down the black and metal piercing gun that reflected off her tribal nose ring. The aged metal was hooked between her nostrils like a bull. Paired with her constant frown, she was the toughest 75-year-old you have ever seen. But for Las Vegas, she was a wallflower. “Stella, that stupid rich girl was willing to pay $175 for a ten-dollar belly button piercing.” Charlie laughed as he tattooed a young marine getting his colored corpsman tattoo touched up. “If you weren’t so damn scary, we’d actually make some money.” Stella just stared at him, grabbed the girl’s lipstick that she had dropped in terror, and smashed the entire tub against the front glass of the shop. Her unblinking gaze never breaking, even after his did. Cruz crashed through the doorway. Spiky gray hair tinged with clay and the residue of gel highlighted his eyes that were always bulging with excitement. He looked like he’d showered fairly recently, maybe a day or two ago, but wore a striped button-up that had stains on the elbows and sleeves where he’d miscalculated the length of arms. “STELLL-LLLLLAAAAAAA” he sang in an obnoxious Marlon Brando imitation followed by, “Hey, you wanna hear my philosophy of life? Do it to him before he does it to you.” He ran over to Charlie and puffed his cheeks. “It’s not personal, it’s business,” and followed with “You don’t understand. I coulda’ had class. I coulda’ been a contender. I could’ve been somebody instead of a bum, which is what I am. Let’s face it.” “Oh my God, Cruz, Shut up!” shouted Charlie. “Stella, get him out of here. He’s screwing up my straight lines.” The young marine tried to lift off the bench where Charlie continued to carve into his pale back, “sit your ass back down, it’s not like you’re going to see it anyway.” Stella grabbed Cruz’s arm as she pocketed her piercing gun into the hip-hugging pouch she used to hold her herbal cigarettes and various studs and hoops for piercing. Cruz let out one more one liner as the door slammed in his face “Nobody tells me what to do…” he turned around to yell at Charlie, “I’m gonna take this joint apart and you’re not gonna know what hit you!” 49 | T h e B l u e M o u n t a i n R e v i e w I s s u e 6
Stella turned and just stared at him blankly. “What? You know that I learned Marlon Brando just for you, Roomie.” She turned around, held up a wad of cash in her hand, Cruz stared at her, cocking his head. “Your charming personality got you tips again? Huzzah! Let’s go to Rudy’s and celebrate.” Cruz began impersonating shooting off a bottle of champagne and spraying her with it. Stella just stared at him and muttered “No. You Idiot.” She started walking towards her bank to deposit her wad of cash. Stella banked at the same place forever. It was a family bank that was attached to the casino a few blocks down. She was notorious for spending all of her ‘savings’ once the account hit $350 dollars. You would find her trying her luck at the card games on the casino floor. She would eventually bottom out her meager savings and slowly walk back to the tattoo parlor, her wrinkly head down in shame. Cruz rarely heard Stella talk. Once in a while, she would mutter at him. It was as if her ancient vocal chords were out of order, in disrepair. He stared at her with wild eyes. She had long, dark gray hair that crowned her tanned forehead. Deep lines creased between her eyes and peak lines drew the corners of her lips downwards - the opposite of most people’s laugh lines. Stella stared at him and shook her head as she opened the bank door. Stella and Cruz waited in line, her with dark clothing hanging off her lean, ancient body, and his wild demeanor throwing crazed looks across the bank as if shadows were dancing around them. An odd pair to see. When it was her turn, Stella walked up to the young blonde teller/cashier that was open. “Well hello Ma’am! How are you today?” Silence. The woman swallowed. “What can I do for you?” Stella rummaged through her piercing kit holster that was wrapped around her hips. Stella grabbed the piercing gun and held it slightly out of the pocket, the handle showing as she rummaged for her tips floating around. The woman gulped audibly. She waited a moment, grasping at the counter as she looked around. It was just past dinner, the bank part of the casino closing within a half hour. She was the last teller in the area. The woman put her hands up slowly, palms facing the duo. “I swear I’ll give you whatever you want. I’ve got two babies at home, please don’t hurt me.” Stella paused rummaging and unintentionally gripped her piercing gun tighter. The woman blurted: “I have $25,000 in the drawer, I can give you that right now if you leave.” She teared up. “Please don’t hurt me.” Stella looked at the woman, a trace of confusion passed through her eyes, but the frown remained. She turned her head towards Cruz, who was a few steps back staring outside at the neon signs, acting fidgety. Stella returned her eyes to the young woman who had grabbed a knapsack and began filling it without instruction. “Okay. Just between us, I can give you all the money in the five drawers here.” She waved across the line of teller stations. Her experienced fingers flipped stacks of cash into the sack. Cruz 50 | T h e B l u e M o u n t a i n R e v i e w I s s u e 6
perked up as he heard movement. “What’s the issue now?” His voice raising towards the end, seeming slightly eccentric. The woman’s eyes grew bigger as she stared at Cruz’s bulging eyes and crazy hair. The teller bent over the second drawer and whispered to Stella. “Is he forcing you to do this.” She looked at Stella, forming her own theory of why she’s being robbed. “He’s forcing you to do this, isn’t he? Blink once if that’s right.” Stella just stared at the woman, she jerked her arm in a spasm and stabbed her leg with her piercing gun. She yelped. The teller ducked away. “Okay, Okay. Here’s what I can give you,” she said, tears brimming. “It’s almost $25,000 per drawer, so that should be over a hundred thousand dollars.” She gulped, continuing “Just go. Please go. Don’t kill me.” Cruz stepped forward and furrowed his eyebrows, the woman behind the counter covered herself with open palms. She shielded her eyes from an impending bullet. Eyes covered, tears leaking. Stella looked at the bag of money. She blinked for the first time and grabbed the bag. She grabbed Cruz’s arm as she ran out of the bank. They ran towards Rudy’s Bar and Grill, only a few blocks away. It sat behind the main drag of the Las Vegas Strip, Rudy’s lit up by the neon and lights from the large casinos that sat less than a mile away. Rudy’s was a Creole Bar and Grill, the only place you could get authentic fried chicken, gator bits, or even mashed taters in the city of Las Vegas. Karaoke night was just starting up when Stella and Cruz barreled in. Both of them went into the only bathroom in the entire bar, graffiti stained with curse words, phone numbers and unidentified smears. Stella bolted the lock and closed the top of the toilet. She opened the knit bag that the teller had handed her and pulled out a handful of crisp twenties and fifties. President Jackson never looked so fine. Stella exclaimed as clear as day, “I think we just robbed a bank.” The pair stared at each other for a minute as music (Tom Petty’s “Free-Falling”) reached a crescendo in the background. “WAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH-OOOOOOOO,” belted out Cruz. Stella danced in the fluttering bills that she had just grabbed. Both were oblivious to the sirens echoing in the alley just outside.
Samantha Canuel is a graduate student at Reinhardt University studying to receive her MFA in Creative Writing. She has had fiction published previously in Reinhardt University’s 2012 print edition of Sanctuary. Apart from writing, Samantha Canuel is a successful Project Manager at a Public Broadcasting Atlanta with a background in digital marketing. 51 | T h e B l u e M o u n t a i n R e v i e w I s s u e 6
Benjamin Carr Prayer of The Waffle House Faithful I believe in the Church of Waffle House. My communion tastes best with margarine and maple syrup. At my church, you have to put 25 cents in the jukebox if you want to hear Creedence sing a "hymn." I believe in doors with locks that are never needed nor used. I believe in hash browns scattered, smothered and covered. I believe a neverending cup of coffee should cost 99 cents. I believe in the use of so much grease on food that it will occasionally make you sick. I believe in being able to sit and listen to a panicked waitress talk on the phone about someone in her family having "parole trouble" and wondering how she's going to make this month's payment on the double-wide. I believe in getting scared, making eye contact in the dark hours of morning with someone who looks like a Hell's Angel but seems to be enjoying his grits. I believe that my friends and I will always, no matter how old we are, be able to go into a Waffle House and reflect on our shared history while looking at the shiny gloss of one of the not-quite-plastic, notquite-wood tabletops. I believe that a town in Georgia hasn't truly "succeeded" until it has a Waffle House on both sides of its interstate overpass. The best drag queen I've EVER seen was dressed as my kind of saint - a Waffle House waitress with a lipstick-stained Marlboro dangling from her mouth and a freshly-brewed pot of decaf attached permanently to her left hand. Waffle House is my past. Waffle House is my present. And, though I hate to admit this, I will always carry some part of Waffle House with me forever into my future, wherever that may be. The reason I mention this, what the restaurant means to me, is because I wasn't aware of the lengths I was willing to defend my belief, my faith in the notion of all things Waffle House until last night. Last night, I did all that I could to save Waffle House after witnessing first-hand some actions that could've shaken me to my very core. I walked into the Buford location on Highway 20 – the one right in front of the Wal-mart Supercenter – at 11:30 p.m. There were two people on staff: a shy young cook named Jonathan and a frazzled waitress name-tagged Baby T. Two older customers, a man and woman who also apparently worship at the altar of Bert's Chili after midnight, were at the counter when I walked in. Seeing Baby T on the phone, the woman customer, who told me her name was Kathryn, sat me down and got me a knife and fork. Though Kathryn tried her best to seem professional while taking my order and getting me orange juice, she didn't have a yellow nametag, a striped shirt or that brown hair kerchief thing they always wear. I ordered my bacon, egg and cheese sandwich, only to realize that I meant to order a sausage, egg and cheese, and, when I corrected it, Kathryn looked at me as though I'd just committed a sin. I apologized profusely, but Kathryn had stopped listening to me because Baby T, the actual waitress, was audibly upset, shouting into the phone. Overhearing Baby T’s account of what had just happened, I could understand why. Baby T had actually been my delightful and upbeat waitress at seven that very morning, during my first trip to Waffle House that day. Though I'd gone on from there, been home and a million other 52 | T h e B l u e M o u n t a i n R e v i e w I s s u e 6
places, she hadn't left the joint. The happy braids that she'd sported that morning were no longer happy around midnight. Half of them had come undone and frayed under her hair kerchief. Baby T was sad, tired and mad. Staring at her and at Kathryn the customer meekly, Jonathan the Cook seemed a little nervous. The store manager wasn't returning Baby T's phone calls. The waitress who was supposed to relieve her found out that the store manager hadn't put in her time-clock codes before leaving on his vacation, so that waitress walked out, Baby T said. Jonathan had just started the previous week, so he wouldn't be able to handle all the aspects of the third shift himself. Baby T couldn't find anyone to help her. None of the staff wanted to come in at midnight on such short notice. Someone named Kiarra had school the next morning. Someone else had a job interview. The district manager that she called didn't know what to do either. "This is not my problem," Baby T said. "You're the manager! I'M NOT EVEN ON THE CLOCK! This is not my problem, so you need to get your ass down here because I'm leaving ... Look, no, I made plans. THIS IS NOT MY PROBLEM. What am I supposed to do with the fact that my momma don't have her housekeys, then, huh? How she gonna get in our house??? What she supposed to do? Wait?" Baby T said she was 15 minutes away from walking out. She said her cash drawer was low on one-dollar bills and that soon the situation would be dire, more than she could handle. Jonathan pretty much said he'd follow Baby T out the door if she abandoned him, even if it meant they wouldn't be able to secure the register or completely lock the doors. "Ain't no way I'm damn doin' a damn thing," Jonathan grumbled. "I barely know how to work the grill." Kathryn the customer, apparently a Waffle House veteran, said she could help out if the general manager of Waffle House gave his OK. But, past midnight, that bastard wasn't answering his phone. I ordered another sandwich as the drama unfolded, and they looked at me like I was some kind of smartass. "Can you call the staff of another Waffle House and get them to send someone over?" I asked. There are two other Waffle Houses within a mile of ours. And I knew that, if the restaurant closed, it would likely cost Jonathan and Baby T their jobs. "We don't have their phone numbers," Jonathan said. "And the damn phone book is locked up in the damn office." Jonathan eyed the door. Baby T walked into the back room, redialing numbers in her cell phone. Though the problem was still unsolved, Kathryn the customer and her husband jumped into their pick-up and drove off. I couldn't take this. That Waffle House was going to remained manned - even if I had to go so far as to make a patty melt at 4 in the morning myself, though I hoped it wouldn't come to that. I mean, if a Waffle House can close, then human civilization might as well just call it a day. I've lived through cultural phenomena like Superman dying, Batman growing old, John Travolta and 53 | T h e B l u e M o u n t a i n R e v i e w I s s u e 6
Richard Gere making three career comebacks and the return of bell-bottoms. Are there no rules anymore? "Stay here," I told Jonathan with passion in my voice. "No matter what happens, I want you to stay here." Jonathan looked at me like I was a psychopath, not a Good Samaritan. "Sure," Jonathan said. I sped in my car to the next Waffle House, three minutes away. Jumping out and running inside, I saw a waiter named Rob who actually remembered me from my last trip there weeks before. I told him the situation. He told me that the Waffle House on Highway 20, though three minutes away, was actually in a different district from his. I pestered him a bit more, conveying in horror that a customer had actually taken my order. Apparently, Rob is also one of the Waffle House faithful, and he was shocked. I thought he was going to phone the red-alert number to the Waffle House Home Office in Norcross, but he didn't. He jumped on the phone, calling the Waffle House on the other side of the troubled one. They couldn't send a staff member. He got the phone number for the same district manager who was avoiding Baby T and, while I stood there, left an angry message. Rob said that was all he could do. But I didn't believe him. "It's complicated," Rob told me. "You have to switch out the drawers. I can't be on the same one as someone else. If a drawer is short for the night, they write you up, and one of us would have to pay for it." I still didn't believe him. My eyes glared at him, trying to communicate to him the sight of the aged Kathryn taking my order without wearing a hairnet over her blonde-with-black-root hairdo. "They'll leave it," I pleaded on behalf of the abandoned workers. "They don't understand. They're young. They'll leave it. And I don't want anyone to lose their jobs." I know the employee turn-over at Waffle House is massive. It takes someone with strong will to do that sort of work for any longer than three months without a piece of their soul folding like two eggs over-easy. Keeping that Waffle House open was important to me for reasons beyond the jobs of Baby T and Jonathan. I wasn't giving up, and I wasn't letting Rob give up either. I told him that we had a similar situation with the registers at my bookstore. "You work at a bookstore?" he asked intently. "Which one?â€? "Barnes & Noble." 54 | T h e B l u e M o u n t a i n R e v i e w I s s u e 6
Robâ€™s eyes brightened. "I need me one of them Harry Potter books," he told me. "I ain't payin' no $30 for it, neither." "I can get you 40 percent off," I told him, thinking about all the discounts I could apply. "We've got it on sale regularly for 30 percent, but I can help you out with Harry Potter if you need." I looked at Rob intently, a silent contract passing between the two of us. He wrote his full name and phone number on a napkin for me, getting me to assure he'd have a book on hold. "Thanks for your help," I told him, about to exit through the PUSH door. And he stopped me. "You know, I could call around some of my staff," Rob nodded at me. "I can help them out." He pulled out a phone list and jumped into action. Feeling proud of myself and secure in my faith, I headed home. Unable to sleep even hours later, though, I jumped back into my car and drove past the endangered Waffle House for a look. Customers were having coffee. Gaining some faith, Jonathan was at the grill. A waitress, wearing the hair kerchief, was scribbling incoherent orders onto her yellow pad. I don't know if I played a role, but I'd like to think I did. My vision of God is distinctly Southern, open 24-hours-a-day, and likes his hash browns allthe-way.
Benjamin Carr is a writer and storyteller. His work has appeared in The Guardian, Loose Change Magazine, The Five Hundred and Pembroke Magazine. He has performed regularly onstage at Atlanta-area literary events, including Write Club Atlanta, Carapace, Naked City, Stories on the Square, Stories on the Edge of Night and Listen to Your Mother. His work has also appeared at the Center for Puppetry Arts. He is a member of WonderRoot, the Southern Order of Storytellers and Working Title Playwrights. He is the co-founder of Gutwrench, a literary journal. 55 | T h e B l u e M o u n t a i n R e v i e w I s s u e 6
Interviews & Book Reviews
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Interview with Rising Appalachia Answers by Chloe Smith Information Collected and Composed by Clifford Brooks Rising Appalachia is a band that has gained constant speed since the sisters of Chloe and Leah Smith decided to take their effervescent genius on the road. As the lead singers, Chloe and Leah Smith play multiple instruments between them, and both have voices that stand distinctly independent, but harmonize like whimsical church bells. They are socially conscious, and support real love around the globe in-person as well as in philosophy. As much as I admire them for their music, the fact they are hands-on in their mission to make the world better is most striking. Not only do they keep their deep respect of nature and humanity at the forefront of the Southern mind, but they share that same respect as they travel the world. To do anything less falls short of a genuine heart and true grit. Chloe and Leah Smith possess both in full measure. I have witnessed Rising Appalachia perform on several occasions. They are an amalgamation of bluegrass, folk music, a dash of gospel, and enough funk to keep everything electric. Their band includes the incomparable percussionist Biko Casini and bassist/guitarist David Brown. Their entire ensemble is a single organism that sways in unison while Chloe and Leah maintain tempo with an always-eager crowd. It is a miracle to watch. It is feels like waking prayer. Originally from New Orleans, the sisters who keep this ship on the ocean have traveled far from home. However, like many I’ve met from these parts: The South is always the seat of our soul. There is no false boastfulness or undo apology from this crew. They embrace the good and bad, legends and liars, of the American South. Below is an interview I am humbled to present. Chloe Smith takes the lead here, and has fun with the BMR quirky-natured questions. Please follow the links and get into a Rising Appalachia concert. You will leave inspired, enlivened, and enriched. Never preachy, but full of message, this band has soul that will dance your ass off. What grungy-gorgeous traits in the South that makes you feel the blues like John Lee Hooker? There is still innocence in your airy voices, hopeful. How do you sing youthful in an old world? I can relate to the grit and grime of the South... the muggy air rolling off your skin in the thickness of summer... the red clay between the toes... the thick and spicy seasonings of the food palates down here. Fried tomatoes. Wild thunderstorms. Home of the toothpicks and mudcats. Lightening bug sparkle trees. Heavy accents. The "darlin's and baby's" that people call you. We sing youthful in an old world because that’s what the road teaches you. To stay on your toes and bring back somethin’ 57 | T h e B l u e M o u n t a i n R e v i e w I s s u e 6
fresh. To air out your opinions and relations and expose it all to a different pace and a different face. The South can feel old at times, until you realize that America is really one big teenager finding its way in an ancient world and we have a lot to learn from our elders. To speak of the South to the world stage needs a specific soundtrack. If you had to compile those songs (top 5) what would they be? Erykah Badu- Southern Girl Skip James- Hard Time Killin Floor Blues The Rosin Sisters- Sweet Sunny South (our mom’s band) Ray Charles- Georgia on my Mind Raury- Devils Whisper OR Outkast- ATliens ( old school vs. new school ) *** really, really hard to pick only 5 *** What funny, quirky question would you like to answer that no one asks? I would love to answer the question, "What are you reading right now?" In the song, "Filthy, Dirty South", what did, and do, you want listeners to glean from its lyrics? “Filthy Dirty South” is a love song to the region with a tinge of bitterness and reflection on the extraction industry down here. We hope people listen to it as a call to clean water and a serenade to not sitting still when our world tips towards the greedy profiteers. Our favorite line is "and if you muddy my water than I will come after you", about as potent to the times as anything we have ever written. Hopefully folks are singing that in their Post Office lines and town hall meetings and school house celebrations. A call to action it is. Not as us versus them, but a song that speaks to the action it takes to be accountable and stand up for that which cannot speak. What ethereal "otherness" encapsulates your band? We were discovered and coerced into taking music more seriously by Rosemary Gladstar, one of the leading medicine women in our country, instead of Sony Records. That pretty much says it all. Tell us about your new projects and tour dates on the horizon. What's in your heads? We are crossing fingers and toes to continue touring alternatively and in ways that inspire connectivity, adventure, and mystique. As of now, we are working on a Seed to Sail tour that will be 58 | T h e B l u e M o u n t a i n R e v i e w I s s u e 6
by sailboat... as well as a horse back tour. Additionally, we hope to spend much of the coming years overseas, flexing that "global citizen" muscle we believe so much in. If you picked bands (dead or alive) to create the best festival, what would your lineup look like? Blow up sound to the angels. Dream festival lineup produced by Rising Appalachia: Outkast Willie Nelson Etta James Xavier Rudd Kendrick Lamar Ray Charles Billie Holiday Prince David Bowie Whit Connah (our godfather) The Beatles Valerie June Mackelmore Jim Henson and Gaudi- ( set design, obviously) Ali Farka Toure The original Buena Vista Social Club Saul Williams Bijork 59 | T h e B l u e M o u n t a i n R e v i e w I s s u e 6
Fat Freddys Drop Bob Marley and The Wailers Tupac Ani Difranco Nahko Jidenna Beyonce Nirvana Leonard Cohen James Brown Mozart Gustav Klimt (live painting)
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Interview with William Walsh Information Collected and Composed by Clifford Brooks Bill Walsh is a teacher, poet, author, father, husband, and friend anyone would be lucky to have in their corner. I met him a year ago through the Reinhardt University MFA program. He is a professor that’s half the brain trust behind Reinhardt’s rare group of souls. I came into the picture as a madman looking for instruction. In the time since first shaking hands we’ve heard and read each other’s work, shared conversations that proved both soothing and riotously cathartic. We have covered topics such as growing up in the South, the current state of words, where we find our divine fire, and how artists too often take themselves too seriously. It is a blessing to have him within The Southern Collective Experience. Walsh is easy to laugh and as quick to make those around him smile as well. Yet, he has a piercing gaze that drives into every detail around him, and wisdom that is rare to be found within any friendship. The man is a literary machine and consummate mentor. His work is real life. The poetry he crafts, currently found in his new book, Lost in the White Ruins, shines with wit, a wily childhood, and the hard walk that leads a man to himself. Over the last few months the interview you are about to read culminated over coffee, mutual respect, and rowdy spirits. What are aspects of your life that have fleshed out the poet in you? I find that almost anything in my life can be a poem because everything is a metaphor for the greater mysteries in life, although some are more interesting than others. I just finished a poem yesterday called “Shipwrecked” about being ready at all times to bolt and disappear so that no one can find me. Of course, it’s not me, it’s the speaker, “I.” The speaker has a go-bag that for years has been packed and ready with clothes, a disposable telephone, money, a gun, and whatever essentials he thinks are needed to vanish. Well, in the poem, his wife finally notices the go-bag after all these years and asks what it is. He says it’s just an old duffle bag his father gave him a long time ago, something his father never used. Well, the idea is not so much about escaping into another life, which everyone dreams of doing, but the idea that we don’t go. We stay at home and take care of our responsibilities even with such great desire to run away. Despite this desire to leave, we are committed to family. It’s easy to walk out the front door on a rainy Saturday afternoon and drive to the 7-11 for a gallon of milk or a bottle of Ginger Ale and never return, but we always return home. Some of us live in a house where the most exciting thing is the fantasy world of our imagination, hence we write poetry to find answers, to be creative, to discover deep things about ourselves. The father in the poem never left, and the speaker more than likely will not leave. That’s how you can make the mundane life exciting, which is why the first book of poems I wrote was called The Ordinary Life of a Sculptor. I like finding those moments. Taking my boys on a canoe trip is wrought with danger if we make a mistake, but under normal circumstances, it should be a beautiful, calm experience, but environments can change in a minute. Sitting in camp at night with a fire is relaxing. . . until a bear wanders in when he smells the fish cooking. So, the parts of my life that flesh out are the everyday boring things that can have greater significance in the universal world. David Bottoms calls it the DHM, the deep hidden meaning, and they are all around us if we can get in touch with that part of our senses, be in touch with the world, turn on our spiritual radios. I like writing about my children and my parents, things I’ve done, places where I’ve traveled, stories I’ve 61 | T h e B l u e M o u n t a i n R e v i e w I s s u e 6
heard. Even though family may be the subject, there is a larger more important thing going on in the poem. Within all of those experiences, there is something universal that a person in Wyoming can feel and understand as much as someone in County Cork, Ireland, if I write it well enough. I’m not too political in my poetry. I’m more interested in nature and how I meld within that framework, yet, I’m aware that I am a visitor in the wilderness, a temporary guest, because I am a city boy, a suburbia carpetbagger. I’ll write about anything as long as it’s exciting, poignant, and grabs my attention, and if I can pull it off. I’ve written a lot of things that never pan out—no gold. Occasionally, I will include a friend of mine in a poem, usually from childhood, doing something super-human. It’s my way of paying homage to them. None of us are Superman, but I try to make my friends look like super men who live a greater life than we would be expected when we were kids. And, of course, I have always enjoyed using poems to tell friends and family how I feel about them. I’m working on a poem, going on a year now, about mowing my mother’s yard. Well, before my father died, it was his job. Now it’s my job again, like when I was a kid. This time around while I’m riding the lawn mower, I have these great pockets of time to think about my father and how he cut the grass. Am I cutting the grass in the same direction as he did? Am I taking the same care or just riding over it as quickly as I can to get done? Am I paying respect to him with the art of lawn care the way we should honor God with excellence in all things we do? That’s the big question, and I’m not sure I have the answer. As I’m riding along on the John Deere, I keep thinking my mother will step outside to ask if I want to stay for dinner and when she does I wonder if she will look out to see me, but instead will see my father. There is some great hidden meaning in all of that and I am trying to figure out. It takes time. To write poetry is to stand naked in front of anyone who picks up your work. You don't have the veil prose provides the author. Do you find this to be true in your life? Was there a time, or times, you had to stoke up your bravery before slipping into poetry? I’ve lectured many times on getting naked. That doesn’t mean ripping your clothes off literally. It’s a figurative idea. It’s becoming emotionally naked to the world so that you have stripped down all the barriers of yourself so that you become something more significant, more important than who you are. You are becoming more significant while at the same time you as a person are becoming less significant. It’s a paradox. When you do this, you can emotionally bore into another person’s mind and heart. This is a difficult process for most poets, especially young writers because they feel they will be judged by everyone for the ideas and emotions they reveal. And, of course, they will be judged. That’s the whole point. You must give up who you are, be vulnerable. If the poem has necessity, it will bore into the other person. At that point, they will not think about you nor will they judge you. They will judge themselves against the emotion of the poem. That’s when you, as a poet, are golden. I never worry about the veil of being identified. Sometimes the speaker is me. Other times, not. If I am mistaken either way, I’m fine with that. The poem might begin with me as the subject but by the time it finds its real truth, it’s not me. And, the antithesis can occur. By the time a poem ends, occasionally it is about me. You asked about bravery. The bravest thing I ever did was show my father the first good poem I wrote in college because I’m sure he was disappointed there was no doctor or lawyer in the family, or major league ballplayer. I’d been writing in secret, pretending I was writing songs because songwriting was honorable. I gave little hints here and there about writing, sitting in on Bottoms’ class, Poetry magazine left sitting around on a table. Now, my mother knew I was writing poetry and she loved the idea that I knew a famous person, a poet. She could recite poetry from grade school and high school that she memorized, but showing my father that first poem was a leap of faith. That poem was “The Tyburn Tree.” He liked it but it took a lot of bravery to say this is what I’m doing in college and where all that money is going. Then I started getting published and he saw how happy that made me. One Sunday I was over at their house—by now I was working and on my own—and there was a phone call from Australia from the editors of Poetry Australia calling to accept a poem I’d submitted at least a year before. This was in the day before cell 62 | T h e B l u e M o u n t a i n R e v i e w I s s u e 6
phones, of course, so the phone was hanging on the wall—no privacy of any kind, right—but everyone knew the call was from Australia so they stood around eagerly waiting to know how and why. It was like getting a call from the Yankees to be at spring training. My dad was proud of my first book, Speak So I Shall Know Thee: Interviews with Southern Writers. It had taken five years and he saw the hard work I put into it. He once drove 100 to rescue me in a snowstorm after I had interviewed Harry Crews. My car began acting up and for some reason wouldn’t go faster than twenty miles an hour. He came and found me at a Stuckey’s and followed me home, driving behind me on the interstate with the flashers on. I haven’t thought of that in years, so that memory might become a poem because tucked deep inside is a metaphor for the bigger issues in the world. The Tyburn Tree Yellow prairie dirt dried like sun-baked marrow from the bones of stranded cattle swirls across the plains as sagebrush tumbles past the edge of town. Horses scuffle, branches from the tyburn tree slap in rhythm to the wind, whispers pass among the townsfolk. The preacher wipes his neck with a sweat-stained handkerchief and a card player dude spits tobacco juice and complains about the dealer last night. The crack of a hickory switch sends the black mare chasing the muddy banks of a watering hole and a man with his hands tied behind his back twists from the tyburn tree. You have a new book out. Lost in the White Ruins is funny. It is heartbreaking in the right places, but even in the pain, your succinct use of description within narrative keeps a reader clear of melodrama. I've heard you read from this book, and your style brings out both music and a hard laugh. This leads to 2 parts: I’m very pleased with Lost in the White Ruins so thank you for all the kind words you have said. I try to have a balance of humor interjected into the pain of real life, and there is a lot of pain, physical and emotional. How we deal with it says many things about the person. Years ago, Doris Betts told me—you might as well laugh as cry. That is so true. I love laughing and making other people laugh. I used to be pouty and miserable where poetry was concerned. I was always funny but I had this deep dark side of myself I did not like, and if my poetry wasn’t going well, look out. I was horrible to be around. I wouldn’t want to be around a person like me. You know, it’s the It’s Midnight and I’m not yet Famous Syndrome. I see a lot of people suffering from that problem these days—they just don’t realize it. Around the time I met my wife, I began to change—just before we met. I didn’t want to be the sulking poet, that miserable lug who sees all the horrors of the world and carries them on his shoulder, in his throat, on his sleeves, in his eyes, and brings everyone else down into a wallowing pit of gloom. I was out of balance. I never liked those sulking types of people—why would I want to be like that? I made a conscience decision one day to see the world differently, to conduct myself differently. Fred Chappell also counseled me on this idea with his writing and conversations, that the true folly of man is best seen in a humorous light. Fred’s one of the funniest guys and one of the best writers. Anyone can be miserable. It takes no effort. Try being funny in 63 | T h e B l u e M o u n t a i n R e v i e w I s s u e 6
front of forty people for thirty minutes. When I get you laughing, I can say or do nearly anything and you will follow me on that journey. But, within all of that humor there are the serious issues at work. That’s the rub. All that being said, I like happy people better than the old sad sacks. Within a serious poem, you can have humor or a humorous moment. There are poets for whom nothing is humorous. That’s not my thing. Some of that may be depression or being bi-polar, which a lot of poets battle. In regard to the poem, it’s a balance, almost a timing issue of giving enough laugher but not too much so that the serious weight of the poem is not lost. What would you call your style, voice, or brand of poetry? I have recently begun calling myself a Post-Modern Contemporary Southern Writer. I’d love to be an Irish poet but I have no claim to that moniker. But, I am post-modern, as well as contemporary. And, after living in the south since I was eleven, I am southern. My brand of poetry is simple—write the best you can. I’m a narrative poet under the influence of David Bottoms, James Dickey, Theodore Roethke, Sharon Old, Marie Howe, Ed Hirsch, the Beats, and a thousand other poets. To me, narrative isn’t simply telling a story with line breaks and enjambment, although those techniques are essential, but I like to employ internal rhyme, alliteration, all the conventional techniques at one’s disposal. But, the trick is to use them skillfully so that they are undetected until someone examines the bones of the beast. Did you come from a school of poetic thought, or did you forge a new way? I really am from the Poetic School of Hard Knocks. I started out as a kid just writing anything—no revision, because I was a genius even if no one else realized it. Once I got over that notion. . . fast-forward to college where I read a lot of writers without regard to quality so I’d read everything from Reader’s Digest condensed books to Aristotle’s Ars Poetica. At some point, I gravitated toward American poetry and Southern Literature, if the two can even be separate categories. Nonetheless, that’s really where I began: Southern writing and post-WWII American poetry, but not exclusively. I’d still read anything someone handed to me, including the telephone book. I devoured the Morrow Anthology of Younger American Poets (Bottoms/Smith) and The Contemporary American Poets, New American Library edited by Mark Strand. Those were my poetry bibles. I read encyclopedias from the 1950s, old Polk City Directories, which I recommend because you learn a lot about a city or town, as well as find the best old names for your characters. For the longest time, I didn’t have a style or form or voice, but just kept writing, trying as I could to ferret out a narrative with some significance. I think I went four or five years without publishing anything, probably because I wrote only two good poems. Once I went to graduate school, Jack Myers introduced me to a lot of poets who were well established and doing what I was trying to do. He matched me up with their books so I could see how to do it “right.” As well, he introduced me to poets I’d never heard of before: Charles Bukowski, Michael Val Walleghen, Susan Mitchell, Ralph Angel, Bill Knott, and he made me go back a read a lot of other poets, Sharon Olds and Adrianne Rich, to name a few. It was a great reading list. Then slowly, I began to find my voice, which is a self-deprecating smart aleck who has a little too much education for the job he has and no one can argue with him at work because they are unarmed. But, the main thing, and this is the advice David Bottoms gave to his class one day when I was an undergrad: you will never make it if you stop writing. How important is it for a poet to practice reading aloud, and to groups, to help them succeed in the business of art? I don’t believe reading before an audience will make you a better poet simply by that act alone—the proof being the millions of poets who have read in a million coffee shops, bars, libraries, street corners, and yet, they still suck as poets. But, that’s not the point. Everyone sucks. Don’t quit. Keep writing. Keep reading. Getting before an audience allows a sense of accomplishment, which can take you to the next day, the next week, next year, five or ten years down the road to what you are still doing, writing poetry. At readings, you will meet like-minded people, which is wonderful because you can exchange ideas, poems, telephone numbers, saliva, recipes, anecdotes. Making friends who are poets and fiction writers is a wonderful thing 64 | T h e B l u e M o u n t a i n R e v i e w I s s u e 6
because that can help propel you further. Poetry readings are like art galleries for words. If you’re a painter, where do you go to look at art? The business side of things, which for us is the Po Biz. . . I’m not well versed in it. Of course, I know a little about it, but I’m too busy to go to all the writer’s conferences. I wish I had the time to attend some conferences. I’ve been to a few of them but always as a visiting writer or scholar and enjoyed it. Going to Yaddo would be a dream. These places can be productive for many people. I’d like to attend more conferences but I just get so busy with teaching, finishing my PhD, running my company, being a father and husband, and publishing. I’m going to AWP in 2018 and very much looking forward to that. I keep thinking how I would like to teach again at a conference but I never get around to asking the organizers, just as I never get around to filling out the paperwork for grant money and endowments. I’ve never applied to anything, which was Faulkner’s advice to writers. I’m not knocking the poetry biz—it’s just different for me. I have friends for whom that’s the Kahula-coated nipple, getting endowments and such. I know people who are very productive at conferences because they are driven and focused. A few friends go to writer’s retreats to finish their manuscript or put it together for the tenth time, but from their exploits, all that seems to happen is that they meet someone, have a quick affair, start a few poems, perhaps rearrange the current book, and then return home depressed. A few of my friends stay focused and get an enormous amount of work done while at a conference because they are extremely disciplined individuals. In fact, those are the ones who are publishing their poems in the best journals and have a few books under their belt. Some people go just to make contacts. That’s fine, too. The other types like talking about being a poet more than writing and getting published. They like the after parties and finding someone who will commiserate with them and supply a certain amount of empathy about their disappointing life and the struggles they have carpooling their kids to school or soccer practice or ballet and how difficult it is to go grocery shopping. Of course, I am talking in generalities. All that is fine, but where is the poetry? As Margaret Thatcher said, “Learn to focus only on those things important to your success.” I firmly believe that. Some people are more serious about being thought of as a poet than they are in the actual act of writing poetry. I’m saying all of this to the would-be writer and poet – avoid those types of people because they drain your energy and suck you into the drama of their life, and that prevents you from writing. You only have so many hours in the day – Conscribo Diem. . . Write the Day. For me, I get more work done sitting by a small stream with my fishing line waiting for a hit or hiking up a mountain because it allows my mind to clear and find answers. It’s meditative. Whatever way you like to butter your bread, that should be your way. I make no judgment, but at the end of the day you have to look at what you have or have not produced. What are a few stereotypes you see to the American South, or the poet in general, that you'd like to see stamped out of existence? I am open to all types of poetry as long as it is of the highest quality. Some people look down on haiku. I’m not sure why. Some of it is very good. Some people don’t like confessional poetry. How can you argue with Heart’s Needle? If you look, you will find what works for you. Maybe later, you will come around to another type of poetry. I’m not much on lyric poetry but maybe I haven’t come around to it, yet. What we should be worried about is the quality of all the poetry regardless of the school or form. We should try to write each poem so that it’s better than yesterday’s poem. I read poems from all walks of life, all styles, all voices, forms, and quality. I’ll read anything. Per your questions, I’m not interested in stamping out anything except bigotry and narrow-mindedness. The American South, for all the bad things it has in the closet, has a lot of wonderful features. I’m not interested in getting into a pissing contest with people about how great or bad the South is or how much better or worse the North is. Each region of the country has problems and a sordid history, as well as stereotypes. Each has attributes to praise. Volumes have and could be written about each region of the country that would anger us and/or have us proud for where we are living. Find me a place that doesn’t have a trouble past. You cannot. Even Eden had a snake. As writers, as I have done in my new novel, Haircuts For the Dead, we must allow the characters to deal with racism and bigotry and hate and ignorance on their own stage. Allow your characters to find the answers so that the reader will be witness to the truth, good or bad, so that it changes the reader for the better. I 65 | T h e B l u e M o u n t a i n R e v i e w I s s u e 6
simply write what the characters need to say and do. From that, all action follows. Remember, plot is simply getting people into trouble then getting them out of trouble. From your experience in the classroom (both student and professor), poet, author, once unpublished, and now in print: What are three things artists can do to avoid unnecessary pitfalls. The Blue Mountain Review wants to provide a rough road map around hardships that don't serve as essential part of the School of Hard Knocks. Can you provide some good directions? Read. Read. Read. Then write. W.S. Merwin did not initially write poetry. As a young man, he translated poetry because he had no experiences to write about. I wish I had done that when I was 23. I would have been a better poet ten years later and I would have been more fluent in French. When I was young, I was writing about things that didn’t matter and I had no experiences that mattered to anyone. French translation would have been a good option. I absolutely never join writing groups or clubs, save for this current group of folks in the Southern Collective Experience, mainly because I cannot stand the type of person who would be in such a writing group. Once, when I told a woman that I didn’t want to join her group, she got angry with me. I told her that it’s possible that I may not have even joined the human race, yet. That’s how opposed I am to being associated with any group. It’s the old Groucho Marx line, “I wouldn’t join a club who would have a person like me in it.” Writing group members are usually wanna-be writers who would rather talk about writing than actually do it. However, if it works for you, have at it. I’m not opposed to it if it works for you. It’s just not my gig. The SCE members are accomplished writers and artists; otherwise, I would have declined. I’m pleased to be associated with the SCE. My advice to most writers: find one or two friends who love poetry (or prose) and be honest with each other. Trade poems to edit. I always tell my students: Intelligence, Candor, and Goodwill. It helps everyone. It does no good to be mean to other poets in workshop just because they were mean to you. You want to get back at them so you say, “Well, if you’re going to be a writer, stick to writing letters to your granny.” That helps no one. Find that one poet who is as passionate about poetry as you are, covet your friendship, write poems to overwhelm them, edit each other, be friends, stay friends, talk about life, write more poems, and give helpful advice. Over the years, I’ve had friends like that, wonderful writers and friends. But they come and go. You drop them or they drop you. You move on to other friends. But you have your core. People move away and you lose contact. Some stop writing. Some never wrote anything of significance and it eats at them and they fade away. One friend and I parted ways because that person became jealous of my success. It was horrible how it ate at him/her. Too bad really, but it happens. I mean, I was never in competition with him/her, but it destroyed our friendship. You move on. For years I have had other friends who read my poems. I like reading Henry Hart’s poems and giving him a good read, a good line edit. Likewise, I like his comments about my poems because he’s such a smart person. He’s also a nice guy. John Williams also has a good eye for poetry, as does Mike Saye and Alexandra Thurman. But, beyond anything else: read, read, read. Support poets—buy their books. Go to readings. Talk to people. Be a good friend. Take a quality writing class with a good professor. Ask around because poets know who’s good and they’ll tell you. Read! Read! Read! Do you have a ritual you perform before, or during, you long bouts of writing? Do you use music? Even if music isn't your writing thing, is there a tune that gets you ready to produce, or a genre that tends to inspire you more than others? Ritual? No, not really. When I’m firing on all cylinders, I can write anywhere. In fact, I take poems to the doctors, Africa, Europe, camping, to sit in carpool. I will write and/or edit anywhere. Boredom, those long lost hours of time when we have nothing else going on in our lives that allow us to daydream, well, kiss that shit goodbye. We fill every G-D second of our lives with the G-D cell phone. My kids cannot sit and think about anything without having to jump immediately on their phone. It’s a cultural/societal thing. I hate it. All the kids are like that now, not just my kids, and most adults, too. You cannot go out to dinner without the entire family ignoring the hell out of each other by having their noses in their phone. I see it 66 | T h e B l u e M o u n t a i n R e v i e w I s s u e 6
everywhere, people engaged but absolutely disengaged in life. When are you supposed to daydream and think of new ways to split the atom or cure cancer or write a poem? Put down the phone. Allow your mind to be bored senseless once in a while so that you can imagine something different. My writing ritual, if I have one, consists of making a pot of coffee. One cup. A few hours later, I make another pot of coffee. One cup. I keep forgetting to refill my cup so I just make another pot. I waste a lot of coffee. That’s my only ritual when I am at home. I like to take my poems with me where I go so if I have five or ten minutes, I edit or just read them. Not only am I not wasting my time, I’m honoring myself by being a good steward of my time. It almost becomes a religious act, the act of writing, to allow whatever muse is circulating the airwaves to find me. What do you think about adding music to spoken word poetry? Is it a project you've done, or would consider doing? What are your thoughts? Is there a dream project you'd like to share to throw a wide net for folks that may be interested? Music and the spoken word? I’m fine with it for anyone who wants to do that. I wouldn’t do it at my reading, but there have been poets I’ve heard who are quite good. I think it would distract from my poems and my personal rhythm, but others do a fine job at it. If you go back to the early bards, there was music and festivities abound. Why not now? Are we so stuffy to think we need to be in black ties and wing-tip shoes? Years ago, I spent three days with Joseph Brodsky when he was a guest at the University of West Virginia. I had been invited by Gail Galloway Adams and her husband to spend the week at their house, and to my benefit, I ended up being involved somewhat with helping Brodsky around town and to some of the events. Not much, but some. I enjoyed my time with him immensely because he was such a brilliant thinker and he loved to tell you what was on his mind. I think back to that time before the Internet, Amazon, eBay, and the absolute instantaneous access we have to information, especially books. Back in the day, you had to look everything up in the library. In my PhD program at Georgia State University, which I love because it is rigorous and inspiring, I have not once set foot in the university library. Nor have I gone to any library for my research. That couldn’t have happened twenty or thirty years ago. If I need a source, I go online and buy it. Every book I have needed for my doctorate, I have purchased online. I found a copy of Crowell’s Handbook of Contemporary American Poetry by Karl Malkoff. It was an old library copy from Michigan State University, and I paid $2, plus shipping, and had it by the end of the week. I’ve referred to that book for nearly every class I’ve taken. I’ve bought every book I’ve needed online. Someone somewhere is selling an old copy of a book I need for my research and now I have my own personal library of old scholarly library books. My point being, back in Morgantown, Brodsky said he wanted accessibility to books, distribution, because a lack of access was, he felt, one of the biggest problems facing modern society and literate people. I never envisioned the Internet and I don’t believe Brodsky had envisioned the Internet and the accessibility of books and information, but he was there at the beginning thinking about the problem and perhaps trying to imagine something of a solution. Well, sitting here answering your questions, I have a vision that there will be great things to come, advancements in technology we cannot imagine. What they are, who knows? Those prophets are walking around in hell with their heads on backwards, per Dante. Whatever innovation is beyond the next door, I want to be a part of that, experience it, and try to make it useful. I would like to be a part of the kind of project. https://www.amazon.com/Lost- White-Ruins-William-Walsh/dp/ 0692225498/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8& qid=1485876875&sr=8-1& keywords=lost+in+the+white+ ruins http://www.pw.org/mfa/ reinhardt_university
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Interview with Gretchen Heffernan Information Collected and Composed by Clifford Brooks Gretchen Heffernan is an astute judge of character with a way of writing that leaves her impressions clearly imbedded in the reader’s long term memory. Her writing mimics the way she speaks: Clean, calm, determined, and worldly. Whether you speak to her on the phone, or read her creative works, there is no wasted space. Now, in America that may translate to mean she speaks quickly without regard for another. In Heffernan’s case, nothing could be farther from the truth. She listens intently. Her ability to use that focus to not only edit her work, but the work of others, can be likened to a brain surgeon with deft hands. She brings out the best in other’s writing. For this reason her skills are highly sought after in the classroom and between colleagues. Heffernan is not dainty in her delivery, but bold. In prose she delivers two punches with succinct passages to set up the scene, and then natural dialogue that could easily fit the demands of a screenplay. You will see her gift at the tail end of this interview with an excerpt from her new novel, The Carving Circle. I will warn you: Once you begin, you’re gonna have to buy the book. Luckily, that link is added in the interview to grant you the means to an end. Gretchen Heffernan’s poetry is no less vibrant. Yet, it is proof that she has an ear for music. Every word she slips into a line of verse is an individual singer within a choir of other syllables. The whole of it – each poem, especially if you read it aloud, resounds with thunderous joy, biting distraction, or the tones sorrow leaves in the throat through scars. It is life. Heffernan’s education, publishing resume, accomplishments as a publisher, and ability to see the worth of ones words make her an exceptional human, rarest of writers, and a marvelous friend in a world of hacks. Please read on to discover a mind undaunted by time. What makes Gretchen Heffernan tick? What have other interviews missed in getting to the marrow of you on paper? What music gets you centered for your mind palace to open its gates for creating poetry and prose? Apart from literature and art, science and innovation thrill me, behavioral studies and physics in particular. Few people fully appreciate the imagination necessary to be a scientist or a mathematician, for an artist and a scientist both bend the rules until they snap in order to reinvent the known world. It takes a certain personality to manage this and that is the type of character I’m drawn to. My husband is a scientist and our children are fantastic inventors. In fact, we have created a family business specifically to patent and research our concepts. On Friday nights you’ll find us sitting around playing games and hatching theories. The same fury that exists behind a poem exists behind an equation. I listen to music with the repetitive tendency of an eleven year old! I like my songwriters to be storytellers. My favorite musicians are Nick Cave, Beck, The National, The Decemberists, Leonard Cohen, Wilco, Richard Hawley, Led Zeppelin and The Cowboy Junkies. I also revere the piano music of Glenn Gould, the conductor and cellist Mstislav Rostropovich and the composer Ludovico Einaudi. But my early roots are old country and I still love Don Williams, Merle Haggard, Willie Nelson, 68 | T h e B l u e M o u n t a i n R e v i e w I s s u e 6
Tammy Wynette, Loretta Lynn and Dolly Parton. It makes me nostalgic for a time that never really existed, so feels lost in a melancholy far from me, yet familiar. If that makes any sense at all!?! What are lessons you've learned the hard way about getting published you'd like newcomers to avoid? What is one gospel rule to writing you think has been missed by too many? For years I banged my head against the traditional publishing door and very nearly had it opened for me on various occasions. In the end, I just wasn’t willing to compromise my writing style enough to make it massively marketable. It felt like a betrayal. I could never approach my work with the head of a prostitute because I am a steadfast lover. I honor the commitment I’ve made to this pathway and understand how my poems and novels allow me to release the darker tendencies of my disposition and teach me about myself. When I finally found a publisher that appreciated my work and encouraged me to expand my skill for the sake of art and not mere profitability, well, it was like finding the key to a pair of shackles. The trick is to find a publisher that represents work that they feel educates and improves the human experience. You will be happy and productive because you will feel supported in a meaningful way. So choose a creative relationship over the fantasy of a large advance and you’ll find that the sustenance you receive will nurture and grow your work immensely. How do you see the role of women writers and poets in today's market? What is your current project to get the divine feminine back to the forefront of literature? This is such a loaded question for me – I will try to be brief! The use of the phrase divine feminine really encapsulates my ideas on this subject. The direct consequences of misogyny, infuriating and unjust as they may be, are visible for tackling. Europe and America have established systems for combating inequality, but the fact that we need them at all means only that we are living behind a veil of intolerance. And the morality we say we believe in is rarely congruent with how we behave or the behaviors we accept, which shifts the problem way beyond gender and into the realm of archetypal identity. There is a grave imbalance between the divine feminine and the divine masculine and this is damaging for all genders, sexualities and species. Think of the biological, environmental and characteristic traits that humans have long associated with the feminine. Do they represent an evidential, decisive power in our modern society? No. Can you think of a single historical incident that hasn’t harmed our species where dominance has proved stronger than compassion? I can’t. Ideas like “dominance equals strength” and “survival of the fittest” nurture very superficial psychologies and push us further away from collaborating a global mind, our one true power and the only hope for evolution. I know it’s a bold thing to say, but think about it, every disaster created by humanity can be ultimately linked back to this imbalance, for just like disease in the body, imbalance kills. The imbalance is always there inside our subconscious, our world psyche, constantly shaping how we identify ourselves. I’m not suggesting for a single second that Backlash is going to remedy any of this and, truth told, I have a fatalistic view on our species. But. In my own little microsomal blip in the universe kind of way, I want to showcase and support the people who are creating work that helps restore this imbalance. It’s a good and decent way to live. I want Backlash to be a place of collaboration and discussion, so we are starting at basics and working our way out. We created the Mother Interviews 69 | T h e B l u e M o u n t a i n R e v i e w I s s u e 6
on our website and we are actively searching for work that addresses the feminine. Please get in contact via the website www.backlashpress.com if you have an idea about a relevant project. Clearly, I am extremely open to all manner of ideas! Name a favorite poet that you feel has been grossly overlooked in the genre? Same question for prose. I’m really glad you asked this question, thank you. There are so many poets that have been overlooked, but I have always felt that Lorine Niedecker, Siri Hustvedt, Alice Oswald and Veronica Forrest – Thomson deserve to be household names. However, Anne Carson, my all time, all-star favorite artist for over a decade, is only recently generating the attention she deserves, so there is hope. As for prose, The House of Breath by William Goyen is utterly genius, yet has been unceremoniously shelved. Whenever I read the first page of The House of Breath it feels like a needle is poking holes in my bones. The rest of the book whistles through me. It literately has this whistling quality. It’s the book that made me want to write prose, taught me that place is it’s own character and made me discard genre altogether. But while he was the gatekeeper into the world of subversive literature for me, paradoxically, he has never been my favorite author and I have never really gelled with the rest of his work. Apart from Anne Carson, Siri Hustvedt, Sarah Hall and Margaret Atwood are my favorite writers. I own all of their books in hardback and will read every sentence they write. I turn to their work time after time. I’ve just realized the writers I revere are all modern. Huh. I wonder what that means? How do you juggle Backlash Press, your own writing, family, and the seemingly endless side projects to improve art? How do you get a spare moment of quiet? In the same way you’d approach eating an elephant! Bite by bite. I try to be very diligent about my time and I rotate my focus on projects. I write novels like this as well, so will concentrate intensely on one character at a time and then weave it all together. Somehow, despite my middle of the night fevers of dismay, it tends to fall into place, but there simply aren’t enough quiet moments in my life. Both of our children are dyslexic with very high IQ’s, so conventional education has not been conducive to their learning styles and we decided to home educate them until secondary school. Last year we travelled all around Europe and South Africa studying human rights, much of my poetry was centered around that topic. In September our son started secondary school, but we still home educate our daughter so the hours in my day vary wildly. It’s difficult because we work as well, but I just have to be very flexible about my requirements for inspiration! Today I wrote for three hours in the car while she attended her songwriting and history group. I’m often writing whilst waiting in corridors, on the train or at my son’s bus stop. I concentrate on larger pieces when she is with her tutor or doing group work or at weekends. I can’t be precious about the perfect surroundings or a surplus of time. I make full use of the moments I have, when I have them and, miraculously, it works. Though not without a hefty dose of frustration! What are a few horrible myths of writing you'd like stomped out of the business? The glorification of the Self Tortured Artist. It’s really damaging, quite juvenile and selfish. Creative people internalize the world and then sieve it through themselves in plays of emotion. That process is torture enough without exacerbating the problem. Most of us have come through hardship and depression, so we can understand the plight of the modern human. Who will speak for the people if we die too young or mute our brains through addiction and self-destruction? The government? The 70 | T h e B l u e M o u n t a i n R e v i e w I s s u e 6
banks? No. It is the artist’s responsibility to treat their organs with care. A healthy, nourished brain is productive and sharp and meditation can open any of its chambers. Committing to happiness in this world requires the same amount of bravery it takes to produce a great work of art, so choose a path that is nourishing and the rest will follow. Excerpt from The Carving Circle by Gretchen Heffernan The first thing Jacques Beaumont brought back to life was a field mouse. He was just a boy and had found the mouse dead near the woodshed. It was in perfect condition, as though it had simply keeled over and stopped breathing. There was no blood or entrails pushing past its tiny splintered teeth, yellowed brown near the gums. The creature seemed unconscious and when he picked it up, he half expected it to wake and bite him, but it just lay in his palm like a bit of stiff pelt. He couldn’t believe his luck. It was perfect for carving. He had a block of pine in his bedroom, already smooth and soft as toffee, just waiting for this mouse and his chisel, as if the two were fated, which, he’d eventually come to understand, they were. He ran up the stairs to his bedroom. The room was hot and breezeless, even with the window open, and he began to sweat as he laid the mouse carefully inside a towel-lined shoebox. Every corner was cluttered with animal bones, rocks, snakeskins, beetle casings, feathers, eye knots of wood and sketchbooks like a dragon's hoard of found things he loved to carve. He studied the mouse’s body before he placed the box on his desk and took up his chisel. The mouse was the first dead creature he had ever carved and he wanted it to be faultless. It took him hours to replicate the mouse’s delicate features accurately, and he lost all sense of time in process, yet when he’d finished, the mouse and the figurine were virtually identical. He looked at his work in admiration, for focus had seemed to melt into his hands, as though his hands were acting extraneously from his body, from somewhere close, yet distant, like the future. He held the figurine lovingly to his chest and heard the mouse’s legs as they began to scratch against the cardboard. He peered into the box and watched with disbelief as the rest of its body softened and twitched to life. He tipped the shoebox on its side and the mouse hurried out. He remembered looking at the carving in his hand and wondering if it had had something to do with the mouse’s revival? Resurrection was not a term he understood then, and everything he felt was based on a bewildered sort of reflex. Before he could think another thought, the mouse ran across his desk and quickly leapt out of the window, plummeting to a second death. He could see the dark splat of its small body like a squashed grape against the ground below, and as he gripped the carving in his hand, he found that he knew, instinctually, how to will the mouse alive. He squeezed and prayed and slowly, as though blowing up a tiny balloon, the mouse’s body began to take form. It stood, dazed and bloodied, but very much alive, and ran away. In that moment, time revealed its fluctuating existence to Jacques. How the power of the mind, when released from the body, can overlap time and that no thing, no shape, or idea is ever truly static or linear. Fervent living takes place where time overlaps and it was inside such a space that he met Elora. There are people in the world that direct this alteration and there are people in the world that 71 | T h e B l u e M o u n t a i n R e v i e w I s s u e 6
simply adjust. Jacques was one of the directors, as was Elora, and when he resurrects her into her full reawakening, she will realize how much he loved her and loves her still. * Jacques walks into his garage and flicks on the light. The slender trunk of pine is resting like a patient on his workbench. He removes the sheet with the flair of a magician. I’ll begin with the head, he thinks. Its shape and hair; I’ll save her face for last. Elora’s features had always been exquisite. He would have to choose her expression carefully and he hoped that by carving her body first, her form might explain her desired expression. It’s important that she has a choice, he doesn’t want her to feel forced or manipulated, so he listens to the wood and the life still inside it akin to a faint heartbeat. He begins to tear away each piece of her bark as though it were a fresh scab. He uses his hands and a small chisel. Anything electric, he fears, might jolt her and that is not what the wood wants. She’s alive, but he needs to build her emotions and for creating her persona he relies on listening to the wood. He delicately turns her over and peels the bark from her other side. She is the length of a head and torso. He runs his hands down the cylinder of her figure. The gesture is intimate and if she were awake, she’d shiver. The wood splinters where it’s knotted and he begins sanding her back to a smooth, honeyed bone. Initially there is often a sense of mutilation that remains until the sculpture has come to life, not alive in the way that blood knows it, but life as resurrection through smell, through touch, and that captured narrative we screw into ourselves to hold our memories together. Once they grasp that his purpose is to remake them as solid and strong, his marks move from scars to inscriptions and the relationship begins. He has loved them all. He looks across the valley dotted with his figures and watches the sun lower below the mountaintop like the yellow arc of a reptilian eye closing the mountain gray. Each one of them a different character of Elora, each one, designing a memory. More than love. Love when it’s explosive. He sands her down with long raspy sighs. The wood underneath is fresh and perfect and untouched. I’ll keep the first piece I chisel out of her, he thinks, curled as a child’s tendril, I’ll keep it close to me. He’s been saving this piece of wood for Elora for nearly a year. He’s felt her waiting, tiptoeing like a cat, along the periphery of his creative view. He labels each log with a date and place of discovery and files them in his woodshed. He has it all planned. He will carve her head, chest and waist. She will have two metal posts for legs, as he perfected her legs months ago, and a floor-length nightdress composed of wooden medallions, each engraved with a symbol. He’ll drill a hole in the top and bottom of each medallion and fasten them together with wire, like chainmail. She’ll stand in the garden with her emblem nightdress circling around her. She’ll have a view of the mountains and the others to keep her company, until she completely turns. Until she comes back to him. In the beginning, during his activation, the time that he now thinks of as the period when he was learning how to resurrect, his sculpting was frenzied and raw. He’d race through forms that were often muddled with misshapen animals, digging, cutting through layers to get to the bottom of himself. Now, each new sculpture arrives as an instruction of crystalline precision that he can feel expanding beneath his eyelids like frost. Wood is perfect for re-embodiment and invites touch because it, too, is cellular and composed of tissues, so cell attracts cell and regrows cell. It burns, its wounds leak, and it has a memory and turns to stone, like our bones, when they’re petrified, yet retains a warmth that is unduplicated. This 72 | T h e B l u e M o u n t a i n R e v i e w I s s u e 6
warmth, like the warmth of a human, comes from the sharpening or growing of a core, and must first endure tools, both brutal and smoothing, like life. Age quickly possesses cellular entities and the perfect sculpture begins to erode as soon as it’s created. Like humans, the earth lays claims to the reusing of molecules from the beginning. Our molecules are intelligent, yet fluctuating, and therein lies their precious ability to mutate. Jacques’s Maman, his Father and now Jacques himself were all born with the ability to harness life’s forces. We are taught the laws of physics and, without question, these influence our universe, but the forces that dominate our species are the laws of emotional acumen. Jacques’s lineage understood that physics and intelligence could be interchangeably influenced through ritualistic prayer. Sculpture is his form of prayer; his Father’s was photography; his Maman’s was Voodoo. It is an old wisdom and Jacques was born into it. * He picks up a wooden medallion from the kitchen table, places it inside of his palm and opens and closes his hand like a blinking eye. He used to dream that he had eyes in his hands. What would she say? What would she want said? He feels that what she wants, what is missing, is a story. I’ll give you my own, he thought, and unite it with yours. Some nights the frost behind his eyes suffocates him. It weaves one pattern furiously over the other, until it grows into a single block of ice that he has to crack himself out of. He walks through his mind then, breaking open his sculptures with a hammer and chisel. His past bursts from their wooden skulls like trapped black flies. He remembers now. That summer there had been a plague of bluebottles. He remembers everything. He sits down at the table and begins sketching a fly, a bear, an onion, a pint of jam, mountains. A young woman who loved to sing. Elora. A river. A bird. A murder. A story.
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Treaty The moon, a lit curve of white throat, and all that remains blackened by this, our world. For a moment there was a storm between us, where my eyes in your eyes flickered the truth, like a house lit by lightening, but chance is only recognized once itâ€™s past, expires inside the term (as simple as that, impossible as that) it has taken for itself, and time has broken the promise of our youth by remaining true to commitments we never knew we made, love.
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The Wet World Night in February closes over London, instantly, like a sack over a head. The streets are black, umbrella blind, reflecting inverted fires chandeliers suspending faces inside pub windows. The flashing mouths of strangers as familiar to this city as foxes, as tipped rubbish, wheels over sodden cobbles and history, the fog and grind of old trains. Rain. Rain. There is a swell in me like water from a clogged gutter snags before it falls down my dry cavern, my body, this morning I arrived from the desert. In the desert the oldest songs lay trapped in the dirt, forgotten secrets among the new truths, rise up when stomped upon like rusty little coughs. Everything waits for the thing that quenches it most, water, fluid touch to the imprisoned. People too. Are dust and tears down cheeks like a river through a gorge. We look like where we live. Your face was so dry, cracked and dark. You were soil. We look like where we’ve been. Together so long ago it has become never. A past that’s dried and blown away. You felt flat when wrapped around me as if I could have folded you into a paper airplane and shot you across the sky like a child’s wish or something never answered, returned. Conversation between us developed memories photograph in a murky solution, no solution, but we uncovered captured moments and sat holding them as poor terrified birds cupped in our hands before them letting go again and again, watching the dark shapes of us flap away and dwindle into nothing, silence. I’m sorry, so sorry you couldn’t love me better or at all. You live in a house at the foot of Mt. Lemon 75 | T h e B l u e M o u n t a i n R e v i e w I s s u e 6
the eroding profile of a chief on his back, staring up towards the sky, seeing only the underbelly of birds, real or metal, snakes slide down his nose like clammy currents of wind and cacti pierce through his cheekbones like prickled warts, seeping red and yellow, here birds peck and shit. He is trapped by the world around him. I bet you never think of him this way. Because you never think of water, that flow from flow and into the greater, bigger sea – You have to believe. My world is a wet world. Where I soak up and wring out like a cloth that’s mopped up a spill, your spill, you can bury spit in me and words will rise up, small mouth shaped flowers, with teeth, thirsty here in the desert. But you can forgive a desert its burns, you can watch, melt, the evening light as it moves in purple silhouettes, that shadow of a hand travelling over Mt Lemon’s brown forehead like a soothing storm. you can look straight at the sunset as it glosses, rounds off and coaxes the spirit from its rough house, ours, steam from the hot rocks rises sorrows, running them out of the mind like a flock of geese through the air that colour pulls seamlessly through, feathers, you can change shape in this light, grow things like empathies, one bird falls behind, it leaves you, black. One bird takes the lead, it leaves you, golden. Still, you can go a long way without water, you.
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The Specter Inside D.H Lawrence’s Poem Excursion Touch Me Light The train’s window pigeonholes my entire focus. I am careful to spill nothing towards him. I know of his swallowing. Filaments of moon smear across the moving hills and light up like grease across a brow. His glistening takes up the whole carriage. I know he will never want me more than now, and always, I fear, speeding through his worlds, real and imaginary. I sit in my power. The engine shakes up the base of my spine. The ground the track is nailed against slides beneath my feet and into extinction – that darkness with something hungry inside it. Begins.
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Interview with Todd Boss Information Collected and Composed by Clifford Brooks I met Todd Boss in Athens, Georgia about eight years ago. He read from his book Yellowrocket to a group who attended the event hosted by the University of Georgia. He is the essence of “laid back” in his delivery of poetry that lulls you into a safe place. Boss’ poetry tells a story. He tells stories, no matter how short the poem is or how long it sprawls through a canyon, that the listener (or reader) can follow. The man writes poetry that is accessible while not spoon-fed to anyone. It is a skill I paid close attention, and attempt to recreate on my end of the stage. It was an honor to hear him read and delve into his private life to help our understanding along. It is a thrill to interview him for this issue of the Blue Mountain Review. This year his new book Tough Luck debuts in June. I not only recommend that you buy it, but also Yellowrocket. He has more out there on the bookshelves of America, but we will keep this interview about the machinations of a man who is kind, highly intelligent, and a cool cat to address on a myriad of topics. Todd Boss has his heart in the community, and as you’ll see in our Q&A, he puts his desire to make the world a better place into action. The artist is not a lofty symbol of a sublime, dreamy lifestyle. No. Todd Boss embodies the artist as one aware of his flaws, driven to create for the sake of mankind, and stays humble in the face of highest praise. I have much to learn from this gentleman. His presence is a high point for this journal. You can find more at: www.toddbosspoet.com What makes Todd Boss tick? When you sit down to write, is it a spontaneous act, or does something greater shove you in front of the keyboard? A fresh phrase or a kilter observation or something odd overheard. I’ll record it into my phone or write it down and then later if it’s still nagging I’ll tease out whatever I think might be in it. Unpack it. It’s like finding an strange suitcase at your doorstep. A few days unclaimed and it’s got to be hauled into the house and opened. Might turn out to be nothing useful in it or it might change your life. But you can’t not open it. What rituals do you have before, during, or after you write to get all the sound out of your mind? Is there a particular type of music you listen to when you compose? A comfort with silence is one of the great inheritances of my farmboyhood. I’m not afraid of quiet. I still spend a lot of time in it. In the car. On a walk. On the plane. If I have headphones on, they’re noise canceling but not broadcasting.
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What is your proudest moment thus far as a writer? When I learned I’d have a poem in the New Yorker, I took the rest of the day off and stopped my bike in the middle of the franklin avenue bridge over the Mississippi river and kind of stood there and watched the water roll and went home and wrote thank you notes to everybody I could think of, like my sixth grade English teacher who read Langston Hughes so passionately in front of the class one time I’ve carried the line “life for me ain’t been no crystal stair’ ever since. But I’ve been trained to be suspicious of pride, so moments like these tend to be fleeting and leave few residual effects that I can pinpoint. The day after your poem comes out in the New Yorker you're still just a lowly nobody who has to make a new poem. What other poets (living or dead) do you admire most? Is there a particular school of poetry you belong? I’ll let the critics figure out how to classify my work. I couldn't care less about schools. I’m very undisciplined in my reading of poetry. I don’t teach, so I have no syllabus to prep for, so I just fumble around in the world’s unruly mess of poetry like everybody else. I dig the beatniks. I love the Romantics. I dig the Beatniks. I like the Modernists okay. Honestly I admire playwrights a lot more than poets; their job is so much harder. What are a cause, or causes, that are dear to you? Charities, foundations, educational institutions that deserve more attention and donations. Well, as the founder of a nonprofit myself, I’m biased toward motionpoems of course. As the artistic director, I’ve partnered motionpoems with a few other literary organizations I admire, including Cave Canem and Vida: Women in The Arts — both doing essential work for our changing democracy. What were a few surprises (negative or positive) about publishing that you can share with our readers to keep a steady course in their own dream of letters? My big break came when Sherman Alexie, out of the blue, emailed me a fan letter, asking if I had a manuscript, offering to introduce me to editors. He had seen my work in journals, and admitted to trying to emulate my style. It was beyond flattering, it was frightening. Within 6 weeks I had a Norton contract for Yellowrocket, thanks to his advocacy. The takeaway is that journals are important. People read them. Influencers care what’s in them. I submitted poetry to poetry magazine for 20 years before they took 15 of my poems. You have to keep sending your work to the journals you love, and you have to keep reading journals in order to fall in love with them, and you have to keep writing work you want those journals to love. Do that for long enough, and the love will come back to you. What new publications do you have coming out? What thoughts on the world today that roll through your skull that you think would fit the theme of this interview? Tough Luck comes out from Norton in June 2017. The next book after that is called fixes and it’s about the fixes we find ourselves in and the fixes we propose to solve them with. 79 | T h e B l u e M o u n t a i n R e v i e w I s s u e 6
Right now I’m working with composer Jake Runestad on our 7th and 8th choral/orchestral collaborations. I’m developing an augmented reality public installation project to be unveiled on the one-year anniversary of prince’s death in April, and a virtual reality discoverable poem that can be experienced only on the light rail line between Minneapolis and Saint Paul.
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Interview with Kate Sweeney Information Collected and Composed by Clifford Brooks Kate Sweeney spoke at the 2016 Broadleaf Convention, and immediately instilled a peaceful air in the room. Her style of “radio stories” with WABE, as well as her own podcast, Tantrum, conveys that same intelligent calm. Her book, American Afterlife, is a collection of stories from her interviews with every day folks about being involved with, or impacted by death. Death is a topic that we all identify with, and Sweeney’s ability to translate the human experience into words makes it a topic not too deep to dive into. It is how people remember their loved ones. It is a book of true stories that lifts the reader from a loneliness they may suffer in the belief their plight is unknown by others. American Afterlife is about hope. Kate Sweeney wears many hats. She is an expert in the fields she’s most passionate. She and I spoke on a panel together at Broadleaf, and I can personally testify that even if her child projectile vomits on her at home, moments before leaving, she’ll still arrive on time to speak to eager listeners. It was the second day of the conference when Sweeney walked in as the session geared up, announced the event to us all, and laughter began our morning. Her humanity is impressive. Her connection with people is undeniable. These are some o the things we talk about in this interview. Please support her work and check the links below. We are all connected. Sweeney is a professional with that philosophy. Tell us about yourself. Not the surface stuff, but something that brings out the unique "you". What makes your creativity tick? Wow. Not one for the small talk, huh? I've always had two major obsessions in life, and those have been stories and music/sound. I'm kind of a music geek, although these days, I've definitely fallen into the trap of not listening to much new music. I lived for making mix tapes back when folks made those-although I hear the craft is coming back. Then came mix CDs. Playlists on the streaming services just aren't the same, because you're not sharing something that's intimately your own with someone you think would appreciate just that thing. The public relationship with music has changed. It's all understood to be public, belonging to everyone, a free-for-all. That feels very different from the music mixes friends and SO's and I would trade around. Remember how sometimes you wouldn't even know the name of a song or who sang it, and so you'd just put it on the mix and scrawl something like "A Song By A Guy" on the track listing? You can't do that anymore. I miss that mystery. Also, get off my lawn.
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What are some of your favorite memories of radio, and how do you see radio as the true, pure art that it is, today? Growing up, we always had at least three radio stations blaring in the household on any given weekday morning. My eldest sister would have the classic rock station going. Still remember the growly voice of the announcer echoing through the bathroom as she curled and teased her hair: "This is WDVE..Pittsburgh." Sounded like a threat. She was way older than me; nine years. My middle sister would be playing Top-40. My father would be listening to the classical station as he shaved, and my mom, NPR, down in the kitchen as she made coffee. As the baby, I just kind of weaved through it all and took it in. Saturday nights, we'd listen to A Prairie Home Companion. Back then, I seem to remember it being a genuinely weird show, with Keillor's rambling stories and musical acts whose quality varied wildly from week to week. Then when I was ten, I discovered this public radio show called Kids America. It was created for the under-12 set, which totally hooked me. Before that, media in my life had targeted grown-ups. Then in college, This American Life got its start, and a guy I had a crush on introduced me to it. Such a Mr. Smooth. That was it. I was done for. I mean, I soon lost interest in the dude, but the storytelling I heard on Ira Glass's show slew me for real and for good. Audio storytelling continues even as terrestrial radio founders a bit these days in favor of the world of digital. Luckily I don't have shares in satellites, but I love helping to tell good stories that go in people's ears. What is your book born from? Tell us about it? What makes you fall so deeply in love with the stories you share? American Afterlife is stories of regular people who find themselves involved in death and memorialization. It's about the choices they make: to embalm, to cremate, or to get a tattoo in remembrance of the person they loved. Then I took a look at how we got here as a people, and how 19th century Americans pretty much invented everything we imagine these days when we shut our eyes and think of the word "funeral." It's wild. The whole thing came from the fear I had as a little kid of dying. You know, those times when you couldn't get to sleep because you were so freaked out thinking about your own mortality? That hasn't really gone away, although now as I approach middle-age, it's taken different forms. Basically, the whole country is kinda suffering from one form of this fear or another. We value success, winning, life, youth, beauty--all that stuff. Death is that stuff's opposite. So, how did we get to this point? That's the story the book tries to tell. What would you like people to know about radio that seems to have slipped through the cracks? How can the people fix it? Sometimes, my husband has to remind me that I live in a bubble in which I imagine everyone listens to as much audio as I do. I'm that annoying friend of yours who's always yammering on about some podcast she just heard. Sorry. 86 | T h e B l u e M o u n t a i n R e v i e w I s s u e 6
Except not-sorry, because I really think that intimacy of being told a story, or hanging out with someone who's telling you his or her truth through your headphones, or as you clean the house or walk the dog, or cook dinner--that's something really special. Today, we live in a fabulous world of media. Television is amazing, in terms of the wealth of really great choices of shows that are out there. But audio--that's different and something the greatest team of TV writers can't replace. When I listen to a great podcast or piece of radio, that intimacy is definitely there, and there's nothing like it. How do you feel these days? What music gets you through? What's your favorite song that gets you back on track? Phew. Weird time to ask that question, friend. These days, I'm thinking about something a Unitarian Universalist minister recently said. He said to remember that real social justice and change has never taken place in a vacuum. How there's this idea that people who effect change are these movers and shakers outside of regular society, who work for these abstract causes, often at the expense of the people in their everyday lives. In actuality, not much real social change has happened that way. The people who made up the march on Selma were there mostly because someone in their organizations tapped them on the shoulder and said, "Go," not out of a sense of selflessness. So I'm thinking about who will tap me on the shoulder and say those words. I'm thinking about who I've incorporated into my regular social circle who will encourage me to be part of the good in the world. I'm listening to a lot of Alabama Shakes. The second album: Sound and Color. Also Ms. Sharon Jones; good god, I'm gonna miss her. Have you heard her rendition of "This Land is Your Land"? It's powerful. What have you been listening to? Let's get ourselves together a mix-tape. -Here's a link to my podcast/live show about raising kids, Tantrum: http://www.tantrumatl.com/ New episodes come out twice a month, and we have a show in Decatur every couple of months. -Kate Sweeney Writer and Radio Producer AMERICAN AFTERLIFE, University of Georgia Press, Winner, Georgia Author of the Year Award, 2015 "From cooling boards to cremationists, obituarists to embalmers, Kate Sweeney’s American Afterlife holds a mirror up to human mortality and mortuary praxis and gives us a reading of the vital signs. Her book braces and emboldens our eschatological nerve—a reliable witness and well-wrought litany to last things and final details." —Thomas Lynch, author of The Undertaking: Life Studies from the Dismal Trade Order it at your friendly local bookseller or on Amazon.
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Interview with Fabrice Poussin Information Collected & Composed by Scott Thomas Outlar A few members from The Southern Collective Experience had the pleasure of performing several months back during a session at Shorter University where Fabrice Poussin happens to teach French and English courses. I didnâ€™t have the pleasure of meeting Poussin at the time, but shortly thereafter Cliff Brooks showed me several of his photographs and asked if I would perhaps be interested in writing an ekphrastic poem in response. Always eager to take up any challenge that could potentially ignite the creative juices, I jumped at the opportunity. That initial introduction to Poussinâ€™s work led to this interview being set up, and so I was able to dive more fully into researching his various artistic pursuits, happily discovering along the way that we have both appeared in some of the same publications in recent years. I hope you enjoy reading this conversation as much as I did while receiving each new insightful answer that Poussin sent back my wayâ€Ś First off, sir, I'd like to thank you for granting a bit of your time and agreeing to participate in this interview. Some of the photography you have appearing in this issue focuses on objects frozen in ice. What sparked the idea for this particular project, and did you wind up gaining any new insights during the experience of working in this way? It is a difficult question to answer, which in itself makes it a good question. I can say that this is something that I began thinking of about two years ago, but did not come to put together until the last months of June and July. To say the truth I don't remember what sparked that interest, aside from the fact that I am always looking for new ways of seeing the world, pushing the line, or the envelope as they say. I wasn't even sure of what the results would be. Originally I wanted to photograph through large, but thin blocks of ice, to enhance color and shape, while creating a dreamy, odd, puzzling image. Then I decided to try and photograph objects in ice. I thought flowers would wilt, and change to brown. Happily that did not happen. I froze a number of objects, flowers, paint, brushes, painted rags, marbles, rusty screws and nails, as well as books. I was most pleased with the results with flowers, paint, and books. What I know now, is that this deserved more exploring. As I looked at the results of some of those experiments, not being a scientist, I discovered that ice has, I may say, a life of its own, and creates little worlds I never imagined. This was a first series of attempts which is sure to be followed by many more, and hopefully more discoveries into these frozen worlds. I'm reminded of the experiments done by Dr. Emoto involving frozen water crystals, and how different vibrations of energy led to altered shapes and states in his tests. I think it's true that water has a life of its own, creating the little worlds you mentioned. I'll be interested to follow any further discoveries you make. Are there any other current themes you are working with in your photography that have you excited? And, 88 | T h e B l u e M o u n t a i n R e v i e w I s s u e 6
taking a step back, what originally inspired you to pick up a camera and start capturing snapshots of life's moments? Dr. Emoto's experiments are interesting. I do believe that we can impact the entire universe with deep focusing. It goes to the quantum physics notion of the butterfly effect, and the idea that all things are related and depend on each other throughout the universe to exist in a certain kind of harmony. That said, I can never tell where my next discoveries will take me. What is essential is to pay attention to details, to seek them out, and try to immortalize them with the instrument we have, in this case of course, the camera. I recently purchased a new home with a nice backyard and plan on exploring every inch of it: structures of the wood, veins of leaves, this under all kinds of weather. I will also continue to experiment with frozen things in different ways. As for the inspiration to pick up a camera, I would have to say it is connected to a little boy's desire to know the mechanisms of the little box. I was also intrigued by film at a very early age, and wondered how I could frame scenes as I had seen in so many movies. Then things simply progressed from making silly pictures with friends, to traveling throughout Europe, and there discovering a beauty I had never seen before. I would have to say that the more I saw, the more I wanted to share the moment or vision with everyone else. I often think of the poems I write as being similar to photography in the sense that they are capturing the emotional scenery of a particular moment in my thoughts. Because of this I tend to edit as little as possible, although sometimes a hatchet is unavoidable if the first draft simply doesn't have a leg to stand on. I wonder what types of similarities and differences you see between the two arts, photography and poetry? How do you approach writing new poems? Are they generally planned out ahead of time, or do they arise from a spontaneous flash of inspiration? The comparison with photography and poetry writing is a very valid and appropriate one for me. I do proceed in a very similar way for both. With photography I do have an idea of what I would like to create, and I take a number of shots of the same subject matter from different angles, with different light and framing. Then one could say comes the editing process of choosing the photograph that will best represent what I had in mind, perhaps cropping, and altering the overall mood of the image with contrast, color, etc., a little like polishing or choosing the right word in writing. As for poetry I do begin with an idea as well, and usually it is an image, something I saw, or a thought that popped into my head because of a discussion with others, or perhaps reading or watching some story or report. The poems are not planned. I write down the thought, the motivating image, and will later build around it. Some examples could be a child smiling on his mother's shoulder, feet walking circles at the counter of the local coffee shop, perhaps a feeling of uneasiness about a life event. So I would say the flash of inspiration is the most common source for me. Which artists (past and/or contemporary) have inspired you through the years? How has their work influenced your own? In poetry, I would have to say the French poet Baudelaire and Americans Poe, Dickinson, Whitman, e. e. cummings, as well as writers Albert Camus, Hemingway, and G. Stein. What I find fascinating with them is their courage to always go farther into the unknown. This brings me to the surrealists in the arts, Dali of course, and also Man Ray in photography. Most artists I do believe seek to transcend the limit of their selves, some succeed, though many fall short of this goal. However the quest, the 89 | T h e B l u e M o u n t a i n R e v i e w I s s u e 6
experience are what counts, what makes them artists. As such I find their example most invigorating. They had the courage to be themselves, to be misunderstood, and to be rejected as well. Those are the role models I want to follow. One of my inspirations in life has been the great scholar of mythology, Joseph Campbell. The quest you mentioned sparks thoughts of the heroâ€™s journey that Campbell often spoke about. I think all artists, to a certain extent, go through a process of inward seeking that then reflects outwardly in their work. Have you been through these types of transformative stages during your life? How did the different experiences influence your work at the time? That of course touches upon the most intimate part of the creative process, I believe. Is it even possible to create without going through this type of quest however painful it may be, in fact is. I would also suggest that the best creations are born when we go deepest within ourselves. Baudelaire spoke about this as well, when he said "anywhere out of this world," and implied it when he compared the poet to the Albatross, always victim of the sailors' torment. In fact, it is necessary to take the risk of never coming back, the chance at madness, as many artists have done: Poe, Van Gogh, to name just two. So, have I gone through this? Yes, indeed, many times, and the experience is more and more intense each time. It seems to me that artists have to live in two different worlds (at the very least), the inner space, and the realm where everyone else lives. This would be one of the most important realizations I have made. It is a privilege and place of extreme danger to the self, but it must be so. It also reminds me of Roland Barthes' idea of the "punctum," in his study of photography "Camera Lucida;" a lifeline, or in his words an "umbilical cord" of some sort is conceived. That of course shows the relationship which exists between the artist and his world, his creation. He must in fact go deep within to virtually give birth, thus the painful relationship which exists but is necessary. This leads me in poetry and photography to look for the most subtle details, what is not visible to the naked eye, felt by the naked soul, and to try and bring it to the surface; those details are little pieces of me which I did not know before, they reveal me in a very vulnerable way; one could say naked in an artistic rebirth. It seems to me that art, in many ways, is a process of trying to synchronize the individual micro experience with the outer macro totality of existence. To bring subjective insights into a space where they can be observed and understood objectively. Iâ€™ve never been a teacher, but perhaps there is a similar vein of thought when trying to impart knowledge to students. How do you approach your professional duties at Shorter University? Are there elements from your artistic work that translate to the classroom? What originally led to your becoming a teacher? I can certainly see where the idea of synchronization is coming from. I mentioned two of my favorite authors before and those were Baudelaire and Poe. When I think of bringing the "subjective" into the "objective" world, I immediately think of both. Many others have done this, but I am not sure they did it as well. We also find this of course with the surrealists, impressionists, and many other so-called "schools" of art, as their goal was not to show the world as it is "objectively," but as it may be when processed by a very long and intense process of personal analysis, contact, understanding. A communion does take place which must transgress the skin, the flesh, to reach the level of understanding most of us do not have time for, or perhaps do not care to take the time to explore. 90 | T h e B l u e M o u n t a i n R e v i e w I s s u e 6
Thus it becomes the responsibility of the artist to do this for the layperson (if I may use this term here!). This leads me to the second part of your question to paraphrase: does this also happen in teaching? And the answer would be a resounding yes. I do not think of myself as a teacher in a didactic way but rather as a sharer of the knowledge I have acquired. All artists do this without perhaps realizing it. Many do not pretend to want to teach, yet they do, even if inadvertently. A vast number of them do not aim at changing the world, yet again, they do. My approach is one I would qualify as "gentle influence." I am touched by the world around me, and show my students how this happens, and how they could also experience this. To summarize the idea, I will venture that teaching is the art of opening the pupil to a way of communication with the world which may have been unknown to them until then, to show them the tools I use, so they may in turn discover those that work best for them, however different they may be from mine. Thank you again, Fabrice, for taking some of your time to participate in this interview. It's been a pleasure on my end to have the opportunity to pick your brain a bit. Before wrapping this up, I wanted to ask what your thoughts are as we enter this new year of 2017. What type of plans do you have in mind for your work in the coming year? What sort of impact do you think all the political and cultural shifts that have taken place recently will have on artists around the world? Please also feel free to mention anything else on your mind that my questions might have overlooked. I plan on continuing to write poetry and submitting it to diverse magazines worldwide. As for photography I did some during the last Christmas holidays, but would like to do some more this summer, hopefully out West in the most beautiful places on Earth, like the Grand Canyon, Bryce Canyon, etc. As for the political changes in this world, that is an interesting question. There is no doubt that artists have been great observers and reporters of their times. That is not going to change whatever the political system is. They will simply change their approach, and message, which is why and how arts stay alive. If they ever feel comfortable, they are quickly forgotten or dismissed by newer generations. However negative or positive the impact of politics may be on the arts at the time, ultimately they will be the best testimonies we will have of that epoch. Artists will continue to do what they do best, and they will be heard, and as ever before hopefully be able to bring on changes.
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Interview with Luke Johnson Information Collected and Composed by Clifford Brooks Two years ago a mutual acquaintance introduced me to one of the best friends and intellectuals Iâ€™ve had the divine luck to meet. Over those years we have worked on his groundbreaking internet platform, Noetic. He began the program focused on philosophy alone, a subject sorely needed in these times of little critical thinking. After a few months he asked if I would join his educational crusade by adding video tutorials on various poets, their meaning, and thus expand the understanding of verse for a public who may find the genre daunting. I can say without hesitation that it has been one of the most rewarding adventures of my life. Not only has Noetic provided countless people with a means to enlighten themselves in ways to cope in a world that can seem often to lack logic, but it also enriched my life by reminding me why poetry is my lifeline. In the lessons Iâ€™ve taught I consistently discover new things in the poem, and about myself. I pray that this is a result in the lives of those who listen in, not only with my videos, but also with the others Luke has gathered. I know already he has brought on others to read poetry and also works of prose that deserve another read by many. In a broader sense, for students having a difficult time understanding the theories of Kant, the works of Jane Austen, or the metaphor of Walt Whitman, they now have a much more accessible means to clear that up than Cliff Notes ever could. Please read on to see how passionate Luke Johnson is about improving society through education, not half-truths, propaganda, or media hype. It is a joy to present this to you, and a wellspring of hope that Noetic will bring society to a place where logical debate trumps emotional outbursts. Give us the marrow beneath your stubborn skin that puts so much of yourself into Noetic? When did Noetic first hit you? What does "Noetic" mean? a) My obsessive work ethic can be justified on many fronts, but on a primordial level productivity is imprinted upon my DNA. As a little kid, I observed the love of industry in my grandmother and both my parents. Call it an ancestral memory or whatever is en vogue amongst evolutionists these days. From a rational perspective, I want to build a social/educational platform for a host of reasons that range from the altruistic (I want to give everyone an education) to the personal (I'd like to be a very supportive husband/father one day). b) Initially, I conceived of Noetic as a personal publishing house for my own teaching materials. It was meant to validate new forms of publishing and my somewhat animated teaching style. Once version 1.0 of the app was made available to the public in April of 2016, I took 2-3 days off to figure out what I had done. That's when the lightning bolt struck me. I remember hovering above my body as I realized what I really had made. Now it is put up or shut up. The world is full of ideas and very little execution. Version 2.0 should be available in April 2017.
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c) Noetic simply means "pertaining to intellectual activity". I went through hundreds of names for the app/website and it was impossible to find something that was available in both domains. I always liked the idea of noetic rays emanating from the mind to comprehend ultimate reality. I understand that you spent a few years on the music scene. Do you see Noetic as an extension of your previous, albeit latent, love of harmony? Do you see music coming into play as a teaching tool with Noetic? a) My humanities lessons are my songs now. I spent 20 years doing music in a variety of formats. From 2009-2016, I was a pretty good music producer (see Emergent Heart and Cryface). The obsession with music is what transformed me into a pious advocate for audio learning. I fully believe that auditory learning is the ultimate life hack and I think many people are waking up to this; hence, the interest in podcasts, audiobooks, and youtube lectures. b) I fully intend for music to be taught on Noetic one day and for music to be interwoven into the lessons. The only limitation right now is the editing time that I don't have. It is more important to make quality humanities lessons than adding decoration, but we will upgrade our production values once more money is available. Noetic started as primarily a source for philosophy and critical thinking. What made you pick philosophy as a launching point? Give me three of your favorite philosophers and quotes from them. a) I'm a philosopher by training, so it was natural to start there. I quickly realized that if Noetic was going to be successful, I had to offer a greater variety of humanities courses. I've had wonderful people come on to Noetic to teach all types of literature and history. I feel somewhat comfortable leading literature discussions now as well. b) "Who will wipe this blood off us? With what water could we purify ourselves? What festivals of atonement, what sacred games shall we need to invent?" -Nietzsche, The Parable of the Madman "Orestes: ...Some men are born bespoken; a certain path has been assigned them, and at its end there is something they must do, a deed allotted. So on and on they trudge, wounding their bare feet on the flints. I suppose that strikes you as vulgar—the joy of going somewhere definite." -Sartre, The Flies “Innocence is not a perfection that one should wish to regain, for as soon as one wishes for it, it is lost, and it is a new guilt to waste one’s time on wishes.” -Kierkegaard, The Concept of Anxiety
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The Big Question: Do you think that education in America is going to hell in a hand basket? Has it ever been NOT in the hand basket? What are a few things you note that we can implement in the near future to improve education? a) My opinion on state of America's educational system is mixed. I know a lot about higher ed. and little about the other aspects of it. All I know is that the American culture, for a multiplicity of reasons, does not value the humanities. My goal is to demonstrate to the public why the humanities are incredible and why everyone needs them in their lives. b) I really can't say. That's a philosophical question that needs to be informed by historical data that I don't have. I know that the educational system will never be good enough because knowledge is limitless, resulting in a gap between our comprehension and reality. c) Teachers have to be obsessed with using new technologies to make their classrooms more dynamic and engaging; however, a teacher can make the most stimulating classroom in the world and if the students lack a desire to learn there is little to be done. We have to ask larger questions such as, "What about our society has extinguished the passion for awe and wonder?" I have many theories on this. Where do you see Noetic in five years or ten years? I see Noetic being an intelligent alternative to Facebook.
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SCE Member Interview with Holly Holt Information Collected and Composed by Clifford Brooks Holly Holt joined the Southern Collective Experience three-andhalf years ago. She is the sister I never had. From the first day she stepped into our rowdy crew, she has been a fountain of good spirits, helping hands, and innovative ideas. Most of the magazine design, website design, and communication among SCE members is handled by this young lady. I do not simply doubt, I know the Southern Collective Experience would not be LLC’d, or refined to its present state without her help. The row was a solitary one to hoe for years. That’s as it should be. Before our company found its legs, there was doubt it would even stand up. Now, having a best friend to help keep this beast on the leash is a godsend. Holly Holt attends Kennesaw University, and she aspires to be a teacher. We met in the classroom as I taught history and English Lit, and she took on the lion’s share of administration with Adult Education. On top of these duties she has taught math, English composition, and was always available to make sure all her students remain aware of their gifts. If you want to make the world a better place, educate it. If you want to be a part of that goal, do the back-snapping labor, or moan to someone else – because things get done, or they become a regret. Holly Holt is not one to waste time on regret. Please tune in to learn even more. What is the pivotal moment in your life when you realized writing would always be in your life? I have been writing for most of my life. Although I claim that I started when I was eleven, this statement emerged only because I still have a story from that age, and have always been big on proof. Yet, I don’t remember ever being without writing. Further, I have never been much of an oral communicator, and whether that stems from being introverted or something else, I cannot say. Still, I have always enjoyed the written word, be it a work of fiction or non-fiction. The thrill I find in writing isn’t only from reading novels and poetry, but from reading speeches, letters, and pieces like Thoreau’s “Walking.” I believe highly in the Kafka quote, “A non-writing writer is a monster courting insanity.” For this reason, ever since I could write, I have never stopped. What are the top 5 tips you'd give up and coming authors/poets to avoid the most common creative pitfalls? 1) If you are seeking publication in a particular genre, read that genre. The best writers are readers, first. For example, take me: I am constantly discovering other writers. I enjoy being moved by what I read, and seek to move others with as much fluidity and intent. 2) Do not force yourself to write. Write because you are driven to write. As Robert Frost once stated, “No tears in the writer, no tears in the reader. No surprise in the writer, no surprise in the reader.” If you feel that you’re forcing yourself, take a break—read, listen to music, watch a movie, and then return. Personally, I have found that setting up a specific time each day to write really helps. 3) Please avoid self-publishing. While there are some successes, traditional publishing helps you grow a tougher skin, which helps you with your craft. This, in turn, will benefit your readers. 98 | T h e B l u e M o u n t a i n R e v i e w I s s u e 6
4) Do not take rejection personally. I fear this is one of the major reasons that writers tend to veer towards self-publishing. Yet, typically, the publishers are writers themselves, who have traveled the road you’re on. Think of them as teachers, while you are a pupil, seeking their knowledge to perfect your craft. Further, just because one publisher says no, please don’t assume they all will. 5) Never fear telling your story. If you curtail your story for others, you will only be lying to yourself. The page is your best friend. Tell it your secrets, your darkest desires—even if you decide to keep what is written to yourself. Who is your favorite poet, author, and visual artist? I am constantly in a state of discovery, yet I will not be afraid to admit: I love just about every poet I’ve read from the Romantic period. Keats’ “When I Have Fears” has always been my favorite poem. Yet, it’s not because I’m something of a fatalist. Through this poem, I am reminded that life is short, and we must find something great about every day in which we’re given. As for authors, I love reading Daphne du Maurier, Michael Crichton, M. M. Kaye, Agatha Christie, J. R. R. Tolkien—the list goes on. I also enjoy nonfiction, such as Ron Chernow’s “Alexander Hamilton.” I will read anything related to history, and have a tendency to regurgitate to any listening ear afterwards. A novel that Crichton wrote “Timeline” works really well to mesh history with fiction, and I enjoy books and movies like that, because I tend to do my own research after—for curiosity’s sake. When considering visual arts, I always think of the Impressionist movement. Monet has been my favorite for years, and I’ve always attempted to write descriptions of brilliant, sunny days as he captures them with paint. However, I also like Fuseli’s “The Nightmare” and “The Persistence of Memory” by Dali and the portraits painted by Sir Joshua Reynolds. Another one I like is “The Prayer at Valley Forge” by Arnold Friberg, which is a painting that shows George Washington kneeling in the snow, hands clasped in prayer. I also dig Gogh, Picasso, and am always looking for others to enjoy, like how I discovered Christian Schloe. What is one of your philosophies in life that help you get by? “The sunlight is free.” Life is what it is, but I feel that we all have a tendency to take it too seriously. When I start, I always think about the sun. It makes life possible, yet no one can take the warmth it provides away from you. You can turn your face towards it, leave all your cares behind, and just breathe. This helps me get by—and helps remind me that the best things in life are free: faith, hope, love, true friends, and deep sleep. What are your dreams for the future? I aspire to be a teacher. For this reason, I am taking courses at Kennesaw State University. Teaching runs in my blood. Yet, I don’t consider it a birthright. A wise man once told me that teaching is like writing: it’s either in you, or it’s not. I feel a pull in my soul to become a teacher, so it is a passion I wish to fulfill. Another dream of mine is to publish a novel or collection of poetry, legitimately. Overall, though, to be happy is my greatest dream, my surest goal, and any great future can be crafted from a happy heart.
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What are your thoughts about the mission of the Southern Collective Experience, and where do you fit in? I feel that world desperately needs to know that creative minds can work together. While the successes within the group are separate, all successes lead back to the center, to support the whole, and thereby show we are family. The ultimate mission of the Collective, I believe, has always been to provide a sense of cohesion: artists from all walks of life are able to communicate with one another, here, without jealousy, to truly have a place to call home. I have been with the Collective for three years. In that time, I have grown not only as a writer, but as a person. Being one who has struggled with self-esteem, I have had several instances where other members of the Collective have reached out to me, to inspire me to continue. This was, of course, before that “tougher skin” I mentioned earlier, so it felt good during this crucial time to have other like-minds keep me going until I was strong enough to motivate myself. Being in the Collective, I have been able to share my thoughts without being shut down, and that has allowed me the comfort of knowing I fit in. What are two things about you that no one knows? I am often very much an open book, so this was the toughest question of the interview to answer. 1) Whenever I write fiction, I tend to act out what I write. For example, if a character is “furrowing her brow,” I will furrow my brow, to make sure the action makes sense. I try to act “normal” when someone else comes in the room, though, so they don’t think I’m crazy. 2) Whenever I write poetry, I read the lines aloud (loud enough for me to hear, anyway) in a British accent. I have no idea why I do this. If you were going to get a tattoo, what would it be? Where would you put it? I have had plans since last year to get a tattoo with my oldest sister. We are going to get infinity symbols, with the first letter of the other’s name to be placed in the center. Somewhere within the design, we are thinking of adding the color of our birthstone. I have been thinking about where to place it, considering pain of placement, as well. Ha! Yet, I believe it would look nice on my wrist or my collar, so that she is as close to my heart or a vital vein as possible, regardless of where she is on this big blue, beautiful Earth. What side projects are you a part of aside from work and college and the SCE? During the summer months, I am the editor for Walking Is Still Honest, which is another magazine connected to the Collective. I cannot thank Scott Thomas Outlar enough for doing the honor of keeping it going throughout the rest of the year. In addition to that, I have Southern Muse Services, which is geared towards digital art, though I’ve been too busy with other things in life to work with it. As of last year, I am a part of Pickens Arts and Cultural Alliance, which is cool. My favorite side project is Noetic, which I do every week—or try to—with Luke Johnson, who I have called my “therapist.” I get to analyze a poem, while sharing something of my philosophy for life through my analysis. I stay busy, but it’s a good kind of busy, the kind meant to breathe purpose into your soul.
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What are some markers pertaining to your poetry that makes your verse different from others? Lately, I have taken to rhyming, thanks for Wordsworth and Sara Teasdale and the like. I love details, be they an emotion or a scene, and I have a desire to bring this into the light, to show it to the world, to let the world see it as I see it, feel it as I feel it. Now, whether this makes my verse different from others or not, I’m unsure. I am influenced by what I read as much as by what I live. All I am fully aware of is that I just love to write. What are your feelings about hope? How does hope fit into your everyday mantra? Hope. Some would think this very word is what can sink you, or help you swim your best. Hope is much like love, faith, joy in that it isn’t an actual anything. Hope, to me, is a feeling, yet so many tend to place so much weight on it, expecting it to be more. It’s not. I live and breathe hope. I believe that I always have. I was told once that I would be able to find something to smile about, even in the midst of surest chaos. History is a land of hope: look at one of the most devastating and darkest chapters in our history, during the Holocaust. How did they know they were going to survive? There was courage, yes—but it was courage during the face of what seemed to all to be inevitable: death. There is one picture of a survivor that I believe embodies hope: In the picture, she is sitting up in bed, days after being liberated, frail from starvation. Yet, she isn’t broken—the light cast all about her shows that, through her eyes, her smile. Hope never stands alone, yet it is hope that sees us through, allows us to stand, and doesn’t break us apart in the end. Sometimes, we just need a reassuring friend to remind us of that, to say something of, “Now, didn’t I say you could do it?” Hope fits into my everyday mantra by simply remembering this quote from Charlie Chaplin, “Nothing is permanent in this wicked world, not even our troubles.” This allows me to see life for what it is, but think (hope) for the million ways in which I can change it, to never give up, to believe—for one moment longer than is, sometimes, sane.
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Interview with Kathi Harper Hill Information Collected & Composed by Holly Holt I have never actually “met” Kathi Harper Hill, but I know her through her words, much like many of her readers do. Since we have been Facebook friends, I have gotten to see the flow of her life—and, though it is hectic, she has never posted anything negative or spoken out-of-turn. She is a very sweet, very intelligent lady, and I hope that this interview allows those who don’t know her at all to see how much her soul shines through her passions for writing, for being Southern, and for large white cats. Hello, Kathi. Thank you for agreeing to do this interview for The Blue Mountain Review. Speaking of mountains, I know that you live in the mountains of North Georgia. Do you feel that where you live plays into what you write? If so, how? It influences me greatly! In fact, two of my books are about where we live and who we are because of it. My other books are influenced by this also, but not as obvious, I guess. Being Southern myself, I’m curious: Could you give us an explanation of what it means to maintain our unique heritage, and what we would lose if we didn’t? I see our “language” disappearing rapidly. It saddens me. But with media so rampant and folks moving here and there, the Appalachian language is fading. One of the books I’ve written deals with that. I tried to write dialogue just as it was spoken by my great-grandparents, and to a lesser extent my grandparents, instead of how we spell things. It was very difficult. I speak Appalachian, but I don’t type it very well! Have you always been able to put word to paper, or have you ever endured the dreaded writer’s block? I’ve been writing since age nine or ten. I’ve never had writer’s block. I think that comes from having no pressure most the time. I have a deadline for the newspaper article I write, of course, but as far as most my other writings, I set my own deadlines. Plus, I’m usually working or three or four things…if I get weary of one, I go to the other. In judging by your Amazon author page alone, anyone can tell you’ve written for quite some time, so I’m sure you must have received a rejection here and there. Has it ever been hard for you to get over a rejection? If so, could you share something with our readers, some of which are writers themselves, about how you overcame it? I have a very healthy ego! Ha! The worst emotional feeling, for me, upon a rejection is embarrassment. I have no idea why! But I’m usually very busy and just get on with the day. But once again, I don’t depend on my writing to bring in money I need to pay the bills. That takes a lot of pressure off.
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What is your greatest personal achievement? Does that, in any way, play into your greatest public achievement? Talk to us a bit about how you felt when your work, "The Crow and The Wind," was nominated for a Georgia Author of the Year Award. My greatest personal achievement is having healthy home and raising a good person (my daughter). The way it plays into my public achievements, I suppose, is peace of mind so I can enjoy it. How did I feel when “The Crow and The Wind” was nominated, then placed runner up at the Georgia Author of the Year of Award? I was floored. There were famous authors there – Ben Fortson, former Secretary of State, Ferrol Sams, author of “Run with the Horsemen” and other best sellers, folks with “doctor” in front of their names, college professors, etc. And then there was Kathi. I thought maybe they’d had a wee bit too much wine with dinner. I also give credit to the illustrations. They are beautifully done (by my husband, by the way). Mark Twain is quoted as saying, “Some people scorn a cat and think it not an essential; but the Clemens tribe are not of these.” I, personally, feel a writer isn’t a writer without a “familiar,” be it Hemingway and his house of cats; Flannery O’Connor and her peacocks; or John Steinbeck and his pooch, Charley. I’ve seen your beautiful white cats, so I’ve got to ask: What are your thoughts? Do you think having a pet benefits you as a writer in any way? First off, I have a Hemmingway cat! They are really Maine Coon cats, which is what my cat, Eli is. He is “my boy”. They are very dog-like and he is by my side all time (except his cat nap in the afternoon, or if we have company). He comes to me when I whistle. I think I just got off track! I love animals. I could not be a farmer; I’d have pigs in the parlor and cows in the kitchen! They are a part of who I am. And if you ever read anything I’ve written there’s always a cat and/or a dog. In fact, “Signs from God” almost got kidnapped by the dog in there…I could NOT make him behave. I know everything we write is part of who we are. What has been the most fun you’ve ever had writing? “Out on a Limb of the Family Tree”, the absolute hardest book to write and a pure joy at the same time. Four generations of Appalachian women; the matriarch is 87 years old in 1997, when the book starts. I had the privilege of sharing stories that had been shared with me from folks about their grannies, aunties and crazy neighbors as well as themselves. I was able to ‘fictionalize’ and mix these with pure fiction and loved every minute of it. Of course, I’m sure you know; your favorite is always the one you’re working on at the moment…. How has your time as a published writer been like? Also, I know you’re published through Yawn's Books & More, Inc., which—as you know, of course—is small, southernbased publisher. Prior to submitting your work to them, what enticed you about them? They actually approached me. When my first book came out, I was looking for a place for a book signing in Cherokee County, as I had worked there for a while and had several co-workers still there, as well as my husband’s family. The book signing was a big success at their book store. I guess they read the book; for they said they’d be very interested in looking at my next work. They did and we’ve 103 | T h e B l u e M o u n t a i n R e v i e w I s s u e 6
been doing business ever since. In fact, when I needed more copies of my first book, they had them printed for me. As far as how the time has been as a published author, it’s really fun to have people recognize me. Once, after my first book came out, which is geared toward young women, we went out to eat and the girl shyly asked me was I the person who wrote “Falling”. I was baffled, as my photo was not in that book. I told her yes, and she went on and on about how she loved the book, and how real the characters were, and could I tell her what had happened to them. (That was a new one. How would I know? I was well into my next book and the question really threw me.) I said no, that part was left up to her to imagine. When my husband went back up to get something, he asked her how she knew who I was, “Oh, I knew she was Anna Kate’s mama.” See how famous I’ve become? Another example: I’m reading tomorrow at Cameron Hall at the Red Hat Society meeting. One of the volunteers told her Sunday School class, and then someone else told another class, so I was told yesterday to bring lots of books to sell. Now, that may or may not happen, but I will tell you this: If I want to sell books, I read in front of a crowd. I’m a ham and really enjoy reading aloud. I come from a long line of story tellers. You have some truly great reviews on Amazon. What has been the most touching review you’ve ever received for any of your work, either by an actual book review—or a face-to-face review? More than one person said “Out on a Limb of the Family Tree” took them back in their past so well that when they looked up they were surprised to find they weren’t in the kitchen or on the porch with their granny. Another was a woman called to say her brother was invited to a lady’s 100th birthday party. The woman still read, and they felt it was the perfect book to give her. I know the woman was able to read the book and liked it…she passed away three months later. And I’m always happy when folks tell me how I make them laugh – and cry a little too. Alright, that’s it! Thank you for taking the time to answer my questions. Could you please share links with us, so that those who are reading this interview know where to look for more? Kathi-harper-hill.blogspot.com will take you to my blog “Everything But The Kitchen Sink”. You can purchase my books there, or contact me directly if you live locally.
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North Georgia Artist Interview with C. Larry Wilson Information Collected and Composed by Clifford Brooks C. Larry Wilson is a wise owl. His skill with pottery I’ve seen in action, and bought the fruits thereof. Work with pottery is a quixotic gift with one of the most tactile relationships between the creator and his created. Painting would have to play second chair to pottery in the “hands-on” department. Of course, once painting is mentioned, the best rendering of the myth this conversation imbues is Jean-Leon Gerome’s Pygmalion and Galatea. Wilson loves his life, and it is in every piece he creates. The creatures he has smoothed out of clay have never come to life, but it doesn’t mean he loved them any less. I met Wilson as a board member for Pickens Arts and Culture Alliance (PACA). He speaks with purpose, soaks in the information around him when he’s silent, and then waits to add his two cents until the room is quiet. He has the presence of a gentle monk that way. There is no intimidation, but rather a respect of fellow man extended to all those who meet him. Today, four years after I joined the PACA crew to help this area burst with creative color, I am co-vice president. I share that office with Mr. C. Larry Wilson. He has taught me a great deal about patience and reflection. My friends and family thank him for it. What are the facts about C Larry Wilson? The grit that keeps you going, where does that come from? What trait makes you feel like an "artist of Appalachia?" To give you an idea of my past I am going to attach a short bio. I love doing pottery...it is my new passion. Being able to create pot, jug, or figure from the earth, to me, is amazing...starting with a ball of mud and ending up with an owl or woodpecker...or story jug, is very satisfying. I am humbled when someone likes my work. It is hard for me to call myself an artist because I have a very analytical mind. I am very "left brained". But a lot of times that is helpful...I see something I want to make so I analyze it and make it in my head before my hands make the piece. I am heavily influenced by the North Georgia Folk potters and Appalachian potters of old, as well as other Folk Artist. You can see their influence in all my work. Most folk art and folk pottery has a story behind it or as part of it. My biggest joy is talk about my pottery and telling the stories behind it, if there is one. What about pottery calls to you? How many years have you been at it? Where can we see your art up close? My wife and I collect folk art and pottery. I always thought I would like to try my hand at pottery but I never took the time. I didn't have art or pottery in school, primary or college. When I retired in March 105 | T h e B l u e M o u n t a i n R e v i e w I s s u e 6
of 2007, I decided it was time I tried pottery...and I fell in love with it. This March it will be 10 years since I picked up my first ball of mud and started making pottery. I do about 10 to 15 festival a year and that is the best way to see all of my current work; however I do have some of my pottery at Talking Rock Pottery and Green Acres on 515. Both (Jasper, GA); and Around Back at Rock's Place in Dawsonville, GA. Picture of my pottery can be seen on my Facebook page. Just search Hobson Creek Pottery. What's the oddest job you've held in this life? I have had many jobs in my working career. I've been a draftsman, a land planner; a director of planning, building, parks, & public works; I have own a paving company, concrete company, remodeling company and consulting company. All, in their own way, have had odd aspects; but I guess my oddest job was when I was in the Navy Seabees. I jockeyed a 20 ton semi-truck while I was overseas. I hauled everything from radishes to 2,000 pound blocker bombs. I guess that is pretty odd. Where can we go to buy some of the pottery youâ€™re deeply respected for? If someone is interested in my work they could see my work and contact me through Facebook (Hobson Creek Pottery); or I do have some work at Talking Rock Pottery, Green Acres on 515, or Around Back at Rocky's Place. Do you teach any classes? I know your gift will bring people eager to learn from a master. No I do not teach. I have been asked to before but I tell them I am a "learner" not a teacher. I am selftaught and the way I form a "pot" may not be the correct way, but it is my way. Are there any causes or groups you'd like the public to be aware? My interests lie in promoting the artist of this county and region. Pickens County and the Southern Appalachian region have some of the best artist in the nation. That includes everything from Folk and Primitive art to Modern art, from music and all performing arts to our history and culture; and includes all mediums from paint to glass to pottery to mixed medium. I am currently the First Vice President for the Pickens Arts and Culture Alliance (PACA). PACA is an organization that supports and promotes the arts and culture of this area. One thing we have started and support is Art Pickens, an Artist Gathering. Art Pickens is a gathering of local and regional artist. It is a chance for the artist to get together and network as well as demonstrate their art and talent. It is also a chance for the citizens of this area and region to meet, talk with, and watch the artists demonstrate; and get to know their artist.
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Interview with Brenna Aldrich Information Collected & Composed by Holly Holt I met Brenna through a mutual friend. We hit it off instantly. I value her as a person who constantly strives to improve herself— be it her writing or in her personal life. She recently published one of her pieces, “Garden Bones: A Grahame Auden Mystery,” through Dream Fusion Press. I am certain that she will make great progress as a writer, and invite you to “meet” her through the interview below. Hello, Brenna. Thank you for agreeing to do this interview for The Blue Mountain Review. Care to provide a background of introduction to our readers? Sure, Holly, and thank you for inviting me to participate in this issue. This is my first interview as a legitimate author, so I can’t thank you enough for this opportunity. My artistic journey has been a lurching, agonizing scramble at times, but well worth the experience. I’ve wanted to be an author since childhood. My first efforts involved wielding crayons to scrawl plots into coloring books. The first original story I ever wrote, I composed at around five years old. It was a horrid little thing that detailed the adventures of a one-eyed, anthropomorphic rat cowboy named Blind Jack. Inspiration is a less lofty concept for five-year-olds. In 2011, after a misguided foray into teaching, I earned a Master’s in Professional Writing from Kennesaw State University with a focus on creative writing. These days, when not actively writing, I work as a telemetry technician monitoring heart rhythms at Piedmont Mountainside Hospital in Jasper Georgia. This is big gearshift for me after having spent almost seven years tutoring English at Chattahoochee Technical College for a day job. Though the tutoring was very rewarding, the change of venue will, hopefully, provide me with a new lens outside of academia for my writing. I’ve been a published fiction writer since 2012, and have had a handful of short stories appear in various online magazines since then. I’m a relatively versatile genre juggler, with stories ranging from literary fiction, to fairy tales, to historical thrillers and ghost stories. There’s even a lurking sci-fi piece out there, though the zine that accepted it has yet to release the issue that will feature it. I noticed back in June that you made a Facebook post stating that Dream Fusion Press is planning to publish one of your pieces, “Garden Bones: A Grahame Auden Mystery,” in their upcoming anthology The Book of the Macabre. Can you provide a synopsis of this particular story? I can, and with pleasure. Set in 1870 in New England, “Garden Bones” tells of an incident in which psychic empath, Grahame Auden, and his likewise psychic pet Newfoundland, Theo, come to the aid of a local politician’s wife who claims her house is haunted. The story follows their investigation, but it’s mostly driven by the character interaction between Grahame and Theo. It pendulums between humor and the macabre, which, I hope, renders it singular in the realm of paranormal mystery stories. I know the idea of a psychic dog sounds ridiculous, but I believe readers will be surprised by how well it works in the actual piece. The characters’ abilities compliment one another, which solidifies their relationship and keeps Theo from being just a cutesy side-kick.
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What can you tell us about Grahame Auden? How much of the protagonist is your personality, and how much was pulled from outside sources, such as books that you’ve read? Grahame is a special fellow built from an amalgam of experience and research about various psychic abilities. He’s a departure from most of my other work since I’m typically drawn to write about people with whom I have very little in common as an effort to empathize with and understand them. Grahame, I suppose, is more of a manifestation of this desire to understand people, only I’ve made Grahame’s empathy effortless because he is psychic. He experiences the emotions of other people, living or dead, via touch. He can’t help it, which makes him vulnerable in many ways, particularly if he is exposed to violent or negative emotion. But his abilities give him insight that helps him to transcend many social conventions of his era. He can see a beyond the strict manners and customs to which people were subject in the nineteenth century. I gave him that insight because I come from a background where the social pressure to be polite, neighborly, and outwardly moral often obscures people’s real personalities and motives, and I wanted him to be able to see through such artificial, behavioral masks. It gives dimension to the simple mystery stories Grahame inhabits. I wouldn’t call his personality similar to mine, however. He’s neither as uptight, nor as cynical as me. He’s really a sweetheart at his core. Seriously. The man’s best friend is a dog. A giant, black, fluffy dog with one of the calmest, sweetest natures in the canine world. Theo, I stole directly from reality as he’s based on my parents’ pet Newfoundland. Grahame and Theo are such a pair that it’s almost impossible to discuss one without mentioning the other, and the stories wouldn’t work without their bond. Who would play your characters if you could cast your characters in a Hollywood adaptation of your work? Some writers like to listen to music as they write. Did you? If so, would you include any of the music you listened to as part of your movie’s score? So this answer betrays the massive, geeky fan-girl inside the serious author. I based much of Grahame’s physicality and mannerisms on David Tennant, so I have a very hard time picturing anyone but him playing the character on film. Anyone who has ever watched seasons two through four of Doctor Who will now spot it in a heartbeat when they read the story. As far as music goes, I do listen to music when I write, though I avoid anything with vocals. I love to sing, so anything with lyrics tends to distract me; therefore, I often end up composing to film and game scores. My Grahame stories have been written to everything from the Robert Downey Jr. Sherlock Holmes soundtracks to Mass Effect. This of course renders including any of these in a film impossible since they’re A) copyrighted, and B) already associated with specific stories.
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How did you feel when you first received word not only about publication, but when Dream Fusion Press showed interest in publishing more of your work? Briefly walk us through the day when you heard word from them. That was such a validating day as a writer. It’s a difficult thing, to remain motivated in the face of continual rejection, even when one writes for the sheer love of storytelling, not recognition. I also struggle with the fact certain members of my circle don’t enjoy or understand the kinds of stories I tell, so there are days when it’s difficult to believe in myself even when I know in my bones that writing is my gift and calling. “Garden Bones” was accepted for about a year before the day the email about writing a novel based on Grahame came. After a year of no publication, I contacted the press to inquire about the story’s status, and they told me the anthology in which it was included wasn’t full yet, so I offered them other stories that featured Grahame. They wrote me back saying that while they’d be happy to take the existent fiction, they thought the characters and stories deserved more than just an anthology. They felt there is potential for a novel, and possibly even a series of novels based on Grahame, so essentially, they commissioned a novel from me. That doesn’t happen. In this industry, you beg editors to read your already finished novels. Presses don’t request them based on a handful of short fiction. It was such a realization of everything I’ve worked for as a fiction writer. After nearly a decade of vacillating between convincing myself it was okay to pursue my writing career and feeling like an indulgent hack who needed to get a real job, to receive such an enthusiastic acceptance letter was life altering. What was the hardest part of the writing process? As in action scenes, dialogue, etc.? I loathe description. For me, it’s my worst struggle because I grew up on fantasy novels where the tendency is to laundry list features and costume, which is a death knell to readers’ focus. Between lessons on significant detail and imagery in grad school, I finally learned to write respectable descriptions, but I still fight to do it well. Let’s just say I envy the Ray Bradbury’s of the world who excel at weaving pictures with words. I’d rather write ten pages of dialogue than a sentence of description any day. Were there any days that you struggled through more than others to put thought to paper, or when the thoughts couldn’t come at all? What kept you going? When I first started really committing to writing, I was slow and riddled with fears of writer’s block. But I’ve found that making a habit of getting words on paper knocks out most of the neuroses that come with writing. It doesn’t matter if the words are bad, because you’re always going to revise. There is no such thing as a good first draft. I don’t care how good you think something is, leave it a week, and when you come back, you’ll cringe. But revision is a boon. Anything can be improved. So for me, word counts keep me writing. I started out trying to write 1,500 words a day, at least three days a week. These days, I’m up to 4,000 per day when I’m actively composing. You worked at Chattahoochee Tech at a tutor. In that capacity, what has been the most inspiring teaching moment you’ve ever experienced and why? This was actually quite recent. I had a student whose assignment was to write a descriptive narrative. The draft he brought me articulated his struggles with drug addiction, and while the subject matter was good, the sentence work was very dry. Drawing on my experience with fiction writing, I talked him through how to use details to put the reader in his shoes because it is vital to make readers experience what the writer feels in order to affect an audience. The revision he returned with brought me to tears. In the five years I’ve been tutoring, his is the only piece that has made me cry. I’m fairly 109 | T h e B l u e M o u n t a i n R e v i e w I s s u e 6
certain he went on to attempt to publish the paper. You could call it just a revision, but the magnitude of the difference between his first visit and his final draft was mighty, and I hope I played a small part in that transformation through tutoring. The instinct in a technical school is often to proofread and send the student along, but this was an instance where the student had latent talent unearthed through education. It was a great moment. Also—another teacher question: I know those who teach English have particular grammar errors that crawl under our skin, even if we’re smiling on the outside. What are some of yours? I try to avoid grammatical pet peeves, and I don’t correct people unless I’m tutoring. However, like any lover of language, certain things just, as you say, crawl under the skin. When people don’t know the difference between less and fewer, it drives me banana cakes! Further, when people misuse who and whom, my eye twitches. And finally, this isn’t actually an error, but I can’t stand when people use an adjective that ends in -ing instead of the same one which ends in -ive, as in “addicting” versus “addictive.” Addicting used as an adjective just sounds ugly to me. Alright, final question: Do you have any final words and links to share with our readers, such as where to follow you for more updates about your writing? I do. I’ve recently started an author website, located at http://brennaaldrich.wixsite.com/officialauthorsite . I’m also on Facebook at this link: https://www.facebook.com/bladrichauthor/ . Then of course, the almighty Twitter has me here: https://twitter.com/BLA_LitTwit . The short story that started the whole thing, “Garden Bones” is available now in Dream Fusion’s The Book of the Macabre and is purchasable on Amazon, Dreamfusion’s home site, and a link via my own website. I hope to have the first novel featuring Grahame Auden out sometime in 2017. Thank you once again for this opportunity, and thank you to any potential readers out there whose interest might be piqued by this interview.
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Interview with Adam Engel Information Collected and Composed by Clifford Brooks Adam Engel is a poet of intellectual cynicism. As a brother in the Southern Collective Experience, he is the only one who can keep up with my “machine gun” way of speaking. He is made of shadows, but easy to connect with. The poetry he writes is unlike anything I’ve seen since entering the art scene. It is not a prose poem. This is not a straight epic. In this interview we talk about his collective of narrative poetry called Roots. We will also talk about what makes Engel’s clock tick, where to find his book, and what else he has in his arsenal to launch on us in 2017. Engel take s time on the page to hone each word, while in conversation he barrels ahead in seemingly endless tangents. I call it paradise. Others yoke it as chaos. No matter the opinion, the way he reads is sharp, concise, and a whirlwind of word play that holds you firm in place. This is an interview done in fastforward, but delivered in slow motion. Give us a deeper look into what wouldn't leave you alone until this book was written? What motivates you to continue revisiting this volume? What is a favorite passage? "There are no characters: merely fonts," as Mary5h3113y sez in the opening ISIS section, and "Time happened: and there was no escape: not even to The Word" are two of the dominant themes of root, i.e. the ways in which printed words are read and written are changing so rapidly (for the better? I don' think so...) it would make even Chaucer's head spin. The "dominant languages" the languages that "run things" have no sound: the languages of machines: Python, Object-Oriented C, Java, etc. Computer languages, subterranean, created to command the gadgets -- large and small -- that "we" depend on for everything, including our own communication. English, Spanish, Arabic, Chinese are convenient for communication among people, but conversational natural languages (human) are becoming quaint aesthetic relics -- like poetry. The human communication enabled by these languages -- everyone's always talking to some cell/computer device -- are lucrative products created by the languages of machines. I wonder what would happen to natural language if people didn't pay to talk on cell-phones/e-devices/whatever. Since the book is an admixture of phony "techno speak" and more earnest (and comic) lyricism, it's hard to think of a representative passage, so I'll provide two. Here's some synthetic tech jargon: "Any one user – with or without privileged access – surrounded by an organized properly paralleled and mirrored hierarchy of processors: terminals: servers: gadgets: do-dads: flub-dubs: whirly-gigs 111 | T h e B l u e M o u n t a i n R e v i e w I s s u e 6
and protocols particular to the OS (under euphemistic guise of Interface between the user and The System) will be compelled to speak – if only to himself – the language of ISIS." And here's something a bit more earnest (and representative of the book): "Americana dream a step away from flesh-candy shocked me from sleep: naked: shivering touch of mortal: sensitive to the slightest things: unable to bear even routine decay: no longer firm nor young nor fit to profit from exchange. The bah-sheep shorn again – fleeced multitudes a burden like meat on my skull: fate-trails spiraling my core: runnels and labyrinths of indigestion. Heaviness of chest and gut: stabbing pain (doom-coronary? gas-bloat? ). I’m usually too numb to fear: but we face nasty scenes. Horrifying. All news all the time all bad. Apocalypse not now it’s never now: Apocalypse impending. Everywhere-always. Forever-days merge decades-years. Data-bloat of Name-Date throbbing worseto-come. So sudden the leap from Then to Now: bad to worse: another step closer to The Reckoning. Bulk of life-energy burned fighting Insane. Inevitable? Madness I mean: not doom – a given at this point one would think. Wouldn’t one? Insipid bounty. Supply of want-some annually exceeds demand for ever-more. New line of wantmore available by Christmas in a variety of styles shapes colors: one size fits all. As if: even if we knew what we wanted we’d get enough of it to shut us up. 'You – my friend – are a cell in the toe of a dying monster.' Well we need some damned thing. Impetus: a motion-toward. Money incites extreme: then crash: the come- down-down. Inevitable hangover-blues-depression can last years. Or never hit bottom: notorious black hole of fallen empires: vanished cultures: cloven tribes." Have you thought about writing a follow-up to this part of your journey? Not really. For me, as far as the whole tech/media/communications thing goes, Root is the end of the road. Don't you enjoy reading poetry aloud? Is that a part of your creative process? I love reading poetry aloud, but I don't think it's relevant to my own creative process. I'm not a poet. I'm a "prose-cartoonist." While the sentences may or may not be lyrical (according to taste), I think what I'm doing is slightly more visual than auditory. What keeps your creative engine roaring forward? Do you have bursts of creativity, or is it a steady flow? My creative engine doesn't roar forward, it chugs along. I have hundreds of pages of bland, boring poetry and prose I've written down over the years from which I yank (at random) certain wordcombinations/phrases that attract me and just build from there. I believe Gertrude Stein (and 112 | T h e B l u e M o u n t a i n R e v i e w I s s u e 6
Talking Heads) was right in that one can "stop making sense" and meaning will evolve from the phrases/lines/sentences. Of course, it's possible that I'm totally insane and the only one who sees "meaning" in my work is myself. Then again: whaddya want from a prose-cartoonist? What are some bad habits in current poetry you'd like to see stomped out? What good practices would you like to see more of? A lot of so-called poetry I've seen is actually prose in verse format. Just cause a piece is written in line-breaks doesn't make it poetry. I'm partial to the lyrical: Wallace Stevens, Mina Loy, Thoedore Roethke, etc. Otherwise, why not just write prose? How can folks get a copy of your book? They can go directly to /www.oliveropenpress.com or any on-line "book-store" (though almost everyone I know uses Amazon as their "default"). Please feel free to add questions or expound on anything important to you. Some people have mistakenly read root as a "novel." It's actually a thematically related collection that's held together as a "narrative" by the use of poetic techniques in place of novelistic ones. Instead of using characters or scenes as connectors, I tried to use certain sentences/phrases, sometimes whole paragraphs repeated throughout (a la Gertrude Stein) to link the various sections -- always adhering to the themes introduced in the mock "operations manual" that begins the book. This is more of an "experimental/inside joke" kind of thing, which might or might not have worked: I'm not sure. But ultimately it should be read as a collection of thematically-related prose-cartoons. Just sayin'... Where do you go that's sacred to you and your ability to keep the poetic fires lit? There's no place in "real time," except the ocean, which I haven't visited in a few years, that inspires me. Usually, it's the work of certain poets that lights my fire, usually the same few: Wallace Stevens, Mina Loy, John Ashbury, Emily Dickinson, Gertrude Stein and James Joyce (of Finnegan's Wake; not Ulysses). Thought the latter two aren't poets per se, they're far more "poetic" than the "prose with line-breaks" type stuff I mentioned above. What projects do you have on the horizon? I'm rifling through newspapers/magazines of each state (so far I've hit Tennesee and New Jersey) for randome words and phrases that I hope to cobble into 50 prose-cartoons. Working title: Imagine Nation. What is the dream you cherish most? Hate to sound bleak but: I've run out of dreams. Or, as Iggy and the Stooges put it, "Nothing in my dreams but some ugly memories..." Sorry. I'm trying to be cheerful. Really, I am.
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Musician Interview with Marco Seabrooks Information Collected and Composed by Clifford Brooks Marco Seabrooks is a young man whose intellect runs deeper than anyone his age or older. He is a street scholar who does not force his philosophy, past grudges, dogma, or challenging past to ruin his message. When I met him four years ago, a majority of our time was spent in conversation rare between two men of very different background. He has always come off as rational, well-informed, and intelligent. Our shared philosophy is that no matter what our color or religions, we were (and are) kindred spirits who believe that art can create unity, strengthen spirit, and provide a means for future generation to see firsthand that mutual respect, as well as musical collaborations, are the cornerstones of what will save our nation. As we began to trust one another he shared his ideas with his BHMG North Productions, and mine with Southern Collective Experience. As anyone knows in the world of art where there is compromise and intelligence there is hope. As the years went by we realized that we both were working toward the same goal, and that together we could bridge gaps in racial understanding, break the idea that artists cannot share, and make stronger the trutg that if we maintained the highest expectations with all we dealt with: Our combined efforts will help out children have a future not afraid of conspiracy, but brave enough to forge a united future. Marco Seabrooks has a style in rap that leaves me speechless. From the start you hear a man that riddles off clever rhymes that may address some violent things, but he is only speaking of his past life, faults strengths, and how he not only made a change in life, but made it his mission to reverse is wrongs. He speaks of politics, troubled youth, and single-mother homes. He also speaks of love, second chances, and brotherhood. Please read on and find out more from his meticulous mind on what is important to him, and why it should be important to you. Where do you see rap, hip-hop, and R&B in todayâ€™s Southern Culture? It seems that simplicity sells now where kids with little interest in creating original word choice, originality, clever rhymes, or a message of true substance which I think lasting music should consist of. For the last twenty years the South has been dominated by lazy, clichĂŠ, materialistic trend has devalued the hip-hop world. Truth be told, this materialistic, over-simplified art has dominated the scene for too long. However, it is hard to argue that the whole of hip-hop started in the American South. 114 | T h e B l u e M o u n t a i n R e v i e w I s s u e 6
Looking back to when lyrics actually spoke to the empowerment of the African American community, I have no doubt that the godfathers of solid hip-hop began with Arrested Development. However, with all their award-winning songs they could not keep the momentum going. Yet, their achievements opened the doors to such artists such as Outkast and the Goodie Mob to carry on the torch through the latter half of the 1990’s to early 2000’s. With their brilliant beats, message, and stage presence, it didn’t seem to stop the negative backlash of new acts that focused only about music with no real message, only catchy beat and a hook. It feels like all substance has been thrown out the window. The saddest part is that society as a whole has taken this cheap message and no longer cares about substance. I mean, look at hip-hop, rap, and R&B today: is all about cheap love, demeaning women, and dangerous casual sex. Once the bands had names, nobility, and an education that was geared to empower the people, now, we have names like Young Thug, 21 Savage, and Soljor Boy. I am saddened to see where the music I hold dear has de-evolved into violence, beefs between acts, with no regard to how this behavior only increases violence within our community. It’s everything I’ve devoted my career to change. Do you see all change in the music scene as a bad thing? No. Now, don’t get me wrong: I feel there is nothing wrong with change. Change gives every generation a language they can relate to. Yet, as I said before simplicity isn’t a bad thing as long as it doesn’t overshadow intelligent wordplay and imagination. What is vital is that when you are getting started in the business; provide the public with a mixed tape that truly says something. Also, if you are lucky enough to sign that 60 million record contract, do lose your roots. It’s hard to take an artist seriously who has used that success to move out of the old neighborhood, put your kids in a private school, and tell my kids robbing is what men do that’s not 100. Don’t get me wrong, making money, make a better life for your kids, and improving you status in life is not bad, but don’t lose sight of your blessings, and people that got you there. I have friends and family serving 20 to life and others still making ends meet that needs empowerment not instructions on how to tare each other down. I have, do, and will always continue to remember where I came from, and live a life above the pitfalls of other artists because my mission is to get my brothers and sister off the streets. Yet, more importantly, this example is first and foremost is for my son who I hope takes my mission and lifts it far beyond anything I can hope. The next generation needs the truth so they can make a difference. Music is the way. My goal is to create strength in the community that promotes education, hard work, and truth. I am passionate about my mission because I was once in the dark place so many young men and women find themselves in today. I came from nothing with no hope, no guidance, and had only the worst influences to look up to. My label, and its outreach programs want to make sure that never happens to anyone else.
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How do see the youth of today in relation to how you lived your youth? The kids today tick a little different but often beat to the same tune. Yet, they don’t seem to see the big picture and live only for the now. It’s as if they march ahead in life with a dangerous tunnel vision. It’s not just the African American community, but it seems all kids today feel this poisonous since of entitlement that destroys any chances they have to succeed before they even start. No one in the world owes anyone anything. I try to help them avoid this dead end before we have more of our youth give up and think crime is their only option The youth today believe they have only limited abilities and hope for success are listening to the wrong people. There are artist out there tell kids that they must be egotistical, and that the world is about themselves, and that all they can do to get ahead is take . The youth of today are dominated by emotion with no regard to life, teamwork, and violence is the only way to get ahead. Now, before I start preaching: the youth is often narcissistic, emotional, and easy lead down the wrong path, not just today, but always. This is where I see myself as a football coach. I am here to guide them, be tough when I need to be, but never tear down their spirit. My main goal is to teach them patience and self-worth. I have taught many youths and adults alike how to write music, inspire people, and happily watched them succeed beyond my talent. It’s that what a coach or parent is supposed to do. I wake up every day with the single prayer that if I can make one young man’s life better, keep him off the streets, and watch him break free of violence – then I feel I’ve done my job. I do not do it to glorify myself, but fulfilling the mission God put me on earth to do. You cannot please everyone, but that’s not the point. It is to reach as many lost souls as I can and do not sleep until I make sure their lives are easier. Do you see an improvement in the violence around you as you strive to empower youth in both the Atlanta and Chattanooga, TN area? I do, but that’s because I make an effort to choose my friends and business partners wisely. I also avoid places I know, no matter how hard I try to change it, violence is right around the corner. As far as concerts, small venues, and the music business itself, there will always be a chance to hear bullets split the air. There is only so much you can control. The appreciation of life has felt less and less important to people, so all you can do is keep a tight friend group, watch your back, and stay away from places known for frequent violence. However you now see in the news more school shootings, people killing each other in church, shooters killing innocent people in movie theaters, and playgrounds. People are going to be people. If you allow the fear to take over, you’ll be too afraid to leave the house. You have to keep your head on straight and eyes open. Loyal friends with your best interest at heart will help you stay a steady path. Ultimately, it is up to God, constant prayer, and never losing the 116 | T h e B l u e M o u n t a i n R e v i e w I s s u e 6
belief that the world is a good place. Otherwise we will all give up hope. Once we lose hope, the world will devour itself. Music is God’s way to spread peace, and I for one choose to be a part of that moment. I have a few brothers out there that I hope grow, and eceed their dreams that has been there for me, or with me, in this music. I’d like to give a shout out to these incredible artists like Chattanooga’s own Hitmankin’ and GMN’s Buggy. I hope they get out because Chattanooga is a rough city. What advice do you have for those new to the game of hip-hop, rap, and R&B? Stick close to those who are true to you. Remember that this game is a two-way street. If your label mates are only interested in what you can do for them, they are goin’ to drag you down. Stay relevant to the times and true to yourself. Truth knocks the brains out of falsehood. If you open the eyes of the generation today, you begin a process that improves all generations to come. Stay humble, but never let anyone walk all over you. Support each other at every shows. If they can’t return the favor because the set is already full, show up and support anyway. You can bet they will be there to promote you in the future. It’s family or nothing. What keeps you going when life seems to be set against you? My love for music, and making something out of nothing...When people sing your song in the crowd it’s electrifying. The younger generations have become parents of teens in a culture that is tarnished. Kids are left with unhelpful but convincing myths. This in turn has led to parents throwing their hands up, giving up on their own children. I said that to say this: If music can be that outlet that lets them express their disappointments, strength, and dreams, while also giving them a safe place to record - I'll be in it till death. My music is self-motivated like a young Martin, and through it I will inspire minds and help achieve dreams To find more about Marco Seabrooks: Soundcloud: BHMG North Productions Facebook: BHMG North Instagram: BHMG North
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Voices of Faith Interview with Dub Darville Information Collected and Composed by Clifford Brooks Through the trying times of life, few are lucky enough as I to have a spiritual advisor like Mr. Dub Darville. I have been friends with him since I started college at Shorter University in 1994. Over the years as the weight of the world pressed down on me, he was always one I could depend on. Today his guidance is even more crucial to my peace of mind. He is a joy to be around, and the perfect example of living in the light of Christ. Please take time to read about his brilliant career, personal life, and wisdom to help us all enjoy each day as the gift it is. Tell us some basics about the brilliant life you've lived so far. What accolades have you earned of which you are most proud? Where do you currently work, and what do you do in your down time to stay sane? I grew up in McComb, Mississippi, a town of about 15,000 in southwest Mississippi, located 20 miles north of the Louisiana line on I-55 halfway between Jackson and New Orleans. Although neither of my parents graduated from college, it was always understood that college was a requirement. Dreaming of what I might become, when I grew up, was a daily thought. I can distinctly remember sitting in Mrs. Ferguson’s fifth grade class writing sermons, because I thought I might become a preacher. I also liked design and math, so the thought of being an architect was quite appealing. Unfortunately, geometry ruined that dream, since tangent, cotangent, sine and cosine, and all the rest of that stuff made no sense; therefore, nothing I might have created would have been safe! Design, remains an interest and something I enjoy. I needed one credit to finish out my high school credits, so I took a Bookkeeping class with my best friend. I loved it, made high A’s, and it was easy, so that becoming an accountant became my career goal. Music, however, has always been paramount in my life, particularly piano and voice. Church music was grandiose, big, magnificent, and majestic, and it captured something in me that not only spoke to me, but that I wanted to use to speak to others. Although I took piano and voice for many years, a career in that world required far more discipline and work than I was willing to put in. Singing at the Met is one of those fantasies that I still find appealing. As to college, I went to Southwest Mississippi Community College, graduating in one and half years. Millsaps College in Jackson was my next adventure. While there I continued voice lessons, auditioned and was accepted to be a part of Millsaps Singers, and had bit parts in Millsaps Players, the theatre group. It was fun and provided a needed distraction from all the numbers and decisionmaking courses. Graduating I 1975, looked for my first accounting job, but nothing seemed to work out, so I did what seemed the most logical to do—I went to graduate school at Mississippi State. It was there that I discovered my real passion! Working as a graduate assistant for an accounting professor proved to be quite fortuitous. Dr. Dora Herring had to be gone for a week and asked if I would teach a couple of her classes. I will never forget walking into Principles of Financial Accounting on that Tuesday morning and feeling as if I had come home. For that year, I focused on becoming a professor. Graduating in 1976 with my MBA in Accounting, college teaching was for me. I began my teaching career at Columbus State University in Columbus, Georgia in September 1976 and stayed for 5 years. 118 | T h e B l u e M o u n t a i n R e v i e w I s s u e 6
It was there that I met my wife, and we married in 1980. In July 1981 we moved to Pineville, Louisiana, where I taught for two years at Louisiana College. We then moved to Ocala, Florida where I served as a Church Administrator and Minister of Education for Highlands Baptist Church. After 18 months, I knew that serving in a church was not God’s direction for me. I began teaching at Shorter College (now University) in June 1985, and I am in my 32nd year. As to accolades, they are overrated, but often affirm decisions made. The secret to surviving accolades is not seeking them, for that makes them cheap and only serves to make one proud and puffed up. I suppose being named Southwest Mississippi Community College’s Outstanding Alumnus Award in 2012 is one of which I am very proud. That award pales in comparison, however to what I value most: seeing a student’s life changed. Sometimes that change occurs before my eyes; more often, however, it occurs years later, and I find out because they go out of their way to find me and tell me. Other mile markers in my life include the day Jesus Christ saved me, the day I married Gayla, the days my children were born, for those are the ones that have shaped me more than anything else. Career accomplishments include being named the dean of the business school at Shorter, then seeing the vision of creating a named College of Business become a reality. I am grateful to Dr. Harold Newman, president of Shorter at the time, for his encouragement, Dr. Craig Shull for believing in me, and to Mr. Robert H. Ledbetter for his generosity that made that dream real! Down time is more about keeping me grounded than keeping me sane, although the two may go hand in hand. Seeing a good movie, particularly classics, allows me a few minutes of peering into another world. I particularly like the Star Wars series, C. S. Lewis’s Chronicles of Narnia series, and Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings movies. I love historical movies, whether they are historically accurate or fiction does not matter. In each of these types of movies, I always learn something about myself, usually what needs to be changed. They challenge me, move me, shape and remake me, and I hope the lessons learned I pass on. A weekend in the mountains or a beach trip relaxes me. Browsing antique shops, eating at a renowned restaurant, and watching college football, particularly the Mississippi State Bulldogs and University of Tennessee Volunteers, all provide much needed relaxation. Tell us about the first time you felt God's presence. I mean, that first time you felt Him take you by the shoulders and say, "That way!" Or, perhaps the tug was always there, just a steady but subtle push. Growing up in church, there were times I felt God’s presence. But, if I had to pick a time when God grabbed me, there are two very distinct times that stand out: January 15, 1977 and October 1987. The former was the day I realized that I was lost and needed a Savior; the latter, when I had what I call my Calvary experience. Both changed me forever, but in different ways. In January 1977, I came face to face with my brokenness, my sin, my living for myself, my choosing my own way, my control of myself and realized that I needed a Savior, that I could not rescue myself, that there was a debt to be paid, and I could not pay it. I realized that God provided that rescue, that debt payment, that sacrifice in and through Jesus Christ, and He was freely offering me a salvation that I could not obtain any other way. Over the next ten years, He changed me from the inside out, delivered me from bondage to ways and thoughts that were destroying me. He paid a dear price, the death of His only Son to accomplish what I could not, but I soon discovered that this gift, though given freely, would also cost me. It cost me friends and relationships, but not because I drove them away, but because they chose not to associate with me. It cost me some jobs because I would not compromise my convictions. The ridicule, the anger, the exclusion were all costs that were hard to deal with, but He always provided a 119 | T h e B l u e M o u n t a i n R e v i e w I s s u e 6
joy, new friends, and love that far outweighed the cost of what I lost. It was in October 1987 that He took me to a level of commitment that I call the point of no return, or my Calvary experience. What would happen to me, to my relationship with Him, with Christ, if He chose to take away in some form those things that I valued most dear? If I really wanted a resurrection life, I had to die. I had to die to anything and everything that I looked to for support, for my reason to live, for proof that I had changed. While it is different for everyone, those things for me were my children. Choosing to give Him the right, the freedom to do whatever He chose, to be the One and only for me was the most difficult task ever. It was, however, the most liberating. Just as Abraham willing laid Isaac on the altar, trusting God to perform His Word, and receiving Isaac back through the substitutionary death of the lamb, I, too, received back what I had given. When you have given the treasure of you heart to Him, there is no return. I have never regretted nor doubted that decision, and He has proven Himself faithful to me, to His Word, to Himself. What are a few books or ministers few know about that you think should be given more attention? So many I've met feel that because they don't find a niche in mainstream faith that the way is lost. I think that they simply haven't gotten a taste for the whole feast. Where can those seeking guidance find it in s form they may not know yet? This one is hard for me to answer, but I will give it a shot. I think that part of the issue for many is that, for the most part, those who are looking, as well as some of those who are doing the teaching, are portraying the Christian life as one that is so fluffy it offers nothing substantial to hold on to, or it is so laden with rules and regulations that people are defeated before they even start. In addition, human nature is somewhat rebellious to start with, and we really want to do it, whatever it is, our own way. I cannot get away from the fact that Jesus said He is the way, the truth, and the life. So if one is looking for their own niche, and if that niche simply adds Jesus to the status quo, they will forever feel, and actually be, outside the Faith. Scripture makes no allowance for that. Having said that, I have read two books that impacted me immensely: Green Leaf in Drought Time by Isobel Kuhn and The Insanity of God by Nik Ripken. These two books demonstrated to me that the feast is often not found in the gilded hall with sumptuous foods abounding before us. Often, the feast is found in meager portions that satisfy abundantly, because the real feast is casting the self and all of the needs on Christ. It seems that we really want is a feast that focuses on us, not on Christ. He must always be the object of the feast, for He is the host of the feast who provides all that we need for the moment. Christianity is not pablum, nor is it for the faint at heart, but it is rich in sustenance and strength for each day. We do get lost when we take our eyes off what Jesus actually says and does. My suggestion is to always start with love, and 1 John is a good place to start. What are you favorite gospel songs? Who is your favorite gospel group? Are there any mainstream musicians who sing of faith, but aren't considered "gospel singers" that give you an extra jolt of Jesus when needed most? I will show my age here! I still like the old hymns: Amazing Grace, How Firm a Foundation, Praise to the Lord, It is Well With My Soul, etc. The doctrine included in those hymns is rich! Singers and groups include Sandi Patty, Larnell Harris, Selah, The Gaithers, Mercy Me, Shane and Shane, Hillsong, and others. I like songs that point me to the Father, to Jesus, to the Holy Spirit. I think we 120 | T h e B l u e M o u n t a i n R e v i e w I s s u e 6
get in trouble when the lyrics focus too much on us. That is not to say that the lyrics should not have something about us, but we are the recipients of His grace and mercy and power.
What is your personal philosophy on finding happiness in the face of grief? Do you have scripture you can add to the answer? Theologians whose work isn't, or is, widely known who may shed a little light? I could spend hours here, but I will try to be brief. No one likes grief! It is painful, often long, arduous, full of questions, but absent answers. We often try to avoid it at all cost, which is disastrous. I do not mean that we should go looking for it, but when it comes, the last thing we need to do is run away. I remember times of profound grief—the death of my grandparents, parents of friends who I have known my whole life, my parents-in-law— that hurt deeply. In most of those cases, there were knowable reasons such as age or sickness. Those deaths that have shaken me were those of my students. It was during one of those times that came across a book, Good Grief, which helped me walk through months of questions and sadness. I highly recommend it. Grief is not limited to what we feel when we lose someone close to us. The deepest grief I have ever experienced has not been that long ago, and it shook me as nothing else ever has. The details are not as important as the lessons learned. For men, so much of our worth and life purpose is wrapped up in our careers. What I discovered is that I had allowed my career, my position, my reputation to take the place God occupied in my life. He graciously removed me from all that. I can say that now, but it has taken me four years to get to this point. I could not understand why God would allow such a thing to happen. After all, I was doing it for Him, or so I thought. I need to stop here and say that we should all strive to be excellent in all we do, because it reflects well on Him. My pastor gave me the name of a book, which I was not interested in reading at all, but I am so glad I did. John Piper’s book, The Misery of Job and the Mercy of God, opened my eyes and healed my heart. The book of Job in the Bible has always held a fascination for me, but understanding and applying it was difficult. We have all heard of the patience of Job, but I am not sure we understand what that really means. In 80 pages, 40 of which are pictures, John Piper captured God’s heart and message. This is what I learned: Grief comes most often when our idols are toppled! How does one recover? Embrace the facts! Do we worship God because of what we have? Job said, “Shall I accept only good from the hand of the Lord?” Do we trust Him in all things? Do “All things work together for my good” as His Word promised? A million times, yes! When I learned the sufficiency of Christ in my grief, my grief turned into joy! What I learned is that if all I have is Jesus, it is enough. It does not mean that I will not have any more grief, but that in that grief Christ becomes my joy. What are three small things that people can do every day to feel more in tune with Christ and His work? Remember it is not about you Read His Word for what it says without trying to make it fit your ideas Find someone with whom you can share the Love of Christ.
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What are some tips you can provide our readers on how they can find a church home. It can be a scary idea for many who moved to a new area, outgrew their last church, and/or have never looked before. How can they make their quest less daunting? 1. Be honest with where you are in life 2. Go to various church websites to get a feel for who they are and what their see as their mission 3. Ask others where they go and why 4. Just go to a worship service at several places 5. Look for places that minister in ways and places in which you have an interest 6. For me, I determined that the most important factor was finding where the Word was most faithfully being taught. Music and activities then fell in line. What are you hobbies? Do you meditate? Is family the seat of your peace? How do you unwind when the world seems set to keep us stressed? I enjoy antiquing, looking at houses and designs, and sometimes going for a ride with no particular destination in mind, but being with family (even extended family) gives me the greatest joy. If, by meditation, you mean pray, the answer is yes; other forms of meditation, no. Prayer, for me, is a conversation with the Father, and I often find myself reading Scripture (His letter to me) and allowing it to speak to me. Being very quiet and listening is often difficult in our busy world, so carving out a chunk of time and getting in a quiet place is essential to having an undisturbed time that enhances listening. What makes you laugh? There is a stereotype that if you are a man or woman following their faith, it requires constant fear and serious demeanor. I personally think that Christ, and God for that matter, laughs regularly. It's so natural for us to be happy. What keeps a smile on your face? I love to laugh! Good clean humor is always great. I absolutely love sarcasm, the kind that catches you off guard and not demeaning; it always makes me laugh. Slapstick comedy is good, too. I love being with people, and I find that more often than not, I am smiling when I am with others. Investing in the lives of my students always brings a smile to face. What would you like to close with in this interview that I may have missed, or simply a paragraph to wish our readers a safe passage in life? This has been a delight for me. Thank you. Some might get the idea that I think I am perfect and have it all figured out. Nothing could be further from the truth, and my family and close friend can testify to that! I am well aware of my shortcomings, and daily work on correcting those things that are displeasing. What I have shared in this interview did not always come easily. The lessons learned were often difficult, painful, and long in duration, but enduring to the end always produced joy!! When I began to understand that God is a Father who loves me unconditionally, has patience with me, and is committed to seeing a finished product in me, I began to relax and let Him do His work. God is a teacher! He teaches a lesson, and then tests me on the lesson. Sometimes I pass; sometimes I fail. When I fail, He reteaches and then retests until I get it. I surely wish I learned quicker than I do! It is important that this thing we call the Christian life is a journey, a marathon, and not the 40-yard dash! It is a lifetime of learning and proving that God is who He says He is. Understanding everything is not promised, that is why it is called Faith. 122 | T h e B l u e M o u n t a i n R e v i e w I s s u e 6
Book Review: The Earthen Flute by Kiriti Sengupta Hawakaal Publishers February, 2016 60 pages; $6.00 ISBN-13: 978-9385783586 Available via Amazon Reviewed by Scott Thomas Outlar Established poet Kiriti Sengupta of Calcutta, India has teamed up with illustrator Tamojit Bhattacharya to compile a collection of short poems that, as the title indicates, focus primarily on the flesh and bone phenomenon of this earthly plane. The opening piece, “Keep An Eye,” references the spiritual nature of the third eye, or what some have called the seat of the soul, but then quickly establishes the point that sculptors are not as concerned with this aspect of metaphysical consciousness as they are, instead, on experimenting with the two eyes of the actual human face. And so we know from early on that we will be taken on a journey that is influenced by those concerns which are all-too-human. This is made even more clear in the poem “Womb.” Here, the female body is compared with the earth itself. An archetype that has, of course, been expressed through countless millennia by various civilizations across the planet. Such a mythos continues to ring true. There is no escaping the fundamental fact that all of us, ultimately, come from and return to the dust and dirt of terra firma. What I found to be the most powerful poem, “Experience Personified,” is a simple, serene meditation on the morning dew and the sensation it makes on one’s bare feet when walking through the grass. Sengupta sums up the event: I don’t call it a feeling, I would rather name it my experience. I am reminded of the birds in Aldous Huxley’s book The Island that parrot the refrain: “Here and now, boys, here and now.” This poem brings me back to the present moment with a reminder that each experience throughout the day is a reflection of eternity. In “A Different Ballgame” Sengupta considers a problem that certain poets have encountered when realizing that their work has failed to garner attention by catching hold with reviewers. He offers two possible paths (one slightly more sarcastic than the other) that the poet can take at this stage of the process: Redoing all your old stuff; replacing the words with synonyms found on Google, or in Oxford Advanced Learners, and then submit Them to the journals where the editors boast about their high standards Or leave your old stuff as it is, and think about the classic poets, the masters, 123 | T h e B l u e M o u n t a i n R e v i e w I s s u e 6
who were explored as they set out for their heavenly abode The Earthen Flute contains a number of anecdotes pertaining to the basic routines of everyday life. In “Time And Tide” Sengupta writes about a breakfast ordered after a heavy night of drinking with friends. The cheese omelet has not been prepared correctly. When it is inquired whether the cook is new we come to discover that she is a family member of the establishment’s owner who has gone through a terrible tragedy earlier in her life. The lesson this reader came away with: Let us not be aggravated by simple annoyances in life, but always remember to have compassion for those we serve as well as those who serve us. References to both elemental and earthy ideas such as the sun, moon, lakes, ponds, birds, flowers, and the like are scattered throughout the pages, but in the final poem, “Struggle for Silence,” the philosophical tenets of existentialism and eternal quietude are considered as we leave this bag of bones behind and seek harmony with the Creator. It all boils down, in the end, no matter what type of fun and games we’ve played here on earth, no matter how much suffering and sorrow we’ve experienced in this physical body, to the simple fact that entropy of the mortal coil eventually comes calling. The only question that truly matters is whether or not absolution is realized before that final bell tolls.
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Photography & Paintings
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Autumn Zwibel is a multidisciplinary artist who lives & creates in Pittsburgh, PA. Her mediums include fashion design, painting, music, & photography which have been exhibited in various local galleries. She is inspired & influenced by dreams, nature, symbolism, impressionism, abstractexpressionism. Her works can be seen on Instagram @plasmaroze 131 | T h e B l u e M o u n t a i n R e v i e w I s s u e 6
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Blues in a lil' cigar box When it comes to blues music, the first artists that come to mind are Robert Johnson, B. B. King, and Muddy Waters. Many influential musicians (and several others) were not financially stable to be able to go to the local music store and buy a Gibson, Fender, or even some of the cheaper brands of guitars; hence the start of making their own guitars. The cheapest of these methods was finding a cigar box made of wood and attach two broomsticks and some type of bailing wire (yes… bailing wire) and make strings. This brought forth the cigar box guitar. I know a lot of people have shared videos on your local social media of people playing or making guitars from just about anything from cigar boxes, shovels, and even a working shotgun. This is where I came up with the idea to make one which has been around for many, many years. I know other local builders around Georgia have been making these for a lot longer than I have, but the fun was trying something new. I have, in the past, built my own local guitars and still have one or two of them that are electric. I have always loved to be around some type of music just because music makes the soul happy. So, when I got the idea of building a cigar box guitar, I began researching it and looking at other ideas until I found an idea of my own. I started with a flea market cigar box and a one-by-two piece of hard maple. With a little help from some great friends, the project was underway. I started the project in July of 2016, and, after going back to the drawing board several times, I finally got it where I wanted it. With a measurement here and a “what am I going to do with this,” there, I finally got it to actually look like a guitar and couldn’t wait to see what this box was going to resonate for me as I strummed a tune. The box was a beautiful yellow with a beautiful angelic print on the front. Adding a piece of hard maple to the box sounds simple, right? Well, it’s a little more complicated than that. Adding a brace to attach that hard piece of maple was where we began. Knowing that most guitars are based on a 25inch scale, I stuck with the same type scale. Some like to add twenty-five-and-a-half to theirs, but I felt that was a little long. Ordering parts to make the guitar also seemed to be a challenge since most cigar box guitars are based on a three-string system, while your regular guitar is a six-string. I found a company that specialized in building cigar box guitars and parts for the enthusiast (CBGitty.com). Boy, did they have everything I needed and then some! I began ordering parts as I could to build my first guitar, and, after seeing that I could make it electric, I decided to make something that would go with it so I could play it anywhere I wanted. “Why not make a cigar box amplifier that will go along with and I can play to my heart’s content?” I thought. So, with another idea flowing from my head, I began searching for another wooden cigar box to create an amplifier. With a little design work and a few parts, I had the amplifier finished and ready to be played through before I finished the cigar box guitar. Next, I knew I had to finish the guitar just so I could hear it played through my custom, portable amplifier that runs off a 9-volt battery and a 9volt wall wort when the battery dies. Shout-out to my friend Sam Parker—thanks for the help! When I returned to the cigar box guitar, I found that I had miscalculated my scale and had to start over again. Calling a friend—Mike Gladden, who is an expert on wood working—I told him my 134 | T h e B l u e M o u n t a i n R e v i e w I s s u e 6
troubles and what I needed to do. He understood just by talking on the phone and asked me to come to his shop and he would fix my problem. After a couple of hours of redesigning and cutting, it was finished. The time had come to string it up. Cigar box guitars are different when they come to tuning, since they only have three strings or four. The recommended tuning is G, D, G, which turns to an open G when strummed. What are most blues songs written in? Yes, you guessed it—G. After finishing the projects (and these projects need to be shared with the world), I decided that they needed to be photographed. Since I am not such a great photographer, I went to Jill Anzinger and asked if she could take some photographs of my projects with a great-looking background. Jill did a wonderful job taking the photographs, using a back drop that matched the era in time. Now I have ventured into a new realm and enjoy creating these unique instruments. Who knows? I might even turn into the next Les Paul or Leo Fender. Until then, enjoy! Just remember: you can create anything when you put your mind to it.
Brent Ellis has been drawing pencil and ink drawings since he was a small child. He has sharpened his talents throughout the years. Being self-taught and self-motivated, he has rallied himself around car art and tattoo type drawings. He has a small business named Big E’s Classic Car Art, where he draws customer’s vehicles. During his forty-five years of existence, almost twenty-four years have been serving as a law enforcement officer for the City of Jasper. He has been married to his wife for five years and has three daughters ranging from ages 16 to 11. During his spare time, he enjoys doing restoration of old cars and trucks. He has been certified in paint and body work for almost 10 years. 135 | T h e B l u e M o u n t a i n R e v i e w I s s u e 6
Outro Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves, like locked rooms and like books that are now written in a very foreign tongue. Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer. ― Rainer Maria Rilke The seasons change, the friends we once cherished find another way in life, but like both the climate and kind hearts, they return. It is far more likely that winter will find its way back and cause us to tighten our scarves, but true friends more times than not cross our paths (again), too. Life: It is a revolution of the earth and time’s non-stop tick-tocking that too many fear marks a day closer to old age. However, I sense that nature doesn’t quicken us to the grave, friends do no return to remind us of years gone by – no, I think they both are in our lives to make us recall our younger selves to provide a jolt of good feeling to climb that mountain, kiss that beautiful girl, or begin that business that makes you the boss – master of your fate. The snow, the first springs of spring’s growth, summer’s unrelenting heat, and children dressed as ghosts in the fall of Halloween – all off these shifts in axis are not harbingers of time growing shorter. No ma’am: It is God bellowing with a great laugh, Go, sweet children! Do cartwheels, dive into the deep end of the swimming pool, and never fear the dark. (That’s where the lightning bugs live.) To everything there is a season. To each season we all have a regret of some lost chance, but the new season allows us similar condition to right that misstep. I once said that regret could only be remedied by a time machine. Guilt, shame, heartbreak, anger: all these could be put to rest through therapy. I stood fast that regret could never be on that list. In fact, regret can be wiped clean in the change of a single season. Where one door closes, the next is opened to not seize the day gone by, but to forge ahead and never give up hope that what was lost, was lost for a reason. Drive out into this winter, brothers and sisters! Drive out into the snow on foot, horseback, or 4-wheel drive. Take on the world whether it is the landscape you paint, write, or sculpt. Change the status quo by volunteering, fighting for a cause that seems lost, or gather your children and love them until they beg you to let go – but they don’t want you to let go. Love who you are. Love your work. Love the one who loves you. Love to love and generations yet to come may not recall your name, but the love you made greater will keep their young hearts beating. Wars will never conquer what God granted immortality. We will live forever. Love will live forever. Winter may not, but our hope for its return next year will remind us that soon comes spring, just as pain will relinquish to the indomitable joy of the human spirit. Clifford Brooks
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San Pedro River Review Blue Horse Press ISSN 1944-5954 San Pedro River Review is a biannual, perfect-bound poetry and art st st st journal. Submission windows run January 1 to 31st, and July 1 to 31 , each year. Spring issues are themed, fall issues non-themed. Representative poets include Naomi Shihab Nye, Ellen Bass, Afaa Michael Weaver, Joseph Millar, Marge Piercy, Joe Wilkins, Alex Lemon, Larry D. Thomas, William Wright, Doug Anderson, Frank X. Gaspar, Walt McDonald, Vivian Shipley, Adrian C. Louis. See guidelines and more at www.bluehorsepress.com
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Sandra Smith is the photographer behind Freedom Photographyâ€™s unique images. She is a talented artist that strives to capture the details in life that one might otherwise pass by. She lovest traveling and creating images that are filled with expression, enthusiasm, and emotion. She sees the world in snapshots and has a passion and desire to share that vision with others. Her work is published in, One Mission to Africa, Leadership Lessons for a Lifetime, Relentless Pursuit Ministries International brochures, and on both those websites. She has photographed members of The Southern Collective Experience, Glow Dance Studios, several weddings, and other special events. You can follow her on Facebook at Freedom Photography and Instagram at FreedomPhotog.
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Keith Hughes has taught US History and AP Government for the past 15 years as well as education classes in New Literacy and Technology for the Graduate School of Education at the University of Buffalo. Keith recently signed with LeftField Pictures and is currently a talking face on the H2 show, "United Stuff of America" and filming for "American Badasses." HipHughes History is a series of upbeat, personable and educational lectures designed for students and lifelong learners. Videos primarily focus on US History and Politics but span across World History and general interest. Videos are perfect for Social Studies flippers, desperate crammers and the cray cray on the internets. So sit back and enjoy the antics of HipHughes as he melds multimodality into a learning experience. And always remember, "Where attention goes, energy flows."
Hip Hughes YouTube â€˘ Hip Hughes Website
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William S. Tribell's interests are varied, he is a published photographer, a musician, he paints and sometimes writes for newspapers - receiving the 2015 Lighthouse Award. A Pushcart Prize nominated poet with erratic sleep patterns and a penchant for travel. Tribell was an early member of the Southern Collective Experience. His work appears in journals and magazines around the world, including Mensa's Calliope, Pine Mountain Sand & Gravel, and Cowboys & Indians magazine. Many of his poems have been recorded spoken word and with instrumentation by Radio Hall of Fame inductee Gary Burbank, actor John Blyth Barrymore, Red State Update's Travis Harmon and many others. Tribell is also featured in Black Madonna's 2015's release "Repressions," a collection of poems by JL Carey, Tina Twito and himself. Tribell is a member of the Tri-State Paranormal Investigators. He is a writer, director, producer and cast member of TSPI's television production "The Paranormal Journeys", and he hosts a weekly radio show called Spectrum that airs every Wednesday at midnight est. on Appalshop's WMMT 88.7 FM. In 2016 Tribell was appointed Executive Director of the Bell County Historical Society and Museum in Middlesboro Kentucky.
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Please consider donating to our cause: TSCE Collections.
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Songs of a Dissident: Amazon Happy Hour Hallelujah: CTU Publishing Chaos Songs: Weasel Press 149 | T h e B l u e M o u n t a i n R e v i e w I s s u e 6
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www.PACAGeorgia.org https://www.facebook.com/PACAGeorgia What is the Pickens Arts and Cultural Alliance? PACA was established to give support and assistance to existing arts and historic preservation organizations in Pickens County. With the encouragement and support of county government the Pickens Arts and Cultural Alliance was formed in the summer of 2007 through a grant from the Georgia Council for the Arts. Pickens County has a rich and diverse array of new and older organizations that provide outstanding programming. The organizationâ€™s vision, mission and core values are stated below. Vision Statement Supporting the Arts and Culture of Pickens County Mission Statement Our mission is to enhance the quality of life for residents, preserve culture, increase educational opportunities in the arts, and promote cultural activities by developing a strong arts and historic preservation environment in Pickens County. Core Values 1. Arts & Culture enrich the lives of Pickens County residents. 2. The arts significantly contribute to the development of children. 3. Planning will be responsive to the voice of arts and cultural organizations and individuals. 4. Preservation of historic resources will retain our cultural heritage and character.
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WISH Poetry Press
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More information can be found here: 2017 Broadleaf Writers Conference
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Winter 2017 A Journal of Culture Poetry, Literature, Art and Music